Monday, November 16, 2015

College Freshmen Preview

With the college basketball season kicking off here is a quick look at what some of the top freshmen in the country will bring to the table and how they might fare in their first season. Based on rankings from, the top 29 recruits get discussed below along with 10 players who could outplay their ranking. 

1. Skal Labissere (PF, Kentucky) – Smooth is the best way to describe Labissere. Watching his jump shot is a thing of beauty, good elevation, high release, and soft touch. Labissere’s season will play out on an upward trajectory. He won’t have the impact of Ben Simmons, but possibly more long term potential.

2. Ben Simmons (F, LSU) – Most polished freshmen and will have the biggest impact. Do it all point forward that is an unselfish and the best passer in his class regardless of position. Tough driver and improving outside shooter. Good size and strength to make an immediate impact.

3. Jaylen Brown (SF, Cal) – Stanley Johnson clone. Physical, tough, small forward with an improving outside jump shot. Explosive off the dribble, can play inside and outside. Hard worker and competitor. Will have an all PAC-12 freshman season and average 15-18 points per game.

4. Brandon Ingram (F, Duke) – Ingram’s light bulb came on in July 2014 while playing at the Adidas Unrivaled camp in Chicago and it continues to shine. After two eye opening performances at the McD’s AA & Hoop Summit event, Ingram vaulted up to a top five player and potential top draft pick. Extremely long and skinny. Very versatile. Will have an inconsistent freshman season due to strength deficiencies and is still 2-3 years from reaching full potential.

5. Cheick Diallo (PF, Kansas) – Will he ever play at Kansas? Diallo has one of the top two motors in the freshmen class. Great shot blocker, but will be a bit undersized. Great rim runner. Will impact the game on the defensive end while getting the hustle baskets down low.

6. Diamond Stone (C, Maryland) – Best big men post moves. 12 points, 7 rebounds is my projection for Stone. Big bodied center that can score off either block. Good shot mechanics out to 15 feet. Stamina and defensive concerns will slow Stone down, but Maryland will not need to rely on him with their returning talent.

7. Ivan Rabb(PF, Cal) – Will be able to run the floor and play the pick and pop game for Cal. Injury and strength issues a concern. Could be at Cal for two years. Will have games where he puts up 14 and 10, but also a fair amount of games he struggles in. Up and down freshman season at Cal.

8. Malik Newman (G, Mississippi State) – Newman will be the top scoring freshmen. A natural scoring guard, Newman will have the keys to the car from the opening tap. He can score from all areas and shined during USA world events. Given his offensive skill, Newman is prone to taking (and sometimes hitting) difficult shots. Expect Newman to produce in the high double-digits almost every game, but his efficiency stats won’t be pretty.

9. Jamal Murray (G, Kentucky) - Kentucky's shooting guard put on a show in the Nike Hoop Summit practices leading up to the actual game and then he showcased his skills on national television scoring 30 points. Murray has deep range on his outside shot and will replace Devin Booker as Kentucky's main three-point assassin. Murray also is a better slasher than Booker and can put the ball on the floor more seamlessly. Murray was under the radar in the spring, but he could wind up as one of the best guards in the game. 

10. Isaiah Briscoe (PG, Kentucky) – Jersey product that has long, powerful arms. Explosive slasher to the basket. Will continuously put pressure on opposing defenders, but can’t shoot outside of the three-point line. Briscoe brings a swagger to the court. How will he co-exist with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray? Briscoe will put up a decent stat line in terms of points, rebounds, and assists, but will have a high turnover rate.

11. Henry Ellenson (PF, Marquette) – A guard trapped in a power forward’s body. Ellenson slimmed down in the spring of 2014 and his game took off. As long as Ellenson does not float on the perimeter he will be the freshman of the year in the Big East. He will regularly grab defensive rebounds and push the ball up the court setting up the offense. Unique offensive skill-set with the size to compete down low.

12. Allonzo Trier (SG, Arizona) – High scoring guard that will challenge Jaylen Brown for top freshman in the PAC-12. Trier has good size and like Newman is a natural scorer. Will average double-digits and has NBA range. Lacks elite quickness to blow by defenders which will force him to settle for long-jumpers, but when he does get into the paint he can finish. Immediate impact player in Tucson.

13. Antonio Blakeney (SG, LSU) – High volume scorer. Will put up points in Baton Rogue, but will take a lot of shots to do so. Not a pure 3 point shooter, but will connect every game. Explosive jumper off one foot which will allow him to finish at the rim. Will average double figures, but also will produce a low offensive efficiency rating.

14. Derryck Thornton (PG, Duke) – Before he re-classed out of the 2016 high school class, Thornton was the best “pure” point guard out of a talented class. Knows how to run a team, quick first step, good passer, and improving mid-range shooter. Small stature and given he went from playing his junior season at Findlay Prep to Duke, Thornton will be an up and down player. Definitely won’t have a Tyus Jones impact, but will provide Duke with a steady hand at the point guard position.

15. Stephen Zimmerman (C, UNLV) – A finesse 7 footer that will excel at the pick and roll. Can catch and finish at the rim, but will prefer to knock in a 12-15 foot left-handed jumper. Superb passer for his size and can operate out of the high post. Will get pushed around down low and lacks the aggressive mind-set to always perform at a high level. Will put together efficient double-double efforts and then the next game you will wonder where he went.

16. Chase Jeter (PF, Duke) – Go to move is a right hand hook shot. Struggles to go left. Will try to find his niche within Duke’s offense which could be hard this year. Very young for his age, still improving and adding strength. Put together some dominant AAU performances, but will excel more-so as a sophomore.

17. Ray Smith (SF-Arizona) – Suffered a second ACL tear in pre-season. Was a potential NBA draft sleeper before the injury. Long, wiry, athletic guard that will know have missed two seasons in a row due to injury.

18. Tyler Dorsey (SG, Oregon) – Underrated freshman. Was a Top 10 player as a junior before dropping out of the Top 30 before a strong senior season in addition to a fantastic U19 performance playing for Greece. Long first step, good elevation at the rim and on jump-shots. Will step in for Joe Young and become an instant impact player in Eugene.

19. Caleb Swanigan (PF, Purdue) – Junkyard dog power forward. Great hands and rebounder, but a below the rim player. Uses strength and size to uproot weaker players out of post position. Nimble feet and a good short turn-around jump shot. Will struggle when faced with length in the post. Needs to continue to improve stamina. Will slap together several double-doubles, but will also find it more difficult in the post than high school.

20. Jalen Brunson (PG, Villanova) – The best college style point guard in his class. Brunson knows how to run a team efficiently and can score and pass. Brunson is knocked for his athleticism, but his strength and floater help him on drives to the basket and he has deep range on his outside shot.

21. Carlton Bragg (PF, Kansas) – Very well suited for the high-lo offense at Kansas. Prefers to play outside the paint too much, but is an able jumper shooter. Can dominate at times, but lacks consistency. Good bounce and tight form. Should make an impact at Kansas despite the big man depth.

22. Dwayne Bacon (SF, FSU) – Physical small forward that will be one of the top scorers for the Seminoles along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Likes to overpower defenders which could be more of a problem in the ACC, but will not need any time adjusting to college style of play. Should be an all-ACC freshman this year.

23. Jalen Adams (PG, UConn) – Most explosive point guard in the freshmen class. Adams can get by almost any one using his first step. He is a blur in the open court and can finish high above the rim. Produces lots of steals on the defensive end and can also block shots from help-side or when chasing defenders down from behind. Will provide excitement to an already talented UConn backcourt.

24. Justin Simon (PG, Arizona) – Great size and length. Excels with the ball in his hands, but how much time will he see at PG? Old for his age, but the California native will be a regular in the Wildcat rotation. Lock down defender potential. Struggles with outside shot.

25. Luke Kennard (SG, Duke) – Improved foot speed has turned Kennard into a talented player that struggled to create off the dribble into an all-around threat. He will be a three-point weapon from the wings and corners this year and also has the ball-handling and passing skills to player the point. The Ohio native could turn out to be Duke’s most consistent performer.

26. Deyonta Davis (PF, Michigan State) – Pogo stick power forward that is a bit raw offensively, but will be a valuable shot blocker and rebounder for Izzo. Davis will use his athleticism to finish at the rim and has the ability to hit the occasional outside jump shot, but will not be asked to score much during his first year in East Lansing.

27. Thomas Bryant (C, Indiana) – Bryant enters a great situation. Bryant’s strengths will shine while his weaknesses won’t be exposed (that much). High motor kid that never takes a play off. Bryant uses his 7’6” wing span to corral offensive and defensive rebounds. Uses strength and physicality to make life uncomfortable for opposing big men. Limited skills around the basket but will not be asked to score. Can run north-south, but struggles with agility moving east-west. Could average 8-10 rebounds a game.

28. Tyler Davis (C, Texas A&M) – Sean May style body, below the rim big man. Good passer that will struggle with conditioning during his freshman season. Skilled player in the post that can also step outside of the paint to score as well.

29. Elijah Thomas (PF, Texas A&M) – Thomas is a beast in the low post. He missed out on the McDonald’s All-American game, but will impress viewers once he fully returns from an injury that kept him out of some pre-season action. Solid pair of hands down low. Knows how to use his size and is a physical player.

10 Players That Will Play Above Their Ranking:

P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina, #37) – Came back strong from an ACL injury while also growing taller and getting stronger. Dozier will be a versatile threat for South Carolina. A smooth playmaker that can handle the ball and get to the basket.

Deng Adel (SF, Louisville, #47) – Adel can attack the basket and has a solid mid-range game. He has a tight form on his shot and is a bouncy athlete. Should thrive in Pitino’s system.

Daniel Giddens (PF, Ohio State, #51) – Strong and physical power forward that will dominate the boards and block shots for Thad Matta. Will score off of put-backs and fast breaks, but will be an immediate defensive presence.

Bennie Boatwright (PF, USC, #57) – An ideal stretch four. Boatwright is an excellent shooter for his size and also plays with a mean strength. Will give USC an added dimension this year and will alter the game on both ends of the court.

Aaron Holiday (PG, UCLA, #60) – Just like Thomas Bryant, Aaron Holiday enters into the perfect situation at UCLA. Lacking a true point guard last year, the explosive Holiday can penetrate and is able to finish in the paint or draw fouls through his ability to draw contact.

Tevin Mack (SF, Texas, #61) – Mack was a Shaka Smart recruit at VCU, but is talented enough to make an impact in the Big 12. Mack possesses ideal height for a small forward and can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. A wiry athlete, Mack could make an impact for the Longhorns in his first year.

Esa Ahmad (F, West Virginia, #72) – Bob Huggins got a steal in Ahmad. A physical forward that has skills to play on the perimeter and in the post. He has an old school flair to his game and will provide immediate versatility in the Big 12.

Aaron Falzon (F, Northwestern, #92) – Just like Boatwright, Falzon will space the floor for Northwestern. He has NBA range and loves to shoot. He can put points up in a hurry and will certainly do so in Evanston.

Damion Wilson (G, Pittsburgh, #100) – Wilson is a 6’5” playmaker that is usually too tall and physical for many of the guards he’s going against.

Ed Morrow (PF, Nebraska, #105) - A bit undersized for a power forward, but Morrow brings his lunch pale to work every game. He outplayed numerous big men that were more talented than the Chicago native and should do the same for Nebraska.

Monday, November 2, 2015

NBA Rookie Report

How did the first-round picks of the 2015 NBA Draft perform in Week 1 of the regular season? Well, Karl Anthony-Towns and Jahlil Okafor made their presence felt while Jerian Grant and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were two of the top non-lottery performers.

1. Karl Anthony-Towns (TWolves) – You couldn’t ask for a better start for the No. 1 pick. Two double-doubles and two wins to start the year. Towns scored 14 points on 6-10 shooting in a win against the Lakers and then went for 28 and 14 against the Nuggets going 11-19 from the floor. After just two games, it's amazing to think that Towns scored less than 5 points in almost 20% of his games at Kentucky.

2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers) – It’s been a rough start for the Lakers going 0-3 in the first week of games. Russell has averaged 25.4 minutes per game and 9 ppg, 2.7rpg, and 1.7 apg. He scored 13 points against the Kings, but is shooting just 36.7% from the field although he is a perfect 5-5 in the 15-19 foot range left of the free throw line.

3. Jahlil Okafor (Sixers) – Okafor got off to a scintillating start against Boston and finished with 26 points in his first NBA game. He scored 10 points in his second game and is averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 50% shooting.

4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) – Porzingis has struggled from the field in his first 3 games, but has made it to the free throw line 16 times, including 12 attempts in his opener against Milwaukee. He is just 1-6 from the three point-line and is averaging 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

5. Mario Hezonja (Magic) – Super Mario started off with a bang scoring 11 points in a close loss to the Wiz knocking down 3-5 from three, but played just 14 minutes against the Thunder and went 0-3 in 5 minutes against the Bulls.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kings) – Cauley-Stein only played 8 minutes in the Kings opener, but responded with a 17 point, 9 rebound, 3 block performance in 30 minutes against the Lakers. In his third game, WCS registered 8 points and 9 rebounds.

7. Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) – Mudiay started the season off strong in the scoring column with 17 points in a win against the Rockets, but not surprisingly he is struggling from the field shooting just 33.3% and he is also averaging 6.3 turnovers per game (11 against Houston).

8. Stanley Johnson (Pistons) – Johnson has connected on 3 field goals in each of his first three games. He went 3-10 from the field in his first two games and 3-8 in his third. So far he is averaging 8.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg and has scored 6 out of his 9 made baskets around the rim.

9. Frank Kaminsky (Hornets) – Frank the Tank is averaging 2.7 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in 8.5 minutes. He is 2-4 from the three-point line but has only played double digit minutes once.

10. Justise Winslow (Heat) – Winslow got his career going with a resounding one hand dunk against Charlotte and scored 5 points in his first game. Winslow went just 1-4 in his second game, but then played 31 minutes in his third game and went 4-8. So far he’s averaging 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds and is 3-3 on corner 3’s.

11. Myles Turner (Pacers) – Turner has turned in two solid games, going 4-6 from the floor in his first game and 4-8 in his second game. The Texas big man is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds per game. All of his baskets have come from the middle or right-side of the floor.

12. Trey Lyles (Jazz) – It hasn’t been the best start for Lyles as he is 0-6 from the floor in 3 games and didn’t score until his third game going 2-4 from the three-point line. He is averaging 2.3 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game.  

13. Devin Booker (Suns) – Booker started out hot in his first game going 6-7 from the field for 14 points against Dallas. He went 1-2 from the three-point line and added two rebounds. Booker only played 2 minutes the following game.

14. Cameron Payne (Thunder) – The Murray State guard got his first NBA playing time on Sunday against the Nuggets. In four minutes, Payne had 1 assist and 1 steal.

15. Kelly Oubre Jr. (Wizards) – The Wizards are 2-1, but Oubre has registered just 1 minute of action against the Milwaukee Bucks.

16. Terry Rozier (Celtics) – Rozier played 2 minutes in the Celtics home opener and went 0-2, but did not play in either of the Celtics next two games.

17. Rashad Vaughn (Bucks) – After getting significant playing time in the pre-season, Vaughn has played just 17 minutes. In the Bucks season opener Vaughn played 13 minutes and scored 7 points on 3-5 shooting. Vaughn only played four minutes against the Raptors and went 0-2.

18. Sam Dekker (Rockets) – Dekker has only played 6 minutes for the underperforming Rockets. Against the Nuggets Dekker played only one minute and then against Golden State, Dekker played 5 minutes and registered 1 steal and 1 rebound.

19. Jerian Grant (Knicks) – In three games Grant is averaging 7.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 4 apg. The talented guard from Notre Dame has played at least 20 minutes in all three scored 10 points in his first game and recorded 7 rebounds and 7 assists in his second game.

20. Delon Wright (Raptors) – Wright’s only playing time occurred on Sunday where he got in Toronto’s game for two minutes against Milwaukee missing a three from the right corner.

21. Justin Anderson (Mavs) – The former Cavalier only played 3 minutes against the Suns on 10/28, but the athletic wing saw his playing time jump to 18 minutes one day later in a loss to the Clippers. Anderson went 2-8 against the Clippers and 1-5 from three, but he also pulled down 6 rebounds to go with an assist, a steal, and a block.

22. Bobby Portis (Bulls) – Portis has not played for the Bulls through four games.  

23. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Nets) – Hollis-Jefferson was the recipient of early playing time logging an average of 25 minutes in his first two games. He scored 8 points in his first game, followed by 10 points and 4 rebounds on 5-7 shooting against the Spurs.

24. Tyus Jones (TWolves) – Through 3 games, Jones is still looking for his first playing time in a regular season NBA game.

25. Jarrell Martin (Grizzlies) – Suffered a fractured foot in September.

26. Nikola Multinov (Spurs) – Currently playing in Europe. Draft and stash.

27. Larry Nance (Lakers) – Nance has not played for the Lakers in 3 games.

28. R.J. Hunter (Celtics) – Hunter has not played for the Celtics in 3 games.

29. Chris McCullough (Nets) – McCullough is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered while at Syracuse last January.

30. Kevon Looney (Warriors) – Looney is recovering from hip surgery and will be out 2-4 months.