NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/24/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/24/10
Mar 24, 2010, 01:11 am
Updated scouting reports on Sherron Collins, Elias Harris, Aubrey Coleman and Lazar Hayward.

Sherron Collins, 5-11, Senior, PG/SG, Kansas
15.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 43% FG, 86% FT, 37% 3P

Jonathan Givony

A disappointing season for Sherron Collins came to an even more disappointing conclusion this past weekend, as top-ranked Kansas was shockingly knocked off by Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament, behind a forgettable performance by their star guard.

Following up from where our last scouting report left off, Collins’ production dropped off notably this season—even when adjusting for minutes played--as he not only scored at a worse rate than last year, but also saw his efficiency numbers slump as well, as they have in every season at Kansas. Bill Self decided to reduce Collins’ role in his offense substantially—dropping his usage rate (the percentage of his team’s offensive possessions he shoulders) from 25.1% to 19.6%. Collins got to the free throw line less this season, dished out fewer assists and rebounded worse, but managed to cut his turnover rate slightly.

Comparing the Synergy Sports Technology data available to us from the past two years, it appears that most of Collins’ struggles on the offensive end this season stem from his inability to convert shots as effectively from mid and long-range distances—particularly off the dribble--as well as a huge drop-off in efficiency in isolation situations..

The reasons for Collins’ struggles are likely two-fold, mostly revolving around some combination of shot-selection and conditioning issues. Collins has yet to commit to maximizing himself from a physical standpoint, sporting a noticeable amount of baby fat and looking exceedingly heavy as the season moved on-- something that has been an issue for him throughout his career. This becomes even more of an issue for him in the offseason, as we noticed when we saw him this past summer in Chicago, looking a good 20-30 pounds heavier than he normally does.

Already severely undersized for his position, and not terribly explosive to compensate for that, Collins has had his fair share of problems finishing around the basket this season, something that won’t get any easier for him at the NBA level. Once considered a superb athlete earlier on in his career, it’s difficult to describe him as such at this point—something teams surely will want to study further. Collins typically gradually gets into better shape as the season moves on, but this year he seemed to move in the opposite direction.

An extremely talented shot-creator and overall scorer thanks to the tremendous talent he brings to the table, Collins uses his strength and instincts to get to the basket very effectively, even if he doesn’t always get the lift needed to finish plays around the rim. His ball-handling skills are superb, as he has a terrific knack for getting his man off-balance and attacking him at the right time—a skill that is even more coveted at the NBA level. Collins can drive in either direction, has terrific footwork and loves to take big shots, showing the confidence and aggressiveness of a true go-to guy.

Also known as one of the best shot-makers in college basketball, Collins’ jumper mostly abandoned him mid-way through the season. He made just 34.6% of his total jump-shots this season (according to SST) compared with 39.6% last season, with his off the dribble jumper taking the biggest hit—going from 41.8% to 28.9%. These are extremely inefficient numbers any way you slice it, which helps explain why he was relied upon less heavily than he was last season. Getting into better shape and not having to shoulder such a heavy offensive load may help Collins revert back to being the excellent shooter he was known as in the past—he did make 41% of his 3-pointers already as a freshman after all, and converts nearly two of them per game on average.

As a playmaker, Collins has been reined in somewhat this season, spending most of his minutes playing off the ball next to the steadier and more fundamentally sound Tyshawn Taylor, who has no problem crossing over and defending shooting guards on the other end of the floor. This may indeed be his optimal role in the NBA as well, as he’s clearly more comfortable looking for his own shot than he is running a half-court offense.

Capable of finding players in transition, off the pick and roll or on simple drive and dish plays, Collins will rack up a decent amount of assists thanks to the quality of teammates around him and the way Kansas executes their half-court offense. His court vision is clearly underdeveloped, though, showing clear-cut tunnel vision and missing open teammates on a regular basis, being very prone to running into brick walls and being a very average decision maker in general. He’s not really the type of player who is going to make his teammates better, as he’s far more of a scorer than a playmaker, and commits more unforced errors than you would hope.

Defensively, Collins is clearly undersized, and not exceptionally quick laterally, but he seems to be putting in more effort on this end than we gave him credit for in previous reports. He’s capable of being an absolute ball-hawk with his ability to put pressure on his matchup, getting down in a low, fundamental stance and smothering his opponent when he puts his mind to it. He has incredible natural strength, which he uses well to body up, deny angles and get his man off balance with his wide frame.

He’s not immune to getting beat off the dribble from time to time—especially when he loses his focus, which happens a bit more than you’d like—but after four years of playing for Bill Self, it’s safe to say that he knows how to play good defense when he wants to. His potential on this end of the floor remains somewhat limited for the NBA, though.

The winningest player in the history of Kansas basketball, Collins surely did not expect to be sitting at home at this point in the season. This definitely is not the way he wanted to go into the draft process either, with no momentum to speak of. Already 23 years old, undersized, not really a point guard, coming off a disappointing season and with red flags surrounding his intangibles, it’s really anyone’s guess where Collins will end up being picked at this point.

It’s possible some team takes a liking to him late in the first round—shot-creators in his mold are very much en vogue in today’s NBA, and this year’s crop of point guards is incredibly shallow--but being selected in the second round surely isn’t out of the question at this stage.

Elias Harris, 6-7, Freshman, SF/PF, Gonzaga
14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.9 turnovers, .9 steals, 55 FG%, 45 3P%, 68 FT%

Scott Nadler

Despite being dismantled in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament by Syracuse, the lone bright spot for Gonzaga was freshmen forward Elias Harris. For those who have watched him periodically this season, his 24 point (8-13 FT), 8 rebound performance shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Even more impressive however was the fact that he was able to do it against NBA caliber athletes and length, displaying his full array of skills on a national stage. Although his game is still a bit raw, this 20 year old German has certainly turned heads this season, showing immense potential as an NBA prospect.

When watching Harris play, it’s hard to ignore the passion and energy he brings on each possession. He has a terrific motor and great stamina – never appearing tired or unable to give his all. Couple those characteristics with his superb athleticism (filling lanes in transition, showing great leaping ability and a quick second jump) and his physical attributes (strong frame and long wingspan), it’s easy to see why he’s garnered so much attention in his first season.

This amalgamation of finesse and power is consistent with his offensive game. He has a way of being rugged and bullish on some occasions, lowering his shoulder and aggressively jump stopping to power up, and wiry in others, using his long strides to knife through a defense. He does the majority of his damage 15 feet and in, either by way of post ups, isolations or cuts, but he’s also shown a willingness to step outside every now and then.

Harris has been effective from the perimeter, despite possessing a somewhat limited offensive arsenal. He can drop step in the post and will sparingly use a shoulder/head fake to get his defender up, but his go to move is to drive left, mainly across the lane from the right block or down the baseline on the left side, and spin back to his right. In fact, Harris drives left 83% of the time according to Synergy Sports Technology, and almost never finishes with his left hand, further illustrating his comfort with this move.

Harris clearly has a tendency to force the action and barrel his way to the basket, as he does not possess much in the way of advanced ball-handling skills at this juncture. This can result in either a forced shot or a drawn foul, as he manages to get to the free throw line 7.1 times per-40 pace adjusted, an excellent rate. Once he can develop his face up game and use rip through moves, shot fakes and other shot-creating skills to fully utilize his physical gifts, he’ll become that much more dangerous.

The area where he uses his physical gifts to fullest is on the boards, where he collects 9.8 rebounds per 40 pace adjusted. He can rebound in traffic and can grab the ball at its peak, often seeming determined to get his hands on the ball.

As previously hinted, his guard skills are less than desirable. He sports a negative assist to turnover ratio at 0.67, failing to show any signs that he can create for others. His ball handling skills are below average as well, as he’s unable to change his speeds/direction to beat his man in perimeter isolation situations. At 6’7, Harris will need to improve this area of his game and become more at ease away from the basket.

The only area of his perimeter game which is encouraging right now is that of his shot. He doesn’t display picture perfect mechanics, but by no means would his shot be labeled broken. He brings the ball over the center of his head and doesn’t always fully extend his follow through, two areas which are certainly correctable.

Out of the 66 jump shots we were able to watch, 43 of them came from 3 point range – knocking them down at an impressive 45.3% clip. Even though it’s not a very large sample size, this type of efficiency cannot be overlooked. Power forwards and especially small forwards are shooting more and more 3’s in today’s NBA, and as his confidence rises in his shooting ability, so will his draft stock.

On the defensive end, Harris is average at best—like his entire team--despite possessing all the physical tools and the work ethic to be a good defender. He’s undisciplined and overzealous, often jumping on ball fakes or over helping – leaving himself out of position to recover and close out. His awareness is just average on top of that, as he loses his focus and completely exposes his team’s defense at times. His lateral quickness is an area he will need to improve upon too, as he currently has trouble keeping perimeter players in front of him. He also struggles in the post, playing at times as if he’s afraid to foul, which takes away from his physicality.

Despite being a likely first round pick, and quite a bit older than your typical NCAA freshman, all indications point to Harris returning for his sophomore year, as he seems to have said as much in both the local media and in his home country of Germany. Gonzaga is returning 4 starters and Harris could be the focal point in their offense next season. He has all the makings to be a solid role player in the NBA down the road, and will surely draw a good deal of interest in the 2011 draft, as long as he’s able to show improvement next year.

Aubrey Coleman, 6’4, Shooting Guard, Senior, Houston
25.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.8 steals, 2.2 turnovers, 43% FG, 32% 3PT, 75% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After leading his team to an unlikely C-USA Tournament championship and an NCAA tournament bid despite just a 7-9 record in conference play during the regular season, Aubrey Coleman is worth taking another look at, even though we just profiled him in December.

Coleman has kept pace all season with his torrid scoring, leading Division I in points per game, which was as much a product of his natural scoring instincts as the incredibly large role he played for the Cougars.

Coleman’s offensive game starts with his outstanding handle and creativity attacking off the dribble, showing a complete repertoire of moves and the instincts to meld them all together. Coleman’s first step is not overwhelming, but he frequently manages to create separation at the second level either by changing speeds, changing directions, using an advanced move to get his man off balance, or some combination of all three.

At the basket, Coleman is extremely aggressive in seeking out contact, and elevates pretty well around the rim, where he is a very good finisher at this level. His size poses some problems projecting to the NBA, though, where he could have a harder time finishing against weakside defenders, while opponents may also be less likely to foul him. Coleman could definitely help himself by working on his floater in this regard, as it would make him a more dynamic threat finishing in the lane if it were a more reliable weapon.

As a jump shooter, Coleman has a great natural touch and is capable of hitting all kinds of high difficulty shots, though he’s not especially efficient with his jumper due to his shot selection and a shooting form that is a bit inconsistent. Coleman doesn’t always hold his follow through and has a tendency to pull up for off the dribble jumpers with a hand in his face very early in the shot clock, which can partly be attributed to the reckless style of offense his team ran, but is also likely due to poor decision-making.

Looking at the numbers, Coleman used an incredible amount of possessions for his team, with the vast majority of them calling for him to create his own offense. According to the 16 games logged by Synergy, a ridiculous 167 of Coleman’s 349 half-court possessions were isolations. Further, of the 182 jump shots Coleman took this season, only 19 were of the catch and shoot variety.

In terms of efficiency, Coleman is less than stellar, as his 52% TS% is well below average (third worst of anyone in our 2010 mock draft), but when you consider the role he played, creating virtually all of his offense off the dribble, it’s not all that bad. Things look even better when you consider that Coleman only turns the ball over on 10% of his possessions, an incredibly low number given his usage.

On the defensive end, Coleman picked up his aggressiveness and commitment later in the season when the games mattered more, doing a pretty good job getting up into his man on the perimeter and showing a good stance to start most possessions. Things break down for him a bit once his man gets in motion, however, as he lets out of his stance pretty quickly and is prone to being beat laterally. At the next level, his lack of great strength, size, or quickness on the defensive end for the shooting guard position could be a problem if he doesn’t really polish up his fundamentals.

On the intangible side, while Coleman had an incident with Chase Budinger last season and shows questionable decision-making with his shot selection at times, all indications suggest he’s a very hard worker and coachable player, while he also puts in plenty of effort doing the little things in games, as evidenced by his impressive steals and rebounding numbers. He’s made a lot of developments skill-wise over the past two years, and clearly appears committed to improving his game, which should alleviate some concerns about how his game will translate to the pros, where he’ll need to take on a lesser role.

Looking forward, Coleman appears to be firmly in second round discussions, and should have chances to move up draft boards either in private workouts or if he chooses to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. The success of other undersized scoring guards such as Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton this season will certainly help his case among scouts trying to project him to the next level, and given the uncertainty of the second round, taking a flyer on a player with his natural talent and scoring ability could certainly be viewed as a chance worth taking.

Lazar Hayward, 6-6, Senior, Forward, Marquette
18.1 Points, 7.5 Rebounds, 1.5 Assists, 1.9 Steals, 1.9 Turnovers, 42% FG, 34% 3P, 84% FT

Matthew Williams

After a solid junior campaign, playing alongside the likes of Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward emerged from their collective shadow as Marquette’s top option this season. Playing out of position (at the 4 or even sometimes the 5) in the Golden Eagles’ extremely undersized lineup, Hayward showed the competitiveness and toughness that coaches love, but remains notably limited in certain areas.

Possessing solid size and strength for a small forward –the position he’ll need to play on the NBA level—Hayward is a physical wing who had success in the NCAA thanks his aggressiveness and role-player skills, not his athleticism. Not terribly quick, looking a little stiff in the open floor for a wing, and not displaying much in the way of explosive leaping ability, Hayward is a limited athlete by NBA standards –a reality that will constantly force him to prove himself against his more athletic peers.

Though his athletic profile unquestionably limits his upside from an NBA perspective, it is hard not to like the way Hayward approaches the game on both ends. Hard-nosed, confident, and unwavering, Hayward has been a consummate team player at Marquette from the moment he stepped on campus. Though he received more touches this season, and subsequently wasn’t as efficient as he’s been in the past, the composition of Hayward’s offensive game has been consistent for most of his career.

Nearly half of Hayward’s offensive is composed of jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, and while he didn’t shoot the outstanding 45% from three that he did as a sophomore, Hayward remains a capable catch and shoot threat. Though he short arms his release on occasion, the senior does a nice job squaring up his body and knocking down his open looks. With roughly a third of his shots coming from behind the arc in each of his seasons at Marquette, Hayward’s ability to stretch the floor has always benefitted the guards playing around him.

While his 36.5% shooting in catch and shoot situations is a 4% drop from last season, much of that has to do with the quality of those shots rather than Hayward’s shooting itself. Last season, nearly 71% of such shots were categorized as unguarded, while only 38% have been categorized similarly this season. Clearly, Hayward’s efficiency as a shooter has a lot to do with his teammates, as he’s seldom creating his own shots. Only taking roughly 1 pull-up jump shot each game and knocking down only 22.9%, Hayward isn’t much of a midrange threat due to his inability to create space off the dribble and tendency to float through his release instead of jumping straight up and down off the dribble. Right now he projects as almost strictly a spot-up threat.

Aside from his merits as a jump shooter, Hayward also proves to more than capable of scoring in the post and around the basket. Though he lacks great leaping ability, the New York native does an excellent job using his body to attack the baseline off the dribble in face-up situations and to protect the ball when he elevates to score.

Hayward’s spot up shooting, face up game, and ability to play tough around the basket all speak to his ability to flourish as a role-player. Doing all of the little things, rebounding the ball at a high rate, and playing a fundamental brand of defense, Hayward thrives as a complementary option. Though he had a productive season as Marquette’s leading scorer, his reliance on his teammates for efficiency, lack of dynamic ball-handling and shot creating ability, and his role in half court sets are emblematic of his ideal fit at the next level.

Hayward’s dedication and ability on the defensive end are unquestionable, but his potential from an NBA perspective remains problematic. Using his body just as well defensively as he does offensively, Hayward does a very good job getting a hand in the face of shooters when closing out, fighting for position against much bigger players on the block, and holding his ground when his man tries to take him off the dribble.

Extremely sound fundamentally, obviously well-coached, and showing a knack for being in the right place at the right time, the biggest concern about Hayward’s defensive potential is his lack of lateral quickness. Spending most of his time defending fours and fives last season, Hayward’s ability to deny dribble penetration will be one of the key aspects of his game that teams judge in workouts.

With the Portsmouth Invitational only a few weeks away, Lazar Hayward is the type of player that would surely benefit from a good showing, especially if he can showcase his defensive ability against a collection of better athletes on the wing. A known commodity at this juncture, the holes in Hayward’s game may not guarantee him a spot on draft night, but he will at the very least have his suitors in the form of training camp invites and overseas offers.

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