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

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part Two: #6-#10)
Sep 20, 2007, 11:57 pm
#6: Ryan Anderson, 6-10, Sophomore, Power Forward, Cal

Joey Whelan

Ryan Anderson was easily one of the most impressive freshmen in the entire country season. Overlooked early on by his more highly touted low-post teammate DeVon Hardin, Anderson picked up the slack before and after Hardin’s injury to lead the Golden Bears in scoring at 16.4 points, while pulling down 8.1 rebounds per contest. Given the consistent play that we saw from Anderson last season, this year should prove to be one in which the sophomore garners a little more attention on the national scene.

Anderson already possesses good size for the power forward position, but in order to become more of a force on the block he is going to have to get stronger and add some bulk. He doesn’t have tremendous athleticism, granted he does run the floor pretty well for a big man, but his lateral quickness is sub-par, especially for a guy who spends so much of his time on the perimeter. He doesn’t have a great vertical, but still does a good job rebounding the basketball thanks to his knack for positioning and his hustle under the basket.

Offensively, Anderson brings plenty of versatility to the table. Despite standing 6-10, he definitely prefers to play facing the basket. This is where he separates himself from most other college big men, shooting 38% from beyond the arc. Anderson hasn’t shown the ability to create shots for himself though, instead he likes to rotate behind the ball and spot up. He has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor a little and drive to the basket, but often his shots are wild and off balance. His post game needs work as well. He doesn’t go to the basket very strong and often fades away when his shots are contested. Anderson does show some nice touch on his shot down low, but struggles at times when he is forced to the baseline.

Despite not being the strongest of players, Anderson had a great season on the boards, averaging over 8 per contest. He shows great hustle, especially on the offensive glass where he picks up a lot of tip-ins thanks to his size and aggressiveness.

Defensively, Anderson does a better job in the post than he does on offense. He holds his ground fairly well, and doesn’t leave his feet often. This usually forces opponents into taking awkward shots against him. Where he gets into trouble though is when he is forced to guard other versatile big men on the perimeter. Anderson isn’t quick to close out on perimeter shots, and often he isn’t under control when he does, so a strong head fake is enough to take him out of position and beat him off the dribble.

Though there is plenty of room for improvement, Anderson shows great potential as a face the basket, floor spacing power forward. There is always room in the NBA for players like that, especially guys who are tough, smart and play for the team the way Anderson does.

#7: Robin Lopez, 7’0, Sophomore, PF/C, Stanford

Joseph Treutlein

While not as far along in skill development as his brother Brook, Robin Lopez is still quite the prospect himself, standing a legit seven feet tall with great length and good athleticism for a player his size. Lopez’s offensive game is very raw at this stage of his development, but he is a formidable rebounder and defender, with plenty of room to grow in all aspects of his game.

Most of Lopez’s offense comes from inside the painted area, though the only time he really looks comfortable there is on offensive rebounds and dump-offs where he can go right up with the ball. Lopez’s post game is very mechanical, and his lack of touch and awareness on this end of the court don’t help matters either. Lopez has shown flashes of a jump hook, which can look very good or very bad, and a turnaround jumper, which almost never looks good. Lopez does actually have pretty good footwork in the post, relative to where the rest of his offense is, which he will occasionally show on up-and-under and step-through moves where he can fake his man to create high-percentage shots. Sometimes this can lead to successful plays for the seven footer, but other times it leads to him being caught under the basket throwing up a prayer, as his awareness isn’t the greatest. He doesn’t always seem to play within his limitations, but the potential is there for him to develop a more formidable low-post game, even if he’ll always be a bit on the mechanical side. Lopez does take contact pretty well, even though he could still add more muscle to his frame.

Lopez has shown the groundwork of a spot-up jumper, attempting field goals out to 18 feet, but he hasn’t shown much success at this stage. His form isn’t terrible, though, so this is something he could definitely add to his arsenal over time.

One thing Lopez does really well on the offensive end is rebounding, establishing good low position and using his length and strength to grab rebounds over the competition, converting putbacks at a high clip when he goes straight up with the ball rather than gathering himself and trying to outmaneuver the defense. Lopez is also good rebounding the ball on the other end of the court, consistently sealing out his man and showing good instincts for following the ball off the rim.

Lopez also excels on the defensive end, where he has good awareness, a fundamental base for post defense, and the physical tools to really impact the game, even though he’s prone to occasional lapses and foul trouble due to his active style of play. Lopez maintains good position on the low block and does a good job blocking shots in man-to-man situations, though his lateral quickness can be exploited on post moves going across the lane. Likewise, his lateral quickness is also a weakness if taken out to the perimeter, though his length and timing often allow him to recover from behind if his man gets past him, either in the post or from the perimeter. Lopez is a good weakside shot-blocker, using his physical tools to patrol the lane, also doing a good job contesting shots in transition by running the floor.

Unless he makes great strides with his game this season, Lopez will probably need to wait to declare for the draft, as his offense could still use a lot of work, which he could best get done in college. Lopez has plenty of room to grow in all areas, though, and with his physical tools and continued development, he should be at least a first rounder sometime down the road.

#8: Taj Gibson, 6-9, 210, Sophomore, USC

Mike Schmidt

As a freshman, Gibson stepped up and anchored the middle for a USC team that made a solid run to the Sweet 16. In his final game against North Carolina, the freshman big led Southern Cal to a big lead before foul trouble took him out of the game. Entering his sophomore year, expectations remain high for Gibson, but he will play on a much different looking USC team that lost Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young to the NBA, but added various prospects including O.J. Mayo, Davon Jefferson and Angelo Johnson.

Gibson lacks ideal size for an NBA power forward, standing 6’9” and weighing only 215 pounds on a frame that may not take a whole lot of additional bulk. Despite his size, the sophomore forward has an excellent wing span and plays much tougher than you would expect from an initial glance at his body.

During his first college season, Gibson managed to contribute in a number of ways offensively while playing as only the third or fourth option. In the post, he uses superior quickness to get to the rim, and his long arms combined with above average leaping ability to finish against taller and stronger big men. From the high post, Gibson enjoys taking his man off the dribble, showing decent ball handling ability with both hands while attacking the basket. His offensive skills also extend to the pick and roll, where he hits the mid-range jumper with some accuracy. While he gets by fairly well at the college level with his aggressiveness and basic skill level, he still has plenty of room to work on his all-around polish offensively—particularly his footwork, shot-creating ability, and shooting range.

Defensively, Gibson plays amazingly tough against bigger players in the Pac 10, as displayed in performances against the Lopez twins and Tyler Hansbrough during his freshman season. He holds his position very well in the post, and his long arms make scoring a difficult task for the opposition. The lanky sophomore also has promise as a weak-side shot-blocker, though he has the tendency to sacrifice his help defense for rebounding position at this point.

Gibson also proved to be one of the better rebounders in the Pac 10 last season, thanks to excellent anticipation and positioning skills. His effort on the glass comes on both ends of the floor, and a large percentage of Gibson’s points last season came on offensive rebound putbacks.

With that said, Gibson remains a tough player to gauge as an NBA prospect. He brings a lot of unique skills to the table for a big man, but at the same time, his lack of outstanding physical tools limit his potential the 4. It is also tough to speculate how much upside remains for the Southern Cal sophomore, who entered college at the age of 21 and will turn 23 around the same time as the 2008 NBA draft. Gibson has only played a limited amount of high level basketball, which means he still has room to round out his game, but his body may already be physically mature at the age of 22.

Playing with guards like O.J. Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Angelo Johnson will allow Gibson to shine this season, and he will be able to continue to contribute in a number of ways on both ends of the floor. If USC has the success that many are predicting, it would make sense for Gibson to test his stock in the 2008 draft.

#9: Quincy Pondexter, 6’6, SF, Sophomore, Washington

Rodger Bohn

Pondexter is a player who appeared to be an immediate can't miss NBA prospect throughout the first two months of the 06-07 season, yet ultimately showing that he is a super talent that still has a ways to go by season’s end. Bright spots included his jaw dropping 25 point outburst versus Arizona in early January and his 20 plus point performances versus Idaho, Sacramento State, and Pepperdine early in the year. However, we must not forget his 8 game stretch throughout February in which he failed to reach double figures in the scoring column, right in the heart of the Huskies' PAC-10 schedule.

Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 220 lbs., Pondexter possesses ideal size for a small forward prospect. His muscular physique enables him to post up smaller wings, while still exerting enough quickness to beat them from the perimeter. He has displayed an excellent first step and has a nice wingspan, but although he has all of the raw tools to be a solid defender, things did not work out that way for him last season.

Defense is clearly Quincy's biggest weakness, evidenced by the way he was constantly torched by opposing wings during PAC-10 play. He always seemed to be a half of a step slow, both in terms of rotations and actual on the ball defense. It is clear that Pondexter has all of the physical capabilities to eventually become a nice defender, but lacks the experience and proper fundamentals on that end at the moment.

On the flip side, Pondexter was in the upper echelon of freshman wing players on the offensive end. He showed the ability the shoot the ball from the collegiate three point line with relative ease, although he was a bit on the streaky side. The Washington sophomore was very creative off the dribble, using his sharp ball handling skills and ability to weave in and out of traffic en route to the rim. Not stopping there, he has exerted himself as a legitimate presence on the blocks, as far as wings are concerned. His size and strength allows him to exploit mismatches versus opposing players, to the fullest extent.

The most glaring area that needs to be improved upon in Quincy's offensive repertoire is clearly his decision making. He struggles mightily when faced with a double team, often turning the ball over. His .75/1 assist to turnover ratio is subpar for a player who was not even a focal point of his team's offense.

Despite the two glaring weaknesses that we have mentioned, Pondexter's athleticism and ability to put the ball in the basket immediately place him amongst the top wings in the PAC-10. Whether or not he is able to improve upon these weaknesses, along with whether or not his offensive role is expanded this season will be crucial in terms of his chances to bolt to the NBA. Guards Ryan Appleby and Justin Dentmon have not seen a shot that they did not like, while Jon Brockman is one of the top big men in the conference, meaning that shots may be sparse yet again for Pondexter. Either way, he is clearly a player that NBA personnel will be following closely this upcoming season, and one who surely has all of the raw tools to be an NBA player one day.

#10: Kyle Weaver, 6-5, Senior, Guard, Washington State

Joey Whelan

Washington State will be primed for another strong showing in the Pac-10 this season, with plenty of talent returning in the backcourt. Kyle Weaver will be a major factor in the success of the Cougars this season. The wiry guard was a stat-sheet stuffer last season, posting averages of 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. If Weaver continues to improve those numbers, he will get more than a few looks from NBA scouts come draft time.

At 6’5” Weaver is an average shooting guard prospect due to his poor perimeter shooting ability and unspectacular athletic ability. However, with his skill set he could make the switch to point guard, and this suddenly makes him a very interesting prospect at his height. He has a tremendous wingspan for his frame, which helps him in several facets of his game. Strength and bulk are a concern for Weaver however. He is rail thin and this hinders him in regards to finishing in traffic around the basket. Too often his drives are completely thrown off by stronger players.

Offensively, Weaver is usually in constant motion, like everyone in Washington State’s system. In isolation plays he will almost always put the ball on the floor and go somewhere; he is in no way a catch and shoot type player. Weaver lacks a great first step, but still manages to get around defenders because he is such a smart player. He will throw an array of spins and hesitation moves at opponents, but he could become even more effective off the dribble if he improved his handles.

Weaver’s bread and butter is his mid-range game. A poor shooter from the outside (23.7% last season), Weaver has a great pull up jumper from inside of 17 feet. His form is a little awkward, often double clutching on his release when shooting on the move, but he shoots a good percentage from the field. Often against quicker defenders he will spin and fade away on his shots; Weaver tends to be streaky with this kind of shooting.

In transition Weaver relies on his length to finish a lot of shots. He doesn’t have breakaway speed in the open floor, so often his shots are contested, and while he goes to the basket hard, his decision making skills on the break are at times suspect. Weaver does a tremendous job on the offensive boards for a guard, averaging close to two offensive rebounds per game last year. While he isn’t a freakishly explosive athlete, he puts forth tremendous effort, never giving up on a play, and showing great timing. He gets a lot of garbage points simply by outworking bigger players inside.

Defense is where Weaver really stands out. He averaged a Pac-10 best 2.2 steals last season, and was sixth in the conference with 1.2 blocks per game. His length and fantastic anticipation make him a constant threat to intercept passes and start a one man fast break. While he does a good job contesting perimeter shots, Weaver does have some room for improvement with his man-to-man defense. Stronger guards can push him around, and while he does have pretty good lateral quickness, opponents can beat him with strong hesitation moves or sudden changes in speed.

Weaver has the chance this year to really rise to the upper echelons of the Pac-10. He is a smart player who is constantly outworking other players. While he doesn’t possess out of this world athleticism, he contributes by doing a lot of little things well. Weaver is the kind of player that will fill a stat sheet every time he steps out on the floor. He still has work to do in order to become an NBA-caliber point guard, but with his work ethic and basketball IQ, Weaver could be a solid draft pick next season.

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