We are a few months from the start of the college basketball season, and the road to the 2014 NBA Draft has become. To kick things off, I am going to spend the next couple of weeks looking at this year’s senior class and some brief notes on areas where they need to show improvement to maximize their value at the next level.
See Part 1 here – McDermott, Bachynski, Fair, Joe Jackson, Payne
See Part 2 here – Craft, Sheehey, Burton, Alec Brown, Patric Young
See Part 3 here – Russ Smith, Kendall Williams, Sykes, Moser, Kilpatrick
See Part 4 here – Cory Jefferson, Saddler, Dwight Powell, Napier, Early
These are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season. These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season. These are also not in any particular order other than who I choose to write about each post.
Photo: Elaine Thompso/AP
CJ Wilcox, Washington, Guard, 6’5, 195
(2012-13) 16.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 41.9 FG%, 81.6 FT%, 36.6 3FG%
Wilcox stepped up as Washington’s primary scoring option last season, but many of his old problems still seem to plague him. Wilcox can be a good perimeter shooter, especially as a spot shooter, having good size and getting good elevation to shoot over most defenders. He has a quick release and good range. He uses his dribble well to create space when needed, and is a capable ballhandler over short distances. Wilcox is also a good scoring option in transition, with the ability to take the ball to the basket or spot up on the wing. Wilcox can guard multiple positions and he has improved as both an on and off-ball defender.
What he needs to show this season: The issues for Wilcox are primarily the same as he faced entering last season. Wilcox needs to do a better job moving with the ball on offense, developing quick moves to get open and doing a better job coming off of screens in position to make a play. Also, he needs to not settle for contested jumpers and work on improving his ballhandling enough to get into the lane and score around the basket. On defense, he has improved, but he can still be inconsistent, especially when he is away from the ball. He has a tendency to focus too much on where the ball is and he loses his man through a screen or a quick cut. It should be noted that Wilcox was bothered by a stress fracture in his foot last season, and he had surgery after the season to correct it.
Trevor Releford, Alabama, Guard, 6’0, 195
(2012-13) 14.9 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.1 spg, 47.6 FG%, 82.4 FT%, 40.7 3FG%, 1.4:1 A/TO
Releford may be one of the best in the NCAA right now at leading his team. He has very good composure and sets the tone for his team on both ends of the floor. A very good ballhandler, Releford is comfortable using both hands and attacking on either side of the court. He uses his dribble well to break down defenders and is very good at getting into the lane off the dribble. Releford is strong for his size and is capable of absorbing contact on his way to the basket, while also being able to finish in some creative ways. He is a good spot-up shooter and is capable of setting up for the 3 off the ball, while occasionally hitting his shot off the dribble. Defensively, Releford moves his feet very well and maintains good position. He anticipates movements well on and off the ball, and he is quick to jump on turnover opportunities.
What he needs to show this season: Releford can be more of a scorer than an actual playmaker for his teammates. He does such a good job getting into the lane, that he can find himself stuck before he can see all of his options. This can lead to some poor shots in the lane as well as missing easy drop-offs or kick-outs to his teammates. Also, it will be important for Releford to become effective out of the pick-and-roll, especially making the proper reads. Releford should also work on developing consistent mid and short-range jumpers for when the defense rotates to help quickly. On the defensive end, Releford continues to improve, though he will often overplay a little too much, leaving a good ballhandler space to beat him on the weak side.
Cleveland Melvin, Depaul, Forward, 6’8, 208
(2012-13) 16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 spg, 47.9 FG%, 67.7 FT%, 29.4 3FG% (51 attempts)
Melvin, a former Big East Rookie of the Year, seemed to take a step back in some key areas during his junior season. 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 looks to play 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. Melvin also does well defending full court and trapping when it’s called for.
What he needs to show this season: Melvin was more aggressive looking for shots last season, but they weren’t always very good looks. Part of this may be due to a Depaul offense which looked to push the pace often, but poor shot selection was also a big part of it. Melvin still needs to improve his ballhandling enough that he can look to drive more from the perimeter, and certainly needs to work on going strong and not avoiding contact. Because of this, Melvin will often settle for long 2-point jumpers. 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 perimeter defense has improved, but he needs to work on anticipating better and using angles to force his man into the help defense. Melvin also needs to be more aggressive going after rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Joshua Smith, Georgetown, Center, 6’10, 310
(2012-13, UCLA – 6 games) 5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 61.1 FG%, 47.4 FT%
After 2 frustrating seasons, Smith left UCLA in December of his junior season after only 6 games. The frustration stemmed not only from the disastrous mix of players former coach Ben Howland had brought in, but also from Smith’s continuing issues to get, and then stay, in playing shape. Conditioning issues have always limited Smith’s time on the court, but when he was on the floor, you still saw a lot of the raw skill he possesses for his size. Smith uses his huge body well to get position in the post, and when he gets the ball deep, there aren’t many who will stop him. He has good footwork for his size and excellent touch around the basket. He can be a good passer out of the post and he does a good job sealing off his man for his teammates to attack the lane, both which should serve him well in John Thompson’s offense.
What he needs to show this season: Conditioning and consistency continue to hound Smith and he has averaged less than 20 minutes per game in just over 2 full seasons. While he shows good footwork on offense, he doesn’t move very well on the defensive end at all. He is the first 300+ pound player who I’ve seen get backed down easily in the post and when he gets beat he will commit silly fouls, sending him to the bench. Between his lack of conditioning and these other missteps, Smith never gets into any kind of rhythm on the floor, leaving him to contribute very little. Smith needs to start showing a commitment to the game and to his team by getting into shape enough to be a regular contributor. After showing up at Georgetown weighing around 340 pounds, Smith is reportedly down to 310 pounds, and hopefully by the time he is eligible, likely in December, he can be below 300 pounds.
De’mon Brooks, Davidson, Forward, 6’7, 227
(2012-13) 13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 50.0 FG%, 74.7 FT%, 22.0 3FG% (41 attempts)
Brooks, the SoCon Player of the Year 2 seasons ago, saw a drop in some numbers last season, but improved in many key areas. Brooks is strong and has good length, both which he uses well to make plays around the basket area. He is comfortable shooting with either hand and he likes to go strong to the rim. He protects the ball well, both as a ballhandler and when rebounding on the defensive end. Brooks is capable of guarding multiple positions and is comfortable defending one the perimeter or in the post. He is a physical defender and has improved his lateral movement and ability to fight through screens.
What he needs to show this season: Brooks can be a little too aggressive on the defensive end, often leading to some silly fouls. When he is guarding wings, he needs to work on being quicker with his feet and avoiding reaching for the ball. He may not have the speed, but he can learn to anticipate and beat his man to the spot to head off their penetration. He does well guarding against bigger players in the post, but he needs to do a better job not falling for shot fakes that get him in the air. On the offensive end, he needs to work on his ballhandling to create space off the dribble and to help him get by his defender. He needs to work on becoming a more consistent shooter in both the mid-range and long-range areas. The form on his jumper has shown some improvement, but he needs to get more lift and arc on the shot instead of shooting straight at the basket.
Follow me on Twitter - @NBADraftBlog