Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East, Part Three (#3-5)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East, Part Three (#3-5)
Oct 09, 2013, 06:52 pm
We continue our coverage of the top returning NBA prospects in the Big East with part three, players ranked 3-5: Chris Obekpa, Jakarr Sampson and Fuquan Edwin.

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 30 NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC
-Top 15 NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 10 NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 15 NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-12

-Top NBA Prospects in the Big East, Part One
(#1) Doug McDermott
(Scouting Video)
-Top NBA Prospects in the Big East, Part Two
(#2) Semaj Christon
(Scouting Video)

#3, Chris Obekpa, 6-9, Sophomore, PF/C, St. John's

One of the last players we wrote about during the 2012-2013 season, we'll wait for Obekpa to suit up as a sophomore rather than rehash many of the same things we included in our last report.

#4, Jakarr Sampson, 6'8, Small Forward, St. John's, Sophomore

Kyle Nelson

Forced to spend a second year in prep school due to academic issues upon his initial enrollment, Jakarr Sampson's freshman campaign was exactly what St. John's needed following Maurice Harkless's departure to the NBA. Playing a significant role, Sampson was St. John's second leading scorer and its top rebounder on his way to being named Big East Rookie of the Year.

Yet, the Red Storm lost eight of its final 10 games and what appeared to be a promising season initially resulted in an 11th place Big East finish and a loss to Virginia in the second round of the NIT. After flirting with the idea of following Harkless to the NBA, Sampson ultimately returned to St. John's with the expectation of improving his draft prospects in his sophomore season.

At 6'8 with a 6'11 wingspan and a wiry 214-pound frame, Sampson looks the part of a prototypical NBA small forward. He is an impressive athlete, capable of exploding to the basket with solid quickness in the open floor. While Sampson will have to improve his skill-level and decision making ability to maximize his prowess in the half court, he is a very dangerous weapon in transition and with some added bulk should have little trouble holding his own physically at the next level.

While not overly efficient, Sampson was very prolific offensively as a freshman, averaging 18.3 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which included a 21-point outing at Syracuse and 18 points against Baylor. He led his team in usage rate and ranked third in the Big East shot attempts. His possessions came in a diverse array of play types, as he not only scored in transition and via hustle, but also moving off the ball and in one on one situations.

Yet, despite Sampson's versatility there are more than a few questions surrounding what he can actually bring to the table for an NBA team. Shooting just 46% from inside the arc, he one of the least efficient prospects in 2P% among returning players in our Top-100.

For all of his size and athletic advantages, he made just 53% of his shots around the basket from the power forward position, due in large part to his lack of strength, poor decision making skills and inability to dribble or finish with his off hand. He is limited to, more or less, straight line right-handed drives to the basket, not possessing much in the way of advanced ball-handling moves, and is susceptible to turnovers due to his high dribble and the predictability of his offensive game. Defenses like to sag off him because of how shaky his outside jumper is, and Sampson isn't capable of punishing them consistently enough.

With that said, Sampson shows potential as a shot-creator in the half-court, as he has an excellent first step and some raw ability to make pull-up jumpers off the dribble. Despite getting excellent elevation on his jumper and possessing a high release point, Sampson has limited range from the perimeter and is largely a non-threat with his feet set from beyond the arc, as he sports very poor shooting mechanics. He is more effective shooting off the dribble, mostly from the mid-range, where he made 40% of his attempts last season.

His lack of range hurts his NBA prospects significantly, though, as it's virtually impossible to find perimeter players these days that are not capable of making shots from beyond the arc at all. Sampson missed all eight of his three point field goal attempts last season, and his poor mechanics don't leave a lot of room for optimism regarding his ability to improve in this area, unless he completely retools his jump-shot.

For as mixed as his prospects are on the offensive end of the floor, Sampson looks like he can develop into a formidable defender in time, while already showing intriguing potential as a freshman. His size, length and lateral quickness allow him to stay in front of perimeter players and, thanks to his size, he should have little trouble guarding NBA small forwards as long as he continues to get stronger. His lack of strength hurts him, particularly, in trying to hold his position in the post, where he sees a good amount of time collegiately at the power forward position.

That said, he is capable of making an impact all over the floor, represented in part by his 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted, and he does a great job of staying involved throughout defensive possessions, even if he is better on than off of the ball at this point. Additionally, his 8.1 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranks him as one of the best rebounding small forwards prospects among returning players in our top-100, even if he saw most of his time at the 4 last season .

Due to his struggles getting eligible for college, Sampson will turn 21 during his sophomore year, which may dampen scouts' enthusiasm somewhat regarding the extent of his upside. This will be an important season for him in turn, as it should give us a much better idea regarding his ability to develop an outside jump-shot to compliment his outstanding physical profile. St. John's is expected to be a lot better this year as well, which Sampson should play a significant role in as key player on both ends of the floor.

Scouts will be monitoring his progress closely, then, to see if he can develop into a more efficient scorer, with legitimate perimeter shooting range and better decision making ability. Given all that he brings to the table as a prospect, should he continue to improve, he should be able to help his draft stock significantly.

#5, Fuquan Edwin, 6-6, Senior, Small Forward, Seton Hall

Jonathan Givony

After making significant improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Fuquan Edwin again made another notable jump in production as a junior, setting the stage for an important senior year which could see him emerge as a strong candidate to get drafted this upcoming June.

Edwin's usage rate jumped from 20 to 28% last season, becoming the go-to guy on a talent-starved and injury-riddled Seton Hall roster that went just 3-15 in the Big East.

Despite the increase in responsibility, Edwin's offensive efficiency impressively remained nearly identical, as he shot the ball exceptionally well from beyond the arc—nearly 43%--and was able to get to the free throw line at a very solid rate.

A marginal outside shooter coming into college, Edwin has improved by leaps and bounds in this area the past two years, becoming arguably one of the top shooters in the Big East despite his team possessing little in the ways of ball-handling or shot-creation ability. Extremely reliable with his feet set, Edwin can come off screens effectively and has a shot that is difficult to contest due to how high his release point is.

His shooting mechanics are unconventional, he flings the ball at the basket from over his head with no follow-through whatsoever—leading to some very bad misses at times—but it's difficult to argue with the results at the college level, even if it remains to be seen how his stroke will translate to the longer NBA line.

Edwin is almost strictly a catch and shoot guy, he rarely pulls up in the mid-range area, and that's probably a good thing considering how much his efficiency plummeted in off the dribble situations—from 43% with his feet set to 24% otherwise according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Despite having a quick first step, Edwin struggles to create his own shot effectively in the half-court, as his ball-handling skills are crude and he prefers not to dribble or finish with his left hand. Not an overly skilled player, he doesn't have great touch around the basket—he converts just 49% of his attempts inside the paint, as he's often out of control by the time he gets to the rim. He improved his shooting from the free throw line last season, from 63 to 67%, but can still get better here as well, as that's not a great rate for a wing.

Although he's not particularly skilled, Edwin is not a selfish player, as he willingly makes the extra pass and nearly doubled his assist rate last season. He still turns the ball over a little too often, but it's important to note that he played on one of the most turnover prone teams in college basketball last season—a team that coughed the ball up on nearly a quarter of their possessions in Big East play, making him one of their most reliable ball-handlers.

Where Edwin continues to excel is on the defensive end of the floor. Seton Hall plays a very ineffective 2-3 zone defense due to their lack of size and depth, which is not really ideal for NBA teams to evaluate, but Edwin's ability here regularly shines through nevertheless. His long arms, terrific quickness, high intensity level and amazing anticipation skills make him an absolute terror in the passing lanes, as his 2.9 steals per-40 minutes ranked third best among all top-100 prospects, even though that was down from an amazing 3.6 the year before.

Edwin's footspeed allows him to cover huge amounts of ground and absolutely wreak havoc on opposing guards. He gets over the top of screens with ease and regularly picks opponents' pockets in the backcourt, coming up with tons of easy baskets by virtue of his hustle and the way he just seem to naturally gravitate towards the ball. He's also a solid rebounder for a wing and will come up with an occasional block from time to time as well.

Edwin embodies a lot of the things you like to see in a role playing NBA swingman, as he shows outstanding potential defensively, is a team player who does not need the ball to effective, and is a very good outside shooter with his feet set. Being on a losing team that plays zone almost exclusively won't do him too many favors unfortunately, but Seton Hall returns most of their core, which will likely help in a weakened Big East, and Edwin should have plenty of chances to show NBA talent evaluators his potential against solid competition night in and night out.

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