Prospects include DeVon Hardin, Joakim Noah, Javaris Crittenton, Brandon Rush, Al Horford, Tywon Lawson, Mario Chalmers, and Ayinde Ubaka.
Part One (Stock Up)
DeVon Hardin, 6-11, Center, Junior, Cal
3 Games: 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 13/26 FG, 7/8 FT
Coming into the season, many were expecting big things from Cals super athletic big man DeVon Hardin. Based off what weve seen so far, though, they may have to wait for a little while before he really starts to come around.
The problem is, youd expect him to do a lot more with all the tools he has at his disposal. From what we saw in Alaska, he is still very much a work in progress and probably wouldnt be considered anything more than a marginal D-League player if he were to be drafted right now.
The main concern is the fact that hes just not always very active, looking hesitant and tentative at best and lazy and uninspired at worst. Hes very robotic in his movements and is limited offensively to the point that he just doesnt look for the basket at all. When he does, he often struggles with his decision making, particularly in terms of trying to do things that hes just not capable of, as well as passing out of double teams, as his 1 to 4 assist to turnover ratio might indicate. Hes had no problem deferring to his much less heralded frontcourt mate Ryan Anderson, just a freshman, and it doesnt look like that is going to change anytime soon from what weve seen early on. Against Marshall, he showed pretty poor hands and even missed some wide-open dunks, but against Hawaii he looked a little better when going to his left-handed jump-hook, even if that is his only real offensive move. He also showed flashes of a mid-range jumper on occasion, and did a phenomenal job knocking down his free throws thanks to his surprisingly soft touch. His best game of the tournament came in the finals against Loyola Marymount, where he got himself going with a couple of impressive dunks and really made an impact defensively with his shot-blocking ability, finishing the game with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Considering the level of competition he went up against, though, its difficult to get too excited when you take his entire tournament performance into consideration.
Defensively, Hardin can be very foul prone as he doesnt quite know how to avoid contact when going up for a block, and has a tendency anyway to leave his feet on even the slightest of pump-fakes. As a rebounder, he doesnt quite get after the glass the way youd think a guy with his size and explosiveness would. More than anything he lacks the type of awareness and experience that only comes with time and plenty of playing time at a high level, and you have to wonder if people are jumping the boat with the kind of lofty expectations that are being put on his shoulders. With that said, its impossible not to notice the kind of potential he possesses as a 6-11 jumping jack with a monster frame and a seemingly good attitude. As long as he performs reasonably well in private workouts (which just happen to be tailor made to his strengths), hell probably end up being drafted somewhere in the first round regardless--although hell definitely be considered a long-term project.
Joakim Noah, 611, Junior, PF/C, Florida
17 points, 4 rebounds, 0 blocks, 5 turnovers, 7-9 FG, 3-5 FT
It was truly puzzling that as Florida struggled for buckets in crucial times of the game, they didnt even look to the player who carried the Gators on his back to a national championship last season. Noah took only 9 shots in the loss to Kansas over the weekend, while gathering only 4 rebounds. This was certainly not the performance youd hope for out of a player vying for the second pick in the draft, only behind Greg Oden.
Joakim will need to demand the ball on a more consistent basis if Florida hopes to make another national title run. It was clear that the Gators needed someone to step up and that person was Taurean Green against the Jayhawks, but things cannot be that way on a nightly basis. Noah is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, as he is able to beat players his size off the dribble or abuse smaller post players down on the blocks. The Gators will go as far as Noah takes them, so Billy Donovan needs to make sure that his guards actually get the ball to his skilled seven footer on a more regular basis, unlike what they did against Kansas.
Javaris Crittenton, 65, PG/SG, Freshman, Georgia Tech
3 games: 12.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4 APG, 5 TOPG, 2 SPG, 8-23 FG (35%), 1-4 3P (25%), 21-26 FT (81%)
Javaris Crittenton had an up-and-down Maui Invitational tournament, looking extremely impressive in some areas and looking very troubling in others. On one hand, Crittenton showed some excellent ability scoring the basketball, being able to do so either by driving to the basket or hitting the outside jumper.
While Crittenton was very impressive in scoring the ball himself, he didnt have as much success running his team, showing some trouble playing the role of point guard. Crittenton has a tendency to over-dribble pretty often, and his teams offense always seems to be lacking any discernable flow. Crittenton is very turnover prone at this stage, making some bad decisions with his passing, showing some trouble responding to pressure defense, and just not doing a very good job consistently creating for others. Crittentons mentality is obviously not where it needs to be for him to be a point guard, but he did have some bright spots with his passing.
Defensively, Crittenton shows the ability to be a good defender, and has excellent physical tools for doing so, but oftentimes he just doesnt put in the effort, not moving his feet, not getting his center of gravity low, and too often lunging at the ball and allowing his man to blow by him. He did show some ability during the tournament to disrupt and create turnovers with his hands, but he was far too inconsistent on the defensive end, and had far more blunders than he did positive plays.
For the time being, Crittenton needs to continue doing what he does best, but finding a way to better incorporate those skills with his responsibility to run the team. With time and experience, if he has the desire, he should be able to improve on his decision-making and become a better overall floor general. He also needs to focus harder on the fundamental aspects of defense, though this is a problem that most of his teammates face as well, so it could be awhile before that change is made. Its clear Crittenton has all the natural tools one could want in a point guard, but its up to him put them into becoming a more consistent floor general.
Brandon Rush, 6-7, Small Forward, Sophomore, Kansas
13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 blocks, 6/16 FG, 1/5 3P, 0/2 FT
Kansas win over Florida wasnt a great individual performance by Brandon Rush in what has been a pretty up and down season for him so far. Looking at the way he filled the stat-sheet, thougha very welcome sign from himand considering the overall result (an overtime win over the #1 ranked team in the country), its tough to argue with the results. In the first half he looked very aggressive at times, particularly in terms of creating his own shot off the dribble, but the looks he normally makes just were not dropping this time. His ball-handling skills are undoubtedly much improved over last year, and the fact that he was aggressiveat least in the first halfis basically all Kansas can ask for from their sometimes bashful go-to guy. In the 2nd half Rush settled down a bit and looked to fit into Kansas offense more. He made some big baskets off cuts and another one of a spot-up 3-pointer, and generally did not hurt his team. Defensively he had two very impressive possessions in which he completely shut down Corey Brewer, once blocking his shot emphatically. Rush will have his games where hes scoring 20 points plus--there is little question about that--but for now he has players on his team who are just as talented as he is and he doesnt seem to have a problem with that.
Al Horford, 610, PF/C, Junior, Florida
9 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 3-8 FG, 3-7 FT
Al Horford had an up-and-down game against Kansas, doing some things exceptionally well, and really struggling with others.
Horford made his impact on this game on the defensive end, where he continued to show his great ability and understanding of how to defend in the post. Twice in the game Horford impressively blocked his man in a one-on-one situation, with one of the occasions being an absolute facial on Julian Wright midway through the first half, when Wright had previously been putting together a highlight reel performance against the Florida defense. Horford also used his length on one occasion to deflect a post entry pass that resulted in a steal for his team. And on a very crucial play down the stretch in the end of the second half, after Brandon Rush had pulled down a defensive rebound, Horford used his strength to rip the ball right out of his hands and make a quick pass to Joakim Noah for a jam.
Horford also did a good job playing weakside defense, making rotations and frequently altering shots in the lane. Horford was in foul trouble for much of the game, though, so he picked his spots playing help defense, occasionally not asserting himself when he was in position to do so. Against the pick-and-roll, Horford showed off his ability, length, and understanding, consistently hedging the ball-handler and getting back to his own man in time. He also did a good job boxing out on the defensive boards, pulling down rebounds and sealing his man.
On the offensive end, Horford had some troubles, showing many of the same issues hes shown in the past. Horford started the game by making a very nice spin move for a score out of a triple-team in the post, though he didnt show much in the line of touch for the rest of the game. He got to the line a few times, but on his other finesse post attempts in the game, various spin moves and hook shots, Horford usually missed badly. Horford definitely is at his best when he gets very close to the basket, where he can use more power than finesse, as he did on a very impressive drop step out of a double team late in the game, which he ferociously jammed down.
Horford missed both of his jumpshots in the game, though one of which was a three he had to take as the shot clock was winding down. In terms of passing the ball, Horford did a good job as usual, recognizing double teams and making kickouts out of the post, though his teammates didnt make much of the open three-point opportunities he found. Horford also made some nice passes feeding the post, mainly to Joakim Noah. One resulted in a score for Noah, but the other went right through his hands.
Horford tried to step out of his comfort zone a few times, resulting in a charge on one dribble-drive attempt from mid-range and a travel when he tried to put the ball on the floor on the perimeter. But for most of the game, Horford played within himself, and made positive contributions on both ends of the floor for his team. Horford only pulled down one offensive rebound in the game, though it was from out of position, and he put it back on a powerful jam, as many have grown accustomed to him doing.
Horford hasnt improved much in terms of his touch around the basket, and his jump shot isnt falling much despite his decent form, but hes still doing everything else well, and should be a very good role player in the NBA from day one. His defense is excellent, especially in the post, and if he can improve on his touch around the basket offensively, he could become a very complete player in the NBA. Hes a likely lottery pick due to his impressive physical attributes, though he still has room for growth in some of the lesser-developed areas of his game.
Ty Lawson, 5-11, Point Guard, Freshman, North Carolina
12.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 9/13 FG, 2/5 3P, 5/6 FT
Lawson displayed some fantastic playmaking skills, but will need to play more controlled basketball in the future. Off the dribble, Lawson showed a lightning quick first step, being able to use one dribble to draw the defense and kick out to an open teammate. Lawsons shooting stroke has also improved since high school, but hes still streaky, and only made one of his three attempts against Tennessee. He also displayed his court vision while making some very nice passes. In the half court offense, he moved the ball around very well, and made entry passes to the big men when they had position. There were a couple occasions when his teammates were unable to get a play going, so Lawson exploded to the basket for a layup.
Lawson played out of control at times, and it led to 4 turnovers against the Vols. He tries to play transition basketball when the opportunity isnt there, and it leads to drives in traffic with no place to go. On the defensive end, Lawson can be pesky at times, though he has a tendency to come out of his stance and there were numerous occasions where this left him chasing after opposing point guards.
With the position North Carolina is in, Lawson doesnt really have the chance to play through his mistakes on the floor. They have another point guard in Bobby Frasor who can run the offense very smoothly and without many mistakes, so Lawsons minutes will fluctuate throughout the season. He will certainly get better as he gets more high-level college basketball underneath his belt.
Mario Chalmers, 62, Sophomore, PG/SG, Kansas
13 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 5-11 FG, 2-6 3PT, 1-2 FT