Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Up-In-Coming Mid Major Prospects Part 3

In this segment, I explore South Alabama wing Martino Brock and his long run potential.

Martino Brock is one of the more interesting mid major prospects who has experienced a jump in production from his freshman season. Despite being only a sophomore, Martino Brock is two years older than his class because he attended Maine Central Institute for prep school before arriving at South Alabama. While he was noticed by several major programs in this additional year, Brock decided to play for Ronnie Arrow's South Alabama squad. He became an immediate offensive option the moment he stepped on the court.

In terms of his long run potential, Martino Brock's intrigue as a prospect centers around his physical and athletic gifts. This talent manifests itself on the offensive end in particular, where Brock has the ability to drive by his man with a quick first step. When he decides to take his man off the dribble, Brock is able to stop on a dime and rise up with perfect balance to hit mid range jump shots. He also is capable of slashing past his man and finishing at the rim. Because of his tremendous quickness and solid strength, Brock is fairly effective at creating space- this separation is what distinguishes him as a prospect at this level and demonstrates his long run potential. Brock also excels as a ball handler- he even takes on point guard responsibilities at times- and is able to implement stop and go moves in order to throw his defenders off balance. Further, Brock is an explosive run-jump athlete that is capable of throwing down thunderous dunks in transition. At this point, Brock is most effective operating in the painted region off the dribble while attacking the basket. Finally, Brock has solid body control when attacking defenders, and he thereby is effective at drawing contact- specifically, he draws 6 fouls per 40 minutes of action, which ranks him as a top 100 player in the nation in this category.

While Brock is at his best when he attempts high percentage shots moving towards the basket, his eFG% and TS% are far worse than they should be. This is due in large part to Brock's inability to consistently hit shots from the perimeter. Brock has already nearly doubled the amount of three point attempts he has taken from last season. And, he connects on only 31.4% of these shots- so this has had an impact on his overall offensive efficiency. In spite of his poor percentages, Brock does have games where he is able to knock down all of his long range shots because he is able to square his body to the basket. Considering the fact that he began the season on a 2 for 20 shooting slump from long range, his percentages may not accurately reflect his improved ability to hit the 3 point basket either. With that said, Brock has a hitch in his shot that needs to be fixed before he can regularly knock down jumpers at the next level. Also, he has an inconsistent shooting rhythm and poor ball rotation on his shot; this- in turn- has contributed to his inconsistency.

In terms of his overall contribution to the offense, Brock is a willing passer when he gets in the lane, and his assist numbers understate his impact on this aspect of the game. When Brock drives to the basket, he regularly finds open teammates who either shoot the 3 point shot or swing the ball around the perimeter to find an open man. But, because South Alabama is the 42nd worst 3 point shooting team in the country this year- connecting on only 30% of their attempts as a team- Brock's assist metric does not wholly account for his game impact. However, analysis from year-to-year demonstrates that Martino Brock's Assist Rate (taken from Kenpom) has increased from 15.4 to 17.7 this season. (this measurement takes into account his teammates' FG%) With that said, Brock must cut down on his turnovers in order to be able to command the ball at a higher level of basketball. His assist-to-turnover ratio has declined this season, as he has had the ball in his hands more often and does tend to drive into traffic. Despite his turnovers, Brock is willing to play within his offensive system and does not normally look to score baskets or make hockey assists at the expense of his team. And, most importantly, it can be said that Brock's dribble penetration is the impetus behind South Alabama's offensive sets.

Additionally, Brock's rebounding numbers have declined this season, primarily as a result of his increased ball handling responsibilities. While he is an above average rebounder for a wing- due in part to his length and athleticism- Brock has not looked to be as assertive on the glass this season. Instead, he tends to sprint out in transition before the ball is even secured by a teammate. Moreover, Brock appears to be stagnant on the offensive end at times when the ball is not in his hands, as he tends to stand beyond the arc and call for the ball. If he continues to display such a habit, he will hurt his long run potential as a professional prospect.

On the defensive end, Brock has the potential to lock down his man due to his length and solid lateral quickness. And, he is better able to get pick players' pockets this season. Despite his massive potential on this end of the floor, Brock is not always assertive enough. On occasion, he stands upright and does not get in his full defensive stance. And, he is not particularly savvy as a help defender either, as he rarely steps in to take the charge.

Overall, Martino Brock has the physical tools to be a professional prospect. He must mend his shooting form and be more assertive on both ends of the floor in order to receive consideration from scouts at the end of the day. Inevitably though, he will have plenty of opportunities to impress scouts in the next two years.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Up-In-Coming Mid Major Prospects Part 2

In this segment, I examine Kent St. forward Justin Greene and his development.

Despite leading his Lincoln High School squad to its third consecutive PSAL championship, Justin Greene was still a relative unknown on the 2008 recruiting trail, where he only fielded offers from Kent St. and Quinnipiac. Greene had been playing organized basketball since his freshman year in high school. As a result of this late development, Greene was still a raw, undersized power forward by the end of his senior season in high school. He averaged just 11 ppg that year and thereby flew under the radar of top flight BCS programs. With that said, ever since he first set foot on Kent St.'s campus, Justin Greene has made noticeable strides in virtually every facet of his game. His major leap occurred during his sophomore campaign, where he increased his offensive output from 2.2 ppg to 13.6 ppg; this 11.4 points per game differential was the fifth best year-to-year improvement in the country at that time.

Now in his junior season, Greene is excelling in certain areas, while either remaining virtually the same or stagnating in others. In particular, Greene has regressed somewhat from an offensive efficiency standpoint this season. Due to his increased role, Greene is now shooting more of his team's shots, while connecting at a slightly lower rate- his TS% declined from 61.4% last season to 55.2% this year. To some extent, this is reasonable, as he is the only formidable post option for Kent St. From examining film, it is clear that the vast majority of his shots are contested by one or two defenders, who are able to converge on him and disrupt his shot. This did not occur as often a year ago because 6'8 forward Anthony Simpson's presence inside commanded some respect and took some of the pressure off of him. Additionally, the losses of Tyree Evans and Chris Singletary from last year's squad have allowed defenses to further shift their focus inside.

In terms of his post repertoire, Greene is able to implement fairly polished footwork given the length of time that he has been playing basketball. With that said, he should look to add more drop step moves off the post entry feed, as he predominantly relies on his dribble drive to move closer to the basket. Otherwise, he will continue to turn the ball over at a fairly high rate. Despite this notable weakness, Greene is a nimble post player that can pivot and reverse pivot past defenders when he gets close enough to the basket. He is fairly quick off the initial feed and is often able to catch his defenders off guard, maneuvering passed them for easy lay-ins. Because so many defenses converge on him on the low block, coach Geo Ford is now utilizing him as a screener at the top of the key in some of the Golden Flash half court plays. These offensive sets, in particular, provide a glimpse into how useful Greene might be as a role player in the NBA. While he does command the ball often, Justin Greene is also a willing screen-setter that will cut hard to the basket time and again. As such, he may be able to adapt to a reserve role in the NBA, where many of the teams employ different variations of the pick-and-roll offense.

Because such plays draw him away from the paint, Greene has experienced a decline in terms of both his offensive and defensive rebounding. While he does exhibit decent anticipatory tendencies, Greene possesses poor box-out fundamentals and is often out muscled for rebounds inside. Aside from the fundamentals in this area, Greene's limitations athletically also contribute to his below average rebounding numbers. In general, it should be noted that he is a below average rebounder in comparison to other potential draft prospects. Also, Greene is not particularly explosive off the dribble or as a run-jump athlete, instead opting to play more of a ground game. As such, it must be noted that he may have difficulty adjusting to the length and athleticism of NBA big men. Moreover, Greene's lack of an explosive first step limits his development as a face up player at the next level. However, while he still needs to extend his range- as the majority of his jump shots occur in or around the painted region at this point- Greene has the makings of a nice spot up jumper. He may still need to slightly tweak his mechanics, but Greene has made numerous strides in this area since entering college.

On the defensive end, Greene has been surprisingly effective so far this season. Blessed with a decent frame, Greene has never been so comfortable utilizing his physical tools. In the Buffalo contest, Greene was most valuable as a help defender because of his solid lateral quickness, which allowed him to step in for the charge and contest slashing players who might have otherwise had a clear path in the lane. At this point, Greene may be most effective as a positional defender that can step in and draw charges. With that said, he has also improved statistically on this end of the floor. According to kenpom, his block% is 4.28% and his steals% is 2.06% this season, as opposed to the 3.63% and 1.67% that they were a year ago. In the NBA, Greene is not vertically explosive enough to transform himself into a shot blocking threat, but he may be able to mold himself into a dynamic positional defender.

All in all, Greene is still one of the better developing mid major players in the country. While he may have some physical (6'8 forward) and athletic limitations, Greene has developed a fairly high skill level in the short span of time that he has been playing basketball. If he can continue to improve upon his game at his current rate of progress, Greene may be able to find a reserve role in the NBA at some point in the future.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PBL Hoops- Halifax Rainmen vs. Bluegrass Stallions

In this contest, the Bluegrass Stallions jumped out to an early lead due to Kenny Jones's 7 points, which came from put backs and post ups inside. Following this boast in the opening minutes, the Rainmen went on a run to close the first quarter, after Boo Jackson and Kavon Jones effectively attacked the rim. Finally, the Stallions were able to close the second quarter on a run and thereby regain the lead due to Aubrey White's dribble penetration.

In the third quarter, the Bluegrass Stallions got out in transition and extended their lead. In particular, Bo Harris was effective driving to the basket. Aubrey White reentered the game rejuvenated and full of energy. He helped to maintain the Stallions' lead in the late third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Rainmen fought to cut the lead down. Early on, White's heroics sustained the lead- he grabbed several key rebounds to create extra possessions. But, Kavon Jones' play inside cut the lead down to 2 points mid way through the fourth quarter. When Kenny Jones responded inside, Taliek Brown came back and scored twice cutting to the basket. In the end, though, Jones was able to grab several key rebounds and McLeish stole a critical pass to close out a Bluegrass Stallion victory.

Halifax Rainmen

Taliek Brown- In the PBL, Brown has taken a more active role as an offensive player, acting as one of the top distributors in the PBL while also looking to score the basketball. While Brown did not always make ideal decisions- he traveled on several plays and lost the ball on occasion- he was always willing to make the extra pass, particularly in transition. Moreover, when he did not turn the ball over, Brown provided a solid leadership presence, looking to take the game into his own hands at pivotal moments. In the second half, he was assertive finishing at the rim whenever his team was behind. With that said, he fouled two players while they were shooting three point shots- so these poor decisions counteracted the strides he made on offense.

Boo Jackson- Jackson is an athletic combo forward who has played in the D League. Not only does he pick his spots offensively, but he also has active hands on the glass and in the passing lanes. Jackson must work to improve his free throw shooting if he expects to play at a higher level of basketball. Defensively, Jackson poked away the basketball several times from the opposing team, but struggled with his post defense against Kenny Jones- specifically, he allowed Jones to receive low post position and draw contact.

Kavon Jones- He was extremely aggressive attacking the basket today. Jones is an athletic forward with a face up game. Jones came into the contest and immediately made his presence felt, grabbing several key rebounds. He also demonstrated an ability to dribble past multiple defenders and get to the basket. In the second half, Jones functioned primarily as a post option, using his girth to muscle his way inside. Because of his solid athleticism, Jones is able to contest shots at the rim and thereby serve as a barrier for the opposition's dribble penetration.

Josh Dollard- Dollard was the most valuable player for the Rainmen in the first half. He was aggressive attacking the basket and provided a solid option inside for point guard Taliek Brown. He was able to contort his body and finish through contact. Moreover, Dollard was able to help the Rainmen obtain a rebounding margin in the first half. When he left the game with foul trouble, the Stallions gained an edge on the glass.

Bluegrass Stallions

Kenny Jones- Jones was fairly active inside early in this contest. He displayed active hands on the glass, and was capable as a post option despite being undersized at 6'6. Jones got himself open inside and showed some promise as a pick-and-roll player. Further, Jones demonstrated sheer will on the offensive glass, hustling for rebounds and positioning himself nicely. Overall, Jones has been the Stallions' most valuable option throughout the season, and his play in the fourth quarter really cemented a nice home victory.

Aubrey White- This former Georgetown College standout looked like he was at home in this professional contest. White is an extremely skilled offensive slasher that is capable penetrating to the basket or pulling up for a balanced jump shot. White demonstrated remarkable athleticism on the defensive end, blocking an alley oop attempt in transition. Further, he was able to draw several charges, positioning himself and displaying solid lateral quickness. Not only was White able to create extra possessions due to his prowess on the defensive end, but he also exhibited excellent hang time when attacking the basket in transition. White further displayed his athleticism on the glass, where he was able to collect offensive rebounds amongst the trees. All in all, White has the tools to play at higher levels of basketball. He must maintain his consistency on the offensive end, and look to lead his team to a PBL championship if he ever hopes to make this a reality though.

Bo Harris- Harris is a slashing 6'7 forward who is able to get in the lane and attack the basket. He is a willing passer that can set up his teammates inside. One post entry feed to Reo Logan- in particular- helped solidify Harris's position as a dynamic point forward.

Jason McKleish- McKleish came alive in the third quarter, hitting long range shots and attacking the basket. Aside from his marksmanship from beyond the arc, McKleish's most important contribution came on the defensive end. In the middle of a Rainmen run in the fourth quarter, McKleish stole a pass to effectively end this contest.

Reo Logan- This 7-footer is a standout who displayed an intriguing skillset inside. Most of Logan's potential comes from the defensive end, where he is a solid help defender- employing nice length to deflect passes and decent lateral quickness, which allowed him to hedge on screens. Not only was he able to contest just about everything on the defensive end, but he also displayed an interesting post game. Logan was able to find openings and score inside when given the opportunity. He must continue to work on attacking inside instead of choosing finesse moves.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Up-In-Coming Mid Major Prospects Part 1

In this segment, I explore the strides that Akron big man Zeke Marshall has made this season.

Zeke Marshall began his career at Akron as the program's most decorated recruit in school history. Given the lofty expectations that come with such a designation, Marshall did not have the illustrious freshman season that most were expecting. Instead, he played a fairly limited role in the Akron lineup, serving primarily as a shot blocking presence off the bench. In spite of the fact that he played only 17 minutes per game, Marshall was able to tally an efficient 1.7 blocks per contest, which made him the 13th best nationally in terms of % blocks according to the Ken Pomeroy statistical database. Despite his strength on this end of the floor, Marshall struggled to score against the strength of post players at the college level.

This season, however, Marshall has made some noticeable strides, which should go a long way towards improving his long run potential. What jumps out immediately when watching Marshall on film is his improved offensive repertoire around the basket. When he does establish position on the block, Marshall is quick and nimble enough to spin past his defender. Moreover, he has demonstrated an ability to deceptively maneuver around the basket, employing superior length to finesse the ball into the basket. If he can improve his handle dramatically in the coming years, Marshall may begin to develop a face up game down the road. Further, Marshall does a nice job of calling for the ball on the block whenever he has position. In general, Marshall has improved his post footwork since last season and is receiving more touches because of it.

Despite the intriguing improvements that Zeke Marshall has demonstrated this season, his play against power post players (in this case, Buffalo's freshman forward Javon McCrea)highlights his notable limitations. While he can stand to add more weight, his narrow frame will only enable him to add so much. Additionally, Marshall has very long legs, and this physical trait will continue to hinder his ability to seal his man and establish deep post position. On a similar note, Marshall has difficulty boxing out in the post because of his underdeveloped body. As a result, he only averages 5 rebounds per contest in a fairly weak mid major conference, despite being a legitimate 7'0. On the offensive glass, his length, quickness, and anticipatory box outs allow him to somewhat compensate and collect a decent amount of rebounds. However, Marshall struggles as a defensive rebounder mostly because of his willingness to challenge and alter shots in the paint, which inhibits his ability to position himself. Even discounting his tendency to block shots, Marshall struggles to effectively box out his man, as evinced by his pedestrian 13.7 defensive rebounding % (Kenpom rankings)- which ranks 34th in the MAC conference. So even by collegiate standards, Marshall is one of the worst defensive rebounders for his size.

Nonetheless, Zeke Marshall's potential primarily rests on the defensive end of the floor. Marshall has a tremendous combination of length and shot blocking instincts, which has enabled him to establish himself as one of the premier paint presences in all of college basketball. After increasing his playing time from a year ago, Marshall currently ranks as the 18th best player in % blocks in the country. Watching film highlights this strength even more. While he is able to physically tip many shots, Marshall's presence is felt even when he does not tally a block. It is safe to say that Zeke Marshall is one of the best in the country at altering shots, making guards think twice before they slash to the basket. Moreover, Zeke is willing to get down in a defensive stance, particularly on wing close outs. And, Marshall is fairly quick laterally for his size. Despite these strengths, Marshall still possesses several flaws that have hindered his play on the defensive end. Most notably, he is sometimes forced to concede deep post position due to his lack of strength. Still, Marshall works hard on the defensive end to prevent this from occurring. But, his physical profile will always hurt him in this area. Once he develops the necessary strength inside, Marshall must front the post more often. Moreover, Marshall does not have great fundamentals as a positional defender, often failing to put his hands straight up in the air. This weakness has forced him into foul trouble many times this season. For reference, Marshall ranks 76th in the MAC with 6.03 fouls committed per 40 minutes according to Kenpom.

All in all, Marshall has made some obvious improvements in his game this season, particularly on the offensive end. He is a now a more skilled post player. With that said, he still maintains a fairly weak physical profile, which negates many of his greatest assets as a player. If he can add weight and continue to improve his fundamentals on the defensive end, Marshall should receive looks from NBA scouts. As it currently stands though, Zeke is a project big man at the college level.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Small School Prospect Review- Lamonte Thomas

Standing at a long 6'2, this Johnson & Wales University junior is a professional prospect and currently Division 3's leading scorer. In this contest, Thomas was suffering from a stomach bug and was limited to 10 minutes in the first half. However, he came back with vengeance, leading his team to a 20+ point margin to close out a victory.

In the second half, Thomas demonstrated his uncanny ability to get to the basket. Lamonte Thomas's handle is fairly reliable, despite that fact that he is not particularly explosive off the dribble. To clarify, Thomas is fast enough with the ball in his hands. However, he has not mastered the change of pace dribble and tends to operate in a fairly predictable straight-line fashion. As such, it is clear that Thomas may have to refine this element of his game in order to play at the next level. Currently, he is unselfish enough with the ball, and does take pride in hitting his open teammates. He is able to do this because he constantly has the ball in his hands however- a luxury that will not be afforded to him at higher levels of basketball. Thomas is able to play within his offensive system as well- and consequently, is willing to work the ball around the perimeter. Despite his 27 point per game average, Thomas is unselfish with the ball in his hands and makes winning plays as a result. When he looks to score off the dribble, Lamonte Thomas has the athleticism necessary to get his shot off in the paint. With that said, Thomas predominantly drives right, and this tendency is also fairly predictable/scoutable.

Not only is Lamonte Thomas effective moving towards the basket, but the most impressive element of Thomas's game is his ability to stop on a dime and pull up for a balanced jump shot. In this contest, Lamonte Thomas was able to slash to the basket and rise for a midrange shot. He also showcased his ability to hit the floater in the lane, which is fairly advanced for anyone at the college level. Additionally, Thomas is able to hit shots from beyond the arc- both off the catch or off the dribble. Clearly, Lamonte Thomas is one of the more advanced offensive players at the college level.

On the defensive end, Thomas is fairly quick laterally and is thereby able to stay in front of his man. This will be challenged at the next level, where he will have to maintain a constant stance and work in a more team-oriented help system. Thomas spent most of his time on this end shadowing his offensive assignment- rarely assisting his teammates, except when the other team was in transition. Consequently, Thomas evinced a scrappy ability to collect rebounds on the defensive glass- and once he secured the loose ball, he always looked to push in transition. In this facet of the game, Thomas is fundamentally sound as well, always looking to seal or box out bigger players inside.

Overall, Lamonte Thomas is a revelation at the Division 3 level as a 6'2 scoring point guard. He should receive some looks from scouts over the next two seasons. In order to improve his career prospects, however, Thomas should consider applying for early entry in the draft so that he can further hone his game. He will have a difficult time advancing as a player against his current level of competition. Also, he may be able to secure a contract overseas if he is able to generate buzz in team workout settings.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Murray St. vs. Jacksonville St. Prospect Review

In this contest, several minor league prospects demonstrated their long term potential. While Jacksonville St. was able to take a lead early in this contest and maintain it throughout the first half, poor shot selection and a completely unnecessary technical foul allowed Murray St. to go into halftime tied. In the second half, Murray St.'s press created turnovers and really limited the number of Jacksonville St.'s offensive possessions. Additionally, the Racers were able to shut down Nick Murphy in the second half, forcing him to take unwarranted perimeter jump shots.

Murray St.

Isaac Miles- Miles is a 6'2 slasher that is physical attacking the basket. Miles is rather explosive off the dribble, and thereby probably has the most long run potential on his Racers squad. Not only is he able to embrace contact in the lane, but he also has the handle to drive past defenses and run plays from the point guard slot. On the defensive end, Miles has quick hands and is able to defend bigger players due to his physicality.

Isaiah Canaan- Canaan is the unquestioned leader of his team, standing at a diminutive 6'0. Canaan is an excellent passer and decision maker, who is able to thread the needle for post passes. Canaan is also explosive enough off the dribble to beat his man and score inside amongst bigger players. Canaan has a pretty shooting form and is able to pick his spots. Defensively, Canaan is small for his position, but has the quick hands and the lateral quickness to defend point guards. While he does have two seasons left, look for Canaan to play overseas after he finishes his career with Murray St.

Edward Daniel- Daniel is a combo forward with the ability to finish through contact. On several occasions, he was able to contort his body in order to move past his defender, and take it to the basket. Daniel was active on the glass and collected several key offensive rebounds.

Donte Poole- Poole is one of the more efficient offensive weapons on this Murray St. squad. He is the most efficient three point shooter on this squad. Poole is also probably the team's best decision maker with the ball in his hands. While he does not collect many assists, Poole willingly reverts to set offensive plays and always tries to swing the ball around the perimeter instead of opting for a hockey-assist type of play.

Jeffrey McClain- McClain is an undersized interior player that is a capable scorer on the low block. He was able to seal his man and score on several occasions in this contest. He also was crafty inside, constantly in motion to get open. As a result, he was the recipient of several good passes for easy baskets. Defensively, McClain is fairly physical, but he will struggle against the height and length of professional players.

Ivan Aska- He is the most physically imposing player that Murray St. has to offer. He is willing to fight inside for rebounds and position himself to score. While he has had a distinguished career with the Racers, Aska has taken a step back this season in terms of his confidence scoring the basketball. While his play of late may have diminished his confidence, he was still able to seal his man effectively and create contact inside. Because of his physicality, he is able to draw fouls rather easily- converting on 72% of his attempts from the line. As part of his offensive repertoire, Aska employs an effective jump hook shot in the paint.

Juwuan Long- He is an excellent decision maker, who can slash to the basket. Long has emerged this season as a defensive role player that works to lock down top offensive players on the perimeter. Also, he is able to steal the ball out of the Murray St. full court press.

Jacksonville St.

Nick Murphy- Murphy is a solid athlete that can hit the mid range jump shot. He must look to become more aware of his spot on the floor, as he was regularly shooting the ball with his foot on the three point line. When he is not stepping out for the jumper, Murphy looks to score most of his points inside off of post ups. When facing up on the block, his fadeaway jumper was fairly intriguing. At 6'4, Murphy must continue to improve his handle in order to become more of a slasher though. Also, his first step is not explosive by professional standards. On the defensive end, Murphy demonstrated that he will be a solid perimeter defender at the next level by picking up Isaiah Canaan for spurts during the second half. Overall, Murphy is a decent athlete that can rebound the ball; therein, he may become a role player at the next level.

Jeremy Bynum- Bynum is a decent three point shooter when he is able to square his body to the basket. On the defensive end, Bynum is fairly active with his hands, and was able to corral some steals when he was posted up on the block. When his team had the lead, however, he took several ill-advised shots from the perimeter, which allowed Murray St. cut the margin down late in the first half. Bynum displayed a fairly decent three point stroke when he had some time though. Early in the second half, he suffered an eye injury and had to sit out for a while. Moreover, Bynum is a decent positional defender inside, and was able to take a critical charge in this contest.

B.J. Miller- This undersized point guard was dynamic slashing to the basket. While he is not physically imposing enough to thrive at higher levels of play, Miller has the quickness to get to the basket and set up his teammates. Also, he has a pretty stroke and a quick release, which he uses to keep defenses honest. Miller was able to hit several difficult long range shots in this contest. In the second half, his 3 point shooting kept Jacksonville St. in the game. From a decision making standpoint, however, Miller is still adjusting to Division 1 basketball after transferring from Georgia Perimeter College. For example, several of his quick perimeter shots led to transition baskets for Murray St. On the defensive end, Miller has decent lateral quickness, but struggles against more physical players.

Monday, January 10, 2011

UMass vs. Dayton: Prospect Review

In this grind-it-out slugfest, there were some borderline professional prospects on display. UMass managed to squeak out a win despite fairly poor clock management late in the game. On most possessions, they waited far too long to move into their half court sets- as a result, they took some poor shots. With that said, they were excellent enough on the defensive end to overcome their offensive woes. Not only did the Minutemen limit perennial star Chris Wright inside, but they also closed the gap on wings Chris Johnson and Paul Williams to prevent dribble penetration. While freshman point guard Juwan Staten had an efficient outing, UMass was able to get back in transition and completely control the tempo of this game.


Chris Wright- While this contest did not reveal many of the intricacies of Wright's game due to his limited usage offensively, some trends could be discerned. First and foremost, it is clear that Wright thrives as a transition player, looking to get out and run for breakaway dunks on virtually every occasion. Moreover, in the half court, Wright functions predominantly as a face up big man, with the ability to put the ball on the floor and the strength to finish through contact inside. This season, Wright has struggled to connect on many of his mid range shots, evincing a form that needs a great deal of work. Like many tremendous athletes, Wright struggles to maintain a consistent lift on his jump shot. Moreover, Wright's handle is not as finely tuned as it needs to be in order to achieve success at the next level. On a similar note, he must improve his court vision in order to limit turnovers. Despite his limitations, Wright is one of the most physically developed players in college basketball. He sports a chiseled physique, and uses it in post up situations. Further, he is an excellent run-jump athlete who can block shots in a Lebron-esque fashion out in transition. So far this season, Wright has been more aggressive defensively, but must work on keeping himself out of foul trouble so that he can develop a rhythm on both ends of the floor. At this stage, Chris Wright is nothing more than an undersized power forward because of his limited basketball skillset. If he can improve his decision making, mend his awkward shooting form, and develop more of a handle, Wright should become an NBA player- as he already has the strength and athleticism to succeed at the next level.

Juwan Staten- This promising freshman demonstrated his ability to get to the basket in this contest. Not only was he willing to drive and hit open teammates for easy baskets, but he was comfortable attacking the hoop himself. In this contest, Staten looked particularly poised in Dayton's half court sets. Given the fact that UMass did an excellent job of limiting Dayton's transition baskets- a staple of their offensive production- Staten remained under control and proved to be a standout decision maker. He was able to move the ball on the perimeter and generate countless open looks for wings Paul Williams and Chris Johnson. Not only does Staten possess a unique court vision, but he also plays fairly hard on the defensive end. While it was difficult to assess his lateral quickness against Gary Correia, it was clear that he at least put in effort on this end of the floor. Despite these strengths, Staten must improve as a shooting threat in order to keep defenses honest. Look for Staten to continue to develop as the season progresses into one of the nation's best young guards.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Early Mock Draft 1/4/11

In this segment, I provide an early account of the 2011 NBA draft's top prospects. These synapses are only short player summaries- by no means are they substitutes for more in depth scouting reports. It must be noted that this mock draft does not reflect team needs, nor is it predictive of the exact lottery order. Also to note: not every prospect will be included in this mock draft, as I assume which prospects will enter the NBA draft this year.

1. Kyrie Irving- Irving began the season on a tear for the top team in the country. Prior to his injury, he played under control and well beyond his years. He possesses a mastery of the change-of-pace dribble, similar to NBA guard Chris Paul. Also, he has shot well from beyond the arc.
2. Perry Jones- Jones is a 6'11 wing that can dribble and hit the outside shot. He is willing to tip back shots and grab rebounds inside. Also, he is arguably one of the best athletes in this draft.
3. Jonas Valanciunas- This physical specimen is garnering all sorts of attention for his performances in Euroleague this season. While his post game could use some work on both ends, he has a 7'6 wingspan and utilizes this for offensive rebounding and defensive purposes.
4. Kemba Walker- Walker has been a revelation this season. He is scoring efficiently due to his perfected shooting touch, and distributing the ball. Walker has been a defensive nightmare all season, as he is virtually unstoppable off the dribble.
5. Jared Sullinger- The NCAA's most impressive freshman big man has been a dominant presence on the low block. The only reasons that he will not be picked higher are his defensive limitations, and lack of a consistent face up game at this point.
6. Enes Kanter- Kanter is a skilled big man with an excellent post game. Whether or not he declares for the draft or waits to play at UK is still in question.
7. Jan Vesely- Vesely is a tremendous European athlete with outstanding physical tools. He may be able to play small forward at 6'11.
8. John Henson- While he does still have room to develop his post game, Henson has the agility and athleticism to really become a solid NBA big man. He has added weight to his thin frame this season, and now plays stronger and is more effective on the glass.
9. Harrison Barnes- Barnes has been a disappointment for the most part because of his lack of efficiency shooting the basketball. With that said, he still has intriguing physical tools, and the basketball IQ and work ethic to improve upon them.
10. Terrence Jones- Jones has been the catalyst behind UK's success this year. This face up big man can shoot the ball or take his man off the dribble. His stock has slipped due to inconsistent play recently, and the fact that he does not have a defined position defensively.
11. Donatas Motiejunas- This skilled big man has improved his physicality. He is effective shooting from virtually anywhere on the floor, making him one of the most dangerous weapons in this draft.
12. Chris Singleton- Singleton is a combo forward that can guard virtually any position on the floor. He does a decent job attacking the basket and is very aggressive on the boards. Singleton has extended his range this season, but must work to develop his shot off the dribble.
13. Derrick Williams- Williams has been one of the more impressive prospects all season long. Not only is he extremely physical and athletic in the post, but he also has become a serious threat as an outside shooter as well.
14. Jeff Taylor- Taylor is a world class athlete that has extended his range, and added some bulk to his frame. He is also a ball stopper on the other end of the floor.
15. Tristan Thompson- Thompson has been one of the biggest reasons for Texas' success this season. He is a physical athlete with a developing post game and promise on the defensive end as well.
16. Marcus Morris- Morris is one of the most complete players in this draft. He has extended his range this year, and is comfortable hitting the perimeter jump shot.
17. Josh Selby- Selby is one of the more dynamic, young slashing guards in the country. While he projects as a combo guard at this point, he will have to look to involve his teammates more in order to increase his draft stock.
18. Kris Joseph- Joseph is rather quietly having an excellent season for his undefeated Syracuse squad. After beginning the season in a slump, Joseph is demonstrating an improved three point shot. He has continued to bring world class athleticism in transition and intensity on defense- both of which have been pivotal parts of the Orange's success this season.
19. Nolan Smith- While he may always be thought of as a scorer first and foremost, Nolan Smith has refined his ability to play point guard. He is the savvy backcourt leader of the best team in the country right now.
20. Kawhi Leonard- Leonard has been the most valuable piece for arguably the best mid major team in the country. While he does need to refine his perimeter game, Leonard is an excellent athlete that is the best small rebounder in the country.
21. Trey Thompkins- Thompkins is a skilled big man that can score inside and out. He does lack a quick first step, and this has limited his draft stock.
22. Scotty Hopson- Hopson has all the physical tools to be the best wing in this draft. He must improve his consistency from beyond the arc, and on pull up jump shots. However, he is a menacing presence on the defensive end due to his lateral quickness and length. Additionally, he is more explosive attacking off the dribble this season.
23. Brandon Knight- While Knight is one of the more promising young guards in this draft, he does hold a shoot-first mentality, which limits him as a draft prospect. Additionally, scouts will be looking for him to improve his decision making over the course of the season.
24. Jordan Hamilton- Hamilton is one of the elite perimeter shooters in this draft. He must continue to improve his decision making on both ends of the floor.
25. Kyle Singler- Singler is one of the more proven prospects in this draft class. He is a capable, albeit streaky shooter, that can hurt an opposing team inside as well as on the perimeter. While he does lack the elite explosiveness of an NBA small forward, Singler has the basketball savvy to compensate.
26. Alec Burks- Burks is a smooth athlete with a decent handle. He can attack the basket with decent athleticism. With that said, Burks still must improve as a decision maker.
27. Bojan Bogdanovic- He is a diversified scorer that can attack the basket rather consistently. However, he is not quick enough to defend at the NBA level just yet.
28. Jajuan Johnson- Johnson has molded himself into one of the more skilled big men in this draft. He is a capable post player inside that relies predominantly on half hooks. His footwork has improved considerably over his four years though. Also, Johnson does have a faceup jumper from the mid range. Defensively, his impressive length will cause headaches for the opposition.
29. Kenneth Faried- Faried is arguably the best rebounding prospect in this draft class. He is aggressive on the glass and on the defensive end of the floor.
30. Elias Harris- Harris is a strong combo forward that is aggressive inside. This season, however, his perimeter shot is not falling. His lack of accuracy from the perimeter may inhibit his ability to transition to the NBA wing slot.


31. Demetri McCamey- McCamey has really come into his own this season, transitioning to the role of facilitator. He is a strong guard at 6'3, who has the size to play in the NBA. Despite his lack of elite quickness at the point guard position, McCamey is having an excellent season shooting the basketball from the perimeter.
32. Festus Ezeli- Ezeli has really emerged as a back-to-the-basket weapon this season, utilizing his tremendous combination of length and athleticism to score inside and bother on the defensive end. He must continue to improve his footwork in order to become an elite big man.
33. Malcolm Lee- Lee is one of the more explosive and athletic wings in this draft class, but is not a great finisher. At the next level, he may function primarily as a role player on the defensive end.
34. Jimmer Fredette- Fredette is a consummate leader, who can score the ball using his craftiness and remarkable shooting ability.
35. Keith Benson- Benson has improved tremendously as a draft prospect, demonstrating the same length and athleticism, while also playing more physically inside.
36. Wesley Witherspoon- Witherspoon is a skilled point forward that can score inside and out. With that said, he must improve physically in order to defend at the next level.
37. Chris Wright (Georgetown)- Wright has really come on strong this year for Georgetown. He has done an excellent job initiating their offensive sets, displaying excellent lead guard decision making instincts. Also, Wright is a capable slasher with a solid first step.
38. Travis Leslie- While Leslie is a world class athlete, he does not have ideal size at 6'4 to merit a first round selection. Moreover, he is not an effective perimeter shooter, shooting a paltry 19% from beyond the arc. With that said, Leslie is a ball hawk on the perimeter with fairly quick hands.
39. David Lighty- Lighty is a rather complete, experienced wing who plays within himself. He has solid speed and is able to hit shots from the perimeter, but must work on his consistency. He is also one of the better on-ball defenders in this draft. Lighty has dealt with injury concerns following his torn ACL early in his career, and this should be noted.
40. Xavi Rabaseda- Rabaseda is an improving shooter that scores most of his points by moving off the ball. While he may be somewhat quick dribbling the ball, he lacks the lateral quickness to challenge players in the NBA.
41. Will Clyburn- Clyburn is one of the more unknown prospects currently out there. This Juco transfer is a smooth 6'7 wing with solid athleticism and a decent handle. He is able to attack the basket due to his excellent body control. Clyburn must continue to develop physically in order to be able to absorb contact at the next level.
42. Pablo Aguilar- Aguilar is a developing role player at the next level who functions primarily as a spot up perimeter shooter. He can clean up inside and make decent interior passes as well due to his solid basketball IQ.
43. Andrew Nicholson- Nicholson is a crafty face-up big man that can hit jump shots in the key. He is most effective slithering past his man to the basket due to his excellent quickness.
44. Corey Fisher- Fisher is a strong point guard that is one of the best in the country at scoring through contact. While he still does possess his characteristic New York City handle, he has improved considerably as a decision maker. He must adjust his shooting mechanics in order to improve his perimeter shooting though.
45. D.J. Kennedy- Kennedy is an excellent defensive presence who is also capable as a pull up shooter. He is quick with the ball, and is able to slash to the basket.
46. LaceDarius Dunn- Dunn is a streaky, undersized perimeter shooter with somewhat of a set shot. He must amend this so that he can avoid shot blockers in the NBA. Dunn can attack the basket as well, utilizing solid quickness and physicality.
47. Milan Macvan- Macvan is an intelligent big man that can thrive in pick-and-roll situations. He is also a decent back-to-the-basket option due to his size. Macvan must improve his conditioning if he hopes to make it in the NBA though.
48. Rick Jackson- Jackson is an excellent rebounder and a decent back-to-the-basket threat. While he is aggressive and fights for position inside, he must develop a more diversified post game, instead of relying primarily on up-and-under and hook shots.
49. Kalin Lucas- Lucas is one of the more complete college point guards, with solid quickness attacking the basket and an ability to score on the wing. He is turning the ball over more frequently this season. However, one cannot help but think that this play may be at least partially attributable to the residual effects of his Achilles injury, which he suffered last March.
50. Giorgi Shermadini- Shermadini is a lengthy big man with decent potential considering the fact that he started playing organized basketball relatively recently. He is a fairly skilled presence and is capable as a spot up shooter.
51. E'Twaun Moore- He is one of the best perimeter scorers in the country, who can hit shots from virtually anywhere on the floor. Moore has a fairly effective first step, which he uses to get by defenders. On the other end, despite being undersized, Moore is fairly quick and provides solid effort on defense.
52. Lavoy Allen- Despite his rather average strength inside, Allen is an outstanding post defender that is capable of blocking shots. He scores most of his points in Temple's offensive sets off of basket cuts, so he must work on becoming more of a back-to-the-basket player. Aside from his crafty face up game, Allen is a decent jump shooter as well.
53. Malcolm Delaney- Delaney is a combo guard with a quick first step and an excellent ability finishing around the rim. He can hit shots from long range as well. He must improve as a decision maker; otherwise, he probably will not get drafted.
54. Durrell Summers- Summers is a streaky, undersized shooter with solid athleticism. He needs to improve his consistency in order to secure a selection in this draft.
55. Chris Wright (Dayton)- Wright is a world class athlete that must continue to work on his perimeter shooting in order to become a role player in the league. Currently, he is a solid help defender, and is very physical inside.
56. Mamadou Samb- Samb is a big man with a decent amount of potential due to his intriguing length and his ability to knock down open jump shots. He must add more muscle in order to be effective on both ends of the floor at a professional level.
57. Jerrell Williams- Williams is a garbage player that can be effective in the post. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder, despite his average size and strength. His physique is actually very reminiscent of a rookie Dennis Rodman's. On the defensive end, Williams will be limited by his height at the next level.
58. Gilbert Brown- This older senior has a high-arcing three point shot that is difficult to contest. Moreover, he is fairly athletic and a good enough decision maker at the wing slot.
59. Justin Holiday- Holiday is a serviceable defender that has improved his offensive game this season. He has a decent mid range shot and has improved his slashing ability.
60. Justin Brownlee- Brownlee is one of the more skilled forwards in the country, with the ability to score inside and the necessary court vision to find open teammates.

I assume that the following players will return to school: Mason & Miles Plumlee, Tyler Honeycutt, Patric Young, Tobias Harris, Maalik Wayns, Khris Middleton, Cory Joseph, C.J. Leslie, Tyshawn Taylor, Markief Morris, Aaric Murray, Iman Shumpert, Klay Thompson, Shelvin Mack, William Buford, Yancy Gates, Joe Jackson, Will Barton, Doron Lamb, Mouphtaou Yarou, Ray McCallum, Darius Morris, Kendall Williams, Chase Stanback, Michael Glover, JaMychal Green, and others will be returning to school.

I believe that Mason Plumlee will return to school because of Coach K, and the fact that his draft prospects could be higher in the future. Aaric Murray has played fairly uninspired basketball lately, and may need to return in order to avoid the second round. Klay Thompson may return after learning that he lacks the explosiveness off the dribble to be a first round pick. I believe that Jackson and Barton will return after a fairly mediocre season, in which they were on the cusp of the NCAA tournament. And, Shelvin Mack has been too inconsistent to merit anything more than a late second round draft pick.

Lastly, I noted that Jamine Peterson is a potential NBA prospect coming out of the D League. However, I wonder if NBA executives will consider Peterson to be too much of a headcase in spite of his talent. On a similar note, Renardo Sidney will probably not be selected in this draft due to his embarrassing early-season antics and lack of conditioning.

Monday, January 3, 2011

UCSB vs. Long Beach St. Prospect Review

Long Beach St.

T.J. Robinson- This undersized power forward may be shorter than his 6'8 listed height, but he is a flexible offensively. While he was somewhat quiet late in this game, Robinson demonstrated his penchant for scoring inside and in transition. Robinson is a hustle player who grabs a lot of rebounds and defends effectively against smaller players due to his excellent quickness. In this contest, Robinson managed to move around picks and limit James Nunnally. While he is a rather gritty interior player in college, he does have some notable holes in his game that need improvement. For example, his shooting form is very slow and methodical. If he hopes to get jump shots off at the next level, he must improve as a catch and shoot weapon. He also must learn to score more as a face up post player and thereby extend his range.

Casper Ware- This consummate playmaker is arguably the best point guard in the Big West conference. He is able to create for his teammates, and is fairly poised at all times. While he is not particularly effective at driving in the lane, he still manages to get past his defenders and dish the ball to open teammates. He does possess a solid handle, but he must improve his change of pace dribble and craftiness if he expects to score at a higher level of basketball. Further, Ware is an excellent three point shooter that can stretch the defenses. Defensively, Ware is undersized at 5'10, but is quick enough laterally to stay in front of his man.

Larry Anderson- Anderson was the difference maker in this game who grabbed rebounds and demonstrated excellent athleticism. Not only did he tally 7 rebounds inside against much larger opponents, but he also blocked several shots as a help defender. Most of Anderson's 25 points came as clean up buckets. However, it should be noted that Anderson uses his body well in order to create space against players 6'8 and larger. Moreover, Anderson was very aggressive on the defensive end and really limited Orlando Johnson. He is extremely quick as a lateral defender and also has the hands to regularly steal the basketball. Despite these noticeable strengths, Anderson is not much of a spot up shooter and must really improve upon his current form.


James Nunnally- Nunnally is an excellent athlete that has taken on an increased role in the offense this year. James relies heavily on his three point shooting for his offensive production. His shot is somewhat unorthodox, and he shoots oft-center at the charity stripe, where he connects on over 90% of his attempts. In this contest, he often forced his shot, hoping to catch fire late in the game. With that said, he is fairly quick off the dribble and can spot up from the field. Defensively, Nunnally is laterally quick and therein, is able to stay in front of his offensive assignment.

Orlando Johnson- Johnson is the most complete player in the Big West, and arguably the best NBA draft prospect. While he did not shoot well in this contest and had several shots blocked, Johnson- cognizant of this- drove to the hoop and scored using his superior basketball IQ. While his first step is not very explosive, Johnson is able to hit difficult shots with his wide array of crafty moves off the dribble. He created space by employing spin moves and utilizing head fakes. Johnson is a rather smooth offensive player that can create his own shot and make difficult fadeaway jumpers. With that said, his release is somewhat slow, and this makes him susceptible to having his shot blocked. Johnson is also a capable passer and willing to involve his teammates in order to win games. In this contest, he took over the point guard role, running sets late in the game to help his team close the deficit. Defensively, Johnson is not quick enough laterally to be effective at the next level. But, he is an intelligent team defender that may be able to get by on effort alone.

Greg Somogyi- This 7'3 Hungarian project demonstrated some potential on both ends of the floor in this contest. Not only was he able to finish inside on some nice passes, but he also collected rebounds and fought for post position, despite his lack of lower body strength. Somogyi also evinced a promising shooting stroke on his face up jumper. On the defensive end, this Hungarian prospect altered many of Long Beach St.'s shots inside and created several extra possessions when UCSB guards were able to corral the ball. All in all, Somogyi has a long way to go before he can be considered a professional prospect. But, if he can improve his conditioning and work on his body, the basketball instincts are there to become a solid player down the road.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

PBL in review: Halifax vs. Vermont

In this contest, Halifax maintained a pretty comfortable lead throughout. While Vermont had several runs in this contest where Halifax struggled to defend the pick-and-roll, the Frost Heaves could not stop the hot shooting of Desmond Ferguson from the perimeter. Taliek Brown was also able to get into the paint and distribute the ball rather easily.

Vermont Frost Heaves

Mike Williams- Williams looked comfortable on offense in this contest. After having an injury plagued career at the collegiate level, it seems as though he is playing at close to full strength. Against Halifax, he was able to pick-and-pop regularly, and seemed to be very comfortable hitting the mid range jumper. Additionally, he was effective attacking the basket and using his body to finish in traffic. When Williams was not spotting up, he virtually lived at the line, where he connected on most of his attempts. On the defensive end, Williams functioned primarily as a position defender.

Halifax Rainmen

Desmond Ferguson- This PBL allstar was effective shooting the ball from everywhere on the floor. He was able to square his body and hit shots at an accurate rate. It is safe to say that Ferguson is one of the more unstoppable shooters in the league, especially when he gets in a shooting rhythm. Despite his fairly unorthodox handle, Ferguson was able to score some baskets in transition. However, he must improve on this area if he wants to play in the D League or in Europe. More pesky defenders at higher levels of basketball would almost certainly pry the ball away whenever Ferguson puts the ball on the floor. Defensively, Ferguson is fairly physical and exhibits a decent amount of effort, but is not laterally quick enough to stay in front of some of the top perimeter players in this league.

Tajuan Porter- While Porter certainly struggles at the professional level to get his shot off due to his diminutive size, he did bring a great deal of energy. Just when Vermont was able to make a run, Porter contorted his body to score on a driving lay in, and then stole the ball for an uncontested basket. Porter was also effective at picking his spots and not forcing the action- something he did regularly at Oregon. In this contest, Tajuan distributed the ball inside and set up his teammates for some open baskets. On the other end of the floor, however, Porter still has the same limitations due to his size. Players are always going to be able to shoot over him and out-muscle him to the basket.