All through March's college basketball fiesta, I'll be viewing the NCAA, NIT and CBI tournaments through the eyes of an NBA fan. In particular, I'll be watching those players who could end up in this year's draft. My pool of prospects come from mining the Top 100 lists of several Web outlets, so if you think someone is missing, or if you want to chime in with observations of your own, drop me a line. I will make an effort to add players that catch my eye as the postseason unfolds, and will alter my assessments based on the observational evidence that I collect.
Arizona State's James Harden was the most impressive player I saw in the chunks of seven games that I watched on Tuesday. The freshman lefty out of Los Angeles is a thick 6'5" and displays excellent quickness, strength and athleticism. He has a nice stroke from downtown, as was indicated by his eFG% of 59.3 and his 3FG% of 42.2 through the conference tournaments. Harden is also adept at putting the ball on the floor and making plays in the lane, as evidenced by his FT rate of 62.1, 93rd in the country. He led the Pac-10 in steals and is very active on both ends of the floor, always moving, always disrupting. He looks like a complete package to me. The prospect lists slot him as high as a mid-first rounder, but most have him in the second round. I'd argue for the more optimistic of those projections.
Elsewhere, I was mesmerized by UNC-Asheville's 7'7", 360-pound center Kenny George. He's painfully slow, both running up the floor and with his footwork on the interior, and he doesn't really jump. Not that he needs to. There is no doubt that he changes the game when he's in there. If Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol could play in the NBA, as thin as they were, I could see George getting a shot. I'm just not sure he could hold up physically. He's had chronic knee problems due to his size, which exacerbates his problems with stamina. I'm sure someone will give him a look-see but I don't see it working out. I'm rooting for him, though. There's something about the kid that just makes your heart go out to him. Life can't be easy when you're that big and it sounds like a lot of opposing crowds have been less than sympathetic.
UNC-Asheville's opponent in that game, Ohio State, feature a pair of prospects in freshmen Kosta Koufos and Evan Turner. Koufos didn't have his best game, but you could see his raw potential. He looked a little uncomfortable with his midrange game, something that I'd anticipated would be a strong point. In the paint, Koufos has a nice jump hook, but challenged George just a couple of times. I'd have to see more, but as nice as Koufos looks, he could use another year with the Buckeyes. Ohio State apparently has a stud seven-footer coming in next season who will allow Koufos to develop his game on the perimeter. As for Turner, he was pretty much a sideman to the Jamar Butler show. Turner looked like he had exceptional quickness, especially on defense, but it was hard to get a real good read on any of the Buckeye defenders because Thad Matta had them packed into a zone most of the time. I'll be eager to see Turner's game blossom next season after Butler graduates.
Long, lean Syracuse freshman Donte Greene scored a career-high 27 points for the Orangemen, but he looks like he has a lot of growing up to do. Greene, who went to the same high school as Carmelo Anthony, has the same tendency to bide his time floating around the three-point line. Twelve of his 19 FGAs were from past the stripe. He's got a nice stroke, an easy release from well beyond the arc and, at 6'10", can get that shot whenever he wants. However, his speed and ability to handle the ball, on display on a first-half breakout, was rarely put to use. He also seemed pretty disinterested on defense. It sounds like he is a candidate to come out this season. He'll be a project but with his raw skills, he'll go pretty high, possibly in the lottery. Even at that, he would be best served by another year under Jim Boeheim. Syracuse freshman point guard Jonny Flynn hurt his back early in the game so I couldn't get a read on him. My thoughts yesterday on Paul Harris were pretty much right on: He's a nice college interior player who doesn't have the size to play there in the NBA, nor the perimeter skills to move to another position at that level.
I wasn't too impressed with Rhode Island's Will Daniels. While he has good size and a nice shooting stroke with exceptional range, I was disappointed in his athleticism and thought he was pretty passive about getting the ball. He pretty much disappeared down the stretch of his last college game, as the Rams blew a double-digit lead at Creighton. As a senior, there's not much room for growth in Daniels' game. I'd say his upside is as a shooting specialist off of someone's bench, perhaps a poor man's Cuttino Mobley, but even that is a long shot.
Quick thought: Oklahoma State's Marcus Dove can stick in the NBA as a defensive specialist, in the mold of a Quentin Ross or Bruce Bowen.
Your comment on Jason Thompson, the 6'11" center of Rider University, is a little off. Thompson might have the body of an undersized center, but that is because at the NBA level he will play at the power forward slot. He definitely has a developed face-up game; where he will need to improve is strength and physicality. Thompson is a first-round lock and could be in the top 20.
I can't disagree with that, though the rankings I've seen don't really mark him as a first-round lock. That's not definitive, though, by any stretch. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the Rider/ODU game in Kansas City; Rider lost despite 15 points and 17 boards from Thompson. This particular reader knows his stuff, so his comments should be taken seriously. He also mentioned that Thompson was a 6'7" guard in high school who sprang up as a collegian. I managed to find some video online and was impressed by Thompson's perimeter game and ability in the open floor. He's a little thin but 6'11" guys with his skill set aren't easy to find. Thompson is one player I already would upgrade from the opinion I formed based on numbers and prospect lists.
Sean Singletary, senior, second round, will stick with someone.
Yes, I should have included Singletary, though I don't think he's a cinch to be drafted. If I had listed him this is what I would have said: A small, quick senior point guard, Singletary is 30th nationally in usage rate and 22nd in assist rate. In other words, he really dominates the ball. Upside is a Nate Robinson-type backup with better passing skills.
Cleveland State (21-12) at Dayton (21-10), 6 p.m.
Morgan State (22-10) at Virginia Tech (19-13), 7 p.m.
UAB (22-10) at Virginia Commonwealth (24-7), 7 p.m.
Robert Vaden, UAB Vaden followed Blazer coach Mike Davis from Indiana, explaining why he is a 23-year-old junior in an appropriately mature body. He's a 6'5" swingman who can light it up from the outside at times. However, he's limited athletically, which would hinder his ability to get quality shots as a pro.
Eric Maynor, VCU A 6'2" lead guard with a lean build, Maynor is a top-notch assist man and accomplished scorer. His once-shaky shooting has improved as a collegian but he'll have to re-prove himself in that regard to stick in the NBA.
UC Santa Barbara (23-8) at Mississippi (21-10), 8 p.m.
Charlotte (20-13) at Nebraska (19-12), 9 p.m.
Aleks Maric, Nebraska Maric emerged as one of the Big 12's best rebounders. A senior, Maric (6'11", 270 lb.) certainly has the size of an NBA big man but is painfully slow and doesn't have much of a game away from the basket. His prospects may depend on how strongly personnel staffs view his fine productivity.
San Diego State (20-12) at Florida (21-11), 9 p.m.
Nick Calathes, Florida Led the Gators in scoring and the SEC in assists as a freshman. Calathes has a polished all-around game with triple-double potential and a high steal rate on defense. His height (6'5") is great for a lead guard but he needs to fill out. His brother plays at St. Joseph's.
Marreese Speights, Florida A talented player with a good build for a pro power forward, Speights could stand some additional polish to his game. He is a very efficient scorer in the post but needs to learn how to use his body to create more fouls on the opposition. Polish or no, he'll be a first-rounder when he comes out.
Utah State (24-10) at Illinois State (24-9), 10 p.m.
Jaycee Carroll, Utah State A fun player to watch. Carroll uses over 30 percent of his team's possessions but shoots the ball so well (eFG% of 64.3) that it doesn't matter. He shoots more than 50 percent from behind the three-point line. He's only 6'2", doesn't have point guard skills or athleticism and is already 24 years old. Carroll might be a poor man's J.J. Redick on the upside. Of course, that means he won't play in the NBA. A shame.
New Mexico (24-8) at California (16-15), 11 p.m.
Ryan Anderson, California Anderson is an excellent inside/outside big man whose NBA upside is as a Clifford Robinson/Keith Van Horn type. Anderson led the nation in Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency rating.
DeVon Hardin, California Since he possesses a prototypical body for an NBA power forward, Hardin could stick as a rebounder/defender off the bench.
Cincinnati (13-18) at Bradley (17-15), 7 p.m.
Daniel Ruffin, Bradley Tiny, tiny, tiny (5'10", 160), Ruffin is one of the best passers on the college level. His brother is former Indiana player A.J. Guyton. Ruffin is a longshot pro, at best, but his headiness as a coach's son will help.
Miami (Ohio) (17-15) at Tulsa (20-13), 8:05 p.m.
Valparaiso (21-13) at Washington (16-16), 9 p.m.
Utah (17-14) at Texas-El Paso (19-13), 9:05 p.m.
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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