Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Seven

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Seven
Sep 25, 2012, 12:33 pm
We conclude our evaluation of the top NBA prospects in the ACC with players ranked 16 to 20, Rion Brown, Kenny Kadji, Ian Miller, Erick Green and C.J. Harris.

Incoming freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA level before we come to any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part One
(#1) James McAdoo
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Two
(#2) C.J. Leslie (Video Scouting Report)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Three
(#3) Mason Plumlee (Video Scouting Report)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Four
(#4) Alex Len
(#5) Michael Snaer

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Five
(#6) Reggie Bullock
(#7) Lorenzo Brown
(#8) Richard Howell
(#9) P.J. Hairston
(#10) Travis Mckie

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Six
(#11) Dexter Strickland
(#12) Ryan Kelly
(#13) Reggie Johnson
(#14) Daniel Miller
(#15) Durand Scott

#16, Rion Brown, 6-6, SG/SF, Junior, Miami (FL)

Joe Treutlein

Rion Brown is a player who hasn't garnered much attention on the national radar, but made some promising strides in his game as a sophomore and looks like a player to watch going forward.

Standing 6-6 with a good wingspan and excellent athletic ability, Brown brings a very strong physical profile to the table for a wing. While Brown does an outstanding job utilizing these abilities in some areas (specifically his backdoor alley-oop dunks), he's still coming into his own in most of the rest of his game, still clearly developing as a player.

On the offensive end, Brown's perimeter shooting is his most noteworthy skill at this stage, and it makes up a very large portion of his contributions. According to Synergy Sports Technology, of the 141 half-court shot attempts they logged, 107 of them were of the jump shot variety.

Brown possesses very strong mechanics and NBA three-point range, while he hit for a very solid 39.4% of his three-point attempts this past season. Brown's probably a better shooter than the numbers initially appear, however, as he takes a good deal of his shots either pulling up off one or two dribbles or coming around screens, looking equally effective in those situations. He keeps his mechanics consistent regardless of the situation, doing a good job keeping his balance and squaring his body to the basket.

Beyond his shooting ability, Brown is a pretty raw player on the offensive end, seeing almost all of his additional scoring contributions come in the forms of off-ball cuts to the basket. Almost all of these cuts invariably end with athletic dunks at the basket, many of them of the backdoor alley-oop variety. Brown elevates incredibly well and does a good job catching and throwing down the ball in midair, landing on a couple of highlight reels last year for his exploits around the rim.

The rest of Brown's scoring game around the basket is less impressive, however, as he virtually never takes the ball to the basket on his own, whether he sees himself presented with an open lane or not. Brown's ball-handling is fairly undeveloped at this stage, though to his credit he shows a very good understanding of his limitations and plays within himself well.

Brown does actually have an interesting wrinkle to his game in that he shows some propensity for kicking out assists off one or two dribbles when his own shot isn't there, making up for his inability to take the ball to the basket himself and keeping him from being one-dimensional with the ball. His passing in general is solid for a wing, as he makes nice flow-of-the-offense passes and plays within his team's system well, looking like a very good team-oriented player.

On the other end of the floor, Brown is a good but not great defender, as he doesn't seem to fully maximize his physical tools just yet. He does a good job moving his feet and staying in front of his man, while also fighting through screens well on pick-and-rolls, but doesn't really bring the aggressiveness or very strong fundamental base to the table to consistently lock players down. This is probably the area he could see the quickest gains to his stock if he were to improve, as sharp-shooting, athletic, defensive-oriented wings are something NBA teams are always looking for.

Looking forward, Brown is still coming into his own as a player and hasn't really had a big impact at the college level yet, but he has a lot of intriguing tools and skills that make him someone worth watching if he does get it together. Seeing an expanded role (he played just 19.9 minutes as a sophomore) and continuing to shoot well while improving in other aspects of his game will be key for him this season, and he could see himself draw significantly more attention if he does.

#17, Kenny Kadji, 6'11, Redshirt Senior, Power Forward, Miami

Last time we checked in on Kenny Kadji, he was coming off an unassuming freshman season at Florida. Seeing limited playing time in 9 games as a sophomore before missing the rest of the season with a back injury that ultimately required surgery, Kadji opted to transfer to Miami in search of a bigger role. After burning a year of eligibility sitting out as a transfer, the IMG Academy product made an immediate impact as a redshirt junior for the Hurricanes, averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per-game in 2012.

Headed back to campus for his senior year, Kadji is a 6'11 power forward with a solid 240-pound frame and a tremendous wingspan. Despite his size and injury history, he is a fluid athlete with good coordination. He is not tremendously explosive or quick, but is incredibly rangy and made a handful of very impressive plays using his long strides taking the ball coast-to-coast in transition last season.

On the offensive end, Kadji has some intriguing tools for a power forward prospect only having played two full seasons of college hoops. He has excellent touch on his jump shot for a big man, possessing range out past the NCAA three-point line, where he shot 42% on 2.1 attempts per-game last season. Kadji's touch left him late in the year, as he appeared to be rushing things at times, but he showed potential on the pick-and-pop threat, surprised defenders with an occasional pull-up jumper, and shot the ball well when in rhythm. Kadji's ability to find his consistency away from the rim will be a point of interest this coming season.

Kadji's touch carries over to his approach in the post, where he shows rangy footwork, and scores with a variety of moves, but does so by virtue of his touch rather than his comfort level with any one of the moves he makes. Forcing some tough turnaround jump shots and up-and-unders away from the rim, but showing deft touch on his hook shot on occasion, Kadji's 38% shooting in the post demonstrates his improvement in recent seasons as well as the room he still has to improve. He does a great job fighting for position at times, and it will be interesting to see how his budding post skills develop this year, as he has the size, length, frame and touch to have more of an impact here than he did last year.

Kadji's biggest weakness at this point is his rebounding ability. For a player with his athleticism and size, ranking third last among rising senior power forward prospects in our database in rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted certainly raises some question marks about his instincts on the glass and intensity over the course of a game. Kadji is not as guilty of being apathetic as some poor rebounders we've seen at his position in the past, and will box out and go after an occasional loose ball, but doesn't aggressively look to go get the ball off the rim or show the reactivity that would allow him to make the most of his tools.

Defensively, Kadji does a good job using his size to his advantage, which helps him compensate for his lack of great lateral quickness. A solid team defender, Kadji will show and recover to help his guards, and while he'll find himself out of position at times, tends to err on the side of caution defensively. He is by no means a great shot-blocker, but finished fifth in the ACC at 1.6 per-game last season and does a much better job going straight up in the post than he did early in his career. He could stand to be a bit more aggressive fighting for position on the block, but certainly holds his own overall at this level.

A pleasant surprise last season for first year Head Coach Jim Larranaga, Kenny Kadji will have plenty of opportunities to build his resume as the x-factor in a very talented Miami front court. He won't be the focal point of the Hurricanes attack with Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson around, but if he can show improvement and polish in a complimentary role and be more aggressive on the glass, his size and skill set could pique the interest of NBA scouts. Kadji is far older than almost any other player in college basketball, as he will be 25 years old when the 2013 NBA Draft rolls around, but continued development and added consistency could placate some of those concerns considering his size and skill-level.

#18, Ian Miller, 6-3, Junior, PG/SG, Florida State

Jonathan Givony

Forced to miss a significant amount of action due to academic issues in both his freshman and sophomore years, Ian Miller will finally get to play his first full season at Florida State as a junior. With senior point guards Luke Loucks and Jeff Peterson graduated, Miller will likely see a lot more time with the ball in his hands, which should shed plenty of light on just how good of a playmaker and prospect he actually is.

Not playing his first game last season till late December, Miller was relegated to a sparkplug role off the bench for FSU. He scored at a solid clip, but did so in a rather inefficient manner, making 43% of his 2-point attempts and 35% of his 3s, while posting a 1/1 assist to turnover ratio.

Despite having solid athletic tools, most of Miller's offense comes off his jumper, as he rarely seems to venture inside the paint in the half-court. He shows excellent shooting mechanics and the ability to create separation effectively from his defender with his pull-up jumper. Showing the utmost confidence in his stroke, he makes some very tough shots from time to time with a hand in his face, even from well beyond the NBA arc. He has a quick release and is always ready to fire away on the catch, making him difficult for opposing defenses to neutralize.

Miller's self-confidence comes at a cost to his team at times, though, as he's prone to taking a lot of contested, off-balance attempts that would be difficult looks for even the most talented shot-makers. He's able to convert some of these bad shots at times, which convinces him to keep taking them. This is one of the reasons he's yet to shoot over 40% from the field in either of his two seasons thus far, so it will be interesting to see whether his poor percentages will improve this year.

NBA scouts will likely want to see whether Miller can do a better job getting inside the paint and finishing as well, something he struggled with last year. He converted just 12 of his 28 (43%) attempts around the rim in the half-court last season in 24 games, as nearly 75% of his shots come on jumpers. Despite sporting a very quick first step, Miller doesn't know how to use his athleticism to create high percentage opportunities around the basket yet. He needs to improve his ball-handling skills and make more of an effort to get all the way to the rim and finish through contact in traffic, instead of settling for floaters and pull-up jumpers, which are much lower percentage looks.

Considering his size, scouts will also want to see more playmaking ability than Miller has displayed thus far. Prone to dribbling with his head down, and clearly thinking shoot first with the ball in his hands, Miller's court vision looks average at this stage. He'll miss open teammates at times, and when he does make the extra pass, rarely is it to get someone the ball in position to convert an easy look. Most of his assists are simple passes that come within the flow of the offense, leaving some question marks about his ability to run an offense full time.

Miller still has work to do on the defensive end as well, especially considering the fact that he's somewhat stuck between positions at the moment. He's not always as focused or aware as he needs to be on this end of the floor, looking very upright in his stance, and allowing opposing players to drive by him. His fundamentals appear to be just average here, as he tends to get caught flat-footed and just try to reach from behind after getting beat. He doesn't do a good enough job of fighting through screens as well.

Miller has very quick feet and is capable of playing solid defense when fully locked in, so there's definitely hope he can become more effective on this end of the floor. Considering his below average size for a shooting guard, there's no doubt that he will need to moving forward.

An athletic scoring minded guard with excellent shot-making ability, Miller can be expected to put points on the board frequently for a Florida State team that has often struggled in that area over the past few seasons. NBA scouts will want to see whether he can do so in a reasonably efficient manner, though, and especially if he can make other players around him better.

#19, Erick Green, 6'3”, Junior, Point Guard, Virginia Tech

Derek Bodner

After the loss of Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen to graduation, Virginia Tech needed Erick Green to step into a much larger role. Virginia Tech struggled as a team down the stretch, posting their first losing season since 2005-2006. Despite the struggles from the team, the 6'3" junior guard posted some impressive numbers in his first season as the go-to guy, as he increased his scoring from 11.6 points per game to 15.6, while increasing his true shooting percentage from 50% to 54%.

The improvement in his efficiency can largely be traced to his increased proficiency as a jump shooter. Green has always relied largely on his jump shot, and he increased his efficiency from 0.789 points per possession his sophomore year to 0.909 points per possession last year, according to Synergy Sports Technology. His three point percentage and free throw percentage also saw sizable improvements, going from 24.8% to 37.5% on 3s and from 77.7% to 82.8% from the line.

Green is extremely comfortable as a shooter both off the dribble and in standstill catch and shoot opportunities. He gets very good elevation, and shows a consistent release point, albeit one with a little bit of extra motion. His most effective source of offense in the half-court is from pick and roll sets, where he's a good shooter coming off of screens, particularly when going to his left. The combination of his extremely quick second gear and the threat of him shooting coming off the pick makes him an extremely tough cover in these situations.

Green is very good in transition, which is where his athleticism truly shines. Very quick with the ball in his hands, he can push the ball down the court with the best of them. He has a very good pull-up jumper, which makes him increasingly difficult to defend when he is pushing the ball in transition and opens up lanes to finish at the hoop. He also is a good catch and shoot player, which allows him to be a good trailer on the break when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.

One area where Green does struggle, including not only from pick and roll sets but also in isolation situations, is as a finisher in traffic. Despite being an overall very athletic player in terms of quickness, speed, and ability to change direction, Green does not have tremendous explosion around the rim.

The combination of a lack of great explosion, struggles finishing through contact and not being great at drawing contact and getting to the line creates a relatively poor finisher around the hoop, especially considering he's only 180 pounds. Green has the speed, quickness, and ball handling to get into the paint with regularity, but that is somewhat wasted by his struggles finishing at the rim, where he converted just 42.9% of his attempts according to Synergy, which is in the bottom fifth of the NCAA. He does have an assortment of floaters in the lane, and does possess good touch and body control, which somewhat helps counteract this.

His ability to get into the lane is further diminished by a lack of great court vision and inability to get his teammates involved based on the defensive attention he draws. Despite playing five more minutes per game with a much more significant offensive role, Green's assists barely went up, from 2.7 per game his sophomore year to 2.8 per game last year. He does a good job of not turning the ball over for somebody who handles it as much as he does, but his inability to creating scoring opportunities for teammates is a detriment for somebody who will likely have trouble defending shooting guards at the next level.

Defensively, Green stands just under 6'3" with a good wingspan. He moves his feet fairly well and does a pretty good job of fighting through screens, and also does a good job of using his length to cut off driving lanes. His biggest detriment will be his physical limitations. Green has solid size for a point guard, but would be quite a bit undersized if asked to defend the shooting guard spot, and will be at a strength mismatch at either position with his 180 pound frame.

Erick Green made a substantial improvement in his jump shot his junior year, which bodes well for him going forward. While he struggles with his overall point guard instincts, he has the body type where it would be much easier to project a role for him at the next level if he were able to spend some time as a backup point guard. If Green can show some increased awareness as a playmaker, he has the overall offensive arsenal to potentially find a roster spot at the next level.

#20, C.J. Harris, 6'3, Shooting Guard, Senior, Wake Forest

Kyle Nelson

Though Wake Forest basketball continued to struggle with Jeff Bzdelik at the helm, C.J. Harris's development between his sophomore and junior season was nothing short of remarkable and remains one of the few reasons for optimism moving forward. Though he was previously shoehorned into the point guard position, Harris finally moved off of the ball as a junior, assuming a large portion of Wake Forest's scoring load while becoming a more efficient and complete player in the process. Now, as the ACC's top returning scorer, Harris must take his game to yet another level for the eternally young Demon Deacons to become consistently competitive.

When projecting Harris as a professional, it is impossible to overlook his underwhelming physical profile. He is undersized for a shooting guard at 6'3 and, despite possessing solid length, body control, and an advanced feel for the game, he lacks the elite explosiveness or quickness to compensate. He is certainly not unathletic, but his physical profile is below average considering undersized shooting guards that have cracked NBA rotations.

Despite his average physical profile, Harris evolved into an outstanding scorer during his junior season, posting 19 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted, while actually becoming more efficient. While this may not seem so impressive on paper, Wake Forest's youth and scattershot offense is an unlikely place for a previously inefficient scorer to develop into the 10th most efficient shooting guard in our database. Furthermore, Synergy reveals that Harris scored efficiently while wearing a variety of hats, finding over 15% of his offensive possessions in four different areas: as a spot-up shooter, in the pick-and-roll, in transition, and in isolation sets.

Harris's most pronounced improvement has come as a perimeter shooter, where he attempted over two more three point shots per 40 minutes pace adjusted, while making 42.2% of his attempts, a nearly-10% improvement from his sophomore season. He also increased his range to the NBA three point line, while showing the ability to make shots off of the dribble and from a standstill. He still doesn't get a lot of elevation on his jumper, but his mechanics are improved, looking far more consistent and comfortable than in the past. Obviously, his three point shooting is integral to his prospects at the next level and, and he must continue to be as efficient during senior year, while showing scouts that his elevated junior numbers were not just a flash-in-the-pan.

Harris also emerged as a legitimate shot creator, capable of creating space for himself beyond the arc and hitting tough shots from all over the court. He evolved into a far more versatile scoring threat as a junior, able to pull-up from mid-range and get to the basket against some of the ACC's better defensive players. His ability to score out of the pick-and-roll is particularly intriguing, especially given his past struggles transitioning into a point guard, perhaps demonstrating that he actually would not look so out of place in most pro offenses. Furthermore, he moves very well without the ball, doing an excellent job of getting open on the perimeter and cutting towards the basket.

That being said, his limitations are very pronounced even at this level. For one, he is a left-hand dominant player and struggles mightily to drive and finish with his right hand. Similarly, though he has very good body control and instincts, his lack of size, strength, and explosiveness around the basket significantly limit and will continue to limit his ability to finish in the lane. Even though he attempts a respectable 6.6 free throws per 40 minutes pace adjusted, he likely will not get as many calls in the NBA as he does in the ACC. Developing a reliable floater, for instance, could potentially make him more effective in this capacity, but there are quite a few questions about whether he could do anything outside of shoot at the next level.

Another area of concern is his defense. Harris's weaknesses are arguably more pronounced three years into his career than they were when we last wrote about him. Though his lateral quickness is still above average, his lack of size and strength continue to stick out, particularly in guarding the pick-and-roll and in his ability to stay in front of bigger and more athletic players. Unlike at Wake, Harris will have to guard point guards in the NBA, and so it's largely unknown whether he'll be able to transition effectively when there are so many questions even at this level of competition.

At the end of the day, it's difficult to project Harris as an NBA player. Given his below average physical and athletic profiles, the wall that he hit in conference play is even more telling as to how well he can fare on a nightly basis against NBA-caliber talent. Yet, it is hard to deny his development from an inefficient point guard into one of the top returning scoring guards in the country. For this reason, Harris must continue to showcase his talents as a shooter and scorer while working extremely hard to prove scouts wrong on the defensive end of the floor.

This is easier said than done, however, as Wake Forest only gets younger this season with seven unproven freshmen likely receiving vital rotation minutes. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Harris bounces back from last year's frustration and fatigue and whether he can make the most of this opportunity to endear himself to scouts in spite of his obvious flaws as a prospect. That being said, it seems clear at this point that, should the NBA not work out, Harris will have plenty of playing opportunities elsewhere, where he should be able to make a very solid living.

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