By Aran Smith
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
With the recent success of players such as Paul Millsap and Jason Maxiell, (and even Leon Powe and Glen Davis to a lesser degree) undersized power forwards are in vogue in the NBA right now which is great news for someone like DeJuan Blair.
Blair is in the neighborhood of 6'6 - 6'7 but has a huge wingspan (7'3) and understands how to use positioning and his size/width to effectively rebound and score against players bigger and more explosive than himself.
Blair plays the game with great passion and energy: you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who enjoys playing the game more than he does, and his leadership and will to carry Pitt to victories increases his value.
Though he lacks the athleticism and size to be a star at the next level, his high level intangibles and toughness make him a surefire solid pro with the ability to be a very solid piece to a winning team.
He'll need to work to improve his conditioning which will increase his stamina and mobility. He currently appears around 15-20 lbs overweight.
He also needs to improve upon his free throw shooting where he's currently around 60%.
Against Notre Dame on Jan 31st, squaring off against Luke Harangody, Blair exploded for 23 points and 22 rebounds leading the Panthers to victory. He followed that up two games later with a 32 point 14 rebound effort against DePaul.
Blair will be a valued asset in the late first round as playoff teams and contenders will look at a guy like him as a player who can instantly come in and impact a team.
Chase Budinger 6-7 215 SG/SF Arizona Jr.
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
After struggling mightily playing alongside shoot first point guard Jerryd Bayless last year, Budinger finally looks comfortable. He has been playing his best basketball as a Wildcat, taking the team on his back for five straight wins.
In Zona's recent road trip to Oregon, (facing the Ducks and Beavers), Chase was the team's leading scorer and rebounder. He has averaged 21.5 ppg over the last four and had an extremely impressive 25 point (8-12) performance at Mac Court leading the Wildcats to a 10 point win.
Budinger's strong recent play gives his stock a boost. But to really legitimize himself he'll need to keep it going and step up this time around with the LA schools coming through town later this week (12th and 14th).
The team rallied behind Chase after the infamous face stomp episode by Houston's Aubrey Coleman. Arizona was down 63-51 at the time with 9:51 remaining. They would come back to force overtime and win by 6. The face stomp turned into a huge positive as it brought the team together, with teammates rallying behind him and showing the type of respect and loyalty they have for Chase.
Detractors point to Budinger's lack of toughness and defensive ability, but there's no denying he has shown solid improvement in these areas. A strong finish to the season should help solidify him as a lottery pick.
Terrance Williams 6-6 220 SG/SF Louisville Sr.
One of the most athletic guards in the country, the Louisville guard has been one of the hottest as well showing added offensive proficiency and confidence in his senior season. Williams has long been a terrific defender and rebounder, and an unusually strong passer for a wing. Lately, he's shown the explosive scoring ability previously lacking from his highly unselfish game.
Aside from a recent 0-7 shooting, 3 point game against St. John's, Williams has been extremely impressive of late. He strung three 20 point performances together in conference rival games Notre Dame and Pittsburgh as well as Rutgers, all wins. He was also Louisville's lone bright spot in their 17 point loss to top ranked UConn with 26 points knocking down 3-3 from deep.
He remains streaky having hit 3 or more three pointers in six games this year but also has been held to single digits in scoring in 9 of 21 games.
Though still a poor shooter, Williams has shown improvement in that area, which is cause for optimism. On the season, the versatile senior is averaging 13 ppg, 9 rpg, and 4.6 apg. making him, as Clark Kellogg would put it, a "stat sheet stuffer".
Williams' four years of college have allowed him to mature from a player once considered to have off court discipline question marks, into a responsible team oriented player. With such incredible athleticism, he figures to find a spot in the late first round, and can climb higher if he can gain consistency on his shooting.
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Teague has been the most impressive point guard in the country this season. His heroics leading the Deacons over the Tar Heels has to be considered among the most impressive individual efforts by anyone all year. In the biggest game of his career, Teague had his best game with 34 points (9-17 fg, 4-1 a/to) thoroughly dominating the (then) more highly publicized Tar Heel PG Ty Lawson, 9 pts (4-12 fg, 5-4 a/to).
Wake Forest has come back to Earth having lost 3 of 6 after claiming the #1 spot for a week after knocking off North Carolina. And it's no coincidence that Teague's slight drop off in play has coincided with Wake's struggles.
Regardless, Teague is one of the top competitors in the country leaving it all out on the floor every time out. His speed and athleticism will be a great asset to him when he matches up with the best in the world at the next level.
A junior year would have seemed in his best interest before conference play began, but he "popped" so much, it would almost seem foolish for him to pass up his high first round status and jeopardize the guaranteed money for the chance to improve his game and draft position. Any drop off in play or lack of development could cost him his lofty draft position (currently projected top 10) and big money.
It's apparent Teague still has a ways to go in learning the nuances of the point guard position, more specifically how to manage and run an offense. He's a bright kid and he can certainly improve in these areas, but college is the optimum learning environment, particularly for point guards to hone their skills.
Teague leads the country in 3 point shooting percentage at 51.5% (35-68) and is second in the ACC in scoring to Tyler Hansbrough at 20.9 ppg (Hansbrough 22.1).
Gerald Henderson 6-4 210 SG Duke Jr.
Henderson has been on fire lately scoring in double figures in 15 straight games. He's also been over 15 points in 9 straight. Some felt Coach K held him back in his first two seasons, while others pointed to asthma or other reasons, but the shackles appear to be free and Henderson has taken a leading role with this Duke team.
The biggest area of development has been in his outside shooting where he is knocking down 3 pointers (40%) and fadaway jumpshots at crucial moments in ball games. He lacks great size at 6'4, but his length and athleticism makes him a potential stand out at the next level.
With the huge rivalry match up with UNC looming on the horizon (Wednesday) it will provide a good barometer of just how NBA ready Henderson is right now.
AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli
Although Syracuse has hit a rough patch of late (losing 5 of 7), Flynn has been rock solid. His last three games, he has averaged 24.3 ppg and 6.3 apg. He has improved upon last season in which he was one of the top freshman guards in the nation. He's averaging an impressive 17.2 ppg, (47% fg) 5.9 apg, and 1.87 a/to. Though just 6-feet, Flynn has standout speed and athleticism to make up for his lack of size.
The scrappy, rugged point guard shows excellent heart and competitiveness.
Syracuse's recent downturn is concerning. Flynn has had 3 or more turnovers in each of his last 6 games, a number he will have to look to decrease. He struggles setting and running the offense and distributing the ball the way a point guard should.
He's still learning how to run a team, and like Teague would benefit with an additional year. He's a better version of Ty Lawson of last year as he has a little better offensive game and better explosiveness. But to maximize his long term NBA potential, he would benefit by returning for his junior year and further developing his floor general abilities.
He has NBA starter potential, but another year in college would help him to ultimately get there.
Regardless, he will get looks in the late first round should he declare, but it will take a strong finish to the season to give him a more certain first round outlook for this year's draft.
Evan Turner 6-5 185 SG Ohio St. So.
Ohio State's sophomore guard has matured tremendously this year taking over the leadership role and carrying the team on his back when necessary. Turner has a very smooth game with the ability to score, handle and pass. He has put up some impressive offensive outputs in recent weeks. Over the past 5 games, Turner is averaging 23.2 ppg although his turnovers have been high and he hasn't been hitting many 3 pointers.
On the season, Turner is averaging 17 ppg while dishing out 3.3 apg holding an even a/to ratio, plus pulling down an impressive 7.5 rpg. His shooting efficiency is what's most impressive as he's knocking down 50% of his shots from both inside and outside the arc and 77% from the line. His 3 point shooting is low volume (9-18), so obviously he'll need to work on extending his range some. This is clearly a breakout season for Turner putting him in the first round discussion for this and next year.
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
One of the most complete and consistent performers in the country, McNeal has made a strong case for himself as the Big East player of the year. His excellence on both ends of the floor has the Golden Eagles tied for first place in the country's top conference.
Though just 6'3 and undersized for the 2-guard position, McNeal has the athleticism and shooting ability to find a role at the NBA level despite his lack of optimum size.
McNeal is scorching hot having scored over 20 points in seven straight games and burying at least two three pointers in each.
Jerel is also known for his defensive prowess, being able to lock down an opponents top scoring guard. That ability to defend will certainly be a positive attribute when NBA teams evaluate him leading up to the draft.
McNeal is a model of efficiency, with his strong defensive play (2.0 spg), explosive scoring ability (20.0 ppg, 49% fg, 47% 3p) strong rebounding ability (4.6 rpg) and intelligent decision making 1.42 a/to ratio (3.7 ast to 2.6 to).
Also on the rise is McNeal's teammate Wesley Matthews who is averaging 19 ppg with an impressive performance recently against Georgetown making key plays down the stretch to seal the victory.
Look for McNeal to find a spot in the early to mid second round, and his teammate Matthews to also find a spot in the second round.
AP Photo/James Schammerhorn
Anderson has fallen into the same pattern as Arizona junior Chase Budinger: starting out both his freshman and sophomore seasons on fire and hitting a wall and limping across the finish line. Anderson began his freshman season with five 20 point games out of his first eight, but scored 20 in just one of his final 24 games. This season a similar pattern is developing as Anderson has cooled off considerably after a fast start.
Anderson has had three straight miserable performances in which he shot below 25% from the floor. Oklahoma State lost 2 of the 3. He has also failed to reach 20 points in six straight after hitting the 20 point mark in 7-of-16 games before.
A solid athlete with prototypical size and excellent shooting ability, Anderson has solid stats on the year (16.5 ppg, 48% fg, 84% ft, 41% 3p). But he needs to show the ability to play consistently throughout an entire season.
Editorial Note: Anderson went off for a career high 35 points following this article being posted. It's possible he used this as his own bulletin board material.
Austin Daye 6-10 200 PF Gonzaga So.
Daye tantalizes you with incredible length and shooting ability but there are major question marks regarding his body and his ability to add strength. He'll be 21 in June, and at 200 pounds he is lacking the strength to be able to defend/fight for position/absorb contact and stay on balance at the next level.
People bring up Tayshawn Prince as a comparison, but Prince was a much stronger athlete capable of dunking around other players and making plays at the rim in traffic without losing his balance. One little bump sends Daye flailing to the floor. Prince also spent 4 years in college.
When you look at the league today, players such as LeBron and Dwight Howard dominate with their physical strength and athleticism. And players like Shaun Livingston fall by the wayside.
Daye would like to enter the draft this year, and it's possible a team in the late first round will be tempted by his upside, but scouts I have spoken with recently have soured on him and feel that he needs to show development in his body before a team will take the risk on him.
Although he's having a solid season stat wise, he hasn't shown the physical progression that one would expect from him. Combine that lack of strength with a lack of speed and explosiveness and a knee injury and you have a one dimensional player not unlike a former Zag and current Los Angeles Laker.
I seriously think the weight thing is overrated, Kevin Durant who is rail thin, is killing this season, playing back at his natural position, small forward. When PJ was the coach of the Thunder, he had Durant playing the 2 guard because he was scared he Kevin possibly getting hurt or his skinny body will eventually get worn down playing against bigger small forwards like LeBron James, Ron Artest, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Caron Butler, and etc. and now that Scott Brooks took over, and switched Durant to the other wing spot, he's playing his best basketball. Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Latrell Sprewell, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Garnett, and many more, all came in the league real skinny and to some accounts, some of those aforementioned players are still scrawny, and they still became successful players, so I don't think weight matters.
Hey Don, Thnx for the feedback. It's possible I am overvaluing weight, and Daye is definitely a pure shooter. But the knee injury has to be a concern and the fact that Daye struggles to finish around the rim has to be a concern. If he leaves this year and goes first round, don't you think a team will be taking a big risk that he can fill out and add strength? Hypothetically, lets say he doesn't add any strength to his body, do you really think he would be able to be a productive pro?
He should be able to add some strength, but I question his body and his abilty to add good weight and maintain his agility. he shows a lot of potential, but I'm in a "prove it" mind set with him. I want to see him take over and win some games for Gonzaga.
I think he's gonna be fine, but I would be cautious about spending a mid first rounder on him based on upside. A late first might be a wise gamble, especially considering the weak class.
Those guys you mentioned are skinny (Rip, Durant, Lewis) but they
all had more muscle mass when they entered the league then Daye does and all have better footspeed to create shots and athleticism around the rim.
I also think Jerome Jordan is a strength casualty. He's going on 30 (slight exageration) and has major strength question marks. Playing inside, that's a big concern with him. But his shooting is obviously very intriguing.
Where do you see Daye/Jordan going if they leave this year?
Thanks again for the constructive criticism and all the great posts in the forum! Your Maze/Iverson post killed me!
I see Jerome Jordan as a better prospect then someone like O'Bryant but teams picking in the top 20 need to be weary, his shots sometimes look awkward and off balance this might be due to his slight frame and I imagine that will only get worse in the NBA. Might I add he isnt a quick leaper either. As for Daye, hes got those narrow bones that i dont think will be able to put on much weight hindering him.
Daye has to get better to warrant the attention he's getting, he's starting to look more and more like a guy that will have to stay 4 years. Recently saw him play against Memphis and he had his moments, but in the end he looked lost and unprepared for elite competition. Not really concerned about his frail frame because bulk is somewhat overated when playing on the wing. He's just not aggressive enough in my humble opinion at this point. He has the ability on the offensive end, he's just not a willing defender. He struggled playing against Robert Dozier who is a similarly sized forward as he is. I just think it's time for Daye to start living up to his draft status or seriously temper his pro expectations and commit himself to getting better in the off season. Don't get me wrong I don't mean to bash the guy he just has the talent and it seems at times that he's reading his own press clippings and just going through the motions. I know he can be a top ten talent, he just needs to want it bad enough. As for Jerome Jordan he has to get better on the offensive end and get stronger. He's an above average defender and thats his calling card. But on offense he's got to develop a hook shot or turn around jumper something to keep guys honest.If Jordan went pro this season, I feel it would be a big mistake he needs all the time he can get to get better. If he left this year he would probably spend a great deal of time in the NBDL and for him that might not be a bad thing but, he should wait til he's ready. He doesn't dominate CUSA the way you would expect a guy of his size would.
His situation reminds me much more of Jared Jefferies coming out of Indiana than Tayshawn Prince at Kentucky for the reasons mentioned in the write-up. Very skilled but noticeably weak, underdeveloped physically, and playing a passive role on a well balanced team with lots of good offensive college basketball players surrounding them. Tayshawn has always been and always will be skinny, but he handles the ball a lot better than Jefferies and Daye and moves in a more natural, confident, and athletic manner. After a strong tournament where he helped Indiana advance all the way to the finals, Jefferies pushed himself into the lottery of the 2002 draft and came out. Don't get me wrong because he gotten paid (too) well so far, but in the interest of becoming the best basketball player he could have I think at least another year in college would have done him well.
Daye is in a similar situation, tantalizingly talented, yet a little awkward and very weak, and surrounded with some really good teammates. If Daye finishes the season strong and Gonzaga makes a run (EE or FF) in the tournament, I could see Daye pushing himself into the teens. Who knows if that happens, but no matter how the season ends I think he would be ill advised to declare this year. He would benefit by having some of the older players on the team moving on and being forced into a more central role with young guys looking to him. Gonzaga has been recruiting at a high level so it's not like there's not going to be talent around him.
He could also benefit by getting on a serious core strengthening program rather than trying to bulk up. I doubt he ever plays a game over 220 lbs because he doesn't have the frame, but that doesn't mean he can't shore up what he's got. His movement screams weak core to me.
Amen I echo those remarks, he would definitely benefit from being in a role where his team had to rely on him to be the man full time. Right now the team can win with him having average to subpar games.Next year if he does the smart thing and sticks around he can't take too many nights off. He really would benefit from the core strength training you suggested he is too physically weak considering his father was a NBA player he should probably be better prepared for attaining his goal of not only making it to the league but thriving in the NBA. Good call on those points my man.
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