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

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Two: #6-#10)
Nov 11, 2006, 05:39 pm
Four Syracuse players highlight our 2nd installment of the Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East. For the sake of consistency, the very talented freshman class has been left out of the equation until we have a chance to evaluate them as college prospects against their peers.

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part One: #1-#5)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part One: #1-#5)

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

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

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC (Part One: #1-#5)

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

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

#6: Terrence Roberts
6-9, Power Forward, Senior, Syracuse


Jonathan Givony

Possibly the most athletic player on this list, from a physical perspective there is plenty to like about Terrence Roberts. Standing a solid 6-9 with an excellent modern day power forward’s frame, complete with a great wingspan, Roberts is just about as explosive a player as you’ll find at his position in the NCAA. He has superb quickness, a phenomenal vertical leap, and he gets off his feet in the blink of an eye to complete highlight reel plays almost every single game.

In terms of strengths, Roberts has a few that are impossible to teach. He’s very physical, is a terror in transition, and will dunk anything and everything that comes his way from seemingly anywhere in the paint. He’s capable of dominating the glass when he puts his mind to it, particularly on the offensive end where he grabs nearly 40% of his rebounds. His length, quickness and explosiveness allow him to go well out his area to come away with some very impressive boards, and he is just as adept and content to sky in for a monster putback jam that will get the crowd up on its feet. These same tools allow him to come up with a few blocks and steals every single game in Syracuse’s zone, and he’s usually the first one to get out in transition where he’ll fly down the floor and beg for a lob anywhere in the remote area of the rim for him to hammer home.

On occasion, Roberts will even show some sparks of being able to do more than that. A nice drive here, a pull-up mid-range jumper there; he tantalizes you from time to time with the kind of moves that few big men in the country are able to execute thanks to his tools. The problem is that these highlight reel moves are usually mixed in with some horrible head-scratching plays as well, and usually you get more of the bad than of the good unfortunately. Roberts is an incredibly inconsistent player going into his senior year, and the way he floats around aimlessly at times makes you wonder if the light bulb will ever truly come on for him.

Besides his sheer athleticism, Roberts still has a long ways to go in terms of his actual skill level. While his shooting mechanics are actually surprisingly good, he shoots a pathetic 42% from the free throw line. His touch is almost nonexistent, whether from the 3-point line, mid-range, or even from 3-4 feet out at times, just heaving the ball at the basket from close range and hoping that it somehow sticks. His ball-handing skills are poor, as he too often drives with his head down, travels and picks up foolish charges. His phenomenal first step leaves a glimmer of hope in this regard as it could be a wonderful tool to exploit down the road. At this point he also has little to no footwork or post moves, so unless he’s being consistently fed coming off cuts, in transition or offensive rebounds, there really isn’t all that much he can do offensively. As a passer, Roberts is equally bad, confirming the notion from watching him that his feel for the game is just extremely poor.

Defensively, Roberts shows great sparks at times, but you can’t help hoping for more considering the tools he has at his disposal. His activity level isn’t consistently there; giving up position too easily, blowing assignments and relying too much on his athleticism to bail him out rather than playing fundamentally sound. The same goes for his rebounding, where he would hit double-digits every game if he really committed himself.

All in all there are some very specific things to like out of Roberts as a draft prospect. Should a team with the right type of system be able to live with his shortcomings and commit to just letting him run the floor in transition and teach him how to better use his tools on the other end of the floor, he could possibly even land in the first round. If the light bulb ever truly comes on for him (there is still some hope for that) he could certainly play a role as a rotation player in the NBA. It wouldn’t shock at all to see him light it up in a few private workouts and rise up draft boards in late June.

#7: Eric Devendorf
6-4, PG/SG, Sophomore, Syracuse


Rodger Bohn

Terrence Roberts]After a slow start to his debut campaign in the Big East, Devendorf played just as good as any freshman in the country for the second half of the season. He showed Orangemen fans why he was a consensus top 25 prospect and McDonald’s All American coming out of high school with his crafty play and deadly outside shooting, helping lead SU to the finals of the Big East Tournament.

The sophomore combo guard will surely be one of the better guards in the Big East this season, owning a package of skills that not many in the conference can match. Although he primarily played shooting guard last season, he showed above average ball handling ability and the penetration skills to create for others at ease. Eric is deceivingly quick off of the dribble, and had no problem breaking down opposing guards all throughout his freshman campaign. What makes him even more special however, is his ability to finish in the lane amongst much taller defenders, especially going left. It is quite odd that Devendorf favors his left hand so much, considering that he is a right handed player. He prefers to drive left the majority of the time, primarily finishing with crafty left handed lay-ups or floaters in the lane, in almost ambidextrous manner. It certainly would not be a bold statement to say that Devendorf uses his opposite hand better than any other guard in the country right now.

As far as shooting is concerned, the Oak Hill Academy product gives you just about everything you could ask for. He has a quick release, crisp form, and nice lift on his jumpshot, while possessing NBA three point range. It does not stop there however, as Eric has a beautiful mid range jumper off the dribble in his arsenal, although he does not go to it much, in favor of taking the ball all the way to the rim.

There are some weaknesses to the Michigan native’s offensive game, however. His primary weakness has to be his poor decision making skills, which explains his 1.03/1 assist to turnover ratio. Devendorf has good vision and playmaking abilities, but he has a tendency to throw bad passes too often, or throw the right pass, either too early or too late.

Devendorf can’t be considered a great athlete, owning just decent quickness and leaping ability. He does however use his body extremely well in the lane, allowing him to finish in traffic. His average foot speed and length certainly do not help the fact that he is already undersized for a shooting guard prospect. The Orangemen guard is pretty underdeveloped physically as well, and doesn’t seem to own a frame capable of packing on much more weight.

Defensively, Devendorf is hidden within Syracuse’s illustrious zone defense. Paying close attention though, one will easily notice his inability to contain opposing guards’ penetration, which essentially collapses the zone every single time. He seems to have a lack of consistent effort on the defensive end, and should consider himself lucky that his inadequacies are hidden within Syracuse’s defensive scheme.

Devendorf’s NBA potential is tough to project at the moment, considering he hasn’t really solidified himself in either guard position. If he is able to develop into a full time 6’4 combo guard, capable of playing either position at the next level, it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility to see him land in the first round. However, even if Eric only improves marginally over the next three years, we will still most likely see him get drafted somewhere in the second round eventually, due to his outside shooting capabilities and his ability to create off the dribble, as well as his pedigree playing under Jim Boeheim at Syrcause.

#8: Darryl Watkins
6-11, Center, Senior, Syracuse


Wojciech Malinowski

Although his game has some severe limitations, we have to seriously consider this 6'11 and 250 lbs center of Syracuse Orange as a legit NBA Draft candidate. At the moment Darryl Watkins is all about defense, but even with one-dimensional skills, players like him can always find a niche to become an NBA regular.

With his Syracuse team playing their trademark 2-3 zone defense for most of the time, evaluating Watkins’ defensive skills is a slightly tougher task than usual. There's no question about his ability to block shots - last year he swatted away 99 shots (2.8 bpg), showing great size, as well as good athletic ability and timing when coming from the weakside to challenge attacking players. Watkins significantly trimmed down last year and it had a great effect on his explosiveness and conditioning, which translated for him being able to average 30 minutes per game. There were some games where he could stay on the court even longer, but sometimes a lack of concentration and his below average feel for the game led him to collecting silly fouls, which limited his playing time. But on the other side, we have to mention that during the incredible Syracuse run had in winning the Big East tournament, playing four games in four days, Watkins spent 157 minutes on the court and looked relatively fresh, even during the 4th day, which happened to be the final game against Pittsburgh.

If his ability to block opponent shots is already there, there are some defensive skills that Watkins still has room for improvement. He averages 7.3 rebounds per game, with only 4.5 boards per game collected on the defensive end. Since he rarely leaves his position and gets the majority of his blocks very close to the rim, his rebounding numbers should be much better. Part of the blame goes to zone defense, which makes defensive rebounding more complicated. But from watching him, it looks like he doesn’t always give 100% effort to rebound the ball. This fact becomes even more obvious when you see Watkins showing flashes of what he can do--if he goes hard after the ball, he pulls down rebounds over other players, thanks to his combination of size, athleticism and quality hands.

Because Watkins plays so much zone defense, its hard to tell if he can stop opposing centers from establishing deep position inside. Since there is no news about any serious changes in coach Boeheim's playbook, we wouldn't be surprised if we had to wait for an definite answer until Watkins will participate in one of the pre-draft camps. There is no zone there, so Watkins (if he would be invited) would have a chance to show that he does not allow opponents to push him around and that he is able to keep them off the ball or from establishing position under the rim.

Offensively, Watkins has a very long ways to go. He only averaged 7.1 ppg last year, scoring mainly from putbacks and catch and dunk situations. He didn't show even one post-up move that would be a consistent weapon for him. He regularly tried to score off the jump hook over his right shoulder, but it still needs some serious work to be effective. Ha made only 54% of his free throws, and generally, is not a threat outside of 10 feet away from the basket. If Watkins will be drafted next year, it will happen because of his defensive abilities. Showing any signs of offensive skills can be crucial though, if he hopes to do more in the NBA than just be 6 fouls off the bench.

#9: Demetris Nichols
6-8, Small Forward, Senior, Syracuse


Joseph Treutlein

At 6’8 and 212 pounds, Demetris Nichols plays SF in college and definitely projects as a SF in the pros. He has decent athleticism and length for his position, sufficient enough to play in the NBA. It is tough to see Nichols being able to play either SG or PF in the NBA, though, as he wouldn’t have the strength to defend PF’s, nor the quickness to defend SG’s.

At Syracuse, Nichols’ primary role is hitting spot-up jumpers, especially from behind the arc, where 201 of his 386 field-goal attempts came last season. The fundamentals of his shot are solid and he has a consistent, high release point. He releases the ball with decent quickness, and won’t have problems getting his shot off in the NBA, though it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit faster with his release.

When Nichols is spotting up and has time to get his feet set, he is very confident in his shot, and he hits it with good consistency. Nichols also is a pretty good shooter coming off screens, though he doesn’t show the same confidence as when spotting up. The numbers back this up; in a 24-game sample from the 2005-06 season, Nichols hit his spot-up jumpers at a 43% clip while only hitting jumpers off screens at a 36% clip. Nichols can sometimes look hesitant when coming off a screen, especially if he doesn’t have much space, as he doesn’t like to put up his shot in close quarters. He also likes to have time to set himself, sometimes second-guessing himself if he doesn’t have the time, leading to him passing up a shot attempt or not going up into his motion with the same confidence.

Nichols would do himself very well to spend some time working on shooting his jumper coming off screens, and getting more comfortable with his shot when he doesn’t have time to set his feet or when he doesn’t have much space. He only shot 36% from behind the arc last season, which is respectable, but he should be continuing to put in more work to improve.

Nichols’ offensive game is predominantly based around his outside shot, though he does have a semblance of a dribble-drive game. Usually he will use the threat of his shot to get a step on his man, as his first step is not very explosive. He can actually go both left and right, though he rarely will take his drives all the way to the basket. He prefers to pull up for a jumper, can do so anywhere from 5-15 feet from the basket, and is decently effective in doing so. When he does rarely take the ball into the painted area, he often doesn’t create a high-percentage shot attempt, and rarely draws contact, as evidenced by him only taking 93 free-throw attempts as opposed to 386 field-goal attempts this season.

Nichols has no semblance of a back-to-the-basket game, and it’s unlikely he will try to develop one. Nichols doesn’t make many careless passes, but doesn’t rack up many assists either. He can make all the standard passes a role player needs to. He understands his role and doesn’t play outside of it.

Despite spending the majority of his time on the perimeter, Nichols actually does a good job crashing the offensive boards, making it a priority to do so, and possessing decent touch on putbacks around the basket. Defensively, he is also an adequate rebounder for his position.

Definitely projected as a small forward at the next level, it’s tough to get a gauge on Nichols’ perimeter defense, as it is masked within Syracuse’s 3-2 zone. Nichols plays at the bottom of the zone, and rarely gets in situations where his lateral quickness is tested one-on-one. Because of the zone, he also doesn’t spend any time chasing players around screens, as a small forward would need to in the NBA. For these reasons, his defense is a major question mark, especially considering he doesn’t have especially good athleticism.

#10: Sam Young
6-6, Power Forward, Sophomore, Pitt


Jonathan Watters

Pitt snuck up on quite a few people last year, and one Panther that could sneak up on many in 06-07 is sophomore bruiser Sam Young. Cut from the same mold as Big East foe Jeff Adrien and other prototypical undersized 4-men like PJ Tucker and Jeremis Smith, Young is a near-dominant NCAA-level player when he utilizes his natural strengths near the basket. While he eventually needs to move his game to the perimeter, he would be better served sticking with what he does best for now.

Young is built like a football player, listed at 6'6, 215, but appearing much larger. He is quite explosive for someone with his body type, and long arms allow him to play much bigger than he actually is. Young loves to get physical in the paint, and is quite adept at exploding to the rim powerfully and quickly to make up for his lack of size. He is certainly more of a slasher than a back to the basket player, but Young is comfortable operating in both capacities when matchups call for it. Ever since Ben Howland took over, it seems like Pitt has always featured at least one of those nasty enforcer types that makes any foray into the lane a risky endeavor. Young is poised to carry on that tradition, and do a darn good job of it.

At the same time, Young will sometimes get a bit too perimeter oriented. With his professional future coming on the perimeter, it appears that the sophomore would rather be a perimeter player on the offensive end. Young has the tools to do the job outside, with a nice midrange jumper, a passable handle, and some explosiveness. At the same time, he is far from being ready to make the switch to full-time wing. He needs a lot more polish, and his body makeup is certainly that of a big man's. Instead of forcing something that isn't entirely there just yet, Young would be much better suited playing that blue-collar role on the offensive end.

Make sure to focus in on Sam Young at least once this year. You will like what you see, if you catch him on a good day. Physical intensity won't be in short supply, and you might just get to see him tear the rim off the backboard. His NBA future is anything but secure, but he has enough power to his game and aggressive nature required of a player with his projected role.

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