Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Two: #6-10)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Two: #6-10)
Sep 07, 2009, 02:13 am
Our second look at the top NBA draft prospects in the Big 12 focuses on Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Marcus Morris, Texas’ Dexter Pittman, a two other prospects that we've focused on heavily towards the end of last season and during this summer.

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

#1 Willie Warren
#2 Cole Aldrich
#3 Tyshawn Taylor
#4 Craig Brackins
#5 James Anderson

#6 Sherron Collins, 5-11, Senior, Point Guard, Kansas

Having profiled Collins at the conclusion of his NCAA Tournament campaign, we will wait until the season kicks off to revisit his scouting report.

#7 Damion James, 6-7, Senior, Power Forward, Texas

Having profiled James at the conclusion of his NCAA Tournament campaign, we will wait until the season kicks off to revisit his scouting report.

#8 Ekpe Udoh, 6-10, Junior, PF/C, Baylor

Jonathan Givony

After sitting out all of last season due to transfer rules following his move from Michigan to Baylor, Ekpe Udoh will now have an excellent opportunity to show what kind of progress he’s made over the past year.

Standing 6-10, with a great frame, long arms, and solid athleticism, Udoh’s intrigue will always start with his rare physical attributes. These tools manifest themselves mostly in the form of his shot-blocking and offensive rebounding ability at the moment, although it will be interesting to see how much polish he’s been able to add as of late.

Based on the film we were able to take in from the 2007-2008 season while playing for Michigan, Udoh appears to be a fairly limited player offensively, which was reflected in his low scoring output and poor shooting percentages. He doesn’t possess much of a back to the basket game, mostly being relegated to catching and finishing or catching and shooting due to his poor footwork and non-existent left hand, and rarely getting to the free throw line in turn. He doesn’t have great hands and didn’t always appear to know his limitations from what we could tell.

Udoh did show some potential as a jump-shooter, though, even knocking down 6/15 3-point attempts, which is not what you would expect from most 6-10 shot-blockers. He has good form and nice touch on his shot, leading you to believe that he may show much more in this area in a larger offensive role for Baylor this season. The fact that he only managed to convert on 59% of his free throw attempts in 07/08 shows that he obviously had a ways to go in this area, though.

On the offensive glass is where Udoh will be able to help Baylor immediately, as his excellent size and length gives him a big advantage at the college level, and he also shows solid hustle pursuing the ball and coming up with rebounds out of his area. He’s a surprisingly average defensive rebounder, though, as he doesn’t always seem to box out his opponent (chasing blocked shots instead), not showing quite the same determination to make his presence felt as he does on the other end of the floor.

Defensively is where Udoh will make a name for himself this season most likely, as he may have a chance to emerge as one of the top shot-blockers in college basketball. His incredible reach is a huge asset, as it allows him to contest, alter and most importantly reject plenty of shots around the rim, at times showing impressive timing in the process. He ranked 8th amongst all shot-blockers in our database in 2007-2008, and definitely has the potential to improve even more in this area.

From a fundamentals standpoint, Udoh has some work to do based on what we saw at Michigan, as he tends to give his man too much space while allowing him to establish deep post position on him. This is partially due to his lack of lower body strength, but also because of his inclination to just wait for a shot to go up and then go and send it back—something that obviously won’t work in the NBA.

On the perimeter is where Udoh struggles the most like almost all big men, often looking flat-footed trying to stay in front of quicker big men who can handle the ball, and being relatively ineffective defending the pick and roll. Udoh’s length helps him compensate for his average lateral quickness in a major way, though, and it’s not rare to see him recover quickly after already getting burned and still manage to meet an opponent at the rim for an emphatic block.

Udoh is gathering some quiet buzz around Baylor already for the way he’s reportedly looked in practice, as the coaching staff appears to be extremely pleased with the progress he’s made from what they told us personally. Despite the fact that he’ll be turning 23 in May, Udoh may have made a wise decision to leave Michigan, as he was never going to be a fit in John Beilein’s slow, perimeter oriented offense, and already saw his role and production shrink from his freshman to sophomore years. It will be very interesting to see how he looks this upcoming season, as there is always a demand for 6-10 long and mobile shot-blockers in the NBA.

#9 Marcus Morris, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, Kansas
Jonathan Givony

The starting power forward of an excellent Kansas squad, already in his freshman season, Marcus Morris gained some extremely valuable experience which he should be able to build off going into his sophomore year.

6-9, with a good frame and a nice wingspan, Morris shows adequate physical tools for the power forward position, even if he can’t be described as being anything more than an average athlete for an NBA power forward. Most of his virtues lie in the versatility he brings to the table, particularly on the offensive end.

Morris can do a little bit of everything, although there isn’t any one part of his game that he can really hang his hat on at this point. Most of his offense comes from moving off the ball in Kansas’ extremely efficient half-court sets, flashing to the rim, looking for open spaces in the opposing team’s zone to get a clean shot off, and crashing the offensive glass. He played his role pretty well, garnering a good amount of assists, and being fairly efficient offensively.

He shows flashes of a very nice face-up game, looking pretty adept at putting the ball on the floor and beating his man off the dribble from the perimeter thanks to his quick first step and solid ball-handling skills, and a competent jump-shot with range out to the NCAA 3-point line. Morris made 6 of his 15 attempts from beyond the arc last season, and shot a decent amount of mid-range jumpers as well. He went through bouts of streakiness from game to game, and will likely be expected to do a better job of spacing the floor for Cole Aldrich this upcoming season. He needs to do a better job of cutting down on his turnovers, as he tends to get a bit out of control at times with the moves he makes, turning the ball over on 22% of his possessions, which is a very high rate

With the opposing team’s best defensive big man usually focused on guarding the more dangerous Aldrich in most games, Morris had plenty of opportunities to post up weaker defenders and make his presence felt in the post, often with solid results. He doesn’t possess great post-moves, nor is he terribly strong or explosive, but at this level he’s skilled enough to get the job done, as he has good hands and very nice touch. He shows good potential to continue to improve on this part of his game in the future, particularly as he grows into his body. Morris already got to the free throw line at a very nice rate last season, although he only converted 60% of his attempts once there.

Morris is a solid rebounder and an improving defender—there is likely no way he would step foot on the court for Bill Self if he wasn’t at least adequate in these areas. He moves his feet pretty well and all in all puts a solid effort in, but shows poor awareness and fundamentals on occasion, seemingly getting lost on rotations, giving up deep post position, and not always being focused enough. That’s a theme that prevails on both ends of the court actually, as he clearly lacks experience and probably wasn’t the most fundamentally sound player earlier in his career. Regardless, he has good tools to get the job done, and according to most reports, is a very hard worker.

It’s definitely premature at this point to be drawing any long-term conclusions about Morris’ NBA potential, although he seems to be on the right track. He’ll likely have more of an opportunity to showcase himself once Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins leave next year, as he looked to be on a pretty short leash for the most part last season, and probably rightfully so. Considering his size and versatile skill-set, he’s a guy that NBA teams will need to keep an eye on in the meantime.

#10 Dexter Pittman, 6-10, Senior, Center, Texas

Joseph Treutlein

After weighing nearly 400 pounds as a high school senior, Dexter Pittman has come incredibly far in his journey toward becoming an NBA player, with last season’s emergence being his biggest step. Now weighing around 300 pounds with a fraction of the body fat he once had, Pittman has become a productive and highly efficient college player, and he’s still just tapping the surface of his potential.

While he only played just under 17 minutes per game last season, Pittman managed to average double digit scoring while ranking in the top 25 of our database in a slew of categories including PER, TS%, EFG%, EFF/40, WS/40, points per 40 minutes pace adjusted, and rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. With reports of Pittman getting into even better shape this summer, he will look to maintain these numbers while playing more minutes and more of a central role for the Longhorns as a senior.

Looking at Pittman’s game, the first thing that stands out is his ability to physically dominate the opposition, namely by getting good post position and finishing with power in the paint. With his back to the basket, Pittman has raw but developing footwork, decent awareness when he isn’t being rushed, and a solid repertoire of raw, albeit effective moves. He doesn’t have anything resembling a go-to move just yet, but he shows the ability to turn off either shoulder, making use of turnaround jumpers and hook shots with both hands. He’s clearly more comfortable going off his left shoulder, though where he is now compared with three years ago is impressive. His gaudy per-minute stats and terrific efficiency is a great indication of that.

Range-wise, Pittman only works out to about five feet away from the basket, as his touch isn’t great and he struggles with finesse moves beyond there. Closer to the basket, Pittman shows solid hands and finishes well around the basket, though there are some concerns projecting to the next level, namely with his inability to quickly explode vertically, likely due to his only being in shape for a year or so. Pittman’s biggest priority right now should be developing his explosiveness and working on getting off the ground quicker, as this would vastly improve his effectiveness around the basket, and also help him down the road in the pick-and-roll game, where he shows considerable potential with his size and mobility (though he’s rarely ever used in this situation at Texas).

As a passer, Pittman is extremely raw, posting just 13 assists in 35 games last season. Once the ball goes into the post, it rarely if ever comes out, for better or for worse. He averages around four turnovers for every one assist he garners, which helps highlight his struggles in this area.

In terms of perimeter game, Pittman is extremely raw, barely being capable of putting the ball on the floor and not having an even semi-reliable jump shot. His free throw form isn’t awful, and he’s steadily improved his efficiency from the line in each of his three seasons, but he has some things to work on for him to improve at the line, and to have his shot translate into game situations. His shot at the line is all upper body and it lacks fluidity, leading to inconsistent touch. Considering how often he spends there, he would be wise to improve substantially here.

Defensively, Pittman shows good attention and effort levels, being a pretty active player and not missing many rotations. He shows a willingness to step out onto the perimeter and he really tries in pick-and-roll situations, though his lack of change of direction abilities and lateral quickness in general are concerning in both areas. In the post, he shows solid fundamentals and does a good job keeping his hands up to contest every shot, while also using his massive frame well to hold good position. Helping on the weakside, he is active in stepping up to alter shots, but his lack of leaping abilities don’t allow him to block as many shots as he could if he were in better shape. He’s extremely foul prone at the moment, which is one of the main reasons he was unable to stay on the floor for long stretches last season.

Looking forward, this will be a huge season for Pittman, and if he has continued making strides with his conditioning as offseason reports have suggested, he could plant himself firmly in second round discussions, as his size, raw ability, and the learning curve and work ethic he’s shown over the past two seasons will be attractive to teams. Staying on the floor longer, both from staying out of foul trouble and not getting winded will play a big part in how his stock fares this season, but just as important if not more so is how the rest of his game develops, both with his skills and with how much closer he comes to reaching his athletic potential, which he still is not quite near.

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