Trending Prospects (2/3/2011)

Trending Prospects (2/3/2011)
Feb 03, 2011, 05:31 pm
Updated scouting reports on C.J. Leslie, Kris Joseph, Jon Leuer, Rodney Williams and Maalik Wayns.

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-Trending Prospects (1/20) Tobias Harris, Travis Leslie, Malcolm Lee, Jordan Williams
-Trending Prospects (1/14) Darius Morris, Marshon Brooks, Delvon Johnson, Matthew Bryan-Amaning
-Trending Prospects (1/6) Justin Harper, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Goudelock, Trevor Mbakwe
-Trending Prospects (12/30) Keith Benson, Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson, Quincy Acy
-Trending Prospects (12/23) Khris Middleton, Markieff Morris, Keith Clanton, Orlando Johnson
-Trending Prospects (12/16) Scotty Hopson, Rick Jackson, Festus Ezeli, Brad Wanamaker
-Trending Prospects (12/9) Brandon Knight, Demetri McCamey, David Lighty, Justin Holiday
-Trending Prospects (12/2) Terrence Jones, Reggie Jackson, Charles Jenkins, Steven Gray

C.J. Leslie, 6-8, Freshman, Small Forward/Power Forward, North Carolina State
10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, .9 assists, 2 turnovers, .8 steals, 1.5 blocks, 43% FG, 54% FT, 23%3P

Walker Beeken

C.J. Leslie entered his freshman season at North Carolina State with big expectations, but so far it's been a rough road. The combo forward possesses all of the physical tools to be a big-time talent, but his poor mental approach and unpolished skill-set has led to an inconsistent season that likely has NBA scouts being much more hesitant about his future prospects.

Leslie's intrigue lies in his lanky 6'8” frame, long wingspan, and excellent athleticism. And while he's not the most skilled player, he is a very fluid athlete who looks to have the potential to expand on his perimeter skills as he continues to develop, and eventually become a full time small forward.

This season, Leslie is playing the power forward spot for the Wolfpack, but he stills seems insistent on trying to display his skills on the perimeter, even though that is clearly not a strength of his game at this stage. Overall, Leslie's offensive production has suffered, as he's scoring an inefficient .72 points per possession so far this season.

Unable to create much off the dribble in the perimeter or in the post at this point, Leslie gets most of his offense by cutting to the basket, running the floor in transition, and crashing the offensive boards. And although he has great elevation and plays above the rim, he struggles as a finisher due to his underdeveloped frame, a lack of touch, craftiness, and not going up strong. He's converting only 44% of his shot attempts in the basket area so far this season, which is a big issue for him, since he is extremely inconsistent from the perimeter as well.

Leslie is shooting an abysmal 27% on jump shots this season as well as a poor 54% from the free throw line. He has a bit of a slow release and low release point, but he does show decent touch, and seems to have the potential to be able to expand his range and be a serviceable shooter with his feet set if he puts in the work and improves his shot-selection.

Overall on the offensive end, Leslie lacks the polish and feel for the game to play up to his potential consistently at this point. He's fluid enough to be the type of combo forward who can eventually face up on the perimeter and knock down shots and utilize his explosiveness to get to the basket, but right now he'd probably be best served by being an energy guy on both ends of the floor who makes plays with his length and athleticism, while he continues to develop his perimeter game. He doesn't seem to have much of a concept of what his strengths and weaknesses are right now, though, and the undesirable situation he's in at N.C. State surely can't be helping matters much, as things only seem to be getting worse as the season moves on.

Defensively, Leslie has all of the physical capabilities to be an outstanding defender, but right now he's stuck in between the 3 and the 4 positions, and he has trouble guarding anybody. He lacks the strength and toughness inside to defend power forwards, and he gets beat badly when attempting to cover players on the perimeter, mainly due to a lack of focus, positioning, and effort.

Leslie simply looks disinterested on most possessions, and he plays with nowhere near the energy level that he should. This a major concern for him, because it minimizes the advantages he has athletically. Players of his mold who are the most successful at the NBA level, such as Gerald Wallace and Shawn Marion, have tremendous motors that enhance their physical tools and make them terrors in transition, on the glass, and making energy plays in the basket area. Leslie shows flashes of these abilities, as evidenced by his impressive per forty minutes pace adjusted averages of 2.5 blocks and 12.3 rebounds, but his mental lapses and lack of consistent effort negate many of the good things that he does.

There have been rumblings that Leslie in unhappy at N.C. State, and that he'll likely enter the draft this summer. While he clearly has the upside that scouts covet with his excellent physical tools, his poor body language, inconsistent effort, and questions about his work ethic will be issues that teams will have to investigate much further. Leslie still has more time left this season to try and turn things around and find some believers in his NBA potential, but may ultimately have too many red flags for teams to be comfortable with using a high draft pick on this summer, unless he shows extremely well in private workouts.

Kris Joseph, 6-7, Small Forward, Junior, Syracuse
15.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 46% FG, 38% 3PT, 69% FT

Joe Treutlein

Coming off a solid sophomore season playing a supporting role behind teammate Wesley Johnson, Kris Joseph has stepped into the spotlight as a junior, emerging as the Orange's leading scorer while developing his skill set and showing better versatility.

On the offensive end, Joseph has upped his scoring average to 15.0 points per game, without much increase in minutes, while his scoring efficiency hasn't fallen off either. The biggest development for Joseph is in the shooting department, as evidenced by his tripling his three-point attempts per game and nearly doubling his three-point percentage.

Looking at his shot, Joseph has improved his accuracy substantially and cleaned up his mechanics a bit to the point where he's a very reliable shooter in space with range from a bit beyond the college three-point arc. He has a high and quick release and is excellent in space, scoring 1.55 points per shot on unguarded jumpers according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Joseph's mechanics can break down a bit when he's contested, as he tends to rush his motion and shows inconsistent touch, leading to some very errant north-south misses. Considering the drastic improvement he's made in a year, it's not surprising for the muscle memory to revert to old habits when contested, and it's certainly something that can catch up to the rest of his game over time.

Looking at his ability to attack the basket, the story is still largely the same for Joseph, as he boasts an outstanding first step and makes very long strides with the ball, though struggles when forced to change directions, not being impressive with his advanced ball-handling or creativity in the lane, often looking out of control with his drives. He does occasionally show some nice, subtle footwork to maneuver around defenders, but is clearly at his best when unimpeded to the rim. His lack of bulk is also a hindrance in terms of finishing around the basket, as he doesn't always have the strength to power up through contact, especially since he already doesn't have great control of the ball.

In terms of attacking the rim, Joseph is at his best in transition, on off-ball cuts, straight-line drives, and getting offensive rebounds, all of which minimize the importance of his ball-handling. At the NBA level where he'd play a more complementary role and likely be in a more up-tempo, open style of play, this area of his game could be highlighted even more.

Defensively, Joseph shows good hands and has all the physical tools to be a good defender at the small forward position in the NBA, but as is always the case with Syracuse players, evaluating him in the zone is not easy. His effort on close outs can be lackluster at times and he doesn't always seem to put in full effort moving his feet, but when he's applying himself he does quite a good job. Given his size and physical tools, he could do a better job on the glass, but is still adequate for his position.

Looking forward, Joseph's game, which emphasizes spot shooting and using his athleticism on quick cuts to the basket and in transition, is probably actually more suited to the NBA than the collegiate level, though how he adjusts to man-to-man defense and if he reaches his potential on that end will be critical for his long-term success. What situation he lands in should be important for him, and continuing to improve his shooting should be his main priority going forward. Joseph may not have taken quite the step forward that some were anticipating going into this season, but clearly he's making strides in the right direction.

Jon Leuer, 6-10, Senior, Power Forward, Wisconsin
19.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.6 turnovers, .6 steals, 1.2 blocks, 49% FG, 85% FT, 45% 3P

Derek Bodner

Wisconsin senior Jon Leuer is continuing to show progress as a player, developing into one of the most productive players in college basketball this season. Leuer's 19.4 points per game places him third in the Big Ten in scoring, a feat more impressive considering the slow pace Bo Ryan and his swing offense operate at. In fact, Leuer's 26.7 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranks in the top five amongst all prospects in our database, flashing an inside-outside game that makes him an incredibly effective collegiate big man.

Upon first look at Leuer, it would be easy to write him off as a prospect due to his below average athleticism, slender frame, and a lack of a true position to defend. That being said, he possesses an excellent basketball IQ to go along with some offensive skills that are in high demand, skills that he should be able to translate to the NBA reasonably well.

Leuer has continued to improve his post-game, showing a nice right handed hook shot and a smooth turnaround jump shot. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Leuer's 1.021 points per shot ranks in the 88th percentile in college basketball, a vast improvement over his efficiency during his first two years at Wisconsin. He shows soft touch on the turnaround hook, which has developed into his go to move in the post, and shows the ability to hit these when contested.

Its unlikely Leuer will be a frequent post scorer in the NBA, as he lacks the lower body strength to consistently establish position. He's not all that explosive and may struggle to get his shot over longer defenders, and doesn't have a wide array of counter, all of which could leave him limited to fade-aways and tougher post shots in the NBA. However, he has enough in the way of post moves to take advantage when he does get a favorable matchup.

The key to Leuer's ability to translate his game to the next level has been the continued development of his perimeter game. Leuer, who entered high school as a point guard before experiencing a dramatic growth spurt, has good ball handling ability for a big man. While he doesn't possess the first step or leaping ability to consistently create separation on drives, he's more than capable of using one or two dribbles to setup a pull-up jumper, and shows the ability to hit shots off the dribble, doing a good job of gathering himself and going straight up for the shot, showing good body control. He's also fairly fluid for someone of his size, moving well both with and without the ball.

More importantly, Leuer continues to extend his range out beyond the college three point line. After improving from 29.6% as a sophomore to 39.1% from three point range last season, Leuer has continued to build upon that part of his game. Now taking 4.6 three point attempts per game, he is converting at an extremely efficient 44.8% this season. Leuer wastes little motion on catch and shoots, and does a good job making a quick decision before the defense has time to recover. His ability to translate this part of his game is an absolute key in becoming a contributor at the next level.

Overall, Leuer has a good basketball IQ, showing itself most notably by his low turnover rate relative to his usage, which ranks amongst the best in college basketball.

He also shows solid defensive fundamentals and consistent effort, although his physical limitations manifest themselves on this side of the court. Lacking great lower body strength and limited lateral mobility, Leuer lacks a true position to defend, struggling both against physical post players and on the perimeter. Bo Ryan plays a largely man to man defense at Wisconsin, switching on most picks on the perimeter, which doesn't help in hiding Leuer's defensive shortcomings. Leuer's length and timing allows him to block some shots at the collegiate level and he does a good job of rotating over, but his lack of explosion likely prevents him from being much of a paint presence in the NBA.

Another area where Leuer's lack of lower body strength shows itself is on the defensive glass. While Leuer does show good technique boxing out and gives consistent effort, his lower body strength puts him at a decided disadvantage.

Right now, Leuer's basketball IQ and ability to be a threat on the perimeter in catch and shoot situations should allow him to contribute in the right offensive scheme. Perhaps as much as anybody, Leuer's success may be dependent on going to the right situation, playing for the right coach, and with the right personnel. If Leuer could add some lower body strength to help him in defending the post and become a more consistent defensive rebounder, he could prove to be a good value for a playoff team looking to strengthen their rotation.

Rodney Williams, 6-7, Sophomore, Small Forward, Minnesota, 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 47.9% FG, 15.2% 3FG, 44.4% FT

Kyle Nelson After 22 games, it is safe to say that we may have jumped the gun on Rodney Williams. Regressing in virtually every statistical category on a per-minute basis, Williams currently rates as the least productive prospect in our top 100 rankings.

There are few perimeter players in the world, however, who share Williams's combination of elite size and athleticism. At 6'7 with a long and lean frame and incredible explosiveness, there is no doubt that Williams possesses the physical tools to excel in the NBA.

From a skills standpoint, however, Williams still has a long way to go before he is ready to produce at the NCAA level, let alone in the NBA, and he has struggled to expand his skill set in any discernable way as a sophomore.

While he finds most of his offensive possessions as a spot-up shooter, he has made just 8/45 jump shots this season, or a paltry 17.8%. His shooting motion is decent, but he simply cannot make shots from either a standstill or on the move, both due to an inconsistent release point and below average shooting touch. Furthermore, he shoots a dreadful 44.4% from the foul line, an indication of the significant improvement that he must make as a shooter.

Williams is still severely limited as a ball-handler, which limits his offensive repertoire and is likely responsible for his inability to get to the foul line, where he has attempted just 45 free throws in 22 games. At this point, he is best in transition or cutting to the basket, where he can finish while utilizing his breathtaking explosiveness and not have to worry about shooting or getting around opponents.

Though he is an ineffective scorer with a relatively low usage rate, Williams is a solid role player for Minnesota due to his ability to move well without the ball and his development into an above average passer. These intangibles allow him to stay on the floor, despite his inefficient offensive production.

Where Williams really excels, though, is on defense, where he is able to fully exploit his physical and athletic advantages. His excellent lateral quickness and length allow him to both contest jump shooters and stay in front of all but the quickest collegiate guards. He is less effective guarding the pick and roll, however, where he struggles to fight through screens and loses track of his man. There is little doubt, however, Williams can be an elite defender at any level with continued improvement.

Williams's lack of production and extremely raw skill set has sufficiently dampened his pre-season draft hype, but he remains an intriguing long-term prospect due to his size, athleticism, and defensive prowess. Scouts will nonetheless be monitoring his development, because if he can somehow develop into a respectable jump shooter, there is little doubt that he will play in the NBA.

Maalik Wayns, 6'1, Sophomore, Point Guard, Villanova
14 Points, 5 Assists, 2.7 Turnovers, 2.9 Rebounds, 1.2 Steals, 42% FG, 24.3% 3P, 83.3% FT

Matt Kamalsky

A player we had high expectations for coming into the season, Maalik Wayns has had a solid sophomore season for a very good Villanova team. Though he's taken a big step forward in terms of productivity in Jay Wright's three-guard system, Wayns has shown some limitations both physically and skill-wise that raise some concerns about his immediate NBA potential.

Wayns's productivity this season is the byproduct of his physical tools for a college guard and improved decision-making as a passer. We often compare strong, compact guards to NFL running backs athletically, but that comparison seems especially apt for Wayns considering the way he moves on the floor. He has a solid first step that allows him to get into the lane against slower defenders in half-court situations in the NCAA, but is at his best when he has a head of steam in transition. Chopping his feet like any good NFL back looking to make a cut, Wayns is shifty at top speed and effective in transition.

Unfortunately, his first step is not on par with that of many of the guards his size playing in the NBA, and he has not shown the ability to play at different speeds to compensate for that. Struggling to turn the corner against bigger, quicker guards in the college game, Wayns will need to continue developing his shot-creating ability in the half-court.

Despite his lack of a great first step, Wayns is still shooting a passable 51% around the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology. He has a terrific handle, but is still trying to learn how to use screens and hesitation moves to his advantage. When he manages to get his man on his hip, his strength and body control makes him difficult to stop. However, when faced with a weakside shot blocker or cut off inside the key, Wayns isn't nearly as efficient, as he doesn't elevate well enough to overcome his lack of size.

With nearly half of his offensive possessions coming from pick and roll and isolation situations in the half court and another sizeable portion coming in transition, Wayns is often forced to create for himself and his teammates off the dribble. Though he's done a better job finding open teammates this season and is capable around the rim, his shot selection still leaves a lot to be desired and he's a little more turnover prone than you'd like to see.

Prone to forcing some difficult looks off the dribble, Wayns has made just 30% of his total jump shot attempts this season. Limited as a shooter both off the catch and off the bounce at the moment, Wayns shows solid form on occasion, but is too willing to pull the trigger from the midrange and will alter his release point unnecessarily under pressure. Moving forward, it will be essential for Wayns to become more comfortable scoring from the perimeter, as he surely won't be able to find the same success inside the paint at his size in the NBA. He made good progress as a passer from last season to this season, and it will be essential for him to make a similar jump as a shooter and as a pick and roll player heading into next year.

Defensively, Wayns is a coach's dream in terms of his effort level and demeanor, but lacks the size and length to consistently contest shots and deny penetration. Though he is pretty effective on the college level and never stops moving his feet, he'll face a major challenge when making the transition to the NBA.

Considering Wayns's clear weaknesses and the opportunity presented by the departure of Corey Fisher, the sophomore guard may be well served to return for another season at Villanova. Should he choose to return, he'll likely have every opportunity to make the strides offensively that could improve his draft stock with full reign over Villanova's offense. If he can develop his jump shot and continue to make better decisions in half-court situations, he could dramatically improve his stock in 2012.

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