Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Sweet 16. Players to watch from an NBA scouting perspective

Blue chip players can be found. 
There is a certain credibility that goes with being one of the outstanding basketball players in action in the Sweet 16. Now that the 2015 NCAA Tournament is down to 16 teams, the spotlight begins to shine brighter and focus harder on the individual stars. Annually, we write an article that lists the 16 players that we feel are the most worthy of having NBA scouting eyes on them. We started this exercise in 2005, and we can report that any player making this list has an 82% chance of earning an NBA pay-check, at minimum. Some will become All-Stars. Sweet 16 "alumni" that have reached NBA All-Star status include these "blue chip" players: Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, and Jimmy Butler. 

Who are the Sweet 16 players we will zero in on? 

1. Karl Anthony Towns - Kentucky 7'0" 250 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Towns has the best defensive rating in college basketball. When he is on the floor, Kentucky gives up just 76.6 points per 100 possessions. That stat may not mean much to you if you are not "in-tune" with the impact defensive rating (DEFRTG) can have on a team's success. Trust us. A DEFRTG of 76.6 is a BIG DEAL. ...Towns is a tremendous shot-blocker and rim protector, yet he has the finesse to shoot 82% from the free-throw line. He is still learning to play in the low post but by all accounts, he is a smart kid that should improve. ...I also like that at age 19, the seven-foot Towns shows humility in being able to handle playing on a loaded Kentucky team where he plays just 21 minutes per game. He averages 10 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocked shots per game. 

2. Justise Winslow - Duke 6'7" 229 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Winslow has game changing ability in the open-court. He is ridiculously talented in transition, with the ability to finish with power, speed, and skill. Winslow averages 12 points, and six rebounds per game. He shoots an impressive 40% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers. Winslow shoots just 61% from the free throw line, which is concerning. ...Justise's Dad, Rickie Winslow played professionally in Turkey. Justise will be a safe pick in the NBA Draft. 

They call him "Jah"
3. Jahlil Okafor - Duke 6'11" 270 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Okafor is a skilled BIG that has remarkable ability to score in the low-post. He has a BIG wide body and good ball handling skills that allow him carve space in the paint. Okafor is shooting 67% FG! He averages 18.1 points, and 8.7 rebounds per game. Okafor is especially good on the offensive glass. ...As good as Okafor is, he has three major weaknesses in our opinion. He is a poor foul shooter (51% FT), he has nearly two turnovers for every one assist, and his post defense is below-average. Okafor could also be in better shape. 

4. Delon Wright - Utah 6'5" 180 lbs. Point Guard. Senior. ...Wright is a multi-faceted point guard that has really improved as a three point shooter during the 2014-15 season. The younger brother of Dorell Wright (Portland TrailBlazers forward), Delon is excellent running the pick-and-roll, showing an ability to create a shot for himself as well as set up his teammates. Wright led the Pac-12 in true shooting percentage in 2014-15. ...Wright reacts very quickly, allowing him to get a high number of steals and deflections. But he's not just out there gambling to get steals. His defensive rating is excellent, at 88.9. ...Potential top-tier NBA guards are difficult to come by and should be coveted. Wright has a chance, in our opinion, to, in-time, become a top-tier NBA player. 

5. Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky 7'0" 244 lbs. Center. junior. ...Cauley Stein is a rim protecting BIG that is remarkably quick off his feet. He blocks shots and holds down the paint with a presence of cat-quickness and length. Cauley-Stein has a standing reach of 9'2" (same as Tyson Chandler), and a max-vert. of 37". ...Cauley-Stein knows his limitations reasonably well and he seldom takes a bad shot. He shoots 59% FG. ...Far from complete, Cauley Stein is a horrid free throw shooter (50% FT), and he has more turnovers than assists. But his upside is ridiculously high. You just don't find seven footers that can move the way Cauley-Stein does. 


Brice is nice. 
6. Brice Johnson - North Carolina 6'9" 228 lbs. Power Forward. junior. ...Johnson is a scoring forward with NBA athleticism. He averages 12.9 points, and 7.9 rebounds per game. He has a reputation for not being a great defender. However, his Defensive Rating of 93.3 is far from poor. ...Among all 2015 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 three seasons). 

7. Stanley Johnson - Arizona 6'7" 245 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Johnson is a rugged wing player that can lock-down the opposing team's best wing. That is valuable. He has the best defensive rating of any wing player left in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson helped lead the U.S. to gold medals at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. He was the MVP of the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. ...He averages 14 points, six rebounds, and one and a half steals per game. Johnson is solid from the three point line, hitting 37%. …Johnson can be better by improving his decision making. He presently has more turnovers than assists.  

8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Arizona 6'7" 215 lbs. Shooting Guard. sophomore. ...Arizona is loaded, and sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson stands out among great athletes, as the most hyper-athletic guy on the Cats' roster. Hollis-Jefferson is an elite defender. His defensive rating of 87.9 ranks him second among 2015 NCAA Tournament small forwards. …Hollis-Jefferson has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (career) but he struggles as a perimeter shooter (21% 3-pt career). He shoots 69% from the line. ...I view him as an top-notch athlete with a huge upside. If the shooting gets better, look out. 

9. Kevon Looney - UCLA 6'9" 220 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Looney is an NBA athlete that can legitimately play the small forward position well at 6'9". He is terrific on the offensive glass, and he finishes well in transition. Looney has a positive assist to turnover ratio and he shoots 43% from beyond the college 3-pt. line. I really wish he would stay in school because I don't think he is ready to play meaningful minutes in an NBA game. That said, in three or fours years, he might be a top-tier small forward. 


Sabonis is intense. 
10. Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga 6'10" 230 lbs. Power Forward. freshman. ..."Domas" Sabonis is the most talented freshman that is still somewhat "under the radar" of the average college hoops fan. He is a fiery competitor with skill, size, and solid athleticism. He is shooting a remarkable 67% FG as a freshman! Sabonis also brings it on the defensive end. He led the West Coast Conference in defensive rating (90.8). ...Domas is the son of international basketball superstar Arvydas Sabonis. Domas is just 18 years old. He was born in Portland, OR. but has citizenship in both the USA and in Lithuania. 

11. Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin 7'0" 254 lbs. Center. Senior. ...Frank Kaminsky is a seven-footer with skill and shooting touch. He has a feel for the game of basketball. He averages 18.4 points, and 8.1 rebounds per game. He can make three point shots (36% career), owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and he shoots 75% from the foul line. What makes Kaminsky unique is that he was a 6'7" point guard as recently as his junior year of high school. Now those guard skills allow him, as a seven-foot Center, to do things other BIGs simply cannot do. ...He posted the best defensive rating in the Big Ten in 2014-15 (90.1). Kaminsky is a very good defensive rebounder (he led the Big Ten in 2014-15). He was also the Big Ten leader in field goal percentage (55% FG). 

12. Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin 6'8" 235 lbs. Small Forward. sophomore. ...Hayes is yet another quality, two-way, wing player that should have a solid NBA career. He averages 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Hayes did not make a single three point shot as a freshman last season. This season, Hayes is shooting 39% 3-pt with 33 made threes. His career free throw percentage is 66% but he has improved this season to 74%. He is solid with the ball, posting a slightly positive assist-to-turnover ratio. 

13. J.P. Tokoto - North Carolina 6'5" 200 lbs. Shooting Guard. junior. ...Tokoto is a freak athlete that continues to improve as a basketball player. In three straight seasons he has shown progress by improving his three-point and free throw percentages. This season, Tokoto is shooting 37% 3-pt, and 61% FT. His assist-to-turnover ratio stands at a very good (for a shooting guard) 1.62-to-1 (career). In transition he is ridiculously good; making highlight plays routinely. He averages just eight points per game but he adds 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. ...The ceiling for Tokoto is extremely high. 

14. Montrezl Harrell - Louisville 6'8" 235 lbs. Power Forward. junior. ...Harrell is among the most intense competitors we have scouted in 17 years of watching college basketball. He is about hustle, and heart. He can be intimidating and hard on his teammates. ...Harrell is not the most skilled player, but he makes up for that with his determined efforts. He averages 15.4 points, and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder that enjoys power-dunking. He will try to dunk ANYTHING close to the rim. This season, Harrell has shown the ability to occasionally step outside and knock down a face-up jumper. ...On the flip side, Harrell is a terrible free throw shooter at 48%, and he turns it over more than he assists it.  

15. Jakob Poeltl - Utah 70'0" 230 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Poeltl is Utah's not-so secret weapon. He plays just 23 minutes per game but when he is on the floor, the Utes are a better team. Poeltl is converting a staggering 69.1% of his field goal attempts. His defensive rating of 87.6 can anchor, for whatever limited minutes he may play, the Utah defense. Poeltl is a good offensive rebounder but his free throw stroke is sketchy at just 45% FT. ...I really hope that Poeltl returns to school next season. For all the promise he shows, I'm afraid he will get lost in the NBA grind of BIG men. 

16. Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina 6'9" 290 lbs. Power Forward. sophomore. ...Meeks is a load. 6'9" 290 lbs. He is hard to keep out of the paint, and he has a soft touch. As such, he shoots 55.9% FG for his two season career as a Tar Heel. The former McDonald's All-American averages 11.6 points, and 7.4 rebounds per game. Meeks is a poor free throw shooter at just 61% FT (career). …He is questionable to play in the Sweet 16 after suffering a knee injury in North Carolina's most recent game. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Point Guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

The current landscape at the Point Guard position in the NBA is crowded with excellent players. To become the leader of a professional team, fresh from college, very rarely happens, and if it does happen, it usually ends in losses. 

While we will list 14 point guards to watch, the truth is, more than half of them will probably never sniff meaningful minutes in an NBA contest. That does not mean that the guys we mention are not worth watching, it just illustrates how deep the talent pool is right now at the "ONE" spot. 

Delon Wright - Utah 6'5" 180 lbs. Senior. ...Dorell Wright's younger brother is a good defender, and an efficient player. He averages 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game (career). In our opinion he is underrated by most NBA Draft sites (consensus 27th pick). 

D'Angelo Russell - Ohio St. 6'5" 180 lbs. freshman. ...The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Russell is averaging 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists per contest. He is in love with his three-point shot, hitting 41% of his attempts. Russell was a 2014 McDonald's All-American. 

Kris Dunn - Providence 6'3" 205 lbs. junior. ...Dunn led the Big East in assists and steals in 2014-15. He averages 15.8 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. He will need to improve his three point shooting (just 30% career). 

Terry Rozier - Louisville 6'1" 190 lbs. sophomore. ...Rozier is a speedy guard that can be disruptive defensively (he led the ACC in total steals). He is somewhat in-between a Point Guard and a Shooting Guard. Rozier idolizes Dwyane Wade. 

Thomas Walkup - Stephen F. Austin 6'4" 195 lbs. junior. ...If Stephen F Austin wins a game (or games) in the Tourney, it will likely be due to Walkup. He was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year. Walkup, a versatile, defensive minded guard, averages 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. 


Jones is a basketball whisperer
Tyus Jones - Duke 6'1" 184 lbs. freshman. ...Jones is fun to watch play because he sees plays develop before they actually happen. Jones led the ACC in free throw percentage at 88.4%. 

T.J. McConnell - Arizona 6'1" 195 lbs. Senior. ...As good a leader as I've seen this season. McConnell gives an honest effort on defense while quarterbacking with confidence. 

Fred VanVleet - Wichita St. 6'0" 194 lbs. junior. ...VanVleet is the kind of guard that understands how to keep his team "in a game". He was the Missouri valley Conference assists leader. 

Monte Morris - Iowa St. 6'2" 170 lbs. sophomore. ...The Big 12 leader in assists and steals. Morris shoots 40% from 3-pt. range. 

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - Georgetown 6'3" 214 lbs. junior. ...He can really shoot the ball with accuracy. Smith-Rivera led the Big East in free throw percentage (87.6 FT% in league play). 

Jack Gibbs - Davidson 5'11" 195 lbs. sophomore. ...Gibbs shoots 44% from beyond the college arc!

Marcus Paige - North Carolina 6'0" 157 lbs. junior. ...Paige has excellent court vision with a career 2.04-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Frank Mason Jr. - Kansas 5'11" 185 lbs. sophomore. ...Made dramatic improvement in all areas this season. 

Quinn Cook - Duke 6'0" 175 lbs. Senior. ...Cook can beat you from deep and he is careful with the ball.

Shooting guards to watch in the Tourney

Centers to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

One in, four out. 
One fascinating aspect of NBA roster building in 2015 is the continued demise of teams playing two BIG players (power forward and center) at the same time. As the game trends toward more three point shooting, and teams playing with "one in" and "four out", we cannot help but wonder what will become of the inventory of basketball players 6'11" 250 lbs. and over. 

Of all the NBA Drafts we have made rankings for (this 2015 NBA Draft will be our 17th year), it is difficult to recall one with as many potential NBA Centers as the draft we will see this June. Maybe a second league of seven footers only will spring up. : ))

With the NCAA Tournament tip-off less than 24 hours away, we list the Center prospects that intrigue us the most...

Karl Anthony Towns - Kentucky 7'0" 250 lbs. freshman. ...Towns is the real deal. His defensive rating of 77.0 is the best among ALL NCAA players. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder, and he shoots 81% from the foul line. 

Myles Turner - Texas 6'11" 243 lbs. freshman. ...Turner led the Big 12 in blocked shots as a freshman. It is not common to see rugged shot blockers that shoot 83% from the free throw line but that is exactly what Myles Turner does. He runs a bit flat footed but he still gets the job done. 

Jahlil Okafor - Duke 6'11" 270 lbs. freshman. ...Okafor is the ACC Player of the Year, and consensus number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He has ability to score in the low post and his focus helps him shoot an incredible 66.9% FG. Okafor was one of five named to the USBWA All-America Team. 

Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin 7'0" 234 lbs. Senior. ... He can make three point shots, owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and he shoots 75% from the foul line. Kaminsky is a seven-footer with skill and shooting touch. He has a feel for the game of basketball.

Jakob Poeltl - Utah 7'0" 230 lbs. freshman. ...Hopefully Poeltl will return to school next year. He is still very raw but he does have potential especially on the defensive end. He also has a knack for offensive rebounding. 

Joshua Smith - Georgetown 6'10" 350 (listed weight) Senior. ...Smith is horribly out of shape but he has great hands. Smith scores near the rim and converts on 59% of his field goals. 

A.J. Hammons - Purdue 7'0" 251 lbs. junior. ...Hammons has blocked 258 shots in three seasons. He is still passive (in our opinion) on offense. 

Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky 7'0" 244 lbs. junior. ...Cauley Stein is a rim protecting BIG that is remarkably quick off his feet. He shoots only 50% from the line (career). 

Mamadou N'Diaye - UC Irvine 7'6" 290 lbs. sophomore. ...Seven feet, six inches tall! He shoots 67.9% from the field. 

Matt Stainbrook - Xavier 6'10" 270 lbs. Senior. ...Stainbrook is a great passer out of the post. He is fun to watch due to his high basketball IQ. 

Abodunrin Gabriel Olaseni - Iowa 6'10" 237 lbs. Senior. ...Olaseni has improved his scoring and shot blocking in each season. 

Daniel Ochefu - Villanova 6'11" 245 lbs. junior. ...Making big strides with improvement in both field goal and free throw percentage each season. 

Dakari Johnson - Kentucky 7'0" 255 lbs. sophomore. ...Excellent defender that also hits the offensive glass. 

Cameron Ridley - Texas 6'10" 285 lbs. junior. ...Big time rebounder!

See the list of Point Guards to watch.

Shooting Guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Harden is the TWO guard to emulate.
The best shooting guards in the NBA come with various subtle differences in their game. Ideally, the best "Two Guards" are guys that can score. The scoring can come in a variety of ways. Dwyane Wade, for example, does not shoot a bunch of three-point shots but he can draw fouls with dribble penetration. Manu Ginobili uses a mixture of the deep shot and driving ability. Klay Thompson has seen a huge upgrade in his efficiency now that he has added more "rim-attacking" to his game, and the current standard for Shooting Guards, James Harden, is a blueprint to emulate. 

The perfect shooting guard should be able to make at least a third of his three-point attempts, (Harden is better than that at 37%), have the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, and get to the foul line. While at the line, a good shooting guard will convert at least 80% of his free throws (Harden hits 86% this season). While being a scorer, a good shooting guard is also a good decision maker. A positive assist-to-turnover ratio is a sign of good decision making. Harden, this season, has 465 assists, with only 265 turnovers. Finally, a good shooting guard HAS to be able to play defense well enough to slow down or at least hold to average, the opposing SG. This season, Harden is running at a career best defensive rating of 102 (which is solid, not great.)

The attributes listed above are just some of the ingredients we are seeking when evaluating the potential NBA shooting guards that are playing in the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Who are we watching closely?

Justise Winslow - Duke 6'6" 229 lbs. - freshman. ...Winslow is a problem for opponents with his size, and ability to finish in transition. He shoots the deep-ball at 39%, and he helps on the glass, getting nearly six rebounds per game. A positive assist-to-turnover ratio from a freshman scoring guard is also nice to see. 

Jae'Sean Tate - Ohio St. 6'4" 190 lbs. - freshman. ...Tate's offensive game today is more like a power forward than a guard. But from an NBA standpoint, he will have to play SG at 6'4". He is a monster in transition and he is very good around the basket. 


Get to know Jordan Barham.
Jordan Barham - Davidson 6'4" 190 lbs. - junior. ...Barham is another athletic player that will need to tighten up his shooting and decision making to thrive in the NBA at 6'4". Barham's 60% FG shooting is a testament to his fantastic finishing ability and strength. He helps as a rebounder as well. 

Josh Hart - Villanova 6'5" 202 lbs. - sophomore. ...Hart is a kid that plays defense, and makes good decisions with the ball. He is shooting 40% from beyond the college arc for his career. He averages 10.4 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game. 

Treveon Graham - VCU 6'6" 220 lbs. - Senior. ...Graham projects as a utility type pro that is not afraid to mix it up. He averages 16 points and seven rebounds per game this season. Graham's basketball hero is Paul Pierce and he tries to do Pierce-like things on the court. 

Dustin Hogue - Iowa St. 6'6" 220 lbs. - Senior. ...Hogue has career averages of 10.6 points, and 6.7 rebounds per game. He shoots 39% 3-pt. 

Melo Trimble - Maryland 6'2" 175 lbs. - freshman. ...Trimble shows signs of excellence with 40% 3-pt. shooting and a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. As a freshman, he led the Big Ten in free throws made and in free throw percentage (86%). 

Elgin Cook - Oregon 6'6" 206 lbs. - sophomore. ...Cook is the son of NBA great Alvin Robertson. Cook is tremendous in the open-court, and he has an advanced mid-post game. 

James Blackmon Jr. - Indiana 6'3" 190 lbs. freshman. ...He can shoot it and he has (slightly) more assists than turnovers. Blackmon is small for a TWO guard but he has a scorer's mentality and skill to manufacture points. 

Royce O'Neale - Baylor 6'6" 220 lbs. Senior. ...You don't hear much hype about Royce O'Neale but he is a player that has compiled impressive numbers in his NCAA career (he played his first two seasons at Denver). He is shooting 47% FG, and he owns a 1.57-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Buddy Hield - Oklahoma 6'4" 208 lbs. junior. ...The Big 12's leading scorer at 17.5 points per game. 

LaDontae Henton - Providence 6'6" 215 lbs. Senior. ...Henton plays forward but we project him as a TWO if he cracks the next level. 

Sir Dominic Pointer - St John's 6'6" 205 lbs. Senior. ...Pointer is all over the court, playing with boundless energy!

Bryce De-Jean Jones - Iowa St. 6'5" 200 lbs. Senior. ...Played at three schools in five years (USC, UNLV, and Iowa St.). 

Small forwards to watch in the Tourney. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Power forwards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

The power forward position in the NBA is presently LOADED with good players. Cracking the rotation of an NBA team as a BIG is tough. You start with Anthony Davis as the premier power forward in the game. He is followed by skilled and athletic players such as Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, and Paul Millsap. The further down you look at the most recent NBA power forward efficiency rankings you see names outside of the top 30 like David West, Markieff Morris, and Nene. The point is, the current NBA power forward landscape has little room for growth. Any college power forward will have to be pretty special to deserve minutes in an NBA game next fall. ...Let's examine the players we will watch the closest during the 2015 NCAA Tournament.


Johnson is an NBA athlete! 
Brice Johnson - North Carolina 6'9" 210 lbs. - junior. ...Johnson is the most efficient (per-minute) power forward in the Tournament. He will need to add weight to bang in the NBA but his athleticism and ability to finish in transition are ELITE! Johnson does not shoot the three-ball at all which is why I view him more as a PF.

Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina 6'9" 279 lbs. - sophomore. ...Meeks is a traditional power forward with a big butt that can score in the low post. He shoots 55% FG (career), and he rebounds the ball at a high level. Meeks needs to improve his free throw shooting (just 64% FT).

Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga 6'10" 230 lbs. - freshman. ...The son of international hoops legend Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas is gaining playing time as an effective BIG for the Zags. He is a terrific defender that had the best defensive rating in the West Coast Conference.

Bonzie Colson - Notre Dame 6'5" 226 lbs. - freshman. ...Colson has added a tremendous deal of efficiency to Notre Dame's attack. The freshman is shooting 62.9% FG as an under-sized post. He might remind you of P.J. Tucker when Tucker was a freshman at Texas.

Bobby Portis - Arkansas 6'10" 242 lbs. - sophomore. ...Portis can bang inside but he also has the finesse to hit face up jumpers. Portis converts on 36% of his three point attempts (career). Portis averages 17 points and eight boards per game.

Jalen Reynolds - Xavier 6'9" 222 lbs. - sophomore. ...Reynolds is a sophomore but he is already 22 years-old. He rebounds the ball and shoots a high percentage (60% FG - career).

TaShawn Thomas - Oklahoma 6'8" 240 lbs. Senior. ...Thomas, a transfer from Houston, has added scoring punch to the Sooners. He averages 11.3 points, and six rebounds per game.

Jameel McKay - Iowa St. 6'9" 215 lbs. junior. ...McKay adds a shot blocking presence to Iowa St. He also shoots a high percentage (58% FG).

Montrezl Harrell - Louisville 6'8" 235 lbs. junior. ...In our opinion, no front-line player "brings it" more than Harrell. He is a determined, physical player.

Perry Ellis - Kansas 6'8" 225 lbs. junior. ...Dependable, and capable, Ellis will likely have to score more in the absence of Cliff Alexander. Ellis has raised his scoring and rebounding averages with each season.

Jordan Bell - Oregon 6'7" 190 lbs. freshman. ...Bell has an uncanny ability to block shots.

Rico Gathers - Baylor 6'8" 280 lbs. junior. ...Gathers is a rebounding machine!

Ryan Spangler - Oklahoma 6'8" 232 lbs. junior. ...Spangler is a 58% field goal shooter (career).

Justin Moss - Buffalo 6'7" 240 lbs. junior. ...Led the MAC in scoring (17.2 ppg), and rebounding (9.2 rpg.). 

Centers to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. 

Small forwards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Annually, we dive into the players to watch in the NCAA Tournament from an NBA scouting perspective. We start with the batch of small forwards...

The present landscape of NBA small forwards is top heavy with talent. There are at least a half-dozen really good to GREAT wing players. We are talking about future Hall of Fame players in Kevin Durant, and LeBron James when we use the word "GREAT". Kawhi Leonard heads the list of "really good" small forwards, joined by the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, and Gordon Hayward, You could say Kyle Korver is in there too, although he often plays more at the TWO spot. Likewise, Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic is making big strides toward being a top-tier NBA wing.

However, after those mentioned above, the landscape becomes pretty average to below average looking. Think of an aging Paul Pierce, an inconsistent yet talented Gerald Green, an overpaid Chandler Parsons. Digging deeper we find players like Alonzo Gee, Jared Dudley, and Rasual Butler cracking the top-30 in the most recent, NBA stat audit, small forward rankings.

Armed with this knowledge it is easy to see why there are opportunities for many of the NCAA Tournament small forwards to be considered as NBA prospects.

Kelly Oubre - Kansas 6'7" 200 lbs. - freshman. ...Oubre has the length and athleticism required to be an NBA wing (his wingspan is 7'2"). He is already a disruptive defender and his 36% 3-pt shooting as a Kansas freshman should translate to being solid in the NBA. As a bonus, he hits the glass too, averaging five rebounds per game in just 21 minutes of playing time per contest.

James Webb - Boise St. 6'9" 202 lbs. - sophomore. ...Not too many scouts are talking about James Webb III. He is an outstanding defender (defensive rating is 88.7), and terrific rebounding wing player. Webb is a superior athlete that lettered in high school tennis, track & field (cross-country), soccer, and baseball.

Stanley Johnson - Arizona 6'7" 245 lbs. - freshman. ...Johnson has the best defensive rating of any small forward in the NCAA Tournament (85.4). Offensively, he overpowers other small forwards with his tremendous frame but he is also skilled enough to knock down 36% of his three-point attempts. Most importantly, Johnson is a winner. His high school teams won four consecutive CIF state basketball championships.

Seth Tuttle - Northern Iowa 6'8" 240 lbs. - Senior. ...The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year is an efficient forward that actually plays more at the FOUR in college. While his defensive rating is nothing to brag about, Tuttle has shown that his offensive game is too strong to leave off the floor. Tuttle is averaging 15 points (61% FG, 42% 3-pt.), 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.

Kevon Looney - UCLA 6'9" 220 lbs. - freshman. ...Looney is an NBA athlete that also has shown he has the finesse to make NBA money. He shoots 45% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers. NBA scouts love a player with a "high ceiling". Looney certainly fits that bill.

Jarrod Uthoff - Iowa 6'9" 210 lbs. - junior. ...Uthoff is largely ignored by scouts but he may be able to crack an NBA roster someday due to his strong skill set. The former Iowa high school "Mr. Basketball" can really shoot it.


Prince is a super sixth-man!
Taurean Prince - Baylor 6'7" 215 lbs. - junior. ...Prince comes off the Baylor bench but plays starters minutes (26 mins. per game). He leads Baylor in scoring at 14 points per game.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Arizona 6'7" 215 lbs. sophomore. ...Hollis-Jefferson rates second among all Tourney small forwards in defensive rating. He is a freakish athlete that does not shoot the three-ball well but he does have more assists than turnovers.

Troy Williams - Indiana 6'7" 206 lbs. - sophomore. ...Williams has a ways to go with his shooting and decision making but his NBA athleticism and quickness are undeniable. He is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game.

Georges Niang - Iowa St. 6'8" 230 lbs. - junior. ...Niang can play either forward position. He shoots 39% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers.

Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin 6'7" 250 lbs. - sophomore. ...Hayes is a two-way player that has helped Wisconsin to the heights they have achieved this season.

Dwayne Benjamin - Oregon 6'7" 200 lbs. - junior. ...Benjamin comes off the Ducks' bench and provides instant energy and offense.

Sam Dekker - Wisconsin 6'7" 220 lbs. - junior. ...Dekker has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and shoots 39% from deep.

William Lee - Alabama-Birmingham 6'9" 210 sophomore. ...Lee is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Power forwards to watch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It was a good week for the NBA D League

Santa Cruz gym is a big barn.
The 2015 D-League Showcase is in the books. The annual extravaganza for the only minor league directly affiliated with the NBA was a success by all accounts. The concept is simple. Bring all the D-League teams to one location (this year, Santa Cruz, CA.). Hoop for five days, (conveniently right after NBA squads are allowed to sign players to ten-day contracts). Give the league added national television exposure via NBA-TV, and celebrate as players are called up to the "big leagues". 

This year, the Showcase was even better and more competitive thanks to a tournament format that had teams competing for the Showcase Cup. Bonus money was on the line. The result was players playing with sustained defensive intensity, something minor league basketball is not known for. 

During the course of the last week, five players earned "call-ups" to the NBA: James Michael McAdoo, JaMychal Green, Larry Drew II, Dahntay Jones, and Quincy Miller. Does that mean the cupboard is bare now? Not at all. There are players who are eligible to be signed to ten day contracts, and there are players who are "on assignment" that will continue to make the D-League an excellent place to see quality hoops. 

Two guys, that were a part of the Showcase, stand out as the most efficient players in the D-League this season: Quincy Miller, and Clint Capela. Capela is a 20 year-old on assignment from the Houston Rockets. Miller was nabbed by the Sacramento Kings after a ridiculously efficient performance Friday night as a member of the Reno Big Horns. In a win over Westchester, Miller scored 35 points (12-15 FG, 5-6 3-pt. FG, 6-6 FT), added eight rebounds, and blocked NINE shots in 27 minutes!

Archie Goodwin, on assignment from the Phoenix Suns, was named Most Valuable Player of the Showcase Cup. Goodwin is just 20 years old. He continues to have the ability to get to the basket and score with ease. Goodwin averaged 23 points per game in Santa Cruz. 

Following the Showcase, here is how we rank the top-three players at each position... 

Jackson has the range to step out
Point Guards: The current crop of D-League point guards is solid, not spectacular. The NBA is full of great point guards. More than any other position, cracking an NBA lineup at PG is the toughest thing for a minor league prospect to do. It very rarely happens. If pressed to name the top three D-League PGs, we would go with Joe Jackson, Tim Frazier, and Nick Johnson (Vander Blue is right there too). Johnson is on assignment from the Houston Rockets, while Jackson, Frazier, and Blue could be had by anyone. 

  • Joe Jackson is 22 years old, out of Memphis. He went undrafted in 2014. Jackson is skilled but diminutive (6'0" 187 lbs.). He can shoot with accuracy (46% 3-pt, 82% FT, to date in the D-League.) Jackson is a good decision maker as well.  
  • Tim Frazier is 24 years old. He too is a bit small at 6'0", 162 lbs. Frazier doesn't shoot as well as Jackson but Frazier is a superior defender and Frazier has the potential to help as a rebounder from the guard spot. Frazier averages 6.6 rebounds per game. 
  • Nick Johnson, a Rockets second round pick in 2014, certainly has good size for the position at 6'3" 198 lbs. He just turned 22 year old. We would still like to see more aggression offensively from Johnson. He is a good enough athlete to force the issue more often. He needs to continue to work on tightening up his dribbling. 
Two Guards: If a player is in the D-League there is almost always a good reason why. In many cases it is because the player is a "tweener", someone in-between positions. 
  • Jordan Hamilton's natural position is small forward. But Hamilton has struggled shooting the deep ball as a pro (just 30.9% 3-pt. FG in the D-League). At Texas, from beyond the college arc, Hamilton was 37%, which is much more doable for a forward that should stretch the floor with his shooting. Running with Reno, Hamilton is presently in excellent condition. He looks fit and trim compared to the last time I saw him live. He currently has the same amount of assists and turnovers, so his decision making and ball skills are not so terrible that he can't play guard. Hamilton has never been known as a great defender but he CAN score. Since his defense is suspect, and because, in general, "two guards" are smaller than "small-forwards", I think the best option for Hamilton is 'shooting guard' where he has a chance to use his 6'7" height and overall length to help him as a defender against smaller players. ...The real point is... Hamilton is talented as a natural born scorer that also hits the glass (6.5 rebs per game). Coaches may have to be a bit creative to get him on the floor. 
  • Andre Emmett is still plugging away in the D-League. At age 32 Emmett continues to be rock-steady. At 6'5", 224 lbs, he has the prerequisite size to fit into an NBA game. He will give you an honest effort on defense. See Emmett highlights here.
  • Glen Rice Jr. can get a team buckets. His temper has gotten him a bit of a reputation but if a team thinks they can work with him, they probably should. Rice is 6'6", 206 lbs. He just turned 24 years old. He can score. He can shoot the three-ball well. He has more assists than turnovers. 
Small Forwards

Quincy Miller recently made his Kings debut.
  • Quincy Miller, as mentioned above, was signed to a ten-day contract by the Sacramento Kings. Miller was averaging 26 points per game for Reno on efficient shooting (52% FG, 35% 3-pt., and 89% FT). It is easy to forget that Miller tore his ACL during his Senior year of high school. He played just one year at Baylor and bolted early to the NBA. He was the eighth pick of round two in 2012. Had Miller stayed in college, he would be a Senior this season. Kudos to the Kings for snatching him up. Now they need to find a way to keep him around. His upside is too big to not be in the NBA full time. (See Miller's wide variety of skills here.)
  • Taylor Griffin is the brother of Blake Griffin. Taylor is now 28 years old. He was drafted in the second round in 2009. Coming out of college Taylor could not shoot the deep ball with any accuracy. Now, Taylor Griffin has improved his three point percentage for four consecutive seasons. At 6'7" 235 lbs. Griffin can guard wing players or smaller BIGs. He is an outstanding defender that has improved his shooting to the point that I think he should be in line for a possible NBA opportunity. 
  • Renaldo Balkman is now 30 years old. The former Knicks first round pick (20th in 2006) is still the same bundle of energy that he has always been. He creates havoc as a defender and he has shown an improved three point stroke (36% to date this D-League season). 
Capela will be a star.
Power Forwards: Over the years we have noticed that the easiest position to fill is power forward. There seems to never be a shortage of guys who are not long enough to play Center but can hold their own with rebounding ability and a desire to mix it up. The D-League has three "Fours" that we like. 
  • Clint Capela was mentioned at the top of this blog as one of the two most efficient players in the D-League. I believe once he physically matures (he is just 20 years old) and his body becomes stronger, the Rockets will have, at minimum, a rotation player, and very possibly more. Capela, a 2014 NBA first round pick (#25), has touch around the hoop, combined with an extraordinary quickness to his second jump. Capela is shooting 58% FG (D-League stats). On Sunday night against mostly terrible Reno defense, Capela had 25 points (12-17 FG 1-2 FT), 17 rebounds, and four blocked shots in just 26 minutes! 
  • Willie Reed is 24 years old, and he continues to improve. He is shooting 65% FG, and his defensive rating is among the best in the D-League. Reed is averaging 13 points and eleven rebounds per game. The presence he provides on defense is real. (See video of Willie doing his thing on D.) 
  • Arinze Onuaku is a BIG that we think should/could be on an NBA roster. He is a full grown 27 year old that would be able to bang with anybody at the FOUR spot. He averages 18 points and 13 rebounds per contest. 
Centers
  • Earl Barron knows how to play. If pinned down to choose JUST ONE player, that remains a free agent in the D-League, we would roll with Earl Barron. He's not likely going to be much better, given that he is 30 years old. But if a team needs a veteran BIG that can be "plug and play", Barron is the one. He is liked by teammates, and he has enough skill and size to get the job done at Center. Standing 7'0", 245 lbs., Barron moves at the pace of an NBA veteran. It was no shock to see Bakersfield win the Showcase Cup, thanks, in large part, to Barron.  (See Earl in action
  • Sim Bhullar is better than he is given credit for being. While some see him as nothing more than a gimmick, I disagree. It is true that Sim is not going to win any contest that involves sprinting. He is slow in transition. However, as a specialist in half-court situations (say, as a defender against any inbound pass) BIG Sim would be helpful to an NBA team. And the notion that Sim could not exist AT ALL in "the fast paced NBA" is moot because we just saw him more than 'hold his own' in the hyper-speed pace of the Reno / Rio Grande matchup at the Showcase. The final score of that game was 160-153. Bhullar showed enough upper body quickness to go with his massive frame to allow him to block shots and rim-protect. He rebounds at a high rate. His screens are second to none at ANY level of pro basketball. Would you have to coach him in a unique way? Absolutely. But why not have a VALUABLE situational piece on your team in the 13th roster spot, as opposed to a player who rarely, if ever, impacts a game? 
  • Ognjen Kuzmic is a solid defender and he makes this list because the crop of Centers is not deep at all. Kuzmic is limited offensively and not dynamic enough at anything else at this stage of his career. Kuzmic did not score in 31 minutes of playing time Saturday at the Showcase. (To be fair - Kuzmic was being guarded by Hasheem Thabeet, an excellent defender). 
Outstanding Showcase performances: There were several stellar individual performances at the 2015 D-League Showcase. Sunday afternoon, Vander Blue was terrific in L.A.'s win over Delaware. Blue, listed at 6'5" 197 lbs. (he doesn't look that big to me), narrowly missed a triple-double. He scored 34 points, dished ten assists, and had eight rebounds in 39 minutes. Blue is certainly one of the best guards in the D-League. ...Saturday, Talib Zanna, (6'9" 232 lbs.), was brilliant in OKC's win. Zanna had 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-4 FT), nine rebounds and zero turnovers in 26 minutes. We rate Zanna as the fifth best prospect at PF. 

Notes and Tweets






Sunday, January 18, 2015

D League Showcase three days in

Annually I attend the NBA D-League Showcase, using it as a transition point in my "scouting calendar". From Summer League through the second week of January, it's all about the NBA. The D-League gets special attention at this time of year (totally due to the Showcase), and college hoops has "next" leading up to the NBA Draft. The beauty of doing it this way is the natural progression from seeing the first half of the NBA season (before losing front offices send the message to the coaching staff that wins do not matter), to the D-League, to college. My eyes and brain are NBA sharp as I enter the D-League Showcase.

It never takes long to see that the play from NBA to D-League can be easily summed up. The D-League just does NOT have the depth of quality BIGs you see from night to night in the NBA. There ARE big men in the D-League. Santa Cruz plays 7'0" 240 lb. Ognjen Kuzmic, and Hasheem Thabeet is also a D-League starter, at 7'2". But there just are not a bunch of super talented tall and wide players in the D League. Yesterday, I witnessed a Sioux Falls squad that played the majority of the game with a 6'8" guy (Shawn Jones) at Center. Meanwhile, opponent Earl Barron, a 6'11" 230 lb., veteran feasted in the paint. 

Westbrook is a "hyper-athlete"
The next obvious characteristic that separates the NBA from the D-League is the quantity of hyper-athletes.  The D-League has its fair share of athletic cats but the NBA has the THE best athletes in the world in my opinion. From Russell Westbrook to Eric Bledsoe, to Derrick Rose, to Blake Griffin, to LeBron James, and on and on and on, an elite level NBA athlete is easy to recognize. In the D-League, you can still see an athlete of that caliber but there are much fewer.   

Observations after three days: ...Jared Cunningham is a kid that should be in the NBA. He is simply too gifted to not have a chance at being a good NBA player. Yes, his shot selection can be sketchy. But a good coach can change that, or at least improve it to the point where Cunningham doesn't hurt a team by jacking an early three point shot. Cunningham is cat-quick, and he jumps with explosiveness. His creativity on the pick and roll will always give him a chance to score. ...Earl Barron is what he is. He is 33 years old. Upside is not a part of the discussion. That said, I think he could help an NBA team as a rotation BIG. ...Willie Reed and Arinze Onuaku are also ready to make NBA teams. With any NBA attrition, Reed or Onuaku should be in line to be called up. ...I STILL like Renaldo Balkman's game. He is all over the court. ...Omari Johnson (Oregon State) had an impressive game Friday. He had 26 points in 27 minutes, knocking down six threes. Johnson is now 25 years old. He was draft eligible in 2011. ...Santa Cruz as host is completely different than Reno. The plus/minus on that will be explored in a later blog.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 D League Showcase Preview

The annual NBA D-League Showcase moves from Reno, Nevada to Santa Cruz, California for 2015 and it offers some structural changes as well. For the first time, a tournament format will be used with the top eight teams advancing to the championship round of play. The focus on team play is welcomed and should be applauded. In past D-League Showcases we have seen players "going for their own" too often. 

Prior to the Showcase we do an audit of the D League stats, year-to-date, and try to enter the 2015 Showcase as "data informed" as we can be. We continue to believe that data can be a useful tool but it must be combined with a "feel" and a dose of common sense when scouting professional basketball is concerned. 

The D-league can be a source for help to an NBA roster. In many instances, the youngest players on NBA rosters are not much better, if better at all, than the top D-Leaguers. Last season, Shabazz Muhammad and Rudy Gobert used the Showcase to shine. DeWayne Dedmon was still property of the Santa Cruz Warriors. He has since parlayed that into a gig with the Orlando Magic. 

I was hoping to see Joe Alexander play this time around but the Santa Cruz Warriors forward signed a deal to play in Israel through April. Alexander, now 28 years old, had started to show NBA worthy ability. 

This year - here are the players we are particularly interested in seeing again... 

McAdoo is on the verge
James Michael McAdoo - Santa Cruz 6'9" 229 PF ... I wasn't sold on him at North Carolina but McAdoo is making me re-think. McAdoo has one of the strongest defensive ratings in the D-League. He can score despite not shooting the three-ball at all. He has improved from being a 56% free throw shooter in college to now hitting 72%. That is HUGE because he does get to the line often. He is getting closer to being good enough as a decision maker to have a shot at playing on an NBA team. He currently has as many assists as turnovers through 16 D-League contests.  His standing reach of 8'10.5" is the same as Kyle O'Quinn and Quincy Acy which helps explain why McAdoo is blocking shots left and right. 

Willie Reed - Grand Rapids 6'10" 220 PF ...The "stretch four" fascination in the NBA is working against Reed, now 24 years old, and continuing to improve. He is shooting 70% FG and he gobbles up rebounds, especially on the offensive end. He plays solid defense. Reed is averaging 13 points and eleven rebounds per game but his shooting range is limited. He still can't make free throws (47%), and his decision making is suspect. 

JaMychal Green - Austin 6'9" 220 PF ...The reigning D-League Player of the Month, Green is playing with absurd efficiency. He is averaging 22.5 points, and eleven rebounds per game on the season for the Spurs affiliate. He does not have reliable range out to the three point line but he does have touch for a BIG. He shoots 80% FT (career). Green is 24 years old. 

Talib Zanna - Oklahoma City 6'9" 232 PF ...Zanna was draft eligible in 2014 out of Pittsburgh. He is shooting 63% FG while averaging 12 points and ten boards for the OKC Blue. He leads the D-League in offensive rebounding (total). 

Tim Frazier - Maine 6'1" 170 PG ...Frazier is a guy capable of putting up a triple-double in any game he plays in. His one weakness is his deep shooting, otherwise I think he would already have an NBA gig. Frazier is averaging 16 points, eight assists, and six rebounds per game. 

The D-League Showcase begins January 15 and runs through the 19th. For more information and to purchase tickets please follow this link.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Stat Audit

NBA Summer League has come a long way! In the mid 1980's, Summer League was made up of pros and amateurs. It was slightly organized; basically pick up games with little, to no, defense. Referees were local guys you would see calling high school games. The exposure level was minimal. Local public access television stations taped a game or two for viewing weeks later, and if an intern was on it, the old-school boxscore would make it's way into the local newspaper.  

Now, 26 of the 30 NBA teams show up in Las Vegas to play highly organized games with deep coaching staffs, refs who are being trained by the likes of Joey Crawford, and ALL the games are broadcast worldwide. An international array of scouts combine in the desert to evaluate players. 

True, Summer League is still largely made up of athletes who will not be on NBA rosters when late October rolls around. Nevertheless, our love for basketball, and curiosity for how players we've followed will fare in this organized setting, is compelling enough for us to invest a significant amount of time in scouting the games. 

Each year of the Las Vegas Summer League - we do a "stat audit" after the dust has settled to see if what we thought we were observing with the naked eye matches what the numbers say. I justify the time and effort spent by simply wanting to be as informed as possible about all prospects. I continue to be a strong believer in being "data informed". When you can combine, serious observation (with note-taking), data, and a dash of common-sense - you become an educated scout. And sometimes the educated scout disagrees with the "herd". The "herd" in this instance is whatever was said, and repeated on "mass-media" websites such as NBA-TV, NBA.com, ESPN.com, etc..., 

All you really need to know about what you are about to read is that we are not paid by any team, agent, or media outlet. We watched and took notes on games, and then followed up each day with a report on the most efficient players at each position. The final step of this evaluation was to review notes, and manually punch in all the numbers for the 239 players who played at least 40 minutes. (See that spreadsheet here

Our findings... 

The player that best combined efficiency with overall production: Donatas Motiejunas - Houston. ...Motiejunas showed that he CAN play center and provide enough offense to impact a game. He has court-sense and vision, and more importantly, he has size. Motiejunas is listed at 7'0" 221. He looks heavier than that to me now that he is carrying what I call "man-weight" ...He averaged 16.8 points (59% FG), and 8.1 rebounds per game. 

Moreland looked like an NBA BIG. 
The most efficient player on the team that won the championship (Sacramento) was Eric Moreland. The undrafted rookie free agent from Oregon State was lively, coming off of the Kings bench to provide instant energy and a defensive presence. Moreland blocked 16 shots in 115 minutes of play to easily lead the Las Vegas Summer League in blocked shots per minute. 

Hoop Obsession All NBA Las Vegas Summer League

First team: Ray McCallum - Kings, Glen Rice Jr. - Wizards, Otto Porter Jr. - Wizards, Josh Davis - Hornets, Donatas Motiejunas - Rockets 

Second team: Isaiah Canaan - Rockets, Tony Snell - Bulls, Austin Daye - Spurs, Quincy Acy - Kings, Gorgui Dieng - Wolves

Third team: Tyler Johnson - Heat, Tim Hardaway Jr. - Knicks, Tyler Honeycutt - Heat, Mike Muscala - Hawks, Bernard James - Mavs. 

Opinion Shifts

While Summer League allows us another look at players, it should always be kept in perspective. The sample size is small. Players are not going through the grind of an 82-game season. The entire Las Vegas competitive period lasts just eleven days. For most teams it was over in eight days. That said, ANY chance to further your "feel" for a player should be welcomed. It is hard to ignore the the shifts in opinion that a scout may have based on intently watching a player play for even as little as 150 minutes. 

So how did OUR opinion shift? Below are thoughts on players and how we changed our mind a bit on certain aspects of their game. 

Ray McCallum certainly gained an "uptick" in my brain. The Sacramento Kings backup point guard had his foot on the throttle and showed that he can be just dynamic enough as a scorer to give himself a chance in the NBA. He will HAVE TO bring that aggressive mentality to the NBA seasons ahead of him to properly complement the rest of his overall game. I never had a question about his ability to be a point guard and run a team. 

DeAndre Liggins was on the verge of being a NBA rotation player I thought (entering Vegas play). Now, I'm not so sure. Liggins is a terrific defender but every player of the floor has to show me enough ability to contribute offensively too. Liggins shot 38% FG in Vegas, and he had more turnovers than assists. ...Perhaps he was fatigued from having just played in Orlando. He did play ten games in 14 days in two cities. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't downgrade him. 

 Porter looked good in Vegas.
Otto Porter Jr. regained the promise he showed as a star at Georgetown. Porter is healthy and he was in shape for the Vegas tournament. It showed in his play. I am back to bullish on Porter. 

Josh Davis of San Diego State is better than I realized. Davis stood out for being active and making plays without having any plays run for him. He should absolutely be in the development plans of an NBA team. 

Tony Snell is bigger, stronger and better than he was as a rookie or as a college player. His growth impressed me. He showed that he can be more than just a stand-still jump shooter. Snell had a 2.33-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Vegas and more importantly - he put the ball on the deck and earned free throw attempts. 

Tyler Johnson of Fresno State really impressed me. He is more athletic than I realized and his decision making and ability to score looked natural. Johnson is 6'4" 177 lbs. He outplayed Shabazz Napier badly on the Miami team. 

Three more guys who certainly gained traction in my mind: Shane Edwards, Justin Holiday, and Bryce Cotton. ...Edwards seemed to be in the right place at the right time all the time. He played within himself and feasted in transition. Last season, Edwards had a "cup of coffee" with the Cavs. He was waived after one ten-day contract. I think Edwards, at age 27, is a guy who is better than most of the 22 year-old "kids" who are being employed due to their potential. Edwards could probably have a positive impact on an NBA game due to his ability to contribute without having any plays run for him. ...Holiday was brilliant at times, showing that he now possesses enough consistency in his jump shot to warrant a further look. He has always been a high-level defender. He too is a guy that would complement any team that is filled with scorers. ...Cotton displayed the speed and quickness that good NBA guards have. He seemingly could get to any spot he wanted to. 

Defense matters

Aaron Craft was all over the floor!
We are always looking for players who can play defense effectively. Here are the players with the best defensive ratings at each position...

Best DEFRTG Centers: Ognjen Kuzmic 74.7, Rob Loe 82.2, Miles Plumlee 87, Rudy Gobert 87.8, Jordan Henriquez 89.7

Best DEFRTG Power Forwards: Thomas Robinson 80.8, Mitchell Watt 81.6, Anthony Bennett 82.2, Javon McCrea 85.6, Ivan Johnson 86.4 

Best DEFRTG Small Forwards: Rodney Carney 84, Eric Griffin 84.5, Christian Watford 84.9, Andrew Wiggins 86.8, C.J. Fair 88.7

Best DEFRTG Shooting Guards: Orlando Johnson 82.7, Rodney McGruder 85.4, Elijah Millsap 87, Justin Holiday 87.7, Ricky Ledo 89.2

Best DEFRTG Point Guards: Dee Bost - 83.5, Shane Larkin 87.4, Maalik Wayns 87.6, Matthew Dellavedova 88.3, Tim Frazier 89.4

The top five players in blocked shots per minute: Moreland, Travis Hyman - D League Select, Jerome Jordan - Lakers, Justin Hamilton - Miami, and Eric Griffin - Dallas.  

Aaron Craft was such a pest and is so relentless on defense that we truly believe he should be in the NBA specifically for special situations. If the opposing point guard is going off, sick Craft on him. He made the game virtually impossible for Dennis Shroder, one of the quickest young guards in the NBA. Craft's "plus/minus" was +34 in five games. His spirit, spunk, and energy would be welcome at practice every day too. 

The nitty gritty

The most efficient player overall was Justin Hamilton. However he only played 85 minutes. Nevertheless, Hamilton has improved tremendously since his LSU days. I don't see why he couldn't get some minutes in the NBA. 

The top five players in efficiency per-minute (80 mins. minimum): Hamilton, Rudy Gobert - Utah, Bernard James - Dallas, Glen Rice Jr. - Washington, and Keith Benson - Clippers. 

Whiteside has unteachable aspects to his game.
The best scorer per minute was Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Knicks. Hardaway is ultra-aggressive offensively. He scored 114 points (43 %FG, 38% 3-pt. FG, and 82% FT) in 133 minutes in Vegas play. 

The players with the top-five "points per minute" rates: Hardaway Jr., Glen Rice Jr. - Wizards, Jordan McRae - Sixers, T.J. Warren - Suns, Marshon Brooks - Kings. 

The player with the highest "rebounds per minute" rate: Hassan Whiteside - Toronto. ...Whiteside had 30 rebounds in 51 minutes. Yikers! Whiteside played well in China last season. Perhaps he will find his way back into the NBA. He's always been efficient. 

The top five players in rebounds per minute: Whiteside, Eric Moreland - Sac, Jerelle Benimon - Denver, Rudy Gobert - Utah, and JaMychal Green - San Antonio. 

The player with the highest "assist per minute" rate: Langston Hall - Miami. ...Hall dished eleven assists in 44 minutes. 

The top-five players in assists per-minute: Hall, Russ Smith - Pelicans, Chris Wright (Georgetown) - Nuggets, Lazeric Jones - Bulls, Roberto Nelson - Hornets. 

The player that attempted the most free throws per minute was DeQuan Jones of the Pelicans. ...The top-five in FTA per minute: Jones, Rice Jr., McRae, Andrew Wiggins - Cleveland, and Thomas Robinson of Portland.

The player with the best assist-to-turnover ratio (over 80 minutes played): Stephen Holt - Atlanta. Holt, from Saint Mary's, posted a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 119 minutes. ...The top-five in assist-to-turnover ratio: Holt, Bryce Cotton - San Antonio, Marcus Denmon - San Antonio, Lazeric Jones - Chicago, and Tyler Johnson - Miami. 

They did well with the minutes they were given... Here are the top seven players in efficiency per-minute who played between 40 to 79 minutes total: Hassan Whiteside .725, Shane Edwards .689, Trey Thompkins .653, James Ennis .578, Ronald Roberts Jr. .536, Jackie Carmichael .514, Josh Howard .510. 

What about the lottery picks? 

Nine of the 14, 2014 NBA Draft, lottery picks were on display in Las Vegas. Here is a brief synopsis of their respective efficiency and what we saw...

Warren gets buckets
T.J. Warren - Phoenix. EFR .613 ...He can score, score, score. And that's all he wants to do. He had one assist in 124 minutes of playing time. Warren has a mid-range game ready for the NBA, and in transition he was brilliant. 

Doug McDermott - Chicago. EFR .565 ...McDermott looked good. He played at NBA speed and knocked down free throws like Rick Berry or Mark Price. McDermott hit 22 of 23 foul shots (95% FT!). 

Jabari Parker - Milwaukee. EFR .427 ...Parker has fantastic ability with the ball in his hands. He will likely improve his efficiency if he gets into NBA shape. He is going to be a tough matchup for any defender. 

Zach LaVine - Minnesota. EFR .366 ...LaVine's ceiling is so high it is incredible to ponder how good he can become. He is not there yet. But he left no doubt about his special athletic gifts. It says here that LaVine, in hindsight, should have been selected much higher than 13th. 

Noah Vonleh - Charlotte. EFR .342 ...Vonleh displayed his good footwork in the low post and his outstanding reach that allows him to be effective around the hoop. While he was not efficient, it is nothing to worry about. 

Andrew Wiggins - Cleveland. EFR .342 ...Wiggins ceiling is unlimited. His step-back jumper is unguardable. We would expect him to find a way very soon to be efficient overall even if he was not in Las Vegas. His defense in Vegas was better than I expected it to be. 

Julius Randle - Lakers. EFR .330 ...Randle had some good moments. He also looked out of shape (by NBA standards). His decision making was suspect (six assists, 13 turnovers), and he only shot 41% FG. 

Nik Stauskas - Kings. EFR .272 ...Stauskas shot the three-ball very well (47%) but was not particularly productive for the over 200 minutes he played. 

Dante Exum - Jazz. EFR .180. ...Exum really struggled in Las Vegas. He was nowhere near the athlete that some had billed him to be. I was open-minded on Exum because the last time I saw him actually play in a game was the 2013 Hoop Summit. He was very good in that ONE game. In Las Vegas, Exum shot 30% FG, 18% 3-pt FG, and 64% FT in 133 minutes played. It is safe to say his shot is broken. 

It was not their week

They did not play well... A list of the 12 lowest (worst) efficiency ratings for players who played over 80 mins: Deonte Burton .030, Shabazz Napier .120, Scottie Wilbeken .126, Gilbert Brown .145, Matt Janning .153, Brandon Davies .156, Dante Exum .180, Lamar Patterson .191, James Michael McAdoo .200, Scott Suggs .202, Marcus Denmon .222, DeAndre Liggins .224. 

The All-Ole' Team. These players posted poor to downright worrisome defensive ratings: Abdul Gaddy 120.9, Josh Carter 119.7, Dwight Buycks 119.5, Malcolm Lee 119.3, Jordan Morgan 117.8, Darington Hobson 116, Quincy Miller 115.8, Carlon Brown 115.4, Brady Heslip 114.9, Patric Young 114, Cameron Ayers 113.8, Courtney Fells 113.5.