Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Four: #16-20)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Four: #16-20)
Nov 03, 2008, 12:28 am
Our second to last installment of the top NBA Draft prospects in the Big East is here, starting with Syracuse wing Paul Harris, USF combo guard Dominique Jones, Marquette forward Lazar Hayward, Villanova guard Corey Fisher, and UConn big man Jeff Adrien.

-Top Prospects in the Big East: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top Prospects in the ACC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
-Top Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One, Part Two, Part Three
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10: Part One, Part Two
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

#16 Paul Harris, 6'4, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Junior, Syracuse

Rodger Bohn

After playing a hefty 36 minutes per game last season as a sophomore, Paul Harris’ role on Syracuse is not likely to decrease, given his squad's lack of experience. With Donte Greene's departure to the NBA, there will be plenty of scoring opportunities opening up for him to bolster his numbers.

At only 6'4, he is severely undersized for a player best suited to play the small forward position. However, he does make up for his lack of height with an enormous wingspan and absolutely chiseled frame. He's not lacking in terms of leaping ability or quickness by any means either, giving him an impressive physical package to work with.

The strength of Harris' offensive game is his ability to get to the rim and finish with either hand in traffic. Harris takes the ball extremely hard to the basket, gets to the free throw line at a great rate. Capable of going both left and right equally well, he is blessed with a nice first step and creative ball handling skills for a wing.

Equally as impressive is his ability to find the open man, both in transition and in a half court setting. The fact that the Niagara Falls native played point guard for stretches at the prep level surely benefits him in this facet of the game. The problem is that Harris often forces the issue and freezes his teammates out, looking quite selfish and often out of control in the process. He turned the ball over on nearly 1/4th of his possessions last season, which is an alarmingly high rate. His 117 turnovers last season ranked 8th amongst all players in our database. Considering the fact that he will be a complimentary player at the next level, he must learn to reign himself in better.

The biggest weakness of Harris' game (and it is a huge one) is his ability to shoot the ball. While he has shown improvement over the year, he still remains a very poor shooter with bad mechanics. At this point, he is not even able to keep defenders honest at the collegiate three point line, much less the NBA 3-point line.

Harris is a stellar defender, often putting on the clamps on whomever he's guarding. His great length and nice lateral quickness allow him to stay in front of his man, also able to contest shots despite his lack of height. In addition, Harris is arguably the best rebounding wing in the nation, bringing in over 8 rebounds per game. His outstanding motor and intensity make him an absolute monster on the glass on both ends of the hardwood.

Harris has been rumored to be looking to bolt to the NBA at the first available opportunity (and he often plays that way too), so it would not be surprising in the least bit for him to test the waters if he has a strong junior season. Given the fact that he is already 22 years old, time is definitely not on his side. Improvement in his perimeter shooting and decision making will help his stock greatly, but regardless of what he decides to do at the conclusion of the season, he is a player firmly supplanted on the NBA radar.

#17 Dominique Jones, 6-4, Sophomore, PG/SG, South Florida

Joey Whelan

Proving to be one of the surprise stories from last year’s loaded freshman class, Dominique Jones enters his sophomore season as the second leading returning scorer in his class. The shooting guard proved he could put up points against stiff competition, reaching double-figures in all but one Big East game, and topping 20 points in seven different contests. With the departure of big man Kentrell Gransberry, Jones will likely get even more shot opportunities this season.

Physically, Jones is built like a pit-bull for the off guard spot. At 6’4” 205 pounds he has a solid frame that allows him to attack the basket and take contact in the lane. His wingspan helps him on the defensive end, particularly on the glass, where he did a pretty good job rebounding the ball last season. Overall, as we mentioned last year, Jones isn’t a freakish athlete, lacking a degree of explosiveness that most NBA guards have. He does show good strength and body control when attacking the rim, though, and can certainly be described as an above average athlete at the collegiate level.

When we last looked in on Jones, we talked about his shooting prowess from the perimeter. While he is certainly a threat to hit from the outside, his shooting percentages cooled off considerably when he faced tougher defenders in the Big East. Jones is pretty good on the catch and shoot with his feet set, but off the dribble his percentages drop dramatically. There is no question he has great range on his shot, but often, Jones makes poor decisions as to when to shoot the basketball. When faced with tight defensive pressure, rather than looking for a better option a lot of the time, he will tend to fade away on his shot instead. Issues that started to arise with Jones’ game later in the season had to do with his overall technique. He shows a tendency to short arm a lot of his shots in addition to not getting much elevation either.

What really became apparent from Jones later in the season was the success he has going to the basket both in transition and the half court set. He is an extremely aggressive player, often putting his head down and barreling through the lane. His ball-handling skills set him back a bit, as they are still quite loose, resulting in him getting stripped or not getting the best look at the basket. Often times he will be driving down the lane with a full head of steam and pick up an offensive foul as he’s unable to change directions to avoid a defender.

Jones has great strength finishing around the basket and shows very nice touch on his shots, often able to bank in difficult looks. What still continues to be an issue for him though is the almost complete lack of a mid-range game. Jones rarely if ever pulls up off the dribble, but once in a while will mix in a one-handed runner.

Jones’ defensive game is still a mixed bag. His hustle, strength and length make him a difficult player to beat when he is on his game, but this often isn’t the case. As a result of playing at the top of South Florida’s zone defense Jones is often forced to cover quicker guards. His lateral quickness isn’t great and he is too quick to bite on fakes of any kind, making him an easy target to beat off the dribble.

While he is certainly still a long ways away from cracking anyone’s draft board, Jones will be an interesting player to keep an eye on in the upcoming years. Scoring over 17 points per game as a freshman in the Big East is not a minor accomplishment, and if he becomes a more consistent perimeter shooter, while improving his decision making and all-around versatility, we could very well be looking at a future NBA player.

#18 Lazar Hayward, 6-6, Junior, SF/PF, Marquette

Jonathan Givony

When reeling off the NBA draft prospects playing at Marquette University, very few would expect the list to go beyond the names Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. But lo and behold, it was Lazar Hayward the player that led the team in per-minute scoring last season, while shooting a very efficient 47% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc. He was also the team’s leading rebounder, and still has two years of eligibility left to continue to improve upon his play.

The 6-6 combo forward is a player with very specific strengths, and can be described as a consummate role player on this Marquette team. He gets most of his offense spotting up for jump shots from the perimeter, but can also do some damage cutting off the ball, running the floor in transition, grabbing offensive rebounds, or even posting up inside. Not a player who can be expected to create much offense on his own, he greatly benefits from having two excellent slashers/shot-creators next to him in James and McNeal.

Hayward’s main virtue at the moment would likely be considered his jump-shot. He has very nice shooting mechanics and a fairly quick release, which coupled with his excellent shot-selection, make him a very efficient option spotting up from the perimeter. Hayward is mostly a catch and shoot player with his feet set, losing significant accuracy when forced to pull-up off the dribble. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified report, he made 41/87 (47%) of his catch and shoot jumpers last year, as opposed to 8/27 (30%) of his off the dribble shots.

As a ball-handler, Hayward is similarly limited. He possesses just adequate ability to put the ball on the floor in a straight line with his right hand, while his ball-handling skills with his left hand are near non-existent. Fairly limited athletically, he cannot be relied upon to create his own shot, and thus needs to have strong ball-handlers alongside him who can pick apart the defense and get him open looks. He’s not terribly explosive either, which makes it difficult for him to finish in traffic around the rim.

Hayward regardless manages to get to the free throw line at a pretty good rate, thanks mostly to his toughness and aggressiveness posting up, grabbing offensive rebounds and making strong moves off the ball for simple catch and finish plays. The physical nature of his game and the intensity level in which he plays with helps compensate for many of his shortcomings—a big reason why he is such a good rebounder despite standing just 6-6.

Defensively, there are some question marks that linger as it pertains to the pro level. On one hand, he is a very competitive and fundamentally sound defender, working extremely hard to keep his man in front of him and contest shots, even on the perimeter. On the other, he plays almost exclusively at the power forward position for Marquette, and seems to lack a degree of lateral quickness to make the transition to the 2/3 (where his size indicates he’ll have to play) more plausible. It’s possible that Hayward can show potential as a strong perimeter defender over time—this is something we’ll have to keep an eye on when he eventually moves down a spot and begins playing the small forward position more frequently.

If Hayward is going to get some looks from NBA teams after the end of his senior season, it’s going to be in the role of a James Posey type specialist—a lock-down defender and accurate 3-point shooter with his feet set. Those are probably the things that he should be working on the most, but it wouldn’t hurt to become a slightly more versatile player as well, which means improving his ball-handling and especially his passing skills (he sports an awful 1 to 3 assist to turnover ratio). It will be interesting to see how he looks once James and McNeal are gone next season.

#19 Corey Fisher, 6’1, Sophomore, Point Guard, Villanova

Joseph Treutlein

While his minutes and production fluctuated significantly from game to game, Corey Fisher had a pretty good freshman season for Villanova, where he should get plenty of opportunities in the years to come. The 6’1 guard is a good fit in Jay Wright’s guard-heavy system, and he’ll hope to improve on the 21.9 minutes per game he saw last season. While he isn’t a full-time starter yet, Wright has shown he has no hesitancy to start multiple small guards at once, though Fisher will have to earn it, as Villanova’s entire rotation returns this season along with freshman center Maurice Sutton.

Right now, Fisher’s game is still a little rough around the edges, although it’s easy to see he definitely has a lot of talent. Fisher’s game is mostly based around his jump shot at the moment, which shows good range and form on spot-up attempts. His 33% from three-point range isn’t very impressive, but he shows the foundation that he can improve upon that in the near future. Fisher is much better on the catch-and-shoot than he is pulling up off the dribble, scoring 1.22 points per possession spotting up and 0.84 PPP pulling up, according to Synergy Sports Technology. By design in Villanova’s offense, though, Fisher pulls up noticeably more than he spots up, which is a large reason why his shooting percentages are so low across the board (35% FG, 42% eFG%, 47% TS%). To take his game to the next level, Fisher will either need to become more selective with his outside shooting or work on improving his off-the-dribble shot, which has some inconsistencies, specifically with his body control and balance, as he doesn’t always square his body and has a tendency to fade away on some shots.

Fisher is capable with his dribble-drive game as well, showing a decent first step, nice ability to change speeds, and a high top speed with the ball in his hands. He gets in the lane with ease, using strong crossover and spin moves to assist him, though he isn’t the greatest finisher once at the rim, despite good creativity. Fisher plays smaller than his listed 6’1 in the lane, not showing great elevation and struggling to score over weakside help. He relies a lot on pump fakes and up-and-under moves to compensate for his size/lack of elevation, and while he nets some impressive plays with it, he doesn’t get the job done consistently, converting for just 0.82 PPP at the basket. Fisher seems to be carrying a significant amount of extra weight on his frame—getting into better physical shape could help improve his just-average athleticism.

As a point guard, Fisher shows good court vision and has a nice skill-set for the position, possessing a strong handle as well. He plays the pick-and-roll well, moves the ball around, and is good at making dump-off passes on drives, however it’s tough to get a great feel for him as a point due to the inconsistent minutes he plays and due to Villanova’s offensive system. He tends to play the lead guard spot when he comes in off the bench, but doesn’t see a ton of playing time once in, making it difficult to evaluate his floor general skills at the moment.

Fisher does a solid job on the defensive end, showing pretty good foot speed, focus, and defensive stance, while he fights strong over screens and does a good job with the little things like keeping his hands up. Like many freshman, though, he’s prone to biting for change-of-direction fakes. He’s also a threat off the ball, making 1.1 steals in just 21.9 minutes per game.

Fisher will likely need to stay in school until he’s at least a junior or senior to develop his game enough for the NBA, because he’ll need to improve as both a scorer and a distributor to have a good chance considering his average physical tools. If he can earn more minutes in Wright’s guard-friendly offense, it could fast-track his development as a player overall, but until floor general Scottie Reynolds is out of the picture, Fisher’s development as a point guard could be stalled while they share the duties.

#20 Jeff Adrien, 6-6, Senior, Power Forward, UConn

Scott Nadler

Jeff Adrien enters his senior year at UConn with a lot to prove. An All Big East first-team member last season, Adrien is a terrific college player with some serious question marks about his NBA potential. Productive around the basket and an excellent rebounder, the jury is still out on whether or not he’ll be able to continue to thrive in those areas at the next level.

Adrien has earned a reputation as a beast on the boards and in the painted area. He ranks 25th amongst all players in our database in rebounds per game (9.1), and 19th in our database in free throw attempts per game (6.9).

These are impressive stats, especially for an undersized power forward like Adrien who only stands at 6-6 – although he is built very well with a strong physique as he weighs in at 225 lbs. His height however, is a major cause for concern due in large part to Adrien’s limited offensive repertoire. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Adrien gets most of his offense in the post with his back to the basket – which is a bit troubling for such an undersized forward considering how unlikely it is that he’ll be able to translate this to the next level.

In the post, he is very restricted as he’s only comfortable turning to his left shoulder to shoot a mini hook towards the baseline on the right block or his right shoulder where he shoots that same mini hook going towards the middle on the left block. When this move is taken away, Adrien inevitably turns the ball over or forces up a bad shot. Consistent with that analysis, Adrien’s left hand is almost non-existent. When forced to pivot away from his right handed hook, Adrien can look awkward and uncomfortable, which often results in an empty possession. He does excel off the ball when cutting to the basket. He has a knack for making himself available for teammates to find easily, and is a terrific finisher, often finishing plays with a dunk or two free throws.

One area of Adrien's game that will have to improve significantly is his shooting. Forwards of all sorts in the NBA today are able to shoot – whether it’s spotting up off penetration or pick and pop situations. Unfortunately for Adrien, he has very little to speak about here. Adrien barely made or attempted any jump-shots last season, and did not look very consistent in the ones he did take. That is not going to cut it in the pros, and he will have to improve his versatility offensively if he’s to stand any chance at playing at a high level.

Despite the low numbers, Adrien possesses a fairly decent shooting stroke. He has a nice release point, gets good elevation off the ground, and has a nice follow through most of the time. He struggles with getting rotation on the ball, which in turn leads to a shot that is anything but soft. This is evident on his misses which clank off the rim and lead to long rebounds. Additionally, when rushed, his shots are often flat and fall short. He will need to increase the trajectory of his ball and give it a chance to go in. His range right now is at about 15-17 feet; if he can extend that a bit and be able to make the jumpers he takes on a consistent basis, he will help himself considerably.

To go along with his shooting, his ball handling can use a lot of work as well. It’s very rare to see Adrien put the ball on the floor. Whenever he begins to dribble, you can be sure a Husky guard is close by to rescue him. This is not what is expected from a modern-day NBA power forward unfortunately.

Defensively, Adrien does well against undersized big men like himself who play physical inside. He uses his body well to move guys off their spots and further away from the basket. As mentioned earlier, he is a tremendous rebounder – especially at the defensive end where he pulls down 6.5 defensive rebounds a game. He is also a pretty good help defender and shows this often with his willingness to help a beat teammate and take charges. When matched up against versatile forwards who can play on the perimeter however, Adrien struggles profusely. His lateral quickness is limited as Adrien has a hard time closing out on shooters or recovering on a rotation to prevent a drive. When guarding a pick and pop player, he’s often a second too slow getting back to contest the shot. Opposing teams that feature the befitting personnel, look to exploit Adrien in these situations as often as they can.

Overall, Jeff Adrien is a very productive college basketball player. He can score inside and rebounds with the best in the country. If he wants to continue his playing career in the NBA, or even at the highest level in Europe, Adrien will have to modify his game and become more versatile on both sides of the ball. His work ethic and tenacity are the characteristics that coaches love about him. His fundamental skills are another story, and vast improvements will need to be made if anyone will take a chance on him.

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