Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-15)
Sep 10, 2009, 02:12 am
Our last look at the top NBA draft prospects in the Big 12 focuses on Kansas' Markieff Morris, Colorado's Cory Higgins, Missouri's Kim English, Texas A&M's Bryan Davis and Iowa State' Diante Garrett.

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)—3310
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part Two (#6-10)

#1 Willie Warren
#2 Cole Aldrich
#3 Tyshawn Taylor
#4 Craig Brackins
#5 James Anderson
#6 Sherron Collins
#7 Damion James
#8 Ekpe Udoh
#9 Marcus Morris
#10 Dexter Pittman

#11 Markieff Morris, 6-10, Sophomore, Power Forward, Kansas

Matt Williams

Less productive and possessing a slightly bigger body than his twin brother Marcus, Markieff Morris boasts promising physical tools and long-term NBA potential in his own right. Blessed with a strong frame, solid athleticism, and a good, albeit extremely raw and inconsistent, skill set, Morris returns for a second year with the Jayhawks looking to establish himself as a factor in a deep and talented rotation.

With transfer Jeff Withey entering the fold, Cole Aldrich opting to stay in school, and highly-regarded freshman Thomas Robinson promising immediate value as a rebounder and defender, Morris faces an uphill battle in terms of affirming his NBA stock this season, which may not be bad thing from a development perspective.

Last season was a struggle for Morris on multiple levels, and while he was able to make some plays down low using his impressive blend of agility and strength, his lack of efficiency in limited touches was an indicator of how much room for improvement he has. Lacking a degree of polish in his offensive repertoire, Morris struggled when he got the chance to test his mettle with his back to the basket, and didn't fare much better when he was able to earn some other looks right around the basket. Morris shot only 38% from the field in half court situations, and though his ability to run the floor yielded some easy baskets, his lack of productivity and efficiency in a small role are major concerns.

Morris's problems scoring the ball stem from three areas: his lack of decisive post moves, his inability to finish near the basket, and his decision-making from outside of 10-feet. Like most freshman post prospects, Morris is worthy of a free pass in terms of his back-to-the-basket scoring as a rookie. Ill-equipped to produce in such a setting, Morris still got a bit more than a quarter of his shot attempts in post-up situations, where he showed some aggressive drop stop moves, a developing hook shot with his right hand, and a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder that resembles Kenyon Martin's in its quick and low release. Though Morris was able to create some decent looks for himself, they seldom yielded positive results. He does a nice job establishing position on the block, and is especially good at sealing his man on the weak-side when the ball is swung around the perimeter, but doesn't look terribly comfortable looking to score once he receives a pass.

Morris's questionable comfort-level in the post manifests itself rather frequently when he looks to score around the rim. Never afraid to throw his weight around down low, willing to aggressively crash the glass, and benefitting from the high-level players around him, a bit less than half of Morris's touches came in short-range catch and finish situations. Though his physical tools indicate that he's already capable of finishing at the basket, watching Morris try to finish at the rim can be painful at times. While he takes the ball to the basket with a physical assertiveness that will serve him well in the future, he doesn't show very good touch on his shots once he leaves the floor, often adjusting in mid-air or taking a little too much time gathering himself and elevating, making him a target for weak-side shot blockers.

For all the things that Morris struggles with as a finisher, he still finds a level of success that allows him to contribute. In contrast, Morris's catch and shoot ability offers few residual benefits at this point. Showing decent form, but questionable touch on his jumper, Morris's ability to hit shots from the outside can be a curse more often than a blessing, as he is sometimes too eager to pull the trigger from deep. Though he'll hit a deep jumper from time to time or look very smooth flashing into the middle of a zone and hitting a 14-footer, Morris needs to become a considerably more consistent jump-shooter to justify his shot-selection.

For how unnatural Morris can look on the offensive end, the opposite can be said about his defensive ability. Displaying very solid lateral quickness for a big man and showing the awareness to go straight up and effectively position himself down low, there's a lot to like about the things Morris shows on the defensive end. Able to hedge the pick and roll with some effectiveness, Morris is at his best in one-on-one situations defensively, though he proves extremely foul prone when his man does manage to get an angle to the rim -a tendency that could become an issue for him down the road. His willingness to compete lets him use his tools very effectively, which helps him compensate for the occasional lapses he has on the perimeter. A culprit of losing his man when staring down the ball and getting caught flat footed when he needs to close out jump shooters, Morris has the potential to become a very high quality defensive player if he commits himself to developing his fundamentals.

Moving into next season, the name of the game for Morris will be consistency. He won't be asked to extend his game with increased usage, making his ability to develop some go-to-moves down low and make quick and assertive moves extremely important to his personal development. Working on his conditioning and improving his frame are two other areas NBA decision-makers will be keeping an eye on. The strides he makes this season in a low-pressure situation behind Aldrich will certainly help alleviate any concerns his ability to step up and take advantage of Aldrich's absence in the future. Already showing some positive qualities as a rebounder and a lot of raw tools on both ends, Markieff Morris could continue to slowly build his resume with a strong season on a championship caliber team, even if he is only functioning as a role-player.

#12 Cory Higgins, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Junior, Colorado

Joey Whelan

Generally it's a difficult task to get noticed as a basketball player at the University of Colorado, especially coming off a season where the Buffalos went 1-15 in the Big 12 and won just nine games overall. Despite the teams floundering play, rising junior Cory Higgins emerged as one of the bright young stars in the conference after a breakout sophomore season. Logging a tremendous number of minutes for the second consecutive year, the lightly recruited shooting guard more than doubled his offensive production to 17.4 points, while also increasing his numbers in every other statistical category as well.

Heading into his third year in Boulder now, Higgins will have more eyes on him both from opposing defenses and from pro scouts, looking to see if the junior can continue to increase his production on the floor – something he will be expected to do with an offense geared towards his strengths.

When examining the two-guards physical makeup there is plenty that will make him successful as a collegiate player, but certainly a good amount is left to be desired from an NBA standpoint. Standing around 6-5 or less, Higgins is a tad undersized for his position and he doesn't make up for it with any incredible athleticism. He has pretty good quickness, but isn't going to be blowing by defenders if he makes it to the next level. The biggest thing holding Higgins back from really emerging as a dominant offensive threat is his complete lack of ability to elevate in really any situation. His perimeter shots are flat, he can't jump well when pulling up off the dribble and he doesn't leap very well around the basket when attacking either, resulting in him being forced into a bevy of difficult shot attempts.

Higgins' game is built largely around Buffalo getting him the ball in isolation situations – something that happens on nearly 25 percent of his touches according to our data. It's a safe bet that when he does touch the ball he is putting it on the floor and using his craftiness to get himself a look at the basket. Higgins has strong ball-handling skills and the type of body control and scoring instincts that allow him to create opportunities for himself even when matched against defenders who are quick than him. As a sophomore he shot a very respectable 47.6 percent from the floor thanks in large part to his mid-range pull up jumper, the bread and butter of his arsenal. Even though he doesn't get a tremendous amount of lift under these shots, Higgins can pull up on a dime which allows him to create the necessary space to pull the trigger, and he does show a pretty smooth stroke here.

The rest of Higgins' offensive game is still very much a crap shoot dependent on the team he is facing on a particular night and how he is playing. He connected on a modest 36 percent of his three-point attempts, but he didn't put up that many, less than three per game. He doesn't elevate at all on these shots, often leaving his shot very flat and thus less likely to drop. His mechanics are good, but he absolutely has to learn to create better separation from his defender if he's to get his shot off against longer, more athletic players. When attacking the basket he has the same problem. Getting past defenders and into the lane isn't the problem, but finishing amongst the trees is. Higgins is often forced to attempt over the top acrobatic shots attempts around the cylinder – a fair number of which go in – but obviously these aren't always well advised looks. One positive in his driving game is the control that he shows though, knowing how to finish in transition when flying at the rim at full speed. His excellent knack for scoring also shows up in the way he gets to the free throw line, nearly seven times per game last year.

Like his offensive game, Higgins is a mixed bag when it comes to defense. He has decent quickness, allowing him to be a solid on ball defender, but he doesn't possess great size, length or explosiveness to contest shots. Where he struggles right now is in his focus, on many occasion getting turned around or losing his defender, only to be left lunging at a perimeter shooter at the last possible second. Higgins did manage to average nearly two steals per game last season as a result of his quick hands and solid anticipation, often intercepting passes and taking them the other way for easy lay ins. Again, he does gamble a little too often here which leaves him in a vulnerable position.

It is still a little too early to make a definite read on where Higgins will wind up when his college career comes to an end. Certainly there are some shortcomings which are easy to spot, mainly his size, athleticism and the fact that he has an entire offense geared around getting him shots, which obviously won't be the case in the NBA. With that said, he is a smooth operator with the basketball and averaging better than 17 ppg as a sophomore in the Big 12 is something that has to be looked at. This year will go a long way to telling us how Higgins stacks up as a potential pro prospect in the future.

#13 Kim English, 6-6, Sophomore, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Missouri

Kyle Nelson

In the final seconds of Missouri's thrilling second round match up against Marquette, veteran point guard J.T. Tiller was fouled hard on his way to the basket and was too shaken up to take his free throws. In an unexpected move, Missouri coach Mike Anderson chose freshman Kim English, a mediocre free throw shooter, to take the shots. English, who had scored a remarkable 15 points in less than five minutes during the first half, stepped to the line and knocked down both free throws, securing the win and Missouri's first Sweet 16 appearance since 2002. He then followed up his thrilling 17-point performance by shooting 0/7 from the field and scoring just six points in total against Memphis and Connecticut. His NCAA tournament, much like his freshman campaign, certainly had its ups and downs.

English looks the part of an NBA wing, standing 6'6 with a good wingspan and a wiry, albeit slight, frame. He must continue to get stronger, but he has the size to play either shooting guard or small forward at the next level. He is a decent athlete and has a very solid first step on the perimeter. English seemed to understand his athletic limitations last season, though it is important that he utilize his athleticism more often on both ends of the floor in the future.

Offensively, English is a pure shooter and, at times last season, a lethal scorer. He has a very quick release with a relatively smooth and consistent shooting motion. As with most young players, he tends to waste motion in his lower body when he does not shoot the ball from a standstill, but there are few players in the country who are as proficient in catch-and-shoot situations. English is in constant motion on the offensive end, which helps him find openings on the perimeter and makes him an easy target for his teammates. He does not have the greatest shot selection, but his aggressiveness to find his own shot will be valuable as Missouri begins the rebuilding process next season.

The rest of his offensive ability is somewhat limited, though he showed flashes of expanding his game. His mid-range game could be an interesting addition to his repertoire next season, but he needs to work on his ball-handling ability, most notably dribbling with his right hand, before he becomes a more creative scorer. Similarly, he must become a better ball handler in order to become a more prolific slasher. For a player with his size and solid first step, English does not attack the basket nearly enough. Getting stronger would help him in this area, as well.

On the defensive end, he shows decent lateral quickness, which combined with his length, allows him to guard multiple positions on the perimeter. Working on his fundamentals should help him to compensate for his lack of standout athleticism and would allow him to maximize his defensive potential. At this point, it is absolutely essential that English increase his awareness on the defensive end. He oftentimes finds himself out of position, which results in a pointless foul or an easy shot attempt for the offense. In time, English could emerge as a very solid defensive player, though for now, he has quite a bit of work ahead of him.

While at times English showed the potential to be a lethal perimeter threat in the Big 12, he was very inconsistent throughout the season. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on, however, and if he can continue to put points on the board for the rebuilding Missouri Tigers, then scouts will definitely take notice.

#14 Bryan Davis, 6-9, PF/C, Senior, Texas A&M

Joey Whelan

The Texas A&M Aggies surprised some basketball pundits by winning 24 games last season and posting the fourth best record in a very strong Big 12 conference. A major factor in the success of A&M was the play of the frontcourt, led by rising senior Bryan Davis who posted careers bests in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage. If the Aggies are to compete in another loaded conference this season they will need the upperclassman to take his game to an even higher level – something that would also greatly benefit the big man in the eyes of many NBA scouts.
Physically, Davis works fine as a center in college, but he leaves a lot to be desired as far as the next level is concerned. At 6-9 (possibly 6-8), he is too short to be a true post player in the League and having lost some weight since last season, he is too thin to really prevent from getting backed down consistently by bigger frontcourt players. In many cases, undersized big men are able to compensate for their lack of bulk with great athleticism or versatility, but Davis does not stand out here either. Conditioning has always been an issue for the Dallas native, but again, he does appear to have lost some weight, so we will have to wait and see how he fairs this season. A lack of explosiveness and quickness really hurt his stock as a pro player though. Davis plays primarily below the rim, even at his size and doesn't have the quickness to step away from the block on either end of the floor with much success.

Davis's game is built almost exclusively around his ability to operate with his back to the basket, something he does on about 40 percent of his touches according to Synergy Sports. Texas A&M really likes to get him the ball here quite a bit and he does a nice job of establishing position. Davis's back to the basket game is built primarily around trying to overpower defenders with very basic power moves to the rim. Again, his lack of quickness and leaping ability often result in him getting his shot blocked or severely altered by players who can match him physically.

He does show a very soft touch on his shot, something that allows him to finish more shots than he probably should around the cylinder. Davis likes to catch and face up on the block quite a bit and while he isn't going to beat anyone off the dribble or elevate over them, he can hit a contested jumper from time to time, but only from about eight feet and in. While he can do this at the college level with modest at best success (he converts 43 percent of shots in the post) he is probably too flat footed to be able to operate in this manner against NBA defenders who will be much bigger and more athletic than the ones he sees in college. As it stands, he is already quite turnover prone at the collegiate level.

The rest of his points come primarily from offensive rebounds and cuts around the basket when teammates can get him the ball. Davis actually does a pretty good job on the offensive glass thanks to his hustle, wide frame and good length, but again, too many of these put backs fail because he plays below the rim. He also shows very few signs of being able to step away from the paint whatsoever, even to spot up as a mid-range shooter. He hasn't attempted very many shots from this spot on the floor, but his 64 percent free throw shooting should be a pretty good indication of where his abilities as a shooter are.

On the defensive end, Davis is the classic tweener: not strong enough or big enough to cover NBA centers, but not quick enough to cover anyone else. He lacks great lateral quickness and as a result gets beaten by opposing players when left to cover them in isolation situations. Davis actually blocks and alters a fair number of shots given his wingspan and solid timing, but it's questionable whether this part of his game would translate to an NBA setting. As it is, he is already quite foul prone, which limits the amount of minutes he plays. Often times it is defense that makes or breaks undersized big men, and Davis just might not have the physical tools to cover any one position effectively in the NBA.

Overall, Davis has his work cut out for himself in order to make the NBA, looking more like a solid prospect to play professionally overseas, where his style of play would work quite well.

#15 Diante Garrett, 6'4, PG/SG, Junior, Iowa State

Joseph Treutlein

The son of former NBA Dean Garrett, Iowa State point guard Diante Garrett had a decent sophomore season for the struggling Cyclones.

Garrett has excellent size for a point guard at 6'4, with good length and pretty good athleticism to go along with it. More quick than explosive, Garrett is a tough cover in isolation situations where he makes good use of change-of-speed dribbles in combination with his extensive repertoire of advanced moves. Possessing a dribble low to the ground that's strong with either hand, and a good command of crossovers and spin moves, Garrett is capable of making many impressive plays with the ball. He doesn't consistently do this, however, as his decision-making is questionable at times, getting him into some awkward situations, where it also becomes apparent that his footwork in the lane could use some improvement, as he's frequently called for traveling.

Garrett's shot selection is another area of concern, though it should be noted that given his team's severe lack of offensive options outside of star Craig Brackins, it was somewhat necessary for Garrett to take a lot of tough shots for the Cyclones. According to Synergy Sports Technology, over 90% of Garrett's jump shots were either off the dribble or contested, as he averaged just 0.3 catch-and-shoot jumpers per game. While he isn't a very good shooter, his numbers definitely suffered from this poor distribution of shot attempts. As a shooter, Garrett has a high and quick release with decent consistency, but his touch and accuracy are both lacking, while he also doesn't always stay on balance when pulling up, taking many tough shot attempts. His range also hurts his overall efficiency, as he takes most of his shots just inside the college three-point line. It's safe to say that Garrett has a long ways to go with his perimeter shooting ability.

In terms of scoring at the basket, Garrett is very creative, being able to finish with both hands while also having a solid right-handed floater in his arsenal, however his touch isn't great and while he shows potential, he's not a great finisher.

As a point guard, Garrett does most of his damage out of pick-and-roll situations or just finding open shooters on the perimeter, showing pretty good vision, however his decision-making is again questionable in this regard, as he tries to force the issue at times with his passes or holds onto the ball too long, leading to tough situations as the shot clock is winding down. He also doesn't do much driving-and-dishing in the lane, usually option for his own shot on his forays to the basket.

Defensively, Garrett shows a decent defensive stance at times, using his length and playing up into his man, however his other fundamentals are lacking, as he doesn't consistently move his feet, which doesn't help the fact that his lateral quickness isn't good for a point guard to begin with, leading to him being beat off the dribble often. His lack of bulk on his small frame also gives him some problems with screens, however he does appear to have room to get stronger.

Looking forward, Garrett has a lot of work to do with his game, and Iowa State's lack of scorers doesn't help matters for him, but he does have potential with his size and pretty good athleticism. Also, in spite of his lack of productivity and efficiency, he does have many very good moments on the court, being capable of hitting tough shots with a hand in his face, but he'll need to find a better balance of mixing in higher efficiency shots to reach his potential. Luckily for him, with Craig Brackins returning to school, things won't be so hard on him this season, where he will hope to show some strides in a few areas.

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