We are closing in on the start of the college basketball season, practice has started, and the road to the 2014 NBA Draft has begun. It’s time to continue my look at this year’s junior class, which is not very talent-deep, but has some very good prospects near the top.
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.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado, Guard, 6’6, 200
(2011-12) 15.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 41.5 FG%, 82.5 FT%, 33.8 3FG%
As Tad Boyle’s Colorado teams continue to improve, so as the play of Dinwiddie. A long, savvy guard, Dinwiddie has been the main facilitator of the Buffaloes’ offense, and Dinwiddie’s size allows him to see over the top of the defense. Dinwiddie uses long strides to get to the basket from the perimeter, and not many in college basketball are better at drawing contact. He is a very good free throw shooter and had 8 games last year where he went to the line at least 10 times. Dinwiddie is also capable of knocking down open jumpers, and he has range out to the college 3-point line. Dinwiddie is a good perimeter defender, getting solid position, keeping good balance and moving his feet well. He uses his length well to close on shooters and contest perimeter shots.
What he needs to show this season: Dinwiddie does a few things very well, but he also has some areas which need a lot of work. His shot selection, and decision-making in general, are very questionable. He will force long jumpers when defended well and will inexplicably choose not to attack the basket when he has space to do so. Dinwiddie is an average ballhandler at best, and his left hand is below average. Because of this, he will either force plays to the right hand side, or he will try to use his right hand on the left side of the basket, playing right into what the defense wants. He is more smooth than athletic, and his lack of strength leaves him in some very bad spots around the basket, where he has trouble getting a shot off. Still, his ability to draw fouls negates some of that, but it could be an issue at the next level where he likely won’t draw contact as easily. His jumper is inconsistent, and his release is low and more of a push towards the basket than a shot. He doesn’t move well without the ball, preferring to catch the ball on the perimeter and try and make a move. He sees the court well, but he needs to make decisions to pass quicker when he has an opening. Defensively, Dinwiddie has trouble keeping quicker guards in front of him, and relies heavily on switches so as not to get beat.
Quinn Cook, Duke, Guard, 6’2, 180
(2012-13) 11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 41.6 FG%, 87.7 FT%, 39.3 3FG%, 2.4:1 A/TO
After a somewhat shaky freshman season, Cook made major strides last season in most parts of his game, giving Duke a reliable leader at the point guard position. Cook does a good job playing within his talent, showing an above-average handle and good court vision. He does a good job making smart passes in places where his teammates can make a play, and he seems to be one of the few point guards at the high major level who knows how to make an effective post entry pass. Cook’s scoring abilities still need to be developed, but he showed that he can knock down open long-range jumpers and he can be creative finishing around the basket. On defense, Cook does a very good job positioning himself on and off the ball, and he has improved his quickness and lateral movement. He doesn’t take many risks on the defensive side, but instead works hard to keep the ballhandler from getting by him. Cook has improved his decision-making in transition, and I think he will continue to improve as he gets stronger.
What he needs to show this season: Cook does a good job getting Duke into their offense and making smart passes, but he is not much of a playmaker. He needs to learn to make quicker reads off of high screens and pick-and-roll situations, as well as being quicker to find open teammates off of penetration. As I mentioned, he can be creative finishing around the basket, but he has problems when he gets in deep against help defenders, and he will look to shy away from contact. He can hit open jumpers, but because of lack of strength, the motion for him to get his shot off from behind the 3-point line takes a bit too long. Defensively, as mentioned, he does most things well, though he does have problems getting through screens on and off the ball.
Ryan Anderson, Boston College, Forward, 6’9, 216
(2012-13) 14.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 47.6 FG%, 62.1 FT%
After a solid freshman season, Anderson showed last year why he is one of the ACC’s best young talents. Anderson has shown good skill around the basket, including using his body well in the post area to seal off the defender, developing a few go-to post moves, and having a nice touch around the basket. He has good hands, can catch the ball in traffic and can finish at the basket with either hand. Anderson is a good screener on the perimeter and can be effective in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations, showing the ability to hit open jumpers out to 18 feet. He uses his length well to create opportunities for offensive rebounds, as well as tip-ins off of missed shots. Anderson is an average defender on both the post and the perimeter. He gets good position and moves his feet fairly well. He is also quick after missed shots, anticipating where they’ll go and securing the ball well.
What he needs to show this season: Anderson is skilled, but he still has plenty of room to improve on all aspects of his game. When he gets the ball in the post area, his moves can be slow to develop and he can be careless with the ball. His footwork has improved, but still needs to become cleaner. The release of his jumper is low, slightly above eye level, which leads to a shot with little arc and tough to get off with a defender closing in. Anderson also settles for long jumpers too often and needs to become more selective with his shots. His shooting woes also carry over to the free throw line. On defense, Anderson needs to become more physical when defending in the post, allowing his man to back him down. He isn’t a good shot-blocker, so allowing the man to get closer is not a good strategy. He needs to become stronger in his lower body and learn to hold his position. Anderson also needs to use his body better to get position for rebounds. Many times he can be pushed out of position by smaller players.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU, Forward, 6’9, 256
(2012-13) 13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 48.0 FG%, 59.6 FT%
A former McDonald’s All-American, O’Bryant is still developing into a player who can thrive at least at the college level. O’Bryant has a strong body and is able to use it will to establish position in the post. He does a good job getting low and setting a solid base, forcing defenders to stay on his back or commit a foul. O’Bryant can be aggressive both after catching the ball in the post, or looking to attack from the mid-range area. He moves his feet fairly well for his size and is efficient and capable of finishing strong around the basket. O’Bryant also uses his body well to establish position for rebounds on both ends of the floor. He battles well defending the post, working hard to not give up any ground. O’Bryant has also improved as a perimeter defender, maintaining good position on the ball and playing angles well off of penetration.
What he needs to show this season: Though improved, O’Bryant isn’t really much further along than he was coming out of high school. In the post, O’Bryant’s moves are slow to develop, and he will dribble too much, often away from his body. His shooting touch has improved, though once he gets out around 10 feet, he is inconsistent, and has a bad habit of fading away on his shot for no real reason. On occasion, he will look to drive from the perimeter, and he is fairly quick for his size, though he can also lose control quickly. For a player who is so strong around the basket, he takes too many jumpers. On defense, O’Bryant needs to learn how to defend on the pick-and-roll better, including learning how to hedge to force the ballhandler out wide. He tends to drop off quickly from the screen, giving the ballhandler room to make decisions. He also needs to improve his footwork both defending the post and the perimeter, working to move his feet a bit quicker.
Wesley Saunders, Harvard, Forward, 6’5, 215
(2012-13) 16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 52.4 FG%, 72.9 FT%
Along with the rise of the Harvard basketball program, as good a story is the emergence of Saunders, the leading scorer in the Ivy League last season. For a shooting guard, Saunders in unique in that most of his scoring is done within the arc. Saunders is very good at using his size to post up smaller defenders, and he is a good amount of moves for a guard. He also likes to attack off the dribble, using screens to spring free, and he is aggressive on his way to the rim. Saunders doesn’t shy from contact and he is good at finding ways to finish through the foul. He does a good job getting square to the basket for his jumper and he has a nice, high release, though his release point can be inconsistent. Defensively, Saunders is fundamentally sound and has good awareness. He is at his best off the ball, where he anticipates well and disrupts passing lanes.
What he needs to show this season: Saunders did a very good job in his first season with major minutes, and he did exactly what the team needed him to do. Still, he has a long way to improve before he is ready for the next level, where he will need to show more of a perimeter game than he does now. Saunders needs to work on moving without the ball, using screens to get open and being ready to shoot off the catch. He also needs to not only become comfortable and consistent from behind the 3-point line; he should also work on creating his own jumper. Saunders needs to become a better ballhandler, especially with his left hand. On defense, Saunders is fundamentally sound, as mentioned, but he needs to work on becoming quicker, both in foot speed and lateral movement. He also needs to learn to play angles better once he is beat off the dribble, finding a point to cut off his man instead of just chasing.
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