Trending Prospects (1/26/2012)

Trending Prospects (1/26/2012)
Jan 26, 2012, 01:18 pm
Updated scouting reports on Jordan Taylor, J'Covan Brown, Ashton Gibbs and Jorge Gutierrez.

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Jordan Taylor, 6'1, Senior, Point Guard, Wisconsin

Matt Williams

Last time we checked in on Jordan Taylor, he was fresh off one of the top individual performances of the 2011 season, having led the Badgers to victory over the then top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes with 21 second-half points, and was in the midst of a breakout junior campaign. After missing out on the tryouts to compete for Team USA at the World University Games to undergo minor ankle surgery this summer, Taylor has had a hard time replicating his individual success as a senior, even though he's led his team to a 16-5 record and top-25 ranking.

With the departure of John Leuer, Taylor seemed poised to carry the load for the Badgers as a senior, and not only has his usage decreased, but he has struggled to retain the scoring efficiency that garnered him attention last season and made him look like a legitimate prospect. Taylor started off this season in a serious shooting slump as this table of data mined from Synergy Sports Technology indicates:

PeriodGamesJump Shots/G2P Jump Shots/G2P Jump Shot FG%3P Jump Shots/G3P Jump Shot FG%
2010/2011 Season358.53.528.6%544.4%
2011/2012 SeasonFirst 136.6338.5%3.629.8%
2011/2012 SeasonLast

Though he's knocked down a higher percentage of his pull-up jumpers inside the arc than he did last year and has improved his 3-point shooting since entering conference play, Taylor has not been able to match his prolific shooting from last season up to this point, and is scoring four fewer points per-40 minutes pace adjusted and shooting below 40% from the field overall because of it.

Taylor's ability to shoot the ball more consistently to close the season is significant because of its importance to his role-player potential and, as we noted in our last report, how it opens up the rest of his scoring arsenal. Lacking elite physical tools, Taylor has never shown the ability to regularly turn the corner off the dribble and create high percentage looks at the rim, isn't a very good finisher, and without the threat of his jump shot, is a far less intimidating scorer on isolations, which account for more than a third of his touches according to Synergy. His 2-point percentages continue to hover around 43-44%, which ranks last amongst point guard prospects in our top-100 rankings, but is indicative of how he's fared his entire career inside the arc at Wisconsin.

When Taylor is shooting the ball well, his scoring ability complements his heady point guard play and physical toughness. A terrific floor general who executes Bo Ryan's offense with incredible poise, Taylor has not been quite as efficient of a passer as he was last season with his assist-to-turnover ratio dropping from 3.8 to 2.9, which still ranks among the top four prospects in our database this season. He continues to do a good job feeding the post, finding the open man in transition, using his dribble to create passing angles, and playing low-mistake basketball.

On the other side of the floor, Taylor has been the leader of arguably the best defense in the country. He shows a high basketball IQ, constantly knowing where his help is coming from, stays active with his hands, and always tries to recover when beat –three things that make him a terrific team defender in the college game. Despite his merits, his lack of size and quickness, as well as his mediocre 6-1 wingspan, raise some questions about how he'll handle guarding his position one-on-one at the next level.

Considering his recent resurgence and the number of games left on the schedule, Taylor is going to be a player to watch down the stretch. He gained a lot of steam last season, and may have played above his head for stretches, but even with the slow start, if he can finish the season on a high note, he'll be able to regain some of that momentum. As of right now Taylor remains a likely second round prospect, and will need to finish out the year strong to ensure of being drafted.

J'Covan Brown, 6-1, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Junior, Texas

Walker Beeken

After playing the role of a sparkplug off the bench as a sophomore, combo guard J'Covan Brown has taken on the role of go-to scorer this season for a rebuilding Texas team. With former teammates Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, and Cory Joseph all going in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, Brown has seen his minutes and creating responsibilities increase substantially, and he's improved his production across the board, despite some inconsistency.

While Brown is again spending much of his time off the ball, alongside freshman point guard Myck Kabongo, he'd likely need to function as more of a point guard at the NBA level, as his size at 6'1” likely makes him too small to be a full-time shooting guard. He's never really been given this opportunity at Texas due to their commitments to the McDonald's All-American guard prospects they've landed the past three years (Kabongo, Joseph and Avery Bradley), making it a bit of an unknown how he'd fare as a team's full-time ball-handler.

Brown plays with great confidence and a scorer's mentality, and is depended upon heavily to manufacture offense for a young Longhorn team without many other proven offensive options. He's able to score in a number of ways, but his perimeter jump shot opens things up for him, as he's a threat to shoot from NBA 3-point range, and is effective running off screens, spotting up with his feet set, or shooting off the dribble.

About 68% of Brown's shot attempts this season have been jumpers, and he's connected on a solid 38% from 3-point range this season on over six attempts per game. His shot selection has been very poor at times, however, as evidenced by his last two games for example, where he shot 8 for 28 in a loss at Kansas State and made just 7 of 26 shots in a loss at Kansas.

Brown is heavily depended on for scoring and needs to be very aggressive in the situation he's in, but his mediocre 32% on pull-up jumpers so far this season illustrates that he's taking quite a few difficult shots. He's also getting to the free throw line slightly less often this season, as Texas' lack of perimeter shooting and poor spacing has made it much easier for opponents to sag into the paint and force Brown to beat them from outside, which he's often too willing to do.

Despite his overreliance on his pull-up jumper, Brown is actually very good at getting into the paint off the dribble, always in attack mode and showing great shiftiness off the bounce, changing speeds and directions to keep his defender on his heels. With his excellent ball-handling skills creating shots with either hand and advanced scoring instincts, this is a part of his game that could actually look better in the NBA thanks to the improved spacing he will find due to the farther 3-point line.

This season Brown has struggled with his efficiency, though, shooting just 45% on 2-pointers this season. His lack of vertical explosiveness limits his abilities as a finisher, and he has a tendency to throw up some wild shots driving to the basket. He shows flashes of a nice mid-range jumper and floater, but he's doesn't connect on either with enough consistency, possibly in part due to the huge amount of defensive attention he draws each game.

As a playmaker, Brown shows good court vision and throws some impressive passes on occasion in the open court and off of dribble penetration. He's also turning the ball over on only 13% of his possessions as a junior, which is less than either of his first two seasons. With that said, a big question scouts will likely have for Brown will be whether or not he's able to function as more of a facilitator and run an offense, as he hasn't had that opportunity at Texas.

Defensively, Brown covers multiple positions in college but stacks up much better to defend NBA point guards than shooting guards due to his size. His lateral quickness appears to be adequate, and his length, strength, toughness, and competitiveness all help him as on-ball defender. Displaying focus and consistent effort on this end will be keys for him going forward.

Brown's intangibles and attitude will be put under the microscope by NBA teams during the draft process, as he's had a history of issues, including fouling out on a technical foul in an early season game against North Carolina State that led to his team's collapse and a loss for the Longhorns. His body language often appears to be less than ideal, and he's butted heads on occasion with his head coach Rick Barnes—things teams will want to study and learn more about.

Overall, while Brown hasn't been a model of consistency, he's done a pretty nice job so far this season adjusting to a new role and carrying a large load offensively. He doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical pass-first point guard, but if he lands in the right situation and can prove that he's coachable and has an improved attitude, it's not out of the question that he could work his way into a similar role at the NBA level that he played last season, as a combo guard who can provide a scoring punch off the bench. The fact that he has good physical tools, can create his own shot and has range out to the 3-point line gives him nice upside to grow into.

Ashton Gibbs, 6'2, PG/SG, Senior, Pittsburgh

Joe Treutlein

Coming off a strong junior season for both himself and his team, Ashton Gibbs and the Pittsburgh Panthers are having a much rougher go of things this season, where they're thus far an abysmal 1-7 in Big East play, dead last in the conference.

Things haven't been much better for Gibbs, who has seen his FG% and 3PT% plummet in response to a slightly larger offensive role. Gibbs has clearly had a tough time adjusting to the graduation of backcourt mate and facilitating guard Brad Wanamaker, which has highlighted some of Gibbs' limitations as a player.

From an offensive strengths standpoint, things remain largely the same for Gibbs, as his game is heavily predicated on his highly dangerous jump shot from both mid and long range. Boasting a quick release along with very consistent mechanics, Gibbs can get his shot off easily in a variety of situations, and is a big threat to score both spotting and pulling up. He does a really good job maintaining his balance on the move, being very accurate when moving side to side into his shot, especially in space.

Gibbs' numbers have fallen off substantially from three-point range this season, down from a blistering 49% last season to a subpar 34.5% this year. The manner in which he takes his shots has a lot to do with this, as he's much more frequently pulling up off the dribble and/or shooting with a hand right in his face this season, a result of much more focused defensive attention. While Gibbs would never see this kind of attention at the next level, his fall off in efficiency this season is still concerning. He would be facing larger, more athletic opponents on a nightly basis in the NBA, which would pose similar challenges to him getting off high-percentage shots, especially given his jump shot's lack of elevation and somewhat push-forward motion.

Looking at the rest of Gibbs' offensive game, there really isn't much to evaluate from a scoring standpoint, as thus far this season he's taken an unbelievable 234 jump shots in the half-court according to Synergy, compared to just 15 shots around the basket, which works out to less than one per game. Gibbs' lack of great size, quickness, and shot-creating ability going to the rim leave him extremely limited in this area, and make him a very one-dimensional prospect looking forward. Looking at last season's Synergy numbers doesn't help his case much either, as he attempted 273 jump shots compared to 14 shots around the basket in the halfcourt last year, which actually makes this year's distribution a marginal improvement.

From a playmaking standpoint, Gibbs hasn't really taken advantage of Wanamaker's absence this season to showcase his point guard skills, with his assists going up from just 2.8 to 3.1 per game. He's actually been overtaken in the Panthers offense by 6'5 wing Lamar Patterson who's averaging 3.7 per game, which doesn't bode very well for Gibbs' chances at developing into a full-time point guard in his future. Gibbs gets most of his assists through flow of the offense passing, spending most of his time in Pitt's offense operating without the ball on the wing, not playing like a conventional point guard in any sense.

On the defensive end, things remain concerning for Gibbs, as his lack of lateral quickness defending guards is frequently evident. He's routinely gets beat laterally by guards not known for having excellent quickness and athleticism, and has similar troubles defending pick-and-rolls due to lack of strength and size. His motor, focus, and fundamentals on this end are all solid, and he has proven in the past capable of being part of a good team defense, but it's tough to see him being even an average defensive player at any position in the NBA.

Looking forward, Gibbs should have chances to prove his worth to NBA teams at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and possibly in pre-draft workouts, but his team's lack of success this year and likely complete lack of postseason play won't give him many more big opportunities to play in front of scouts this season. Gibbs' shooting ability and history of winning at Pitt will be enough to make teams do their due diligence on him, but he will likely need to further develop his game and recover from this season's setbacks before having a strong chance at finding a niche in the NBA, something he could do in Europe where his skills and pedigree could be quite useful.

Jorge Gutierrez, 6-3, Senior, PG/SG, California

Derek Bodner

Coming off an All-Pac-10 first team selection and back to back All-Pac-10 defensive teams, senior guard Jorge Gutierrez has turned himself into an effective all-around player and key contributor for the California Golden Bears. His numbers (18.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.7 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted), while not a huge leap from his junior year, are very solid across the board and should once again have him in the running for an All-Pac 12 nomination.

Standing 6'3” with a solid build for a point guard, Gutierrez has been playing mostly a combo guard role at California, splitting running the offense with newcomer Justin Cobbs, a transfer from Minnesota. Gutierrez has good ball-handling ability and court vision, especially when he gets into the paint and in transition, doing a nice job on the drive and dish. While still not a pure point guard, he has improved his playmaking ability considerably since arriving at Cal, particularly in terms of cutting down on turnovers, which was a major issue in the past.

Gutierrez has solid quickness, changes direction well with the basketball and has a good feel for finding open spots in the defense, but his lack of explosiveness leads to some struggles to finish around the hoop. According to Synergy Sports Technology his 1.064 points per possession when finishing at the rim ranks just above the 40th percentile of college basketball, and it's likely he could have more problems finishing around the rim in the NBA.

Gutierrez struggles to make shots consistently from the perimeter, hitting just 32% of his attempts this season, down from 33% last season. With time and space, Gutierrez is capable of making jumpers with his feet set, but his mechanics seem to fall apart when rushed or pulling up off the dribble. His average touch may make it difficult for him to develop into a knock-down shooter in time, but it's imperative that he continues to improve in this area considering his limitations in other areas.

On the defensive side of ball is where Gutierrez shines, leading a very good California team on that end of the court. He moves his feet well, but most importantly displays a consistently high level of effort, intensity and awareness on this end of the court. He does a good job moving his feet laterally, fights through screens, rotates well and has very good hands. If there's one potential worry on the defensive end it's that at times he can get too aggressive on defense, gambling too much and getting himself out of position.

How much of this defensive ability translates to the next level largely depends on what position he ultimately ends up playing. He'd have good size and length to defend the point guard position, but would clearly be at a physical and athletic disadvantage if asked to play off the ball. Regardless, Gutierrez' willingness to defend gives him a leg up over some other players who are focal points at this level.

Gutierrez doesn't stand out in any individual area on the offensive end, as he simply is not a very skilled player, although he has worked hard to become an effective collegiate contributor. Considering that he does not possess jet-like speed, is not a great shooter, and is already 23 years old, it's tough to gauge what role he might be able to play in the NBA.

What Gutierrez does have going for him is excellent intangibles, effort level, and basketball IQ, something that he has already translated into becoming an excellent defender at the collegiate level. It's not out of the question that a team falls in love with his toughness, defense and attitude and asks him to fill a spot at the end of a roster, but it appears more likely that he'll need to find a niche in mid-level Europe.

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