NCAA Weekly Performers, 4/6/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 4/6/10
Apr 06, 2010, 01:58 pm
Updated scouting reports on Ekpe Udoh, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe and Herb Pope.

Ekpe Udoh, 6’10, PF/C, Junior, Baylor
13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.7 blocks, 2.4 turnovers, 49% FG, 67% FT, 27% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

After surprising many with his development early this season, Ekpe Udoh has held pace all year long to finish out an impressive junior season, putting himself firmly in lottery discussions as the NCAA season comes to a conclusion.

One of the most important players on a Baylor team that made a strong run to the Elite Eight, Udoh brings a variety of skills to the table as a player, most of which he developed while sitting out a redshirt season after transferring from Michigan. As the season has gone on, Udoh has grown more comfortable in Baylor’s offense, and really opened up his game, contributing in a variety of areas on both ends of the court.

Offensively, one thing we didn’t touch on when we profiled Udoh in December was his passing game, something that became more prominent for Baylor’s offense as the season went on. Udoh dished out an impressive 2.7 assists per game, operating mostly out of both the high and low post, showing good court vision and the ability to hit both cutters and shooters for open looks. He shows a good feel for the game in general, something that’s become more apparent as the game slowed down for him as the year went on.

In terms of scoring the ball, Udoh does most of his damage out of the post, where he shows a very high level of fluidity and coordination, along with the ability to turn off either shoulder, though he clearly prefers going off his left. He even shows decent ability with his less dominant left hand scoring the ball, going to hook shots and lay-ups when the situation calls for it. He has a surprisingly good command of counter moves in the post, and transitions very well from one move to another looking for a high percentage shot.

At the basket, Udoh leaves some points on the floor at times, as despite being a very good overall athlete due to his mobility, fluidity, and coordination, he isn’t the toughest, most explosive or reactive player, not always elevating with great ease around the rim, and seemingly shying away from contact at times. He isn’t the greatest off his second bounce and he doesn’t have the make-up to explode up and overpower his man, though looking at him, you get the sense his lower body strength probably isn’t maxed out, and this is something he could improve with the right training.

Udoh is also a potent threat out of isolation situations, being able to utilize everything out of the triple-threat position, be it taking his man off the dribble, shooting a mid-range jumper, or passing to an open man. Udoh’s isolation game is very intriguing, as he shows nice footwork, a good first step, and a nice variety of moves, while finishing at a decent rate at this level.

His mid-range is also a pretty reliable weapon already, as he hit a respectable 0.85 points per shot on his 111 jump shots this season according to Synergy, with a good deal of them coming off the dribble or out of the triple-threat, with a defender on him. He hit seven three-pointers on the season, but that’s clearly a bit out of his comfort zone, though he does have nice range to 20 feet. Udoh’s shot is probably a bit too reliant on his upper body, and there’s reason to believe with some tweaks this could become an even better weapon for him.

On the glass, Udoh shows great instincts and pursuits on the offensive end, pulling in an impressive 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, frequently being right in the middle of the action around the rim, though his lack of a great second bounce doesn’t allow him to be the strongest finisher on putbacks.

Defensively, Udoh does a solid job on the glass, but could be a bit more aggressive in boxing out and doing some of the little things, something he’ll need to do to stay an above average defensive rebounder in the pros. He lacks some awareness at times on the glass and doesn’t appear to be the most contact loving big man around, getting outmuscled by stronger players and not always fighting back as much as you’d hope.

Udoh can do some impressive things on the defensive end, though, showing outstanding timing with his shot blocking and using his length very well. He’s a great shot blocker both in man-to-man situations in the post and coming over from the weakside, showing pretty good rotational awareness and doing a good job in general in Baylor’s zone.

As a man-to-man defender, Udoh plays to his strengths very well in the post, keeping his arms outstretched to force his man into tough shots, while also doing a good job moving his feet. He doesn’t have the greatest leverage, and is prone to being backed down by stronger opponents, but again, he probably can improve his lower body strength some.

On the perimeter, Udoh was rarely tested this season, and when he was, it was on switches with guards as opposed to going up against the stretch fours he’ll see in the NBA. Regardless, he looks out of sorts in his man-to-man stance on the perimeter, though his tools suggest he should be able to become at least adequate in this regard if he puts in the work to develop his fundamentals as he sees the situation more frequently.

Looking forward, Udoh is an intriguing prospect who looks likely to be drafted somewhere in the 10-20 range. He brings clear NBA skills to the table with his defense, shot-blocking, offensive rebounding, and developing post game, while also showing developing skills in multiple areas. That said, while the learning curve he’s shown over the last two years is very impressive, he will be 23 years old by the time the draft comes around, so teams may have mixed feelings on how much more potential he has, particularly from a physical standpoint.

Daniel Orton, 6-10, Freshman, Center, Kentucky
13.2 minutes, 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, .4 assists, 1.0 turnovers, .6 steals, 1.4 blocks, 53% FG, 52% FT

Jonathan Givony

After averaging just 3 points and 3 rebounds per game, few Kentucky fans expected to see the name of Daniel Orton pop up in NBA draft conversations. That’s exactly what appears to be happening though, as it seems inevitable at this point that Orton will enter his name in the draft and keep it in if he likes what he’s hearing. Whether or not he’s making a mistake is something that we won’t be able to judge for a few years, but there is no questioning the fact that Orton’s is a very legitimate NBA prospect, either now or down the road.

The main intrigue around Orton’s potential as an NBA player revolves around his physical tools. Standing 6-10, with a wide, chiseled frame, an excellent wingspan and above average athleticism, Orton passes the look test and then some for what NBA teams seek from at a player at his position. He is fairly nimble, runs the court competently, can get off his feet, has a solid second bounce and very good hands on top of that. Simply put, there just aren’t many players around like him, which makes him somewhat of a commodity even in a draft as deep as this one is with big men.

Offensively, Orton was mostly a non-factor for Kentucky this season, reaching double figures in just two of 38 games and averaging an unimpressive 9.8 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted. He rarely touched the ball when out on the floor, being mostly relegated to running the court, crashing the offensive glass and finishing whatever scraps came his way from the multitude of stars Kentucky assembled this year.

Nevertheless, he dropped some small but intriguing glimpses of potential from time to time, particularly as the season moved on and his comfort level seemingly increased. Orton can carve out space in the post with his huge frame, create shots for himself with some interesting spin moves, shows very nice touch around the basket, and finishes extremely well at the rim thanks to his outstanding length and strength. He even stepped outside on rare occasions and knocked down a 15-foot jumper, displaying solid mechanics in the process. While he didn’t do any of this on a consistent basis, for a variety of reasons, it would not be accurate to say that he’s completely clueless offensively at this point in time.

With that said, Orton still has a long ways to go on this end, as his skill-level is unpolished and his decision making can be extremely poor—often looking like he can’t wait to shoot the ball as soon it reached his hand, and throwing up some very questionable looks in turn. While he gets to the line at a decent rate, he only converts 53% of his attempts once there, showing that he still has plenty of room for improvement with this part of his game. He has no left hand, is a poor ball-handler and lacks considerable experience on this end of the floor. He doesn’t quite know how to use his body as effectively as he possibly could, and doesn’t always show the type of toughness and intensity you look for from a player fighting for minutes on a crowded roster.

As a rebounder, Orton is mostly a mixed bag, on one hand showing terrific potential with his length ability to go well out of his area for loose balls, particularly when crashing the offensive glass. He was responsible for a number of extremely impressive put-back dunks over the course of the year, but all in all measures out as just an average rebounder from a statistical standpoint, failing to pull down even 10 boards per-40 minutes pace adjusted. Considering his paltry offensive role, this is difficult to understand, although the extremely small sample size (502 minutes) may have something to do with that.

Defensively, Orton makes a huge impact at the collegiate level simply by stepping out on the court. His wide base and terrific strength makes him extremely difficult to back down in the paint, and he does an excellent job using his extremely long arms to contest shots and get his fair share of blocks.

Orton averaged a solid 4 blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted, and while he’s not what you would call a high flyer, he shows nice patience and fundamentals for a player his age and should be able to develop even further in this area as he gains experience.

He also does a nice job sticking his long arms in the right place and coming up with steals, although he has a tendency to gamble at times excessively and pick up cheap fouls by swiping at the ball unnecessarily. He’ll also bite on the occasional pump-fake and give up too much space in the post thinking he’ll be able to recover with a spectacular block, but nothing more than you would expect from a 19-year old big man.

A place he does tend to struggle is guarding the perimeter, though, especially on the pick and roll after caught defending guards and wings on a switch. Orton’s lateral quickness is simply not good enough to stay in front of smaller players taking him off the dribble—although his lack of experience doesn’t help him much either-- and the limitations he shows in this area makes it pretty clear that his future is pretty much strictly at the 5-spot down the road.

Perhaps more worrying is the recent behind the scenes chatter about potential off-court concerns. The fingerprints of Orton’s father were all over his every move on the recruiting trail, in reported heated discussions with Kentucky’s coaching staff about his inconsistent playing time throughout the season, and now regarding his draft declaration decision, to the point that some wonder whether this could become a distraction for the team that picks him down the road. While Orton certainly comes off as a thoughtful and intelligent young man, teams will need to study these issues and draw their own conclusions, especially since he’s such a work in progress that will only be able to reach his full potential down the road if he’s fully dialed into the task.

Orton probably isn’t ready to see very many minutes in the NBA in the short-term, but the physical tools he displays combined with his budding skill-set as a defender, rebounder and low-post threat make him one of the more intriguing long-term big men prospects in this draft. Whichever team picks him will have to be very patient with him, but he certainly has the potential to make them look very smart down the road. Backup NBA centers are expensive and hard to come by, and if Orton can develop as expected, he could be a very nice asset for a team to have, especially on a cheap 4-year rookie scale contract.

The main question teams will want to figure out in the workout process is-- just how far off he is from contributing at this point?

Eric Bledsoe, 6-1, Freshman, Point Guard, Kentucky
11.3 Points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 46% FG, 38% 3P, 67% FT

Scott Nadler

Now that the college basketball season is officially behind us, all of the attention will be centered on who’s staying in school and who will declare for the NBA draft by the fast approaching April 25th deadline. One prospect with a difficult decision to make is Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe. With many questions regarding his game still looming, Bledsoe regardless appears to be leaning towards putting his name in the draft.

There’s no denying the physical gifts that Bledsoe possesses. He has a solid frame and a long wingspan with an impressive physique for a 19 year old, looking quite a bit more physically developed than his age would suggest. His quickness and athleticism are off the charts as he’s shown the ability to get down the court in a hurry and also finish around the basket with flair and creativity.

Being part of a team however stacked with talent, Bledsoe’s role was a rather simple one and thus his talents were never fully displayed in a true capacity, which could very well have been to his advantage. Playing off the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, Bledsoe didn’t have the chance to be anything other than a complimentary player, spending most of his time as a spot up shooter - which accounted for 35% of his offense. At only 6-1, Bledsoe will surely have to be a point guard at the next level, which is a position we rarely saw him play this season, and which he struggled at badly whenever he did.

As a result, he spent a limited amount of time in pick and roll situations (5%) and looked uncomfortable leading the team in the few instances he was trusted with the ball in his hands. Bledsoe has a tendency to over- dribble and over-commit when driving to the basket, appearing out of control at times, which is a big reason for his extremely high turnover rate—coughing the ball up on an incredible 27% of his possessions. He averaged more turnovers than assists, giving him both the worst AST/TO ratio and pure point rating of any point guard prospect in this draft.

On a positive note, Bledsoe can get into the lane with ease due to his blur-like speed and ability to two-step in traffic. He can use either hand effectively as well, but did struggle finishing around the hoop, only converting on 48.1% of his shots and he attempted a less than stellar 4.3 FT’s per 40 p/adjusted, making only 2/3 of his shots from the stripe.

In his role off the ball, Bledsoe didn’t show us much as a scorer either, only putting up 14.2 points per 40 pace adjusted in his 30 minutes of action. He‘s been inconsistent as a scorer and shooter much of the season, as evidenced by his NCAA opening round 29 point explosion on 9-11 shooting to his 7 points on 3 for 9 shooting in Kentucky’s elite 8 exit to West Virginia.

He has a slow release and a bit of a set shot right now which didn’t cause too many issues as he was often wide open for catch and shoot jumpers. He’ll need to quicken the release for the next level, but his solid mechanics and good range suggest he should be able to make the adjustment.

An area that is a bit more difficult to improve is shooting off the dribble; an aspect of Bledsoe’s game which was nearly invisible (10-30 all season).This is somewhat of a concern at this point, as he’ll be expected to pull up off ball screens or in transition in the NBA. The rigid nature of his flat-footed shot and the lack of elevation he gets may make it necessary for him to completely retool his mechanics if he’s to improve his scoring prowess.

As a defender, Bledsoe’s physical tools make him very effective. His length and lateral quickness suggest he can compete at this end of the floor immediately in the pros. He’s a better on the ball defender than he is off the ball, often relaxing at times or losing focus when he isn’t directly involved with the play. Nonetheless, his toughness, strength and athleticism will serve him well.

Bledsoe’s stock appears to be all over the place, with some analysts (such as ESPN’s Chad Ford) suggesting he is a sure-fire lottery pick virtually all season long, while other NBA teams have him pegged as a clear-cut second round pick. Opinions about him vary greatly, and it will be interesting to see how he’s perceived once NBA teams really sit down to dissect his game and figure out how he far off he may be from contributing. His athleticism and quickness are huge selling points, but his decision making, point guard skills and unpolished offensive skills are major red flags. All indications thus far point to him entering the draft, and only time will tell whether or not this decision was the right one.

Herb Pope, 6-8, Sophomore, PF/C, Seton Hall
11.5 Points, 10.7 Rebounds, 1.8 Blocks, 2.0 Assists, 2.3 Turnovers, 46% FG, 50% FT

Matthew Williams

Announcing his intention to declare for the 2010 NBA Draft on March 29th, Herb Pope became one of the first in what should prove to be a long list of underclassmen testing the draft waters. After making national news for punching Texas Tech’s Darko Cohadarevic below the belt not once, but twice in a matter of minutes, Pope didn’t take long at all to announce that he’s leaving Seton Hall.

A double-double machine in the Big East with a limited feel on the offensive end, Pope’s high-energy style of play is certainly attractive on some levels, but his overall skill level and numerous red flags raise major concerns about his NBA future.

Standing just 6-8, Pope lacks great size for the power forward at the NBA level and is severely undersized for the center spot –the position his skill set caters to at the moment. In addition to his lack of great height, Pope is only an adequate athlete. He displays decent mobility and runs the floor adequately, but has heavy feet and isn’t exceptionally springy off the floor. Possessing a solid wingspan and some bulk, Pope has some well-defined strengths and weaknesses physically. He may need to improve his physique to augment his style of play at the next level depending on where he lands next season.

Pope’s best assets from an NBA perspective are his high energy level and rebounding ability. Constantly battling for position and willing to get low when boxing out, the Pennsylvania native does a great job cleaning the glass on both ends. Utilizing his length effectively on the offensive glass and showing a nose for the ball defensively, Pope proved to be an excellent rebounder in one of the best conferences in college basketball. He ranked 10th amongst all prospects in our database in that category, doing a notable job on the offensive glass in particular.

While his physical and aggressive style of play makes him an effective rebounder, it doesn’t compensate for his lack of offensive tools. His hustle does afford him some easy opportunities around the basket in the form of put-backs, easy layups off of drive and dumps, and easy looks in transition, but he shows a limited post game and lack of touch in the paint when he can’t get all the way to the rim. He does have some tools to work on for the future, but should a team bring Pope into the fold next season, it certainly won’t be for his merits or potential as a scorer.

Possessing an extremely basic back to the basket game, Pope shot 37.5% from the field in post up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology. Looking uncomfortable unless he can seal his man and create a seam to the rim, Pope’s touch from in close is questionable at best. Even when he can get to the rim, he doesn’t show the explosiveness to exploit his hard work when defenders collapse around him.

Despite struggling at times around the basket, Pope actually showed some degree of face-up potential. Able to put the ball on the floor for one or two straight line dribbles, he can take what the defense gives him from the midrange, but lacks fluidity in his midrange jumper. The inconsistency he shows off the dribble, especially going left, has a lot to do with his lack of ideal shooting mechanics. He doesn’t elevate well, nor does he have much touch, but he still proves relatively capable with his feet set, flashing range all the way out to just inside the college three-point arc. His jumper isn’t a terribly reliable tool for him at this point, and his inconsistency manifests itself in his sub-50% shooting from the line, but it is something that could help him diversify his game down the road.

Something he must work on is his shot-selection and decision making, though, as he doesn’t seem to know what his limitations are in the least bit, and seemed to be forcing the issue excessively from the perimeter late in the season, likely in a misguided attempt to impress NBA scouts. Interestingly enough, Pope is actually a pretty good passer when he puts his mind to it, but seemed to get too caught up at times with the undisciplined and often wild style of play that plagued Seton Hall this season.

Defensively, Pope’s high energy level is both a blessing and a curse to him. Eager to step in and take charges, willing to fight for every inch on the block, and never afraid to use his body to deny penetration, Pope shows excellent toughness defensively. The problem when projecting him to the pros is that he seems to lack the lateral quickness to guard power forwards off the dribble and the size to defend centers in the post, making him somewhat of a tweener. His length contesting shots and all-around tenacity will serve him well in the future, but playing for one of the worst defensive teams in the Big East surely didn’t do him any favors.

More concerning are the numerous red flags that have plagued Pope throughout his career, which raise significant question marks regarding whether he’s the type of character an NBA team would want to have on their roster. He grew up in a very tough area, as documented in the following article, sports various gun wounds, and bounced around repeatedly, starting off college at New Mexico State before transferring to Seton Hall following an arrest for DUI. NBA background reports could very well turn up quite a bit more that is not in the public domain.

Though Pope has some tools to work with, his average physical tools could limit his impact at the next level in both areas. Considering his in-game discretions and off-court history, Pope is a player that will need to fare extremely well in private workouts and during the interview process to alleviate the significant concerns will have about his intangibles. Far from a lock to be drafted at this point, Pope is just one of what could prove to a bevy of underclassmen who will be worth watching as they fight for a chance to hear their name called on draft night.

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