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Stock Watch: First Impressions

Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:40am

By Aran Smith
11/28/07

Year of the Freshman, Part 2

It's quickly shaping up to be another extremely strong draft driven by possibly the deepest and most talented freshmen class of all time. Last year's draft had 8 freshmen in the first round, (including 5 of the top 10 picks) and this year's class could produce the same results. It's time to officially do away with the freshman of the week award, as freshmen are sure to once again dominate the entire stock watch all season. Here's to another exciting season of college hoops!

Rising

[img_assist|nid=3606|title=Michael Beasley - AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=412]Michael Beasley 6-9 235 PF Kansas St. Fr.

With the number one pick of the 2008 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select...

The only thing that can stop Michael Beasley from being the top pick in 2008 is Michael Beasley. His talent, skill level and potential is head and shoulders above the competition along the college basketball landscape.

Beasley came into college with the reputation of a loose cannon, a player with immense physical gifts but a lack of discipline.

Scouts are quickly changing their tune saying he has matured and is now able to focus and listen to instruction.

He appears to have taken the torch from Kevin Durant and picked up where the former Big 12 standout left off: making a mockery of the college game.

Beasley's 30 and 20 averages after 3 games played and current 27 and 15 after 6 games played are even more impressive numbers than Durant was putting up after as many games a year ago.

But it's how he's putting the stats up that has been so impressive. Beasley lacks the supporting cast that Durant had a year ago with no quality point guard to get him the ball. Fellow freshman Bill Walker is there (after tearing his ACL last year and missing all but 3 games.) But Walker has been ineffective so far, so teams are able to focus their defenses entirely around Beasley. Good luck.

Similar to Carmelo Anthony, Beasley has the ability to overpower most small forwards and hold his own and out-quick power forwards, but also has the perimeter skills to knock down outside shots as well as create off the dribble. His combination of body strength, dexterity and touch make him nearly impossible to defend around the basket. And just as impressive as his scoring ability are his rebounding skills. He uses solid fundamentals with great determination and physical strength to grab balls out of his area and convert them into baskets.

His turnaround jumpshot is an absolute thing of beauty and has no business already in the repertoire of an 18 year old manchild.

Without Beasley this Kansas State team would probably fail to go .500 this year, but with him they'll likely hover in and out of the top 25 all year and should make the NCAA tourney.

Beasley appears to have put the emotional and maturity concerns behind him. As long as that stays true, you're looking at the surefire first pick of the 2008 draft.

[img_assist|nid=3607|title=Earl Clark - John Sommers II/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=449]Earl Clark 6-8 220 SG/SF Louisville So.

Of all the players to return to the college game, Earl Clark appears to be the most improved.

Clark spent the summer at the basketball equivalent of Pimp My Ride and now sports four 10s on four 22s with cherry paint and his game has opponents heads spinnin. "There spinnin'!"

He looks like a brand new player with a sleek, stronger frame and great deal more confidence and assertiveness.

He showed flashes of his tremendous ability as a freshman, but with added strength and experience, he has begun to take over.

Clark is currently averaging 14.8 ppg and 12.0 rpg and 3.2 apg. His versatility brings a lot to the table as he's able to create baskets for himself and others.

His 20p, 14r and 7a in his second game of the season was a big statement that his game has arrived.

The one aspect of his game that scouts would like to see improvement in is his outside shooting. He shot 37% from 3 a season ago but on a low volume of shots (10-27). This year he hasn't shown much from outside hitting just 3-11 after 5 games. Displaying a consistent 3 would certainly whet scout's appetites.

Coach Rick Pitino said before the season he didn't expect Clark to return after this year, and based on Clark's play thus far it's easy to see why. Outside Chase Budinger, Clark is probably the top non-freshman prospect in the country. He has elevated his game to where scouts are calling him a potential lottery selection.

DeAndre Jordan 7-0 250 C TX A&M Fr.

Six games into the season, Jordan is hitting a near perfect 29 of 34 (85%) from the field. His 10 ppg and 8 rpg in 21 mpg also very solid.

[img_assist|nid=3608|title=DeAndre Jordan - John Sommers II/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=352]His tremendous agility, explosive leg strength and body type (not to mention jersey number) create an eerie resemblance to Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard.

He's a bright kid who appears to have realized the opportunity presented to him. He came into college with some motivational question marks, but his body looks great and it appears his summer was well spent working hard on his conditioning and post skills.

Scouts came away extremely impressed with him after he out-shined fellow freshman draft prospect Kousta Koufas holding him to 4-16 shooting, with 11 and 8 to Koufas' 10 and 5. But stats aside, Jordan thoroughly outperformed Koufas, and facing another blue chip center prospect under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, this was a meaningful performance.

The criticism of Jordan has been that he can't do much outside of 5 feet from the basket, but he's shown a solid offensive feel creating shots using pump fakes and moves around the basket.

He definitely must focus on adding a more consistent midrange shot and improving his free throw shooting. His current form is making Shaq and Wilt look like Rick Barry. As perfect as he is from the field he is nearly as imperfect from the line. 4-22 is just disgusting.

Regardless, with the NBA's affinity toward bigmen, Jordan has scouts salivating and if he keeps playing at this level, he's a top 5 lock with a shot to go top 2.

[img_assist|nid=3609|title=Blake Griffin - J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]Blake Griffin 6-9 243 PF Oklahoma Fr.

Griffin has quickly established himself as the top power forward prospect for this year's draft and a potential top 5 pick.

With the recent success that Carlos Boozer and Al Horford have had in the NBA, the Karl Malone prototype is certainly en vogue right now. And at just 18, it's scary to think that Griffin will get much stronger.

Blake Griffin shows the potential to be an even better version of both Boozer and Horford. His explosiveness and athleticism is on another plane, as one scout described him, he's like Lebron James without the ball skills.

Though he struggled some shooting at Madison Square Garden against Memphis in the Coaches vs. Cancer (3-9), he held his own in the post against rugged bigman Joey Dorsey, who has over 5 years on Griffin.

Griffin shows boundless energy and a real willingness to be coached and improve.

He's still must develop consistency on his 12-15 foot shot, but it's solid and showing promise.

His ability to face the basket and get by his man off the dribble is an added wrinkle in his arsenal. His ball handling ability is not only good, it's become lethal.

With such a combination of brute strength and raw athleticism plus developing skills, Blake is being pegged by scouts as a lottery lock with a real chance to crack the top 5.

Eric Gordon 6-4 220 SG Indiana Fr.

Air Gordon has been as good as advertised leading the Hoosiers to a 5-1 record and showing why fans of Illinois and Indiana may never make up.

[img_assist|nid=3610|title=Eric Gordon - AJ Mast/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=452]Gordon has scored at least 20 in every game with three 30 point performances. He's averaging 27 points per game, and appears to be a threat to go off for 40 on any given night.<

Gordon is the epitome of a "power guard", with the ability to overpower foes on both the college and next level.

Scouts do worry that his body type could actually be a drawback. With such incredible strength and bulk, he loses a little bit of flexibility and quickness, granted he's lightning quick as it is.

Despite being a freak athlete, his lack of length is a detriment on both ends of the floor matched up against players 4-5 inches longer at the next level.

But Gordon appears to have the mind set and maturity to make the transition to the NBA at a young age. He has tremendous scoring ability and gives tremendous effort on both ends and at all times.

With his powerful driving ability and outside shooting touch, Gordon has the skills to be a factor on the next level and figures to find a spot in the top 10 picks come draft night.<

Trent Plaisted 6-10 245 C BYU Jr.

Plaisted's televised performance against Tyler Hansbrough and UNC showed that he is one of the top ten true centers on the college level. Plaisted looked like a bigger version of Psycho T, running the floor and crashing the boards. Like Hansbrough, he scored on numerous occasions posting his man up and using his strength to bull his way to the basket.

His BYU profile claims that he has run a 4.6 second 40 on grass in tennis shoes, which for a 6-10 guy is absolutely mind boggling if it's true. Suffice it to say he is an exceptional athlete with standout run/jump ability.

Projecting him to the next level, he still must improve his range and he's small at 6-10 with short arms to play center at the next level. His lack of length is a detriment, however he's the same size as former All Star Brad Miller and twice the athlete. Whether he can develop Miller's passing and shooting skills is another story.

Regardless, Plaisted's big performance against UNC has scouts buzzing and with his amazing physical attributes, he could find a spot in the first round in the next two seasons.

Falling

 

[img_assist|nid=3611|title=Derrick Caracter - John Sommers II/Icon SMI|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=419]Derrick Caracter 6-8 260 PF Louisville So.

Caracter was said to have rededicated himself, working hard over the summer on his body and game. Five games in he has shown an improved output in scoring and rebounding, however coming off the bench he is still showing a lack of focus and intensity at times.

His athleticism and lift off the floor is decent but not where it needs to be to create baskets against players 2 inches bigger and more athletic on the next level.

Caracter had a big game against Plaisted and BYU in Las Vegas with 24 and 11, however the Cardinals came up short. With Louisville center David Padgett likely out for the season, Caracter will be asked to shoulder a lot of his minutes and productivity.

Most scouts assume this will be Caracter's last on the college level, so he'll be given every chance to show he has the goods to be effective on the next level and play himself into the first round. He surely has the ability, the question is whether he has the motivation.

Ty Lawson 5-11 193 PG UNC So.

Lawson shot 2-7 for 8 points in North Carolina's 4 point season opening win over Davidson in which he was thoroughly outplayed by Stephen Curry (24 pts).

His one big performance came against Old Dominion where he shot 9-11 for 23 points. Lawson's shooting numbers haven't been terrible, but he hasn't shown any improvement in managing the ball and running the team effectively. His 1.64 A/TO (down from 2.57 a year ago) shows why scouts feel he's still too wild.

At 5-11, he can't afford to be inconsistent if he has plans on entering the draft after his sophomore year. Making matters worse, Lawson rolled his ankle Saturday guarding BYU's PG Ben Murdock on the perimeter, a fluky injury and one that will likely keep him out of the Ohio State game on Wednesday.

For a player who some project as a lottery pick, and one of the top point guards in the country, Lawson has been a disappointment so far. Its early, but unless he can turn things around, it appears likely he will end up staying in Chapel Hill for his junior season.

Chris Lofton 6-2 200 SG Tennessee Sr.

Lofton has turned it around some after a rough first week of the season. He's still shooting way below his averages from last year at 36% from the field and 35% from the floor but he has gotten back on track his past 3 games averaging 18 ppg.

While Lofton is still a potential All American candidate and one of the top scorers on the college level, scouts have major question marks about his ability to play at the next level. He lacks the foot speed and size to defend or create shots against NBA 2guards, plus he lacks a great ability to play the point guard position.

On the bright side, Lofton has raised his assists per game by 1 per game and in the process limited his turnovers to 1. His assist to turnover average of 2.7 is excellent and it will be a big plus if he can keep that average going.

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