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NBA Summer League Review 2010: Las Vegas Profiles Part One
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
August 19, 2010
In our second recap of the 2010 NBA Summer League, we take stock of the top non-rookie forwards and centers that left the strongest impressions in Las Vegas.

John Wall made most of the headlines at this year's Summer League, but there were a host of strong performances made by veteran players. Though you always have to take Summer League production with a grain of salt, numerous players showcased significant development.

NBA Summer League Review 2010: Orlando Profiles

J.J. Hickson, 1988, 6'9, 245, Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
19.3 Points, 6.3 Rebounds, 1.0 Assists, 3.2 Turnovers, 4.2 Fouls, 58% FG, 61.3% FT

Hickson was one of the top players at the Las Vegas Summer League, and turned in one of the most significant performances in terms of what we can expect from him next season. He finished as the 6th ranked scorer and produced at roughly the same rate he did at this event in 2008, while leading the Cavaliers to a 3-1 record. Though Hickson still has a number of areas to improve upon, he showed a significantly more versatile skill set than what we saw from last season.

Throughout the 2010 regular season, Hickson proved to be a nice compliment to Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, taking advantage of the easy opportunities at the rim and finishing in the top-25 League-wide in FG%, but showing only a few flashes of one-on-on scoring ability. With James, O'Neal, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas headed elsewhere, Hickson will be called upon to take his game to the next level and become more than a catch-and-finish, complimentary power forward. Based on what we saw in Vegas, it is clear that the North Carolina State product is taking that call to heart, showing improvements in his individual skills and committing himself to the up-tempo style of play Byron Scott will be bring to Northeast Ohio this fall.

From the opening tip of Cleveland's first game, Hickson's intentions were clear; he wanted to showcase his jump shot and continue developing it in a game setting. Over the course of the week, Hickson showed the ability to step out to the perimeter and make shots, a quality his game desperately lacked last season. His touch and confidence are noticeably improved, and the time he's spent in the gym this summer has allowed him to develop a nice shooting rhythm. Though he certainly forced some shots with a hand in his face and needs to improve the consistency of his release point, he made some difficult face-up jumpers from 15-feet, knocked down a few catch and shoot jumpers NCAA three-point range, flashed a one-dribble pull-up, and was one of the few bright-spots for the Cavaliers in an otherwise troubling offseason.

In addition to his jump shot, Hickson displayed an improved floor game, looking more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and appearing a bit more decisive in the post. He has a nice first step for a player his size, and his big frame allows him to use spin moves effectively in the paint. He still has a lot to prove when it comes to creating his own shot and knocking down jumpers on the NBA level, but he's made obvious progress in some areas.

Hickson didn't show much that we didn't already know about him on the defensive end. He's still too eager to leave his feet and is prone to getting beat with double-moves as he tends to over commit when he's beat, but his wingspan, strength, and energy level, help him compensate for some of his mistakes.

On the whole, Hickson made quite an impression with his athletic play in transition and improved scoring arsenal, promising signs for one of Cleveland's best long-term assets. An early candidate for the Most Improved Player award, Hickson's usage should allow him to have a productive season, and he could put up great numbers if he continues to improve and adjusts to Byron Scott's offense quickly.

JaVale McGee, 1988, 7'0, 250, Center, Washington Wizards
19.5 Points, 9.3 Rebounds, 0 Assists, 3 Turnovers, 68.8% FG, 54.5% FT

After seeing sporadic playing time for the majority of last season, McGee posted solid numbers in extensive minutes after the Wizards opened up a spot in the starting lineup by sending Brendan Haywood to Dallas. A standout performer in last year's Summer League, McGee was even better this year, showing excellent chemistry with Jon Wall and dominating his matchup offensively with his tremendous length and mobility for a player his height. Still far from a finished product in many areas, McGee continues to be a player to watch as he begins to see extensive minutes playing next to a true point guard.

As was the case last year, more often than not, JaVale McGee's frame is simply too much for many defenders to handle at this level. He's able to release shots around the rim with ease, use his huge strides to beat his defender to the rim, and offers a giant target for his teammates to pass to when they are looking to create. Over the course of the four games he played in Las Vegas, McGee shot nearly 70% from the field. When he was able to catch the ball with his defender recovering or within a few feet of the rim, his length and leaping ability did the rest, resulting in a handful of highlight plays and his exceptional shooting percentage.

McGee's ability to convert his finishing attempts has seldom been taken to task, he proved capable last season as a spot player and starter, but his post scoring continues to be a concern. He likes to use his length to his advantage using a nearly unblockable hook over his left shoulder, and shows soft touch on his turnaround jumper, but he doesn't always appear too fluid when making moves and lacks the refined body control that would take his post game to the next level. His touch can compensate for that to some degree, but it would be nice to see him add some polish to one or more of his post moves to become more comfortable in one-on-one situations.

Away from the rim, McGee knocked down a handful of midrange jumpers off of one dribble, but struggled in catch and shoot situations. Considering his height and athletic tools, anything McGee brings to the table outside of the paint is icing on the cake. In contrast, Flip Saunders would love to see McGee's physical profile turn him into a game-changer on the defensive end. McGee is already amongst the better shot blockers in the NBA, but he keeps himself off the floor with his tendency to commit fouls and doesn't always make his presence felt consistently. He didn't play with much urgency on the defensive end in Las Vegas save a few impressive blocks, though his length allowed him to challenge a lot of shots that the average NBA center wouldn't be able to. McGee still has a lot to prove in terms of man-to-man defense, but we can't draw many concrete conclusions about his defensive fundamentals from the Summer League.

With a youth-movement of sorts taking place in Washington, McGee was one of the more intriguing young bigmen in the game. John Wall will make McGee's life much easier than it has been in the past, and his physical tools will no doubt afford him some success next season, but he still has a world of untapped potential and will have every opportunity to achieve it over the next few seasons.

Sam Young, 1985, 6'6, 210, Small Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
19.4 Points, 3.8 Rebounds, 1.4 Assists, 1.2 Steals, 2.6 Turnovers, 54.1% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 72.2% FT

The fifth leading scorer in this year's Summer League, Sam Young saw consistent minutes as a rookie last season in Memphis, and while he didn't hit jump shots at a high rate, he still got the job done off the bench. A long and powerfully built wing, Young struggled to translate the spot-up proficiency he showed at Pittsburgh to NBA three point range. One of a number of players selected in the early part of the second round in 2009 that had a productive season on the wing, Young showed well in Las Vegas. His numbers are a bit skewed because of a 3-point performance in limited minutes in Memphis' final outing, but his 35-point explosion against the D-League Select team surely compensates for that.

Playing next to O.J. Mayo initially during his Summer League cameo and the rest of Memphis' stable of former draft picks, Young was the primary beneficiary of the Grizzlies' efforts to play a very up-tempo style. Leaking up the floor regularly, the Pittsburgh product found himself on the receiving end of a handful of deep outlets every game. Young capitalized on the fast break frequently, using his excellent athleticism to finish explosively at the basket and using his strength to his advantage to take contact and get to the line.

When the game slowed down, Young didn't seem to be looking to take the ball to the rim, with most of his touches around the basket coming off of back-door cuts and a handful of well timed offensive rebounds. For the most part, he looked to break his man down off the catch using jabs and quick rip-throughs to open up space for his midrange jump shot. Young did knock down a handful of catch and shoot jumpers and pull-ups, looking extremely confident with his shot selection, but didn't convert at a fantastic rate.

Defensively, Young showed some hustle defensive, and made an effort when closing out the likes of Gary Neal and Wayne Ellington, though both players hit quite a few shots with Young a step late in pursuit. Young played a sound brand of team-defense, seldom taking risks and doing a good job positioning himself to help his teammates, but his play in Las Vegas was a microcosm of some of the issues he had as a rookie last season.

Young has the tools to be a very good defender, but he doesn't make scrappy plays denying penetration one-on-one or show the high intensity level that one would like to see from a player with his potential. We can't condemn Young for his defensive performance in the regular season last year or in the Summer League, but the Grizzlies are certainly hoping to see more from him down the road.

Young's ability to improve on the defensive end will significantly increase what he brings to the table in Memphis. He's proven capable of putting points on the board despite his inability to shoot the NBA three, but he could become an exceptionally valuable player if he brought his A-game defensively on every possession. Xavier Henry will be charged with knocking down shots off the bench in Memphis, meaning this is a golden opportunity for Young to do the things that he does best offensive and start to achieve his potential defensively.

Honorable Mention

Pooh Jeter, 1983, 5'11, 175, Point Guard, Sacramento Kings
14.4 Points, 2.0 Rebounds, 5.4 Assists, 2.4 Turnovers, 48.2% FG, 80.0% FT

One of the more consistently productive point guards in recent Summer League history, Pooh Jeter's performance with the Cleveland Cavaliers earned him a guaranteed contract with the Sacramento Kings, the first NBA contract of his career. Jeter started his professional career in the NBADL before stints in the Ukraine and the ACB that included EuroCup and EuroLeague appearances. He most recently played for Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel. The University of Portland product has produced in each of the stops along his basketball odyssey and, obviously, made a considerable impression in Las Vegas.

Over the course of five games, Jeter showed the ability to position himself to score the ball and set up his teammates using his tremendous quickness. Jeter was outstanding on the pick and roll, turning the corner with ease and making good decisions with the ball once he distorted the defense. His quick release makes him a threat off the bounce despite the height he gives up to many defenders, and he was opportunistic with his chances around the basket. Defensively, Jeter will have his mettle tested at the NBA level due to his lack of size, but his quickness allows him to pressure the ball the length of the floor. Jeter's best quality may be his intangibles, though, as he brings tremendous leadership skills to the floor and has always been considered an outstanding teammate.

Gary Neal, 1984, 6'4, 210, Shooting Guard, San Antonio Spurs
16 Points, 2.6 Rebounds, 1.6 Assists, 1.4 Steals, 1.6 Turnovers, 50% FG, 50% 3FG

Last time we checked in on Gary Neal, he was in the middle of a tremendously productive season in A1 Italy and the EuroCup, leading us to bump him up to the third overall spot in our overseas free agent rankings. Neal's performance opened many eyes in the NBA as well, and after an outstanding NBA Summer League performance, he walked away with a three year guaranteed contract with the San Antonio Spurs. Filling the gap left by the departures of Roger Mason Jr. and Keith Bogans, Neal has some very valuable tools that Gregg Popovich will have no trouble utilizing.

As Neal proved time and time again in Las Vegas, he's a tremendous catch and shoot threat from beyond the arc. On the week, Neal knocked down 17 of his 34 three-point attempts. While he wasn't quite as good off the dribble, he showed a confidence in his jump shot that should serve him well as he translates his game to the NBA level. The Towson product didn't do much at the rim, he played hard defensively, something he didn't always do overseas. When Neal plays with energy, he proves to be pretty savvy, something was clear during the Summer League. He denied penetration very effectively, actively contested shots, and forced some turnovers in the paint with his quick hands. If Neal brings the same intensity into the regular season, he could make a splash in rotations minutes as a rookie.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Summer League Review 2010: Orlando Player Profiles
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
August 10, 2010
In our first recap of the 2010 NBA Summer League, we take stock of the top non-rookies who left the strongest impressions in Orlando.

While John Wall stole the show in Las Vegas, there were a number of players with NBA experience who turned in notable performances in Orlando and Las Vegas alike. Though you always have to take Summer League production with a grain of salt, numerous players showcased significant development that is worth noting as we inch towards basketball season.

Jrue Holiday, 1990, 6'3, 185, Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
19.3 Points, 6 Assists, 4 Turnovers, 2 Rebounds, 1.6 Steals, 47.4% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 9.3 FTA, 64.3% FT

Jrue Holiday only played three games for the 76ers' Summer League team in Orlando, but was clearly the most dynamic overall player in attendance. Holiday struggled to stand out at this event last season with deferential play, and saw erratic playing time early in his rookie season before showing extremely well as he cemented his spot in Eddie Jordan's rotation down the stretch. Holiday's development as a point guard, improved consistency as a jump shooter, and comfort level with the speed of the NBA game were obvious late in the year, and manifested themselves in a pair of extremely productive Summer League performances.

It became obvious early in the week that Holiday was going to be given the keys to Philadelphia's offense despite the presence of second overall selection Evan Turner, and the UCLA product took full advantage. Whether he was turning the corner on the pick and roll or breaking his man down in one-on-one situations, Holiday played with outstanding confidence and used his body exceptionally well in traffic. He was the top assist-man in Orlando and finished as the top scorer as well. The North Hollywood native did a great job of determining when to attack and when to defer, and aside from a down game in an easy win over Boston, provided little evidence contrary to sentiments that he should be the 76ers' starting floor general on opening day, and a huge piece of their rebuilding effort moving forward.

Over the course of his summer campaign, Holiday reinforced many of the things that he showed last season that have the Philadelphia front office optimistic about his future. Despite not knocking down shots from beyond the arc at a high rate during his only season under Ben Howland, Holiday proved to be a high-caliber catch and shoot threat last season, and he continued to knock down shots from the perimeter in Orlando. He appeared prone to jumping slightly off balance on each of his contested pull ups from the midrange, and still has quite a bit of polish to add to that part of his game, but he was highly effective when he could get all the way to the rim and use his creativity to finish. He was also able to the line at an astounding rate, exploiting the quick whistles typical of the Summer League by drawing contact frequently in the paint.

Defensively, Holiday had some moments of brilliance denying penetration and fighting through screens, and showed a degree of intensity that you almost never see from a legitimate NBA player in the Summer League. Though he's prone to over-committing to helping his teammates at times, Holiday is the type of smart, savvy defender that coaches love.

While Holiday is not likely to dominate the ball next season to the extent that he did in Orlando, but one can't discount his intensity and the change in his demeanor since this time last season. He's regained much of the swagger that made him such a highly coveted prospect going into college, and has learned to use his outstanding physical advantages and terrific basketball IQ to his advantage on a daily basis now. He'll enter next season as one of the youngest players in the NBA still, and has painstakingly improved his skill set and turned himself into a very complete basketball player.


Terrence Williams, 1987, 6'6, 220, Shooting Guard / Small Forward, New Jersey Nets
18.8 Points, 5 Assists, 4.2 Turnovers, 3 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 44.2% FG, 6.2 FTA, 64.5% FT, 50.0% 3FG

Much like Jrue Holiday, Terrence Williams had a mediocre showing in last year's Summer League joint venture between the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, but proved to be one of the most productive players at this year's event. Williams scored 22 or more points in the Nets' first four games before seeing just 5 minutes in their last contest due to an illness. After showing well late in what was a season to forget in New Jersey, Williams is slated to be an important part of an improved Nets backcourt and performed as such in Orlando.

With Derrick Favors still getting up to speed in the Nets first few Summer League games, Terrence Williams took full advantage of being his team's unquestioned go-to guy, using a sizeable 21.4 possessions per-game and functioning as his team's primary ball-handler and offensive facilitator. Arguably the top athlete in attendance, Williams was extremely assertive, both with his dribble and his jump shot. He won't have nearly as many touches at his disposal next season, but after a slow start in the first game, the Louisville product was at his best attacking the rim, showcasing his ability to play above the rim and fight through contact.

When he wasn't getting to the rim, Williams was showcasing his midrange jumper. Last season, Williams ranked neared the bottom of the League amongst guards in jump shooting efficiency off the dribble, but knocked down pull-up shot and pull-up shot after some struggles early. Williams seems to have developed a rhythm that he's especially comfortable with when attacking off the dribble with his right hand, but made some shots going left as well. Still erratic with his shot selection, Williams still needs to develop his catch and shoot game to become a complete off-ball threat offensive, but he showed significant improvement in arguably his weakest area in Orlando.

When Williams wasn't looking for his own offense, he had some good and bad moments distributing the ball. His first step and strength allows him to get to where he wants on the floor, and he used the pick and roll pretty effectively, however, he's still turnover prone and doesn't always mix his playmaking and scoring effectively. The latter was clear as he struggled to get the ball to Derrick Favors when the pair were on the floor together, and the fact that the rookie had his best game of the summer league with Williams out of the lineup in New Jersey's final game doesn't bode well in his favor.

Similarly, Williams was hit or miss defensively this week, especially with his effort level when closing out, but he has all the tools to effectively defend three positions and made that abundantly clear whenever his man tried to take him one on one. As is the case with most players with NBA contracts participating in the Summer League, Williams' defensive doesn't paint a picture of the intensity he shows during the regular season.

On the whole, Williams' Summer League performance isn't a great representation of what we can expect from him next season. He won't dominate the ball near as frequently playing next to Devin Harris, and will see many of his pick and roll touches shift to spot-up opportunities where he'll continue to be tested as a catch and shoot threat. Regardless of his role next season, Williams' improved pull-up game and consistency finishing at the rim made him a top performer in Orlando, and both of those skills will play a key role in how he impacts the Nets rebuilding process next season.


Derrick Brown, 1987, 6'7, 225, Forward, Charlotte Bobcats
15.2 Points, 7 Rebounds, 0.8 Assists, 0.8 Steals, 3 Turnovers, 51.9% FG, 5 FTA, 72.0% FT

Derrick Brown wasn't quite as productive as some of the other players we're covering here, but he was impressive in his own right in four games in Orlando. Brown saw a little under 10 minutes per-game for Larry Brown's Bobcats last season, posting respectable numbers for a spot player and flashing an occasional sign of perimeter skill. Playing most of his minutes at the four spot, Brown struggled to compete with bigger and stronger players, but his athleticism allowed him to show flashes of promise on the few occasions that he did get a chance to operate offensively.

Gerald Henderson did quite a bit of the scoring for the Bobcats Summer League team, but Derrick Brown relished his opportunities to operate in one-on-one situation and constantly scrapped for easy looks around the basket. The most impressive facet of Brown's campaign in Orlando was the frequency with which he was able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim off the dribble, something we almost never saw from him in college. Brown has always been a tremendous athlete, but is beginning to develop the tools that will allow him to exploit his physical profile on the NBA level. While he still isn't comfortable changing direction at full speed with the ball, he looked comfortable using his body to shield the ball as he exploited slower defenders and used his leaping ability to finish at the rim.

In order to set up his drives, Brown frequently relied on simple shot fakes, and while he hit a few jumpers throughout the week, his shot is still a major work in progress. He needs to improve his mechanics and confidence in spot up situations, but seemed comfortable and in rhythm when attempting one-dribble pull ups when driving right. The development of his jump shot will likely dictate the scope of his role on the offensive end in coming seasons, as it will help open up his budding floor game.

In addition to attacking well from the perimeter and when facing up from the midrange, Brown crashed the rim aggressively, and was very active moving without the ball as his teammates tried to get to the rim off the dribble. The Xavier product showed the same energy on the defensive end and as a rebounder. Brown has the tools to be a very nice role-player, but was clearly still getting comfortable defending the perimeter in Orlando.

With the depth Charlotte has returning at both forward positions, Brown isn't in position to receive much playing time this season, but the improvement he showed in Orlando leave room for cautious optimism. He's developed some things in practice and if he can develop his jump shot by this time next year, he could be an intriguing player to keep tabs on.


Other Notable Performers
Byron Mullens, 1989, 7'0, 260, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
16.0 Points, 6.3 Rebounds, 2.3 Turnovers, 48.8% FG, 66.7% FT

The second leading scorer on what amounted to a veritable Summer League All-Star team, Byron Mullens was a very pleasant surprise in Orlando. He struggled notably at times, but looked more comfortable on the block despite not finishing all of his opportunities with his back to the basket. He flashed some intriguing up and under moves from the left block and beat his man off the dribble facing up from the right side on more than a few occasions. Though he wasn't always finishing the play, Mullens showed much better timing on his cuts and when ducking in down low. On a few occasions, Mullens stepped away from the rim to show off his jumper, but he's at his best using his physical tools down low, and it appears that he's beginning to play with the energy and intensity that would allow him to become a useful NBA player.

Defensively, Mullens took very few risks and seemed to let his size do the work for him and not make the mistakes that plague most young big men. While that is a promising sign, Mullens still needs to continue to improve his activity level on the floor to become a better defensive rebounder and show that he can stay out of foul trouble against better competition. With Cole Aldrich entering the fold, this will be a pivotal season for Mullens to earn minutes and accelerate his development or continue learning from the bench or the Thunder's D-League squad, Tulsa.

Mustafa Shakur, 1984, 6'5, 185, Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
10.2 Points, 3.6 Assists, 2 Rebounds, 1.2 Steals, 48.5% FG, 41.7% 3FG, 87.5% FT

It has been a while since we've checked in on Shakur, who has made notable strides since leaving Arizona. After stints with Prokom Trefl of Poland and the Euroleague and TAU Ceramica (now Caja Laboral), Shakur exploded in the NBADL last season, showing some new wrinkles to his skill set that make him a much more viable NBA talent. He's a considerably better shooter than he was as a collegian, improving his mechanics and forcing teams to respect his range in catch and shoot situations. His improved range and confidence off the dribble have opened up his floor game. Showing a knack for playing with pace, seeing the floor better, and making much better decisions with the ball than he did in the past thanks to his increased maturity level and basketball IQ, Shakur is a clear-cut NBA caliber player when you factor in his outstanding physical tools.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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Rookie Retrospective: Tyreke Evans
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
March 5, 2010
We continue our coverage of the 2010 NBA campaign by reviewing Tyreke Evans’ development into one of the top young talents in the NBA. Though Brandon Jennings was pegged as the early leader for the Rookie of the Year Award, Evans has emerged as the run-away favorite thanks to the tremendous season he’s having in Sacramento.



Rookie Retrospective: Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans, 6’6 220, 1989, Sacramento Kings
20.5 Points, 5 Assists, 4.7 Rebounds, 2.8 Turnovers, 1.5 Steals, 46.2% FG, 26.7% 3FG, 79.3% FT



Part One: Potential Impact and Transition

Then:

“There are a couple of crucial judgments which will be made individually by each and every NBA team that will play a huge role in where Evans' draft stock ultimately lies. The first would be his likely position at the next level, point guard or shooting guard. The second would be whether he projects as a starter or backup at that position. The third would be whether he fits into what that team already possesses in terms of ball-handlers and outside shooters, as Evans clearly won't fit into every system. It would be very difficult to play him alongside another guard who is also not much of a threat from beyond the arc, as that would make things very easy on the defense. With the right teammates, though, and in a sparkplug/instant offense role, Evans could be very effective.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009

Now:

Roughly a year ago, we saw Evans as a player who possessed a great deal of potential as a multi-talent guard, but also as one who would need to land in the right situation to be successful. Some would say that we grossly underrated the talent he showed, which is a probably a fair assessment to make.

Showing considerable improvement during his single season at Memphis, Evans’ inefficient scoring, inability to make perimeter shots and turnover problems regardless left us with questions about where he would fit in with the team that drafted him and what it would take for that franchise to accommodate his learning curve.

When the Kings selected Evans with the 4th selection in the 2009 draft, their roster seemed to possess many of the qualities needed to foster his short-term and long-term success. A rebuilding franchise desperate for a major building block, Sacramento brought Evans on board to play heavy minutes and complement de-facto franchise player Kevin Martin, who despite recent injury problems, has been one of the most efficient scoring threats in the NBA for the past few years.

Lacking a dynamic, ball-dominant perimeter threat or a post-player that would demand consistent touches, Evans stepped into a situation where he would have free reign to utilize his physical tools and shot creating ability to score first and distribute second, much like he did under John Calipari. Similar to Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, Tyreke Evans couldn’t have landed in a better situation to both nurture his style of play and make an immediate splash.

With Kevin Martin missing the lion-share of the season and subsequently getting dealt to the Houston Rockets, Evans has functioned as the first-option for the 16-33 Kings. Though he hasn’t been able to lead his team to many wins, and wasn’t quite the fit next to Martin that Sacramento probably hoped he would be, Evans has been Head Coach Paul Westphal’s most productive contributor all season long. His scoring efficiency is right on par with where it was during his college days, and he’s improved as a playmaker since the season began.

Based on the questions that we had about where Evans would fit in for whatever team drafted him, it is safe to say that he’s exceeded expectations and then some. He’s translated his game to the NBA seamlessly. Though he may not be having quite as tremendous an individual season on a more competitive team, there is no doubt that Evans has displayed the tools necessary to become an outstanding pro for years to come. Already enjoying superstar status in Sacramento, it will be interesting to see how this success affects his development in coming season.


Part Two: Shot Creating Ability

Then:

“It's pretty obvious what Evans offers as a prospect, as he's one of the premier shot-creators in the country, despite being only 19 years old. His combination of strength, aggressiveness and scoring instincts is almost unparalleled at this level, and should translate to the NBA level effectively when you consider his terrific footwork, body control, and hesitation moves. He does an excellent job pushing the ball up the floor in transition, can create (and finish) with either hand almost equally as well, and is an absolute bulldozer slashing his way through the paint and creating contact at the rim. While not an incredible leaper, Evans knows how to get to the free throw line, which helps minimize the fact that he's not an incredible finisher percentage wise (just 50%).”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009

Now:

In analyzing Evans last season, we saw a player who had a very clearly defined value proposition at the NBA level. We fully expected Evans to enjoy a great deal of success creating shots against better competition, but he’s been even more effective than advertised. Not only has Evans proven time and time again that he can get to the rim against just about anyone with his blend of scoring instincts and physical tools, he’s become even more proficient at exploiting the opportunities that he creates.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, 34% of Evans’ offensive possessions this season have come in one-on-one situations –the fourth largest percentage league-wide. Last season at Memphis, Evans finished a meager 27.8% of his isolation plays, a far cry from the 41.3% he’s shooting on such attempt this season. Evans certainly has benefitted from NBA’s improved spacing and tightly scrutinized hand-checking rules, as his hesitation moves, ability to explode through driving lanes, and imposing size and strength for a guard make him even more difficult to keep away from the lane and off the line than he was during his time in Memphis.

In addition to translating many of the things he was already good at to the NBA level, Evans has also made some subtle progress in his approach to creating his own shot. In his college days, he was prone to simply making a move and attacking immediately, and while that was consistent with what John Calipari wanted out of his dribble-drive offense, it didn’t afford Evans the opportunity to be terribly selective given his aggressive nature.

A few months into his rookie year, Evans has started to show the patience and timing that is common amongst great one-on-one scorers. Poised enough to wait for traffic to clear out of the lane and seeming more willing to wait for the right opportunity instead of taking the first shot offered to him, Evans’ outstanding shiftiness with the ball and body control at the rim have made him one of the game’s most formidable young scorers. As he begins to get more comfortable in his own skin and carves out a more clearly defined niche, Evans’ progress this season should become more pronounced as Sacramento rebuilds.



Part Three: Perimeter Scoring

Then:

“On the offensive end, Evans has spent many possessions over-dribbling the ball, as is his mantra. In isolation situations, he's extremely prone to settle rather than challenging his man, often choosing to pull up for contested, fadeaway jumpers that have gone in very sporadically thus far this season, as evidenced by his poor three-point shooting percentage. Evans' form is very reminiscent of Lebron James', with the constant fadeaway motion, however Evans doesn't have the consistent mechanics of James, not always holding his follow through and often just looking very sloppy in his mechanics. He's a very talented shooter, something we've seen firsthand in the past, but the results haven't come at the collegiate level yet, and his shot selection certainly has something to do with that.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“With his poor shooting mechanics (he fades away unnecessarily on every attempt) Evans is very streaky with his feet set in catch and shoot situations, and downright dreadful shooting the ball off the dribble. He only converts a dismal 25% of his jump-shots according to Synergy Sports Technology, but the problem is that he settles for them on a regular basis—they make up about 40% of his possessions, often with a hand in his face and early in the shot clock no less. While his skill-set may develop in time, Evans' mentality looks extremely questionable—it's hard not to come away with the impression that he's a pretty selfish player. He's likely going to have to revamp his shooting stroke entirely if he's to ever become even a decent threat from the NBA 3-point line, something he's been unwilling to do up until this point.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009

Now:

Evans’ biggest weakness remains his perimeter shooting stroke. Fading away naturally on every one of his attempts, the prolific young guard hurts his efficiency every time he settles for a deep jumper. While it would be easy to write off Evans’ poor shooting mechanics because of how productive he’s proven to be in spite of them as rookie, one has to wonder just how good Evans could be if he revamped his shooting form to become a legitimate catch and shoot threat.

As it stands, his spot up game is the most problematic byproduct of his poor shooting form. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Evans makes just 18.2% of his unguarded catch and shoot jumpers, yielding just 0.48 points per-possession and ranking him in the 2nd percentile League-wide. While he fares slightly better with a hand in his face, opposing defenses don’t have to respect his range. Evans struggles to draw iron at times, looking confident, but simply lacking the mechanics to get the job done. His long, slow release lacks rhythm, and his willingness to take nearly 2 three-pointers a game despite making just over a quarter of them indicates how poor his shot selection still is. Playing for a team out of the playoff picture this season, Evans has had a long leash that may need to become shorter in time if his team is serious about winning games.

While the news on Evans’ jumper certainly isn’t good, it is not all bad either. He’s actually improved his shooting off the dribble. Last time we checked in on Evans, he was making a dismal 25% of his pull up jumpers at the NCAA level. He’s made 31.5% of such attempts as an NBA rookie, showing a degree of natural shot making ability that allows him to overcome his poor mechanics on occasion. Despite that improvement, Evans’ perimeter shot still needs a major overhaul, as his upside would be completely different if he was a threat to hit shots from beyond the arc.

As it stands, opposing teams have no qualms whatsoever about going underneath screens on every pick and roll play Evans is involved in, which puts his team at a major disadvantage. This issue would be magnified significantly if the Kings were a more competitive team that necessitated opponents executing higher-level advance scouting and game-planning in order to defeat them—for example in a playoff series. His development in this area will also have implications on his ability to function next to another talented ball-handling guard in Sacramento’s back-court.

Part Four: Playmaking and Position

Then:

“As one of Memphis' primary ball-handlers, Evans has shown some prowess as a shot creator, though not what one would call a point guard just yet. With excellent vision and skills, Evans makes some outstanding plays with the ball, finding his man on the pick-and-roll and in transition, but he's very much a shoot-first player, and his decision-making is nowhere near where his court vision is, as evidenced by his 3.8 turnovers per game, second amongst all freshmen thus far. His ball-handling skills have looked a bit shaky at times, something we’ll have to take a closer look at as the season moves on.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“As a point guard, Evans has been mostly a mixed bag. On one hand, he obviously possesses excellent basketball instincts and has a great sense for making plays for himself and others. Memphis is running a lot more pick and roll than they did last season, and Evans shows great potential in this area. The problem is that he's an incredibly ball-dominant point guard, often looking like a fish out of water when he's forced to give up the rock for more than a few seconds. Memphis' offense often looks quite stagnant, with Evans over-dribbling the ball at the top of the key as his four teammates stand around and twiddle their thumbs. He can be pretty sloppy with the ball at times, displaying questionable decision-making skills and incredibly poor shot-selection, which wouldn't be as much of an issue if he was able to make shots at a respectable rate from the perimeter.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009

Now:

Much of what we saw out of Evans in the NCAA has remained consistent through his first season in the NBA. He’s turnover prone, lacks ideal decision-making, but is simply too dynamic off the dribble not to create looks for his teammates. Though many of the qualitative aspects of our evaluation remain true, they simply haven’t mattered nearly as much as we thought they would. At the same time, Evans has improved his efficiency considerably, which has made this much less of an issue. After posting an assist to turnover ratio of just 1.08 last season, Evans’ questionable decision making off the dribble led many to question what position he should play at the next level.

At this point, Evans’ position is largely irrelevant –the Kings aren’t fighting for a spot in the playoffs and may not be for some time. He’s improved his assist to turnover ratio to 1.86 –an impressive development from last season, but still not ideal. As it stands, Evans’ playmaking ability resembles that of two guards like Dwyane Wade more than it does Tony Parker-like players due to the manner in which he creates looks for others.

Evans does not do most of his playmaking in the framework of Sacramento’s offense. While he’s able to thread passes to cutters on occasion thanks to his size, he doesn’t orchestrate sets to create open looks for his teammates. Rather, his ability to create his own shot and subsequently draw additional defenders creates the vast majority of his assist opportunities, whether they come on drive and kicks in half court sets or on dump-off passes in transition. Evans is capable of hitting the open man, but is looking to score first and pass second. The sheer amount of time that the ball is in his hands and the number of occasions he takes the ball to the rim guarantees him a degree of success as a playmaker, and to his credit, he’s done a better job recognizing when to give the ball up as the season has gone on. That’s not necessarily a knock against Evans—that’s just the way today’s NBA works.

As Sacramento begins to build a competitive roster, they’ll need to accommodate the fact that Evans requires a lot of touches. As the anointed superstar of a struggling franchise desperate for a savior, he’s been able to get away with many things that other players wouldn’t be able to. The fact that he ranks amongst the top 20 players in the NBA in both turnovers and assists speaks to his natural ability to put pressure on the defense and find the open man as well as his occasional carelessness with the ball.

With personnel shifting around him in coming seasons, Evans will no doubt have to make some adjustments to his game to help the Kings become more competitive. Whether that means developing more discipline and a better grasp of the offense to run the point more efficiently like Russell Westbrook has in Oklahoma City, or focusing on scoring and cutting back on his turnovers remains to be seen. Either way, is only 20 years old, so time is clearly on his side.

Part Five: Defense

Then:

“On the defensive end, Evans is an outstanding weapon, pulling in 2.5 steals per game, but he does much of it at the expense of individual defense. Possessing solid athleticism, Evans flies all over the court on this end, at times over-pursuing and at times making plays that lead to the easiest of transition baskets. In man-to-man defense, he shows strong lateral quickness but a very inconsistent stance, gambling frequently and often giving up positioning. Despite this, he is usually able to recover when he tries against his competition, just because his change-of-direction abilities and lateral quickness are so good.”
-Evaluating the NCAA Freshman Class 12/24/2008

“Defensively, Evans has gotten better as the season has moved on, particularly on the ball. His terrific wingspan helps him tremendously in terms of contesting shots on the perimeter, and his excellent knack for getting in the passing lanes makes him a true nuisance with the way Memphis likes to press. Evans loses his focus from time to time in the half-court and tends to get out of his stance, also not doing a great job fighting through ball-screens. His potential on this end is impressive, though, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him be able to defend both guard positions in the NBA when it's all said and done.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers 2/19/2009

Now:

The inconsistency we saw out of Evans during his single collegiate season still characterizes his NBA game on the defensive end pretty accurately. Evans does a solid job in certain scenarios, but still gambles unnecessarily, puts himself out of position, and doesn’t always appear as intense as he could be. His length and quickness allow him to come up with a respectable 1.5 steals per-game, but many of them come at the expense of team defensive principles and are the result of bad habits.

One of the more problematic tendencies Evans has is the way he gives up on plays to reach. Evans shows a lackadaisical stance when closing out shooters, and when they take him off the dribble, he prefers to try to reach around and use his length to poke the ball away from behind over attempting to get back in the play. At times, it almost seems as though he tries to set his man up to take that risk, putting extra pressure on his teammates to rotate over and deny his man’s penetration. That might be OK if he had Dwight Howard or Marcus Camby behind him, but unfortunately for Evans he has Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson instead.

Evans certainly has some work to do on his fundamentals when closing out, and his defense off the ball is equally as problematic. He tends to stare down the ball, losing his man entirely on the weakside and sitting in the key, which helps his rebounding numbers to an extent, but is something he’ll need to be better about in the future.

Considered the star of his team, and only a rookie at that, Evans gets the benefit of the doubt on most occasions, but he’ll need to maintain his motivation and make the subtle improvements that will help take his game to the next level.

Evans’ flashes of brilliance defensively speak to what he could become if he were to hone his craft. In isolation situations, Evans’ devastating combination of size, length and strength allows him to be effective when contesting shots even when he isn’t showing great intensity, but he also shows the ability to stifle his man and fight through screens with ease when he takes things personally. Highly inconsistent with his energy level, Evans has the lateral quickness and size to not just defend but actually shut down either guard position, but takes possessions off too frequently to exploit his defensive tools regularly.

Outlook

Looking at what Evans has accomplished this season based on where we saw him last spring, he likely qualifies as the most pleasant surprise of this year’s rookie class. He showed immense upside as a prospect, but his 20, 5, and 5 averages place him amongst the most prolific rookie guards we’ve seen in years, regardless of team situation. Considering the glaring holes that remain in Evans’ game, it isn’t inconceivable to think that he can get substantially better if he takes it upon himself to improve on his weaknesses, which is a pretty scary thought. Already considered something of a franchise player, Evans will need to see through his instant success and accolades to realize how much better he can still become.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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Rookie Retrospective: Brandon Jennings
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
January 15, 2010
We begin our coverage of the 2010 NBA campaign by taking a look back at arguably the most scrutinized prospect from last summer’s draft, Brandon Jennings.

Regarded by many as the top prep player in the class of 2008, Jennings sparked widespread debate when he decided to forego his college eligibility to sign with Lottomatica Roma of the Euroleague.



Though Jennings’ transatlantic trip was surely a risky career move and produced some very inconsistent results, he’s been far better than advertised as a rookie –living up the hype and then some despite his recent struggles.

Rookie Retrospective: Brandon Jennings
Matt Kamalsky

Point Guard, 6’1 170, 1989, Milwaukee Bucks
34 Minutes, 18 Points, 6 Assists, 2.7 Turnovers, 3.7 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 38% FG, 39% 3FG, 82% FT

Part One: Potential Impact and Fit

Then:
“From an underrated perspective, Brandon Jennings, especially if he falls out of the lottery as expected. Most NBA teams just haven’t seen how talented he is because they weren’t allowed to watch him in high-school and he didn't play much in Europe. In the workouts people are starting to see the talent, but he has even more than that if you put him in a 5 on 5 setting. From the scrimmages I attended in Rome, the Synergy footage I’ve watched and the game I was at, I was pretty floored. He has a chance to be pretty awesome.”
-Fifteen Questions with Jonathan Givony (6/24/2009)

Now:
A few weeks before draft day, we reiterated just how good we felt Jennings could be. Despite averaging less than 20 minutes per-game, shooting under 40% from the field, and playing a constantly shifting role during his time in Italy, Jennings’ natural talent was too much for the Milwaukee Bucks to pass up with the 10th overall selection.

Blessed with outstanding athleticism and natural talent, Jennings has easily been the most pleasant surprise of this season’s rookie class –a much needed stroke of luck for a Bucks franchise that accommodated his growth into a budding NBA star by opting not to match the Minnesota Timberwolves offer sheet to then-incumbent starting point guard Ramon Sessions.

With the luxury tax looming just above Milwaukee’s payroll figure, three of their top four scorers from the previous season signed to suit up elsewhere, and Michael Redd facing an uphill battle to round into form after tearing his ACL last January, the Bucks were nothing short of a best-case scenario for the then 19-year old Jennings.

With countless possessions at his disposal to make mistakes and a Head Coach tailor-made to help him improve on his weaknesses in Scott Skiles, Jennings has been a godsend for the 15-21 Bucks. While no one will dispute his talent at this point, if Jennings had landed elsewhere, there is a distinct possibility that he wouldn’t be enjoying as much success as he currently is.

The Buck’s sub-.500 record certainly isn’t blowing anyone away, and they have really struggled as Jennings has fallen into a slump, but the fact that they are being led by a rookie point guard that almost no one saw as an immediate starter is noteworthy.

In spite of the negative publicity Jennings drew after failing to qualify to attend Arizona out of Oak Hill Academy, the persistent questions about his meager production in Italy, his current shooting slump, and the growing pains he’s had to work through as both a person and player, Jennings’ NBA career is off to an outstanding start.

Part Two: Scoring Ability (Perimeter)

Then:
“Perimeter shooting is the area that Jennings needs to work the most on if he’s to come anywhere close to reaching his full potential as a scorer—he’s made just 22 of 99 attempts from beyond the arc in 43 games in both the Euroleague and Italian league this season, or 22%.

Jennings has a tendency to contort his body and fade away excessively on many of his attempts—something he’s been working on extensively with assistant Nenad Trajkovic, who was hired after Nando Gentile replaced former head coach Jasmin Repesa in December. Trajkovic worked for many years as an assistant and head coach with Serbian powerhouse Partizan Belgrade, widely considered the best team in European basketball in everything revolving around developing young players.

After every practice, Jennings works with Trajkovic on his shooting, getting up as many as 500 jumpers. He credits Trajkovic with helping him improve his mechanics significantly (“going straight up and straight down, extending my arm, not fading away too much anymore, keeping on balance, not turning my hips a lot” Jennings explains), and indeed his shot looked much better than advertised in the three practices we observed, although he still has plenty of room to continue to improve, particularly with his pull-up jumper.”

-Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

Now:

Last May when Jennings was finishing off of his tenure in Rome, we were fortunate enough to get an incredibly in-depth view of his situation during our European scouting tour, a luxury that shockingly few (if any) NBA teams opted to take advantage of, certainly not to the same extent.

At that juncture we found Jennings enlisting the services of Lottomatica assistant coach Nenad Trajkovic to craft himself into the jump shooter he is today: one capable of putting up 55-points in an NBA game and being a threat to exceed 20-points on any given night. The healthy appetite Jennings showed for shooting after practice has provided the most notable shift in his skill set from the last time we wrote about him on two fronts.

First, the consistency of his footwork and accuracy from beyond the arc have improved dramatically since last season. One of the biggest knocks on Jennings during both his high school days and throughout his foreign excursion was his outside jump shot.

Displaying erratic form and a penchant for taking off balance shots –especially off the dribble– Jennings’ work with Trajkovic seemed to get the ball rolling towards a sounder, more refined shooting mechanic that features excellent rhythm and significantly improved balance.

The dramatic effect that the tweaks Jennings has made to his form are clear in the outrageous differences in his situational shooting percentages from last season. Through 36 games this season, Jennings has scored 1.44 PPS (Points Per-Shot) in catch and shoot situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, good enough to land him in the 99th percentile League-wide and an astounding improvement from the 1.08 PPS he posted in such situations in 43 games last season with Roma.

Even with the slump Jennings has been in over the past few weeks, those numbers are nothing short of amazing considering that he shot 22% from beyond the European arc (substantially closer than the NBA’s) last season .

Second, the level of confidence Jennings displays in his perimeter repertoire has risen noticeably from last season. Willing to step up and take responsibility as his team’s primary option in the clutch, Jennings has developed the short memory and aggressive shooter’s mentality that will serve him well as he grows into a star –Jennings hasn’t let his recent struggles get into his head as he’s continued to be aggressive.

As with many young guards thrust into a big role, the Compton native has had his fair share of issues with shot selection, something that isn’t really a surprise all things considered.

An overwhelming 72% of his catch and shoot opportunities come in situations where he has a hand in his face, according to SST. However, in a testament to the way this season has gone thus far, Jennings has made 54% of such attempts, more than 10% better than when left open.

While the work Jennings did during his preparations for his rookie campaign have had eye-opening improvements in some aspects of his game, they haven’t been as beneficial to others; his catch and shoot numbers only tell a fraction of the story.

Though Jennings has clearly taken strides as a spot up shooter, he has a lot of work to do on other aspects of his perimeter game, particularly his pull-up jump shot. After shooting a torrid 49.3% from three in November, Jennings has seen his shooting percentages diminish significantly to the point that he shot just 32% from distance in December, and 29% thus far in January.

Despite the fact that his percentages are dropping, he continues to attempt even more 3-pointers each game, which will likely bring his numbers even further down to earth.

A large portion of that dip stems from his decision-making after he puts the ball on the floor, when he appears all too eager to force 20+ footers over defenders. Some of his willingness to force shots stems from poor shot selection –as evidenced by the threes he’s takes regularly off the dribble, but the fact that he takes it upon himself to be his team’s first option and is easily the Bucks best shot creator doesn’t help either.

Free to take the first available look he creates, Jennings is never shy when he sees an opening, but the bad habits he appears to have worked out of his spot-up jumper still limit the efficiency of his mid-range game.

Prone to fading away, relying heavily on his pull up under duress, and not always holding his release as religiously as he does when shooting off a catch much like he did when we saw him in Rome; Jennings converts just 34% on his shots off the dribble.

Compare that to his relative efficiency from a stand-still and it becomes apparent what has caused Jennings’ shooting to fall off the map, and where he needs to improve in the future. If he can take the steps necessary to improve his shot selection, continue to work on his mechanics, and translate his poise to his midrange game, history says he’ll do just fine.

His first month in the NBA was surely too good to be true, but for a player who was often-maligned for his shooting; it was certainly a very encouraging sign of progress.



Part Three: Scoring Ability (Slashing and Finishing)

Then:
“The best things that Jennings brings to the table, though, definitely can’t be taught. He’s incredibly fast in the open floor, highly fluid getting up and down the floor, and extremely natural changing directions sharply and attacking the rim. In today’s NBA, where speed is absolutely at a premium like at no other point in time, Jennings has game changing potential as a shot-creator.

Look no further than the way a relatively unheralded player like Aaron Brooks has been able to put his stamp on this year’s NBA playoffs for evidence of how valuable a speed demon like Jennings can be in the right offense. All the bumping and hand-checking he’s been learning to deal with all season long from European defenders might make life a lot easier for him once he reaches the NBA, where everything is much more open thanks to the defensive 3-second rules and much tighter officiating on the perimeter.”

“Harnessing that talent will be an ongoing process for Jennings, as he is not what you would call a polished player at this point. Turnovers remain a major issue for him--he commits one on 23% of his possessions in the Italian league according to our advanced stats, as he still lacks a great deal of experience operating in the half-court and is prone to making questionable decisions at times. He clearly lacks the strength to finish many of the plays around the rim he’s able to create for himself at this level, so continuing to add strength to his lanky frame will also be a priority moving forward.”

- Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

Now:

One of Jennings’ biggest weaknesses, as we identified last summer, lies in his lack of physical strength. Extremely quick and agile with the ball, he has proven time and time again that he can get to where he wants to go on the floor with relative ease.

Able to explode out of his crossover in a manner reminiscent of Allen Iverson, Jennings is a nightmare for the majority of the League to stay in front of. Under the NBA’s current hand-check rules, Jennings is able to use his full repertoire of hesitations, stutter steps, and in-and-out moves to create driving angles that few guards have the quickness to cut off.

While no one is going to question Jennings’ mobility in half-court sets, one of the biggest knocks against the young guard is his inability to convert the shots he creates for himself at the rim.

According to our friends over at hoopdata.com, Jennings only converts a paltry 42% on his shots at the rim, one of the lowest rates of any point guard in the NBA –a problematic ranking for a player capable of getting to the rim at will.
This is a topic that was discussed in an in-depth article by Kevin Pelton today on Basketball Prospectus.

Many of the issues Jennings had around the rim in Europe persist in the NBA. Though he’s able to find seams to the rim, he frequently appears uncomfortable once he gets there. Despite his excellent leaping ability, Jennings struggles excessively with contact, failing to shield the ball and finish strong, and regularly finds himself smothered by rotating post defenders. His skinny frame hurts his effectiveness in the paint, since he struggles to even get the ball up on the rim after he takes a bump. Perhaps the more pressing issue is that he hasn’t yet learned the nuances of drawing fouls effectively. Over time, Jennings needs to hone that craft to maximize the offensive potential of his outstanding athleticism, as there is simply no reason why he should be converting just 39% of his 2-point attempts, one of the worst rates of any player in the NBA.



While Jennings certainly has a lot of things to work on, one scout we talked to was impressed by his efforts to develop his floater. One of the hardest shots in basketball, Jennings shows a deft floater from time to time, which certainly bodes well for him in the future, but still has a hard time converting in traffic. With opposing teams able to game plan around Jennings with Michael Redd ailing and now out for the whole season, he’s going to face a lot of adversity from the mid-range in, a real challenge that should prove invaluable to his long-term development.

Part Four: Playmaking

Then:
“In the second quarter, Jennings comes up with a steal and has a three on two transition opportunity. Not seeing the angle he was looking for, he pulls the ball out, waits for his teammates to run down the floor and calls a play, to the shock of everyone in attendance who had watched him play in America. “The Brandon Jennings of old would have never passed up that opportunity” the Director of Player Personnel sitting next to us points out while nodding his head. “Gotta limit those turnovers” Jennings explains to us afterwards. “My job is to be a pass-first point guard.”

A similar theme ensues for the rest of the night, as Jennings refuses to force the issue time after time, not hunting shots in the least bit, looking extremely focused on facilitating the offense, making the extra pass to the point that you may have wondered if he’s being a bit too passive even. Another transition opportunity occurs after yet another steal, and Jennings connects with Ibrahim Jaaber on a perfect give and go pass for an easy layup, as the ball doesn’t even touch the ground once.”
-Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

“What separates him from the Aaron Brooks and Monta Ellis types of the world, though are his playmaking instincts. His talent and creativity with the ball were always evident in the games, scrimmages and practices we saw, as he sees the floor and is capable of making incredibly difficult passes look easy, in a way that no point guard in this draft not named Ricky Rubio can. Over the course of our three days in Rome, we saw Jennings make a handful of mind-blowing plays that hint of an incredible future that is in store, particularly in transition or running the pick and roll.”

-Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

Now:

Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Jennings early in his high school career got a taste of his instincts as a playmaker, and his play last season Italy spoke of his potential to translate his passing ability to the NBA level. A gifted passer who shows the ability to thread the needle in traffic and put the ball right on the money running full speed in transition, the biggest positive changes in Jennings’ game from the beginning of this season to now –both qualitatively and quantitatively- reside in his merits as a point guard.

Statistically, Jennings has clearly come a long way from last season, and even from last month. During his season playing in the Euroleague, he posted an assist to turnover ratio of only 1.37, a representation of the difficulties he had translating his natural instincts into his role as a change of pace scorer. Fast-forward to his first month as a pro, Jennings showed marginal improvement in November, posting an A/TO ratio of 1.75 –an adequate mark for a rookie floor general. During the month of December, Jennings posted a mark of 2.91, likely thanks in no small part to the return of Michael Redd.

Clearly deferring to Milwaukee’s recovering franchise player, Scott Skiles’ impact on Jennings is apparent at times. During November many of Jennings’ assists were the result of his knack for the things that aren’t easy to teach. Extremely good at putting the right amount of touch on his lob passes and hitting his teammates in stride, Jennings has excellent court vision –allowing him to be highly effective working off the pick and roll in half-court sets, scenarios that account for roughly half of his offensive possessions. Jennings made a conscious effort to involved Redd in Milwaukee’s offense to a fault, sometimes hesitating when he’s created his own shot and unselfishly sacrificing his offense to create for others. With Redd now out for the season, it will be interesting to see how the rest of Jennings’ season plays out.

Though Redd’s presence had refocused Jennings’ passing, the biggest change in the young floor general as a point guard from last season to this season in a qualitative sense lie in his comfort level operating in traffic. Many of his turnovers early this season were the result of losing the ball either after being trapped or when trailed by a defender in transition. Skiles’ influence is clear in the way Jennings now controls the ball. No longer prone to letting defenders sneak up on him, Jennings does a better job of using his body to shield the ball when pushing it up the floor. He’s also appeared more decisive on his drives.

From day one, Jennings has looked extremely aggressive running the pick and roll, but he seems more poised and disciplined with the way he’s been attacking the lane. Many of his drives that resulted in turnovers earlier this season were the result of allowing the defense to string his drives out to the wings, allowing additional defenders to get involved. Recently, the former McDonald’s All-American has been more composed when he turns the corner. Instead of forcing drives across the court in an effort to turn the corner after using screens, he has been better about using his first step to get to the elbow and then kicking when he sees defenders respond. Though he still makes his fair share of rookie mistakes, this newfound discipline has helped Jennings maintain the spacing in the Bucks offense and has increased his assist numbers while decreasing his turnovers.

Considering how natural a passer Jennings is in terms of pure court vision, he would be well served to continue developing this part of his game rather than attempting to become an Allen Iverson-type scorer, as that would clearly give his team a much better chance of winning games. He’s already shown an extremely quick trigger early on in his career, ranking 16th amongst all NBA players in field goal attempts per-40 minutes pace adjusted, despite the fact that he converts just 39% of his attempts.

Part Five: Defense

Then:

“Defensively, Jennings is making noticeable strides, but still has room to improve. On one hand, he seems to be putting a pretty good effort into his man to man defense, showing really nice lateral quickness staying in front of his man and better fundamentals than we saw in the past. On the other hand, he lacks significant strength and seems to get pushed off the ball far too easily, having a difficult time getting around screens as well. His team defense is definitely a work in progress, as he looks a bit lackadaisical staying aware of where the ball is on the floor, and is not showing the greatest hustle going after loose balls or trying to help out on the glass.”
-Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

Now:

In the same way that it limits his finishing ability at the rim, Jennings’ lack of physical strength hurts him defensively, as we repeatedly noted. At this point, Jennings is a mixed bag on the defensive end. There are certain scenarios where he excels because of his physical tools, but others where he is inherently limited. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Jennings’ defense at this point is that his effort level is considerably better than it was in Italy, which is a major step for a player as young as he is.

In terms of weaknesses, there are three key areas where Jennings seems to struggle. First, as we saw last season, he has an extremely hard time working around screens. Appearing even leaner than his listed 169 pound weight because of his rangy frame, even a player as quick as Jennings can’t always recover from a well-set ball screen.

Second, he is a clear liability against stronger, more compact guards in the post. Whether his man posts up in a traditional sense or is able to get a step on him in an isolation situation, once Jennings is in a compromised position on his man’s shoulder, he doesn’t have the strength to regain any ground to contest the shot.

Third, and finally, Jennings still struggles with some of the fundamentals, especially in the way he defends the perimeter off the ball. Periodically getting turned around when making rotations and often leaving his feet when closing out shooters, Jennings is definitely still learning what it takes to be a sound defensive player on the NBA level.

While there are certainly a number of deficits in Jennings’ defensive abilities, he’s exceedingly good in other areas. His quickness allows him to pressure the ball extremely well from end to end, allowing him to pester opposing point guards with a one-man press. He also shows a willingness to pursue loose balls, whether it be rebounding or looking for a steal. More than anything else, the fact that Jennings gets in a stance and doesn’t give up on plays as frequently as he used to is a huge step towards his development into a respectable NBA defender.

Part Six: Readiness and Maturity

Then:
“Despite the fact that his playing time has largely evaporated over the past six weeks, Jennings is taking everything in stride, handling himself with maturity not found amongst players 10 years his senior here in Europe. “That’s just the hand I’ve been dealt” Jennings says with a smile and shrug. “If I could do it all over again, I probably would have signed with a smaller team, but things haven’t worked out that bad.”
-Brandon Jennings, Biding his Time in Rome (5/13/2009)

Now:

Considering all the criticism Jennings received (surely from our direction as well) for his decision to go overseas and his Green Room debacle on draft day, he’s certainly taken everything in stride. The hard-line style of former Lottomatica coach Jasmine Repesa seemed to ignite a maturation process in Jennings that continues today. Showing a willingness to learn, playing with a passion that has earned him the respect of his teammates, and working tirelessly in practice, the humbling experience Jennings had in Europe has been integral in the success he’s found in the NBA.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Small Forwards (Part Two)
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
November 17, 2009
In these reports, we take a look at the point guards moving into their fourth year in the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the League, the trajectory of a player's career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until this group was transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

Ronnie Brewer

Overview:A talented former lottery pick who has developed into a quality player. Has excellent size, strength, and length for a wing player. A gifted overall athlete who can impact the game on both ends of the floor. Strong, quick, and explosive. An effective offensive player who is just as capable defensively. Does a lot of things well, but doesn’t stand out in any one area. Not a very good shooter, notorious for his awkward mechanics. Was a highly effectively player during his three year career at Arkansas, improved his offensive output each season and proved to be an impact defender. Played a bit part for the Jazz as a rookie, but came on strong in his second year. Has become a key cog next to a number of more productive offensive talents. Blends in to a lot of different lineups and can guard multiple positions. Great teammate on and off the court. Extremely high character. May not be able to develop his shot to become a high level scorer, but remains a very valuable asset because of how well-rounded he is. Son of former NBA player Ron Brewer.

Offense: A very efficient, mistake-free offensive player whose value lies in his ability to get to the free throw line and finish around the basket. Rare wing player who shoots over 50% from the field year in and year out. Gets roughly a fifth of his offense from each of cuts, spot ups, and fast breaks. Extremely effective player in transition who uses his speed and length well. Creates many of his own fast break opportunities by getting in the passing lanes. A no-frills finisher who takes the ball strong to the rim and doesn’t shy away from contact. Moves well without the ball, allowing him to benefit from a quality point guard like Deron Williams. Sets his cuts up well and is extremely decisive with the ball. A solid passer who displays good vision and is very unselfish. Fills his roll well. Takes care of the ball, and isn’t flashy with the ball in his hands, using simple crossovers and spin moves to beat recovering defenders. Turns the ball over at a minuscule rate, which is impressive considering his proficiency as a slasher. Doesn’t have good shooting mechanics due to a childhood accident. Elevates well and is able to shoot off the dribble, but can’t get his elbow in to refine his mechanics. Takes about as many jumpers as shots at the rim. A solid option due to his ability to complement the talents of his teammates. Can make shots running off screens from short range in the Flex Offense, but is less effective the further away from the rim he goes. Shooting is clearly his weakness, but he proves very capable in almost all other areas.

Defense:A high quality defensive player who has always been able to force turnovers with his outstanding size, length and lateral quickness. Extremely good at getting in the passing lanes and creating coast-to-coast opportunities. Active, but not to the point that he plays himself out of position. Plays a smart brand of defense. Won’t go for the block when closing out shooters of over-commit in one direction when his man drives. Plays with nice discipline and fundamentals. Will get on the floor to secure the ball, and hasn’t been asked to be a high level rebounder. Not as aggressive as a defensive specialist, but does a good job considering he often has to guard the opposing teams’ top perimeter threat.

Rodney Carney

Overview: An athletic wing who has had a hard time translating his awesome physical tools into a niche in the NBA. One of the most impressive leapers in the NBA. Elite run-jump athlete. Has very good size and length. Mother was an elite sprinter and half brother, Ron Slay, is also a professional basketball player. Has always been lauded for his athleticism, but is prone to taking too many jump shots. Improved consistently throughout his four year career at Memphis. Was named the Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior. Garnered a selection in the middle of the first round. Saw a decent amount of playing time as a rookie in Philadelphia, but has been unable to take the next step in his career thus far. Returned to the 76ers and played one year with the Timberwolves. Has been able to make some plays with his athleticism, but still has yet to reach his potential, due to his underdeveloped basketball IQ.

Offense: An inefficient offensive player who has the tools to be far more effective. Gets about half of his offensive opportunities in spot up situations with another quarter coming in transition. Excels in open space. Has solid form on his shot, which features excellent elevation. A solid set shooter whose efficiency plummets when he puts the ball on the floor. Will fade away a bit when he has a hand in his face. Has never been much of a ball handler, and still struggles to put the ball on the floor. Weak handle, limited feel and poor pull up jumper make it tough for him to take advantage of his absolutely outstanding first step. Proves to be a very capable finisher at the rim when he can get there. Explosive leaping ability makes it easy for him to out jump his defender to finisher. Will get in a bit of a rush in traffic. Doesn’t get to the line at all for a player that has the athleticism to get to the rim consistently. Takes a lot of jump shots considering how effective he is at the rim. Doesn’t turn the ball over too much, but doesn’t make his teammates better either. Not a terribly versatile offensive player, but has some tools that could serve him extremely well if he improved some parts of his game.

Defense: A solid defender when he wants to be. Doesn’t rebound the ball at a good rate or force many turnovers. Displays excellent lateral quickness at times when defending the ball, but doesn’t always get in a good stance. Does a solid job denying penetration when he commits to it. Able to defend multiple positions due to his foot speed. Doesn’t play a terribly aggressive brand of defense, but is prone to selling out to block shots when closing out. Has average fundamentals at best, maneuvering himself out of position when playing off the ball. Has his moments, but has the physical tools to be a real stopper. Feel for the game must improve to reach his potential.

Shawne Williams

Overview:A young combo forward who has plenty of talent but lacks the discipline or work ethic to take advantage of it. Very tall (6-9) and long (7-3 wingspan) for the three spot. Has the size to play the 4 in some spurts as a face-up option. Doesn’t display very much explosiveness, but is a smooth athlete who shows some deceptive athleticism. Lacks a degree of physical strength but has improved in that area a bit over time. Able to make some impressive plays with the ball in his hands. Had a solid campaign in his only season at Memphis. Named Conference USA Freshman of the Year due to his solid scoring, rebounding, and defensive production. Drafted by the Pacers, but struggled to translate his shot selection and versatility to the NBA level. Has had numerous off the court issues, and has not shown much willingness to act like a professional. Conditioning often looks questionable. Extremely young for a player of his experience level, and still has plenty of room for improvement if he were to get serious about basketball. May have burned too many bridges at this point and could be out of the league shortly.

Offense: Gets about one third of his offensive from spot up opportunities and another quarter from fast breaks. Likes to play more uptempo, where he can play to his strengths. Not the greatest option in a structured environment. Displays a quick release on his jumper, but isn’t always consistent with his form or rhythm. Will take some shots from beyond the arc, but proves erratic at best. A mediocre catch and shoot option, especially since with a hand in his face. Doesn’t always show ideal perimeter footwork and will take off balance shots. Not a very good ball handler for a forward hurting his ability to create better looks for himself. Extremely questionable decision-making off the dribble and equally questionable results when pulling up. Lack of bulk and explosiveness have hurt his finishing ability. Struggles in traffic, but displays a solid left hand at the basket. Will get some chances to face up with the ball on the block and looks pretty smooth when he does. Hasn’t gotten to the line much in the NBA. Not an efficient player. Not too turnover prone, but not much of a passer either. Can make some tough plays look easy thanks to his terrific talent level, but has yet to polish his game to the point that he can consistently connect the dots.

Defense: Not a very good defender. Has good length and some athleticism, but struggles to create turnovers due to his lack of great quickness. Doesn’t show the best fundamentals or awareness. Has a hard time getting over screens. Lacks the speed to recover once he’s beat. Will try and get a hand up shooters, but won’t always get in a good stance, loses the ball on the weakside, and will get pushed around by bigger defenders. Not a terribly poor rebounder, but lacks the bulk to hold his own in the paint.

Yakhouba Diawara

Overview: A long and athletic defensive-minded wing. Possesses a great build for either wing position and very good athleticism. Has a strong frame and nice quickness. Born in France, but played junior college basketball at Southern Idaho and two additional seasons in the NCAA at Pepperdine. Had a tremendous junior year, but took a step back as a senior. Wasn’t drafted, and returned to France to begin his career. Moved to Italy in mid-season where he found a tremendous amount of success, particularly shooting the ball. Earned an NBA contract in summer league with Denver, and saw the most minutes of his NBA career as a rookie. Signed as a free agent with the Heat.

Offense: Inefficient offensive player who relies very heavily on his 3-point shooting, with limited success. Gets the vast majority of his offensive opportunities in spot up situations with another significant portion coming in transition. Displays a compact jumper that accounts for nearly all of his shots. Doesn’t have much fluidity in his perimeter shot. Can hit the open three on occasion, but struggles when he has a hand in his face. Will miss some looks extremely badly. Seldom puts the ball on the floor, as he is a limited ball-handler who cannot create his own shot. Doesn’t get to the line too often. Camps out on the perimeter, maintaining his spacing, and waiting for kick outs. An opportunistic finisher who can attack the rim in a straight line and won’t force anything into the teeth of the defense. Doesn’t turn the ball over much, but isn’t a good foul shooter for a wing. Not much of a passer, feel for the game in general appears to be limited. Purely a role player, but needs to become a much more consistent 3-point shooter to carve out a role for himself in the NBA.

Defense: A quality defender who displays a high effort level and outstanding physical tools. Does his best to contest shots and uses his length to get a hand up on shooters. Displays active hands when defending the ball. A solid one-on-one defender who goes out and competes. Loses his man from time to time when defending the weakside, getting turned around when not defending the ball. Often defends players with superior physical tools, but is able to competently defend a few positions and makes up for that deficit with constant hustle. Doesn’t create many turnovers, but plays a solid brand of defense.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Small Forwards (Part One)
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
November 9, 2009
In these reports, we take a look at the point guards moving into their fourth year in the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the League, the trajectory of a player's career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until this group was transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

Rudy Gay

Overview: One of the premier players from his draft class. A blossoming young star who took advantage of his opportunities on a bad team, but has some trouble with his consistency. Possesses an outstanding physical profile. Has excellent height, a 7’3 wingspan, and outstanding run-jump athleticism. A high-flyer. Was as perimeter oriented in his college career as he is now. Former McDonald’s All-American won Big East Conference Rookie of the Year Award at UConn. Selected with the eighth pick by the Rockets, but was dealt to Memphis almost immediately. Had a solid rookie year, but blossomed as a perimeter scorer after the departure of Pau Gasol. Took a small step backwards in his third year, but teamed with O.J. Mayo, forms the foundation of Memphis’s future. Still has opportunities to improve, particularly as a team player.

Offense: An explosive offensive player. Gets a quarter of his offense from each of isolations, spot ups, and a blend of fast breaks and post ups. Does most of his damage with his jumper. Possesses solid form and has improved his footwork dramatically over time. Gets great elevation and has a high release point. Prone to forcing some shots over defenders, especially off the bounce. Decent three point shooter, still has room to improve his consistency though. Takes a lot of pull up jumpers, using his quickness to get inside and his leaping ability to rise above traffic. Capable catch and shoot player who can knock down shots running off of screens and with a hand in his face. Athleticism is a blessing and curse since is makes him a threat to score one-on-one, but allows him to get some shots off that he probably shouldn’t take. Can get to the rim driving in either direction and has no problem creating separation. Has improved his ball-handling since he entered the League, only augmenting his fantastic first step. On the turnover prone side, and doesn’t make his teammates better. Brings little to nothing to the table as a passer, and needs to improve his ability to find the open man when he draws additional defenders. Doesn’t get to the line at the rate his athleticism could warrant. Possesses outstanding tools, but still needs to refine his shot selection, pick and choose his spots off the dribble, take on contact, and see the floor better.

Defense: Not a great defender considering his tools, but has his moments when he’s motivated. Has all the physical tools of a lockdown defender, but lacks the right mentality to get the job done. Able to come up with some steals thanks to his outstanding wingspan. Doesn’t block many shots, get in a consistent stance, or show much initiate when recovering or closing out. Wingspan allows him to at least contest spot up jumpers when he closes out, but he’s far from aggressive. Puts himself out of position when defending the ball, and lacks a degree of discipline when his man looks to penetrate. Rebounds the ball at a decent rate due to his athleticism. Needs to recognize that his defensive development will be integral to his success when he plays for a competitor.

Thabo Sefolosha

Overview:Swiss wing with excellent versatility and a very smooth game. Has nice size for a wing and a long frame. Not powerfully built, but proves to be a very fluid player with solid overall athleticism. Does a lot of things well, but isn’t a standout in any one area. A nice complementary player who can fill a number of roles. Supplements his all around offensive skills with excellent defensive ability. Emerged as a prospect while playing in France for Chalon before making the jump to Serie A where he was one of Biella’s top players. Stood out overseas due to his versatility and athleticism and landed in the lottery. Came over to the NBA immediately and saw considerable playing time. Played well as a rookie with the Bulls, but is still working to improve his offensive efficiency. Traded to Oklahoma City, where his lack of ideal scoring ability isn’t as problematic. A smart player with a good work ethic who is an improved jump shot away from been an excellent puzzle piece. Won’t ever be a star, but is a solid roleplayer who could become even better. Well respected for the things he brings to the table, one of the few players in his draft class to receive an extension.

Offense: A versatile offensive player who lacks the jump shot to be ideally efficient. Very savvy player who gets more than a third of his touches in spot up situations, while using his athleticism in transition and his high basketball IQ to get open off of screens or cuts, scenarios that account for another third of his total touches. Able to score in a variety of situations, even getting touches in the post and running the pick and roll on occasion. Capable ball handler with nice quickness. Not flashy, but dribbles with a purpose and won’t force the issue. Smart passer who displays good vision and decision-making. Does a good job running the floor in transition, and shows a good understanding of spacing. Capable of doing a lot of good things offensively, but isn’t always aggressive enough to take advantage of that. Doesn’t have much success shooting the ball in catch and shoot situations or off the dribble. Has some issues with the rhythm on his shot, will fadeaway from time to time, and doesn’t always fully extend his follow through. Displays a quick release and uses his speed and a crafty spin move to create space for his shot in the midrange. Not a major threat from beyond the arc, struggling notably with a hand in his face when taking set shots. Proves extremely capable around the basket, primarily because he picks and chooses his spots extremely well when attacking the rim. Does the little things to make himself more productive, crashing the offensive glass well for a small forward, cutting backdoor, and giving his teammates an outlet when the dribble into traffic. Could be an outstanding offensive roleplayer if he improved his consistency from beyond the arc or became a bigger threat from the midrange.

Defense: A sound defender with excellent tools. Long arms, quick feet, and good discipline make him adept at getting in the passing lanes. Doesn’t take too many risks, but still forces quite a few turnovers. Displays good awareness when defending off the ball. Shows good recovery speed and the ability to contest shots with his wingspan. Good option in one-on-one situations though more powerful players can cause problems for him. Rebounds the ball extremely well on the defensive end. Very smart defender who knows when to give space and when to take it away. Plays with intensity and fits the perimeter stopper role that every team likes to have.

Steve Novak

Overview: 3-point shooting specialist who is slowly carving out a niche for himself in the NBA. Has good size for a player with his shooting ability, but lacks the quickness and explosiveness to make an impact in other areas on the NBA level. Possesses a poor wingspan as well. A noted marksman from the day he set foot on Marquette’s campus. Improved his offensive versatility over his four collegiate seasons, but was drafted early in the second round for his ability to shoot the three. Played more games in his third year in the NBA than he did in his first two years combined. Has improved his efficiency from inside the arc while finding his stroke from deep. Not the most glamorous player, but a solid shooting specialist who would benefit from a few seasons in the same system. An opportunist who needs the right players around him to be effective and can help spread the floor. Not a good enough defender to see big minutes on most teams. High character individual.

Offense: As with most shooting specialists, Novak gets most of his offense in catch and shoot situations when spotting up. Over 70% of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Gets an extremely low percentage of his attempts around the basket and is almost exclusively a jump shooter. Displays good form featuring a high, compact release and nice follow through. Works well off the ball, displaying the ability to hit jumpers running off of screens. Tends to fade away when shooting of the catch moving to his right, limiting his effectiveness a bit. Reasonably efficient shooting on the move, but significantly better when he’s floating on the perimeter with his feet set. Doesn’t put the ball on the floor very often. Highly one dimensional, but very good at what he does. Able to spread the floor for his teammates and requires attention on the outside. Solid passer who understands his role. Not a playmaker by any stretch of the imagination, but also almost never turns the ball over. Lights out from the foul line, although he only gets there once in a blue moon. Not a dynamic scorer, but provides a different dimension offensively with his range.

Defense: An active defender who lacks the tools to make much of an impact. Doesn’t have the length, strength, lateral quickness or explosiveness to effectively defend the perimeter or the post. Tends to be targeted in the post where more athletic power forwards can take advantage of him. Doesn’t display great recovery speed when trying to get back to his man after helping or closing out shooters. Lacks the leaping ability and quickness to make an impact on the glass and won’t force any turnovers or block any shots. Will do his best to keep his man from gaining position on the block and gets in a stance out on the perimeter, but lacks the physical profile to be an average defender.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- the Point Guards
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
October 9, 2009
In these reports, we take a look at the point guards moving into their fourth year in the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the League, the trajectory of a player's career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until this group was transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

Sergio Rodriguez
Overview: Spanish point guard whose creativity and passing ability allows him to standout. Possesses nice size for a point guard, but lacks bulk, length and ideal athleticism, which shows up primarily on the defensive end. Fairly fluid and agile, but lacks a degree of explosiveness that hurts him around the rim and makes it difficult for him to create his own shot against more physical defenders. Able to get to the rim by using changes of speed and impressive ball-handling ability, but typically looks to dish off rather than try and score himself. One of the most entertaining passers around. Still needs to develop his outside shot to make up for his lack of athleticism. Wasn’t the most efficient player for Estudiantes in the ACB or Euroleague, but proved to be an exciting prospect due to his masterful court vision. Saw solid minutes on the highest levels of European basketball at a young age. Played some meaningful minutes as a rookie, but saw his playing time fluctuate throughout Portland’s rapid rebuilding process. Traded to Sacramento in a salary dump. Faces a similar situation with two players in front of him. Could easily solidify his spot on the depth chart by improving his consistency from deep and becoming at least an average defender.

Offense: Not an efficient scorer, shooting under 40% from the field the past two years, but is as pure a point guard as you’ll find. Gets nearly half of his offensive opportunities running the pick and roll, with spot ups, isolations, and fast breaks accounting for the rest of his touches. Biggest weakness lies in his lack of a consistent outside shot. Displays passable form, but his consistency is still a work in progress due to somewhat questionable follow through. Leaves a lot of shots short and tends to fade away a bit. Not a great shooter off the dribble. Has improved his ability to catch and shoot from the outside, but still has a ways to go. Not a great finisher at the rim due to a lack of explosiveness. Makes his living as a passer. Always ranks in the top ten of nearly every per-40 minute passing metric. Not the quickest player, but handles the ball extremely well, and gets in the lane using subtle changes of speed and direction. Very deceptive with his first step. Has always had an excellent feel for getting his defender off balance, making a move, and then finding a teammate. Is not going to score a lot around the rim, and doesn’t get to the free throw line much to compensate. Not as flashy as he used to be, allowing him to cut down on his turnovers, though he remains extremely turnover prone on a per-minute basis. Always looking to create an easy look for his teammates, and does a great job putting getting his teammates the ball where they are comfortable on the pick and roll and in drive and dish situations. Most of his turnovers come on drives when he gets deep in the line and isn’t able to locate an outlet. Has half the equation figured out, but needs to dramatically improve his efficiency from the field and be more consistent from the foul line to take his game to the next level. Doesn’t need to score in bunches, just needs to take better advantage of the possessions he already uses.

Defense: Mediocre defender due to his lack of lateral quickness. length and strength. Really lacks the physical tools to not get taken advantage of by the quicker, stronger and more physical point guards of the league. Shows a good stance and moves his feet well when he’s pressuring the ball, knowing what matchups he can play up on and which he can’t. Doesn’t have too much trouble getting through screens despite his lack of strength, but will struggle when teams look to isolate him. Will freelance from time to time looking for a steal, and shows quick hands recovering loose balls and stripping opposing players. Pursues long-rebounds, sometimes putting himself out of position Doesn’t show the great fundamentals closing out shooters, and is often a step late recovering. Size doesn’t help him when contesting shots either. Has made strides under Nate McMillan, but still has a ways to go in order to justify bigger minutes.

Jordan Farmar

Overview: Solid back-up point guard who has issues with efficiency, but brings some things to the table in limited minutes. Possesses nice size, but possesses a slim build and average wingspan for a point guard. Tested out extremely well athletically in the pre-draft process, but doesn’t jump out as a freak athlete on the court, outside of the occasional big dunk. Doesn’t display great lateral explosiveness. Struggles to post efficient numbers due to a lack of consistency around the basket. Decision-making has been an issue at times. Developing into a solid defender. Used to be a much more dynamic offensive player. Former McDonald’s All-American spent only two seasons at UCLA where he posted eerily similar numbers in his only two years on campus. Won the PAC-10 Freshman of the Year Award in 2005. Snuck into the late first round. Has been the Lakers’ back-up point guard ever since, but has seen his playing time fluctuate. Needs to prove that he can maintain his efficiency from season to season.

Offense: An inconsistent offensive player whose efficiency has been problematic since entering the League. Gets about a quarter of his offense from spot-ups, fast breaks, and pick and rolls in the triangle offense. A threat to hit shots from the outside. Doesn’t shoot or make as many threes as he did as a rookie, but displays good form and has decent consistency in catch and shoot situations. Not shy when he is given space, or feels he has an angle. Will fade away a bit when defended, and doesn’t always get consistent elevation, which coupled with his lack of great lateral quickness, limits him off the dribble. Plays with pace, but isn’t explosive enough to create separation without a pick or prove very effective at the rim, unless he has a clear path. Doesn’t go to his floater as often as he did during his time at UCLA. Won’t back down if he has a head of steam, but lacks the strength and leaping ability to finish at the basket with ideal consistency. Doesn’t draw contact at a high rate, and shoots a rather questionable percentage from the line. Displays very good court vision when he’s looking to distribute, but could be more selective with when he shoots and when he passes off the dribble. Runs the pick and roll pretty well, but often appears to be looking to shoot rather than pass. Not terribly turnover prone, since he tends to force midrange jumpers more often than drive into traffic. Likes to push the ball in transition, where his craftiness makes him an effective player. Has his moments operating in the triangle, but his lack of finishing ability hurts his efficiency within that framework, making his inconsistent perimeter repertoire that much more representative in his shooting percentages.

Defense: Lacking great quickness, length, and strength, Farmar is far from an ideal defensive player physically, but possesses a knack for creating turnovers. Actively tries to anticipate passes, allowing him to come up with quite a few steals by virtue of his good awareness and timing. Struggles to get around screens when defending the pick and roll, though he does his best to stay in position. Shows solid, but not great fundamentals, getting caught watching the ball from time to time. Doesn’t always close out under control either, taking himself out of the play in spot up situations. Decent one-on-one defender, moving his feet well and knowing when to give space and when to apply pressure. Won’t match up well with quicker players. Rebounds the ball at a solid rate for a guard nonetheless. Not a high level defender, but is capable.

Kyle Lowry

Overview: A short, but exceptionally athletic point guard who creates all kinds of problems with his excellent speed and quickness. Built and moves like an NFL running back. Extremely quick to take the corner off the dribble. Capable of playing above the rim, which is quite an accomplishment for a player his height. Very good at drawing defenders with his driving ability. Can cause all sorts of problems for his matchup by using his physical tools defensively. Not the most efficient perimeter scorer, which has limited him early in his NBA career. Has become a more efficient player on the whole since entering the League. Spent only two seasons at Villanova, one of which was shortened by an ACL injury. Physical tools and toughness made him a first round pick. Brings some things to the table as a back-up, but still has a ways to go as an all-around player.

Offense: A capable offensive point guard who is held back by some notable weaknesses. Gets about half of his touches as a primary ball handler in pick and roll and transition situations. Sees another quarter in spot up or one-on-one situations. Speed and quickness make him seem like an attractive player to handle the ball in many situations, he doesn’t complement his ability to create for others with a consistent jump shot. Has adequate form on his jumper, though he’ll fadeaway a bit when contested, doesn’t get consistent elevation, and doesn’t appear to have the best touch from three point range. Not a consistent threat from three point range. Doesn’t prove too efficient when he pulls up either due to his lack of size and elevation. Quickness compensates for that somewhat, as he is often able to get into the teeth of the defense or all the way to the rim. Extremely quick initial burst and low center of gravity allow him to turn the corner against most defenders. Gets to the rim at a good rate, and goes to the line with excellent frequency for a point guard. Not the best finisher since he often has to get creative to compensate for his lack of height. Capable of finishing acrobatically, and looks more comfortable when he can shake his man and create a seam than when he has a full head of steam heading to the rim. Could improve his finishing opportunities by forcing defenders to respect his floater or outside shot. Has blossomed as a playmaker. Has moments of absolute brilliance in both half-court and transition settings. Displays excellent vision, and though he will at times attempt some jumpers that may not be the most efficient option, he gets his teammates involved at a high rate. Ability to draw additional defenders is a huge plus, though most of his turnovers come when he turns the corner and finds himself trapped. Isn’t big enough to dish the ball out of traffic when he can’t create a seam. Could cut down on his turnovers by developing a more effective pull up jumper so that he doesn’t have to look to penetrate into traffic. Not a terribly flashy ball handler, proving able to get to where he wants to go with the ball with his physical tools alone. Forces opposing defenders to stay on their toes, and is a consistent jumper away from presenting a dynamic matchup problem for many backup point guards.

Defense: A staunch defensive point guard who is limited by his size, but makes up for that with pure grit and determination. Displays very good lateral explosiveness, gets down in a decent stance, and uses his strength relatively well on the pick and roll. Displays excellent recovery speed, but is susceptible to players who change direction quickly off the bounce, taller players that can hit midrange shots, and effective screens. Lack of size hurts him when defending virtually all catch and shoot situations. Leaping ability helps him a bit, but doesn’t completely compensate for his weaknesses. Could stand to improve his fundamentals, as he gets caught out of position by overcommitting when he decides to help off his man. Makes an impact when he’s focused on pressuring the ball. Comes up with quite a few steals for a player his height. Very quick to the ball when he sees a chance to get a steal. Quality rebounder for his size as well. Always looking for a chance to take possession of the ball and push. Has a tendency to reach in once he’s beat. Not a great defender due to his limitations, but offers some obvious value off the bench thanks to his speed and toughness.

Chris Quinn

Overview: Steady, but unspectacular back-up point guard who sees minutes due to his ability to play low-mistake basketball. Posseses average size and questionable athleticism for an NBA point guard. Lacks great physical tools, but proves to be a very heady, fundamentally sound player, with a microscopic turnover rate. Plays like a veteran, and has since the middle of his rookie year. Very capable outside shooter who doubles as an efficient distributor. Lacks ideal defensive tools. Developed into quite a player during his time at Notre Dame. Really showed off his point guard skills as a senior. Picture perfect shooting mechanics have always been an asset for him. Didn’t wow anyone with what he brought to the table and ultimately went undrafted. Found himself in a perfect situation in Miami. Saw minutes as a rookie and was a key backup in his second year pro. Fits the third point guard mold perfectly with his smart play.

Offense: A consistent playmaker who is smart with the ball, can hit the three, but lacks the versatility and athleticism to be a high level offensive player, particularly inside the arc. Gets about a quarter of his touches as the ball handler in pick and roll situations and roughly forty-percent of his touches in spot-up situations. Very capable jump shooter with excellent form, nice elevation, and great range. Shoots nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc. Doesn’t force too many contested jumpers, and doesn’t change his form at all when he does. Capable of hitting shots moving in either direction coming off of screens. Great catch and shoot threat who isn’t too bad off the dribble either. Doesn’t create enough separation to do much damage around the basket or with his pull up game. Limited by his size, strength, and leaping ability. Won’t go one-on-one unless he knows he’s not at a disadvantage. Improving his floater. An extremely capable point guard who has improved subtly since entering the League. Had a tendency to hold the ball for too long before giving it up in half court sets, but is considerably more decisive now. Has played with the poise of a much older player since his rookie year. Won’t make the tough pass very often, but will almost always make a smart one. Not a flashy ball handler, or one who will dribble himself into trouble. Plays the point guard spot in a low-risk, low reward manner that makes him a nice fit for teams with firepower at other positions. Catch and shoot ability is a nice bonus, since it compensates for what he lacks as a shot-creator.

Defense: Smart defender who whose lack of lateral quickness and size makes him a liability at times. Gets beaten off the dribble frequently, putting pressure on his teammates to help him. Doesn’t get in a great stance, but will give himself a cushion if he knows he’s at a disadvantage. Not going to tip many passes with his length, but will come up with an occasional loose ball due to his ability to anticipate. Shows more effort when his man catches the ball in the midrange, but lacks the length to effectively contest shots and the recovery speed to prevent his man from getting an open lane by running off of screens. Rebounds the ball at a decent rate for a player his size, but doesn’t do any one thing well enough defensively to compensate for the penetration he concedes.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- the Shooting Guards
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
September 13, 2009
In these reports, we take a look at the shooting guards moving into their fourth year in the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the NBA, the trajectory of a player's career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until this group was transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

J.J. Redick
Overview: One of the purest shooters in the history of the college game who is slowly carving out a niche in the NBA. Has been knocked for his lack of athleticism since his college days. Not very big or physical for his position either. Elite shooter. Has improved in other areas, but remains limited due to his lack of prototypical physical tools. Former McDonald’s All-American. Had a simply tremendous four year career at Duke. Was a high level scorer from day one, but reached outstanding heights as a junior and really solidified his draft stock as a senior. Named the ACC Player of the Year in each of his final two seasons, winning most consensus national player of the year awards in his last season under Mike Krzyzewski. Set the NCAA record for career three-pointers made, showing an unparalleled level of confidence, consistency, and shooting touch. Garnered a selection in the lottery despite questions about his ability to translate his game to the next level. Hasn’t proven to be the lights out NBA shooter than many had hoped he would become. Lack of efficiency inside the arc hurts him. Still a threat to spread the floor and has improved in small ways over his first few years.

Offense:Capable shooting specialist at this point, but not at the level that he once was. Gets almost half of his touches in catch and shoot situations, with jump shots accounting for virtually all of his offense. Very capable shooter when left open from the perimeter, but only a bit worse with a hand in his face. Always moving around the arc looking for daylight. Form still looks flawless. Not as dynamic on the move as he once was, having some issues hitting shots off balance against more athletic defenders. Inability to create ideal separation hurts him when he opts to pull up off the dribble too. Not a threat to do too much damage when he puts the ball on the floor, but has improved his ability to score around the rim since entering the League, though it doesn’t always show in his stats. Awesome foul shooter, though he doesn’t get to the line too often. Takes advantage of easy opportunities at the rim, having learned not to force things. Doesn’t display the most impressive ball handling ability or passing, but isn’t turnover prone either.

Defense: Had his moments in the 2009 playoffs by playing extremely active, but will remain a potentially exploitable match up since he has to play all-out to be effective. Lacks ideal lateral quickness and strength. Shows very good fundamentals and displays nice awareness off the ball. Doesn’t possess the explosiveness or length to force many turnovers, but will get a hand up on shooters. Struggles in one-on-one situations, but works hard to fight through screens to stay with his man on the pick and roll. Will look to secure long rebounds. Not an ideal defensive option, though his effort level will help compensate for all of his shortcomings on a game-to-game basis.

Shannon Brown
Overview: Powerfully built shooting guard. A bit undersized, but blessed with outstanding strength, a big wingspan, and explosive leaping ability. Not a great offensive talent, but has improved his efficiency and decision-making considerably. Plays tough defense. Was a highly touted prep player, playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game and being named Illinois Mr. Basketball while at Proviso East (IL). Didn’t make a big splash in the NCAA right away, but became a very solid overall player by his junior year. Landed in the late first round and struggled mightily early in his NBA career. Showed a glaring lack of efficiency in his first two seasons in the NBA, but turned things around in 2009 with the Lakers, playing a role in their Championship run. Made a sizeable impression, appearing to find his niche down the stretch.

Offense: Surprisingly efficient offensive player for the Lakers after struggling for so long. Gets about a third of his offense in spot-up situations, with another sizeable portion coming from fast breaks, cuts to the basket, and one-on-one opportunities. Never known as a great jump shooter, but showed marked improvements down the stretch. Has decent form highlighted by excellent elevation and a compact release. Doesn’t rush his jumper as much as he did early in his NBA career, helping him quite a bit. Pretty solid catch and shoot player when given time and space. Not nearly as consistent with a hand in his face or when he’s forced to pull up off the dribble. Triangle caters to his shooting ability and allows him to use his explosiveness at the rim as well. Extremely quick first step and attacks the rim like a cannonball. Not going to show a lot of shifty ball handling in the lane, but handles the ball intelligently, making one move and attacking. Very capable finisher due to his excellent leaping ability. Moves well off the ball, taking advantage of opportunities to go back door. Not a natural playmaker, but not horribly turnover prone either. Seems to have really worked on the things that will help him in the triangle.

Defense: Really solid defensive guard. Long, aggressive, active, quick, and strong. Gets down in a stance and shows solid lateral explosiveness, though he doesn’t respond well when he has to change directions on a dime. Doesn’t get blow by very often, preferring to give a foul than an easy basket. Shows solid defensive fundamentals when closing out shooters, not leaving his feet for anything short of a very aggressive shot fake. Displays very active hands, allowing him to strip the ball away in some situations. Lack of ideal lateral agility hurt him against some elite guards, though he’s able to compensate with other tools, and does a very nice job against shooting guards as well.

Daniel Gibson
Overview:Essentially a shooting specialist who is capable of spending time at both guard spots, but is naturally better as a scorer. Has solid size for a point guard, but remains undersized for a shooting guard. Not a great athlete, but passable. Doesn’t play the point much at this juncture. Was a dominant high school player, winning a state championship with Jones HS (TX) and playing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Proved to be a capable scorer during his two seasons at Texas. Won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year Award. Took a step back in some areas as a sophomore, and ultimately fell into the second round. Garnered a selection in the second round, but received a guaranteed deal and played a major role in Cleveland’s playoff success as a rookie. Had an outstanding season shooting the ball in 2008. Appeared to be a legitimate steal considering where he was drafted. Was knocked out of the 2008 playoffs with a separated shoulder, which coupled with an offseason ankle surgery and a toe injury, prevented him from rebounding with a strong regular season. Playing under a highly affordable deal.

Offense: A quality spot up shooter who fell into a bit of slump when he wasn’t healthy. Gets almost half of all of his shots up from catch and shoot situations from three. Deadly accurate from three point range for stretches early in his career. Gets good elevation on his shot and is not a liability with a hand in his face. Capable of making shots with consistency off the dribble when healthy, but proves inconsistent for stretches. Will make and take some off balance jumpers when he gets hot. Prefers to pull up when driving left and tends to attack the basket when driving right. Does very little damage at the rim due to his lack of physical strength. Size and frame hurt him in one-on-one situations as well. Displays a decent floater, but needs to improve its consistency. Looks solid handling the ball, but will struggle against full court pressure, and simply doesn’t offer the playmaking ability you look for from a point guard. Not very turnover prone, which helps make up for his lack of creativity and passing. Looks for his own shot when running the pick and roll. Has had his moments as a scorer in the past. Really an asset when he’s healthy and shooting up to his potential, regardless of his ability to play the point.

Defense:Not an ideal option defensively. Lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with the elite point guards in the NBA and the physical strength to effectively defend bigger guards. Shows a willingness to get down in a stance and move his feet, but struggles with screens and allows quite a bit of penetration. Will get a little too aggressive when closing out shooters, but gets a hand up when he can. Doesn’t force many turnovers out on the perimeter, but has a real knack for stripping the ball when he digs into the post. Quick hands and smarts allow him to make an occasional play, but that doesn’t compensate for his other shortcomings.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Power Forwards (Part 2)
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
September 4, 2009
NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Power Forwards (Part One)

LaMarcus Aldridge

Overview: One of the NBA’s most gifted young big men. A near 7-footer with a near 7-5 wingspan. Not just tall, but relatively well built too. Has added some bulk to his frame since appearing on the NBA radar. Shows good mobility, but is more smooth than explosive as an athlete. Long strides make him a factor in transition. Matches his athleticism with an outstanding skill set. Could have been a high draft pick after his freshman season at Texas, but opted to return to school. Had breakout years as a sophomore in both the NCAA and the NBA. Named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year before being selected 2nd overall and subsequently traded to Portland. Has become one of the better players at his position in just three seasons. Posting better numbers now than he did in college. Likely bound for an All-Star game in the not too distant future. Should be locked up into a contract extension soon. Lacks a certain degree of toughness, which manifests itself on the defensive end primarily at times.

Offense: Exceptionally talented big man who maintains an outstanding level of efficiency across the board. Gets almost half of his possessions in one-on-one situations, whether they come in the high or low-post. Also sees a significant number of touches in spot situations, off of pick and rolls, and working without the ball. Exceptionally balanced for a post player his age. Has all sorts of offensive tools. Does an average job acquiring position on the block, often receiving the ball in the mid-post when well defended. Shows better strength and significantly more tenacity once he has the ball. Displays all kinds of offensive moves, but prefers to use a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder that allows him to use his exceptionally high release point to get a decent look almost any time he wants it. Gets the majority of his touches on the left block so he can make his move towards to base line. Not ineffective going over his left shoulder. Likes to simply try and turn the corner and go to the rim using his long strides when he turns that way. Shows a turnaround going right, but shoots it with a slow release, almost double clutching the ball on the way up. Displays a nice hook with his right hand as well. Will often use a dribble to back his man down and then take whatever his defender gives him. Will only be over-aggressive in the post if he feels he has a major size and quickness advantage. Displays a good face-up game, tending to take a dribble to the middle and then spin to a turnaround jumper when the defense responds or just shoot the ball immediately. Extremely smooth in virtually everything he does. Still developing his catch and shoot jumper. Not quite as effective when he has time and space from outside of 17-feet as he is with his turnaround when well-defended in the post. Displays decent form, but seems a little hurried at times in catch and shoot situations. Still a definite threat, but would be a nightmare to defend if he improved that part of his game and became merely a respectable threat from three point range. Just as efficient with a hand in his face as he is wide open from the perimeter, and more efficient after a dribble than he is from a stand still –a testament to his shot-making ability. Very capable ball handler for a near 7-footer. Almost never turns the ball over in relation to most players near his high usage level. Doesn’t get to the line at a very high rate for his skill level, since he makes most of his moves going away from his defender. Still proves to be a very good finisher, using his length and leaping ability to finish his offensive rebounds, cuts to the basket, and transition opportunities with a dunk whenever possible. Runs the court well and uses his mobility very well on the pick and pop. Seldom rolls to the basket after setting a screen, which has more to do with Portland’s centers than Aldridge himself. Extremely high level offensive rebounder due to his wingspan, timing, and athleticism. Versatile, skilled, and careful with the ball, Aldridge has room to improve his efficiency, but has became an awesome offensive weapon in just a year and a half.

Defense: Capable defender who gives an effort if nothing else. Displays the anticipation to use his length to come up with some steals and block some shots. Not a standout in either area, but is a threat to make some plays. Blocks most of his shots on the ball, though one of his biggest weaknesses revolves around his lack of tenacity when defending the ball one-on-one around the basket. Will let himself get beaten with aggressive drop steps and allows himself to get pushed around more than he should. Doesn’t use leverage terribly well. Not a bad defender, but his lack of great energy coupled with some issues with his fundamentals limit him. Has some problems committing to hedging screens, not showing a great sense of urgency recovering to his man and giving up some open looks that he’s often still able to get a hand up on by using his length. Does a decent job defending penetration in that he takes away the lane, but tends to be content with defending his matchup from the side when they look to attack the rim, instead of beating him to the spot. Size makes his lack of great lateral explosiveness understandable. Doesn’t prove to be a very good defensive rebounder, some of which has to do with the players Portland deploys around him, but is also caused by a lack of aggressiveness when boxing out. Overall, Aldridge plays a position based brand of defense that doesn’t sell out his teammates, but he’s capable of being more active in the midrange and tougher on the block.

Tyrus Thomas

Overview: Breathtaking athletic specimen who is still trying to come into his own as a player. A bit undersized for a power forward, but makes up for that with a 7-3 wingspan and some of the quickest and most explosive leaping ability in the NBA. Not carrying around a lot of weight, which limits him in some regards. Doesn’t show an outstanding feel for the game, but looks a bit better than he did early in his career. Burst onto the scene as a second-year freshman at LSU. Used his athleticism, defensive, and emotional play to propel LSU to an SEC Championship and win the SEC Newcomer of the year award. Has gotten better in each of his seasons in the NBA, but hasn’t reached his ceiling as quickly as the Bulls may have hoped, although his defense and energy level is surely a huge plus. Still improving his efficiency and decision-making. Intense court-demeanor is representative of his personality. Still maturing off the court. The next two seasons, coupled with the end of his rookie deal, will play a big role in whether he is considered a legitimate option for Chicago or merely a highly gifted role-player.

Offense: Isn’t afforded the opportunity to play to his offensive strengths, nor does he possess the ideal offensive tools to be a highly productive offensive player at this point. Still averages in double figures despite systematic issues. Gets almost one-third of his offensive opportunities in spot up situations with hustle plays, pick and rolls, and isolations comprising most of the rest of his touches. Splits his overall field goal attempts pretty evenly between jump shots and finishing opportunities at the rim. Doesn’t do too much in the post. Displays an inconsistent jumper that looks good for stretches and highly questionable in others. Lacks consistency with his mechanics at times, elevating so well that he often changes his form from one shot to the next. Nonetheless, has improved that part of his game since entering the League, which has manifested itself in his markedly improved free throw shooting. Used to be considerably less confident from the perimeter. Still a ways away in terms of being a consistent threat to score from the midrange, especially in any efficient way. Very raw from the perimeter in general. Can create separation with his athleticism and get to the rim, preferring to drive with his left hand, but lacks consistent form on his pull up jumpers and struggles to finish with his left hand at times, presenting an obvious problem. Lacks advanced ball-handling ability, but is so quick that he can create an angle easily when his defender is caught off guard. Will usually be given a considerable amount of space, giving his defender a big enough cushion to take away from his quickness advantage. Still able to score despite those deficiencies due to his outstanding physical tools and aggressive mentality at the rim. Moves with purpose off the ball, gets up the floor as fast as any player at his position in the NBA, and tries to dunk anything and everything around the rim, making him an effective finisher and earning him a good amount of trips to the line. Solid offensive rebounder who doesn’t offer much as a playmaker. Offers so much physically, and will show flashes of outstanding promise, but doesn’t have a natural feel for how he wants to score. [/b]

Defense: Gifted defensive player who is one of the top shot blockers his height in the NBA. Ridiculous wingspan, quick leaping ability, and intensity make him quite a shot blocker, especially coming over from the weakside. Will block an occasional jumper, but has some issues defending the block against stronger players, as his lack of physical strength can get exposed. Still does a nice job getting a hand up, but can be taken out of the play by a bulky power forward with a good drop step. Takes some risks rotating over from the weakside, but displays very good quickness and a nose for the ball when coming over to help. Length makes him a factor in the passing lanes, and his lateral quickness makes him more than capable of denying penetration against matchups at both forward positions and most players he switches onto when hedging the pick and roll. Will play himself out of position at times by being too keen on defending the rim or being too aggressive with his rotations. Isn’t a great rebounder for his level of athleticism. Still a very high quality defender due to his ability to stay in front of his man, contest jumpers, and help clean up the mistakes of the players around him.

Renaldo Balkman
Overview: Undersized power forward whose hustle, defense, and scrappy play offensively allows him to effectively fill both forward positions. On the short side, only measuring in a shade over 6-5 without shoes, but boasts a 7-1 wingspan. Not the strongest player around either, but is a solid athlete and plays with an energy that helps him compensate for his size. Not a highly recruited player after attending a number of different high profile basketball academies, took time to mature and grow into the player he is now. Was a rather unheralded prospect coming out of South Carolina too, using back to back NIT titles and a NIT Most Valuable Player Award to earn a surprise selection in the first round. Was tabbed by then Knicks decision-maker Isaiah Thomas after his performances in Madison Square Garden and the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp. Has proven to be the type of defensive-minded roleplayer that he was billed as coming out of college. Rebounds the ball well and has become an efficient scorer, despite his lack of ideal jump shooting ability. Appears to understand his role and fill the defensive specialist role pretty well. Needs to take a page from Trevor Ariza and Mickael Pietrus and improve his shooting and polish some other aspects of his game to diversify what he brings to the table.

Offense: Functions almost exclusively as a hustle player. Able to add some value with his relentless pursuit of the ball. Gets about half of his offense off of cuts to the basket and offensive rebounds, with another quarter coming in transition. Not asked to create essentially any offense for himself. Doesn’t possess much in the way of perimeter scoring ability due to a lack of catch and shoot ability, a highly unreliable pull up jumper, and mediocre ball handling ability. Displays adequate form, though he needs to get more elevation on his jumper and develop better touch to expand his range. Lack of touch shows in his poor free throw percentage. Effort level won’t come into question. Constant motion and ability to get out in transition allows him to earn himself some open shots right at the rim. Competent finisher who is the beneficiary of a lot of good passes. Doesn’t have to deal with a lot of contact when he is looking to score at the basket, allowing him to be relatively efficient. Not an ideal option in half court sets due to his lack of polish, but doesn’t turn the ball over at a high rate. Strictly a fifth option almost any time he’s on the floor at this juncture.

Defense: Good defensive player whose hustle helps him make a much bigger impact on that end. Uses his length to effectively contest shots out on the perimeter, doing a decent job getting a hand in his man’s face when he can rotate to the shooter fast enough. Has some weaknesses that detract from his ability to be a good team defender. Tends to watch the ball when defending the weakside, leading to some open jumpers when he’s late getting back to his man. Often sells out to try and block the shot when closing out the perimeter, forcing his teammates to play 4 on 5 for the rebound. Has even more trouble with screens, getting taken out of the play too easily. Does not show great intensity or urgency with the way he moves defensively, but is considerably more aggressive and focused when his man looks to take him off the dribble. Shows good lateral quickness and appears to take a lot of pride when defending one-on-one. Won’t back down from a challenge, being very aggressive in isolation situations, but knowing that he isn’t big enough to defend back to the basket players and giving smart fouls. Long enough to block some shots, pull down some rebounds, and force some turnovers. Needs to improve his team defense to be a more complete defender.

Ian Mahinmi

Overview: A gifted, young, and athletic power forward who lacks the experience and polish to see significant minutes. Possesses good size and length for his position, and has packed on some muscle to his still somewhat skinny frame since entering the NBA. Displays good mobility and gets off the floor well. Nice athleticism for his size despite injury history. Intriguing physical tools along with rebounding and shot blocking instincts made him a prospect coming out of France. Spent two additional seasons in France after being drafted late in the first round by the Spurs. Showed some signs of improvement, a trend that has continued in his time playing with the Spurs’ NBADL affiliate, the Austin Toros. Still could develop into a nice roleplayer, but needs to stay healthy. Missed almost all of the 2008-2009 season with a bad ankle. Needs to get the development of his offensive game back on track and play minutes wherever he can in San Antonio’s organization.

Offense: Developing offensive player who shows flashes of potential. Gets most of his touches in the post or as a hustle player. Used to show extremely good lateral quickness that allowed him to create easy opportunities for himself on the inside and out. Time on the sidelines has hurt his explosiveness to a small degree and has generally slowed his development. Still able to use his speed to do some things in the post. Lacks the strength to consistently establish deep position, but shows a nice running hook over his left shoulder as well as developing turnaround and face up jumper. Displays very nice touch with his right hand around the rim across the board. Length makes his hook extremely difficult to block. Jumper is still a work in progress, looks capable when he has time and space, but lacks the mechanics to get good touch on every shot. Capable finisher around the basket who is able to do some damage on the offensive glass with his length. Gets to the line at a very good rate. Will go up strong when he has a lane to the rim. Needs to continue working on his post repertoire and left hand to take full advantage of the attempts he gets around the rim. Can put the ball on the floor with his back to the basket to get in better position to score, but is still a bit turnover prone. Will have to continue polishing his game from the midrange in to cut down on mistakes. Not much of a passer, but displays better vision than he did in his younger days. Has some obvious tools and potential, but definitely a work in progress on the offensive end.

Defense: Has very nice defensive tools, but still lacks the fundamentals to stay on the floor for extended minutes in an NBA setting. Length and athleticism allow him to effectively defend the midrange and contest shots, though his lack of physical strength hurts his ability to defend the paint against more experienced back to the basket scorers. Gets quite a few of his blocks defending the ball one-on-one. Needs to do a better job going straight up when he’s rotating over from the weak-side. Still prone to hacking shooters, leading to foul trouble. Got a free pass during his time in the NBADL, but will need to continue improving his discipline to help himself translate to the NBA level. Quick hands and feet for a big man, could stand to add weight to become a more complete package defensively and improve his ability to box out and battle for position on the block.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Scouting Reports: Filling in the Blanks- Power Forwards (Part 1)
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
August 25, 2009
With these scouting reports, we take a look at players moving into their fourth year in the NBA as well as some others that gained experience elsewhere before coming to the NBA. As we found when we identified which players from the 2005 draft were still in the NBA, the trajectory of a players career is often unpredictable, which is why we opted to wait until these players were transitioning out of their rookie contracts to gauge their progress.

Paul Millsap

Overview Steadily improving young big man who had a breakout season in 08-09, establishing himself as a legit cornerstone of the Utah Jazz. Extremely undersized for a power forward at just 6-6 without shoes, but has a nice 7-1 wingspan and a strong frame which helps compensate. Incredibly tough, aggressive player who finds a way to be productive. A crowd favorite thanks to the tenacity with which he plays. A complementary offensive player who understands his role extremely well and is very efficient. Made a name for himself first and foremost thanks to his rebounding skills, leading the NCAA in that category for three straight seasons. Not all that heralded coming out of high school, but still could have played for a high-major school should he have chose to. Decided to stay close to home at Louisiana Tech, thanks in large part to a family connection on the coaching staff. Left school a year early, but somehow slipped to the middle of the second round due to concerns about his size and potential weight issues. Immediately looked like a huge steal for the Jazz, leading them to lock him up on a three year rookie contract. Dedicated himself to maximizing his conditioning-level and improved his athleticism considerably. Had a breakout season on the last year of his deal, but was unable to secure a market-value contract due to his restricted free agent status. Signed an incredibly affordable deal with the Portland Trailblazers, which was matched without hesitation by the Jazz. Will be asked to transition into a bigger role once Carlos Boozer is traded or leaves in free agency next summer.

Offense: A role-player who doesn’t need plays called for him, and still manages to be extremely productive. Gets most of his offense by moving off the ball, crashing the offensive glass, and running the floor in transition. Shoots a very high percentage from the field, as he appears to understand his role extremely well and plays to his strengths in a major way. Sets terrific screens and then aggressively dives to the rim, often being rewarded for his efforts by his unselfish teammates, particularly Deron Williams, who he has great chemistry with. Has excellent hands and finishes extremely well around the basket due to his smarts, terrific touch, body control, and ability to use both hands effectively. Runs the floor harder than anyone, often beating opponents down the court through sheer effort. Gets to the free throw line at a very good rate, and converts nearly 70% of his attempts once there. Not a masterful ball-handler, but a rapidly improving one. Shows flashes of potential with the ball from time to time, leading you to believe that he could become a very effective option to isolation facing the basket. Has a very quick first step and likes to spin and pivot sharply on his way to the rim. Will post on the block occasionally, but not isn't quite as effective in this area. Doesn’t possess a tremendous skill-level at this point, and tends to get blocked more than you might hope at the rim. Not a high-flyer, gets by more-so with his smarts and aggressiveness. Beginning to expand the range of his jump-shot. Can make a 17-foot jumper every now and again, but still needs to continue to work on this part of his game. Rushes his shot, doesn’t always set his feet, and appears to just fling the ball at the basket. Unselfish player who has improved his feel for how to operate in a half-court offense under Jerry Sloan’s tutelage. Posts a positive assist to turnover ratio, and has gradually made strides in this area year by year. Tremendous offensive rebounder.

Defense: Very aggressive defender who puts a lot of effort in and takes pride in his play. Defends both the 4 and the 5 spots in Utah, which can lead to some mismatches. Not afraid to stick his nose in and take a charge. Has good lateral quickness and is effective stepping out and hedging screens. Could still stand to improve his perimeter defense. Will get caught flat-footed at times against quicker face-up power forwards. Struggles at times when being posted up by bigger power forwards or traditional centers, doesn’t always have the size or the girth to push them off the block and contest their shots. Not going to give in without a fight though. Seems to lose his focus from time to time and get lost within his team’s defensive scheme. Will come up with the occasional steal and block, but isn’t a real stat-stuffer in either category. Very good defensive rebounder, though. Traditionally very foul prone because of how hard he competes, but has learned to cut down on the amount of fouls he commits recently. Has room to continue to improve on this end of the floor.

Craig Smith

Overview: An undersized bruiser who has proven to be a capable role-player already. Stands only 6-5 1/2 without shoes with a solid 6-9 1/2 wingspan. Not terribly fast or agile, but will surprise with his speed once he gets a head of steam. Compensates with outstanding physical strength. Came into the NBA carrying around quite a lot of additional weight, but has packed on muscle to the point that his physique is very impressive. Throws his weight around in the paint on both ends. Very productive, efficient offensive player on a per-minute basis. Was every bit the bruiser he is now during his high school and college days. Was one of the best players in the Big East as soon as he stepped on the floor for Boston College. Built on a dominant freshman season with three comparably impressive campaigns that saw his numbers waver around roughly the same marks across the board. Wasn’t drafted in the first round due to his size and the perception that he may have peaked early and reached his potential. Also suffered a hand injury during the pre-draft process that hampered him from changing his fate in private workouts. Stepped into an ideal situation with the rebuilding Timberwolves and played significant minutes immediately. Transformed his body to compensate for his size and handle the rigors of interior play on the NBA level. A steal considering where he was drafted and how much he has contributed early on. Not a high potential player, but a solid third big man.

Offense: More diverse offensively than one would expect a bruiser of his size, and extremely efficient. Doesn’t get an especially large amount of his offense from any one particular area. Capable of scoring off of cuts, spot-ups, isolations, pick and rolls, post-ups, and offensive rebounds alike. Especially effective around the rim, but not incapable from the perimeter either. Capable of scoring off of a number of moves in the post. Likes to face-up on the left block. Gives a hard jab when he swings through to the right and aggressively tries to beat his man to the middle of the floor. Likes to lean in a bit on his drives, especially against good shot blockers, to push them out of position. A bit more diverse on the right side, showing the ability to beat his man to the basket with drop steps, some deceptive counter moves, and the ability to finish plays with both hands. Prefers to go up with his right, showing excellent touch from the short range, often getting the roll on some ambitious shots in close. Uses his low center of gravity to punish his defender and give himself adequate space to get his shot off. Extremely comfortable scoring when he’s defended, though some players are able to keep him far enough away from the rim that he can’t get a good shot up. Very capable finisher despite his average athleticism, due to his strength and touch. Not a very good offensive rebounder, lack of leaping ability and length hurts his productivity in that regard. Physical aggressiveness helps him get to the line at a great rate. Surprisingly good ball handler for his size. Shows enough quickness to get an adequate angle to the rim to effectively use his strength to bowl his defender out of the way. Not a great shooter when he opts to get open shots from the outside, showing a flat release that yields average results. Not a total liability though. Could stand to improve his free throw percentages, as well as his decision-making as a passer. Efficient in many situations, making him attractive off the bench in most systems.

Defense: Capable defender who does some things well, but lacks the sheer physical profile to be as solid as his defensive ability would allow. Shows solid fundamentals defending the ball down low, and will surprise players on the perimeter with his lateral quickness. Gets in a good stance and does his best to stay in front, but is a bit too heavy capably defend some of the more perimeter oriented bigs in the NBA today. A little too aggressive when he closes out smaller players, often struggling in mismatches. Struggles against forwards that have the ball handling ability to change directions after a hard initial move. Has no trouble holding position down low, though his lack of size hurts his ability to get in the passing lanes and contest shots. Physique makes him more suitable to defend centers, but his height negates that. Poor rebounder, well below average from a productivity standpoint for his position. A bit foul prone, showing a tendency to reach when his man makes a quick crossover when he’s backpedaling. Gets points for effort, but doesn’t have the tools to be a good defensive asset.

Shelden Williams

Overview:Undersized for either post spot, but blessed with a 7-4.25 wingspan and excellent physical strength, especially in his upper body. Proves to be pretty mobile, but isn’t terribly explosive or terribly smooth. Has had all kinds of problems staying on the court during his NBA career, but has proven to be a capable rebounder. Improved statistically during each of his seasons at Duke, primarily by cutting down on his fouls, but was the same bruising forward back in his days at Midwest City HS (OK). Two time ACC and NCAA Defensive Player of the Year. First Team All-American as a senior. Despite being considered more of a finished product and having a lower ceiling than other prospects, he was tabbed by the Hawks as the fifth overall pick in 2006. No one needed hindsight at the time to realize that Atlanta reached badly for him, which likely ultimately cost Billy Knight his job. Has appeared on four rosters in three seasons, limiting the continuity around him and making it harder for him to translate his game to the NBA. A cautionary tale of how productivity on the highest levels of college hoops don’t always translate to the NBA. Hasn’t been terribly lucky in terms of the situations he’s been placed in either. Clearly will not be able to live up to his draft position, and needs to use his audition with the Celtics to solidify himself as a legit NBA player. Faces an uphill battle with a dearth of bigmen ahead of his on the depth chart and only a one-year deal. Married to WNBA superstar Candace Williams.

Offense: Not an ideal scoring threat due to a lack of efficiency. No longer gets even a quarter of the shots he did while playing at Duke. Has had a hard time transitioning his game to a significantly smaller role. Still bring some tools to the table. Offensive rebounding ability earns him some easy shots at the rim, as does his off-ball movement and low-post scoring ability. Has not finished at the rim with very good consistency, having a hard time dealing with more athletic defenders. Often winds up adjusting his short range shots, leading to misses. Shows some solid moves in the post, which isn’t surprising considering what he did at Duke. Not able to bully his way into ideal position to score, making it hard for him to score, even when he’s gotten himself open with a series of shot-fakes and drop steps. Draws contact at a good rate, earning himself some trips to the line. Not a bad catch and shoot option, showing nice rhythm and consistent form on his midrange jumper. Doesn’t get too many chances to take shots from the outside. Has a flat release and doesn’t elevate much, which is an issue for him at times. Often a liability when he puts the ball on the floor, not showing the quickness to beat his man to the rim and often dribbling into traffic. Has had a rough go of transitioning his power based offensive game to the NBA where more athletic shot blockers are able to stay in the play well enough to put him out of his comfort zone. Aggressive mentality helps him at times, but his lack of post efficiency is a major concern, as his conversion rate detracts from what he offers in other areas.

Defense: Strong defender with good length whose tendency to aggressively defend short range shots and dribble drives make him extremely foul prone. Extremely good at holding position in the post due to his willingness to bang bodies on every play. Won’t get tossed around by the average big man. Will get a little too aggressive fighting for space on the block. Will get beaten to the rim on occasion, and will have his share of issues with the more explosive athletes at his position. Shows nice defensive awareness when defending the perimeter, knowing his limitations in terms of lateral quickness, using his length to contest shots and give himself a cushion, and showing a good stance. Willing to get on the floor and fight for the ball. Quite a shot blocker for his height, showing good timing, but lacks the size and spring to consistently reject shots. Boxes out well and aggressively pursues rebounds. Shows solid hands when looking to come up with steals or when cleaning the glass.

Oleksiy Pecherov

Overview: Big Ukrainian post player who can double as a center, but has an offensive game more suitable for a power forward. Decent athlete with good size and some bulk. Not as skinny as he was early in his career. More of a finesse player who uses his mobility and shooting to score from the outside and his size around the basket. Billed as a draft prospect during his time with BC Kyiv and Paris-Levallois Basket. Spent a year in the Ukraine before joining the Wizards after they tabbed him in the middle of the first round in 2006. More of an end of the bench type at this point who hasn’t been efficient in the limited opportunities he’s received. May be on his way back to Europe sooner rather than later.

Offense: Power forward who is capable of doing some damage from the inside and out. Gets about one-third of his touches as a spot up shooter, with other significant parts of his offense coming from a mix of post-ups, offensive rebounds, cuts to the rim, and pick and rolls. Shows NBA range on his jumper, though his form is a bit erratic, stemming from a lack of elevation and odd mechanics. Still a threat to hit the three, albeit on poor percentages thus far in his career. Looks pretty comfortable hitting shots on the move from the midrange, but really struggles when he’s forced off balance. Uses his jumper in the post as well, showing a decent turnaround jumper over his right shoulder. Extremely predictable down low, getting almost all of his touches on the left block, and either wanting to use his turnaround jumper of go to a running hook over his left. Doesn’t make many aggressive moves to the rim. Definitely more of a finesse player, though he attempts to back his man down low. Lack of strength hurts his impact on the interior. Not a good finisher at the rim, though he’ll occasionally surprise with his leaping ability with a putback jam. Could stand to be more aggressive to better utilize his solid free throw shooting ability. Capable rebounder who uses his length relatively well. Not much of a passer, nor a terribly aggressive player off the bounce. Needs to improve in one area of the game to be more efficient. An inside-outside threat who doesn’t do either with ideal consistency. An extremely poor passer who doesn’t appear to have a very good feel for the game.

Defense: Not a good defender at all due to his lack of athleticism, strength and physical toughness. Will get pushed around on occasion, though he’s much more prone to fighting for position than he once was. Shows nice fundamentals on the block staying in front of his man pretty well and not being too aggressive. Doesn’t have the lateral quickness to defend the perimeter all that well, but does his best to stay in position. Lack of quickness and leaping ability limit his ability to use his length as a shot blocker. Does a nice job boxing out when shots go up, making him a decent rebounder, and shows a similar level of hustle when hedging the pick and roll. Doesn’t close out well or show explosiveness when contesting shots, but keeps his feet moving and tries to work within the team concept if nothing else.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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