Player of the Week
Justin Cobbs, PG, California Golden Bears
The sophomore Cobbs has established himself as an integral piece of the Bears perimeter attack which also features a pair of pre-season all conference candidates in defensive specialist combo guard Jorge Gutierrez and sharp shooting wing man Allan Crabbe. Cobbs is a skilled pg who can get all the way to the rim and has size to finish. He has an excellent mid range game with the ability to break his man down off the dribble and a has a smooth shot with good hang time to hit over contesting defense. He is gaining confidence with his freedom to attack on offense and is becoming more assertive. This past week in wins over Colorado and Utah, Cobbs averaged 19 points, 10.5 assists and had more steals then turnovers helping improves Cal's record to 22-6 overall. I mentioned Justin in the last blog as an under the radar sophomore to keep an eye on who could break out next season, but if he can keep up his current play, there might be no need to wait till next season before he emerges and makes a name for himself, possibly this March when it counts the most.
David Kravish, PF, Cal Bears
It was not my intention to make this a Cal basketball-centric week, but I have to bring up yet another Golden Bear who has stepped his game up as of late in freshman big man David Kravish. Kravish has been given a larger role following the suspension of big man Richard Solomon due to academic issues about a month back, and he has done his best to alleviate the loss. David has a very nice touch around the paint and does a good job keeping the ball up high and not bringing it down low allowing for smaller players to reach in. He doesn't provide much of a physical presence as he needs to add quite a bit of weight to his frame, but the offensive skills and his confidence level at that end of the court are intriguing. He averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in a pair of wins over the Oregon schools this past week. He also posted an impressive 18 rebound performance just two weeks ago versus the USC Trojans. His improvement gives the Bears an inside player who can provide points and keep defenses honest.
Ahmad Starks, PG Oregon State
Starks is more of a score first pg who goes through hot and cold stretches. For him to establish himself as a pg who can truly lead a team, he needs to show more consistency overall. And that might mean pulling back on the reigns a little bit with his shot selection and look to take on more of a distributors role and showcasing more traditional point guard characteristics. He has shot just 29% from the floor over the course of the last 4 games, all of which the Beavers have lost. Ahmad is only a sophomore and he has a bright future, but he needs to be more consistent on the court if he wants to help the Oregon State basketball program end their 22 year NCAA tournament drought before graduation day.
Top 5 current NBA rookie performers from the Pac 12
1-Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings (drafted 60th)
Thomas's presumed destination as a pro was that of an energy spark plug off the bench if he could make it at all. It didn't matter that he was one of the top players in America last season, the lack of size (listed at 5-9) was just too much to overlook. However, the struggling Kings recently decided to give Thomas a shot as the starting PG position while Tyreke Evans moved over to SG and Thomas has since responded by posting averages of 20 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds and has shot over 50% from both the field and from three in this brief stretch. Looks like the last pick of the draft might prove to the doubters that a nice combination of heart and talent can't be measured with a ruler.
2-Nikola Vucevic, Philadelphia 76ers (drafted 16th)
Vucevic is a skilled big man who can throw more then one move at his opponent with his back to the basket and can also step outside and shoot it. With size always at a premium in the NBA, the Sixers may have gotten themselves quite the bargain with the 7 footer from USC being available just outside of the lottery. Vucevic has not always been given consistent minutes this season, but when he plays 20 minutes or more, which has happened 10 times this season thus far, Nikola has averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds on 58% shooting.
3-Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves (drafted 2nd)
Williams has been disappointing considering the expectations of a guy who many thought could be the top overall pick and contend for Rookie of the Year. Derrick has not shot from the perimeter nearly as well as he did in college. He also hasn't been given the typical type of freedom that top picks usually get their rookie year as the Wolves are bringing him along slowly while the team focus is on winning now. Williams has displayed an excellent first step with the ability to get by his man but needs to show more focus on the other end of the court and prove he is an NBA defender in order to justify the court time needed to display his offensive prowess.
4-Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (drafted 11th)
Everyone knew Thompson had one undeniable NBA skill, and that was shooting the rock. Well he hasn't had any trouble adjusting to the next level in that regard where he is currently shooting 45% from three point territory while taking three long distance attempts per contest. But Klay has also, in very rookie like fashion, shown inconsistency issues where he drifts in and out of games sometimes becoming invisible on the court. He cant rely on plays getting called for him to showcase his scoring abilities, so he has to become a little more determined in other aspects of the game such as driving and rebounding to stay relevant when he doesn't get open looks.
5-Malcolm Lee, Minnesota Timberwolves (drafted 43rd)
Well, let's just say "top 5" sounds a lot better and more official then "top 4". So by default of needing a fifth entry on this list, Malcolm Lee gets the nod via having played in two games this season as a reserve for the Minnesota Timberwolves. It should be noted that in his two appearances (28 minutes total) Lee has put up decent numbers with a total of 12 points 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.
Notes around the conference:
-it's not exactly breaking news that the pac 12 conference is struggling and having a tough run of things as of late. It was as recently as 2008 that the majority of professional college writers and analysts considered the pac the best conference in college basketball. That was a year that featured a UCLA squad with the likes of Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook. Stanford had the Lopez twins inside. Cal featured the phenomenal big man Ryan Anderson lighting it up from all over the court and leading the conference in scoring. The USC Trojans had OJ Mayo and Taj Gibson. Arizona was led by Jarred Bayless, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. Arizona State was led by the phenomenal swing man James Harden. Washington State was sweet 16 bound led by the backcourt of Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low. Even Oregon without any long term NBA talent made the NCAA tournament. Four sweet 16 squads and loads of NBA talent. But that was a long time ago, and myself, having watched the conference for over 15 years, can attest that this is easily the worst I have ever seen the pac. Cal and Washington are both capable of making a run in this years tournament. Oregon, Colorado and Arizona are in the discussion to make the tournament if they can finish strong. But reality is that no one in the conference is a legit contender for the whole thing and west coast fans can only hope that things start to turn around.
-The Pac 12 tournament has been held every year in Los Angeles since it was reinstated in 2002. There is discussion now though to move the tournament due to lagging ticket sales with Las Vegas being at the front of the list for potential destinations.
-One positive development this season for a struggling Utah Utes program is the opportunity to continue to develop 7 foot big man Jason Washburn. The Junior big man only has one season left for the Utes, but he has steadily grown into an impact interior presence on both sides of the floor and can become a major impact player for the team next season as they look to get headed into the right direction.
-Just wanted to point out how well Stanford's freshman guard Chasson Randle has been playing. Despite the Cardinals collective team discombobulating over the last month, Randle has held his own on the court and appears to be one of the handful of names that everyone should keep an eye on going forward from the Pac 12.
-I have mentioned it a few times recently, but I'll throw it out there once again, the Wear twins are really playing well for the UCLA Bruins. They look not only like legit college players but are now starting to get my attention as pro prospects going forward.
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