Trending Prospects (12/30/2010)

Trending Prospects (12/30/2010)
Dec 30, 2010, 04:29 pm
Updated scouting reports on Keith Benson, Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson and Quincy Acy.

Keith Benson, 6'11, RS Senior, Center, Oakland
17.4 Points, 10.4 Rebounds, 1,4 Assists, 2.3 Turnovers, 3.3 Blocks, 53% FG, 71% FT

Matt Williams

A player we covered in-depth on multiple occasions during his redshirt junior season, Keith Benson declared and subsequently withdrew from the NBA draft last summer.

An intriguing talent with NBA size, Benson has gotten off to a fine start in his final season with the Golden Grizzlies. Facing an intimidating non-conference schedule, Benson has struggled through some bouts of inconsistency, but has continued to produce at a high level up to this point. An exceptionally gifted center, Benson is a few subtle changes away from becoming a very interesting NBA prospect.

The majority of those changes revolve around the tools he'll need to develop to translate his game to the next level. Benson has developed an impressive skill level considering how raw he was early in his career, and is averaging an impressive double-double. Still, he often leaves you feeling like he could be capable of more.

The biggest challenges the Detroit Country Day product faces in legitimizing his NBA stock and maximizing his potential value is his lack of grit and physical strength. He has exceptional size, great fluidity, good mobility, and a terrific wingspan for a potential NBA big, but lacks the type of lower body strength that would give him the ability to prevent stronger NBA big men from backing him down in the post and the polish to get by on his skill-level alone.

More of a finesse player who makes an impact with great timing and touch, Benson is not quite the banger or high energy hustle player that he will be pitted against and asked to be at the next level. He rebounds the ball at a solid rate thanks to his exceptional length and solid athleticism, but isn't one to aggressively track the ball in traffic or go outside of his area to recover a miss.

Some of that certainly has to do with his lack of strength, and if he can add 15 pounds of solid muscle to his frame he'll be all the better for it, but it would benefit him to become more of a lunch-pail-type presence on the glass and defensive end of the floor. If he can refine his physique and show a better motor, he will have no problem carving out a niche for himself in the NBA.

Benson's ability to add weight and become an interior force is important, as he isn't a strong candidate to be a high usage player due to his inconsistency, lack of a go-to-move, and average decision-making skills. However, he flashes glimpses of some extremely interesting tools offensively, including a hook shot with his off-hand, the ability to use the glass, and a knack for finishing short-range looks. With almost half of his touches coming in the post, Benson has very nice footwork and phenomenal touch, but he'll need to add weight to help himself establish position on the block in the pro-game.

Away from the rim, Benson may have some potential as pick and pop option. He's only made 7 of his 25 jumpers this season according to Synergy Sports Technology and has a less than consistent release point on his shot, but his touch seems to indicate that with time and practice, he could emerge as a threat to score from the midrange. On the whole, Benson's ability to refine a couple of areas of his offensive game will be a big step towards defining the role he's able to play in the NBA.

Defensively, Benson makes a tremendous impact at the college level with his length and shot-blocking instincts, but has some work to do to improve his NBA projections. While he doesn't hold his ground very well when getting backed down, he does an awesome job of staying on his feet and contesting shots when his man makes a move. As we noted last season, Benson is not assertive defensively, some of which can be attributed to his desire to stay out of foul trouble. He'll need to add muscle to his frame (particularly his lower body) and be more willing to initiate contact if he wants to be able to defend the center position on the next level, an important step considering he doesn't have the lateral quickness or fundamentals to step out and defend power forwards on the perimeter effectively.

Unlike the average 22-year old senior, Keith Benson has quite a bit of upside considering that many of his weaknesses are reparable. He's going to dominate the Summit League and flash some impressive NBA tools along the way, but he'll need to be more consistent, show greater intensity on both ends, add some weight to his frame, and continue refining his game to make himself a more attractive draft prospect. If he can make the necessary adjustments, Benson could be a name worth watching in March and heading into workout season.

Tristan Thompson, 6'8, Freshman, Power Forward, Texas
11.2 Points, 8 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists, 1.3 Steals, 2 Blocks, 1.8 Turnovers, 46.9% FG, 48.3% FT

Matt Williams

One of the top freshmen in the country, former McDonald's All-American Tristian Thompson is off to a solid, albeit inconsistent start in Austin. He's put together some great single-game performances, including a 17-point, 15-rebound effort against Michigan State and a 20-point performance against Illinois, but he's struggled at times as well, as evidenced by his 6-point performance against USC and 4-point, foul plagued outing against North Carolina. An intriguing prospect with some impressive physical tools, Thompson has made his strengths and weaknesses abundantly clear early in his freshman season, supporting many of our observations from his high school career in the process.

Standing just 6'8, Thompson is a bit undersized for a power forward on the NBA level, but compensates with a tremendous 7'2 wingspan. Sporting a solid frame that looks as though it could handle quite a bit of additional muscle, the Ontario native has the athleticism to play either forward spot at the next level, but is relegated to the power forward position by his lack of perimeter skills. Taking that into consideration, it will be important for Thompson to maximize his physique by continuing to work hard in the weight room.

Thompson's athleticism plays a key role in his draft projections at this point because his skill set is still growing into his body. He does a few things very well on the offensive end, all of which revolve around the imposing quickness, length, and leaping ability he possesses for his position on the college level. First, he gets to the line at a high rate, ranking 7th in our database in FTA/FGA at 0.89 per-attempt, an incredibly impressive accomplishment for a player who lacks a polished post repertoire and great ball-handling prowess.

Second, he ranks as one of the top per-40 minute pace adjusted rebounders amongst prospects in the college game. Finally, Thompson is also a very good finisher, efficiently scoring tip in opportunities, fast break feeds, and simple catch and finish opportunities.

Apart from his ability to finish, draw contact, and crash the glass, Thompson is limited by his skill-level at this point. His awkward jump shooting mechanics make him a non-factor away from the rim and renders him as a highly questionable free throw shooter (48%) and midrange scoring threat. He's capable of making quick, decisive straight-line drives to the rim by exploiting his long strides and nice first step, but needs to become a steadier ball-handler with both hands and a better decision-maker to maximize his potential as a face-up threat.

With some 40% of his possessions coming in the post according to Synergy Sports Technology, Thompson doesn't have a true go-to-move, and is still a work in progress as a NBA caliber shot creator.

Defensively, there is a lot to like about Thompson at this point. Maligned for his effort level at times early in his career, the Findlay Prep product is a consistently active defender at this point in his career who can adjust shots around the rim and make an impact in the passing lanes out on the perimeter.

A versatile defender on the NCAA level, Thompson's blend of length, strength, and lateral quickness allow him to defend both forward positions effectively. He doesn't change directions extremely well at this point, losing his man on double-moves on occasion, but he does deny penetration well and with additional coaching, he could match his ability to pull down rebounds at a high rate with the ability to defend the inside and outside alike.

A year older than some of the other prospects in the freshman class, Thompson is a raw offensive player whose physical profile allows him to make an impact on both ends of the floor. If he adds a consistent midrange shot, go-to post move, and refined handle to his repertoire, he could sky-rocket up draft boards.

In the meantime, teams may wonder where his scoring production will come from in the NBA. Thompson is already an intriguing prospect, but he has a great deal of untapped potential, making him a player to keep an eye on as the Longhorns move through their Big 12 schedule.

Klay Thompson, 6-6, SG/SF, Junior, Washington State
22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.1 steals, 3.1 turnovers, 49% FG, 83% FT, 42% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Coming off an inconsistent sophomore season, Klay Thompson has taken his game up another notch through the first 13 games of his junior year, increasing his production and efficiency across the board while making subtle improvements in a few areas of his game.

On the offensive end, Thompson is still as dynamic a scorer as ever, except he's been more efficient and done a better job playing within his team's offense, showing improved discipline with his shot selection and opting to dish the ball off a bit more than he used to.

The majority of his offense is still coming from the perimeter, with 85 of his 194 field-goal attempts thus far from behind the arc, but much fewer of his shots are coming off the dribble or early in the shot clock, having a better focus on getting open for spot-up shots and showing more consistency knocking them down. He's scoring a blistering 2.0 points per shot on open catch-and-shoot jumpers thus far and 1.35 on jumpers overall, being as dangerous as ever putting the ball in the hole, even from NBA three-point range.

While Thompson is still prone to taking some ill-advised shots coming around screens before squaring his shoulders to the rim, he's done a better job keeping his mechanics and balance consistent no matter the duress he's under, and his performance hasn't faltered even against the likes of Butler, Baylor, Kansas State, and Gonzaga in what has been a fairly tough non-conference schedule.

In terms of attacking off the dribble, Thompson is settling for fewer pull-up jumpers far away from the basket and using his craftiness to penetrate into the lane, where he's scoring well on a variety of floaters, runners, finger rolls, and lay-ups. His touch and body control are both outstanding, and despite not having a good first step or the ability to separate vertically, his size and length allow him to finish well at this level and he's continually improving his willingness to draw contact, slightly increasing the rate he's gotten to the line this season.

Concerns certainly remain with his dribble-drive game projecting to the next level, as his right hand is weak, he doesn't possess much in terms of advanced moves, and he projects to have more trouble scoring over bigger, stronger, and more athletic defenders, but this is an encouraging development for sure.

As a side effect of his improved shot selection, Thompson is having more opportunities to dish to open teammates, nearly doubling his assist numbers from last season. Rather than forcing ill-advised jumpers or trying to split double teams, Thompson is doing a good job making simple kick-out and dump-off passes to open teammates on the move, and doing a good job with flow of the offense passes as well.

On the defensive end, Thompson's problems are still largely the same, and he'll always be at a disadvantage athletically, not having the foot speed to stay in front of most NBA-caliber athletes consistently. His effort level on this end of the floor has improved throughout his three years in school, and he does do a good job using his length to compensate for some of his other shortcomings, but this is still an area he needs to continue working on. His problems are even more pronounced in pick-and-rolls and when coming off screens, as once his defender has a half-step on him he has little chance of recovering from behind.

Looking forward, making improvements to his shot selection, consistency hitting open jumpers, and passing game are all welcome developments for Thompson, but it should be noted that he started out last season at a great pace only to slow down as the season went on and conference play got underway. While he's played well against good competition thus far this year, it still remains a concern that the same thing could happen again, and it will be critical for his stock how he can maintain his improvements over the course of the season.

Thompson's future success will likely be heavily dependent on the situation he's drafted into, as his skill set's effectiveness will vary greatly depending on what system he's in. How he adjusts to not having so many plays run for him as he gets in college will also be very important.

Quincy Acy, 6-7, Junior, Power Forward, Baylor
14.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, .7 assists, 1.5 turnovers, .8 steals, 1.3 blocks, 52.3% FG, 73.3% FT

Jonathan Givony

Quincy Acy caught the eye of many NBA scouts with his strong play at the adidas Nations experience in Chicago this summer, separating himself for his peers with his terrific blend of toughness, intensity and explosiveness. He's continued to make a name for himself through the first half of the season thus far, showing improvement in many key areas and solidifying himself as a legitimate NBA prospect.

With Ekpe Udoh off to the NBA, Acy's playing time has increased, but his production is up across the board even when accounting for minutes played. Acy's scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, free throw attempts and free throw percentage have all improved substantially, even if his larger role in Baylor's offense has caused his efficiency to drop quite a bit. While last year he shot almost 70% from the field (an insanely high rate), he's come down to earth in a major way and is converting a much more “normal” 52%.

That tells us a little bit about the role Acy has transitioned into this season. Whereas last year 75% of his shot opportunities came on plays created for him around the rim by teammates- off cuts to the baskets, offensive rebounds and in transition, this year that number has dropped to 58%, as he's seeing a lot more opportunities in post-up situations, isolation plays and shooting jumpers.

While NBA teams surely won't be running any plays for him on the perimeter or in the post, this improved ability to step out and make a mid-range jumper is a promising sign for Acy's future. Only 11 games into the season, Acy has already hit more jump-shots than he did in all of last season, while upping his free throw percentage to a respectable 73.3%. The fact that he needs to be guarded—if only somewhat—separates him a bit from other undersized energy guys in the NBA such as Lou Amundson, Reggie Evans and Chuck Hayes. Not what you would call a skilled player by any means, he still has a ways to go in this area, but the fact that he's making strides here is notable.

Acy continues to contribute in other areas you would expect—by running the floor in transition, crashing the offensive glass, and diving to the paint. His outstanding length and explosiveness allows him to finish with ease around the basket, and he relishes any opportunity he has to throw-down dunks in emphatic fashion, often trying to tear off the rim in the process. Despite his lack of size and average bulk, he takes the ball up about as strong as possible, not being afraid of drawing contact in traffic, and getting to the free throw line at a pretty nice rate in turn.

Defensively, Acy seems to have taken a step back this season, which is a bit concerning considering the role he'll be asked to play in the NBA. He doesn't show anywhere near the same intensity he does offensively, not doing a very good job of bodying up his man to keep him from catching the ball deep inside the paint, seemingly thinking he'll be able to recover quickly enough to block his shot instead. His fundamentals leave a lot to be desired, as he'll regularly get burned biting on pump fakes, looks extremely upright trying to guard the perimeter, and rarely bends his knees and gets down in a proper defensive stance.

Acy's foul-rate has dropped by over 60% this season, and that doesn't seem to be because he's playing better defense, but rather because he's playing as if he's trying to avoid committing fouls.

As a rebounder, Acy has been slightly more productive this season, but still ranks amongst the middle of the pack as a defensive rebounder compared with other power forward prospects.

With his terrific athleticism and impressive 7-2 wingspan, there's no reason why Acy can't develop into an outstanding defender and rebounder, especially when you consider the toughness and intensity we've seen him play with at times—particularly this summer. He already shows very nice timing jumping in passing lanes and as a weak-side shot-blocker, even if he tends to gamble a bit too much. Baylor plays quite a bit of 2-3 zone, which could help explain some of his struggles defensively and on the glass, but looking at his overall profile, it's reasonable to expect a lot more.

To carve out a niche in the NBA, Acy will need to learn to play with the same type of energy and intensity all the time, as that's the only chance he has to make it at his size.

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