NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/25/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/25/10
Feb 25, 2010, 10:12 am
Updated scouting reports on Al-Farouq Aminu, Scottie Reynolds, Deon Thompson and Mac Koshwal.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-8, Sophomore, SF/PF, Wake Forest
16.8 points, 11 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1.5 steals, 1.6 blocks, 47% FG, 29% 3P, 71% FT

Jonathan Givony

With James Johnson and Jeff Teague moving onto the NBA, we’ve finally gotten a chance to evaluate a more mature Al-Farouq Aminu in a featured role. While his turnovers are up and his efficiency has taken a hit, there is no question that Aminu brings some pretty coveted things to the table as an NBA prospect.

The biggest change that much be discussed is the new role Aminu has found himself in. Mostly asked to operate last year a raw and awkward looking small forward, likely due to assurances that were made on the recruiting trail, Aminu has looked far more comfortable as a face-up power forward this season. This appears to be his likely position in today’s hyper-athletic and increasingly small-ball oriented NBA as well, playing a similar role to that of Josh Smith, Thaddeus Young, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green and many many other combo forwards.

His rebounding numbers have skyrocketed in turn, up from a solid 10.3 per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season to an outstanding 13. He’s also using his terrific length and athleticism to make more plays on the defensive end, averaging more blocks and steals than he did in the past. Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio gives him the freedom to grab a rebound and initiate the fast break himself, and some of Aminu’s most impressive moments come in these sequences.

Offensively, it’s still difficult to describe Aminu as being an overly skilled player. Although capable of beating his defender off the dribble and getting to the basket in a straight line thanks to his quick first step and tremendously long strides, his ball-skills are still fairly rudimentary. He often loses the ball or is called for traveling immediately upon making his initial move, and really struggles to change directions or pull-up off the dribble if a defender rotates into the lane. His turnover rate (3.7 per-40p) is, as you would expect, extremely high in turn, and his 2-point percentage (50%) is a bit lower than you might expect.

Aminu’s lack of strength and at times toughness, combined with the fact that he’s often already out of control by the time he gets into the paint makes him just an average finisher around the rim in traffic. The incredibly impressive manner in which he finishes in transition (often in highlight reel fashion) leaves a lot of room for optimism in this regard, though. He does manage to draw quite a few fouls thanks to his sheer athleticism and aggressiveness, which is obviously a big plus.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to project Aminu developing into a great shot-creator at the NBA level, at least in his first few seasons, which is why it’s important that he ends up on an up-tempo team with talented guards who know how to utilize his strengths.

As a shooter, Aminu doesn’t appear to have made great strides since last season, at least in terms of the results we’re seeing thus far. He’s made just 23% of the 79 total jump-shots he’s taken on the season according to Synergy Sports Technology (down from 27% last year), converting 29% of his 3-point attempts. His shooting off the dribble (1/19) has been abysmal, as he’s struggled badly to make pull-up jumpers from mid-range all season long. The fact that his free throw shooting has improved slightly (67% to 71%) is a good sign, but the poor touch he shows on his jumper and the way he tends to just fling the ball at the basket hoping for the best surely isn’t. Aminu will most likely have to find other ways to produce in the NBA, at least early on in his career.

Where Aminu is currently at his best is in transition and crashing the offensive glass. His ability to go out of his area and come up with loose balls is truly impressive, as he seems to excellent timing running to the front of the rim with great purpose, as well as an outstanding second and third jump he utilizes to simply outquick opponents around the rim. His fantastic wingspan obviously helps a great deal here, as does the aggressiveness he shows trying to come up with extra possessions.

Aminu appears to have made some strides in the post, seeing nearly twice as many possessions with his back to the basket as he did last season, and finding solid results in turn. He’s making more of a commitment to use his body to carve out space in the paint, and has terrific extension on his jump-hook to get his shot off cleanly. As his frame continues to fill out and his footwork improves, this could become a major weapon down the road.

Defensively, Aminu continues to impress, as he not only has outstanding physical tools to help get the job done, but he also seems extremely committed to the task. Aminu’s freakish wingspan makes it nearly impossible to shoot over him in the post, as he appears to alter pretty much everything that is in his area thanks to his length. Improving his lower body strength will help him even more, as at times he tends to give up position too deep in the post to stronger big men.

Unlike on the offensive end, he is equally effective as a small forward or power forward, and is versatile enough to switch onto pretty much any type of player in pick and roll situations, making him extremely valuable in today’s NBA. Oftentimes Wake Forest’s coaching staff elects to put him on the opposing team’s point guard for short stretches, something he’s capable of doing thanks to his terrific length and lateral quickness. Even when he gets beat off the dribble, he’s often athletic enough to just recover and come up with a big block from behind.

A year younger than most players in his class, Aminu still has considerable amount of upside he’s yet to tap into. As it is, he’s already a potentially valuable contributor thanks to his tremendous physical tools, which should make him a useful and highly versatile rebounder, defender and transition finisher at the very least. He still has plenty of room to grow on the offensive end as well, which should define exactly how successful a pro he ends up becoming.

Scottie Reynolds, 6-2, Senior, Guard, Villanova
19.0 Points, 3.4 Rebounds, 2.8 Turnovers, 2.8 Rebounds, 1.6 Steals, 49% FG, 41% 3P%, 82% FT

Matthew Williams

After declaring himself eligible for the draft following his junior season, but getting very little attention from NBA teams, Scottie Reynolds returned to Villanova looking to lead his team to a national championship and earn the first round promise he didn’t find a summer ago. While he’s shown some major improvements in his game and propelled his team into the top-10, Reynolds’ well known weaknesses remain problematic from an NBA perspective.

As we’ve documented on a number of occasions in the past, Reynolds’ draft stock will always be limited by his physical tools. His height leaves him severely undersized for a shooting guard, and his lack of ideal productivity as a passer raises concerns about his ability to play the point guard position effectively at the next level. Only compounding the concerns about his lack of size, the Virginia native lacks ideal lateral quickness and explosiveness for a NBA guard.

While Reynolds faces an uphill battle in overcoming his questionable athletic profile, he’s made some very promising strides offensively. Noted for his questionable shot selection in the past, Reynolds has substantially improved his decision-making with the ball. No longer looking as out of control as he used to, the talented shooter looks much improved from the midrange, helping him improve his 2-point percentages from a dismal 45% last year to a very impressive 55% this season.

Complementing his ability to shoot off the catch with a more consistent pull up jumper, Reynolds shows much more poise when attacking off the bounce, whether that be off the pick and roll, an isolation, or any other dribble drive. Doing a better job of playing with pace, showing a better understanding for spacing, and maintaining his balance when shooting, Reynolds has increased his jump shooting percentage off the dribble from 33% last season to 40% this season according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Reynolds has shown a comparable improvement in his spot up shooting this season. While he’s still prone to taking some difficult and well defended catch and shoot jumpers, his 6% improvement (35%-->41%) from beyond the arc has forced defenders to close him out more aggressively and allowed him to beat his man off the dribble more frequently in spot up situations.

Subsequently, he’s skyrocketed into the top-10 in our database in terms of true shooting percentage. Once in the paint, Reynolds remains very good at using his body to shield the ball and get to the line, but doesn’t showcase great playmaking ability. When the Wildcats need a basket, Reynolds has the ball in his hands to score, not to create a look for a teammate. His pedestrian assist to turnover ratio (1.2/1) and PPR (-1.82) suggest he’s far more of a combo than a real point guard. At this juncture, that won’t change, and Reynolds will need to prove himself as a floor general throughout the draft process, which won’t be easy.

Defensively, Reynolds displays the same solid fundamentals he did earlier in his career, but remains extremely limited against more athletic players –a major concern from a NBA perspective. Struggling to keep up with opponents with quick first steps and unable to recover once they change direction, Reynolds would certainly be a target in one-on-one situations on the next level regardless of what position he’s able to play offensively.

With March just around the corner, Reynolds has his team positioned for a deep tournament run and will have a tremendous opportunity to showcase his game down the stretch. After Villanova’s season is over, Reynolds seems like an ideal candidate to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, even if he may feel like he has very little to prove to NBA teams at this point that he hasn’t already shown. If he can have a good showing there in a fresh setting, both as a scorer and distributor, he may be able to alter the perceptions that most teams likely already have about him. Though he’s not a lock to be drafted, Reynolds has helped his stock greatly this season, but still has a lot to prove.

Deon Thompson, 6-8, Senior, PF/C, North Carolina
14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 49 FG%, 73 FT%

Deon Thompson]Scott Nadler

After winning the 2009 National Championship, Roy Williams certainly had a tall order ahead of him, with mainly unseasoned upperclassmen and unproven freshmen and sophomores to defend the title. The one player the Tar Heels were hoping to count on for leadership and on court production was senior power forward, Deon Thompson. While he’s shown marginal improvement in his overall game, it probably hasn’t come at the rate that Coach Williams and NBA scouts were hoping for.

The most glaring weakness for Thompson as a whole is his lack of physicality on both ends of the court. As a rebounder, he averages a measly 8.6 rebounds per 40 pace adjusted (8.3 last season) which is disappointing for the well built and long armed power forward/center. He doesn’t seem to have a mean streak about him when pursuing the ball and he displays average athleticism at best.

The frustrating thing about Thompson is that he’s shown the ability to rebound in traffic and rip boards away that weren’t meant for him, but his lack of consistency in that department makes you wonder a bit. He seems to be very affected by things that go on around him, showing little in the ways of emotion or leadership you would expect from a player in his situation, especially in this, the final stages of his college career.

Thompson’s aversion for physical contact seems to translate to his post game as well, which contributes to 35% of his offense. He doesn’t get to the free throw line as much as you would hope, which is a direct result of his tendency to fadeaway on nearly every shot. He has no command in the post and often resorts to turnaround jumpers as opposed to backing his man in and utilizing head fakes, drop steps or up and unders. Additionally, he has shown no signs of a left hand, be it in a jump hook or even around the rim – something you would expect to see from a senior.

With that said, he does a good job at finishing around the basket, which has been one of his strengths - converting on 57.3% of his shots at the rim this season. He has excellent touch, length and hands, all things that make him somewhat of a rare commodity amongst NCAA big men. The mechanics on his shot are also impressive, showing a very high release point and range that extends out to about 17 feet. And despite the predictability in his post game, he’s highly capable of knocking down those turnaround jump shots, off either shoulder to boot.

Perhaps the reason as to why he takes quick shots in the post is due to his poor passing ability. He ranks as one of the worst passers amongst players currently projected to be drafted, and generally has a hard time finding cutters or wide open stand still shooters. When he does find the open man, it’s often a second too late, which allows the defense to recover. Thompson’s inability or unwillingness to find the open man is not a good sign considering the complimentary role he’ll be asked to play at the next level.

As a defender, his fundamentals have vastly improved over the years as written in our previous write up. He’s learned how to use his body better and move his opponent further away from the basket. His lateral quickness is still not quite at the level it needs to be, which could be a problem for him at the next stage of his career. As discussed previously, he’s not quite suited to be an NBA 4 man with the evolution that position has taken over the past several years and fits more naturally as an undersized 5 man.

With the losses continuing to pile up here at the end of the season, Thompson’s desire and will are nowhere to be found. He’s seemed disinterested these past few months to say the least and there’s little time left in the season to change things around. Thompson’s next real chance to make a big impression is at the Portsmouth Invitational in April, which he should strongly consider attending since he’ll be sitting at home for much of March. With a solid showing there, he could greatly improve his chances of hearing his name called on draft night.

Mac Koshwal, 6’10, Power Forward, Junior, DePaul
15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.7 blocks, 3.3 turnovers, 55% FG, 58% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After testing the NBA draft waters last spring, Mac Koshwal wisely made the decision to return to school and continue his development, and he’s seen his production and efficiency rise slightly this season, after doing the same thing in his sophomore season. While Koshwal continues to show gradual improvements, the same can unfortunately not be said for his team, as DePaul is amidst yet another disastrous season, being just 1-14 in conference play thus far, despite being very competitive in most of their losses. Koshwal’s injuries haven’t helped matters at all, as he missed 8 games early in the season due to a right foot injury, and then another four with a left foot injury in January.

Koshwal’s attractiveness lies mostly in his physical profile, being a long-armed, lively 6-10 big man with a great frame and strong rebounding ability. Players of his nature are fairly rare amongst the college ranks, and are good candidates to develop into role-playing rotation types in the NBA and/or an extra body in practice.

While it’s unlikely that he’ll develop into any type of offensive option in the NBA, it’s worth noting that Koshwal continues to improve on this end. He has a pretty unique style of play, spending a lot of his time operating out of the high post, where he can take his man off the dribble for straight-line drives to the rim going in either direction, using a pretty good first step and very long strides to get separation.

His dribble, while not the prettiest thing in the world, is pretty controlled in space when he doesn’t have to do much changing of direction, though things get shakier in other situations. He shows flashes of advanced moves like spins and behind-the-back dribbles, but he doesn’t have great control over the moves and they usually wind up getting him into trouble.

While Koshwal shows interesting ability to attack from the high post area, he doesn’t always convert it into high percentage shots, as he has a tendency to rush runners and hook shots in the lane, which he shows inconsistent touch on.

Taking the ball all the way to the basket, Koshwal really lacks the vertical explosiveness to finish strong there, seeing his shot blocked pretty often when dealing with a weakside shot blocker. That said, his ability to finish with either hand combined with his ability to separate on straight-line drives and his willingness to draw contact allow him to be pretty effective in this regard at the college level, though there are questions about how it will translate to the pros.

In the low post, Koshwal shows similar intriguing skills, having very good mobility and fluidity in his moves, being able to finish with hook shots and crafty reverse moves on occasion, but he still lacks a bit of polish and is inconsistent with his execution. His lack of explosiveness hurts him here as well, as he struggles to get separation against long defenders at times, which will be more of a problem in the pros.

Koshwal shows flashes of a mid-range jumper, which he likes to use out of the high post on occasion, but he isn’t especially accurate with it, and his 58% FT% gives a pretty good indication of where he is as a shooter overall. Koshwal has done a better job with his passing this season, however, showing good vision out of the high post at times, kicking the ball out to three-point shooters when the defense collapses. His turnovers are quite high given the number of possessions he uses, but that’s more an indication of his shaky handle and the attention defenses pay him than it is an indictment of his passing.

It should be mentioned here how incredibly awful Koshwal’s supporting cast is, as it makes things very difficult for him to generate offense, with defenses often paying heavy attention to him. Only one player other than Koshwal averages more than 6.7 points on the entire team, and that player is shooting a horrendous 37% from the field. Koshwal’s teammates aren’t especially adept at creating for others either, with Koshwal being required to create most of his own offense, a large burden for a player who obviously still needs some more polish. All in all, Koshwal won’t expected to be much more than a big body at the NBA level regardless, so his lack of polish isn’t that much of a concern when projecting him to the role he’ll play.

One area where Koshwal does excel is the glass, especially the offensive end, where he pulls in 4.3 offensive boards per game. Koshwal has a relentless motor on the glass and has no problem throwing his body around, as we’ve previously documented. This is probably the most attractive part of his profile in fact when projecting him to the NBA level, as players of his nature aren’t always that easy to find, at least not for the minimum.

Defensively, Koshwal has a pretty upright stance on the perimeter, and doesn’t seem to put in full effort moving his feet, which probably makes his lateral quickness look worse than it could be. On pick-and-rolls, he looks completely out of sorts, usually making peculiar decisions and not really putting in full effort most of the time. In the post, he doesn’t get great leverage and his fundamentals could probably use a little work, but he does put in a better effort level here. On the weakside, he really is not much of a threat blocking shots due to his lack of explosiveness, but he does show a terrific ability to anticipate post-entry passes and come up with steals.

Looking forward, Koshwal has clear-cut role for himself defined at the NBA level, and he’s improved each season at DePaul on top of that. He’s not particularly skilled or athletic, though, and may demand more patience and hard work than most teams prefer in order to develop him into a useful NBA player. That said, he has good size, an excellent motor, and clearly is trying to learn and expand his game, all things a team could find attractive.

The biggest problem Koshwal has is that while he probably needs more time to develop before entering the NBA, he’s in an incredibly awful situation at DePaul where it is extremely tough for him to develop. Even if he isn’t drafted, a year in the D-League or in Europe will likely do him more good than another season at DePaul, so it’d be hard to fault him for coming out early. Since he already entered the draft last year, he no longer has the option of testing the waters at this point. The injury problems he’s endured this season are another thing to keep in mind, as players of his nature don’t always have the longest shelf life, and there is only a certain amount of earning potential his body might have.

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