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.

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