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.


We're Back...

From Courtside is back... Well, sort of.   Over the past few years, rather than posting our scouting reports on the website, we've been working directly with Pro teams.  


Times are changing and we're getting back to our roots.   Check back continuously, as we start featuring the future NBA stars.   

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.



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Spotlight: Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson
Position: Shooting Guard
Ht: 6-5, Wt: 220
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Class: Freshman
College: Cincinnati
DOB: 9/5/90


Strengths
  • At 6’5, 220lbs, Lance is physically advanced with an NBA ready body (it’s actually too much muscle).
  • Scorer - Has the ability to completely dominate on the offensive end.
  • Great one-on-one skills, with an array of moves to take his man off the dribble… Exceptional cross-over (both left to right and right to left), hesitation move, and right in-and-out dribble.
  • Extremely versatile on the offensive end. Lance possesses the handle which allows him to play the point, the shooting touch to play the wing, and the strength to finish inside.
  • Fierce Competitor with a drive to be the best.
  • When Lance gets into the paint, he's very adept at using his body to fend off his defender.
  • Sees the floor well – displays solid court vision and is getting more comfortable setting up his teammates, as his trust level increases
  • Very confident player – Has a real swagger to his game.
  • Relishes big games / moments - he’s played with pressure since a young age, so the spotlight is nothing new for Lance. Seems to flourish when playing against other elite players and never shies away from guarding the opposition’s best player.

Weaknesses
  • Body language and maturity are real concerns - When things aren’t going well his immaturity shows as he pouts and point’s fingers… show’s disgust.
  • Added muscle mass / bulk inhibits his agility and mobility on the court. This is a concern as Lance now lacks the foot speed necessary for the next level, on both ends of the court. Would benefit losing a few lbs which would help his explosiveness.
  • Has a tendency to over dribble and get caught up in a one-on-one battle… Needs to stay within the offensive flow, and when he’s attacking the basket just make a move and explode.
  • Moving Without the Ball - Must improve playing without the ball in his hands and remain effective.
  • Lance has to work on getting himself into position so that he can knock down the jumper on a catch and shoot. He’s much more comfortable shooting off the dribble, than spotting up. He needs to work on reading the defense and using screens to get free.
  • Has to improve his foot speed defensively. His lateral mobility isn’t where it needs to be, to guard much quicker 1’s and 2’s.
  • Needs to become more active on the defensive end – rotate from the weak side, helping out off the ball, creating deflections, etc. He tends to leak out to half-court looking to start the break.
  • Defensively, he’s always looking to switch and rarely is able to fight thru screens.
  • Transition Defense – Needs to get back on defense after he misses a shot, or turns the ball over. He has a tendency to compound a missed shot, by taking a few swipes for the ball to try and regain possession, rather than sprinting back.
  • Lance is not an extremely high flier.
  • Lance isn’t the most well spoken, polished kid off the court.

Overall
Lance is an extremely talented ball player and watching him play you can see how gifted an offensive player he is. At times, he can completely dominate the game, with his ability to create his own offense and score. He can take you off the dribble, shoot from deep, slash to the hoop, get out in transition, etc. It doesn’t take much for Lance to get going and he’s capable of putting up big scoring numbers on any given night.

One challenge for Lance is that over the past few years, Lance has not gotten any taller, but he’s continued to get stronger. Typically, filling out would be ok, as his body would be more ready for the contact of the Big East and ultimately the NBA – but for Lance it’s a problem. This added weight that Lance has put on, is limiting his quickness and explosiveness on the court. It makes Lance look much less athletic and someone lacking the burst to explode to the hoop. It’s great to have an NBA body, but not at such a high cost. Finding the right balance is crucial to his development.

Secondly, the thing about Lance that’s been well publicized is his immaturity. He has a tendency to let his frustration show with his terrible body language when a teammate fails to catch a pass, convert on an easy assist opportunity, when a call doesn’t go his way, or just mixing it up with an opposing player – there always seems to be something. Lance seems to be handling himself much better at the college level and he’s showing a willingness to be part of a team, which is very encouraging.

The emotion that Lance shows on the court, should also be looked at as a positive. If he’s able to channel this “fire” in the right way, you have as competitive a player as you’ll find. His drive, desire, and hunger to be the best are evident – it just needs to be applied appropriately.


My Take: It’s a wait and see approach with Lance, because at this point he does not have the lateral quickness to defend at the next level, or the explosiveness to be as effective in the NBA. If he’s able to find a comfortable playing weight that helps him get back some of the burst he once displayed, he would significantly improve his ability to produce at the next level. He has the offensive tools, but he needs to show improved elusiveness and better on the ball defensive skills before I would give Lance consideration in the top 25 picks of the 1st round.

Lance is someone worth closely monitoring throughout the season – both his body language and his progress…Because of his talent and his ability to score, he has the opportunity to greatly improve his draft status, which for me right now is as an early 2nd round selection.


* Lance reminds me a lot of Tyreke Evans in that neither player is ultra quick, or super athletic, but both know how to get to the basket and score. Lance is also a flexible guard that can play multiple positions, similar to the way Tyreke started his college career as a 2 guard and later transitioned to the point.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In the Spotlight: Wesley Johnson

Wesley Johnson
Position: Small Forward
Ht: 6-7, Wt: 205
Hometown: Corsicana, TX
College: Syracuse
Class: Junior
DOB: 7/11/87


Strengths:

  • Extremely long arms which he uses effectively on both ends of the court
  • Very athletic / terrific hop / quick bounce off his feet
  • A natural scorer that has the potential to put up big scoring outbursts on any given night.
  • Plays well in transition, does a great job getting out and filling the wing and uses his athleticism to finish.
  • Good shooter with deep range – more comfortable on a catch and shoot… Doesn’t need much room, as he’s able to hit while being contested. (Needs to continue improving from the outside, as he’s done - primarily off the bounce.)
  • Crashes the glass on both ends – despite his skinny stature, he’s able to use his length and hops to secure rebounds.
  • Defensively, his length causes problems as he does a great job closing out on shooters, creates deflections, and blocks a lot shots - showing great timing.


Weaknesses:

  • Very thin frame
  • Not very physical – tends to avoid contact
  • Must improve his ability to breakdown the defense off the dribble – doesn’t look to penetrate to the basket
  • Ball handling has to improve (struggles going left) – which will allow him to penetrate with more consistency.
  • Needs to stay active and keep running off screens / slashing to the basket – at times, he finds a spot and waits for the ball to rotate over
  • When establishing position in the post, he needs to fight harder and do a better job sealing his defender.
  • Court Vision - Doesn’t create many scoring opportunities for others – he’s a scorer that looks for his own offense.


Overall:

Having sat out last season, transferring from Iowa State (22 yr old, Jr.), Wesley Johnson is making up for lost time in his first few games with the Orangemen.

Despite his slender build, Johnson has an enormous wingspan which he takes full advantage of. Combined with his super athleticism and Johnson creates a tough match-up for anyone at the college level. Offensively, he’s able to just elevate and shoot over the defense, or come off a screen and hit on a catch and shoot. In transition, Johnson looks as if he’s gliding at times and he’s a solid finisher on the break.

However, when isolated one-on-one, Johnson hasn’t shown the ability to break down the defense and get to the rim, or the propensity to create offense for others. Adding this component would make Johnson much less predictable and really help him create more space, by forcing the defense to play off him a bit.

Additionally, adding another 15 – 20lbs of muscle mass would also help play a huge role in Johnson’s development. He’s naturally lean and will always have a thin stature, but putting on more weight will give Johnson confidence to mix it up inside… mainly finishing after contact, fighting for rebounds, solidifying position on the block and sealing his defender, etc…

Overall, Johnson has a lot of upside and there’s something to be said of a tremendous athlete that can stroke the ball from deep. As he continues to improve his consistency from the outside, he’ll only get tougher to guard. He’s definitely a 1st round talent and with a big year, should move higher up the draft boards.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In the Spotlight: Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson
Position: Point Guard
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 195
Hometown: Clinton, Md.
College: UNC
Class: Junior
DOB: 11/3/87


Strengths:
  • Great Floor General – Pass first point guard that shows good leadership skills.
  • Winner… He’s consistently won in both HS and College (Granted he’s had superb talent around him.)
  • Unselfish, keeps everyone involved in the offense.
  • Pushes the tempo… Excels in transition playing a fast paced, open court game.
  • Good court vision – sees the floor well
  • With his combination of speed and ball-handling, he makes it very tough for opposing teams to apply full-court pressure.
  • Extremely fast end to end
  • Solid upper body strength
  • Pesky on the ball defender that does a good job pressuring the opposing point guard the full length of the court.
  • Quick hands that enable him to create turnovers – averaging 2.3 SPG
Weaknesses:
  • Size - Listed at 5’11, his lack of height and wingspan will create a challenge for Lawson at the next level.
  • Doesn’t have a true mid-range game -- Relies heavily on getting to the basket in transition, or taking 3’s.
  • Lawson gets limited elevation on his jump shot.
  • Not a great shooter (although much improved) – he lacks consistency from the perimeter to keep the defense honest. For his size, Lawson needs to be a terrific shooter and he isn’t.
  • Needs to become more effective playing in the half-court set.
  • Defensively, he struggles fighting over screens and he has a tendency to just go under picks, giving the opposition too much separation.
  • Lawson needs to increase his level of effort defensively.
  • Gambles too much on the defensive end.

Overall:
Ty Lawson is a great college point guard on a great college team. Not to take away from Lawson’s abilities, but it’s much easier to look good when you’re surrounded by tremendous talent and you’re blowing out your opponents. With that said, you have to like that he’s consistently produced winning results throughout his entire career.

Lawson’s speed in the open court and his ability to create transition opportunities for his team are outstanding. He sees the floor well, plays an unselfish style and he gets his teammates the ball in position to score.

Lawson is a pretty good athlete that’s capable of elevating, but he shoots more of a set shot and doesn’t take advantage of his ability to get up. At 5’11 and with a low release point, Lawson is going to face challenges getting his shot off at the next level.

With that said, I’m not as worried about Lawson’s mechanics as I am with his consistency. He’s shown terrific improvement over the past 2 seasons, which his %’s clearly reflect, but he’s still not at the level he needs to be, as a shooter. Until he becomes a more potent outside shooter, defenses in the NBA will be able to sag back and go under screens, which will take away Lawson’s effectiveness.

Defensively, Lawson is at a disadvantage with his height and length, right off the bat. He needs to exert more energy on the defensive end and do a better job of shutting down penetration. In addition, learning to fight over screens will be crucial to his development, because if he allows the opposition to get that much space in the NBA, opposing guards will destroy him from the outside.
At the next level, Lawson has the ability to become a serviceable backup point guard and a guy that brings energy off the bench.