Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NBA Draft Prospects: Larry Sanders, VCU

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Stats: 14.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg (3.0 off), 2.6 bpg, 53.4% FG


  • Listed: 6'9", 205 lb, 21 yrs old
  • Combine: 6'10 1/2" (with shoes), 222 lb, 7'5 3/4" (wingspan)

About Him: Larry Sanders development as a player has been striking. Having only started playing basketball as a sophomore in high school, Sanders came to VCU without much in the way of basketball ability. That's not to say he didn't have potential. He's athletic, nearly 6'11" in shoes, has a wingspan of 7'5 3/4", and can run the floor. Throw some more meat on his bones, and he has almost an ideal physical profile for a big man in the NBA.

As a freshman, Sanders' game revolved around his ability to catch-and-dunk (which was never a guarantee), block shots, and grab some rebounds. While he is still a long ways from being a finished product, he has made some real strides at the offensive end of the floor. He's become a much better finisher around the basket, as he has developed a better left hand and some increased strength has allowed him to better go up strong through contact. While his back to the basket game is still developing -- his coordination and footwork is not yet good enough to take advantage of his quickness -- he does have a couple of moves that allow him to take advantage of his length. That said, those moves came against CAA competition, which is a far cry from NBA post play.

Another area that Sanders has improved is from the line, as he is now knocking down free throws at a 64% clip. He clearly has an increased confidence in his ability to shot from the perimeter, as he took some three pointers this season. While he didn't hit many of the jumpers he took, the fact that he was shooting from the perimeter during games means he likely has been developing a jump shot. If he can translate that jumper from practice into a game situation, it will greatly benefit him as a player, especially if he ends up playing the four in the NBA.

Defensively, Sanders is a good shot blocker, although his numbers have dipped every season. That can, in part, be explained through scouting reports -- opponents know that if they drive, there will be a shot blocker at the rim. That said, Sanders at times looks lackadaisical defensively, not always rotating and getting over late to block a shot.

The biggest issue for Sanders on both ends of the floor is going to be increasing his strength and his weight. Offensively, he is not yet strong enough to back down defenders. Defensively, he allows offensive post players to establish position way too easily. If he can put on 20-30 pounds of muscle, and improve his lower body strength, it will help him immensely.

  • Best Case Scenario: I think Larry Sanders could be another Theo Ratliff. Ratliff never really developed an offensive game, but he was one of the best shot blockers in the NBA for a few years. (He even earned himself a massive contract. Its all about getting paid, right?)
  • Worst Case Scenario: Poor man's Joe Pryzbilla, a few inches shorter.
Outlook: Larry Sanders clearly needs a couple of years before he can be a rotational player. On the bright side, the fact that he has gone from not playing basketball to a potential lottery pick in five years is impressive, and bodes well for future development. If he can add strength and improve his offensive game, I think Sanders could one day be a starter in the league, maybe even an all-defensive team player. Not bad for someone picked in the mid-to-late first round.


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