Trending Prospects (2/3/2012)

Trending Prospects (2/3/2012)
Feb 03, 2012, 07:33 pm
Updated scouting reports on Tu Holloway, Maalik Wayns, Rodney Williams and John Shurna.

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Tu Holloway, 5'11, Point Guard, Senior, Xavier

Joe Treutlein

Coming off an excellent junior season where he earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors, Tu Holloway has mostly maintained his performance as a senior, even regressing slightly in some areas.

Holloway drew some unnecessary attention to himself for his actions and postgame comments related to Xavier's infamous brawl with Cincinnati in December. He's done a good job getting back to business since the incident, and doesn't have a history of characters concerns, but NBA decision-makers will probably spend a little extra time doing their due diligence into his background come pre-draft time as a result.

Looking at Holloway's performance on the court, his production remains mostly the same this year, though his scoring is down and his passing metrics are slightly up, which could be a positive long-term adjustment for him to make.

As a scorer, Holloway's game relies mostly on his jump shot, something that gets mixed results depending on the situation. Holloway is pretty good with his feet set on catch-and-shoot opportunities, but has been about six times more likely to take a shot pulling up off the dribble this season according to Synergy. He shows potential in pull-up situations, doing a good job keeping his balance when he's able to get to open space for his shot, but is heavily prone to forcing ill-advised, fade-away jumpers with a hand in his face at times.

Projecting to the next level against bigger, more athletic competition, Holloway will likely have even more trouble consistently getting space for his jumper, and will need to be more selective utilizing this area of his game. Improving his jumper in general should also be a priority, as his 30% shooting from three-point range (down from 35% last season) isn't very impressive even after you account for how many of his shots come off the dribble.

Holloway's done a solid job attacking the rim this season, though more so in up-tempo situations than in the half court. In the half court, Holloway's lack of a great top speed to blow by his man and lack of great size to finish in the lane leave him somewhat limited, but he does a much better job when operating before the defense gets set. In these situations, Holloway shows a very good feel for reading lanes and picking his spots, using a strong handle and great craftiness to maneuver his way to the basket, where he finishes with good touch.

Holloway's feel for the game has also improved some as a distributor, where he does a good job running his team's offense and setting the team's pace, while also having versatile court vision and passing ability. While still clearly growing into a role as more of a pure point guard, Holloway shows nice flashes of setting up his teammates in a variety of situations, being effective with post entry passes, drive-and-kicks, and in the pick-and-roll. He looks most comfortable as a distributor in up-tempo situations as well, having a very good feel for keeping his head up and making good decisions with the ball there.

Defensively, Holloway has been excellent in man-to-man defense this season, showing great fundamentals and a high activity level. He gets right up into his man, moves his feet well, and does a good job using his hands to contest shots and make steals. His size is somewhat concerning projecting to the next level, and he will also be at a quickness disadvantage against elite guards, but his tools are solid enough here and he should be able to be an effective man defender if he continues showing the same commitment.

Holloway's also a solid team defender, showing good weakside awareness and doing a decent job in the passing lanes, but does struggle dealing with screens at times, specifically in pick-and-rolls, where he's prone to getting beat badly.

Looking forward, Holloway has done a nice job developing his game over his four years in college, but will still likely need to significantly adjust his role projecting to the next level. His point guard skills, spot shooting, ability to attack in transition, feel for the game, and defensive abilities are all attractive from an NBA perspective, but how he puts it all together to play less of a score-first role will be key.

Maalik Wayns, 6'2, Point Guard, Junior, Villanova

Kyle Nelson

While Villanova has been fairly disappointing thus far as a team, junior point guard Maalik Wayns is in the midst of a strong individual season. After splitting minutes and ball handling duties with Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds his first two seasons, the former McDonald's All-American has emerged as one of the top scorers in the Big East, finally delivering on the excitement that followed him on to campus.

At 6'2 with a compact 200-pound frame and a 6-2 wingspan, Wayns has just decent physical attributes for the point guard position. Though he is fairly strong and quick, he is not a standout athlete, lacking the explosiveness to finish around the basket. As Wayns is a scoring guard who tends to dominate the ball, his average physical profile puts him at somewhat of a disadvantage looking towards the next level.

Wayns is nevertheless becoming more productive and efficient on the offensive end as a junior. He is averaging a career-high 18.4 points per game, shooting 49% inside the arc and 31% from 3-point range, while assuming a majority of Villanova's ball handling, facilitating, and scoring responsibilities. Though Wayns may be a much-improved scorer, his film reveals that he still has some flaws in his game and quite a few areas in which he must improve before he takes the next step in his development.

Wayns is very proficient operating out of the pick-and-roll, where he sees nearly 31% of his possessions. He looks very capable at splitting defenders on his way to the basket, pulling up into a jump shot, or finding his teammates. He is definitely more comfortable as a scorer than as a facilitator out of the pick-and-roll, however, which not only places particular urgency on improving his shooting and decision making, but also reveals another significant question about his future.

While Wayns does a terrific job of changing speeds and keeping his defender off balance, he struggles mightily finishing around the basket, which not only is related to his lack of length and explosiveness, but also his inability to get all the way to the rim and take high percentage looks. Wayns is often forced to heave up tough shots in the paint, particularly in traffic, raising the question of whether his slashing game will translate to the next level. Furthermore, while he has a solid first step, he drives left nearly 75% of the time, rendering his diverse mid-range and slashing games somewhat predictable for opposing defenders.

Additionally, Wayns is an extremely inconsistent perimeter shooter, making a mediocre 31% of his nearly five attempts per game. Fortunately, his shooting woes look more attributable to his subpar shot selection, his propensity to take off-balance, contested perimeter jump shots, and the lack of another perimeter scoring option than they are mechanical. His mechanics look much better than last year, in fact, and he now sports a fluid shooting motion, complete with solid elevation and a release point that is becoming more with time.

Despite his mediocre percentages, Synergy reveals that he is actually emerging as a solid catch-and-shoot option, making 44.2% of his jump shots in this capacity. Unfortunately he shoots more than twice as many off the dribble jumpers as he does catch and shoot, and knocks them down at a much lower rate, which hurts his percentages significantly.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Wayns can develop his playmaking instincts further and develop into a better facilitator. Though his supporting cast is less than stellar, complete with raw big men and streaky shooters, he has just average court vision and his overall decision-making abilities still need work at this stage. The fact that he is more of a scoring guard and is responsible for nearly a quarter of Villanova's possessions aside, he must improve upon his 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted and sub-par 1.53 assist/turnover ratio moving forward.

As we've written before, Wayns is a mixed-bag on defense, lacking the size, length and lateral quickness to project as anything more than decent in the NBA, but clearly possessing the effort and fundamentals to compensate at this level. His biggest problem at this level remains his inability to defend the pick and roll, as he constantly struggles to break through screens. Though he has been a capable defender throughout his career, he will have to prove to scouts that he can guard NBA players.

While Wayns has done a good job of stepping up and showing he can be a go-to scoring option in the Big East this season, the fact that his team is just 10-12 overall and 3-7 in-conference demonstrates that he still has a ways to go. Proving himself as a more consistent long-range shooter is absolutely essential at this stage, but so too is improving as a finisher around the basket and limiting his turnovers.

Now that he has established himself as one of the most productive scoring point guards in the college ranks, Wayns must work to take the next step in his development, which means, among other things, finding ways to turn his productivity, his talent, and his leadership into wins for Villanova.

Rodney Williams, 6'7”, Junior, Small Forward, Minnesota

Derek Bodner

With an elite combination of size and athleticism, junior forward Rodney Williams has long been a tantalizing prospect. Williams was a highly regarded recruit coming out of college (#34, #42 ESPN) who showed terrific flashes of talent in small spurts early on in his freshman season, then regressed significantly in a bigger role for the Golden Gohpers his sophomore year. Williams efficiency (true shooting percentage up to 61%, from 50% last year), production (23.2 player efficiency rating, up from 13.1) and skill level have bounced back as a junior, he still has plenty of room to continue to improve as a prospect.

The foundation of Williams intrigue as a prospect is readily apparent from the moment he steps onto the court. With a superb combination of size and athleticism, Williams has prototypical size for an NBA small forward. He is extremely long and with a frame that looks like it should fill out nicely as he develops physically. He's an incredible run and jump athlete who excels in the open court and is tremendously explosive athlete around the rim.

The basis of his offensive game is based around these excellent physical characteristics, which is both a positive and a negative at this point in his career. He's incredibly quick in transition, getting up and down the court much faster than virtually any of his defenders, especially when he playing at the power forward spot on the collegiate level. He's overall one of the best athletes in the college ranks, and his rare combination of speed and explosiveness makes this a staple of his game.

Williams also does an excellent job moving without the basketball in half court sets. Once he receives the pass his long strides and explosive leaping ability make it hard for defenders to recover. His body control, touch, and ability to finish through contact appear to be somewhat better than in previous years as well. He's drawing contact and getting to the line better, and his 4.4 free throw attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted is solid progression over the 3.4 he averaged last year. Overall, his 1.622 points per possession on cuts to the basket rank him in the top 3rd percentile in college basketball, which is mainly a testament to his incredible leaping ability.

Another area where Williams gets a decent amount of his offense is off of offensive rebounds. While his 2.8 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted isn't an overly impressive number in and of itself, the rate at which he converts these opportunities is. Williams is often able to simply jump over opponents and get a shot attempt off before landing, whether that be off of a put back slam or tip in.

He's shooting a much better 40.7% from three point range as well this year, although with the limited amount of sample size (he's attempted only 27 threes on the year) and the general lack of progression in other areas as a jump shooter (namely his pull-up jumper and mediocre free throw percentages [54%]) make it questionable whether this progress is something that can be relied upon.

Overall, the lack of shooting touch we noted in previous write-ups still exists, and it's far and away his biggest question mark as a prospect, and one we had hoped to have seen more significant progress on to this point. With his first step and explosive leaping ability, Williams may have some untapped potential as a slasher at the next level, but the combination of his inconsistent perimeter shooting and his unrefined ball handling ability make it difficult for him to utilize his athletic gifts in this facet of the game. Williams has yet to develop any real shot-creating ability, as he doesn't possess any advanced ball-handling ability.

Another area Williams contributes in is as a passer, something relatively surprising considering his overall lack of ball skills in other areas of his game. His 2.7 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted is a good number considering his overall low usage, likely a product of Tubby Smith's emphasis on ball-movement. Williams generally makes good, quick decisions with the ball and his height and ability to see over the defense gives him passing lanes that may not be there for smaller players.

The defensive side of the ball may be the area that causes teams to take a chance as him, as he has the physical abilities to be an elite defender at the next level. Extremely long and quick, Williams physical tools are in rare company for an NBA small forward. He uses his length well on the perimeter and shows very good lateral quickness. Williams has turned this into much more defensive productivity this year, averaging 2.1 steals and 2.0 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted. Williams has active hands defensively, and his length, exceptional explosive ability and good timing allow him to make his presence felt as a shot blocking threat.

Williams can at times get caught off balance on mis-directions defensively and can also get caught losing track of his man off the ball. However, with his physical tools and an apparent willingness to put in effort on this end of the court, these appear to be correctable flaws.

Overall, Rodney Williams is still largely the same tantalizing but incomplete prospect he was when he came to Minnesota, although he has turned himself into a much more impactful player than he was during his disappointing sophomore season. With his defensive potential, ability to finish, and passing ability, it doesn't seem like Williams is that far off from being a contributor at the next level. That being said, that same statement could have been made at any point over the last two years, and yet his consistency as a set shooter is still in question. If Williams can find a way to develop a consistent outside shot, he has enough unique physical tools to be a contributor at the next level.

John Shurna, 6'8, Senior, Power Forward, Northwestern

Matt Williams

Last time we checked in on John Shurna, we noted that he struggled to take another significant step forward as a junior after a breakout sophomore season. Withdrawing from the NBA draft to play his senior season at Northwestern, the Illinois native is having a year in-step with the one he had as a sophomore. Bouncing back from a less than stellar junior year, the question-marks about Shurna's NBA potential remain largely unchanged, and while his numbers have rebounded, he has not been able to lead his team to many victories in what could be the toughest Big Ten slate he's faced in his Wildcat career.

A prolific perimeter threat at the college level who has led Northwestern in scoring in each of the last three seasons and in rebounding in two of the last three, Shurna is an incredibly savvy player who makes the most of his time on the floor with his consistently high effort level.

Standing 6'8.5 with a matching wingspan and below average strength and athleticism, the main questions facing Shurna as a prospect start with his physical profile, what position he defends at the next level, and how he'll adjust to the speed of the NBA game. Given his weaknesses, it isn't difficult to see that Shurna's potential is as more of a roleplayer, despite his success as a collegiate scorer.

Fortunately for the soon-to-be graduate, he has a definable NBA skill, fitting the mold of some of the spot-up shooting specialists we've seen in the past. Though his ability to be in the right place at the right time and do the little things are major parts of his success in the college game, it is his prolific jump shooting ability that keeps him on the NBA radar.

Attempting as many 3-pointers per-40 minutes pace adjusted as almost any power forward prospect in our database, Shurna has a quick, effortless release with little wasted motion that helps compensate for his somewhat unorthodox mechanics and low release point. Showing range out to the NBA line with some regularity already, nearly 40% of Shurna's shot attempts are catch and shoot jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, and his 43% shooting on such attempts are indicative of how he could help spread the floor at the next level.

Inside the arc, Shurna is as crafty a player as you'll find in the NCAA. He is not a dynamic threat off the dribble, and is not nearly as reliable a shooter off the bounce as he is off the catch, but his work ethic, patience, and feel for cutting to the rim make him a great fit in Northwestern's system and earn him plenty of easy looks around the basket and trips to the line. Though such looks will be far more difficult to come by in the NBA, Shurna's willingness to make easy plays and do exactly what his coaches ask of him could be plusses for him in a smaller offensive role.

On the defensive end, we've covered Shurna's attributes in detail in the past. He's as crafty and hard working as one would expect a player with his basketball IQ to be, but his lateral quickness is a limitation in staying in front of small forwards and his lack of strength is equally as problematic keeping power forwards away from the rim even in the college game. Additionally, he continues to rank as one of the worst rebounding power forwards in our database, which is likely to be even more of an issue in the NBA.

A candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Shurna is very much a known commodity at this point in many regards. He still has some things to prove defensively in competitive workouts, and his ability to hold his own on that end of the floor will be a key sticking point in how teams view the value of his spot-up shooting ability.

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