The season has only just started.... Draft profiles already?

As many of you know, I do a Draft Prospects profile during the Summer. I profile the top picks, evaulate their strengths and weaknesses, and try to determine who might be a good fit for the Wizards. This year I'd like to start those profiles early.

Last year I ran out of time before I could profile all the significant draft prospects in 2010. I didn't have a chance to profile international players (like Seraphin), and didn't get around to some important potential first round picks like Trevor Booker. The Wizards had two picks in the first round ( #1 & #30 ) , and I thought I had covered all the prospects that would fit in those slots. I never anticipated the Wizards being players in the Draft.

Wizards fans have watched each year as our team selected mid-round, mid-level talent, or traded their first round picks for veterans and sold away their second round picks. That's why the Wizards organization caught me off guard a bit in the 2010 Draft by actually wheeling and dealing on draft night. Not only did they luck out with John Wall, but they didn't stop there. They picked up an extra first round pick to select Kevin Seraphin at #17, and moved up in the first round to take Trevor Booker at 23. 

Given that the Wizards, and specifically Ted Leonsis, has stated that they want to be active acquiring draft picks, and they have already shown that they will be aggressive in going after additional draft picks by their actions last Summer, I think it's important to profile as many potential first round prospects as possible so as not to miss someone that might end up on our team.

This year, by starting earlier, I hope to be able to do an in-depth profile for all first round prospects, including the International players, and at least some of the interesting second round picks. But in addition, I'd also like to mix in a second or even third look at some of the more interesting first round prospects to get an idea  how they've progressed throughout the College season... especially those players who may fit a particular need on the Wizards.... Players like Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Enes Kanter, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger and others may rate a second or even a third review.

My first official profile will be the player that I believe will be the best player selected in this year's draft. He may not be selected #1 (or even in the top 5, Gasp !!  the crowd goes quiet..... ), but it's my guess that he'll have the best Pro career.  I'll give you a hint: It's not Harrison Barnes. (Intrigue abounds: whispers in the shadows..... sidelong glances... knowing nods).....

In the meantime, to whet your interest and heighten your anticipation, I've written a paragraph or two (or three) about some of the interesting prospects that I've been able to see on TV so far this season. Keep in mind, I've only watched 8 or 9 games so far, so these are not full blown player profiles. Below the jump I'll give you my first impressions on Harrison Barnes, Kyle Singler, Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger.

 

So jump already - what are you waiting for?

These are just my notes from watching these players for a game or two. Consider them rough talking points.

 

Filling a need at the SF spot?

Harrison Barnes - SG/SF. 18 years old; 6'8"; 210 lbs. North Carolina, Freshman                         
Through 6 games (28 minutes per game):  11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks.


In my opinion and from what I've seen so far, the "consensus number one pick" Harrison Barnes is overrated... He's not shown me any skills so far that would warrant the #1 ranking, or even (gasp) a Lottery pick.  He's certainly no leader...  he disappears from entire games, not just stretches of games... He looks completely out of sync with what UNC is doing on Offense, and his defense has been atrocious. The only thing he has done well is rebound the basketball (8.7 rebounds per 40 minutes).

This might just be a poor stretch of games.... but I don't think so. If it were just that he was shooting poorly, or making physical mistakes - I could be a bit more optimistic... But I don't see the skills and qualities that I was expecting to see (quickness, athleticism, leadership, basketball IQ, decision making). Those qualities should still be apparent even if he's going through a shooting slump, or has a few bad games in a row. What I see instead is a player that doesn't seem to know where he's supposed to be... A player that fouls excessively because his man gets around him easily. Poor decision making leading to turn overs. He seems to be TRYING - but it's not leading to results. 

Right now, I put Perry Jones and Terrence Jones above him on my "want list".....  I'll have more on Barnes in his profile coming out later in the series. Please remember that these are just my preliminary observations from watching just a couple of games. Perhaps he'll change my mind with his play throughout the season.

 

Filling a need for low post scoring and defensive rebounding?


Jared Sullinger (PF). 18 years old. 6'9", 260 lbs. Ohio State, Freshman 
Through 6 games (28.7 minutes per game):  14.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, .8 assists, 1.3 steals, .7 blocks.

BIG wide body. Physical player. Strong. A banger in the paint. One of the very few REAL low post scoring threats to come out of College in the last few years. Very productive and efficient. 64% TSP. Uses either hand. Has a variety of post moves. Great footwork. Terrific rebounder - gets and holds great position, uses his wide body to BOX OUT his opponent. Strong hands.... once he has the ball, no one will strip it from him.

He is still working on a face up game. Not much of a shooter past 10 feet. Good intangibles (good work ethic, smart basketball player, mature). A bit undersized for PF at next level. Athletic, but not explosive; mostly plays below the rim. Looks a little puffy - might need to work on his body a bit. Did I already mention that he's VERY, VERY Strong.

Against Florida, Sullinger had a terrific game against a pretty good Florida front line. He dominated inside against Chandler Parsons (2nd round prospect), Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus. Florida pressed early, but OSU was able to break it - leading to one-on-one post plays for Sullinger. He abused Maklin repeatedly inside until Florida tried using Alex Tyus... then he abused Tyus. He was able to score inside, even with multiple guys draped on him. I keep saying this, but he's very strong inside. When they tried to double him, Sullinger made the right play, passing to Jon Diebler for wide open 3-pointers. Sullinger finished with 26 points (13 of 17 shooting) and had 10 rebounds, including five offensive. He abused anyone Florida put on him in the paint, scoring on layups, dunks and short jumpers all night long.

Against Morehead State and their rebounding beast Kenneth Faried. He is one of the top rebounders in College Basketball. Faried is averaging 17.9 rebounds per 40 minutes.... can you say DeJuan Blair?? .  Anyway, back to the point. Sullinger got into early foul trouble, mostly trying to contain Faried. Sullinger had his moments, but Faried out-played him - including a spectacular one-handed alley-oop dunk in the first half.

Sullinger was a little better in the second half, exhibiting some of his talent for post scoring, and showing exquisite foot work. Sullinger ended up with 8 points and 8 rebounds (7 defensive) in 25 foul controlled minutes. He still looks much better in the post than facing up. He had 3 turn overs, all of them in the first half - and all of them were on face up moves. I think part of Sullinger's problem in this game was that he couldn't be aggressive because of the foul trouble. To be fair, Faried battled foul trouble all night as well, but finished the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds (in 32 minutes) for Morehead State. At least on this night Faried looked like the better player, but Ohio State still won the game.

Against Florida State Sullinger again dominated inside. The stats say he only scored 11 points and had 13 rebounds (5 offensive), but the stats don't explain how fully he controlled the paint, both on Offense and Defense. For most of the game, Sullinger was matched up against 1st round draft prospect Chris Singleton, Florida State's leading scorer and rebounder. Sullinger held Singleton to just 8 points on 2-9 shooting, and 7 rebounds, . OSU dominated the boards, mainly because Sullinger was throwing his considerable weight around inside - and if he didn't get the rebound, one of his teammates did because of the space Sullinger was creating. I actually saw Sullinger box out THREE guys to grab a rebound. Really. He got real wide in his stance, arms out, and put his body on three guys.  That's the first time I've ever seen that in a College basketball game (I've seen Shaq do it in the NBA).

Eventually FSU tried doubling Sullinger in the post, but like in the Florida game, he just made the smart play, passed back out and frequently just re-posted. He showed great footwork, and some nifty moves down low. I was most impressed by his rebounding... or rather the WAY he rebounded - looking like he wanted the ball more than anyone else.... and again showing his strength on several occasions, just RIPPING the ball away from opponents.

So far it's a mixed bag for Sullinger. Dominating against Florida and their terrific front line, and again against Chris Singleton and Florida State - but getting out played by Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. The games so far show his strengths (Post play, footwork, rebounding, strength, IQ) and Faried exposed his weaknesses (lack of lateral quickness, cannot guard on the perimeter, no face up game, lack of a jump shot).



Here are some notes on a couple other players. These notes are a bit less "fleshed out" :

Perry Jones  (SF/PF). 18 years old. 6'11" 220 lbs. Baylor, Freshman  (The Wizards need a SF)
Through 6 games (33 minutes per game): 12.8 points, 9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks

Tremendous size, length (7’3" wingspan), lateral quickness. Elite athleticism. I mean elite athleticism. What I really mean is ELITE ATHLETICISM. Javale McGee type, elite athleticism. I mean it's like everyone else is playing on Earth, and Perry Jones is playing like he's on Mars (at 1/3 the gravity). Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound... look, up in the sky.............................

Jones can score from anywhere on the floor - and I mean anywhere from the NBA 3-point line to the rim. His jump shot is mechanically sound, with a good high release. His release is a bit slow, but given his size, length and jumping ability, I doubt anyone could bother his shot anyway. He's a pretty good mid-range shooter now. He's not consistent with his longer shots yet ... and he has not hit any of his College 3-point shots (it's early) - But his form remains true even with range out to the NBA 3-point line - so with practice, he should be able to become consistent from 3.

Baylor has him playing PF and Center (switching with Anthony Jones)... My personal observation is that Perry Jones is more than quick enough to play the perimeter, even in the NBA. Not only that, but he is probably quicker than most NBA Small Forwards right now. He could be a Kevin Durant-like small forward. I'm not saying he'll be as good as Durant, but his ball handling is phenomenal, including advanced skills like spins, hesitation, and quick changes of direction. He can shoot the three, or pull up off the dribble, and he is extremely aggressive when attacking the basket. He dunks everything close. Tremendous dunker, The dunk contest IS in his future. So Durant is the only one I can think of  -  other than a young Tracy McGrady.

He's a good shot blocker, although he does go for fakes too often. There's a tendency by athletically gifted younger players to bite on fakes -but they usually grow out of it after a few years. As for rebounding, he's putting up good numbers, but he's getting all his rebounds based on his length and athleticism. He doesn't box out, and he doesn't fight for position. Given that, it's phenomenal that he's still averaging 11.7 rebounds per 40 minutes.


Jones has all the tools, to be a terrific perimeter defender - and shows great anticipation and awareness - MOST of the time. But then sometimes he'll take a play off. If he's focused, he could be a lock-down defender. His length alone makes him a defensive nightmare. He can be bullied and pushed around by heavier, stronger opponents in the post - but on the perimeter, no one can get around him and expect to make a shot at the rim. Even if he's beat, which is rare, you still have to be aware that he'll block your shot from behind.

Obviously Perry Jones is still a bit raw... and still learning the game. He will be hot one game, cold the next. (or good one half, bad the next). He tries to do too much sometimes, and that usually leads to turn overs.  Has not had a "break out" game yet...  He had 20 points and 8 rebounds against Jackson State - but come on, it's Jackson St.!

Because Baylor is playing him inside, his perimeter development may not accelerate until he gets to the NBA. (ie: he may take 2-3 years to reach full potential as SF) - but his potential ceiling is tremendous as a wing player (say, like Durant-lite ). His ceiling is not so high as a PF or Center (think Anthony Randolph, with a little bit better jump shot).

Against Arizona State (only televised game so far) Perry Jones had 12 points and 7 rebounds. He started strong with a tremendous dunk. It looked like he could touch the top of the rectangle on the backboard - that's how high he got up. Did I mention that this kid has elite athleticism? On another basket inside he was fouled but the ref didn't see it, and he still finshed through contact. He hit a nice little jumper in the lane.. and had an offensive put back - all in the first half.

In the second half, he looked energetic - but he had little effect on the game - other than a couple nice assists. He played well defensively, but he didn't box out on rebounds. His footwork in the post looks suspect; and his post moves are non-existant.

Stronger players will be able to push him around in the paint. He gets by inside with quickness and his jumping ability (very much like JaVale McGee at this point). He can handle the basketball like a guard; not like McGee, where you say "no, no, no Javale, give it up".... but more like, WOW, that was impressive! He seems in control and fluid when he's handling the basketball. (Note to research: Was he a guard in HS? Did he go through a late growth spurt? How did he develop such a refined handle?)

 

I'm worried with Baylor playing him at PF and Center that his development will be retarded. The team drafts him should move him to SF, and develop him there, and leave him there  !!!

Kyle Singler (SF/PF). 22 years old; 6'9"; 210 lbs. Duke, Senior  (The Wizards need a SF)
Through 7 games played (32 minutes a game): 16 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks

Quick, high release on his jump shot. Shoots, passes, and rebounds... Triple threat. TOUGH dude. Very competitive. Rebounds with good fundamentals (finds an opponent and boxes out with a low center of gravity and grabs the ball with two hands). Really fights for position. Has some physical limitations (not big enough for NBA PF, not quick enough for NBA SF) but he could make up for his physical deficiencies with his aggressiveness, great instincts, court awareness and his high basketball IQ. He has a polished game and should be ready to contribute to an NBA team right away.

Against Michigan State - (the only game I've watched), Singler showed great court awareness: He took a nice charge  - He stepped into the passing lanes for a steal - He forced a turn over on a MSU fast break opportunity - forced a jump ball - all in the first half.  He canned a smooth step back jumper from beyond the college 3-point line; a very nice Pro move there. That kind of shot will be something he can rely on in the NBA. He ran the wing on the break well - finishing once with a nice dunk through contact - and another time with a nice reverse lay up. Showed a bevy of fakes, jab steps and hesitation moves to get free for his shot.

He finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds; with most of them being contested rebounds in traffic. He didn't shoot particularly well (5-14, 2-6 from 3), but his shot is very nice (great mechanics, squares up, high quick release, good follow through). He should be able to easily translate his outside game, and 3-point shooting to the NBA. His best position at the next level will be SF, but I'm not sure he'll be able to defend the quicker players that he'll be required to guard in the Association.

 

Watch for my next post - A profile on the super secret player that will become the best selection in the 2011 draft.  I can sense that everyone is all aquiver.

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