Monday, March 14, 2011

Players to watch in the NCAA Tournament. ...The Small Forwards

Each year we look deeply at the best players in the NCAA Tournament at each of the five positions. Now in our 13th year of  independently scouting college players in regard to their NBA potential, we can safely say that this is a down year for elite talent. However there is no shortage of players who should be able to carve out nice professional careers.

What makes our lists different from others? Simply stated - it is that we have studied individual player efficiency in the NBA for more than twenty years. We assess the landscape of the respective position in the NBA which allows us to forecast with greater accuracy the potential success of a college player at the next level. With no affiliation to any player agents or sponsored agendas - our lists unapologetically differ greatly from mass media sites. We watch full games across a broad spectrum of teams which allows us to have a feel for players beyond simply reading and reacting to their statistics.

This season, like most, the bulk of potential NBA talent lies in the Shooting Guard (two), Small Forward (three), and Power Forward (four) spots.  Point Guard (one), and Center (five) continue a recent trend of less depth - giving increased value to those who excel at these crucial floor positions.

So as we dive into the first player list - let's start by looking at an unusually deep group of Small Forwards.

Draymond Green - Michigan St. 6'7" 230 Junior.. ...One of the most intriguing, and smartest prospects in the NCAA is Draymond Green. Green is undersized at Power Forward but I see him having no problem being an NBA Small Forward at 6'7". ...Any lack of height is overcome with his savvy, and leadership. You do not see many forwards that own a positive assist-to-turnover ratio AND have the ability to rebound the way Green does.  Green - in his career to date as a Spartan -  has 274 assists and 161 turnovers. ...His shooting percentage is down this year but his scoring has increased to 12 points per game. He grabs 8.6 rebounds per game. ...Led Saginaw High School to Michigan Class A State Championship two straight years as a junior and senior respectively. ...In a recent 2011 NBA Draft consensus ranking - Green emerged as the 96th rated player. We think that is WAY off. Green is much better than 96th - and we expect him to be a "riser" on NBA Draft boards as the mass media sites start to understand the quality of Green's skill set.

Marcus Morris - Kansas 6'8" 225 Junior. ...Morris is one half of the "Kansas Twins". He and brother Markieff are  hard working Philadelphia-raised kids that bring skill and toughness to a team. Marcus was recently named the Big 12 Player of the Year. He is great in transition and can finish plays at the rim. In half-court sets - he is patient and smart. He can step out and hit a three point shot. He takes charges. He is alert. His combination of strength and quickness in face up situations vs. power players is very nice. …While not the playmaker that Rodney McCray was - Morris nevertheless reminds me of McCray with his ability to handle the ball or post up. Both are the kind of player that holds a team together with their ability and no nonsense approach. Morris is an excellent rebounder and he shoots 56% FG (career!). Led the Prep Charter High School Eagles to back-to-back Pennsylvania state titles in 2007 and 2006. In `07 he hit the game winning shot in the state championship game.

Jordan Hamilton - Texas 6'7" 226 Sophomore. ...Hamilton is as much of an "instant offense" guy as there is in NCAA. He is a stone cold scorer. He has deep range but he can hurt you with a back-to-basket post up or a midrange jumper. …He helps as a rebounder. …He stays in plays and will run down opponents to block their shots. ...He uses the shot fake well.

Jimmy Butler - Marquette - 6'7" 220 Senior. ...His coach (Buzz Williams) calls him the hardest working kid he's ever coached. …Jimmy Butler is a late bloomer that has improved by leaps and bounds since starting his collegiate career at a Junior College. …He rarely takes a bad shot - which is reflected in his career 51% FG shooting. ...He is smart - with a 1.6-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio (career). ...He is a good athlete with hang-time in his jumping ability. ...This season Butler averages 16 points and six rebounds per game. His three-point shooting ability is a key part of his evolving game. He doesn't shoot a high volume of threes but he make a great percentage (.409) of the long ball shots he throws up.

Jereme Richmond - Illinois - 6'7" 205 Freshman. ...Richmond makes the list based on his potential more than what he actually has accomplished to date. He was 2009-10 Illinois Mr. Basketball, and a McDonald's All American. He is best at scoring off the cut, or in one-on-one situations in the mid-post. The biggest detriment to his success at the next level might be his inconsistent (to non-existent) outside shooting ability. The rest of the ball skills are there however. He has excellent vision for a player with a scoring mentality - which makes him a candidate to break-out at any moment.

Elias Harris - Gonzaga 6'7" 240 Sophomore. ...Elias Harris has toughness and he can get to the rim with the dribble. He shoots 53% FG (career) and he rebounds. …Harris is from Germany and he played in the European Championships before coming to Gonzaga. …He likes to drive and will pass up an open jumper if there is any hint of a chance to take it to the hole. However, he does keep defenses honest with his three-point shooting. His .393 three-point field goal percentage is impressive considering his strength. …Well conditioned and seems to have energy when others are spent. On the downside, Harris has more turnovers than assists and he needs to improve as a ball handler and decision maker.

Terrence Ross - Washington 6'6" 190 Freshman. ...Ross is a scorer that will certainly see an increased role at Washington in the coming years. He can really put the ball in the hole as a perimeter scoring threat. But what makes him unique is that he is the rare three-point jacking star that also shares the ball. His 1.57-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is rock solid. Heading into the 2011 NCAA Tournament - Ross, in limited minutes, is riding a string of three straight games with double figure points. In the Pac-10 tourney - he shot over 50% in each game and was a significant cog in the Huskies cutting down the nets.

Kyle Singler - Duke 6'8" 230 Senior. ...Singler is a scrappy Small Forward that never ceases to amaze with his smarts, boundless energy, and relentless hustle. He shoots the three, he rebounds, he's a good free throw shooter. ...Singler seems to be mentally a step ahead of other players. He reads offensive situations and then makes the proper cut at the precise time to help his team. He is unselfish. …Limited in taking players off the dribble but he does uses crafty shot fakes and hesitations to get free. …Focused. ...High hoops I.Q. …Singler is Duke's most well rounded player. He was the 2010 ACC Tournament MVP.

Jeffrey Taylor - Vanderbilt 6'7" 225 Junior. ...Taylor does some things that separate him from the average wing prospect. For starters - he takes charges and is an excellent defender. …He is also relatively unselfish - passing ahead as a rule. …He is a good athlete with quick and explosive jumping ability. ...He has improved as a three-point shooter this season - with a respectable .345 three-point shooting percentage. ...He has moments of inconsistent offensive play - but his defensive versatility is not dissimilar to former NBA lock-down wing Doug Christie. This season - Taylor averages 15 points and five rebounds per game while dishing two and a half assists per contest. ...Taylor is from Sweden. He played for their National Team in the 2008 Under-20 European Division B Championships, where he averaged 19.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games. ...Taylor's father, Jeff, played at Texas Tech before playing in the NBA for Houston and Detroit.

Harrison Barnes - North Carolina 6'8" 210 Freshman. ...Barnes has NBA scouts mostly drooling over his scoring ability in an athletic package. He has come on strong down the stretch of his freshman season highlighted by a 40-point outburst vs. Clemson in the ACC Tournament. What concerns me still is that Barnes  has mostly done his damage from the perimeter - showing a reluctance to get to the free throw line consistently. He also has more turnovers than assists. ...He is an excellent transition player that can finish above the rim. ...Right handed with ability to drive and score or hit a perimeter jump shot. A former McDonald's All-American.

Tyler Honeycutt - UCLA 6'8" 188 Sophomore ...Honeycutt is a kid that I think will improve dramatically as he matures. He has all the tools but at this point - he makes youthful enthusiasm mistakes just enough to keep him from being listed as an elite prospect. ...He can hit a mid-range jumper. …He processes very quickly and makes plays at NBA speed. …Right handed. He will help as a rebounder by garnering boards outside his area. …Has good vision. …He runs as well as anyone.

Jae Crowder - Marquette 6'6" 225 Junior. ...Crowder's height suggests he would be best as a shooting guard but he plays much bigger than his listed 6'6". Crowder is in his first year at Marquette after being the National Junior College Player of the Year. He really takes care of the ball and seldom makes mistakes - as evidenced by his 53 assists vs. just 23 turnovers. His shooting is accurate - particularly from the top of the key - where he nails three point shots (.367 3-pt FG%). Crowder's father Corey played in the NBA for the Utah Jazz. 

Justin Brownlee - St. John's 6'7" 220 Senior. ...Brownlee is a player that I feel is largely slept on. This is mostly due to him being a 'tweener'. Is he a Power Forward or a Small Forward? He doesn't shoot it well enough to earn consistent minutes on the perimeter - and he is undersized to bang inside. That said, the kid can play. He has an advanced ability to make plays for himself and teammates - especially when isolated on the high post. He has an NBA body - and he can makes mid-range shots. He moves the ball - and sees the floor very well - often winding up with assists off the dribble. …Has a dependable turn around, fade away jump shot that is hard to guard. ...He rebounds outside his area. Quick enough that he will take almost any opposing PF off the dribble. ...Powerful enough to take contact and still hit a shot.

Tim Abromaitis - Notre Dame - 6'8" 235 Senior. ...One of the game's deadliest shooters is Tim Abromaitis. He simply cannot be left alone. This season he hit 72 three point shots at 42%. ...He may not be able to guard Small Forwards in the NBA. Foot speed is a concern. That said, Abromaitis is a kid that understands basketball (his father played at UConn and brother Jason played at Yale). He has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and he moves well without the ball. ...Deep range. This season he averaged 15 points and six rebounds. ...There is always room for a smart shooter somewhere.

See our Power Forwards list...
See our Shooting Guards list...
See our Point Guards list...

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