NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/14/08-- Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/14/08-- Part Two
Feb 15, 2008, 02:34 am
Eric Gordon, 6-3, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Indiana
21.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 46.5% FG, 40% 3P, 86% FT

Jonathan Givony

In the midst of a recruiting scandal that threatens to see his coach fired after five major NCAA violations, this seems like as good a time as any to discuss Eric Gordon’s future as an NBA prospect, as it probably can’t come soon enough as far as he’s concerned. Although he’s struggled a bit lately, partially due to an injury to his left wrist, he looks every bit the part of top prospect thus far this season.

Gordon is a scorer deluxe, currently ranking 2nd in that category amongst freshman. He’s equally dangerous as a shooter or slasher, indeed splitting his 15.6 offensive possessions evenly right down the nose between jumpers and finishes at the rim. He has excellent athleticism and outstanding strength for a collegiate player (freshman or not) and can do his damage by overpowering opposing players or using finesse moves.

Shooting is probably Gordon’s biggest strength at the moment, showing a beautiful stroke, with a quick release, NBA range and a terrific follow through. He has a knack like few others in college basketball for setting his feet and squaring his shoulders as soon as he catches the ball, meaning he’s always ready to shoot the ball, and he’s surely always willing, due to the supreme confidence he has in his shooting ability. Gordon can hit shots coming off a screen or pulling up off the dribble, fading away and with a man in his face. His shot-selection isn’t always the best, but he has a go-to scoring mentality (and ability), which is something that NBA scouts love to see, especially in a player this young.

As a slasher, Gordon has a terrific first step, and a real nose for the basket, not showing any hesitance whatsoever taking the ball to the rim and finishing with a powerful dunk, often going right through contact in the process. His ball-handling skills are good, but not great--certainly improvable--but he regardless finds a way to the basket at an outstanding rate, drawing nearly eight free throw attempts per game in the process. What makes him especially tough here is his incredibly low center of gravity, which allows him to change speeds and directions with the greatest of ease, and blow by defenders by mixing in a variety of long powerful strides with crafty, efficient footwork, and outstanding body control.

Gordon also possesses the ability to pull-up sharply from mid-range and create excellent separation from his defender. It’s not something he does all that regularly at this point (operating in the mid-range area is not easy in college due to the poor spacing most teams get with the shorter 3-point line), but this looks like a weapon he can hone with hard work and use more effectively in the NBA.

Defensively, Gordon shows a great deal of potential, as he’s strong, quick and physical, and puts a lot of effort into this part of his game when fully motivated. His low center of gravity helps him stay in front of most any guard he matches up with, and he’s quick enough to recover on players even when he gets beat. At times, though, he lacks focus, showing poor fundamentals and letting inferior players get by him. He has good potential in this area, even if many NBA shooting guards will be able to just shoot over him due to his below average size at his position. Measurements will be important in this area in particular, as Gordon has been listed anywhere from 6-2 to 6-4 depending on who you ask.

Gordon doesn’t look like a point guard in the least bit at this point in his career, although he may be able to get by in the future playing spot minutes at that position. To do so, he must improve his ball-handling skills, as he often is out of control by the time he gets to the rim due to the lack of control he shows dribbling at high speeds. He doesn’t value possessions enough, as evidenced by his 3.4 turnovers per game, as opposed to only 2.5 assists.

Gordon might not be ready to carry a team right out of the gates as a rookie, as he still lacks some polish and is extremely young and inexperienced--but there are a lot of things to like here, especially his mentality, his versatility as a scorer, and the intangibles he brings to the table, which are reportedly very strong. Considering the fact that he’s more of an undersized shooting guard than he is a combo, Gordon is not someone who can fit seamlessly into any team in the NBA—he’ll have to find the right fit. That’s why it will be harder to project his draft stock until we really know which teams will be drafting in the top-10, and in what spots.

Bill Walker, 6-6, Small Forward, Sophomore, Kansas State
16.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.8 turnovers, 1.0 steal, 46% FG, 71% FT, 34% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

After the second ACL tear of his career, suffered seven games into his freshman season, Bill Walker has come back strong as a sophomore, looking like more than just a shadow of the prospect he was once considered. While not showing the electrifying Vince Carter-like athleticism he displaying in high school, partly due to the toll the injuries have taken on his knee, and partly due to his added bulk, Walker is still a pretty explosive athlete, something he’s showing on a regular basis for the Wildcats this season.

Walker’s shifted from a swingman to a combo-forward role this season, and it’s done him well thus far. On the offensive end, he’s showing flashes of good things in most aspects of his game, with his improved jump shot being most notable. He’s cleaned up his mechanics, with a more consistent release point and improved arc on his shot, which has resulted in a respectable three-point shot, as he’s shooting 34% on the season and 39% since the beginning of December. He has a quick release and does a good job keeping his shoulders square on his shot, though his form isn’t quite textbook, as he could push the ball forward a bit less and do a better job holding his follow through. Regardless, he’s shown noticeable improvement in this regard in just one season, which is encouraging for his future.

Walker also has an aggressive game attacking the rim, which has its strengths and weaknesses. Walker is good attacking the basket when he isn’t very far away (inside 15 feet), where he can operate in a fairly small space and use one or two power dribbles in combination with his explosiveness and body control to quickly get past his man and to the rim. He struggles on drives he starts from behind the three-point arc, though, as his ball-handling isn’t very tight. He doesn’t sell his crossover well, and can leave it open to his defender, while his footwork and timing could also use some work here, as he is prone to traveling when trying to use advanced moves from the perimeter. Oftentimes, when he’ll try to go from left to right or right to left, he won’t be able to advance closer to the basket, resulting in a questionable shot attempt.

At the rim, Walker shows a nice ability to take contact and the explosiveness and athleticism to finish strong, still being able to throw down some powerful dunks. When he isn’t able to dunk the ball, he does a good job creating lay-up attempts, though his touch around the basket isn’t that great, something he’ll need to improve on. Playing more forward this year, Walker has made the post-up game a larger staple of his offense, where he does pretty well at this level, showing a nice dropstep where he has the explosiveness and elevation to start on one side of the block and finish on the other side of the rim.

Walker’s mid-range game is a work in progress. He shows flashes of a nice pull-up jumper, with good body control and elevation, though he isn’t great creating off his dribble and can be prone to some questionable fadeaway jumpers. Another work in progress is his passing game--he shows nice vision on occasion, but can be prone to making some questionable or lazy passes, leading to turnovers.

On the defensive end, Walker has shown nice versatility with an attacking style, defending aggressively in the post and on the perimeter. Down low, he holds position well against larger players, while using his length and athleticism to contest shots and not give anything easily. On the perimeter, he plays up in his man’s face and uses his hands well, though he can be beat by over-pursuing. With his physical tools and aggressiveness, he has the potential to be a very good and versatile defender at the next level. Walker has also really upped his efforts on the boards this season, attacking aggressively on both ends of the court, both when he’s near the rim and when he needs to come from out of position on the perimeter.

Walker could declare for the draft after this season, where he should be in first round discussions, though teams will likely look long and hard at his knee to assess whether it poses a long-term injury risk. Walker needs to continue improving his outside shot and ball-handling, both of which will be important to his future success. Also, since he projects as mostly a small forward in the pros, he might consider losing some of the bulk he’s added this season, if it could help return some of the explosiveness he’s lost since high school.

Lester Hudson, 6-3, Junior, PG/SG, Tennessee-Martin
26.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.8 turnovers, 3 steals, 47% FG, 41% 3P, 83% FT

Jonathan Givony

Statistically speaking, Lester Hudson is one of the most impressive all-around players in the NCAA, in this, his first season of Division I college basketball. Ranked 7th in NCAA PER amongst players in our database, 3rd in EFF, and 23rd in WIN score, it’s clear that most statistical metrics love Hudson because of how versatile his contributions are on the basketball floor.

We’re talking about a 6-3 combo guard, with an excellent wingspan, very good strength, and just decent athleticism for the NBA. It all starts with his scoring, where he currently ranks 3rd in the nation in points per game.
Hudson can put the ball in the net in a variety of ways, but he’s at his best shooting the ball from the perimeter, as evidenced the 10 3-pointers he attempts per game, ranking 3rd in the country in that category. Even with that volume of shots, he still hits an impressive 41% of these attempts. Hudson has a very pure stroke, showing terrific mechanics and a quick release, and doing a great job creating space from his matchup to get his shot off. He can hit it in many different ways, thanks to his multiple release points, and is equally dangerous coming off a screen, catching and shooting with his feet set, or pulling up off the dribble. He’s very good creating for himself in the mid-range area as well, only needing a glimmer of daylight to step back, elevate off the floor and create excellent separation with a picture perfect pull-up jumper. He can also take the ball to the basket and finish (even with contact), although he appears to be much more comfortable as a shooter than as a slasher.

Hudson plays both on and off the ball, splitting time at both guard spots in order for his team to best take advantage of his terrific scoring ability. He can get his team into his offense and shows decent court vision, particularly on the drive and dish, but is not what you would call a pure playmaker. Unlike most big-time scoring mid-major guards we’ve become accustomed to over the years, though, Hudson appears to do a very nice job of letting things come to him, not looking afraid to give the ball up to his teammates, and displaying fairly good shot-selection relative to his massive offensive role on the team. He’ll take some bad shots at times early in possessions, but he’ll also make quite a few of them. Considering how much Tennessee Tech relies on his scoring (he scores 35% of his team’s total points, ranking 3rd nationally in this category), he does a pretty good job not forcing the issue too much.

Hudson is more than just a scorer, though, he’s also the best rebounding guard in our database, a testament to his excellent wingspan, strength, toughness, and the tenacity in which he plays with. He’s a very active player in general, also doing a terrific job getting in the passing lanes, again ranking number one in the entire country in steals. He’s a pretty good all-around defender in general, putting a good amount of effort into this area (his strength and length helps him out here), although he might lack just a degree of lateral quickness.

In terms of weaknesses, Hudson certainly needs to improve his ball-handling skills, which appear to be below average for an NBA guard. He gets a little careless with the ball at times, looking out of control dribbling into traffic, and therefore turning the ball over almost four times per game. He’s also not an amazing athlete, being able to change speeds well, but not being the quickest or most explosive player you’ll find. He could probably stand to lose 10-15 pounds, which might help improve his athleticism.

Some may wonder about the level of competition Hudson faces playing in the Ohio Valley Conference. To answer that, consider that he scored 35 points against Memphis, 27 against Mississippi State, 26 against UNLV, and 36 against Vanderbilt. He also had the NCAA’s first ever quadruple-double, with 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals against mighty Central Baptist College. Even more impressive is the fact that Hudson has done all this after sitting out all of last year and not having practiced with UT-Martin while he became NCAA eligible after failing to graduate from his Junior College. He then proceeded to drop 35 points on the best team in America in his first real basketball game. Usually there is an adjustment period that JUCO players need to go through before they are able to reach their full potential at the D-1 level. For Hudson, there was none.

NBA executives might raise some eyebrows when observing the fact that he’s a 23 year-old Junior who did not graduate from high school, as chronicled by an excellent article written by Eric Prisbell of the Washington Post earlier this year. Ohio Valley Conference coaches we spoke to say they have not seen or heard of any red flags that people should be concerned about regarding him, but NBA teams will surely do their own research. Hudson is only a junior as far as his eligibility is concerned, so it’s quite possible that we might see him back at Tennessee Martin for another season. Considering his age (he turns 24 in August), though, it’s not quite clear how much that would help his draft stock. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out.

Robert Dozier, 6-9, Junior, Power Forward, Memphis
10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 1.9 blocks, 45% FG, 28% 3P, 69% FT, 27 minutes

Kyle Nelson

Robert Dozier has been a key part of Memphis’ undefeated season so far on both ends of the floor. In this, his junior season, Dozier has finally begun to find some consistency in his game, most notably in his effort, but also in his production. An off-court issue saw him suspended for Memphis’ last game after being accused of assaulting his girlfriend, which is not going to help his draft stock obviously.

Dozier is an extremely athletic player and moves exceptionally well for a power forward; calling him mobile is an understatement. Most impressive, however, is his quickness. He has the type of agility needed to give him the potential to guard both forward positions at the next level. In addition, he runs the floor extremely well and puts himself in good position to get transition baskets. This ability is aided by his very good body control, which makes him look like a guard when executing moves at times. One thing that he must improve, however, is his strength. He is extremely skinny, listed around 215 pounds, and he must get stronger if he wants to compete at the next level.

Most of Dozier’s offensive game consists of spot up perimeter jumpers, slashing to the hoop, and taking whatever opportunities his athleticism allows. His ability to hit perimeter jumpers is certainly a valuable skill, but he must improve his form before he can expect to rely on it consistently. He has a very awkward shooting motion, bringing the ball up from his waist slowly and in an exaggerated fashion. Therefore, when he finally releases the ball, he is pushing it forward with his arms, most often resulting in overshooting and a missed shot. While his form looks better when he is given time to set his feet, it’s hard to envision him getting the type of time he needs to get his shot off with any real success at the next level if he doesn’t improve his mechanics significantly. His 44.8% from the field and 29.2% from the perimeter are accurate indicators considering his jumpshot and these numbers are similar to the ones he posted last season. His potential at the next level relies heavily on his ability to become a consistent perimeter shooter, and considering that he has another year at Memphis, he should aim to show up next season with a much-improved jump-shot.

Dozier has shown a very raw mid-range game at this stage, mostly consisting of spot-up jumpshots and mechanical pull-up jumpers. Dozier likes to put the ball on the floor, has very good body control, and likes to shoot jump-shots so it seems as though he has the ability, at some point and with a lot of work, to possess a passable mid-range game. However, while creating jumpshots was a rare occurrence last season, he is starting to create for himself more often, and while he is extremely far from consistent, the potential is there. His handle needs work as he displays a high, wild dribble that he should work on tightening. This is important, because another part of Dozier’s game is slashing. He loves to dribble to the basket, but because of this loose handle, combined with the fact that his touch around the basket is not great, he is not nearly as effective as he could be in this area. Also, his lack of strength hurts him here. While he does possess good body control when he gets into the air, he does not have the strength to absorb contact well. At the next level, he must improve if he wants to be even remotely effective as a slasher.

A big part of Dozier’s potential at the next level will rely on his ability to become a lockdown defender. Considering his physical abilities, he should be there already. While he does show incredibly good lateral quickness for a player his size, Dozier’s largest problem at this stage is focus and fundamentals. Defensive misreads are common in his game, and often result in him failing to close out his man on the perimeter, giving up an easy bucket, or a pointless foul. This being said, when Dozier does put consistent focus and effort into defense, he looks outstanding. Using his length, athleticism, and timing, he has developed into a good shot-blocker, averaging 1.8 blocks per game, and 2.8 blocks per 40 minutes. He has developed into a solid rebounder this year, averaging 7.2 rebounds per game without boxing out his man most of the time. Developing fundamentals, combined with his physical tools and gigantic wingspan (reported to be around 7-3), and some added toughness, would allow him to be an extremely good rebounder at any level.

While Memphis’ incredible team defense often covers up for Dozier’s inconsistencies on this end, he really must put effort into consistently playing hard, including staying in a defensive stance with his body wide and his hands in the air, boxing out on every shot, remembering not to bite on fakes, and ultimately knowing his team defensive rotations well. Normally, criticisms about a college player’s defensive ability are not this extensive, but Dozier’s success in the NBA will rely heavily on his improvement on the defensive end of the floor.

Combo forwards are all the rage in the NBA, and Dozier has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Travis Outlaw, Tyrus Thomas, Dominic McGuire, and, as a ceiling, perhaps a Shawn Marion type player. However, he has a long way to go, and must continue to develop as a player on both ends of the floor. Becoming a defensive stopper should be his top priority in the coming months because, ultimately, it will likely be how he makes it to the NBA. There is a long season still ahead for the Memphis Tigers, and Dozier will be a key part of the proceedings, with scouts watching every step of the way.

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