Brandon Knight, 6-3, PG/SG, Freshman, Kentucky
17.4 points, 3.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 4.4 turnovers, 44% FG, 68% FT, 34% 3PT
One of the most talented players in this year's freshman class, Brandon Knight has had an up and down start to his college career, on one hand showing off his great scoring talents, but on the other struggling with decision making and turnovers.
Standing between 6'3 and 6'4 with a strong frame and decent length, Knight has good physical attributes for an NBA point guard, though his play thus far this season makes one wonder if that's where his future is.. He is also a very good athlete, having a strong first step, good quickness with the ball, and outstanding body control on his drives to the rim.
On the offensive end, Knight brings a versatile skill set to the table, starting with his perimeter jumper. Possessing NBA range and the ability to make shots coming off screens, pulling up, or spotting up, Knight is a great shooter with very good form, boasting both a high and quick release. The problem, however, is he doesn't always display the best shot selection, and his form can break down at times, namely when he's forcing the issue. In spite of this, Knight's still shooting a respectable 34% from three early in the season, though he's capable of much better if he were more prudent.
Possibly the most impressive segment of Knight's game thus far is his ability to hit tough shots from the mid-range, where he has a variety of floaters, runners, and pull-up jumpers in his arsenal. Very crafty in getting to different areas of the floor with the ball, Knight is dangerous scoring the ball in the 5-15 foot range, where he shows excellent touch, can finish through contact, and shows pretty good consistency with his mechanics.
While Knight's mid-range game is impressive, it unfortunately plays into some of his problems as a player, namely his incredible tendency to turn the ball over, as he's averaging 4.4 turnovers per game compared to just 3.6 assists thus far. Knight frequently gets into trouble forcing dribble penetration, either losing control of the ball in a crowd or over-penetrating and tries to bail himself out with a last second pass, one that usually isn't successful.
Knight's passing game in general is a major cause for concern based on what he's shown very early on in college, as he rarely looks for teammates when creating his own shot, getting most of his assists by simply moving the ball around the perimeter in the flow of the offense. History shows us John Calipari's offense doesn't tend to flatter the playmaking ability of point guards, and Knight has definitely looked better in this regard when we saw him early on in his career at the high school level, but still, the large burden of his problems thus far rest on his own shoulders, as he just isn't showing much consistently in terms of court vision, creativity, or willingness to create for others in the passing game.
Another area where Knight has struggled to adapt to the college level is finishing at the basket, something he hasn't shown much tendency to do, much preferring to pull up for finesse moves in his mid-range game. He shows no problem getting to the basket when he wants, boasting a good first step, rangy strides, and excellent ability to make subtle changes of direction with his superb footwork, but on the few occasions he has penetrated all the way to the basket, he seems content to just throw the ball up rather than creating a high percentage shot. With his size and strength, he's definitely capable of much more here.
On the defensive end, Knight has likewise shown some good and some bad in his first eight games. From a tools standpoint, Knight has all you can ask for from a point guard, as he shows very good quickness when he puts in the effort, while also showing a good defensive stance to start most plays. The problem, however, is that he often doesn't put in a concerted effort to move his feet, never giving up on plays but frequently just going through the motions and not giving his all. He is prone to being beat off the dribble while also occasionally giving up too much space to shooters, playing nowhere near his potential in this regard. His work in pick-and-rolls is likewise unimpressive, rarely fighting through screens and often displaying a lackadaisical approach here.
Looking forward, Knight is obviously a great talent who has the chance to succeed as either a point guard or combo guard depending on his development, but he'll need to develop a much more mature approach to the game to reach his full potential. Putting more focus on his shot selection, creating for others, and his defensive effort are all critical things he needs to address, and he still has plenty of time to do so. His potential as a starting point guard obviously greatly trumps his potential as a combo guard coming off the bench, so getting back to showing more of a pass-first mentality would likely help his draft stock considerably.
Demetri McCamey, 6-3, Senior, Point Guard, Illinois
15.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 52% FG, 67% FT, 52% 3P
Demetri McCamey has only played in nine college games since we last wrote about him in the preseason, but he's already managed to catch our attention with his stellar play. We previously noted that coming back trimmer for his senior season at Illinois could be a key for him to maximize his potential, and he seems to have done just that. His improved body has given him an extra burst with ball in his hands, and has him playing with a bounce in his step, and a swagger that we didn't see from him last season.
This newfound burst from McCamey has really opened up his whole game and made him much more effective in virtually all areas. As a floor general, he's been beaming with confidence, displaying a tight handle, great court vision, and solid decision-making. He currently tops all players in our database in assists per-40, pure point rating, and assist-to-turnover ratio. He has a very high basketball IQ, and while capable of making a large variety of passes, he also doesn't hesitate to make the simple pass, which is a great sign for a point guard.
McCamey's trimmer physique has really enhanced his ability as a penetrator. Already proficient at changing speeds and directions effectively to get his man off balance, he now has an extra gear to beat his man or utilize to create space. When attacking the basket, McCamey has shown signs of a nice pull up jumper, and he's crafty and strong enough to find ways to score in the lane, but this is still an area where he could use some work. He doesn't possess great elevation and he doesn't seem to have a reliable floater at this point, so that should be high on his priority list when evaluating where he can improve.
In addition to the burst we've seen from McCamey off the dribble, he's also been shooting the ball tremendously well so far this season. There was never really any doubt about his shooting ability, but he's done a great job this season of picking his spots, which has led to him shooting an outstanding 53% from 3-point range, up from 34% last season. Jump shots have still made up 68% up of his attempts from the field this season, but he seems to have cut down on some of the contested jumpers early in the shot clock that we saw from him in his first three seasons. He's also been able to utilize his threat as a penetrator to create more space and better free himself for his jumpers off the dribble.
So far this season, 26% of McCamey's used possessions have been in transition, and he seems extremely confident with the ball in his hands leading the break. He does a nice job of reading the situation and making the right play, whether it's a dumping it off to a teammate filling the lane, kicking it out to a trailer, pulling up for an uncontested 3-pointer off the dribble, or just taking it all the way to the rim himself.
Defensively, McCamey continues to display the awareness and understanding of positioning that we saw from him last season. And while his lateral quickness may still not be up to par to defend the most explosive NBA point guards on dribble penetration, his slimmed down physique should help in this area and make him less of a liability, as will his size and toughness.
Overall, McCamey's hot start to the season and obvious offseason improvements to his body have him looking like one of the premiere point guards in the college game this season. His outstanding shooting ability and size at the point guard position, combined with his excellent feel for the game and ability to run a team, have likely caught the eyes of NBA scouts and decision-makers.
The fact that he'll be 22 years old by the time of the 2011 draft, and that's he's still not a jet-quick point guard, will probably limit his upside in some of their eyes, but there's no doubt he'll earn some fans this season if he maintains his high level of play. And while he'll still have his detractors and will face some tough competition from other point guards in pre-draft workouts, he's put himself in the conversation for a chance to hear his name called as a first round draft pick this summer.
David Lighty, 6'5, RS Senior, Small Forward/Shooting Guard, Ohio State
14.7 Points, 5.2 Rebounds, 3.8 Assists, 2 Steals, 2.3 Turnovers, 46.3% FG, 37.5% 3P, 65.4% FT
A member of the Oden-Conley-Cook recruiting class that put Ohio State in the National Championship hunt in 2007, David Lighty has been a key reserve for the Buckeyes since his freshman year. Doing whatever Thad Matta asked of him through his first four seasons in Columbus, Lighty has done a little bit of everything in support of the likes of Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos, and Evan Turner. After missing the majority of his true junior year because of a season-ending foot injury, Lighty is back at Ohio State for a fifth year and has made a big impact for one of the nation's best teams early on.
Much of Lighty's success this season has stemmed from his comfort level with the speed of the college game. His torn ACL as a prep limited his explosiveness early in his college career, and while he seemed to get a little more bouncy each season, he has appeared noticeably quicker with the ball in his hands this year. Possessing solid speed, quickness, and strength, Lighty still looks a bit tentative jumping off of one leg, but has no trouble playing above the rim when he has time to gather himself and jump off of two. Despite re-fracturing the same foot that robbed him of his junior season early this off-season, the Cleveland native looks as close to 100% as we've seen him.
Lighty's health and quickness have been essential pieces to the puzzle for a young Ohio State team trying to replace a do-everything star in Evan Turner. An extremely versatile player in his own right, Lighty has taken on a bigger role on the offensive end, spending some pushing the ball up the floor at the point guard position and usually winding up with the ball in his hands when the shot-clock runs low. Often the best athlete on the floor for OSU, Lighty is asked to create for his team in crunch time, something he doesn't look to do normally and won't be asked to do on the NBA level.
Ohio State's nationally televised victory over Florida State provided an especially interesting snapshot of Lighty's role this season. FSU's defensive pressure forced the Buckeyes into numerous short shot-clock situations, most of which led to the ball winding up in David Lighty's hands. Finishing just 4-14 from the field, Lighty forced some tough shots from the perimeter and had the coast-to-coast plays he normally finishes erased by Chris Singleton.
Though he scored just 10 points, Lighty finished with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and a pair of blocks in helping his team to victory. A consummate roleplayer even when he's leading the Buckeyes in scoring, Lighty proves to be a very savvy passer, makes good decisions with the ball, crashes the glass well for his size, and works tirelessly on the defensive end. Though those traits have defined his game in the past he has made some clear offensive improvements this season, even if they didn't help him against FSU.
A somewhat questionable perimeter shooter in the past, Lighty has looked more comfortable in catch-and-shoot situations this season. Getting better arc on the ball than he did early in his career, his shot still looks a bit mechanical, but the ball comes off his hand better. Never one to take a shot with a hand in his face unless he has to, Lighty's ability to knock down shots consistently from beyond the arc, improve his pull-up game, and cut back on his turnovers in traffic will be three areas of interest as we move through this season.
Around the rim, Lighty has found some success as a finisher, even if athletic shot blockers present a problem for him on occasion. Showing a quick first step and the ability to hang in the air for a short-range jumper or lay-in, Lighty is a solid finisher who is at his best when he can take what the defense gives him instead of being relied on to make plays under pressure.
Defensively, Lighty is an active, and fundamentally sound stopper. Capable of denying penetration out on the perimeter, contesting shots with his wingspan, and making an impact with his anticipation in passing lanes, Lighty is a very good defensive player at the NCAA level. Though he could stand to get a bit stronger, Lighty knows when to give a cushion and when to close out, is willing to mix it up on the glass, and plays within team concepts. Lighty may not have the lateral quickness to be considered a defensive specialist at the next level, but his willingness to work hard on both ends only adds to his versatility.
Flying under the radar next to Ohio State's parade of recent draftees, the name of the game for Lighty this season will be consistency. He's not going to be asked to fill the do-everything role he's currently playing in the NBA, but if he can continue to score at an efficient rate and do all the little things, he could rise up draft boards. As it stands, he has entrenched himself as a potential second round pick, and is a player to watch as OSU moves into conference play.
Justin Holiday, 6-6, Forward, Washington, Senior
14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 turnovers, 2.0 steals, 54.5% FG, 53.8% 3FG, 84.2% FT
It seems as though Washington senior Justin Holiday is finally living up to his potential. After three largely-unimpressive years and a solid 2010 postseason, Holiday was, at best known as either a defensive role player or Jrue Holiday's brother.
Things have changed, however. This season, he has increased his visibility with inspired and efficient play on both sides of the ball. Furthermore, eight games into the season and after good performances against Kentucky and Michigan State, he seems to be justifying the buzz building amongst scouts and fans alike.
Holiday has good size for the wing position at 6'6 with a long and wiry 180-pound frame. While he must continue to get stronger, Holiday is an impressive athlete, quick, fluid, explosive, and extremely effective in transition settings.
On the offensive end, Holiday has improved considerably since last season and, though he is still limited, he has an expanding arsenal of scoring tools. He is averaging a solid 17.9 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted, nearly twice as much scoring output as last season, doing so on 54.5% shooting. Clearly we're still at an early juncture of the NCAA season, but Holiday is definitely not the same player he was last year.
Most notably, Holiday has emerged as a legitimate perimeter threat, currently converting a blistering 53.8% of his attempts. His mechanics are solid and consistent and, though his release could be quicker, he has a high point of release. He shows proficiency in catch-and-shoot possessions, particularly when he spots up and knocks down perimeter jump shots from either corner.
While Holiday has improved as a ball handler, he is still limited in this area and far from being a threat in isolation sets. He does show potential as a slasher, however, given his quick first step and explosiveness around the basket. He has also looked more comfortable pulling up off of the dribble from mid-range on rare occasions.
With that said, Holiday isn't likely to develop into a consistent shot creator at the pro level, as his ball-handling skills remain crude and he simply doesn't display a great comfort level shouldering a heavy offensive load. He is, however, a solid offensive player who plays within his abilities and rarely makes bad decisions, which, along with his shooting ability, situates him well to fill a complimentary role at the next level.
Holiday has lived up to his billing as a defensive specialist at the collegiate level this season, faring very well in high profile match ups against Kentucky's Terrence Jones and Michigan State's Durrell Summers. With added strength, his length, lateral quickness, quick hands and energy level could allow him to develop into an elite perimeter defender down the road. He is a smart player as well, and more than makes up for his lack of bulk with his intelligence and toughness. That said, his body will need to fill out before he reaches his full potential on this end of the floor.
While Holiday's senior campaign has been equally productive and revealing from a scouting perspective, consistency is the keyas we're only eight games into the year right now. If he can sustain his energy level, offensive efficiency, and defensive prowess, Holiday could definitely emerge as a sleeper prospect in the 2011 NBA Draft.