Monday, March 23, 2009

Way Too Early NBA Draft Post - Who Helped and Who Hurt Their Stock This Weekend

For the sake of this post, we are going to assume that everyone is declaring for the draft. Since we are discussing draft stock, we can assume that everyone is eligible because, well, they are. I'm a firm believer that a player's hype can influence their draft position because I feel like a lot of GM's will draft someone "hot" because it will appease their fan base. Right or wrong, a good NCAA Tournament, where a player excels in front of a national audience, can give people a false impression of how good that player will be. Think Joe Alexander.

Who Hurt Themselves:

  • James Harden, Arizona State: Harden can score at the collegiate level. There is no doubt about that, as he has put up some phenomenal numbers in his two years in Tempe. There have really been two knocks on Harden throughout his career as a Sun Devil. The first is that he lacks the explosiveness to be a franchise caliber scorer in the league. He does not have a great vertical, and when he does score going to the rim, it is more the result of his craftiness than the ability to dunk on people (Gerald Henderson he is not). In the two games this weekend, he did not really finish around the rim, instead drawing fouls and getting to the line (he shot 17 free throws in the two games). Against more athletic defenders, he may not be able to draw these fouls.

    The other issue is that he is not aggressive enough. Harden has a tendency to "let the game come to him", meaning he does not utilize his tremendous talent by attacking defenders from the tip. He did not look aggressive in either game this weekend. It was less of an issue against Temple, because both Derek Glasser and Jeff Pendergraph were really clicking offensively. But against Syracuse he looked downright passive. Yes, a lot of that had to do with amount of focus he was being given by the Syracuse defense (Rihard Kuksiks and Ty Abbott both were left open all game by Syracuse, as the Orange decided to let the Sun Devils try and shoot themselves back into the game). He did not score a point in the first half against Syracuse, and although he did start to make things happen in the second half, it was too little too late. He is being projected by most places as a top-5 pick, which is a range where teams will try to find a franchise player, or at least a go-to scorer. Will a team be willing to use a pick that high on a guy that has not shown the ability (or desire) to take over a game when the team needs him to?

  • Austin Daye, Gonzaga: Daye has all the tools that you would look for in a player. He is 6'10" and long with an inside and outside game. After a good freshman campaign, a lot was expected out of Daye this year. But he has been inconsistent, especially against quality competition. He went for 22 against Arizona and 20 against Tennessee this year, but he was a non-factor in the loss to Memphis, fouled out against UConn, and did not play well in any of the three games against St. Mary's.

    Yes, Daye has looked a bit less athletic than he did last year, but he did deal with some knee injuries in the off-season. And the lack of strength on his frame is always going to be a question mark, but he is just 19 years old (looks like he is 15) and that should improve as he continues to fill out (toughness is an issue as well. Watch the video of the end of the WKU game, and see who Pettigrew out hustles for the tip-in that tied the game). But the biggest issue has been his attitude. Daye has a tendency to to sulk when things aren't going his way, be it because he is missing shots or not getting calls. That is what was most prevalent about his two performances this weekend. Daye seemingly whined about every call that didn't go his way. If he can't handle it at this level, what is going to happen in the NBA, where unproven young players get even fewer calls?

  • Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest: Two months ago, all three of these guys seemed destined for the lottery. Wake was running people off the floor, and each of these guys were shining. But ever since teams figured out how to play Wake (pack it in defensively, slow the pace, and force them to shoot jumpers and score in the half court), the Demon Deacons were nothing more than mediocre. All three of these guys are fantastic athletes and damn near unstoppable in an open court, up and down game. But it has become apparent that they all need some serious work on their basketball skills - handle, shooting, etc.

    Teague has probably dropped the most of the three. He was on fire for the early part of the season, but his threes did not fall down the stretch. He also was exposed as a shaky ball-handler, play maker, and decision maker down the stretch. Case in point - he committed seven turnovers and was able to take just seven shots against Cleveland State in the biggest game of his Wake career.

  • Hasheem Thabeet, UConn: There is no question that Thabeet is a defensive force in the paint unlike many others. But the question is his offensive ability and his toughness inside, especially against bigger, stronger players (see his 5 point, 4 rebound performance against DeJuan Blair in their first match-up). It was more of the same for Thabeet against a big, strong Texas A&M front line. He finished with just six boards, taking only two shots from the field, and, as he has been all too often against players with NBA size and strength, was basically a non-factor on the offensive end.

  • Luke Nevill, Utah: Nevill has NBA size (7'2", 260 lb), but the numbers he put up as the MWC player of the year this season came against, well, the MWC. Nevill has a decent post game offesively, and while he can't really go left yet, a team might have taken a risk on him simply because of his size. But the biggest knock on Nevill is his lack of athleticism - he is not very quick, especially laterally, and can't jump all that high. Doubters have questioned whether or not he will be able to match-up with NBA big men. He had a chance to prove them wrong against the athletic front line of Arizona, headlined by potential top 10 pick Jordan Hill, but Nevill looked completely over matched. He was in foul trouble the entire game as he could not match-up with the athletic Hill.
Who Helped Themselves:
  • Cole Aldrich, Kansas: Aldrich has the size, strength, and skill set to be a good NBA center, and he only reinforced those notions with his performance in the first two rounds. He was unstoppable on the block against North Dakota State, which was to be expected as the Bison have a small front line. It was already known, however, that Aldrich had an excellent upside as an offensive player - he has a great touch on his jump shot, is extremely coordinated for someone his size (think about all the difficult oops he has caught this year), and while he still is not a great scorer going 1-on-1 on the block, that can come with time. Against Dayton, however, Aldrich put up as dominating of a performance on the defensive end as we have seen all year (and that is including Thabeet). While no one is in Thabeet's league when it comes to defense, Aldrich is 6'11" with a huge wingspan and phenomenal timing (and the ability to avoid foul trouble - he averages just 3.8 fouls per 40 minutes). Aldrich has the potential to be an above average defensive center, and while he is still developing offensively, he good be a more appealing prospect than Thabeet because he can contribute on both sides of the ball.

  • Ben Woodside, North Dakota State: Woodside was probably not on many people's radar before his 60 point game against Stephen F. Austin, but he has had an excellent career, averaging at least 16.4 ppg and 5.1 apg in every season at NDSU. This season was by far his best, as he was top 10 nationally were averages of 23.2 ppg and 6.2 apg. The problem was that he did it against poor competition playing in the Summit League (he did average 15 ppg and 8 apg against USC and Minnesota this season). But in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Woodside had a coming out party. He went for 37 points, going basket for basket with Sherron Collins. Woodside is not going to be a star in the league. He is small, even for a point guard, and will be a liability on the defensive end. But Woodside can be an effective player. While not all that fast, he is deceptively quick and has a knack for being able to get in the lane (he got just about any shot he wanted - be it a jumper or getting to the rim - against Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor, two fine defenders). He is a deadeye shooter off the dribble or the catch and can create for his teammates as well. I'm sure that some team will take a flyer on him in the second round or through free agency, and his performance against Collins will be a huge reason why. Is this guy another Jose Juan Barea?

  • Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Faried is in a similar situation to Woodside, in that he was a virtual unknown before a good tournament performance. Faried put up some great numbers this season, averaging 13.7 ppg and 13.0 rpg. He is an extremely active, high energy guy, and a capable defender (2 steals and 2 blocks per game). While he doesn't quite have ideal NBA size (he is only 6'8"), he has some serious hops and, as I said, plays with a ton of energy. Some people are comparing him to Louis Admunson, an energy guy that not many people had heard of outside of UNLV, but who has managed to latch on with the Pheonix Suns. Offensively, he is not much more than a dunker at this point (and may never be more than a dunker), but the 14 points and 21 boards he had in the play-in game, and the 14 points and 11 boards he had against Louisville, definitely put him on the NBA's radar. He is only a sophomore, so if he can continue to develop his strength (only 215 lb), you might be looking at a future pro.

  • Evan Turner, Ohio State: Turner is already considered a solid first round pick. He does so many things well. Despite the loss to Siena, Turner proved it on a national stage, as he finished the game with 25 points, 9 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Turner grew an inch between his freshman and sophomore years (he now stands at 6'7", great size for an NBA wing), and he has good length for his position. What makes him such a tantalizing prospect is how smooth he is. He is one of those guys that just makes everything he does on a basketball court seem effortless. He is not the most explosive guy in the world (he runs into trouble when he has to finish at the rim) but his mid-range game and pull-up jumper is already quite developed. He is a crafty player that utilizes fakes and hesitation moves to overcome his relative lack of quickness. Turner reminds me a lot of a guy like Danny Granger - a player that will fall through the cracks in the draft because he doesn't do anything great, but because he is so versatile and does so many things well, don't be surprised if he turns into a very good player at the next level, especially if he keeps improving the range on his jump shot. Turner said he is coming back after OSU lost, but don't be surprised if he changes his mind as the draft nears

  • Demar Derozan, USC: Derozan may have helped his draft status as much as anyone over the last two weeks of his freshman campaign. He had a disappointing freshman year prior to March. You know about his off-the-charts athleticism, but he didn't seem to have the confidence in his ability. But he carried USC through the Pac-10 tourney (averaging 21 and 9 boards) and into the dance, where he put 18 on both Michigan State and Boston College. While he is still far from an NBA player because of his under developed offense repertoire (he can't really get to the basket in a half court set just yet, and his ball handling is very poor), he showed much improved aggressiveness, especially going to the glass. He also seems like the kind of player that will develop a very good jump shot down the road. He has great form, and he gets some serious elevation on his J, which will make it very difficult to defend. While he could really use another season at USC to continue his development on the offensive end, don't be surprised if his performance in March leads him to the draft, and even into the top 10.

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