Sunday, May 1, 2016

In the Spotlight: Thon Maker

Thon Maker
7’1, 225 lbs
Class: High School 5th year Senior 
Position: Power Forward / Center
School: Athlete Institute Basketball Academy
Wingspan: 7’4
Reach: 9’3
Age: 19.3 (Born: February, 25th 1997)



Strengths:

  • Good size and versatility for an NBA 4/5 - at 7’1 – with 9’3 reach 
  • Strong focus throughout game… Serious demeanor. Competes hard regardless of game (seen in AAU, All-Star game, HS game) … Gives up his body, dives on floor 
  • Appears coachable - multiple possessions communicated with coaches and always comes across attentive and receptive 
  • Upside – Good combination of raw offensive skills, nimbleness, and athleticism combined with a high energy level for a 7-foot center. 
  • Very active offensively – light on his feet. He has a quick second jump. Can finish above the rim, off penetration, or on break
  • Runs the floor well for a 5… looks to beat opposing bigs down court, for easy buckets. 
  • Shooting Potential – While lacking any real consistency, he does display range that extends out to 3… Able to hit off the catch and shoot when given room, and has ability to transition into spot shooter moving off the pick-n-roll. Shown glimpses of hitting off the bounce, even a step back jumper, but it seldom comes within a good offensive possession.
  • Can handle the ball well for someone his size… although he’s rarely going North / South, with all his over dribbling.
  • Defensive Potential
      • Sees the ball and does a good job quickly rotating to come over from weak side… covers good ground defensively… can contest at rim (good timing), but not a true rim protector 
      • Pick n Roll D – Hedges well and recovers, can switch and contain, or use length to trap


Weaknesses:
  • No real upper or lower body strength… lacks a real base to hold ground defensively, or solidify position on offense. Also, struggles to play through contact. Body seems naturally lanky, so I imagine he will struggle to put on muscle mass 
  • When creating offense, it usually results in low percentage looks. He struggles to get separation from defender, or clean look within the ½ court offense, unless it comes off penetration. 
      • Lacking any true back to the basket game… relies on - righty jump hook. Often times, when playing in post, he ends up off balanced or fading from the hoop as a result of defender using strength to disrupt his flow… he struggles to maintain his foot work within the paint… He needs to develop more polish offensively, resulting in higher percentage offense
  • Shooting mechanics need continued development and refinement. He gets good extension, maintains decent balance, but one leg is typically in front of the other and his release is still too slow, as he goes through his shooting routine. 
  • Average explosion despite being a pretty good athlete 
  • Poor rebounder for size, as result of relying on athleticism, lacking strength, not sealing opposition (does go after the ball)
  • Tough to play as 5 in a small lineup… not enough of a presence as last line of defense. Needs another bigger body in paint, protecting basket, working on glass.
  • Never really consistently dominated weak competition (when witnessed in HS and AAU game against below average opposition) – and he’s 19, so he’s typically been matched up against younger players.


Overall:

Maker’s not someone who’s going to step in and provide meaningful minutes. In fact, his development may extend for multiple years and take him straight to the developmental league, before ever seeing the floor.

Maker is the wireframe of a guy who can become an effective NBA player. The size, the skill level, the athleticism, the coordination, the motor, the willingness to learn, the belief in himself, all at 7’1 – he’s got a little bit of it all… and while he doesn’t blow you away in any one area, he does partially check many boxes. Which is a good and bad thing.

On one hand, he’s well rounded. And his upside is higher than similar draft prospects (i.e. Cheick Diallo). But on the other hand, there’s no one area Maker shows so much potential (i.e. rim protector), that you can see him contributing in a short time horizon. Whereas more singularly focused players, bring a skill and as they evolve that skill, they can earn minutes in the rotation. With Maker, it’s more of a boom or bust scenario.

So where do you play Thon?

Center - While on paper, the idea of using Thon to go small and spread the court would be compelling, he’s a long way from being able to play the 5, in a smaller lineup. He’s not nearly a good enough rebounder, he’d struggle as the last line of defense protecting the basket, and because he lacks any real strength, it would be a real up hill battle to guard bigger 5’s.

Power Forward – Given where he’s at in his offensive development, Maker is still not someone who’s going to expose a smaller 4. In fact, the opposition can guard him with a smaller 4 and not worry that despite his 7’1 size, he’s going to take advantage, because he doesn’t play to his size yet. And on the flip side, Maker guarding a smaller 4, will present more challenges, than you gain.

Until his body and game matures, he’s going to need to be complimented with a bigger 4 or 5, who take on the more physical matchup.

The area I think Maker can evolve at a quicker pace is as a shooter. Despite needing to improve his shooting mechanics and speed up his release, he’s shown initial flashes, from the perimeter. Improving as a shooter, and then being able to play the pick and roll (with improved screening), and pull his defender out of the paint, brings a needed dimension to Maker’s game.

All in all, Maker is intriguing, despite the amount of development needed. He’s talented and is worth evaluating closely in Pre-Draft workouts, which should greatly impact his draft stock. I’d love to see him matched up with a number of prospects (Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo, Skal Labissiere), who have similar skill sets and many of whom, are similar in age. As value goes, if Maker sneaks into the second round, he warrants consideration, if you are able to swing big.



In the Spotlight: Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown 
6’7, 225 lbs 
Class: Freshman 
Position: Small Forward 
College: California 
Wingspan: 7’1 
Reach: 8’9 
Age: 19.4 (Born: October 24th, 1996) 


Strengths:

  • Good size, strength and frame - 6’7, 225 lbs - for NBA 3 
  • Incredibly athletic, good acceleration, explosiveness, quick first step 
  • Good individual offensive skills in one-on-one; can take off the bounce and get to the basket, above average pull up game off the bounce, does a nice job changing directions, will be even more dangerous when defenses can’t give as much room and are forced to close out quicker… and while he doesn’t possess a back to the basket game at this point, he has the components to develop one 
  • NBA ready. With no big holes in his game and his offensive arsenal and defensive versatility, he should be able to make a smooth transition to the next level 
  • When on the attack, Brown can be dominant and tough to matchup against 
  • Plays well in transition… can fill the wing and finish at the rim or lead the break … shows good body control when finishing on break 
  • Seems to be a good kid, shows smarts on and off court… articulate… well spoken. Picks opposing guys up on the court 
  • Defensively, he’s got the tools. Whether it’s guarding quicker, more explosive 2’s, or matching up with 3’s that are able to play with their back to the basket, Brown can take on the assignment 
      • Quick feet, good length, strong frame, stout base, seems to have an understanding of when to help and recover, good instincts, gets in lanes to create turnovers 


Weaknesses:

  • Must develop more consistency from the outside and develop quicker release… more of a streak shooter (if that) at this stage 
          2016 Shooting Percentages:
               FG : 43% 
               FT: 65% 
               3 Point: 29%
  • Can improve timing of when to pick his spots, to take higher percentage shots 
  • Does he have the killer instinct? Never shows much emotion. Lacks consistency showing up during stretches of games… and typically on the biggest stage. Often times, during big moments, he’s left with a stoic look on his face, and fails to rise with the pressure 
  • Needs to be more confident and at times make quicker decisions, so his offense isn’t entirely on him to create… when a pass comes off penetration, be ready to shoot, not first get settled and size up the defense. 
  • Needs to continue to do damage within the flow of the offense, not just rely on his 1-on-1 skills when the offense breaks down 


Overall:

Is there a prospect in this years draft class, with as much natural ability as Jaylen Brown? Maybe 1 or 2, but that’s it.

At first glance, he meets the eye test. Good size, length, strength for a 3. Add his incredible athleticism and individual offensive skills, with his elite ability to finish in transition and it’s hard not to fall in love with Brown. Finally, couple all of his physical gifts, and natural offensive talents, with his defensive potential and Brown has skills that can translate at the next level.

So why the hesitancy around Brown as a top prospect?

Unfortunately, there are times he seems to be out on the court, running through sets without the urgency of the moment. During these stretches, he doesn’t even look, or demand the ball.

A season ago, as a Senior in HS on the biggest stage, playing at the Dick’s High School Nationals (playoffs), with Brown’s Wheeler team matched up against a clearly more talented and deeper Huntington Prep team featuring all Division 1 prospects - Thomas Bryant, Miles Bridges, Curtis Jones, etc. I was expecting Brown to be overly aggressive, to try and over compensate for the talent differential between teams and really try to put his team on this back.

Instead, in a tight game in the 2nd half, it almost appeared like Brown understood how difficult a task it would be to carry his Wheeler team to victory…so he deferred to his teammates, at an alarming rate. There was never a moment he turned up the aggressiveness, and his team ultimately lost.

I bring this up, because there were numerous big games down the stretch, this past season at Cal, most noticeably the first round loss to Hawaii, in which Brown seemed to play his worst…or be a non-factor. For example:

March 18th – NCAA Tournament Loss to Hawaii:
   - Brown: FG: 1-6, FTA: 2, Pts: 4, Reb: 2, Ast: 0, TO: 7 in 17 minutes (FO)

March 11th – Pac-12 Tournament Loss to Utah
  - Brown: FG: 3-17, FTA: 8, Pts: 12, Reb: 5, Ast: 5, TO: 5

March 10th – Pac-12 Tournament Win against Oregon State
   - Brown: FG: 1-6, FTA: 7, Pts: 8, Reb: 2, Ast: 3, TO: 6

March 3rd – Big Game down the stretch against Arizona
  - Brown: FG: 2-9, FTA: 0, Pts: 5, Reb: 1, Ast: 1, TO: 2


There are certainly a number of things you can point to for his disappointing performances down the stretch – Cal point guard went down, not enough floor spacing on the perimeter to create lanes for Brown to penetrate, core of Brown and Rabb are freshman etc… And sure, they could’ve played a roll, but this repetitive flaw raises real concern.

And while there’s no debating he must have felt incredible frustration with his performances, he never really showed it on the court – which both points to a maturity, but I would’ve preferred to see some emotion, or some anger at what transpired.

Now anytime, we are talking about a guy with Brown’s talent level, you have to give serious consideration to acquiring him. And with only drafting the best player available in mind, if Brown were to fall to the tail end of the lottery, picks #10-13, he becomes a great value selection. More than likely Brown will be selected, picks #5-10.


*Cut from the mold of a Stanley Johnson or Joe Johnson, Brown is more naturally gifted at this point than either were at the end of their freshman seasons. But Brown is well behind Stanley in his competitiveness, or Joe’s shooting ability at that same stage.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jordan Classic Recap: Charles Bassey


Charles Bassey 
Height: 6-10
Position: Power Forward / Center
Year: 2000
Team: St. Anthony 
Country: Nigeria


Strengths:
  • Imposing physical stature that will continue to fill out in time - 6’10 - (looks as if he has 0% body fat) and good length – think a young Theo Ratliff build
  • Bouncy athlete. Plays above the rim with ease. And has a quick second jump. He doesn’t stay down for long
  • Plays hard. High motor. Absolutely attacks the ball, when it hits the glass. 
  • Sprints the floor on both ends, often beating opposing bigs down court, to get an easy basket
  • Rim Protector who was contesting everything. Very instinctive, but also, understood basic rotations (slight hedges on PnR) and altered or blocked many shots
  • Bigtime upside. Seems as if he’s just starting his playing career and has a ton of room to grow


Weaknesses:
  • Raw. Lacking real polish. Seems like cage animal left to run free, with limited schooling. (also a positive)
  • Didn't show a ton of offensive skills.  Showed a very basic face up game and ability to put the ball on the floor, but no real back to the basket skills, but this will come as his game continues to mature
  • Needs to make sure he doesn’t float too much defensively, following the ball



Overall: 

Charles Bassey plays like a kid with something to prove. He’s tenacious and plays with a serious demeanor and focus. At this age, it’s easy for him to rely on his athleticism, because no other 15-16 year olds, his size, come close to possessing his physical gifts…so he can get away with it. It’s important that Charles not get reliant on his natural abilities and continue to develop because his upside is huge.

The thing that excited me most, is that he has the coordination and fluidity to balance his natural tools. So while he has no developed offensive skills – the ability to fine tune his mechanics is attainable.

Jordan Classic Recap - Rowan Barrett Jr.


Rowan Barrett Jr.
Height: 6-7
Position: Small Forward
Year: 2000
Team: Montverde Academy
Country: Canada

    Strengths:  
  • Nice size, length, and frame for his skill set at 6’7 – will continue to fill out
  • Bigtime athlete who’s incredibly versatile. Able to play with the ball in his hands - which he prefers or off the ball at the 2 or 3
  • Excels in transition both leading the break, where he loves to take the ball off the glass and push… or filling the lane to finish (if he’s running the lane – he wants the ball)
  • Brings a creativity and flare, and just an overall playmaker
  • Showed the ability to use either hand when finishing at the rim. More comfortable with left (strong hand), but also used his right hand in fluid motion 
  • Great court vision and willing passer… especially to the bigs on the fast break
  • Above average shooting the basketball. Mechanics are sound, and displays good touch from deep, or mid-range, both off the bounce, or catch and shoot situations. 
  • Used his body well, showing the Euro step on multiple occasions to avoid the defender in transition 
  • Basketball is in his genes and he seems well schooled. Father Rowan (RJ), played collegiately at St. John’s and was under contract with both the Raptors and 76ers (never played).


Weaknesses:
  • Capable driving with both hands, but strongly favored attacking with his left (strong hand). When he put the ball on the floor going left, he had a higher tendency to finish at the basket vs. resorting to a mid-range pull-up starting to penetrate to his right. Needs to continue to develop his right hand on the bounce.
  • While he showed good mechanics on his jumper, he’ll need to continue developing a quicker release.
  • Can be a bit loose with the ball – sloppy at times. Impressive ball skills, but can tighten up. 
  • Can tell he loves to make the flashy play. He’ll need to learn to balance when to take the higher vs. lower risk… but don’t want to take away his flare, which contributes to what makes him special.
  • Keeping in mind, it was an All-Star game, but there was a lack of awareness (more likely effort) defensively:
      • Leaking out in transition early on a few occasions, before the ball was up 
      • Slow to close, then didn’t contest the shooter and put a late hand up, after the shot was up. 
      • Reaching against his defender and not really moving his feet
  • Needs to continue to work on his conditioning. Given he split minutes, and only really played 5 minute stretches, too frequently he was leaning over with hands on his knees. 


Overall:


Easy to see, Rowan has bigtime potential. His athletic ability is apparent, but the thing that stood out the most, is that he’s an incredibly well-balanced, offensive talent. He’s a freshman in high school and yet possess so much versatility in his game, and such a high skill level. He was consistently attacking the rim, able to hit from behind the 3-point line both off the bounce and in catch and shoot… and he’s a willing passer with an understanding of how to create for teammates. He excelled in transition and seemed most comfortable in the open court.

Only 15 years of age, Rowan is sure to garner a ton of attention this summer, after the AAU circuit hits full swing. It will be interesting to see how it affects him, although he seems to have an experienced circle, with a father who played professionally and a Head Coach at Montverde in Kevin Boyle, who knows how to manage high school stars.

As Rowan’s game continues to evolve, he’ll need to intensify defensively, but much of that is effort, because he showed the physical tools and lateral quickness to be able to develop on the defensive end.

If he’s able to add any additional inches beyond 6’7, he only gets tougher as a match up. He’s definitely someone worth monitoring, albeit you have time.




Thursday, April 18, 2013

In the Spotlight: Anthony Barber


Anthony Barber
Position: Point Guard
Ht: 6-2, Wt: 165
Hometown: Hampton, Virginia
College: North Carolina State
Class: Freshman - incoming


Strengths:
  • Speed in the open court is unmatched… can get end to end with the ball in his hands in a flash
  • Ability to push the ball with either hand – going North / South
    • Lefty in and out dribble
    • Cross over with either hand
  • Ability to create fast break opportunities with his speed
  • Does a nice job mixing up his speeds and accelerating past the defense… good burst
  • Supreme Quickness
  • Great usage of the pick and roll, finding his teammates at the rim
  • Sees the floor well, good feel for where his teammates are 
  • Has the tools to become a very good on the ball defender… size, foot speed, active hands at the 1

Weaknesses:
  • Shooting mechanics need work to develop consistency from the outside.   Looks more comfortable pulling up for a mid-range jumper, struggles when pushed outside his comfort zone.  Jumper comes out with a low-release, as if he’s pushing the ball
  • Needs to expand offensive repertoire in the half-court set… relies heavily on the high screen and roll from the top of the key.  Needs to have the ball in his hands to be involved
  • Immaturity questions – read his Twitter feed – needs some schooling on how to represent his brand.
  • Has to add muscle to his frame to take the pounding he will get as his game advances
  • Does he have the polish?   Can he be a guy that his teammates look up to?

Overall:

Barber is someone that will stand out any time you watch him play, because he has a flare (in a good way).    He’s play’s an exciting style, with the ability to get anywhere on the court with the ball in his hands.  He’s elusive with tremendous quickness – as quick as any 1’s in the NBA.

Offensively, he really needs to focus on developing a more consistent jump shot from the outside.   Right now his mechanics are off – release is low, like a set in volleyball – he’s not much of a threat when shooting from the perimeter.  With his current stroke, the opposition will be able to play off him, offsetting his speed advantage to a degree.  In a way, it will neutralize his first step.   If he can work on improving his consistency from the outside, becoming more of a threat, his game will go to another level.  Forcing the defense to start playing up on Barber and fighting over screens, he’d be a very tough player to contain / keep out of the paint.   And in the half-court set, when the ball is not in his hands, he’d need to be accounted for…. And thus, he’d start to be much more active (without the ball).

On the defensive end, Barber has the tools.   He has good length for a 1, outstanding foot speed, lateral quickness and active hands.    He gets anxious to get into the open court, so he’ll have to learn some discipline, not leaking out too early to start the fast break…. staying focused defensively until securing possession.

But my big focus next season with Anthony Barber will be:  Can he translate his incredible talent into being a productive NBA point guard with leadership skills to run a team? 

One one hand, he had big-time potential, if he works hard and allows his game to develop.  But on the other, he can also become a one-and-done guy, leaving way before he's ready... never to be heard from again.

We’ll be watching closely, very optimistically.

In the Spotlight: Julius Randle


Julius Randle

Position: Power Forward
Ht: 6-9, Wt: 225
Hometown: McKinney, Texas
College: Kentucky
Class: Freshman - incoming
DOB: 11/29/94


Strengths:
  • Plays with a tenacity… high intensity… very competitive / determined
  • Extremely versatile on the offensive end
  • High skill set – Inside / outside ability, which makes him a tough player to match up against.
  •  Tremendous ball handling skills for a 4… Can grab a rebound and take the ball end to end
  •  Good face up game with the ball in his hands – advanced for his size
  • Shows a nice hesitation dribble, to his left
  • Great scoring ability – will find a way to put the ball in the basket
  • Crafty footwork in the paint
  • Nice shooting form from the outside
  • Strong player with good body build… As he continues adding muscle, he needs to keep himself toned enough to maintain his quickness / not slow himself down

Weaknesses:
  • Heavily relies on facing the basket
  • Can’t be too predictable when facing up
    •  If he’s going left – he’s going to the basket
    • If he’s going right – he’s pulling up for jump shot
  • Needs to work on going to his right hand 
  • Overpowers players at this level – won’t work as he gets to the next level
  • Needs to improve his ability to score over bigger players
  • Plays with a lower energy level on the defensive end… needs to stay as hungry to lock down as he does score
  • Average foot speed and later movement.  (would love to see him show that he can guard 3’s)

Overall:

Combine his very rare skill set, with his desire to be great and Julius Randle is a very enticing prospect at the NBA level.   His ability to attack the opposition off the dribble and play with his face to the basket at 6’9 / 225 lbs, makes him a very tough player to match up against.   He’s very versatile with a competitive attitude, and seems like he’s ready to put in the hard work it will take to be a stud.

At this level, Randle can dominate simply by over powering the opposition.  He’s a good athlete, not earth shattering, and the game will continue getting tougher as he advances, and wont be able to rely on out-sizing the opposition.   But he’s someone that has all the tools to be a big time player, at any level.

It will be interesting to see how Randle’s used on the offensive end during his freshman season at Kentucky, given his propensity to drift outside and desire to play on the perimeter.   We’ll be watching closely to see how he adjusts to playing against bigger / longer defenders night in and night out and the improvements he makes with his back to the basket.

As important will be the progress Randle makes on the defensive end, both individually and in the team concept.    Some will come from awareness (rotating from the weakside, hedging out defensively on the pick and roll, etc.), but much of the improvement will come from desire.  

Randle will likely be one and done and is one of our top 5 prospects heading into next season.


Friday, January 8, 2010

In the Spotlight: Greg Monroe (updated)


Greg Monroe

Position: Power Forward / Center
Ht: 6-11, Wt: 250
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
College: Georgetown
Class: Sophomore
Age: 06/04/90

Strengths
  • Plays well within the team concept / flow of offense.
  • Excels when facing the basket (most comfortable) – Has an advanced skill set from the high post
  • Great Passer from the high post – sees the floor well for a big.
  • Understands how to play pick and roll basketball.
  • Soft Hands 
  • Developing a lefty jump hook - which is his go to (only dependable) move when he gets the ball in the post.
  • Good defensive rebounder that gets himself in position to secure rbs. off the glass / uses his length effectively… (Currently averaging 10.3 rbs/ gm – up from 6.5 rbs/ gm last season
  • Good touch / form from the outside, with range that extends to 18 feet.
  • Mature beyond his years… Appears to be very coachable… Likable personality, not a selfish kid / wants to be part of the team, despite being so highly regarded out of HS.
  • Exceptional length – uses to create deflections, get in passing lanes, contest shots.
  • Defensive Presence – great team defender with very good court awareness… Helps out, he’s active, blocks shots.
  • Defensively, he shows well on the pick and roll… He understands how to hedge out to prevent penetration.


Weaknesses
  • Unimpressive athletically
  • Not explosive off his feet – lacking a burst.
  • Limited quickness and not very fast.
  • Everything is left – When he puts the ball on the floor, it’s left. Even heavily favors left side of court on offensive possessions when he’s not in the high post.
  • Weak upper body – needs to get stronger and be able to play more physical.
  • Not comfortable when he gets the ball with his back to the basket. Has limited offensive moves and he typically looks to pass out the post.
  • Very methodical, slow developing jumper - good form but needs quicker release.
  • Can go through stretches in which he’s not involved in the offensive flow… Needs to maintain his intensity.
  • Defensively, not a very effective on the ball, man-to-man defender… his foot speed / strength are his biggest challenges… much more efficient helping off the ball.

Overall

Greg Monroe entered college a season ago with lofty expectation, as the #1 recruit in the nation. With all of the hype, he could have easily forced shots and tried to prove himself as a top NBA prospect, because everyone else seemed caught up in his future. Instead, he opted to fit in on a young Georgetown team. This accentuates Greg Monroe the basketball player… his style of play is within the team concept.

He’s not someone that is going to demand the ball, put up eye popping scoring numbers or try to dominate the game. Rather, he’s someone that has great size (6’11, 250 lbs) and is most effective playing out of the high post. He makes smart decisions, as he has the complete package in that he can take his man off the dribble (going left), shoot from about 18 feet and in (although slow release), back cut to get in scoring position, and he’s a very good passer for a big. Those are the positives.

The negative is that Monroe’s potential impact on the NBA level is not as limitless as most people initially projected. His primary issue is that he’s limited athletically, lacking the explosiveness, speed, and quickness to be as effective in the NBA. He also isn’t an imposing physical presence, currently lacking the strength to handle the contact his body will absorb in the paint at the next level.

On the defensive side of the ball, I also see Monroe facing a big challenge making the transition. Playing within the team concept, he’s excellent. He knows how to defend the pick and roll (does a great job hedging out to prevent penetration). He also uses his length to get in the passing lanes and contests shots coming over from the weak side.

However, on the ball is where I can see Monroe struggling. His foot speed is slow and with the ability of quicker 4’s to step outside, Monroe will have a hard time keeping his man in front of him. And until he bulks up, defending much stronger 5’s will be a big challenge as well.

My Take:

What I hear and what I see with Monroe are two different things.  If expectations were lowered and Monroe was seen for what he is, I would be much more excited about his future. In my eyes, he’ll never be an All-Star caliber NBA player that will put up big scoring numbers, but that's okay.

To me, Monroe is someone that can step in and contribute at the NBA level.  He has a maturity and skill set that will enable him to be a solid contributor on a winning team.  He’s a smart player, plays within the flow of the offense, and he understands how to play defensively within the team concept.

Around picks #12 - #15, I would start looking closely at Monroe. Because of his limitations athletically, I would have a hard time being excited about selecting Monroe in the top 10.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

In the Spotlight: Mike Rosario

Mike Rosario

Position: Point / 2 Guard
Ht: 6-3, Wt: 180
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ
College: Rutgers
Class: Sophomore
DOB: 11/2/90



Strengths:

  • Natural scorer with the ability to put up big scoring numbers
  • Quick Release – doesn’t need much room to get his shot off.
  • Able to hit tough / contested shots
  • Demonstrates excellent quickness
  • Does a good job moving without the ball and using screens to get himself free
  • Exudes toughness; plays with heart
  • Displays great range on his jumper that extends past the NBA 3
  • Has foot speed / lateral quickness to defend on the ball at the next level



Weaknesses:

  • Very underwhelming physically – has a very thin frame
  • Volume shooter that needs to get up a lot of shots - Shot selection is questionable (Some of which is a product of his teams reliance on him to score)
  • Relies heavily on taking 3’s – accounts for a high percentage of his field goal attempts.
  • 2-guard that doesn’t possess natural point guard skills, which is the position he will need to play at the next level. (At 6’2 he needs to play the 1)
  • Needs to improve his ability to break down his man off the dribble and score at the rim, or create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
  • Average ball handling skills
  • Streak shooter from the outside – Can go through stretches when he dominates, but also when he can’t hit, hence his low field goal %’s.
  • Defensively, his size and slender frame make it tough to fight through screens.



Overall:

Playing for a Rutgers team that has limited talent, Mike Rosario finds himself in a unique situation. On one hand, he’s given an immense amount of freedom to create scoring opportunities and to play with a green light. On the other hand, he’s relied upon to carry the scoring load and to get up a lot of shots each night.

There’s no question Rosario’s comfortable playing in a scoring role, but considering his size, 6’2, 180 lbs, he needs to demonstrate the ability to run an offense and play as more of a point guard. Right now his size and style of play are real concerns for his transition to the NBA level.

He can also really improve his shot selection and creativity, as he tends to fall in love with taking deep 3’s, rather than breaking down his man off the dribble and getting into the paint.

There’s also plenty to be impressed with about Rosario’s game. He’s a very tough kid, with superb quickness, deep range, and he does a great job moving without the ball and using screens to get free. He can put up big scoring numbers on any given night and he has the ability to get hot in a hurry and carry his team for stretches on the offensive end. (i.e. – FIBA U19 World Championships – scored 54 vs. Puerto Rico this past summer). He also fights hard on a nightly basis, despite being on an undermanned Rutgers team, competing in the Big East.

Rosario’s only a Sophomore, so there’s still time to fill out physically and prove that he can be a play maker, if given the opportunity to run a team.


My Take:

Watching Rosario, I see many similarities in his style of play to Eddie House. Both are built to be point guards, but are much more comfortable playing in a role that requires them to score.

The two scenarios: Select Rosario and then have him transition to a full-time point guard, limiting his greatest strength – ability to score. The other option is to allow Rosario to stay in his more natural scoring guard position (at 6’2), coming off the bench to provide a spark and bring energy. Neither option is one that I see Rosario flourishing in at the next level.

He can certainly improve his draft stock by showing his lead guard skills and demonstrating that he has the ability to run a team. But until I see those point guard instincts, Rosario is not someone that I think is worth drafting.


Friday, December 11, 2009

In the Spotlight: Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson

Position: Power Forward
Ht: 6-8, Wt: 235
Hometown: Huntington, WV
Class: Junior
College: Kentucky
DOB: 3-14-89

Strengths
  • Works very hard to seal his defender and establish low position on the block… Shoots a high % from the field - Close to the basket, finishing off penetration, or when he’s given room from the outside.
  • Very strong – impressive physical stature
  • Tremendous wingspan - 7’2 -– helps to offset his height, which is smaller than a prototype 4.
  • Very good athlete with great bounce off the floor
  • Soft hands
  • Shoots a high percentage from the free throw line for a big – good form.
  • Plays Hard, Good motor – very aggressive / active on the court
  • Highly proficient with his right jump hook (his go-to move), which utilizes his soft touch around the rim and quick bounce off his feet.
  • Quick to the ball – shows good reaction time.
  • Vastly improving his jump shot – his form is much improved from a year ago – looks much more confident and his range has expanded to the 3 pt line. (he must continue to improve)
  • Great outlet passer – After securing rebounds does a great job getting the ball up court and starting a transition opportunity.
  • Physical style on both sides of the ball – willing to give up his body and take contact – Does a lot of the the dirty work in the paint.
  • Sets solid on the ball screens – Becoming more adept at playing pick and pop.
  • Sprints up and down the court.
  • Good timing on the defensive end – blocks / alters quite a few shots
  • Possess the physical components to defend at the next level (length, athleticism, mobility, strength)...aside from height.

Weaknesses
  • Undersized 4 for the NBA level
  • Needs to further develop his offensive repertoire in the post and become more proficient with his back to the basket…He won’t be able to rely so much on establishing very low position, as his game advances to the next level… Right now, he’s very limited with his moves when he gets the ball down low.
  • Rarely utilizes his Left Hand around the rim – In the post, he’s much more effective when he turns to his left shoulder and shoots right, as he’s not comfortable turning right and finishing with his left hand.
  • Has a tendency to play behind the defense in the offensive sets, when he wants to get very low position, making it tough to feed him the ball… lets the opposition front him, making for a tough entry pass.
  • Lacks the versatility to play the 3 – he’s most comfortable in the paint
  • Needs to do a better job hedging out defensively, to prevent penetration and allow teammates to recover after being screened.
  • Only true position he can defend is the 4, as he lacks the height to guard the 5 and the foot speed to defend the 3.

Overall

Early in the season, it looks as if Patrick Patterson made a very wise decision returning to college for his Junior year. Offensively, the big question mark that surrounded Patterson coming into this season, was his ability to knock down a mid-range jumper with consistency. Thus far he’s done a great job showing that he’s become a more consistent mid-range shooter, even displaying range that extends out to the 3 point line.

Patterson’s current style of play – relying on establishing extremely low position and using his impressive body to pick up easy buckets, won’t translate at the next level. Especially as an undersized 4, which is why adding a nice shooting touch, to compliment his ability to finish around the rim, makes him a much better prospect for the NBA game.

There’s also a lot to really like about Patterson’s game, but one of the most telling signs of Patterson’s development has been the way he’s blended in with the Kentucky freshman class. Despite the buzz surrounding the freshman, it’s been Patterson who’s done the things that get you W’s (rebounding, taking charges, helping defensively when guards are beat on penetration, shooting a high fg % from the floor, scrapping for loose balls, etc). His maturity and the way he now plays within the flow of the offense are telling indicators about far he’s come as a player.

Patterson will be an undersized 4 at the next level, but his athleticism, strength and aggressive style of play, help to partially offset some of this deficiency.

One area I’d like to see Patterson continue to improve is his defensive awareness. There were times when he failed to hedge out on pick and rolls, and also lost his man in the paint. He’s done a good job helping to protect the rim, I’d just like to see him become more complete defensively.



My Take
Patrick Patterson has the ability to be productive at the next level.   His style of play will fit in very nicely, as a compliment to playmakers in the NBA. Someone willing to do the dirty work, use his body to set solid on the ball screens, play physical / be aggressive, and also possess the athleticism to finish around the rim.

Patterson will never be a guy the offense runs through at the next level, so hitting a jumper with consistency, will force defenses to account for him. He’s displayed a much improved shooting stroke this season and thus his confidence has soared, but he’ll have to demonstrate he can get the job done in this area throughout the season.

With that said, Patterson might not have the ceiling of other players in the upcoming 2010 draft – doesn’t have all-star potential / won’t be a 1st or 2nd option offensively – but his style of play has winning potential at the next level. For that reason, I would look start to look closely at Patterson, with picks #12 - #15.


*Resembles Udonis Haslem, with more athleticism. 


Thursday, December 10, 2009

In the Spotlight: DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins
Position: Center
Ht: 6-11, Wt: 260
Hometown: Mobile, AL
Class: Freshman
College: Kentucky
DOB: 8-13-89


Strengths
  • Great size and length – Wide, strong, well built – NBA ready body
  • Extremely advanced skill set for a 6’11 Center – impressive
  • Great hands
  • Able to use his body / wide frame to establish low position. Gets his defender sealed down low, which makes him very difficult to stop.
  • Has the ability to step outside and shoot, and can even extend out to the 3 point line (on rare occasions)
  • Handles the ball very well for his size - after securing rebounds, he can comfortably take a few dribbles to get in better position, or even start to lead the break.
  • Impressive dexterity / agility
  • Possesses all of the components to be an effective rebounder
  • Does a very good job blocking shots - using his length and displaying great timing
  • Upside – Size / Skill package that is very rare – has the potential.

Weaknesses

  • Needs to better utilize his physical gifts and not avoid contact. He plays too finesse for someone with his physical tools.
  • Effort Level on a nightly basis is not where it needs to be.
  • Has a lackadaisical attitude – His head doesn’t always stay into the game and I question if he’s willing to put in the hard work necessary to reach his potential.
  • Conditioning – Tires quickly and will often times be seen gasping for air. Getting in better shape, which would allow him to play hard for longer stretches, is huge for his development.
  • Has a tendency to rely on his perimeter skills, rather than mixing it up inside.
  • Coach Cal seems to have a very short fuse with Cousins and gets down on him quickly, which raises question marks
  • Defensively, he needs to get more committed and do a better job moving his feet. He tends to struggle against smaller, quicker bigs.
  • Foul Prone – needs to do a better job avoiding picking up stupid fouls. Most fouls he commits are with his body, which he follows up with a look of disbelief, when it’s clear he committed the foul.

Overall:

Let me start by saying that I think Cousins made the wrong decision on which college to attend, based on what I’ve seen thus far this season. First, Kentucky’s style of play is not conducive to allowing Cousins strengths to shine. Kentucky likes to play an up and down transition game and Cousins doesn’t run the floor very well, in the current shape he’s in. Additionally, Kentucky likes to spread the court and go one and one, rather than running any sets that focus on getting the ball into the post. They also don’t do a great job spacing the court, so that when Cousins does get the ball, he’s not given enough room to operate.

Secondly, John Calipari is a coach who doesn’t allow you to play through mistakes. Therefore, the moment Cousins makes a mistake, Calipari pulls him immediately. Instantly, Cousins loses focus, begins to pout and his body language becomes sluggish. He can even be seen arguing on the sidelines with Calipari – anything but staying focused in the game. Cousins appears to be very sensitive and someone that needs nurturing to help build his confidence which is clearly not Calipari’s style.

I’m not suggesting that Kentucky’s offense needs to transform (given the backcourt they have – they should push the pace), or Calipari isn’t making the right decisions, I’m just saying that there’s some contrast in style / personalities between Calipari and Cousins.

With all of that being said, Cousins is still extremely inconsistent. Depending on what night you watch him play, DeMarcus Cousins can either leave you very impressed, or wondering if he’ll be another player unable to tap into his potential.

The positive is that Cousins has a rare package of a phenomenal skill set, combined with his tremendous physical gifts. He is extremely talented, possesses outstanding hands, very agile and even has perimeter skills which are rarely seen in someone 6’11. His upside is huge.

On the flip side, Cousins is not in very good shape and thus his play appears lethargic. He isn’t making quick moves, he’s picking up stupid fouls, and he’s not dominating big men that he should have no problem manhandling. Getting in better shape to play hard for 30+ minutes a night, should be Cousins primary goal.

Additionally, he has a tendency to shy away from contact when he’s in the paint. He’s plays a very finesse style and sometimes falls in love with his perimeter skills. He needs to show toughness and prove that he can handle the physical demands of the NBA.



My Take:

Based on purely talent and upside, Cousins is one of the best players in the upcoming draft (should he choose to enter). Unfortunately, his inability to stay focused and his inconsistent play have also stood out. I don’t question Cousins desire because I truly think that he wants to be great, I’m just not sold on him putting in the work necessary. I also can’t comprehend how he’s not in better shape at this point in the season, having been at Kentucky for at least 5 months already.

However, Cousins is someone that I think is worth the risk/reward, because of his rare skill set / physical package combination. At this point, in the middle portion of the first round, I would highly consider Cousins. He has the ability to move higher on my draft board (TOP FIVE), but he needs to prove it with improved play on a consistent basis, before I would move him up.



Update: 2 /22:
In the two months since completing our scouting report on DeMarcus Cousins, his game has skyrocketed. There hasn’t been a player in college basketball that has had success guarding Cousins and he’s been a central figure in Kentucky’s 24 - 1 record. Equally impressive is that he seems to have improved his on-court relationship with Coach Calipari which has led to Cousins playing for longer stretches without having to look over his shoulder when he makes a mistake.

Cousins emergence has been primarily because he’s been playing to his strengths. Rather than hanging out on the perimeter, Cousins has been camped in the paint, using his size, frame and power to solidify low position. He’s done a great job sealing his defenders, which has led to his 55% field goal percentage. His skill level was never an issue and now that he’s developing a better understanding of how to utilize his physical gifts, he’s emerged as the best big man in college basketball.

There’s no question he still shows signs of immaturity and he raises a lot of red flags for his overall demeanor, but he’s also proved that he’s a Top 3 talent, when he enters this year’s NBA draft.