NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (National Championship)

NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (National Championship)
Apr 04, 2006, 04:51 am
Joakim Noah proved his worth as a potential top-3 pick with his overall play in the NCAA tournament. Al Horford shows more of the all-around complete package that makes him such an intriguing draft prospect. Jordan Farmar's team didn't win, but he did show awesome individual and team skills keeping his team in the game. Those and more in our final installment of the NCAA tournament stock watch.

Final Four, Sunday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Elite Eight, Sunday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Elite Eight, Saturday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Sweet 16, Friday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Sweet 16, Thursday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Round of 32, Sunday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Round of 32, Saturday Games, Stock Up prospects

Round of 32, Saturday Games, Stock Down and Neutral prospects

Round of 64, Thursday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Round of 64, Friday Games, Stock Up, Down and Neutral prospects

Stock Up

Joakim Noah, 7’0, Sophomore, PF/C, Florida

16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 blocks, 7-9 FG, 2-2 FT


Jonathan Watters

It is hard to imagine a player that saw just two minutes of court time in last season’s NCAA Tournament come so far. Nonetheless, there was Joakim Noah leading the Florida Gators to a National Championship. While Billy Packer may have talked endlessly about Florida’s balance, make no mistake about it: this win was all about Joakim Noah.

From the opening moments of the game in which he reeled in a tough pass and finished softly on his way to the basket, Joakim Noah made the big plays that led to a Gator victory. Tonight he mostly faced the basket, attacking UCLA off the dribble, keeping UCLA honest with deft passes, and slashing to the basket for power dunks. Keep in mind, this was the defense that held Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, Tasmin Mitchell & company under lock and key for an entire 40 minutes just two nights earlier.

Of course, Noah’s biggest impact came on the defensive end. Every time it looked like the Bruins were about to make a run, he would come up with an emphatic block. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute looked like a future star after dominating the paint against LSU, but couldn’t finish with Noah waiting at the rim. Ryan Hollins was largely in the same boat, and while Noah ended up with a Championship game record 6 blocks, his mere presence altered numerous others. Despite fiercely contesting every UCLA foray to the basket, he somehow managed to stay out of foul trouble. In the end, it was Noah’s goalie-esque protection of the rim that broke the Bruins’ spirit and left the Gators cutting down the nets.

The best part about Noah’s performance is that it only took him 9 shots to take over the game. There are very few prospects that can boast this ability, and Noah has proven beyond a doubt that he can take over a game without dominating the ball. During the championship run, Noah never took more than 13 shots in a game. He passes, slashes, runs the floor, blocks shots, is a terror around the basket, and never lets up.

Where the game seems too fast for even perimeter oriented big men all too often, Noah appears comfortable attacking defenses facing the basket. He understands spacing, and rarely makes a poor decision with the ball in his hands. His ability to be a relentless aggressor around the basket while staying completely under control is a rare gift indeed. The average big man fouls out in a matter of minutes when they throw their body around at the NCAA level like Noah does. Joakim Noah has gone from raw, athletic specimen to polished, championship worthy star in less than a year.

So where does this leave Noah in regards to the draft? There are certainly still things for him to work on. He needs to add strength, polish up the form on his jumper, and continue working on his go-to post moves. At the same time, there is little doubting that Noah is capable of contributing in the NBA sooner rather than later. His intangibles and ability to dominate a game doing blue collar things will make him a good role-player from the moment he steps onto an NBA court.

It is hard to see Joakim Noah falling out of the top 5 in this year’s draft, were he to declare. All that’s left is to find out whether Noah will cash in on his incredible sophomore season, or head back to Florida to defend his title. And it wouldn't shock anyone to see him go #1 if he does.

Al Horford, 6’9, Sophomore, Power Forward, Florida

14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 1 turnover, 5-8 FG, 4-5 FT, 24 minutes


Joe Treutlein

One may question how Al Horford has found himself in the stock up column with two consecutive marginal statistical performances, but there’s certainly good reason to come away pleased with what Horford has shown. The statline doesn’t even begin to tell the story with what Horford does for his team and what he can do in the future.

Horford played only 24 minutes, as coach Billy Donovan was very careful monitoring his foul trouble. Horford was sent to the bench immediately after both his first and second fouls in the first half, missing a good chunk of time because of it. He finished the game with only those two fouls, and definitely could’ve logged more minutes, but given the end result of the game, it’s hard to question Donovan’s decisions.

When he was on the floor, though, Horford made his presence felt. On the offensive end, Horford continued to show his amazing composure in handling double teams, looking like a 10-year NBA veteran in that regard. Whether he fights through two frontcourt defenders for the score, draws the foul to get to the line, or makes a pinpoint pass through the defenders to the open man, it seems as if there’s always a positive result when Horford draws the double. Out of the double, he was able to find teammates open both in the paint and behind the three-point line with his passes, netting all three of his assists from it.

Horford wasn’t much of a scoring force on the night, getting quite a few of his points in the final 10 minutes when the lead had ballooned well into double digits. He actually had four monstrous jams in this time period, all of which were tremendous displays of power and clear setbacks for UCLA’s comeback effort. Throughout the game, Horford was either fighting hard for position in the post or out setting screens for his teammates, but just not getting many scoring opportunities. With Florida’s balanced attack, it’s hard for him to show what he’s fully capable of doing on this end of the floor.

On the defensive end, Horford continued to impress, making rotations, altering shots, crashing the boards, and doing whatever else his team needed. He made two blocks on the night and, along with teammate Joakim Noah, made UCLA look very tentative in attacking the basket as the game went on. Horford also showed off some of his mobility once again, stepping out to deflect some passes.

Horford’s one turnover on the night came when he stepped out of bounds attempting to dribble the ball up the court against UCLA’s press. Given the fact that he’s shown the ability to take the ball up the court many times in the past few games and months as well as on a few other occasions just in this game, it’s hard to fault him for this one mistake.

Horford now has a very tough decision to make in choosing whether or not to test the draft waters. One thing that will certainly affect his decision is the brief professional career of his father. Tito Horford, a 7’1 Center, came out of school early following his sophomore season in 1988, going on to play only three seasons in the NBA, never fully reaching his potential. Tito has stated publicly that he doesn’t want his son to make the same mistake he did. What his father probably realizes by now is that his son is already a thousand times more of a basketball player than he was, although he just doesn't have the same height.

Given Joakim Noah’s rise to stardom during Florida’s tournament run, Horford has been mentioned as mostly an afterthought. But don’t let that fool you. Anyone who has done their due diligence knows that Horford is well worthy of a lottery pick in this draft. Coach Billy Donovan has stated publicly that Horford is the most intelligent player he’s ever coached. Combine that with his length, size, strength, athleticism, and skill, and you have quite the prospect on your hands. Horford would definitely benefit from returning to school and continuing to improve his game, most notably his mid-range jumper, but with his frame, skill-set, and versatility, he would likely be able to make an impact in the NBA from day one. And just coming off a national title, with a very good chance of being a lottery pick, that’s going to be very tough to pass up.

Jordan Farmar, 6’2, Sophomore, Point Guard, UCLA

18 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 8-21 FG, 1-8 3PT, 1-2 FT, 34 minutes


Rodger Bohn

Farmar’s numbers do not accurately reflect his performance in the national championship game, as he was seemingly the only Bruin who came ready to play tonight. The sophomore point guard looked like the best in the nation during the first half, where he scored 12 of his team’s first 20 points and distributed the ball to open teammates in scoring positions. Unfortunately for Farmar (and his assist total), Aaron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Ryan Hollins, and Lorenzo Mata couldn’t buy a bucket in half one.

In the second half, Farmar continued to show his great poise and leadership, continuing to get the ball to teammates in scoring positions while putting his own points up on the board when need be. As the game went on, he was forced to take some very tough shots early in the shot clock, but this was due to his team’s frantic need to put points on the board as time was quickly ticking away. Even while the Los Angeles native was doing so however, he still always looked for his teammates first, then took things into his hands to put the ball through the net.

As far as the NBA stacks up, Jordan has plenty of things that scouts are looking for. One that was extremely evident tonight was his ability to play the pick and roll game, which is crucial in virtually every NBA team’s offense. He comes off of picks very tightly, while keeping his head up the entire time, and seemingly made the correct decision nearly every time tonight. His ability to score while playing the role of set up man at the same time is unparalleled at the college level. Defensively, Farmar easily has room for improvement, but displayed quick hands and quick feet tonight while guarding Gator guards. He seems to have mental lapses at times however, which resulted in open three pointers for Lee Humphrey throughout the game. It is hard to ignore the improvement Farmar has shown on the defensive end of the ball, starting with the first game of the tournament and ending with his excellent performance in the National Championship game. Needless to say, the former McDonald’s All American has the intangibles to go along with a skill set that easily place him as one of the top point guards in this year’s draft if he were to declare.

Corey Brewer, 6’8, Small Forward, Florida

11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers, 4-12 FG, 2-3 3P

Mike Schmidt

Brewer displayed his excellent potential in many different facets of the game against UCLA. He sparked his team early by scoring 5 of Florida’s first 9 points, and his relentless defense took Aaron Afflalo out of the game from the beginning. Brewer displayed some versatility on offense, making a nice turnaround from about 10 feet out, and knocking down 2 of his 3 three point attempts. His basketball IQ has really stood out as the NCAA tournament has progressed. Brewer’s only questionable shot came late in the game after it was already over. He also showed off some good passing ability throughout the game, setting up his teammates on a couple occasions, and making crisp passes in traffic. On the offensive end, there are two areas Corey needs to work on. One is his handle, which needs to be tightened up. The other area is the mid-range game, which will improve with the handle, because Brewer is already a very crafty player in the lane.

On the defensive side of the ball, Brewer had the player he was guarding on lock down throughout the entire game. Afflalo was held scoreless until the 11:23 mark in the second half, and was unable to get into the flow of the game. In addition to great man to man defense, Brewer understands how to use his length to create steals by disrupting the passing lanes, and has amazingly quick hands which created a couple steals as he snuck up behind unsuspecting UCLA players. The one area Brewer could improve on the defensive side of the ball is pick and roll defense. Though he usually defends it correctly, he sometimes ends up too far on the high side of the ball, which makes it hard for his teammates to recover when the ball is moved around. Despite this, it is rare to find a player at 6-8 who has as much defensive versatility as Brewer, and that alone will earn him minutes at the next level.

Overall, Corey Brewer has really helped himself during the NCAA Tournament by playing a huge role for Florida, hitting clutch shots, and even carrying the team at times. He has helped his draft stock considerably in the past month, especially with his improved perimeter shot. It is tough to say at this point whether Brewer will declare for the draft or return for his junior season. If he is to declare, he has already locked himself into the first round, and has a chance of landing in the top 20 with good workouts. Players who play defense like Corey Brewer are hard to find, and his constant improvement in other areas of the game will help him out when he decides to move on to the next level. Of all of Florida’s 2006 draft prospects, Brewer clearly has the toughest decision ahead of him.

Stock Neutral

Ryan Hollins, 7’0, Senior, PF/C, UCLA

10 points, 10 rebounds, 4-10 FG, 1 block, 2-2 FT

Mike Schmidt

Hollins played better than most of his Bruin teammates, but was outmatched for much of the game against the dominant frontline of Florida. He started out with an offensive foul early, but came back strong with a dunk off a Jordan Farmar pass. He had 2 nice dunks in the game where he put his outstanding athleticism on display. Hollins has also been hitting the mid-range jumper over the past few games, and made more of these as well as both of his free throws against the Gators. He did miss some easy shots inside, however, and it seemed like he was scared of being blocked by Joakim Noah, who swatted a few of his shots throughout the game, especially early. Hollins played defense the best that he could, but was beat by Noah a few times, and missed some rotations which led to easy dunks for Al Horford. If Hollins were to understand how to position himself while helping out on defense, he could become a fantastic shot blocker, but this is a very underutilized part of his game at this point in time. He will also need to bulk up some to play in the NBA. He has good size and length, but lacks any type of bulk, and gets pushed around in the paint quite often. Throughout the tournament, Hollins has done a great deal on the basketball court to improve his draft stock. He still remains raw at this point, and will be considered a project, but 7 footers with outstanding athletic ability and a semblance of basketball ability are hard to come by.

Stock Down

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6-7, Freshman, Power Forward, UCLA

6 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 3-9 FG, 0-0 FT, 0-2 3P

Joe Treutlein

Mbah a Moute started off the game attacking the basket strong, but meeting fierce competition in the form of Florida center Joakim Noah. Early in the first half, Mbah a Moute had two shots blocked by Noah as well as one more altered, which seemed to drastically change his appoach to the game. Following these possessions, he started looking very tentative, even scared, when he received the ball on the perimeter. He’d either pass the ball away or pull up for the mid-range or three-point jumper, both of which he was unable to hit. Once the game was out of reach with under 10 minutes to go, Mbah a Moute’s aggressiveness returned in the form of a wide open lay-up, a wide open jam, and a putback jam. But for the part of the game that counted, Mbah a Moute was just not very effective.

He did do well on the boards, both getting rebounds and boxing out, but that was the basic extent of his contributions in the game. His defense was not especially good or bad. He didn’t do anything significantly wrong, but also didn’t do anything to make much of a difference.

As mentioned in last game’s report, Mbah a Moute has some things he needs to work on in his sophomore year. He needs to improve his ball-handling, further develop his jumper, and continue to improve on everything he already does well. He definitely has the potential to be a legitimate small forward prospect in the future, but also at the same time has a ways to go.

Arron Afflalo, 6’5, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Sophomore, UCLA

10 points, 2 rebounds, 3-10 FG, 3 turnovers

Mike Schmidt

As he has been for much of the NCAA tournament, Afflalo was a complete non-factor for UCLA in the national championship game. He was held scoreless almost until the mid-way point of the second half, and by the time he hit a couple threes it was already way too late for them to impact the game. Afflalo seemed to settle for the outside shot throughout the tournament, and didn’t attack the basket even when he was of no use with his perimeter shot. On defense, he hustled and played fairly well, but missed some rotations on defense which led to open three point looks for Florida. Aaron Afflalo did nothing but damage his stock throughout the NCAA Tournament, and will need to come back next year and play more consistently to attract the attention of NBA scouts.

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