Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Centers to watch in the 2016 NCAA Tournament

The Centers we are watching most closely in the 2016 NCAA Tournament...

Poeltl, Pac-12 Player of  the Year. 
Jakob Poeltl - Utah 7'1" 240, soph. ...Poeltl was the Pac 12 Player of the Year for 2015-16. He averages 17.6 points and nine rebounds per game. He scored in double figures in all but four games this season. He is converting a staggering 67% of his field goal attempts (career). His defensive rating of 93.7 anchors the Utah defense. Poeltl is a good offensive rebounder and his free throw stroke is improved, up from just 45% as a freshman to 69% this season. He is showing a much better ability to pick and pop this season. He led the Pac 12 in True Shooting Percentage (.673). ...Poeltl has more turnovers than assists, and that part of his game needs improvement. Poeltl is originally from Vienna, Austria. Both his parents were members of Austrian national volleyball teams. You just don't see too many seven foot players with his ability to run the floor. I think he is potentially a top-tier BIG in the NBA at the height of his career. 

Diamond Stone - Maryland. 6'10" 250, frosh. ...Diamond Stone is a BIG freshman. He averages 12.9 points (56% FG), 5.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocked shots per game. He has the finesse to hit 76% of his free throws. He has good hands. Stone broke a Maryland freshman school record, scoring 39 points in a game against Penn State. Stone was also suspended by Coach Mark Turgeon for one game this season. He hit a Wisconsin player's head against the court to earn the suspension. Defensively, Stone has a slightly better defensive rating than the Maryland team. …His decision making and passing are a work in progress. He presently coughs up more than three turnovers for every one assist. Stone won four consecutive Wisconsin state championships in high school. He was a 2015 McDonald's All-America selection.

Thomas Bryant - Indiana. 6'11" 241, frosh. ...There is a reason that Indiana Basketball is back on the map. A lack of size in recent seasons was cured this year with the arrival of Thomas Bryant. Bryant has a 7'5" wingspan, and a standing reach of 9'3.5". He averages 11.6 points, and 5.8 rebounds per game in just 22 minutes per contest.  He led the Big Ten in True Shooting Percentage this season (.704). Bryant is decent at the foul line, connecting on 68.9%. Bryant scored a career high 23 points (in just 27 minutes) vs. Minnesota, January 30, 2016. ...Bryant has more turnovers than assists. He is just 18 years-old, and he won't turn 19 until July 31st.  Bryant was a 2015 McDonald's All-America selection. While Bryant may not be a star in the NBA, we think he can be a starter during his career.

The rest of the BIG men we will watch closely in the 2016 NCAA Tournament...

A.J. Hammons - Purdue. 7'0" 251, SR. 
Isaac Haas - Purdue. 7'2" 297, soph. 
Skal Labissiere - Kentucky. 7'0" 216, frosh.
Daniel Ochefu - Villanova. 6'11" 245, SR. 
Cameron Ridley - Texas. 6'10" 262, SR. 
Mike Tobey - Virginia. 6'11" 227. SR. 
Prince Ibeh - Texas. 6'10" 250, SR.
Amida Brimah - Connecticut. 7'0" 217, jr. 
Tonye Jekiri - Miami. 7'0" 244, SR.  

Power Forwards to watch in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

A good Power Forward can help a team to the winner's circle. Here are the "Fours" in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament that we like best, from an NBA scouting perspective...

The sky is the limit for Davis.
Deyonta Davis - Michigan State. 6'10" 240, frosh. ...Davis is a traditional BIG that does not shoot the three-ball at all. He keeps his game close to the hoop and as a result he shoots 59% FG. He is strong on the offensive glass. As of today (03/16/16) Davis is the consensus 14th ranked player in the 2016 NBA Draft (using a combo of Draft Express, Chad Ford, and CBS). We like him to be selected much higher than that if he does enter the Draft after just one season at Michigan State. His Defensive Rating is really impressive, especially if you look at how much better his DEFRTG is (89.7) compared to the Michigan State team DEFRTG (94.1). Davis plays an average of just 18 minutes per game but has been able to post per-minute rebounding and scoring numbers that lead us to strongly believe he will really blossom if given more minutes. He averages 7.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots per game. He blocked six shots in 22 minutes in a win over Northwestern earlier this season. He shoots 60% from the line. He has slightly more turnovers than assists. Davis was Mr. Basketball in the state of Michigan in 2015. He led his team in rebounding in the McDonald's All-American game (2015). 

Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga. 6'10" 230, soph. ...In our opinion, "Domas" Sabonis is among the most underrated players in the mass media NBA Draft rankings. His consensus range is between the 16th and 26th player that will be selected, should he choose to enter the NBA Draft. He averages 17.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Sabonis is a fiery competitor with skill, size, and solid athleticism. He is shooting a remarkable 63% FG over the course of his two seasons in the NCAA. Sabonis also brings it on the defensive end. He led the West Coast Conference in defensive rating (90.8) as a freshman, and finished second in that category this season. He improved his free throw shooting this season to 76% (he was 66% FT as freshman). He needs to become a better decision maker with the ball. ...Domas is the son of international basketball superstar Arvydas Sabonis. Domas is just 19 years old. He was born in Portland, OR. but has citizenship in both the USA and in Lithuania. 

Brice dunks everything!
Brice Johnson - North Carolina. 6'9" 228, SR. ...Brice Johnson will make life easy for his NBA coach. He is exactly the kind of player that finds a way to be efficient without having any plays run for him. Johnson is simply more active, more energized, and better athletically than whatever forward he guards. Johnson's NBA athleticism shows itself in the form of spectacular offensive rebound dunks, and high-flying transition finishes. He averages 16.6 points, and 10.6 rebounds per game. Johnson improved his scoring and rebounding output each season at North Carolina. His Defensive Rating of 90.4 is significantly better than the North Carolina team DEFRTG of 98.5. ...Among all 2016 NCAA Tournament PF's in our database, Johnson ranks as the best in efficiency per-minute. He is elite in his ability to finish in transition.  ...Johnson has a thin frame that is beginning to fill out. The three-ball is not a part of Johnson's game at all (zero attempts from beyond the arc in four seasons).

The rest of the Power Forwards we are on alert for in the 2016 NCAA Tournament...

Ivan Rabb - Cal. 6'10" 215, frosh. 
Cheick Diallo - Kansas. 6'9" 220, frosh.
Chris Boucher - Oregon. 6'10" 200, jr.
Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina. 6'9" 260, jr. 
Carlton Bragg - Kansas. 6'9" 220, frosh. 
Jameel Warney - Stony Brook. 6'8", 260. SR.
Tyler Davis - Texas A&M. 6'10" 265, frosh. 
Mike Daum - South Dakota St. 6'9" 245, frosh. 
James Farr - Xavier. 6'10" 247, SR. 
Matt Costello - Michigan State. 6'9" 245, SR. 

Small Forwards to watch in the 2016 NCAA Tourament

Small forwards should have the ability to stretch the floor offensively by shooting the deep-ball with accuracy. We also like to find players who add versatility to a team by being able to make smart decisions, while holding their own as a scorer, defender, and rebounder. 

Here are the wing players we are keeping a close eye on during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament...

Silky J
Jarrod Uthoff - Iowa. 6'9" 210, SR. ...Uthoff has a unique combination of skill and length. He can make a 25 foot jump shot with a quick release unlike few before him. At the same time, Uthoff is nimble enough at 6'9" to give offensive opponents trouble. He blocks shots at a high rate. He led the Big Ten this season in blocked shots (80 total). Uthoff is averaging 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots per game.  In his Iowa career (three seasons) he has slightly more assists than turnovers. He improved his scoring average each season, going from 7.6, to 12.4, to 18.9 ppg. Uthoff's Defensive Rating is significantly better than the Iowa team DEFRTG (that's a good thing). ...Uthoff is interesting because of his length and legitimate ability to accurately make deep shots. He looked uncomfortable on the big stage earlier this year in a loss at Maryland. Likewise he under whelmed in tournament play early this season (Iowa losses to Dayton and Notre Dame). I am interested to see how he handles being The Man for Iowa in the NCAA Tournament. 

Brandon Ingram - Duke. 6'9" 196, frosh. ...Ingram has upside for his upside. Many believe he will be either the first or second player selected in the 2016 NBA Draft. If that is the case, most of that selection will be based on what is to come for this versatile basketball player. Ingram is long and skilled. He averages 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He is shooting 41% from beyond the three point arc. He is a 68% free throw shooter. ...Ingram will need to improve his decision making to THRIVE in the NBA. His assist-to-turnover ratio is in negative territory in his freshman season. Ingram's Defensive Rating is slightly better than the Duke team DEFRTG. Ingram was a 2015 McDonald's All-American. He was recently named the ACC Rookie of the Year. 

Versatile Prince 
Taurean Prince - Baylor. 6'7" 215, SR. ...Prince averages 15.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He was fifth in Effective Field Goal Percentage in the Big 12 this season (.488). …Prince doesn’t wow you with offensive output. Instead, he plays team basketball that endears him to coaches. Prince is a 2016 All-Big 12 First Team selection (coaches). Prince is the only player in the Big 12’s top-15 in scoring (4th), rebounding (10th), steals (14th) and blocks (14th). Prince earned his career high in December against New Mexico State when he scored 34 points. He was Bleacher Report's Sixth Man of the Year award winner last year. Prince started every game for Team USA in 2015 Pan American Games, helping the squad to a bronze medal. I don't view Prince as a star at the next level but he may one day be a starter. The consensus on Prince is that he will be selected somewhere between 15th and 35th in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Gary Clark - Cincinnati. 6'7" 230, soph. ...Clark averages 10.7 points and nine rebounds per game. He was the highest ranked player in box score plus/minus this season in the AAC. He recently showed his toughness by playing on a severely sprained ankle in the championship contest of the AAC Tournament, a game that went into four overtimes! Clark led the AAC in Defensive Rating last season as a freshman. This season he was second in DEFRTG. ...The question for Clark is whether or not he can truly play SF in the NBA. He has shown the ability to hit the three point shot this season, although in limited fashion (just 25 attempts). He is a terrific decision maker with a healthy 1.58-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He shoots 66% at the free throw line. I like Clark's combination of skill and grit. 

The rest of the small forwards we will closely observe during the NCAA Tournament...

Shonn Miller - Connecticut. 6'7" 210, SR. 
Daniel Hamilton - Connecticut. 6'7" 180, soph. 
Georges Niang - Iowa State. 6'8" 236, SR. 
Tyler Lydon - Syracuse. 6'9" 205, frosh. 
Derek Willis - Kentucky. 6'9" 216, jr. 
OG Anunoby - Indiana. 6'8" 215, frosh. 
Anthony Lawrence Jr. - Miami. 6'7" 185, frosh. 
Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin. 6'8" 235, jr.
Michael Young - Pittsburgh. 6'9" 235, jr.  (See Micheal dunk!)

Read about the Point Guards to watch:
Read about the Shooting Guards to watch:

Shooting Guards to watch in the 2016 NCAA Tournament

The crop of potential NBA "two-guards" is never-ending. In our opinion, the shooting guard spot is the easiest to fill in the NBA. The trick is to fill it with players who not only score but also defend and share. With that criteria as a basis for evaluation, here are our favorite potential NBA shooting guards that are in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament...

Hart has heart
Josh Hart - Villanova.  6'5" 202 jr. ...Hart is a high-energy two-way guard. He was named to the All Big East First Team with averages of 15.5 points, and 6.9 rebounds per game. Hart is shooting 50% FG for his three-year career (impressive!). He led the Big East in Effective Field Goal Percentage in 2015-16 (.576). ...Hart owns a 1.34-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is solid defensively. Hart hits 38% from three-point land, and he is a 70% foul shooter. I like Hart for a variety of reasons but mostly because he plays hard and he is a willing passer. He helps as a rebounder from the guard position. He received the Dave Gavitt Most Outstanding Player Award after scoring 15 points to help lead the Wildcats past Xavier in the 2015 Big East Tournament. Hart was ranked as the nation's No. 82 prospect in the class of 2013 in ESPN's Top 100. ...I believe Hart has the potential to be a starter at some point in the NBA if he continues to improve his shooting stroke. His ability to defend both guard spots is valuable. 

Buddy Hield - Oklahoma. 6'4" 208 SR. ...Hield is a skilled scorer that has the potential to step into the NBA and have a positive impact. He can score from the wing with the best of the best. Hield is an accurate shooter that is shooting a ridiculously good 46% from 3-pt. range and 89% from the free throw line. If he gets a clean look at the basket you have confidence he will nail the shot. Hield led the Big 12 in True Shooting Percentage this season (.662). ...Hield repeated in 2015-16 as the Big 12 Player of the Year. This season Buddy averages 25 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He scored 46 points in a game at Kansas (01/04/16). Defensively, Hield is nothing to get excited about. His DEFRTG is worse than the Oklahoma team DEFRTG, which is never a good sign. My other nit-pick of Hield's game is that he has more turnovers than assists in his last two seasons. Hield was born in Freeport, Bahamas. 

The others we are watching closely: 

Jaylen Brown - Cal. 6'7" 222, frosh. 
Jamal Murray - Kentucky. 6'5" 201, frosh. 
Troy Williams - Indiana. 6'7" 206, jr. 
Malcolm Brogdon - Virginia. 6'5" 217, SR. 
Desi Rodriguez - Seton Hall. 6'6" 215, soph. 
Jaysean Paige - West Virginia. 6'2" 200, SR. 
Chris Flemmings - North Carolina Wilimington. 6'5" 175, jr. 
Grayson Allen - Duke. 6'4" 195, soph. 
Isaiah Whitehead - Seton Hall. 6'4" 210 soph. 
Kelan Martin - Butler. 6'6" 215, soph.
Dillon Brooks - Oregon. 6'5" 225, soph. 

Read the list of Point Guards to watch in the NCAA Tournament

Point guards to see in the 2016 NCAA Tournament

It is NCAA Tournament time! Annually, we dig deep into individual statistics of players we have scouted to comprise lists of guys we think should be watched most carefully. We break our "players to watch" into five lists (one for each position).  

Away we go! Starting with the Point Guard position as it relates to the NBA Draft... 

The Payton's are everything to Oregon State hoop
Gary Payton II - Oregon State. 6'3" 190, SR. ...There is a reason Oregon State is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990. In our opinion, the main reason is Gary Payton II. The game comes easy to him. "GP II" averages 15.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. His defensive instincts have earned him the seventh best career Defensive Rating in the Pac-12 (those stats first tracked in 1994). His shot is not broken by any means but his career 3-pt% is just .300, and he shoots 65% from the free throw line. He makes good decisions with the ball, posting a career 1.93-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is excellent at helping as a rebounder from the guard position. Payton II is left handed. He is an NBA caliber athlete. GP II played junior college ball prior to choosing Oregon State. He is already 23 years old, and some NBA teams may hold that against him, preferring to go with a younger prospect. Due to his potential as a two-way player, we view GP II as the best point guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft, all things considered. 

Denzel Valentine - Michigan State. 6'5" 220, SR. ...The undisputed floor-leader of the Spartans in 2016 is Denzel Valentine. He recently won Big Ten Player of the Year honors in a season where he averaged 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. Valentine has two triple-doubles this season (games against Boston College, and Kansas). I like Valentine's 6'5" size as it projects to the next level. He is a smart ball-player that dissects opposing defenses with his ability to read and react. He owns a 2.02-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is one of those players that is "all over the court". He has improved his three point shooting with each season, now converting at a 44% clip. He is a career 78% foul shooter. Valentine leads the NCAA in box score plus/minus. Michigan State is +17 (per game) with Valentine on the floor. While his athleticism is average at best, Valentine still projects as a potentially valuable starting NBA guard. 

Dunn has upside 
Kris Dunn - Providence. 6'3" 205, SR. ...Dunn recently earned his second Big East Player of the Year award. He averages 16 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 2.5 steals per contest. His assists and steals averages were tops in the Big East. Dunn is an acceptable three point shooter (33% career) but he would prefer to beat his man off the bounce. I would like to see his shot selection improve. He has the tools to be better than the 44% FG shooter he is (career). Likewise, his decision making is just okay for a point guard (1.71-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, career). Dunn is a career 69% free throw shooter. Dunn is a guy that immediately passes the eye test. However, if you really watch him, he has some aspects of his game that need to tighten up if he is to be the projected NBA starter many peg him to be. 

Melo Trimble - Maryland. 6'2" 175, soph. ...Trimble averages 14.4 points and 5.1 assists per game. He has a really nice shooting stroke (37% 3-pt, and 86% FT, career). In his second season as the Terps leader he sacrificed some scoring for being a better play-maker that sets up his teammates. This is a wise move by the heady guard who at 6'2" will be better suited to playing Point Guard as opposed to Two-Guard in the NBA. His career assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.57-to-1 (borderline for a PG). Trimble is excellent at drawing fouls on penetration. He led the Big Ten in free throw attempts in 2014-15, and was fifth in that category this season. Defensively, Trimble needs to improve. His defensive rating of 100.0 is slightly worse than the Maryland overall team DEFRTG of 98.2. ...We view Trimble, at this stage, to be a potential top-tier backup at the next level. 

Tyler Ulis - Kentucky. 5'9" 155, soph. ...The diminutive Point Guard was the SEC Player of the Year for 2015-16. Ulis is a "real" Point Guard with a 3.71-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That kind of decision making ability is indeed rare in such a young player. Ulis averages 17.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. His 7.2 assists per game was best in the SEC. He shoots 37% from beyond the college arc, and he is a rock-solid 84% at the line. If there is a concern about Ulis in the NBA it is clearly his liability on defense. His DEFRTG numbers are significantly worse than the Kentucky team DEFRTG. As of today, we view Ulis as a potential tempo-changing backup in the NBA. 

The others specifically on our radar: 

Monte Morris - Iowa St. 6'2" 170, jr. 
Thomas Walkup - Stephen F. Austin. 6'4" 195, SR. 
Fred VanVleet - Wichita State. 6'0" 195, SR. 
Kadeem Allen - Arizona. 6'3" 180 jr. 
Lorenzo Bonam - Utah. 6'4" 215, jr. 
Luke Kennard - Duke. 6'5" 180, frosh. 
Frank Mason Jr. - Kansas. 5'11" 185, jr. 
Isaiah Taylor - Texas. 6'1" 170 jr.