About 6 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.
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.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, Forward, 6’8, 225
22.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 60.1 FG%, 79.6 FT%, 48.6 3FG%
McDermott, one of the best scorers in the nation, is also one of the most versatile offensive threats. He is a good perimeter shooter, can post up other small forwards, or can face up and drive to the basket. He uses his body well in the post to create space in the post, and while not quick, he is aggressive going to the basket, and can finish with either hand around the basket. He understands the value of court spacing and looks to identify mismatches and gaps in the defense. He is a good rebounder, blocking out well, and going strong after the ball.
What he needs to show this season: Defensively, McDermott needs to work on his foot speed and lateral movement. He also needs to react better to the offensive players’ movements. He has difficulty getting caught out of position in pick-and-roll situations. On the offensive side, McDermott needs to work on his explosiveness going to the basket. He uses his ball fakes and his dribble well, but defenders in the NBA will react much quicker, so he needs to be quicker with his movements. Also, he does a great job drawing defenders, but he needs to work on becoming a better passer when he gets caught in the help defense.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State, Forward, 6’7, 225
15.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 52.1 FG%, 75.5 FT%, 34.5 3FG%
Thomas emerged as a crucial scoring threat for the Buckeyes last season and should be able to build on that further with the loss of William Buford and Jared Sullinger. He has a strong mid-range jumper and can be tough out of the high post. Thomas is a bull on the offensive glass, using a combination of his quick jumping ability and strong body to get to the ball quickly and to get good shots off these rebounds. Thomas is also able to hit the spot up jumper from deep. He is versatile on the defensive side, able to guard both the 3 and 4 positions.
What he needs to show this season: Thomas needs to show that he can be a more versatile scorer, especially if he is going to be the Buckeyes’ main threat. He has to improve his ballhandling skills and be able to take the ball from the perimeter to the basket. Also, he needs to be more consistent with his long-range jumper, as well as being able to his jumper off the dribble. He will need to become a better defender, especially on the perimeter, moving his feet and working on his positioning. In the post, he needs to use his lower body to force players away from the basket.
Reggie Bullock, North Carolina, Guard, 6’7, 205
8.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 42.8 FG%, 72.7 FT%, 38.2 3FG%
Bullock came back strong last season after missing the end of his freshman year due to knee surgery. Bullock has great size at the shooting guard position and is able to easily shoot over most defenders. He is a good spot-up shooter and can also hit his jumper off the dribble. As with most Carolina players, he runs the floor very well, and he does a great job spotting up on the wings in transition. He is a smart defender and positions himself well.
What he needs to show this season: With the loss of Barnes, Marshall, Zeller and Henson, Bullock will need to step up into a much bigger role this season. Acting as mainly a spot-up shooter will no longer be an option. Bullock will need to diversify his offensive game, using his size to get to the basket as well as hitting the mid-range jumper off the dribble. Along with this, Bullock should become more aggressive, realizing he is now one of the main options. On the defensive end, Bullock should have even more of his quickness and reaction speed back after a full 18 months removed from his surgery.
Joe Jackson, Memphis, Guard, 6’1, 171
11.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 41.9 FG%, 83.7 FT%, 30.2 3FG%, 1.6:1 A/TO
Jackson’s college career has yet to live up to the hype when he chose to stay home in Memphis to play for the Tigers. Jackson is very quick and can get past defenders off the dribble fairly easily. He sees the court well, has a very good handle and uses both hands very well. He is very good in the open floor and looks to get to the rim at almost every opportunity. His defense is fundamentally sound – he stays low, moves his feet well, and positions himself well on and off the ball.
What he needs to show this season: Control and decision-making are Jackson’s biggest issues. Often, he gets into the defense so quickly, that he doesn’t anticipate where the help is coming from and where his options will be. He often forces bad shots in traffic, though he doesn’t shy away from contact. He spent too much time playing off the ball last season, and he needs to show that he can be the point guard that runs the offense efficiently. He also needs to improve his jumper, especially working on his release point. At his size, he is going to have a tough time getting good shots off with such a low release on his jumper.
Devon Saddler, Delaware, Guard, 6’2, 205
18.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 39.1 FG%, 80.2 FT%, 31.1 3FG%
Saddler is coming a very good sophomore season when he emerged as one of the top scorers in the country. He is solidly built and uses his body well when attacking the basket. He can finish in a variety of ways and can handle contact while still getting his shot off. He uses screens well to get open, especially getting his jumper off quick coming off of screens. When he gets his body square, Saddler can hit his jumper well beyond the 3-point line. He is a good on-ball defender, moving his feet well and forcing his man away from the lane. He rebounds well for his size, especially doing a good job boxing out once a shot goes up.
What he needs to show this season: Saddler didn’t adjust well being the focus of opposing defenses. His shot selection was poor, especially from long-range. He was in such a hurry to get his jumper off that many times he never came close to getting square. Also, being much stronger than many who guarded him, he would just try and force his way to the basket. He has to do a better job recognizing the help defenders and either pulling up for a short jumper or kicking the ball out to an open teammate. On the defensive side, Saddler needs to do a better job as a help defender, rotating quickly, especially in pick-and-roll situations, and positioning himself better to provide some help in the lane.
Andre Roberson, Colorado, Guard/Forward, 6’7, 210
11.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.3 spg, 1.9 bpg, 51.0 FG%, 61.4 FT%, 38.0 3FG%
Roberson is long and athletic, and uses both to his advantage, especially on the defensive end and rebounding. He has good footwork and is able to guard multiple positions. He uses his long reach to deny passing lanes well and is developing into a good shot-blocker. Roberson is a unique offensive player, using mismatches to his advantage in the post and using his athleticism to make plays above the rim. He works hard on the offensive glass, and does a great job keeping balls alive until he can get a handle on them. He runs the floor well and does a good job getting to the rim and finishing.
What he needs to show this season: As unique as Roberson is on the offensive end, he is still very raw skill wise. His jumper is inconsistent and his shot selection can be poor. He needs to improve his ballhandling skills so he can take the ball from the perimeter or facing up in the post to the basket. He draws contact well, but he needs to be able to convert his free throws at a higher rate. Defensively, Roberson will need to continue to improve as a perimeter defender, especially working on moving his feet and anticipating the offensive player’s moves.