Trending Prospects (3/1/2012)

Trending Prospects (3/1/2012)
Mar 01, 2012, 01:57 pm
Updated scouting reports on John Henson, Festus Ezeli, Mike Scott and Kevin Murphy.

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John Henson, 6'10, Power Forward, Junior, North Carolina

Joe Treutlein

John Henson has steadily improved his game in each of his three seasons in Chapel Hill, but the former top-5 high school recruit is still nowhere near his potential, which is scary given how key a role he already plays on one of the best teams in college basketball.

Henson's minutes and role have expanded slightly this season, as he's seeing a higher percentage of opportunities with his back to the basket, but his production and efficiency numbers are similar to last season.

On the offensive end, Henson has greatly improved his post-game in his three years at UNC, and has developed a solid go-to move in his unorthodox left-handed hook shot, which he uses far more often than his natural right hand. Henson's post game is unconventional in style, something that stems largely from his very unique physical characteristics, namely his very long legs and superb coordination and balance for his size.

Henson does a great job establishing a wide base in the post, spreading his legs out to take full advantage of his range on drop-steps and turnaround hook shots, getting separation with ease.

His ability here is enhanced even further by his coordination and balance, as he is very fluid going from move to counter move, and has no problem going up from awkward positions. He's very capable of finishing from areas of the court that would be difficult for other bigs, using his freakish length and smooth athleticism to extend up from under the rim, showing good ability to finish with both touch and power.

Projecting Henson's post game to the next level, there are some significant question marks, namely in how he will adjust when his notable lack of strength becomes more of an issue. Henson doesn't show significant problems establishing deep post position against college level competition, but could have a much tougher time against pros. His ability to finish consistently outside 10 feet is not great at this stage, as his jump shot is still unreliable and he uses face-up drives sparingly.

Henson's ability to finish off the ball has been slightly less featured this season, as he's forced to share touches with a very dominant offensive big man in Tyler Zeller, but is certainly his most attractive offensive skill from an immediate perspective in the NBA.

Henson's combination of coordination, length, athleticism, hands, and ability to finish with finesse and power make him extremely dangerous operating on cuts and pick-and-rolls, both of which could be utilized even more effectively than they are now in the right system at the next level. Henson's actually been used very sparingly on pick-and-rolls this season, especially going to the basket, and that may actually be his most potent offensive skill at the next level.

One nice thing about Henson's game that has become more apparent as he's bulked up from 183 pounds as a freshman to a still wiry 220 pounds this season is his toughness going to the basket, as he has no problem going up for a power dunk when he has the opportunity, something that happens very frequently given his height and length.

The biggest weakness with Henson's offensive game is still his extremely unreliable shooting ability, as evidenced by the fact that his 50% free-throw percentage this season is actually a three year high (he shot 44% as a freshman, 48% as a sophomore).

Henson occasionally shows flashes with his mid-range jumper, and is slightly better with turnaround jumpers from the 10 foot range, but is extremely inconsistent overall and lacks much in the area of feel with his jumper. Developing an at least respectable free-throw and mid-range jumper would be very helpful to Henson's transition to the NBA, and should be a focus in his pre-draft preparation.

While Henson's offensive game is still raw and developing, the same cannot be said for his defense and rebounding, which are his strongest selling points in terms of immediate impact. Henson's tools on this end are phenomenal, and he does an excellent job utilizing them, as we've outlined in our past reports of him.

While there are some questions about Henson's ability to not get backed down in the post at the next level due to his slight frame and average toughness, he makes up for it somewhat by using his smothering length to block shots in man-to-man situations.

Henson's perimeter defense is much more of a sure thing to translate, as he possesses elite tools and abilities to defend power forwards in this regard, while also having the ability to effectively switch onto guards. He's also superb defending pick-and-rolls, showing excellent change of direction ability that when combined with his length allows him to trap hard and still recover to his man.

Henson's pace-adjusted rebounding and shot blocking are both slightly down this season, but still rank among the best in our database, especially for power forwards. He does a great job applying his tools in these areas with his excellent motor, and would likely be able to devote even more energy to these areas in the NBA as he continues to add strength to his frame.

Looking forward, Henson is already an extremely effective college player even though he's nowhere near his potential physically or technically. He should be able to make an instant impact in the pros on defense, the glass, and finishing of the ball offensively, though how effective he is on both ends of the floor initially will depend somewhat on how well his coach utilizes his skills.

Improving his perimeter shooting ability and continuing his difficult struggle to add strength and weight to his slight frame should be his biggest priorities in the pre-draft process, though he will likely be a top-10 pick by virtue of his tremendous upside regardless.

Festus Ezeli, 6'11, Center, Senior, Vanderbilt

Matt Williams

One of the true breakout performers in college basketball last season, Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli's senior season was disrupted first by a suspension resulting from a secondary NCAA violation and then by a sprained knee late in the preseason. Missing the first 10 games of the season to rehab his injury overlapping the 6 he was suspended for, the lingering effects of the senior's ill-timed late-October injury limited him for stretches when he returned to action. For a prospect whose game appears to be on the upswing after redshirting and playing sparingly as a freshman and sophomore, Ezeli remains one of the more intriguing prospects at the center position in this draft.

What makes Ezeli intriguing will always start with his 6'11, 255-pound frame. Possessing prototypical size and athleticism for a NBA center, Ezeli has no shortage of physical tools. As we learned in his match up against Anthony Davis of Kentucky, he may struggle against truly elite level athletes at his position at this stage in his career, but solid performance as an upperclassman in the college game and upside at the NBA level revolve around his ability to utilize his size effectively on both ends of the floor.

Perhaps the most significant area Ezeli has for growth with regards to how he uses his physical tools is as a rebounder. Ranking in the bottom third among centers in our database in defensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Ezeli's feel for making an impact on the boards leaves something to be desired. He does not do a very good job boxing out consistently, and despite his stature and mobility, is not quick to pursue the ball outside of his area. Though his sheer length and strength allow him to put together some strong single-game performances, especially on the offensive glass, he has the tools to be more productive on the whole.

Something similar can be said for his offensive game, only it is worth noting that Ezeli has made significant strides in his offensive skill level since first arriving and Vanderbilt. Still bobbling some passes and lacking some instincts as a scorer and passer, Ezeli has shown flashes of potential as a post threat in his junior and senior years. Doing a fine job fighting for position on the block, Ezeli turns the ball over on more than 20% of his post possessions according to Synergy Sports Technology for the reasons stated above, but shows the ability to score with a basic post arsenal, draw contact, and get to the line as well. Considering some 60% of his possessions come in the post, it is worth noting that Ezeli's usage in this area is not reflective of the role he'll likely play at the next level, and that his ability to polish one of his post moves would simply add a wrinkle to what he currently does well, which is finish at the rim.

Utilizing his mobility and leaping ability effectively, Ezeli is a very good catch-and-finish option in the paint. Though he could still stand to improve his hands and forces some shots out of position with his back to the rim that he'd be better served not taking, the senior connects at a 67%-clip in finishing situations, showing the ability to effortlessly play above the rim, sometimes even finishing with dunks over defenders in traffic. Doing a fine job slipping the pick and roll and using block-to-block screens to find space underneath, Ezeli already does a nice job finding opportunities for easy baskets at the rim, something that could continue to improve as he develops his decision-making and gets a better feel for spacing.

Defensively, Ezeli does a nice job utilizing his strength at the rim and his quickness away from it for the most part. Showing a solid motor denying entry passes in the post and quickly regaining good guarding position when his man does get the ball, Ezeli is a solid one-on-one defender down low. He still needs to cut down on his 5.2 fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted and do a better job finishing plays by going straight up on the shot and then boxing out, but Ezeli's physical tools and energy are assets in the post defensively.

Away from the basket, Ezeli does a decent job defending the pick and roll, and has the lateral quickness to keep up with the vast majority of the centers he's faced in the SEC not named Anthony Davis, but is still a bit too aggressive at times. The same can be said for the way he rotates from the weakside when attempting to block shots. Often taking himself out of position to get a rebound when contesting would be scorers in the paint, if Ezeli can improve his fundamentals, he has the tools to be a solid overall defender, which would only complement his presence as a shot blocker and capable one-on-one defender.

Ezeli's injury certainly has not helped his cause this season, and despite a number of lackluster outings, foul-ridden games, and less than consistent performances, Ezeli is still one of the better true centers in the college game. A strong NCAA Tournament run would certainly help his case heading into the draft process, especially if he rebounds the ball especially well.

At 22 years old, Ezeli has only averaged 20 minutes per-game in two of his collegiate seasons, and though he has potential in a hustle based, backup role at the next level, it will be interesting to see if he can continue developing and emerge as something more. Considering the improvements he made before his junior season and relative inexperience, Ezeli may have more upside than the average senior, a valuable asset for an athletic near 7-footer.

Mike Scott, 6-8, Senior, Power Forward, Virginia

Derek Bodner

After redshirting his senior year due to an injury, power forward Mike Scott faced major questions on how his surgically repaired ankle would hold up. Scott suffered flare ups on the ankle that caused him to miss preseason scrimmages against Vanderbilt and Baylor, but hasn't missed a game this season and is a leading candidate for ACC player of the year honors.

Scott, who will be nearly 24 by the time of the draft, is having the best season of his career, both from an individual and team perspective. While his per-game stats are somewhat misleading due to the extremely slow pace (339th of 345 teams in the NCAA) Virginia plays at, the 6'8” big man has posted averages of 24.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per 40 minute pace adjusted, while scoring at an extremely efficient clip with a true shooting percentage of 63%.

Scott has turned himself into an extremely polished and versatile offensive option, capable of scoring both in the post and when facing up. Scott's post-up game, while not overly advanced due to his average size and girth, is very effective.

His preferred moves in the post are either a right handed hook or a turn-around jump shot. While not an explosive leaper off of two feet, something that can at times lead to his shot being blocked or being forced into lower percentage fade-aways, he does a good job of establishing position early and isn't afraid to initiate contact to create separation, and is very intelligent using his off hand to create space as well.

Generally speaking, Scott is a wily veteran who plays like you would expect someone who is 2-5 years older than most of his opponents to. He never looks rushed and has plenty of tricks up his sleeves, looking very decisive with his moves and knowing how to use his body to draw fouls.

While Scott is the focal point of the Cavaliers offense, he does a good job moving without the ball and has good touch around the hoop. He also does a good job converting off the offensive glass. While his 3.2 offensive rebounds per 40 represents an average number for a big man, his role in the Virginia offense has to be taken into account when looking at this number.

He shows good effort and an ability to bang down low, and as less of the offense is run through him this could be a skill he uses at the next level. When he does get an offensive rebound, he converts very well, gathering himself quickly and showing good touch around the hoop.

His development as a face-up threat is what has taken him to the next level as a collegiate scorer. Scott has done a very good job of adding this element to his game over the past two years, as it was something he didn't have in his arsenal during his last full season at Virginia.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Scott shot just 37.1% on jump shots during his junior season. That number has shot up to 52.4% this year, with jump shots now comprising 37.8% of his offense, a huge jump for from his earlier days at Virginia.

Showing both a high release point and a quick release, Scott is capable of making tough shots with a hand in face, even off the dribble, being very reliable in pick and pop situations.

The majority of Scott's jump shots come from mid-range, as he has yet to reliably extend that out to the collegiate three point range (6-18 on the season), something that will be key for him going forward.

When Scott gets his feet set and is able to square his shoulders, his jump shot has become an extremely reliable weapon for him. With Scott not likely to be the post scorer at the next level that he was in college, this increasing ability to face-up and hit the jump shot is going to be key for his ability to stick to an NBA roster.

Defensively, Scott does a good job defending the post, using his lower body strength to deny position early, and while not a shot blocking threat, he does a good job contesting shots in the post. Scott may have some troubles moving laterally and defending the pick and roll, but overall he's a smart and willing defender, and one of the reasons Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the country this year.

On the defensive glass, Scott's 8.6 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted is a good number that looks even better when looking at team success, as Virginia is third in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. Scott does a good job of boxing out and has good instincts as a rebounder.

Facing many questions coming into the season, both about his ability to expand his offensive game and about how his twice surgically repaired ankle would hold up, Mike Scott has responded with a phenomenal season.

His scoring instincts appear to be his most dependable skill to translate to the next level, which combined with the improvements he's made defensively and as a rebounder and his high work ethic and basketball IQ should be enough to get him some strong looks in the second round, despite his average physical tools and advanced age.

Kevin Murphy, 6'7, SG/SF, Senior, Tennessee Tech

Matt Williams

One of the highest scoring players in all of college basketball pouring in 20.6 points per-game, Kevin Murphy has developed into one of the top low major draft candidates in college basketball. A lightly recruited prospect out of Creekside High School in Georgia, Murphy played AAU basketball alongside Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu for the Georgia Stars in his prep days. With concerns about his grades limiting the schools giving him looks, the prolific scorer ultimately landed at Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference, where he became an immediate contributor and emerged as the team's primary offensive option as a sophomore.

Now a senior, Murphy has made strides in each of his four seasons at Tennessee Tech. He may not be facing elite competition on a nightly basis in the OVC, but he has become a very potent perimeter scorer, which has helped him put together some extremely impressive single game performances and garner some attention from NBA scouts.

Kevin Murphy's 50 points against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville

Though it is Murphy's ability to put the ball in the basket that has helped him catch the eye of NBA scouts, his size is also a significant plus as far as his upside as a pro is concerned. A 6'6 wing who lacks a degree of physical strength, but shows fluid athleticism operating on the offensive end, sports a big wingspan, and displays adequate lateral quickness defensively, Murphy has the size and physical tools to play his position at the NBA level –something we don't often see in prolific low-major scorers.

On the offensive end, Murphy's game is characterized by his extremely aggressive shot selection. Seeing a consistent steam of touches creating his own shot one-on-one, making plays in transition, and spotting-up in openings on the perimeter, Murphy constantly hunts his shot both on and off the ball. With jumpers accounting for almost 71% of his shot attempts, Murphy takes and makes some difficult shots from deep and midrange, connecting on 42.95% of his three-pointers and 40% of his jumpers in half court settings. More than a few of his deepest three-point attempts this season have come on the fast break, where Murphy shows no conscious in pulling up from beyond the arc running full speed whenever he sees a clogged lane in front of him. Sporting smooth shooting mechanics and a high release point, Murphy is a terrific catch-and-shoot threat who is just as good shooting the ball on the move from the mid-range as he is with his feet set from beyond the arc.

When Murphy looks to take the ball to the rim, he often does so looking to position his defender to bite on a fake so he can take a midrange jump shot. Though he is not a great ball-handler nor overly explosive, Murphy has a nice first step and some crafty moves that he uses to get his shot off in close. He shows the ability to get into the paint in one-on-one situations at the OVC level and will finish above the rim occasionally. He does not fare well when defended physically around the rim, and is too eager to force floaters and off-balance jumper shots when he finds himself in trouble –two things which, when combined with his heavy reliance on contested pull-up mid-range jumpers, play a big part in his unimpressive 45% shooting from two-point range.

Considering the freedom he enjoys on the offensive end at the college level, as Murphy makes the transition to playing a more balanced role against higher level competition, he will need to improve his shot-selection significantly to become a more efficient offensive player. He is not an entirely unwilling passer, but needs to show that he can be more discerning with the way he looks to score and make better decisions with the ball, especially off the bounce.

The Atlanta native will also have to quell some concerns about his consistency as well. Knocking down just 33% of his three-pointers as a junior, Murphy clearly spent a significant amount of time polishing his perimeter game last summer, but he'll need to shoot the ball well in workouts to show NBA teams that this season is an accurate representation of what he brings to the table as a jump shooter.

Defensively, Murphy does an excellent job playing within Tennessee Tech's team concept in both man-to-man and zone situations. He is not a lock down defender, but makes an effort to contest shots and does his best work knowing exactly where his help is on the floor in one-on-one situations. Though he could certainly stand to be more physical on this end of the floor, especially when defending the pick and roll, and will have to show that he can guard bigger, more athletic wings than he normally faces in the OVC during the draft process, Murphy has some tools to work with and seems to know his role defensively.

An intriguing talent considering his size and ability to score in a variety of ways from the perimeter, Murphy is a prime candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where he'll get the chance to show that he can score against a higher level of competition, play smart offensive basketball, and defend NBA-caliber wings. Any exposure Murphy can earn for himself in the postseason will certainly help his cause, and his ability to make a strong first impression at Portsmouth or in workouts will be keys for his draft stock.

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