A player that surprised many by somewhat foolishly declaring for the draft last year and burning his only draft card only as a sophomore, Marcus Slaughter
has healed from the foot injury he suffered at the Chicago pre-draft camp and is now showing vast improvement in his junior season.
Slaughter has been an absolute animal on the glass as of late, pulling down an impressive 52 rebounds in his last 3 games. Hes also been scoring at a good clip with 60 points in those games on a solid 17/32 shooting from the field and 26/31 from the line. Together these stats all begin to paint a distinct picture for you about the progress Slaughter has made over the past few months, with the most notable improvement coming in his aggressiveness and general attitude. Slaughter has been attacking the glass relentlessly this season, ranking 7th in the nation in rebounding with over 11 per game thanks to his superb quickness, excellent hands, long arms, tenacious attitude, instincts and much improved motor. Hes been living at the line this season and is hitting close to 80% of his free throws, up from 70% last year. His FG% is up as well to a very solid 50% on the year.
At 6-8 with a 6-11 wingspan his frame is prototypical for an NBA small forward. He was almost strictly an inside player in his first two seasons at San Diego State, but is now starting to move his game out to the perimeter and is making some small, but important strides in this area lately. His ball-handling in particular looks better, being able to lead the break or put the ball on the floor from the perimeter and attack his man. Slaughter has very powerful legs and is able to get to the basket in just two very large strides from the 3-point line thanks to his athleticism, often being sent to the line because of how tough it is for big men to contain him. When properly utilized, Slaughter is one of the toughest players to defend on the west coast because of his all-around versatility at the power forward position. Few can keep up with his combination of strength and athleticism both inside and out, but especially on the glass. His passing ability is much better as well, showing better decision making skills, an improved attitude, and just a better all-around understanding of the game. His assists are way up while the turnovers are down on the year to back this up.
In terms of weaknesses, they mostly revolve around his position at the next level, less around how good of an actual basketball player he is. While his ball-handling is much better than what it was last year (being almost non-existent in tight half-court situations), it is still not NBA small forward caliber. Hell have to work hard to continue to add polish to this part of his game, particularly with his left hand. In terms of range on his shot, he has not hit even one 3-pointer this season, but has also only attempted one. Its tough to assess this part of his game without actually seeing it, but his delivery from mid-range does not look particularly smooth either. Since he only defends post players at the Mountain West conference level, his perimeter defense is largely untested as well. He has done a better job of staying out of foul trouble this season, and is generally showing a better activity level from what I remember of him last year.
Regarding Slaughter and the draft this year, things got very murky. Had he not burned his draft card last year as a sophomore, he would have been a shoo-in to test the waters and see where he stands. As of right now he will have to be extremely careful with whatever he decides to do, because if he is not at least a lock for the top 40--which he definitely is not--then he has no business declaring. Showing similar improvement next year to what he did this season would probably be what puts him over the top, but otherwise he is playing with fire if he decides to roll the dice.
Fortunately for him (and in no small part due to his efforts), his team is rolling lately at 5-1 in the MWC for sole possession of first place. The Aztecs have one of the most athletic teams on the west coast regardless of conference, and could be a real headache for any team if they are able to win the automatic bid and make the NCAA tournament. If not, most of their talent returns next season and they should be a force to be reckoned with.