About 5 weeks until the first games of the college basketball season, and the road to the 2013 NBA Draft has begun. It’s time to start my look at this year’s junior class and give some brief notes on areas where they need to show improvement to maximize their appeal to the NBA if they choose to leave school.
(You can read previous entries here: Juniors - Part I)
Remember, these are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. Some of these players are already pro candidates, while others will clearly need a senior season. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season.
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, Guard, 6’1, 171
13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 38.9 FG%, 74.3 FT%, 35.5 3FG%, 2.1:1 A/TO
Napier, who helped UConn win a NCAA Championship as a freshman, faces his biggest challenge yet as the leader of a Huskies squad which has a new head coach in Kevin Ollie, lost their star in Jeremy Lamb, and is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this year. Napier is very quick and has great acceleration off the dribble and coming off of screens. He is creative looking for shots around the basket and can finish in a variety of ways. He has shown that he can hit his jumper from mid-to-long range, though inconsistently. He sees the court well and can make some spectacular passes. He is an above-average on-ball defender, moving his feet well and pressuring the ballhandler. He is very good in the open court and can get the ball up court before the defense can react.
What he needs to show this season: Napier’s biggest issue is control. His speed can often get away from him and he finds himself stuck before he can read and see his options. This can lead to some very poor shots in the lane as well as some late passes. As mentioned, he needs to become more consistent with his jumper, especially making sure he gets good looks and keeps his form consistent. On the defensive end, Napier is a below-average off-ball defender, often losing his man, not reacting quickly or just having his focus too much on the ball. Also, he needs to work on getting over screens and getting out on shooters.
Cleveland Melvin, DePaul, Forward, 6’8, 208
17.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 44.8 FG%, 63.5 FT%, 22.9 3FG%
Melvin, a former Big East Rookie of the Year, started to show a more complete game as a sophomore and should continue to develop heading into his junior year. Melvin is long and athletic, able to leap quickly and having strong body control. He has a great reach for his size and is able to get up and corral rebounds before taller players can get to them. He has good touch around the basket, a few solid post moves with improved footwork, and he can also extend and finish strong. He runs the floor well in transition and can get out and finish on the break. He is developing as a decent high post option, seeing the court well and being able to knock down the 15 foot jumper. On the defensive end, he handles himself well for having to play out of position. He plays physical when defending in the post and he uses his reach to try and deny passing lanes. He improved as a perimeter defender last season, moving his feet better and avoiding reaching if he gets beat.
What he needs to show this season: It’s an odd situation for Melvin; he takes a large number of shots for the Blue Demons, but he is isn’t as aggressive as he should be. With his athletic ability, he needs to improve his ballhandling enough that he can look to drive more from the perimeter. Often he has a good matchup on the perimeter, but he hesitates to take advantage of it. Also, DePaul’s offense often lacks cohesion, and Melvin is left getting bad looks at the basket by the time he gets the ball. Melvin projects to be a 3 at the next level, so he will need to continue to hone his perimeter skills, from his jumper to ballhandling to being able to guard other 3’s on the perimeter. His lateral movement has improved, but he needs to anticipate movements better work to force his man into the help defense.
Deonte Burton, Nevada, Guard, 6’1, 185
14.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 40.2 FG%, 79.7 FT%, 37.2 3FG%, 2.1:1 A/TO
Burton, the WAC Player of the Year as a sophomore, is looking to expand his profile on the national stage this season. He is a solid ballhandler, handles pressure well, and gets Nevada into their offense quickly. He uses screens and a variety of dribbles to get into the lane and can finish with either hand around the basket. He has decent range on his jumper and can spot-up and hit the three. He sees the floor well and gets his teammates the ball where they can make plays. Burton is a strong on-ball defender, moving his feet well, keeping his arms out and positioning himself well.
What he needs to show this season: Consistency on the offensive end is one of Burton’s biggest weaknesses. He needs to work on finishing around the basket and adding a short jumper or floater when he can’t get all the way to the rim. He is a good free throw shooter, but he needs to work at trying to draw fouls more often. A good passer, Burton needs to work on being more of a playmaker, looking to draw the defense and hitting the open man, including working in pick-and-roll situations.
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, Center, 6’11, 245
9.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.2 spg, 3.2 bpg, 52.5 FG%, 67.6 FT%
Dieng made great strides last season in his overall development, but he still has a ways to go before he becomes more than a defensive presence. His shot blocking has improved as he has developed better timing and looking to get full extension. As an anchor in the middle of the Louisville zone defense, he is an intimidating presence for anyone looking to get to the basket. Dieng goes hard after rebounds and looks to establish position before making a play. He has improved as a defender in pick and roll situations, but still needs to improve his footwork and awareness. On the offensive side, Dieng is a solid screener, and he seems to understand how to play in the pick-and-role, opening up to the ball well after his screen. He can finish around the basket and has worked on developing reliable post moves.
What he needs to show this season: While lack of strength is one of Dieng’s biggest concerns, he can overcome it with more skill development. He needs to learn to use his lower body better when establishing position on both ends of the floor. Because of the nature of the Louisville offense and the unpredictability of Peyton Siva, it is difficult for Dieng to find a clear role on the offensive end. He spends a lot of time roaming the baseline looking for dumpoffs, and when he does look to establish position in the post, it ends up mainly be used as a seal off for a driving guard. He needs to start getting more touches on the offensive end if he has any chance of improving soon.
Patric Young, Florida, Forward, 6’9, 249
10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 61.8 FG%, 59.3 FT%
After what many viewed as a disappointing freshman season, Young bounced back well with a promising sophomore year. Strong, athletic and quick, Young came to college already sporting an NBA-ready body, but his game is still catching up. Young uses his body well in the offensive post, getting low with a solid base and sealing off the defender. He is efficient around the basket and has developed the ability to hit the short hook shot with either hand off of both blocks. Young is a strong screener on the perimeter and frees his guards up well. He is a strong rebounder on both ends of the floor, getting position well and going strong after the ball. On the defensive end, he keeps his position well in the post and he has improved as a perimeter defender.
What he needs to show this season: Young’s development as an offensive player depends on Florida making him a priority in their offense, which has been very perimeter-oriented the past 2 years. With Bradley Beal and Erving Walker gone, Young has an opportunity to make himself the Gators’ go-to offensive player, though I am not sure that will happen. He has to continue to work on his footwork and ballhandling in the post, and he should start to develop a better face-up game. With his body, Young should work on going stronger to the basket with his post moves, and not settling for being forced away from the basket. Defensively, he may be the best perimeter defender for his size and his lateral movement and positioning should continue to improve this year.
Ray McCallum, Detroit, Guard, 6’3, 190
15.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 45.8 FG%, 76.6 FT%, 24.0 3FG%, 1.8:1 A/TO
Many questioned McCallum’s decision to play for his father at Detroit when he had the opportunity to play for much higher profile schools, but McCallum has flourished as expected. He has a great understanding of the game, from getting the offense set to recognizing court spacing. Not flashy, but McCallum is a solid ballhandler and uses his dribble efficiently to get into the lane and to the basket. He is athletic, has good body control and can finish with either hand around the basket. McCallum is an underrated defender, both on and off the ball. He denies passing lanes well, has very good lateral movement and has good court awareness. He doesn’t mind crashing the boards on both ends and will battle with much bigger players.
What he needs to show this season: McCallum does a good job getting the Titans into their offense, but he is more of a facilitator than a playmaker. He needs to show an ability to create for others outside of the standard offense. Because of his value as a scorer, he often gets moved off the ball and he spends his time looking to get open off of screens, which he does well. McCallum also needs to become more consistent with his mid-range and long-range jumper. His form is solid, but he has a hard time getting set before he takes his shot. On the defensive end, McCallum’s only major weakness is his ability to get through screens. He needs to learn to get over them against shooters, and not rely on switches too often, which end up creating mismatches.