|Top NBA Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Four: (#16-20) |
November 4, 2013
Coming off an impressive sophomore season as one of the leading scorers on a highly successful New Mexico team, Alex Kirk has developed into a very solid player in his two years on campus. While he still has many things to improve upon and some limitations that can hold him back, 7-footers don't grow on trees, and he's certainly someone to keep an eye on because of it.
Standing 7'0 with a long wingspan, Kirk has a narrowly built frame that will likely have a hard time ever adding significant mass, especially in the upper body. He's done a good job filling out what he can to this point, and doesn't have much trouble being physical at the level of competition he faces, though he'll probably need to add more lower body strength down the road. Kirk isn't a great athlete overall, lacking much in terms of explosiveness or quickness, but he's mobile for his size despite looking a bit awkward at times, and with his superb standing reach, has no problem finishing above the rim, even in the presence of defenders.
On the offensive end, Kirk plays a game very well-suited to his strengths, and great credit should be given to former coach Steve Alford for the way he's utilized in their team's offense. Kirk is primarily a post-oriented player, but with a high center of gravity and lack of lower body strength, he doesn't show much propensity for backing players down in the traditional sense. Instead, Kirk is constantly moving without the ball, getting open near the basket by going around screens or being the roll man in pick-and-rolls, catching the ball in deep position and quickly going into simple low-post moves.
Kirk's arsenal is fairly diverse, and he's crude but effective with most of his moves, namely hook shots with either hand, spin moves, and simple turnaround lay-ups. He struggles with his accuracy when outside of five feet, not having a highly effective turnaround jumper, but to his credit doesn't force the issue often, which allowed him to shoot a solid 53.1% inside the arc, despite taking a number of spot-up jump shots.
As far as Kirk's jumper goes, he's very effective from the 15-20 foot range, specifically out of pick-and-pops, where he shows a good feel for the game and is very solid with his feet set when open. He has a high and relatively quick release, and has the makings of three-point range as well, as he shot 27.7% on 1.3 attempts per game last season. Continuing to improve his mid-range jumper and developing three-point range would be very beneficial for him as a potential NBA prospect, as his lack of great athleticism or strength leave questions about how his post game will translate, especially given that teams would be unlikely to run plays for him the way his college team does.
Speaking of Kirk's pick-and-pop game, he's also an effective pick-and-roll big man in the traditional sense, doing a good job catching the ball on the move and finishing in traffic. On both pick and rolls and off-ball cuts, Kirk shows no problem extending to finish above the rim, not shying from contact and really making the most of the physical tools he has.
Defensively, Kirk plays with solid awareness and effort, but his physical limitations stand out a bit more on this end of the floor. He relies heavily on his size and length to defend in the post, which works well against a good deal of the competition he faces, but against stronger big men, he has problems holding position, and can be backed down and scored over. He is rarely tested on the perimeter, except on switches onto guards, but his foot speed doesn't appear up to the task of effectively defending the perimeter at an NBA level, even though he does put in a good effort. Improving his lower body strength and getting better at using leverage on the low block should be his priorities here, but Kirk may always be at somewhat of a disadvantage on this end of the floor.
Rebounding is another area where Kirk could stand to make some improvement. His 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted is a solid mark, and this isn't an area of his game that could be considered a weakness, but he'd definitely help himself to turn himself into a plus rebounder from an NBA perspective, something that should be within his abilities.
Looking forward, Kirk's lack of elite athleticism and below average frame are issues that could potentially hold him back, but he has a very solid groundwork of skills, excellent height and length, and isn't a "stiff" by any means, so those things alone make him someone to keep an eye on. Maximizing his functional strength while not sacrificing any of the mobility he does have will likely be key to his long-term prospects (and that's a delicate balance to keep with his narrow build), but continuing to develop his offensive skill set also will help, both in terms of his back-the-the-basket and spot-up shooting game. Kirk is a little older than most of the players in his class, as he redshirted his sophomore season due to a back injury.
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