Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we come to any long-term conclusions.
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part One (#1-5)
#1 Rodney Williams
#2 Maurice Creek
#3 Kalin Lucas
#4 Durrell Summers
#5 JaJuan Johnson
#6 Robbie Hummel, 6-8, Senior, Small Forward/Power Forward, Purdue
15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 46% FG, 90% FT, 36%3P
There are lofty expectations for the Purdue Boilermakers as they enter the 2010-2011 season. A good share of the burden of reaching those expectations could fall on the shoulders of senior forward Robbie Hummel. After suffering a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee last February, Hummel will be back as a senior to prove that he is healthy and his knee is back to full strength. If that indeed is the case, the Boilermakers are legitimate contenders for a Final Four run, and Hummel should garner plenty of attention from NBA scouts.
Last season as a junior, Hummel took on a larger role offensively and increased his scoring output to 15.7 ppg, up from 12.5 ppg as a sophomore, while continuing to display the unselfishness, passing ability, and high basketball IQ that we'd grown accustom to seeing in his first two seasons.
Playing primarily as a face-up power forward in coach Matt Painter's system at Purdue, Hummel has a very versatile game with the ability to operate on the perimeter and also mix it up inside a bit. While he isn't the type of player who is going to create many plays off the dribble, due to his lack of explosiveness, he does possess very good ball-handling skills for a player his size. He also moves well without the ball, cutting to open spaces, and seems comfortable catching the ball and making plays from different areas of the floor. He has the size and skill set of an NBA small forward, but he could also potentially be utilized as more of a stretch four man in the NBA, which we're seeing much more of as teams put a premium on spacing the floor with shooters.
On the offensive end, the one word that describes Robbie Hummel's game is efficient. Hummel was seventh of all players in our database last season in points per possession at 1.29, and he also led all frontcourt players in our database in assist to turnover ratio at 2 to 1. His ability to make the most of his touches and be effective without needing the ball in his hands should serve him well as he attempts to make the transition to the NBA as a role player.
Hummel has shown flashes of being a very good shooter over the course of his first few seasons. He shot an outstanding 90.2% from the free throw line last season as a junior, which shows that he has the stroke to be a more consistent shooter from the floor as well. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Hummel shot a respectable 36.1% on catch-and-shoot opportunities last season. This is still an area where he needs to improve if he's going to have a chance to succeed at the NBA level though, as his value on the offensive end will be heavily dependent on his ability to spread the floor and knock down open jump shots. Hummel shot 45% from beyond the arc as a freshman, and 38% last season, so we do know that that ability is there.
As we've mentioned before, the main concern with Hummel when trying to project him to the NBA level is trying to figure out who he will be able to defend. He spends the majority of his time playing the power forward position at Purdue, and while he has noticeably improved his body and gotten stronger since his freshman season, he's still undersized to defend the post in the NBA. Against NBA small forwards, Hummel lacks the lateral quickness to contain dribble penetration on the perimeter. He does, however, display excellent awareness and instincts, and his energy level and toughness are off the charts, all of which can help to cover up for some his physical limitations.
Overall, Hummel possesses many of the intangibles that NBA scouts covet when searching for players to fill out their rotation or earn minutes as a role player off the bench. But after a sophomore year plagued by a bad back, and a junior year cut short by a serious knee injury, teams may wonder if he is too injury prone to play an 82 game season. To firmly assert himself as a legitimate NBA prospect, he'll need a healthy senior season displaying that his injury woes are behind him, and then a clean bill of health from NBA doctors at the Combine.
#7 William Buford, 6-4, Junior, Shooting Guard, Ohio State
14.4 Points, 5.6 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists, 1.8 Turnovers, 1.1 Steals, 43.8% FG, 38.3% 3FG, 75.4% FT
William Buford built on a strong freshman season with a solid sophomore campaign, clearly benefitting from the emergence of Evan Turner and improving his production across the board. With Turner moving on and a highly touted freshman class headed to Columbus, this season will be a pivotal one for Buford's draft stock. With limited experience and depth at the point guard position, Buford will have ample opportunity to be more aggressive, showcase aspects of his game that we haven't seen in the past, and solidify himself as a top shooting guard at the college level.
The name of the game for Buford this season is versatility. He's spent his first two seasons at the college level relying heavily on his jumper and his teammates to create offense for him. According to Synergy Sports Technology, nearly 75% of his shot attempts are jump shots and only 10% of his possessions came in isolation and pick and roll situations. He's a proven catch and shoot threat with solid range, works off of screens well, and understands spacing, but isn't an overly efficient scorer because of his limitations off the dribble. Buford will have the chance to overcome those perceptions this fall and expand his appeal to NBA teams in the process.
The former McDonald's All-American has never had to create for himself regularly at OSU. When he had the opportunity to do so last season, the results weren't great, especially from the midrange. He connected on just 33% of his pull up jumpers, down from the 42% mark he recorded as a freshman. While he took a step back in that regard, he did compensate by running the floor hard in transition, finishing at a higher rate around the rim, and getting to the line more frequently. It will be interesting to see how Buford fares next season without Evan Turner creating for him off the dribble, as his ability to create separation from the midrange and generate opportunities around the rim and from the free throw line will be put under the microscope.
Buford doesn't have great size or explosiveness, but he's a solid athlete and while he did a marginally better job attacking and creating contact in the lane last season, he'll need to improve his ball handling and assume some shot creating responsibilities to become a more complete threat offensively. His ability to pass the ball and stretch the floor would be an asset to an NBA franchise with a point guard that can draw defenders and other slashers on their roster, but his utility would grow tremendously if he was more dynamic off the dribble.
On the defensive end, Buford has some nice moments, showing a solid activity level and not taking too many risks in Ohio Sate's zone, but will be forced to make some adjustments on the next level. Considering his lack of great lateral quickness, it will be interesting to see how he transitions from a zone-oriented system to one that forces him to defend one-on-one without help waiting behind him.
This season presents a chance for Buford to work on his weaknesses, exploit a perfect situation to expand his repertoire, and help his team simultaneously. As it stands, he has some nice buzz around him, especially after earning a spot with the USA Select Team this summer, but a season of stagnation would only legitimize concerns that he projects primarily as a backup (at best) on the next level. Buford made incremental improvements last season, and 2011 will be his chance to make big strides towards becoming a complete player.
#8 Demetri McCamey, 6'3, Point Guard, Senior, Illinois
15.1 points, 7.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 3.4 turnovers, 45% FG, 71% FT, 34% 3PT
Undergoing one of the biggest role changes of any player in the country last season, transitioning from a combo-guard to full-time floor general, Demetri McCamey had a breakout junior season for the Fighting Illini, leading the entire NCAA in assists per game while also upping his production and efficiency across the board. Heading into his senior season, scouts will be much more focused on McCamey's game, specifically in terms of what adjustments he makes to prepare for translating his game to a higher level of competition.
In terms of actual skill set, not much changed for McCamey as a junior, but it was the application of those skills that saw a big turnaround, which was most evident in the area of shot selection. Despite being more of an offensive focal point, taking more shots per game, and taking on the burden of creating for others, McCamey still managed to increase his efficiency from the field and behind the arc. Looking deeper into the stats at Synergy Sports Technology, McCamey also increased his points per shot on both catch-and-shoot (1.00 to 1.04) and off-the-dribble jumpers (0.60 to 0.93).
As a shooter, McCamey possesses excellent form both in catch-and-shoot and pull-up situations, having a high release with pretty good speed and consistent mechanics, always showing good balance even when moving from side to side. He's still prone to forcing a contested jumper early in the shot clock, but has made immense improvements in this area as compared to his freshman and sophomore seasons, and could potentially take another step forward this year. McCamey does a good job using his craftiness and strength to make up for his lack of quickness in this area, using the former qualities in addition to the threat of his passing ability to create space to pull up for a shot.
As a shot creator in general, McCamey relies heavily on his jump shot, not having the quickness or explosiveness to consistently get past his man in isolation situations. According to Synergy, McCamey attempted 240 jumpers in the half court this season compared to just 84 shots around the basket. McCamey finished at a very high rate around the rim, scoring 1.26 points per shot, but that's more a testament to him picking his spots very well as opposed to him being an excellent finisher. While he does have a nice right-handed floater and makes good use of his strength, size, and touch in the lane, there are some major concerns projecting this area of his game to the next level, given his lack of vertical explosiveness and his troubles separating from his man in isolation situations.
In terms of penetrating with the ball, McCamey does an excellent job using misdirection and change of pace to get his man off balance, having very good ball-handling skills and a strong presence with the ball, while he also does a good job of keeping his head up and keeping his options open, rarely displaying tunnel vision off the dribble. He's somewhat limited in his ability to create in isolation due to his lack of a great second gear, but is dangerous once he has a half-step on his man and makes good use of high screens to do so.
As a floor general, McCamey shows very good awareness of what's going on around him and is capable of making a large variety of passes, including one-handed passes on the move with either hand (though the left is still noticeably behind the right in comfort level). He does a good job reading pick-and-roll situations, hitting teammates coming around screens, and finding cutters open in the lane, while he's capable of throwing strong precision passes over long distances when necessary. While he's prone to forcing the issue at times and is still clearly coming into his own as a full-time playmaker, McCamey exhibits a very good feel for the game and does a good job managing pace and getting the ball to teammates in positions where they can succeed.
Defensively, McCamey showed good effort and intensity levels as a junior, playing with good fundamentals and awareness while not taking plays off. In isolation situations, his lateral quickness is very much sub-par for a point guard, something that is prone to being exploited and certainly will be even more so in the NBA, but he does a good job trying to make up for it by being in the right position and putting in maximum effort to keep his feet moving. One area where McCamey does excel on defense, though, is playing the pick-and-roll, where he does a very good job using his strength to fight through screens and stick with the play, while also showing good awareness and understanding of positioning.
Looking forward, McCamey needs to continue to show the improved decision-making and consistency he exhibited as a junior, while he could further improve his draft stock if he comes back trimmer so he could better maximize his physical tools. Projecting to the next level, being at his physical peak will be of the utmost importance, as the holes in his game are certainly more apparent in college when matched with long, athletic defenders, who tend to make things very difficult for him. There is also concern about how he will adjust to a different role in the NBA, as he will likely have to cut back on the amount of time he spends with the ball in his hands, and as a freshman and sophomore he didn't always show the best decision-making in that position. Currently projected as a second round pick, McCamey's stock could improve with another strong season, especially if he alleviates some of the concerns about how his game will translate to the NBA.
#9 Christian Watford, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, Indiana
12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, .6 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 38% FG, 80% FT, 32%
Playing huge minutes for a freshman at the Big Ten level last season, the experience Christian Watford garnered last season will surely pay off down the road.
Unfortunately it was mostly in a losing effort, as Indiana struggled to a 4-14 record in the Big Ten and a 10-21 record overall as part of the continued rebuilding efforts in the wake of the Kelvin Sampson scandal.
A top-50 recruit coming out of high school, Watford shows some intriguing characteristics that will surely keep scouts interested in his progress over the next few seasons. He's 6-9, has a nice frame, long arms and is a good (but not great) athlete, which is a nice place to start. On top of that, he shows some budding skills in various facets of his offensive game, clearly being a player with some talent that has yet to be fully harnessed.
Raw, but pretty versatile, Watford shows potential in his jump-shooting ability, ball-handling skills and at times with his post-up game. He's a mismatch threat at the power forward position, as evidenced by the way he was able to get to the free throw line, nearly five times per game. He also has a nice stroke from the perimeter, connecting on 15 3-pointers last season, and 80% of his many free throws, which is pretty interesting at his size. Unfortunately he only converted on 28% of the 100+ jump-shots (from any range) he attempted last season, which shows that he still has quite a bit of work to improve on his consistency and shot-selection.
As a ball-handler, Watford has a nice first step and looks comfortable attacking his man in a straight line off the dribble from time to time. His lack of strength hampers him significantly once he gets to the basket, though, as he often struggles to finish through contact and does not possess the raw explosiveness to just rise up over the top of the defense. His 2-point percentages were horrendous for that reason (along with his affinity for shooting jumpers), converting 38.5% of his attempts inside the arc, which is simply an unacceptable rate.
Watford's post up game suffers for many of the same reasons, as he lacks the strength and possibly some toughness to establish great position in the paint, and tends to fade away from contact if a very physical defender is bodying him up. He does show some potential with his ability to knock down smooth turnaround jumpers or jump-hooks, though, complete with a high release point. He does not have any resemblance of a left hand at this stage, and posted an extremely poor 1/4 assist to turnover ratio, not always realizing his limitations and often struggling to make great decisions in the half-court. He did shoulder an inordinate amount of offensive responsibility on a young and somewhat talent-deprived Indiana roster, though, which helps explain his lack of efficiency offensively.
Defensively, Watford is a mixed bag at this point. He has the length to make his presence felt both on the perimeter and in the post, but lacks the fundamentals and lateral quickness to stay in front of smaller players and the strength and toughness to hold his own against more physical big men. Watford tends to lose his focus at times on the defensive end, being very upright in his stance, but when fully dialed in he can do some nice things on this end of the floor.
Watford is not a good rebounder at all at this stage, posting an underwhelming 8.4 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season. His lack of strength is once again an issue here.
Watford's frame seemed to have improved significantly when we saw him a few weeks ago at the adidas Nations experience in Chicago, something that will make his life significantly easier in the Big Ten next season. Evaluating his film from last year, he clearly made strides as his freshman season moved on, and made some extremely intriguing plays from time to time that hinted at good things that might be in store for him.
Watford seems to be fixated on calling himself a small forward from the comments we've seen in the media, something that may be a mistake considering his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect. Long, athletic power forwards with inside/outside games are all the rage in today's NBA, and he's probably not nearly as interesting if his focus is on playing strictly on the perimeter, particularly on the defensive end.
We'll likely know a lot more about how Watford's NBA prospects are shaping up after this following season, but it might take him another season after that to truly establish himself on the national level.
#10 Brandon Paul, 6-4, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Illinois
7.8 Points, 3.1 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists, 1.3 Turnovers, 0.8 Steals, 33% FG, 28% 3P, 64% FT
While some freshman guards are able to step onto the floor and make an immediate impact, the majority of them take at least one season, if not more, to acclimate themselves to the college game. Brandon Paul saw considerable playing time in his first season with the Illini and did contribute a few strong performances, but it was abundantly clear that his time on the floor was meant to accelerate his learning curve more than anything else.
Bruce Weber threw Paul into the fire, letting him learn on the job, make mistakes, and gain invaluable experience. The former Mr. Illinois Basketball struggled for stretches in a moderate offensive role, but has some very intriguing tools and plenty of time to figure things out.
While it is hard to be overwhelmed with Paul's play last season considering his glaring lack of efficiency, it is important to remember that he was one of the younger players in our freshman rankings. He won't turn 20 until the end of this coming season. Considering his age, it seems fair to expect his game to mature considerably moving forward.
Paul made his mark at Warren Township HS using his athleticism and outside shot. Slightly undersized for a shooting guard from an NBA perspective and a bit on the skinny side, Paul has the leaping ability, quickness, and wingspan to compensate for his lack of size. He has a great first step and runs the floor well in transition. Though there's a lot to like about his physical profile, one of the biggest challenges Paul faced last season was learning how to use those tools.
Paul was considered a capable shooter on the high school circuit, but had an extremely hard time finding any kind of rhythm or consistency last season, but was just as aggressive from the perimeter as he was at Warren. His mechanics aren't awful, highlighted by a high release point and nice follow through, but he tends to take far too many difficult shots with a hand in his face and is prone to altering his release whenever he's defended. He's the type of player that will drill a 21-footer on one possession before throwing up an airball from the same spot on the next. Considering that half of Paul's field goal attempts came from beyond the arc ( ranking him in the top-25 in our database in three-point attempts per-40 minutes pace adjusted), but he made only a quarter of his overall jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, it is clear that his shot-selection needs quite a bit of work.
The flashes he showed putting the ball on the floor make his tendency to settle for tough jump shots that much more problematic. Despite some 64% of his shots coming from perimeter jumpers, the young guard had moments of brilliance attacking the rim off the bounce. He changes gears in a hurry, and while he still needs to tighten up his ball handling ability and show more poise and vision looking for teammates, his knack for turning the corner in one-on-one situations can become a huge asset down the road. At the basket, his lack of physical strength limited him at times, and he gets a bit out of control even when he's not under pressure, but as he matures and adjusts to the speed of the college game, he'll have the chance to become an incredibly productive shot-creator.
Similar to the way he shows signs on the offensive end, Paul had some excellent defensive possessions as well. His lateral quickness makes him a very solid defender in isolation situations, and he's willing to step in and take a charge. However, his focus and effort level can be inconsistent, and he was prone to making the mistakes that plague most freshmen when playing off the ball. Paul needs to continue to improve his physical strength and become more disciplined, but he has the tools to be a quality defender.
Paul had a rough freshman season, as evidenced by his incredibly poor 33.3% shooting from the fieldwhich ranked him dead last in that category amongst all prospects in college basketball. If he can cut back on the mental mistakes and continues to improve, though, his development could allow him to blossom once Demetri McCamey moves on, possibly in a combo guard type role. Paul isn't likely to see his role expand too much this season, but 2011 will be a pivotal year for his development as he could definitely stand to prove that he can be an efficient role player.