Thursday, January 8, 2009

In the Spotlight: Dante Cunningham

Dante Cunningham
Position: Power Forward
Ht: 6-8, Wt: 230
Hometown: Silver Springs, MD
College: Villanova
Class: Senior
Age: 04/22/87

  • Very muscular physical stature – no body fat.
  • Fundamentally sound, well schooled player.
  • Great rebounder – Always boxes his man out, seals off his opponent and gets himself in position to secure the rebound… Relentless attitude on the glass.
  • Cuts hard to the basket
  • Sets solid on the ball screens
  • Plays pick and pop basketball - Adept at getting himself in open position.
  • Well conditioned – runs hard on both ends of the floor and rarely shows fatigue
  • Demonstrates range on his jump shot that extends out to 15 feet
  • Terrific help defender – Understands how to defend within the team concept / Very physical, gets his body in position to stop penetration / take the contact (draw charge)


  • Listed at 6’8 (very generous) which is a huge concern – He would be an undersized 4 at the next level.
  • Although he has a well defined physique, he needs to fill out and put on 10 - 15 more lbs.
  • Very robotic – Not a lot of fluidity to his game
  • Lacks efficiency when he’s forced to create his own offense … Doesn’t have a true low post or face up game. Lacks the back to the basket skills or the ability to take his man off the dribble.
  • Needs to become more consistent with his mid-range jump shot… (He has to become a great shooter)


Dante Cunningham is a player that maximizes his talent. He gets the most out of his skills and thus he’s evolved into a very productive college player.

In watching Cunningham, he comes from the same mold of a player like Charles Oakley. He understands his role on the team, he’s a relentless rebounder, plays with a lot of toughness, and he excels on the defensive side of the ball. The offense will never run through him, but he can get scrappy buckets around the rim.

It’s critical that Cunningham continues to improve his consistency from the outside. Right now, he’s a good shooter, but he needs to be lights out. If he can manage to develop a more consistent mid range jumper, the way Oakley did over his career that would greatly improve his chances of finding a home in the NBA.

The other thing that scares me about Cunningham is his size. He’s listed at 6’8, but when watching him on the court, he appears shorter than that. He also needs to continue filling out his frame, with more muscle mass, so that he can fight to prevent opposing 4’s from establishing position on the block. He’s going to need all the height and power he can get – otherwise his strength (defending) will be negated at the next level.

Overall, Cunningham is going to have a tough time sticking on an NBA roster. However, he’s worth a look late in the 2nd round, with the slim chance of earning a spot on an offensive oriented team that could use his defensive toughness and rebounding prowess.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In the Spotlight: Earl Clark

Earl Clark
Position: Small Forward
Ht: 6-9, Wt: 220
Hometown: Plainfield, N.J.
College: Louisville
Class: Junior
Age: 1/17/88

  • NBA ready body with tremendous length… muscular 6’9, 220lbs
  • Match-up nightmare for opposing teams… Inside / Outside player - Very versatile with the ability to step out past the three point line, or post up smaller defenders.
  • Gifted athlete – good vertical, long strides when he runs, gets out in transition.
  • Solid rebounder - With a combination of knowing how to establish position, size, athleticism, and length.
  • He’s able to play a point forward role in the half-court set– Using his size and length to see over the defense and set the offense at the top of the key.
  • Capable ball handler that’s able to grab a rebound and start the break.
  • Demonstrates great body control when he penetrates to the basket.
  • Very fundamental passer - throws crisp passes.
  • Soft hands
  • Uses his incredible length to block shots, create deflections


  • Too reliant on his shot – Rather than settling from the outside, he needs to post up, or take the ball to the basket with more regularity.
  • Has to develop more consistency with his jump shot… A minor mechanical adjustment might be required, as his release point is slightly to the right side with too much of his left hand, creating sidespin.
  • Needs to improve his ability to shoot off the dribble… Being able to create off the bounce and knock down a jump shot will make Clark a much tougher player to defend.
  • At times he has a very nonchalant demeanor… He needs to show the killer instinct and play with greater intensity.
  • Inconsistency – Clark has stretches, even games, in which he’s not very involved offensively.
  • Lacks Physical Toughness - Despite having a very muscular build, Clark gets pushed around too much. He needs to get tougher and utilize his body more effectively.
  • Needs to learn to play to his strengths
  • Defensively he has a tendency to defend standing straight up and not get in stance… He needs to keep his feet moving and stay focused, if he’s going to defend the 3 at the next level. He has room to improve his foot speed as well.


Earl Clark is extremely talented and posses a wide array of skills. He has an NBA ready body, with unbelievable length and versatility. He’s a match-up terror for opposing teams with his ability to post up, step outside, or penetrate to the basket. He can rebound the ball and he has extremely long strides when he gets out in transition filling the break.

The major issue that I have with Clark is his desire to be the best. There are some players that have the killer instinct, and with Clark I’m just not sure that he does. Similar to Tim Thomas, there isn’t much Clark can’t do on the court, but if you don’t have the toughness and aspiration to be the best, you won’t come close to tapping into your potential (like Thomas). Clark’s so gifted and if he’s able to develop the desire to match his skill set, it can propel him to great things.

Clark also needs to work on not only improving his consistency from the outside, but not relying so much on his jump shot. As he continues to improve his footwork on the block and develop low post moves, I think we’ll see him posting up with more frequency.

Overall, Clark has the skill set of a lottery selection, but he doesn’t produce like one. This season, with higher expectations and a much larger role, Clark hasn’t stepped up and shown the ability to rise to the occasion. If he elects to enter the draft this year, which seems extremely likely, I’d be very hesitant to select Clark with a lottery pick…to me he’s a good pick between (#15 - #24)

In the Spotlight: Hasheem Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet
Position: Center
Ht: 7-3, Wt: 263
Hometown: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
College: UConn
Class: Junior
Age: 02/16/87

  • Incredible size and presence on the court – A rare package of coordination and athleticism for a 7’3 frame.
  • Tremendous shot blocker… Does a great job rotating off his man, protecting the basket and contesting shots.
  • Has shown unbelievable improvement in all facets of his game since entering college.
  • Offensive skills are evolving… Has started to demonstrate a jump hook which he uses effectively against shorter defenders.
  • Good form at the free throw line
  • Sufficient hands
  • Explosive leaper – quick off his feet

  • Still very raw / unpolished – learning the game… He’s only been playing basketball for the past few years
  • Needs to add some low post moves to his offensive arsenal… He’s developing a jump hook, but right now, he gets his baskets through dunks thanks to guard penetration and offensive rebound putbacks.
  • Must improve his ability to establish position on the block – Thabeet needs to work on sealing his defender on his back and holding position…creating easier entry pass opportunities.
  • His feet drag while running up court.
  • Needs to improve his upper body strength which will help him fend off contact when attacking the basket… He must take the ball up stronger.
  • Has to improve passing out of the post, especially when he sees double teams.
  • Struggles moving his feet defensively and guarding on the perimeter… Thabeet is exploited when guarding players that play facing the basket, as he lacks the lateral mobility to keep his man in front of him. It’s also an issue when defending the pick and roll.
  • Defensively, Thabeet has a tendency to rely too much on his incredible athleticism… He has to fight defensively to prevent the man he’s guarding from establishing low position.


It’s very rare to find a player with Hasheem Thabeet’s physical stature and athleticism. He’s improved his skill set immensely, both offensively and defensively, since entering UConn 3 years ago and he has a lot of growth left in his game.

Defensively, while Thabeet is a game changer because of his ability to contest everything around the hoop, I have serious concerns over his on the ball defense.  As good as he is coming over from the weakside (timing and elevation are outstanding), he needs to get much stronger and build up his leg strength to defend bigger 5's at the next level.  

Offensively, his skills are way behind.  He needs to improve his footwork and add moves to his offensive arsenal. It’s a work in progress, as he’s started to develop a jump hook around the basket and become more adept at finishing with his left hand. At this point, Thabeet is able to get his buckets by finishing off of penetration, and put backs on offense rebounds.

Thabeet still relies heavily on his athleticism, which for his size is incredible, but there are things that work in college that wont work in the NBA. For example, allowing the player he’s guarding to establish low position, because he’s confident that he’ll block their shot. Or not sealing his man and boxing out, knowing that he’ll grab the rebound because of his length and vertical leap. These are habits that will need to be broken.

Overall, Thabeet is a top 10 pick, on potential, but I would really focus on individual workouts, before pulling the trigger and being convinced of Thabeets impact at the pro level.  The talent is definitely there.   As his skills continue to evolve, Thabeet can become a player that can control the paint defensively and be an option on the offensive end (not the focal point) at the next level.