Happy Holidays NBADraft.net community. It's time for Conference play out West to get under way and the Pac 12 is wide open with some solid but unspectacular teams all vying for the inaugural Pac 12 crown. No one has the right to feel particularly confident about their current resume as it stands that will be presented to the selection committee come March. It's an up for grabs conference, and with that said, let the games begin.
Player of the Week
Tony Wroten, Washington Huskies
Wroten has taken it up a notch in the month of December and will be heading into the new year with a lot of momentum as both a Pac 12 player of the year candidate and a climbing NBA prospect for the upcoming draft. These past 5 games, he has averaged over 22ppg and 5 rebounds. He has taken up even more of a score first mentality and shown rising aggressiveness attacking the defense over showcasing traditional point guard duties. He gets to the rim at will and has an excellent ability to get his defender off balance with a series of herky jerky moves before exploding into the paint and using his long stride and length to cover ground quickly. His jumper is still a weak spot and the turnovers haven't slowed down, but there are few basketball players on the college scene who have the overall skill set Wroten possesses.
Lazeric Jones, UCLA Bruins
Jones got off to a horrible start to begin the season but has bounced back in a big way establishing himself as the hands down most important member and go to guy for the Bruins. He has the swagger of a player who truly believes he is the best guy on the court and is unafraid to take the big shots. His ability to create and pull up off the dribble has always been there, it's just been a matter of consistently knocking shots down which Lazeric has been doing lately. In UCLA's 7 games in the month of December, Jones has averaged 18 points and shot 56% from the field and 58% from three. But maybe even more impressive is that, despite the Bruins relying so heavily on him to create offense, he has turned the ball over only 3 times total during those 7 contests protecting the rock and making sound decisions.
Dewayne Dedmon, USC Trojans
In reality, I should say Dewayne's hype is cooling off since he himself never really got going to begin with. Still, he shows tons of potential which is always fun to talk about with athletic seven footers. But results are kind of important as well and Dedmon has actually been slowing down in overall effectiveness on the court. His recent 2 point 2 rebound performance in 20 minutes of play on December 22nd vs a top 25 ranked Kansas Jayhawk team surely didn't leave the pro scouts feeling as giddy as head coach Kevin O'Neill seemed to be before the start of the season. At just 7 points per and 5 boards per, maybe we should allow the guy to develop a little as a basketball player before we further discuss his draft status.
Top 5 Big Men in the Pac 12
1. Brock Motum, Washington State Cougars: Brock has had some considerable offensive talent for years now with the ability to step outside and knock down jumpers and face up slower bigs. But it was important for this season that he improve his interior play and focus more on the dirty work inside and he has done a commendable job of it. He averages 14 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 55% from the field and is a very mobile big who at 6-10 can move around the court and slash to the cup.
2. Josh Owens, Stanford Cardinal: Owens has been a long time contributor for the Stanford Cardinal who has now taken his game up another notch as a senior and established himself as a go to guy. He doesn't dominate games, but he is the primary option when things get tough on the court. He has a solid post game and above average athleticism.
3. Joshua Smith, UCLA Bruins: At just around 10 points and 6 rebounds per contest, Smith has made just about no progress since his freshman season and has been largely a disappointment as a sophomore. But he makes this list for the simple fact that when he is on the court, no big man in the conference makes opposing teams adjust their defense attention as much as Smith does. He draws doubles and triples and carves out space which in turn allows breathing room for the wings.
4. Harper Kamp, Cal Bears: Kamp's role and number of touches have taken a step backwards from last season which was to be expected with the improvement at other positions on the roster. But the 5th year senior continues to play a pivotal role and displays his typical hustle and leadership. Imposing his team first attitude is widely appreciated among Cal fans looking for success this season.
5. Jesse Perry, Arizona Wildcats: Perry has been mentioned in these blogs a few times now as just an overall impressive interior force who plays the game with intensity and toughness that an otherwise small Zona squad would lack. His 12 points and 8 rebounds per contest as well as solid defense make him arguably the most irreplaceable member of a deep Wildcat squad.
-UCLA has made major strides since the disastrous beginning of the season. They had won 5 in a row entering Conference play before falling by one point on the road to Stanford in a back and forth nail biter. Improved guard play and sound defense should make them a factor in the Pac 12 title race. Still, this team does not resemble the top 25 program many expected before the season started.
-Solomon Hill of Arizona has been quietly having a very solid under the radar year. He is currently leading the Wildcats in points, rebounds and assists per game. I don't consider him much of an NBA prospect, but he has a style of game that is similar to former all-star Antoine Walker. He is an all around skilled combo forward who feels more comfortable playing away the paint and has a wide variety of tools to work with on the court making him a match up nightmare.
-It's enough of excuse time for Lorenzo Romar and his Washington Huskies. This team has far too much talent to just scrape by and hope things work out for an at large bid into the tournament. After getting blown out by the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits on December 18th, Romar said it was an inexcusable performance. They have rebounded with 2 solid victories since, but time will tell if this team gets it.
-Oregon State Beavers backup SG Roberto Nelson has been showing some consistency lately. The highly touted recruit from a year ago has displayed numerous moments of his scoring prowess in his first season and a half in Corvallis and now seems to be gaining some confidence. The guy can get buckets and has hit 14 of 22 threes over the last 5 games