After initially looking like a long-shot to even qualify for the NCAA tournament, USC won the Pac-10 Tournament and got by Boston College in the First Round before falling in a close game to eventual National Championship Runners Up, Michigan State. This season, under new head coach Kevin ONeill and following a number of significant losses and offseason drama, the Trojans fortunes rests on the shoulders of senior wing, Dwight Lewis. After three years of steady improvement in Los Angeles, Lewis must take a big step forward, proving himself as a true first option and a leader in the locker room.
Standing 65, Lewis has average size for his position with a good frame and a solid wingspan. He is just a decent athlete, not likely to blow you away with his vertical leap or quickness, but he usually plays within his limitations on both ends of the floor. From a physical standpoint, Lewiss NBA future is somewhat uncertain, as he has neither standout size nor athleticism to play on the wing at the next level.
On the offensive end, Lewis was as a very potent scorer for Southern California at times last season, but the volatility of point guard Daniel Hackett and the late-season emergence of DeMar DeRozan made it difficult for him to be the teams primary offensive option with his current skill-set.
Lewis improved tremendously from beyond the arc, making 37.9% of his shots while taking 4.4 attempts per game. These are both career highs and looking at video, he has improved his form, showing a very fluid release and far more confidence when he receives the ball with space. It looks as though he can develop into a very solid spot-up shooter at the next level. He does appear to struggle though when not given enough time and space to get his shot off.
Elsewhere on the offensive end, little has changed. Lewis is still primarily a slash-and-shoot player, not showing the ball handling abilities or creativity at this stage necessary to develop an effective mid-range game or emerge as a great shot-creator. He still shows flashes, mainly when he pulls up for a fifteen-foot baseline jumper, but his average physical tools, he must continue to polish this part of his game.
As a slasher, there is no denying the fact that working on his ball-handling abilities would help him significantly, especially given his average first step. He also needs to overcome the tunnel vision that he showed at times last season, driving recklessly into double teams and shot blocking big men instead of deferring to open teammates. Similarly, his touch around the basket is not good and severely limits his effectiveness inside of the arc. This inefficiency around the basket, combined with his average explosiveness and lack of awareness of opposing defenses, is evidenced in his dismal 41.6% two-point field goal percentage, an unacceptable rate for an NBA prospect. Lewis should look to his slashing game more often this season, however, and aim to increase his 3.7 free throw attempts per game, not to mention his efficiency around the basket.
Lewis was a standout defender on a very good defensive team last year, though he will likely run into some trouble at the next level. As we have said before, he is a hard worker and able to cover multiple perimeter positions at the college level. As a man-to-man defender, he still shows the ability to harass his man while communicating with his teammates and maintaining solid court awareness. At just 65 with average athleticism, he will have trouble guarding some of the bigger and more physical wings at the next level, not to mention the fact that he simply will not be able to contain NBA point guards. Effort, however, is the key and Lewis can continue to work hard on the defensive end, scouts will take notice.
Next season presents Lewis with a tremendous opportunity. He will be playing in a new system under Kevin ONeill, but he will be the leader, top scorer, and defensive anchor from day one. At this point, however, he is just an average prospect in almost every single area, which does not bode well for his potential at the next level. Similarly, playing alongside a young and inexperienced point guard wont be easy, but if Lewis can turn into the potent scorer he was at times last season and continue to expand his game in the process, scouts will take notice.