Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four
Nov 13, 2009, 01:43 pm
Our final look at the top NBA draft prospects in the non-BCS conferences culminates with scouting reports on Oakland's Keith Benson, Louisiana Tech's Magnum Rolle, Temple's Lavoy Allen, Nevada's Armon Johnson and La Salle's Rodney Green.

As a reminder, incoming freshmen have been excluded from this series.

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#5-10)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#5-10), Part Three (#11-15),
Part Four
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10),—3327
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC: Part One(#1-5), Part Two (#6-10),—3330,—3331
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10),
Part Three (#11-15)

#16 Keith Benson, 6-11, Junior, Center, Oakland

Jonathan Givony

Tucked away in the cozy confines of the Summit League, Oakland big man Keith Benson will vie for national attention in this his redshirt junior season of college basketball. With a schedule that includes the likes of Kansas, Michigan State, Syracuse, Memphis, Wisconsin and Oregon, he should have every opportunity to show that he’s a legit NBA prospect.

Benson’s physical attributes are very unique for the conference he plays in, as he stands a legit 6-11, with good length and athleticism. He sports a very narrow frame, particularly in his lower body, but is a springy big man who runs the floor well and looks more than mobile enough to qualify as an intriguing prospect. Physically, think of a cross between Courtney Sims and Hilton Armstrong.

An extremely efficient scorer, Benson ranks 6th amongst all returning prospects in field goal percentage amongst players in our database. He has good hands and is an excellent finisher, showing nice touch, good coordination, and the confidence to make his presence felt in the paint. He can step out to around 15 feet and knock down a mid-range jump-shot, and converts a solid 67% of his free throw attempts, a place he spends quite a bit of time. Benson even shows some solid footwork with his back to the basket, being able to create his own shot from time to time, as long as his lack of strength is not a factor. He does not turn the ball over very often, as he appears to have an above average feel for the game, and clearly has the skill-set to compete at any level of college basketball.

On the downside, Benson’s frame can be a major hindrance already at the college level, as he lacks the bulk to establish and hold great position on the block, particularly against the more physically developed prospects he’ll occasionally (but rarely) encounter. He struggles to finish through contact and gets pushed around with relative ease, often being forced to attempt some weak/awkward fade-aways as he’s moved outside of his comfort zone. He needs to improve his left hand, but regardless, it’s difficult to see his back to the basket game translating that well to an NBA setting, unless he’s able to add a significant amount of bulk to his lanky frame.

As a rebounder, Benson is very productive, which is not a surprise considering his physical tools and the level of competition he plays at. He gets the job done on both the offensive and defensive glass, although he could stand to do a better job of boxing out his opponents and fighting for loose balls.

Defensively, Benson can’t be described as anything less than poor in everything besides his weak-side shot-blocking ability. He gives up deep position on a regular basis to mediocre opponents, letting them score on him with ease, possibly just trying to stay out of foul trouble. His effort-level and fundamentals appeared to be mediocre in the film we took in, as he seems to lack quite a bit of toughness and hustle on this end of the floor. He does do a good job rotating from the weak-side and blocking shots thanks to his length and athleticism, but it’s questionable how much that part of his game will translate to an NBA setting unless he’s able to bulk up substantially.

All in all, Benson is an intriguing prospect, as he possesses rare physical tools (size, length, athleticism) for the college level to go along with a solid skill-level on the offensive end. Only being 21 years old, he still has quite a bit of upside to grow into, particularly when you consider that he’s a late bloomer who only averaged 7 points per game as a senior in high school. How highly regarded of a NBA draft prospect Benson ends up being when he’s done at Oakland will likely come down to how much weight teams think he’ll be able to put on over the next few years. He has some very intriguing attributes, but likely won’t be able to translate his game over very effectively against NBA caliber athletes if he can’t get considerably stronger. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out.

#17 Magnum Rolle, 6-10, Senior, PF/C, Louisiana Tech

Matthew Williams

A highly touted high school player coming out of Laurinberg Prep, Magnum Rolle returns to school looking to legitimize his draft stock. Still far from a polished player, Rolle’s first two seasons, which he spent at LSU, didn’t turn many heads, and while he had his moments, he struggled to earn the playing time he desperately needed to develop. After sitting out for a season and posting respectable, but unspectacular averages of 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks as a junior, Rolle declared for the draft to drum up interest before wisely deciding to utilize the rest of his college eligibility.

Possessing an excellent wingspan and decent height, it isn’t hard to see what made Rolle such a highly regarded high school prospect after watching him for a few plays. He runs the floor like a guard, displays good lateral quickness, and is extremely quick off the floor. While those assets still serve him well, his impact on the college level and his promise from an NBA perspective are both limited by his lack of physical strength. Though Rolle has added twenty-some pounds since his freshman year at LSU, he remains extremely lanky.

Rolle’s physical tools, first and foremost, are what make him an intriguing player. Always looking to duck in from the weakside for an easy dunk, Rolle does a solid job timing his cuts to the rim and utilizes length effectively to rebound the ball. Extremely aggressive when he can find a look at the basket, he proves to be a very solid finisher inside, converting 53.1% of his two-point attempts last season thanks to the advantage he enjoys in terms of reach and athleticism.

Rolle’s lack of bulk isn’t a major concern for him in terms of finishing ability, as his quick leaping ability, decisiveness, and tendency to keep the ball high on the catch usually allow him to get above the rim before defenders can respond. However, his weight certainly plays a role in his post efficiency. Struggling to obtain deep position down low, Rolle often has no choice but to resort to his face-up game. Displaying the ability to drive in either direction after a reverse pivot or a hard jab, Rolle’s physical aggressiveness helps him tremendously in the WAC, where his tenacity and quick leaping ability help him get off some effortless hook shots from in close. Displaying a decent feel for fakes and counter moves, Rolle runs into problems when faced with a physical defender, as his efficiency plummets when he can’t get a decent angle to the rim off his initial move.

Functioning as a catch and finish player for Louisiana Tech, most of Rolle’s offense comes at the rim, but he does flash a very capable midrange jumper that he can hit running off of screens, spotting up, or even off of one or two dribbles. His form isn’t fantastic, but he’s a threat when he keeps his elbow in. A bit turnover prone for his usage level and not much of a passer, Rolle’s aggressiveness sometimes overmatches his ball handling ability out on the perimeter.

On the defensive end, Rolle is a presence at the WAC level, displaying the lateral quickness to defend multiple positions and utilizing his length to contest shots. An ideal player to pit against a finesse oriented post scorer, Rolle didn’t have to match up against many overpowering back to the basket bangers last season. He appears to struggle to take away position on the block against even average forwards, though, not gaining much ground when boxing out, proving to be a much more effective shot blocker coming over from the weakside, and having a tendency not to finish plays once his man gets him on his hip –a problematic habit for a shotblocker with his quickness.

As it stands, Rolle certainly has some NBA caliber tools, namely his athleticism and length, but his ability to utilize them effectively has more to do with the development of his frame than anything else. He seems to be on a promising learning curve with regards to his overall skill set, but needs to show his improvements more consistently. Considering the level of competition he’s facing, Rolle needs to assert himself more noticeably, even with virtually all of Louisiana Tech’s top scorers from last season returning around him. A strong candidate to be invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Rolle is a player who could sneak onto draft boards with a good senior season.

#18 Lavoy Allen, 6-9, Junior, Power Forward, Temple

Kyle Nelson

Temple power forward Lavoy Allen took a step forward last season, emerging as a presence in the post while helping his team reach the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. Playing alongside veterans such as Dionte Christmas and Sergio Olmos, however, Allen was rarely a consistent force under the basket and far too often, faded into the background when he should have been dominant. This season, his role will increase significantly on both sides of the ball, and it is up to Allen to prove that he can compete hard every night and that he deserves to be in the NBA Draft conversation.

Allen has good, though certainly not great, size for an NBA power forward, standing 6’9 with an improving frame. He is not an amazing athlete by any measure, though he displays very good mobility for a collegiate big man and gets off the floor quickly, even if he is not the most explosive player. He does not have an incredible wingspan to compensate for his average height and athleticism, either, which suggests that he might struggle in the NBA against stronger, taller, and more athletic big men.

On the offensive end of the floor, Allen is primarily a back to the basket big man, though at times he shows flashes of a face-up game. Allen’s footwork has improved significantly, allowing him to utilize his solid quickness and outstanding touch around the basket. He has a variety of moves in his repertoire, from jump hooks to turnaround jumpers. Though his footwork definitely needs to improve and his toughness at this point is questionable, Allen has the ability to be an inside force on the offensive end of the ball in the Atlantic 10.

At times, Allen has shown the ability to take his defender off of the dribble and launch a pull-up jump shot. Though he still needs to work on his shooting range and his shooting motion’s speed and consistency, he has range out to the collegiate three-point and could develop into a very good spot-up shooter down the road in his career. His intelligence, good hands, and quickness, also allow him to be a good offensive rebounder. More impressively, however, he shot 60% from inside of the arc last season, while attempting a wide variety of shots with varying degree of difficulty. His scoring efficiency and willingness to crash the offensive glass, combined with his intelligence and knack for passing out of the post, are definitely attributes that scouts look for out of role players at the next level.

The problem, however, is that he is unbelievably inconsistent and faded too many times when it mattered last season. Though he nearly averaged a double-double, there were many times when he disappeared for entire games, showing very little motivation or focus. Part of this can be attributed to playing alongside ball-dominant guards such as Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale (as a freshman), but his physical and mental toughness is an intangible that scouts will be watching next season. This season, he will be a focal point on the offensive end and have every opportunity to assert himself on a nightly basis. If he cannot prove himself in this respect, then his NBA hopes are extremely low.

On the defensive end, this lack of toughness is evident, but so too is his potential. Though his lateral quickness is only slightly above average, he does have quick feet in the post, which allows him to be a good defensive presence at this level. His timing is good, as well, and he is a good shot blocker at this level in addition to being an extremely solid rebounding presence. He sometimes has trouble closing out and staying in front of more perimeter oriented big men, however, which will likely be a problem at the next level. His lack of ideal strength does him no favors either, as he gets pushed around by bigger post players and does not have the aggressiveness to compensate. Consistency is a problem, as well, as he disappears for stretches and loses focus. Maintaining his focus while continuing to work on his fundamentals is essential and, without Sergio Olmos as a safety net in the middle, Allen is going to have to step up and take on a larger role in the paint this season on the defensive end.

Allen is a fringe prospect at this point, without the size and some important intangibles that scouts look for in projected NBA role players. While he does some things very well on both ends of the court and shows plenty of potential to develop into a tremendously productive collegiate big man, he has to play to his abilities on a nightly basis. Temple lost plenty of offensive firepower during this off-season and it is up to Allen to step up and prove that he can consistently dominate. With a schedule that features games against Kansas, Georgetown, Villanova, and Virginia Tech, he will have every opportunity to prove himself against a wide variety of big men and defenses. If he succeeds in elevating his game, then he will draw interest and emerge as a legitimate NBA post prospect.

#19 Armon Johnson, 6-3, Junior, PG/SG, Nevada

Jonathan Givony

An unheralded high school recruit when he decided to commit to his hometown school, Armon Johnson quickly proved to be a steal for the Nevada Wolfpack, winning conference freshman of the year honors in his first season before becoming a first team all-league selection in his second.

Showing great physical attributes for the point guard position, Armon Johnson may remind some scouts on first glance of another Nevada (state) product—Marcus Banks. He has excellent size at 6-3, to go along with a terrific wingspan and a chiseled frame. He’s a good athlete on top of that, with a solid first step, the ability to play above the rim, and excellent lateral quickness.

Offensively, Johnson is, despite his size, much more of a shot-creating combo guard than he is a pure point. Left-handed, he gets most of his production in pick and roll and isolation situations, being very adept at taking defenders off the dribble, where he likes to use his brute strength to overpower his way into the lane. He gets to the free throw line in turn at a very nice rate, and also is capable of creating scoring opportunities for his teammates on drive and dish plays. When things break down for his Nevada team in end of shot-clock situations, Johnson is capable of making things happen off the bounce.

As a shooter, Johnson tends to struggle, showing awkward lefty shooting mechanics, particularly in catch and shoot situations. He does have some shot-making ability pulling up off the dribble, but his poor percentages from beyond the arc (25/90 3P, 28%) surely don’t lie. Part of the problem begins with Johnson’s shot-selection, which can be downright atrocious at times. It’s not rare to see him bring the ball up the floor and heave up a terrible contested pull-up jumper early in the shot-clock, before anyone else on his team has even touched the ball. His poor decision making skills also tends to lend itself to forced drives, leaving serious question marks about his feel for the game and future at the point guard position.

Defensively, Johnson is outstanding, making full use of his excellent physical attributes (length, strength, size) to put solid pressure on the ball and keep his defender out of the paint. His wingspan allows him to contest pretty much everything, even if he doesn’t come up with a great deal of steals, and he plays with a good amount of intensity on this end of the floor. Johnson tends to lose focus from time to time and overextend himself on the perimeter, but with good coaching and added experience, this shouldn’t be a major issue.

Johnson’s pro prospects will likely come down to his ability to improve his perimeter shooting accuracy (particularly in catch and shoot situations) and decision making skills. If he can get smarter and learn how to play more under control in his final two seasons of college basketball, while adding range to his jumper and becoming a reliable 3-point shooter, he could develop into a very nice prospect.

#20 Rodney Green, 6’5, PG/SG, Senior, La Salle

Joseph Treutlein

Rodney Green is an interesting prospect who has steadily improved his production in his three seasons at La Salle. Green is listed at 6’5, which appears to be a generous listing, and he doesn’t have great length for his size either. He is a very good athlete, however, having very good vertical explosiveness and top speed, along with a good first step off the dribble.

Green plays the point guard position for the Explorers, but is hardly a conventional playmaker, spending a good deal of time off the ball and not doing much to create for others in La Salle’s team-oriented offense. Green projects as more of a shooting guard at the next level, as while he shows pretty good vision, he doesn’t try to use it very often, and his floor general instincts appear lacking. He’s also not a great ball-handler for a 1, specifically in backcourt situations such as transition or dealing with presses, where he can be nonchalant with the ball, either not protecting it well or throwing lazy passes.

Attacking off the dribble, however, is another story entirely. This is where Green excels the most, as he possesses outstanding footwork and instincts going to the hole, being able to change directions incredibly well using subtle moves such as hop steps and misdirection steps. He’s very rangy on such moves, covering large amounts of ground while changing directions on a dime, doing it all in a compact manner without wasted dribbles. His body control, balance, and ability to adjust around the basket are likewise great, as he finishes well there despite not using his left hand often. Green is just as good transitioning his dribble into pull-up jumpers, doing an excellent job of maintaining balance and getting off high-percentage shots on the move, showing very good form on his mid-range jumpers, even with a hand in his face. He will also occasionally mix in advanced moves with his pull-up jumpers, such as faking going to the basket, only to pivot into a turnaround jumper from the elbow.

While Green clearly has a very high skill level and scores the ball quite often, his efficiencies could improve some, and he is prone to rushing shots or making bad decisions, as evidenced by his 3.2 turnovers per game. His outside shot has steadily improved in his three seasons, but he is prone to letting his form get sloppy either by having his arm drift or not holding his follow through, two reasons why he shot just 35% from behind the arc. Still, his learning curve here is encouraging, and if he focuses on eliminating those few bad attempts, he could improve noticeably, as his shot is quite good in space when not rushed.

Green has a good post game for a guard, showing the same rangy moves and footwork that are seen in his dribble-drive game, but it’s doubtful this will do much for him at the next level. Green also does a pretty good job moving off the ball, but most of his scoring opportunities come out of isolations. This is part of one problem Green could face projecting to the next level, as most of his scores aren’t done in ways NBA teams would likely call upon him, as he rarely catches and shoots off curl patterns off the ball and he barely ever runs pick-and-rolls, though these are two things his skill-set definitely appears suited for.

Defensively, Green plays aggressively and makes a good impact in the passing lanes, but his man-to-man defense is spotty at times. His lateral quickness is adequate for defending shooting guards but not so for point guards, and he isn’t always in a low stance, which hurts his reaction time. These aren’t major issues at this level, but looking ahead, they could become problems. Green does do a good job helping out on the defensive glass however, where his athleticism definitely stands out.

Looking forward, Green has a lot of factors stacked against him, as he’s an undersized scoring guard who doesn’t have good length to compensate, while he plays a role in college he’d be unlikely to play in the NBA. While he has great scoring skills and instincts, it’s questionable how exactly they will translate to the next level, and teams will likely look to him to play more of a complementary role, where he’ll need to either provide contributions in more areas or become a much more reliable spot-up shooter from three. That said, he certainly has a chance to make it in the league, and could even put himself in second round discussions with good play this season, which would be aided greatly by an NCAA tournament appearance. His combination of athletic ability, scoring instincts, and the learning curve he’s shown are all things weighing in his favor.

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