Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Players to watch in the NCAA Tournament. ...The Point Guards

Kyrie Irving - Duke 6'2" 172 Freshman - Hoping to play after sitting out the majority of the season with a toe injury - Kyrie Irving is a possible first pick in the NBA Draft. He is a pure point guard that passes ahead, finds the open-man, and does so at NBA speed. He is a smart right-handed guard that may not wow you with the type of athleticism that Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose possess - but nevertheless - Irving gets the job done (think more like Chris Paul style). Irving has good first-step quickness - which gives him the ability to get into the paint. ...He is a good on-ball defender. ...He will sacrifice his body for a loose ball. ...Finishes in transition. ...Not comfortable shooting with his left hand. ...He only played in eight games this season to date but in those eight contests - he was at times dominant. His .710 EFR translates to ELITE Point Guard status at the next level. The question is whether or not - the small sample size of efficiency could have been maintained through ACC play - had he been healthy. ...Irving is a former McDonald's All-American.

Kemba Walker - Connecticut 6'1" 172 Junior - No player has received more television coverage this season than Kemba Walker. An ESPN darling, Walker is a strong Point Guard with great ball handling ability, combined with good speed. He repeatedly has nailed clutch shots for the Huskies this season - and he seems to shine when the lights are at their brightest. …Not afraid to go to the hole. …He competes. …Stays in plays defensively. …Crafty. Good in transition. …Can make a play one on one in crunch time. ...He has a nice stroke that is consistent and reliable. ...Quick hands. ...Alert. He will be among the steals leaders whereever he plays. ...He uses his off hand well (left). …Willing to accept a challenge. He reminds me of Ben Gordon but Walker is a little more of a PG than Gordon ever was. Walker has better vision than Gordon. ...Walker played for the Team USA Select team that practiced against the USA Men's senior National Team in the Summer of 2010. ...From the Bronx, NY. ...For his career his field goal percentage is just .430 - which helps to explain why U-Conn struggles to win with consistency. Defensively - I would like to see Walker have more active hands in on-ball situations.

Shabazz Napier - Connecticut 6'0" 170 Freshman - Napier is a darty small Point Guard that competes. He is very quick and very pesky as an on-ball defender. His 60 steals in just 821 minutes is 'off-the-charts' excellent. ...Right-handed (and he really needs to improve his left). ...Napier has "mix-tape" ball-handling ability. ...Can remind you of Jerryd Bayless. ...Napier shot more three-point shots than free throws this season (something I never endorse). He needs to get to the hole more often. ...His overall field goal percentage is a woeful .383.

Michael Dixon - Missouri 6'1" 180 Sophomore - If there is a more self-confident, aggressive player in the country than Michael Dixon - I don't think I've seen him yet. There is no shot that Dixon doesn't think he should hit. Because of that - Dixon will throw-up a few questionable attempts. ...His respectable .385 3-pt percentage pairs nicely with a nearly two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. ...Career 83% free throw shooter.  ...Dixon is a ball of energy with the heart of an assassin. Even though he is small - he can take a hit and still convert a shot. ...He only plays 22 minutes per-game. It says here - if Mizzou wants to make a deeper run - they need to get Dixon more floor time.

Marcus Denmon - Missouri 6'3" 185 Junior - Denmon is a right handed, guard with toughness that can really shoot the ball. This season - Denmon is the rare guard that boasts over 50% FG shooting. From beyond the arc - he nails an unbelievable 45%. He is just as apt to beat you off the dribble which poses a real dilemma for defenders. ...Good quickness.  ...Shoots 74% from the line. ...He reacts quickly. ...Makes good cuts to the hoop. ...Improving rapidly. …Would like to become a basketball coach following his playing career. He owns a nice 1.78 to 1 ast.-to-turnover ratio. ...Suffered a fractured knee-cap as a freshman.

Jackson Emery - BYU 6'3" 185 Senior - Emery is a good athlete that would be easy to overlook in the considerable shadow of Jimmer Freddette.  The truth is, Jackson Emery is one of the most skilled and competitive players in the Mountain West. …He gets after it. This season - he was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. ...He broke Danny Ainge's BYU career record for steals.  ...He shoots 39% from beyond the arc (career) and he owns a 2.7 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. "He does have tremendous lateral quickness," said BYU coach Dave Rose, "And he's very skilled at anticipating and understanding what opponents are doing or what their tendencies are. He's one of those guys who can see what's happening before it happens." ...Emery served a two year LDS mission following his freshman season. He is 23 years old.

Peyton Siva - Louisville 5'11" 180 Sophomore - If Peyton Siva becomes a better shooter he has a chance to one day make it as a pro. ...Similar to D.J. Augustin in his ability to run a team but still needing to be more of a scoring threat from the perimeter. ...Siva has the solid 1.86-to-1 assist to turnover ratio but he shoots just .278 from beyond the three-point line. ...Siva is a good on-ball defender. Right handed. ...Former McDonald's All-American.

Brandon Knight - Kentucky 6'3" 185 Freshman - Among the best freshman guards in the country - Knight is natural born leader that has been the glue holding together the late season surge of the Wildcats. ...He is a smart kid with a high basketball IQ. ...His improvement from the beginning of the season to now is noticeable. Knight is a solid shooter at 44% FG, 78% FT, 38% 3-pt. ...At this stage - he may be more of a Shooting Guard than a Point Guard. His assist-to-turnover numbers are not PG worthy at 1.33-to-1. However, his future seems destined to be at the ONE spot. ...He moves without the ball. …He can penetrate or hit the long ball. ...McDonald's All-American.

Brad Wanamaker - Pittsburgh 6'4" 210 Senior.  Wanamaker is the epitome of a Senior Point Guard. He doesn't force anything, he's all business, and he runs his team. ...Wanamaker averages 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. His weakness is his outside shooting ability - which is pedestrian at best (.333 from 3-pt. range). ...He is an alert defender and he seems to be a step ahead mentally. He likes to get to the elbow for his mid-range jumper which he does well. ...He is completely under control. ...He consistently makes the correct pass. ...What he does not do real well is break defenders down off the dribble. He can have difficulty creating his own shot in late clock situations. ...He would be the ideal guard to play alongside a very creative Shooting Guard.

Chris Wright - Georgetown 6'1" 210 Senior  - Wright is a small point guard with a thick, sturdy frame that plays at NBA speed. He has good vision. His assist-to-turnover ratio has improved each season to a rock solid 1.88 to 1 as a Senior. …He has great body control and excellent balance. He can take a hit and still convert. Wright has matured as a Point Guard, improving his shot selection. ...He has deep range. ...Anticipates well defensively. ...Quick. ...Good handle with both right and left hand. Wright never really played with an "above the rim" big man - and I think he would be much more efficicient if he did. ...Right handed. ...A former McDonald's All-American ... Won the three-point shooting contest at the 2007 McDonald's All-American Classic ... Played in the `07 Jordan Brand All-Star Classic in New York ... Named the Gatorade Washington, D.C. Player of the Year as a high school Senior.

E'Twaun Moore - Purdue 6'4" 195 Senior  - The floor leader for Purdue is Moore, a guard with good size that can put the ball in the hole. He scores 18 points per game while helping out on the boards to the tune of five per contest. ...He is not a pure PG but his assist-to-turnover ratio is excellent at 1.96-to-1. ...He's not a pure shooter either - but his three-point percentage is a very healthy .414 this season. His 70% free throw number is probably a better indicator of his touch.  Matt Painter, Purdue Head Coach, said. "E'Twaun is an unselfish player who can be one of the top guards in the country when he allows the game to come to him." ...In high school he led his team, East Chicago, to 2007 4A State Championship.

Elijah Johnson - Kansas 6'4" 195 Sophomore - Johnson is another kid that barely plays (14 minutes per game) for Kansas that could be an NBA player down the road. How about the luxury Bill Self has of going to the bench for the sixth guard on your roster - and he is a guy that shoots over 40% from 3-pt. land and has a better than two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio? Johnson was ranked as the 24th-29th best overall high school Senior by the major recruiting services in 2009. ...He may not play ten minutes in any tourney game this year - but if he does... I bet he balls!

Isaiah Thomas - Washington 5'8" 170 Junior - Thomas is a speedy guard that has heart! He has  tremendous ability to break defenders down off the dribble and a strong upper-body to convert through contact. ...This season he took a dramatic rise in my eyes as he discovered the joy of sharing the basketball. When he looks to involve his teammates he is such a better player than the what I saw for the majority of his first two seasons. As a freshman and sophomore I thought his game was too about his his own scoring. This season - Thomas owns a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. ...He has increased his three point shooting percentage with his newfound better shot selection. He shoots .357 from beyond the arc. His free throw shooting must improve (just 70%).

Nolan Smith - Duke 6'3" 185 Senior  - The ACC Player of the Year, Smith has dramatically improved since his freshman season. He now averages 21 points per game as a confident leader at Duke. ...He can score in a variety of ways. He is best at driving into the paint after a little hesitation dribble he uses. ...He gets to the free throw line (he had seven games this season with 10+ FTA's), and converts at 81%. ...He can hit a three-point shot (35%). ...Smart player that uses screens well, and plays with poise and patience most of the time. ...As a HS senior in 2006-07, averaged 22.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 4.1 apg. and 3.2 spg. to help Oak Hill to a 40-1 record, tying the school’s all-time season high for wins, and a final No. 1 spot in the USA Today 2007 Super 25 national rankings.

Kendall Marshall - North Carolina 6'4" 190 Freshman - Marshall is the pass-first Point Guard that resuscitated the Tar Heels this season with his completely selfless game. ...Always dribbling with his head-up - Marshall's court vision is the kind you see once in every ten to twenty years. Seriously. The kid is THAT special as a passer. His 2.61-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is fantastic! ...However - he does have holes in his game. He is an average athlete at best. He is a poor free throw shooter for a Point Guard at just 66%, and he doesn't help much as a rebounder. ...He does show the craftiness to drive and score; using the hesitation dribble to get into the lane. ...He is good at creating space with his body leanings. ...Former McDonald's All-American.

Others to watch: Jordan Taylor - Wisconsin. Maalik Wayns - Villanova. Demetri McCamey - Illinois. Jake Odum - Indiana St.

See our Centers list...
See our Power Forwards list...
See our Small Forwards list
See our Shooting Guards list...

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