The holiday season can mean only one thing: conference play is right around the corner. No more breathers against cupcake central, as the mettle of the freshmen will be truly tested game in, game out for the first time. Until then, let’s take a peek at the latest Stock Watch:
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Pay Heed, We’ve got Embiid – Georgetown guard Aaron Bowen learned this the hard way.
So you mean to tell me this young man has been playing organized ball for two years? Believe it or don’t. Chatter of Embiid going #1 is more than loose talk or the typical talking head hype machine… it’s very real. The performance level he flashed in wins over New Mexico and Georgetown was consistently jaw dropping. He averaged 17 points on 90% FG, 17/22 free throws (77%), seven rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals in 23 minutes. Even those fantastic numbers don’t illustrate his ever-improving quality.
These choice words from Bill Self illustrate the canvas Embiid possesses: "It comes easy to him. He moves like a 6-footer with his feet. He can move in a way that very few guys in the past have been able to move. There's a skill set there that very few 7-footers have.”
He flies up and down the court with comfortable, massive strides – and behind a 7’5 wingspan and easy hops – all lob passes are thrown down and all shot attempts in his vicinity are in danger of ultimate rejection. And if that package wasn’t frightening enough in its own right, Embiid is getting stronger and more polished (less mechanical) with each passing minute on the court.
Kansas is utilizing Embiid in post isolations with increasing frequency. He battles for position with fervor and understands/creates entry angles for his guards. Upon receiving the rock: he’s patient, displays impressive footwork, makes quick moves and finishes through contact. Embiid is also beginning to display a knack in the face up game and catch-and-shoot potential in the mid-range. The sky is the limit. We’re watching the growth of a supremely rare, albeit raw, young talent.
Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
We tabbed Clarkson as a riser in our initial Stock Watch back on November 13th, and his stock remains on the ascent. The 6’5 point guard was directly involved in 45 of his team’s 64 points against Illinois. His eight assists were a season-high, and they weren’t the aesthetic kind either; Clarkson set up his mates for wide-open three’s off paint penetration. He’s a playmaker.
Clarkson blends patience with an attacking nature. He lulls you to sleep… then explodes. Opponents need to respect his shooting ability and he’s more than capable of punishing an overplay by getting to the rim (Clarkson has attempted at least six FT’s in five straight games). He’s also proficient pulling the trigger off the dribble at a moment’s notice. Pick and roll or isolation – he creates shots for himself and others. His versatility on the offensive end is difficult to counter.
Oh and by the way, he’s super-EFFICIENT: 52% FG and 86% FT. Clarkson is working his way onto the outskirts of the lottery.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Robinson III appears to be gradually settling into the role of offensive focal point. Well… sort of. He’s certainly making all of his shot attempts count. GRIII scored 20 points on nine shots versus Arizona, and 17 points on ten shots against Stanford. When he looks to be assertive, the result is usually a positive offensive set for the Wolverines. He’s more comfortable with his handle and looking to drive with purpose. With an effective shot fake and combination of quickness/explosive athleticism, the face up game is his ticket to stardom. Right now he rarely (if ever) takes a bad shot (50% FG) – and he never appears out of control (less than a turnover per game) – but his team needs more, even if that means occasionally making an overaggressive mistake. He was 7/7 from the floor in the first half vs. AZ, and finished the game 8/9… It doesn’t add up. But, the top of the draft talent is present. Robinson is hovering in late lotto territory.
Dwight Powell, Stanford
It’s not often a 4/18 shooting performance receives praise, but Powell’s willingness to mix it up continues to be a welcome sight. He had attempted 18 or more shots just once in his four-year career prior to Wednesday at Connecticut. Shoot propensity aside, Powell played an awesome all-around game: 15 rebounds (5 offensive), five assists, four blocks and two steals in the full 40 minutes. The Huskies lack size in the starting five and their two tallest players lack physicality at this stage – Powell took full advantage throwing his weight around on the glass. His teammate Josh Huestis stole all the boards against Michigan, but Powell finished with a 10/3/3 line with a steal and a block. If his mean streak ever (remotely) catches up to his skill level, he could be an absolute steal in the early stages of round two (currently #37).
Deonte Burton , Nevada
Burton carries around the reputation of ‘scoring point guard’, and rightfully so. However, in recent weeks he’s made a concerted effort to orchestrate and facilitate for undermanned Nevada. Since going assist-less at Missouri on November 29th, he’s sporting a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio in four games. And he’s still scoring of course, putting up 22 per game on 51% shooting. Burton is unorthodox in style, but even with defenses dead-set on limiting his penetration on a nightly basis, he still gets wherever he wants to. The senior is explosive with deceptive power. Shot selection must improve. While he’s holding on for dear life in our 12/18 mock, he should climb into safety range.
Semaj Christon, Xavier
A firm preference to attack the basket is one thing… but Christon takes stubborn to another level. Defenses are baiting the drive happy Christon right now, and he needs to make the adjustment. He committed three offensive fouls versus Cincinnati on head down, tunnel vision drives. While he might outmaneuver Evansville and Bowling Green, he’ll need variety to keep defenses in the Big East honest. Christon played a strong floor game at Alabama, but shot just 4/11 against a sagging defense limiting his short pull-ups and floaters. It’s a good thing he’s a tremendous finisher at 6’3 because he’ll be driving into a heavy dose of paint congestion. We could see more Brandon Randolph at the point with Christon working off the ball. He’s taken a step back to #19 in the 2014 mock.
Jabari Bird, California
Bird has struggled dating back to the Dayton game in Maui. He played only 16.5 minutes per against Fresno State and Creighton, averaging five points on 5.5 shot attempts. Defenders are up in his grill making him create off the dribble – he’s typically able to get a step, but he doesn’t handle the ball well in traffic; nor does he have the strength to maintain balance. Additionally, his decision making on the court seems predetermined. His game is not flowing freely right now… growing pains of a freshman. He’ll be a star as a sophomore with an improved body and comfort level. Bird is our #11 prospect in 2015.
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