NCAA Tournament Performers, 4/2/08-- Part Two

NCAA Tournament Performers, 4/2/08-- Part Two
Apr 02, 2008, 02:46 am
Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6-7, Junior, SG/SF, Memphis
17.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 55% FG, 42% 3P, 71% FT, 28 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Although he’s getting nowhere near the same NBA draft attention as his teammate Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts is having every bit as good a season, if not much better when taking the entire year into account. Recently named a first-team All-American, and on the heels of back to back 25 points games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight to help propel Memphis into the Final Four, he’s forcing NBA scouts to adjust to his unorthodox game. Douglas-Roberts puts up some of the best all-around numbers of any wing prospect in this draft, but many people still have a hard time getting over his awkward, hunched over posture on the court, his skinny frame, and unconventional ball-handling and scoring style. “Nothing he does is pretty,” told us one respected NBA executive, “but he finds a way to but the ball in the hole, even though he moves like he’s 60 years old.”

Does CDR, as he’s called, have the physical tools needed to play heavy minutes as a swingman in the NBA? “He’s not an athletic freak, but to me that’s not really a concern,” tells us the same NBA talent evaluator—“he makes one or two plays every game that make you go ‘holy ****’--finding a way into the lane and then absolutely tearing the rim off. Being the best player on possibly the best team in America has to say something…”

The numbers are pretty staggering when you look at them and compare what he’s doing with his peers in this draft class. On a per-40 minute pace adjusted basis, Douglas-Roberts ranks in the top five in scoring amongst realistic shooting guard prospects, as well as #1 by a large margin in FG%, top five in 3-point percentage, top 5 in free throw attempts, top 5 in PER, top 5 in points per possession, top 5 in true shooting percentage, top 5 in effective field goal percentage, and 8th best in turnovers per possession.

While his numbers are up across the board from last season to this, what’s even more interesting is just how much Douglas-Roberts has changed his playing style…According to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified player reports, jump-shots (mid-range and 3-pointers) only accounted for 24% of CDR’s offense last season, of which he converted only 35%. This season, jumpers account for 46% of his offense, and he is converting on 43% of them. He looked fairly limited last season in the fact when he put the ball on the floor, he strongly preferred going right (61%), while this season he’s almost even at 49% right, and 51% left. Last season, when he started slashing, it was pretty obvious that he was going all the way to the rack—as he only pulled up off the dribble 12% of the time. This season, that number has risen to 58%. Even though he takes it all the way to the rack slightly less often, he still gets to the free throw line at a better rate, and converts on his shots at the rim on a phenomenal 64% clip, compared with “just” 57% last season.

Douglas-Roberts has his limitations. He’s not the type of player you isolate out on the perimeter and ask to go to work creating his own shot, as his first step just isn’t that great. He is very good when receiving the ball in motion, though, as Memphis’ offense is patently known for, with a hand-off or an NFL style option/lateral pass. Once you get him going in space, he’s tremendous due to his terrific body control, slithery nose for the rim, solid vertical leap, ability to dribble and finish with either hand, creativity and all-around tenacity. He’s the type of player who just refuses to be contained, but rather than driving head-first into brick walls, also has terrific instincts for how to get his shot off effectively. You would think that his lack of bulk would hinder him from finishing around the rim, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case, largely because of his will.

His in-between game is definitely the part of his game that has improved the most this season. Rather than pull-up off the dribble in traditional fashion like most players, he instead prefers to use some very crafty floaters with range that extends all the way out to the free throw line, sometimes using the glass. It’s an unorthodox way of scoring, but it really works, as he releases the ball just too quick for opposing players to contest or block. He can shoot it “normally” too, as he sometimes does, and gets pretty good results here too.

From behind the arc, Douglas-Roberts has improved substantially this season as well, knocking down over twice as many 3-pointers, while improving his percentages from 33% to nearly 42%. He still doesn’t attempt that many shots from that range, just over 2 and a half per game, but it’s hard to fault him considering that he shoots 58% from inside the arc, and gets to the free throw line 5 and a half times per game. His 3-point stroke looks pretty fluid, although it’s not particularly quick, and it seems that in time he should be able to develop NBA range at least with his feet set, even if this will probably never be his bread and butter.

On the other end of the floor, Douglas-Roberts is an integral part of one of the best defenses in all of college basketball. He has great size for the wing position at 6-7, to go along with an excellent wingspan, and is just as tenacious here as he is one the offensive side. His lateral quickness is not top-notch, although his tough, pesky nature helps compensate for most limitations he might have on this end.

Douglas-Roberts is widely expected to declare for the draft this year, and definitely has a strong case to be drafted in the first round, possibly even the top-20. His versatile offensive skills, combined with his size, length, outstanding instincts and overwhelmingly impressive numbers lead you to believe that he will have a long and successful NBA career, particularly when you take into account his intangibles, which are reportedly outstanding. He has a strong work ethic, is an excellent teammate, is very well-spoken, and has a will to succeed and win that can’t be taught. A big game this weekend in the Final Four would certainly not hurt his cause, though.

Earl Clark, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, Louisville
11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1 steal, 1.7 blocks, 48% FG, 23% 3P, 65% FT, 28 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Fresh off his team’s run to the Elite Eight, which just happened to coincide with some of the best play of his NCAA career thus far, this is as good a time as any to take another look at Louisville’s Earl Clark. We’re talking about one of the more interesting long-term power forward prospects in college basketball, a player few can rival in terms of pure upside with his package of size, length, superb athleticism and versatile skills on both ends of the floor.

Clark is not the most productive player you’ll find these days, having averaged just 11 points per game as a sophomore. He started off the season in outstanding form, particularly over the first month or so, but then went into a prolonged slump until March. He proceeded to emerge at just the right time as far as Rick Pitino and Louisville were likely concerned, though, usually coming off the bench. From what we could see on tape, his best days are clearly ahead of him.

Versatility is the operative word when discussing Clark’s game. He looks comfortable facing the basket and operating on the perimeter, usually to put the ball on the floor going either left or right with a tremendous first step and very long strides. His ball-handling skills aren’t incredibly advanced—changing directions or performing advanced moves isn’t in his repertoire quite yet—but for a 6-9 player, it’s pretty impressive to see him blow by defenders and finish at the rim with his smooth body control. Clark can also do some work with his back to the basket, taking advantage of his excellent frame, length and quickness--even if his post-moves and footwork are very unrefined. He runs the floor exceptionally well in transition and is a tremendous finisher thanks to his superb physical tools, which comes in handy on set plays in the half-court as well, where he can come off a screen and cut to the basket. Clark’s jump-shot is still extremely streaky, but his high release point and decent (although inconsistent) form leaves room for optimism for the future.

Although he has plenty of potential offensively, Clark’s best attribute right now might be his rebounding ability. He has the tools (size, wingspan, hands, outstanding leaping ability) to make his presence felt, and seems to have developed more of the nastiness needed to go out and dominate his matchup on a regular basis, although still not on a consistent basis. Defensively, Clark is phenomenal when he puts his mind to it, thanks to his terrific lateral quickness, which allows him to switch out onto perimeter players on the pick and roll with ease, and makes him extremely disruptive when combined with his length. He looks pretty intense for the most part on this end of the floor, contesting shots, getting in the passing lanes, coming up with blocks, and doing a great job recovering back onto his man after getting beat. His frame might be a little on the slender side to deal with some of the more bruising back to the basket power forward types he’ll face, but his wide shoulders lead us to believe that he’ll be able to put on about as much weight as he needs in the NBA.

Clark is another prototypical example of the “hybrid forward” that every good NBA team seems to have these days. He can defend both forward positions as needed, and can serve as a tremendous mismatch facing the basket offensively and especially in transition. Polishing up his ball-handling skills and becoming a much better perimeter shooter will be important for him, but it seems to be the mental side of the game that he needs to improve on the most. Clark has a tendency to coast at times, looking fairly passive and losing his focus too often, which leads to unforced errors in the form of turnovers. His physical and mental toughness came into question at times early on in the season, which showed up on both ends of the floor, but hurt his team most defensively, when he just didn’t compete the way he should. This has become less and less of an issue as the year has moved on, but it’s still something for teams to keep in the back of their mind.

Rick Pitino came out and announced that Clark will be returning for his junior season—all the way back in January., reportedly after conferring with his parents. Clark already came out after his team’s exit from the NCAA tournament and confirmed that he will be returning. With two highly regarded post-players coming in next season in Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings, Louisville should be in excellent shape to make another deep NCAA tournament run, and Clark could be a centerpiece if he improves as much as expected. He’ll likely start off next season as a lottery pick on mock drafts, and could even go a lot higher if he puts it all together.

Jason Richards, 6-2, Senior, Point Guard, Davidson
12.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 41% FG, 32% 3P, 74% FT, 35 minutes

Kyle Nelson

While Stephen Curry was certainly the story of Davidson’s deep run into the NCAA tournament, Jason Richards was at times just as essential. The senior point guard averaged 13.3 points, 9 assists, and 2 turnovers per game during the tournament against the likes of Gonzaga, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Kansas, to go along with his season averages of 12.7 points, 8.1 assists, and 2.9 turnovers per game. Though the tournament answered a lot of questions about his potential to play at the next level, there are still a lot of concerns before Richards can be considered even a borderline player.

Physically, Richards has good size for the point guard position at what looks to be a legitimate 6’2. Athletically, however, he is going to have a lot of trouble at the next level staying with quicker and more physical perimeter defenders.

This is most evident in his defensive ability. He had a lot of trouble staying with his man on the perimeter, unable to stay with Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins or Michael Flowers, who all created space for themselves easily while guarded by Richards. He has quick hands, but his lateral quickness is below average at the college level, let alone at the professional level. Likewise, he is slow to close out his man on the perimeter, and while he makes an effort to get through screens, he does not often have the strength to do so. He shows solid defensive awareness, but this will only help him so much considering his physical limitations.

Offensively, he likes to slash to the basket and while he likes to drive right, he shows the ability to take the ball to the basket with either hand. He has a below average first step, but is deceptively quick with the ball in his hands as he showed on a play where he blew by Sherron Collins for an easy layup in the Tournament. As supported by his 41% field goal percentage, however, he has trouble finishing around the basket. It seems like he does not realize his limitations sometimes and will drive into traffic without an idea of what to do with the ball; he lacks the athleticism, ability to absorb contact, and body control to finish around the rim and often is forced into a bad shot or is blocked.

Away from the basket, Richards is a decent shooter, and despite his weak percentages of 42% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc, his form does not look unsalvageable. At this stage, he has a tendency to push the ball on his jumpshot and often overshoots it despite that fact that he has a fairly consistent release point. Improving his form is essential if he wants to play at the next level, and will start if he increases the fluidity of his jumper. He can also pull up off of the dribble, but his shot selection is a major problem at this stage and he frequently attempts to get shots over longer and more athletic defenders to bad results. If he wants to play at a high professional level (NBA or not), he must become a better shooter.

Richards’s bread and butter, however, is his point guard ability. He is a pure point guard who led the NCAA in assists and was second in assist/turnover ratio. As proven by his performances in the tournament, Richards changes tempo extremely well and adapts to different offensive pacing against teams like Wisconsin that pride themselves on dictating tempo. After all, he had 36 assists in four games, with just eight turnovers. His passing ability is very good, showcasing his vision and his ability to judge successfully how to respond in an array of offensive situations. Against some of the best defenses in the country, Richards ran pick and rolls, backdoor cuts, and transition possessions flawlessly and with a poise of a veteran. Sometimes he will get himself into trouble by over-dribbling or getting caught in traffic, but for most part, he has become a very mature floor general over his four years at Davidson. The Wildcat offense ran less efficiently without their point guard on the floor, and they will miss his presence dearly next season.

Richards does not have the physical profile to be a factor at the next level: that much is certain. He did, however, complicate his scouting profile through his NCAA tournament performances where he showcased on a national stage his ability to play with some of the most talented collegiate players in the country and quite a few legitimate NBA prospects. He’ll have opportunities at Portsmouth and various workouts to prove himself against NBA-caliber athletes as well as answer some questions about his flawed jumper. While the NBA seems like a stretch at this point, Richards’ combination of intelligence and veteran point guard savvy will obviously get him a nice contract somewhere.

Recent articles

5.8 Points
1.5 Rebounds
1.8 Assists
10.8 PER
19.0 Points
4.3 Rebounds
2.0 Assists
16.2 PER
32.3 Points
15.9 Rebounds
4.0 Assists
30.1 PER
13.5 Points
6.5 Rebounds
1.3 Assists
21.8 PER
8.1 Points
6.2 Rebounds
0.8 Assists
17.0 PER
29.7 Points
6.4 Rebounds
6.4 Assists
24.8 PER
2.9 Points
1.2 Rebounds
2.3 Assists
5.5 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER
2.5 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.5 Assists
-9.5 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop