Stats provided are per game averages of the two (Guardians) or four (NIT) game tournaments
Both our 2006 and 2007 mock drafts have been adjusted accordingly based on what weve learned so far in the month of November.
The Maui Invitational and its draft prospects has also been profiled.
LaMarcus Aldridge, 6-11, sophomore, center, Texas
16.5 points, 13 rebounds, 0 assists, 3.5 turnovers, 2.5 blocks, 2 steals, 4.5 fouls, 52% FG, 60% FT
Aldridge catapulted himself firmly into the discussion surrounding the potential #1 overall draft pick in the 2006 NBA Draft in June with a couple of stellar November performances. Although he will probably always be a bit on the lanky sidenot necessarily such a bad thing considering the love affair the NBA has developed over the past few years with quick and explosive big men over the brawny and bruising typesAldridge has put on noticeable bulk in key places (with plenty of room to add more) and has changed his mindset enough in his style of play to truly get excited about his potential as a basketball player as the season wears on.
Using his newfound strength to make his presence felt both defensively and on the glass, Aldridge looks like a tougher and more focused player on both ends of the floor and truly appears to be on the verge of breaking out this year if his guards can find a will and a way to get him the ball. A better motor and the hustling spirit you can only dream about from such a skilled big man could very well force NBA scouts and draftniks to reevaluate the comparisons that were made early on his career to finesse power forward types such as Chris Bosh and Channing Frye to more gritty and all-around centers like Dwight Howard or Marcus Camby. For a player that was always considered highly skilled but somewhat soft in his approach the game, this is a great sign. Aldridge still has shown sparks of a beautiful turnaround jump shot in the post, a nice hook shot from 9-10 feet out and the ability to nail the 14 foot mid-range jumper, but is making more of a living off offensive rebounds and high percentage shots in the paint. Hes reached double figures in both points and rebounds in all of his first five games this season, ranking second in the country in total rebounds with 11.6 per game and tied for first in double-doubles. The points will undoubtedly come as well once Texas guards--mainly Daniel Gibson--realize the type of talent that is around them and decide to make an effort to actually move the ball around rather than just looking to jack up shots and make spectacular plays. As with last years #1 pick Andrew Bogut, the question of who he is putting those numbers up against will probably be raised numerous times in the next 7 months or so, but as with Bogut, that is not something that Aldridge can control. He will get his shot to prove himself against one of the best defensive centers in the country in Shelden Williams on the 10th of December, a tape that will surely be circulated heavily come June.
J.J. Redick, 6-4, senior, shooting guard, Duke
20.75 points, 2 rebounds, 1.75 assists, 1 steal, 49% FG, 43% 3P, 24/27 FT
It's not so much the excellent 21 points per game that Redick put up in the four games leading his team to the Preseason NIT championship, but more the way he scored them that really leaves less and less to be skeptical about in terms of how his awesome scoring ability will translate from college over to the pros. Making "only" 9 three pointers in 4 games and getting to the line almost 7 times a game is only the first indication of just how much Redick has expanded his offensive game from being strictly a spot-up shooter in his first two years at Duke to the almost complete offensive player that he has become today. He looks very comfortable putting the ball on the floor and either taking the ball strong all the way to the hoop or stopping on a dime and pulling up for a sweet mid-range jumper. It's not only his ball-handling ability that has improved, but also his assortment of tricky head and body fakes along with his fluid footwork on the perimeter to create a moment of hesitation for his defender and allow him to get his shot off thanks to his incredibly quick shot release.
Beyond that there still could still very well be room for improvement in Redick's all-around game. His rebounding numbers have been cut in half, his assists are down, and we are not seeing the same hustle and effort we've grown accustomed to on the defensive end. We'll surely learn more about Redick as the competition stiffens in the next two weeks with big games and individual matchups coming up with Texas and Indiana, but the initial impressions coming off his lackluster performances in the NCAA tournament last March have been very good.
Darius Washington, 6-2, sophomore, point guard, Memphis
16.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 46% FG, 25% 3P
The numbers don't really tell the entire story here either, as the most intriguing part of the sophomore version of Darius Washington is actually the fact that he isn't looking to put up bombastic numbers and instead appears to be focused on being the playmaker and steady presence that Coach Calipari needs running his team's offense from the point guard position. In the last two games of the NIT, Washington was slowed by a deep thigh bruise injury that undoubtedly hampered him from using his jets to get inside the lane and finish around the basket in his trademark fashion, forcing him to make his presence felt in other ways. He will indeed sit out his teams next game to fully recover from the injury. Washington showed that slashing ability and then some, though, in the Tigers' very impressive road win against a highly touted Alabama team led by steady fellow sophomore PG Ron Steele; making his way to the basket time after time and using his strength, skill and body control to make tough shots around the hoop look easy.
The biggest difference in Washington's game has to be the confident and extremely unselfish manner in which he runs his team. Memphis looks like a disciplined and cohesive unit running their half-court sets and a fair share of the credit for that has to go to their flamboyant PG, along with Coach Calipari who finally appears to have a team that has bought into what he is selling. His PG looks equally content and able playing off the ball as he is with; making good decisions, directing his teammates and playing with a maturity beyond his years. Washington's decision making skills and ability to run a team in half-court sets were two of the biggest question marks around his game and he has done a fine job answering them from what we've seen early on this season so far. His outside shot is not really falling for him at this point, but considering that he shot close to 40% from behind the arc last season, its not clear how much of a concern that should be. He still needs to do a better job defensively, but Washington has looked like the best PG prospect in college basketball in the month of November, and his stock should continue to rise accordingly if he continues to play the way he has so far.
Shawne Williams, 6-9, freshman, small forward, Memphis
16.25 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.25 assists, 1.5 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 56% FG, 37% 3P
Williams was considered one of the top NBA prospects in the 2005 high school class, but received a unanimously lukewarm reception when he attempted to declare for the draft last spring. It has only taken four games in a Tiger jersey to change that. Williams dazzled on a large stage by scoring 26 points on 10-13 shooting against UCLA in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip Off. The only reason you aren't hearing more about John Calipari's stud freshman is the fact that most TV sets were locked in on the championship of the Maui Classic during his coming out party.
Blessed with all sorts of skill and an athletic, 6'9 frame, Williams is primed to explode as a legitimate NBA prospect. In hitting his first five 3-pointers against UCLA, Williams displayed an absolutely beautiful outside shooting touch. While he has work to do as a ball-handler, he appears comfortable taking his man off of the dribble on short slashing moves, and has the athleticism to finish around the basket. Williams is still learning what it takes to compete at this higher level, and that was evident on several occasions against Duke when he didn't give his full effort going after a rebound or a loose ball. Nonetheless, with Darius Washington hobbled, Calipari turned to Williams as his go-to guy down the stretch in the championship game. Williams had several 3-pointers rim out, but displayed nice body control and touch when he attacked the basket. While Williams will need to work on polishing his overall game and learn how to work hard in non-scoring situations, the only (admittedly early) conclusion to make is that Shawne Williams has lottery-type upside.
Jordan Farmar, 6-2, sophomore, point guard, UCLA
14 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7 assists, 1.3 steals, 3.5 turnovers, 37% FG, 24% 3P
Throughout the Preseason NIT tournament, Jordan Farmar proved why he is one of the best point guard prospects in the country. Farmer put up 7 assists per game in the tournament, which is nice to see out of a point guard at any level, but for a college point to accomplish that number with the offensively limited players around him is especially impressive. The UCLA offense revolves around Farmars true point guard skills and great court vision, and he indeed has the ability to create easy baskets out of absolutely nothing if he sees a defender napping out of the corner of his eye. Time after time in the NIT he created opportunities for teammates off the dribble and fed them perfect passes for layups or dunks. This strength also can work as a weakness at the college level, however, because with the ball in his hands he is constantly forced into a high number of turnovers when he cannot create enough space for himself off his excessive dribbling. UCLA has developed the tendency to just stand around waiting for Farmar to work his magic, rather than helping him by moving off the ball and forcing movement. Regardless, Farmar still established a ratio of 2 assists per turnover.
This number doesnt even tell the whole story, as there were numerous occasions where Farmar turned the ball over when his teammates couldnt handle a hot pass that surely would have been caught at the next level. A clear improvement over the player we saw last year was in his solid but somewhat inconsistent scoring ability during the tournament. He is more athletic than one would initially guess, and can get into the lane nicely, but his shot still leaves a lot to be desired. Take away a 5 for 9 performance against Memphis and you have a point guard who is shooting 8.3% on three pointers for the year. Despite this, he does have a solid offensive game. When in the lane, Farmar can finish creatively in tough spots after absorbing contact, or make a nice dish off to the open man when the defense collapses.
Defense remains the biggest question about Jordan Farmars game, though. His man gets by him too often, and there are times where he misses his rotation while playing help defense.
Farmar is a great point guard prospect, and is the type of player who will likely eventually find more success in the NBA than at the college level because of the way he works off the talent of his teammates and controls the flow of the game. He must work on steadying his outside shot and improving his defense, but at the same time we must remember that he will only turn 19 years old tomorrow, so his best days are clearly ahead of him.
Rodney Carney, 6-8, senior, small forward, Memphis
14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .5 blocks, 1 turnover, 42% FG, 41% 3P
Going into the Preseason NIT, many people regarded Carney as a great athlete with some good basketball skills, but his consistency, decision making, and defense were often questioned. Carney displayed some improvement in all these areas throughout the tournament. Memphis has a competitive team with good players at all positions, sporting a very athletic and talented roster. Carney put up good numbers without disrupting the flow of the team, and even carried the Memphis offense during stretches. His defense is still nothing to write home about, but it has improved, as Carney stayed with his man well, especially J.J. Redick in the second half of the finals, and his quick hands lead to some turnovers in all four games. To really excel in this area, better help defense is necessary, especially for a player as athletically gifted as Rodney Carney, and only 2 blocked shots in an entire tournament for a leaper like Carney something to be desired from the overall effort he puts in on this end of the floor.
His improved decision making really stood out throughout this tournament, as shown by an improved 1.25 assist to turnover ratio (his previous best was .95 as a freshman), and only 4 turnovers in 4 games. Improved three point shooting will also help Carney make it to the next level, and his 41.7% so far this year looks a lot better than the 32.5% from last year. Even after a good tournament, questions remain about Carney settling for too many jumpers. Through the first two games he didnt attempt a single free throw, but he did post 12 attempts in his last two games. Rodney Carney has almost all the tools that NBA scouts look for in a prospect, but the biggest thing he will need to show the rest of the year is consistency with the improvements hes made to his game. The four games in the tournament are a good start, but 26 regular season games remain for Carney to prove hes made serious improvements to his game and NBA potential.
Mike Gansey, 6-4, senior, shooting guard, West Virginia
20 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2 steals, 0.5 turnovers, 59% FG, 36% 3P, 1-2 FT
Gansey came out of nowhere to put on one of the more heroic performances in the history of the NCAA tournament last March against Wake Forest (scoring 19 points in overtime), and appears on the verge of following that up with a banner senior season. He scored 28 points against Texas in the Guardians Classic, and recently followed that up with a 25 point outing against LSU, highlighted by 7 made three point attempts.
While it isn't clear how well Gansey's game will translate over at the NBA level, he has mastered the ability of creating scoring opportunities for himself at the college level. Blessed with a textbook 3-point stroke, Gansey will pop from anywhere, contested or not. Once he gets his outside shot rolling, he is remarkably effective as a slasher, taking advantage of West Virginia's spread offense to score on slashing type dribble drives before the defense can react. Gansey truly fills up a stat sheet, contributing as a rebounder, passer, and ball-hawk. It isn't clear whether Gansey has the explosive athleticism to succeed in the NBA, but one would think that someone in the league will have a spot for somebody with the shooting ability and all-around game of Mike Gansey.
Shelden Williams, 6-9, senior, PF/C, Duke
18.5 Points, 8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 0.5 assists, 49% FG, 69% FT
Another day, another consistent boxscore for Shelden Williams. Just like with his teammate J.J. Redick, though, we look beyond the numbers to evaluate how he put up the numbers he did while trying to project how that translates to the NBA level. Therefore the early conclusions drawn from Williams' play so far this season are quite a bit more negative than what we've learned from Redick.
The first thing we've noticed so far is that Williams doesn't seem to be all that much different of a player from the one we saw last year. If that impression remains the same at the end of the season, this reflects poorly on projecting his ability to substantially improve as a basketball player over the next few years. A player who has already peaked at age 22 and "is what he is" is significantly less attractive to a league that for the most part ranks and drafts prospects almost strictly on upside. The second early conclusion is that its probably not going to be nearly as easy for him to put up the numbers he does in the bigger, stronger, faster and much more athletic NBA. At 6-9 (at best) and without the type of incredibly explosive athletic ability that most NBA power forwards are known for, its hard to imagine Williams scoring as easily almost exclusively on layups, dunks and putbacks around the rim to way he does playing for Duke. The fact that he's already considered a tweener as an undersized center does not help him even one bit if he isn't able to show off any type of face-up game; which has been the case so far with Duke. Williams will be lauded all season long by the Dick Vitales of the world for being coerced by Coach Krzyzewski to stay for his senior year, and indeed its great for the fans and people like Vitale who actually earn money off the game to have recognizable star power like Williams putting up double-doubles every night. How smart of a move that was will only be judged on draft night and beyond.
It can't be all negative though when talking about the Landlord Shelden Williams though. He's still an incredible warrior who gives everything he has on both ends of the floor every minute he plays. He's strong and super long and should be an outstanding rebounder regardless of any level he plays at. It's quite possible that he still has a lot of things that he hasn't been able to show yet in Duke's rigid system, and that those things will come out as the season moves on. Regardless of how he has personally looked early on in the year there still hasn't been any big men of note that have really stepped up their game in a big way to move themselves up the draft board and past him in early draft projections. No one gets drafted on what they did in November, so everything will be long forgotten by June if Williams shows the scouts what they need to see leading up to then.
Rajon Rondo, 6-2, sophomore, point guard, Kentucky
10 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 steals, 33% FG, 25% 3P, 70% FT
Look past the gaudy rebound totals (if you can overlook 14 and a half boards from the UK point man) and you'll see an uberathletic player still struggling to find his niche on Kentucky team without other superstars. While Rondo has been necessarily solid in their wins, he struggled with his shot in a loss to Iowa (1-for-9) and is averaging only 5 assists a contest. For the player some draftniks are touting as perhaps the first point guard taken overall, more will be expected. It's early, still, and rebounding numbers like his eye-popping 19 boards against Iowa by themselves show a dominance hard to quantify, but Rondo has the weight of Big Blue expectations on his shoulders, and he'll need his teammates to finish off a lot more of his passes in the paint for his assist numbers to rise. Word was that the former Oak Hill standout had dramatically improved his outside shooting, but he hasn't really displayed that yet, choosing to drive to the basket and dish or attack the rim. Rondo's at his best when controlling the floor, so an abundance of outside shots isn't crucial to his profile yet, but he'll need to show that when left open he can bury a clutch three from time to time. A good start, but we want to see more from Mr. Rondo.
Josh McRoberts, 6-11, freshman, PF/C, Duke
8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0 assists, .75 turnovers, 1 block, 26 minutes, 70% FG, 22% FT
Headed into the season, McRoberts was considered the top player in his freshman class and a potential high lottery pick in the 2006 draft. While McRoberts clearly has the raw tools of a future star, it may be a bit early to mark him down for the 2006 lottery.
McRoberts is blessed with a prototypical NBA frame. Not only is he 6'11, but he has bulked up significantly in the last year, and should be able to add quite a bit more muscle. He moves quite well for a big man his size, whether it is getting up for a rebound, or running the floor. McRoberts is clearly quite skilled around the basket, but hasn't shown the go-to scoring ability that you would like to see from a lottery pick. It appears that he isn't quite as polished as the hype indicated, in terms of free throw shooting, face-up game, rebounding, or back to the basket scoring. Right now, the biggest issue with McRoberts and the 2006 draft is the role that he is playing for the Blue Devils. Coach K is using him as a complement to Shelden Williams, in an offense that is already quite perimeter-oriented. A blue collar role just doesn't line up with McRoberts' strengths, and certainly isn't what he will excel in at the NBA level. With Redick and Williams gone next season, look for McRoberts to blow up as a sophomore and firmly plant himself as a 2007 lottery pick.
P.J. Tucker, 6-5, junior, forward, Texas
13.5 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 turnovers, 1 steal, 4 fouls, 43.5% FG, 75% FT
After academic issues caused Tucker to miss the spring semester of last season, he has come back this year with the same old fiery attitude, but with a new position: small forward. At 6'5, it was evident to virtually any basketball fan that Tucker would have to improve his perimeter game, which he has. The undersized forward was forced to move outside with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge, who like P.J missed the majority of the season last year.
Against West Virginia, P.J. simply looked great. He was slashing to the basket, breaking people down off of the dribble, and handling the ball in a way that college basketball fans had never seen him before. When Texas needed a bucket, he would go down low and use his bread and butter post game on small forwards. When Daniel Gibson decided to play keep-away with the ball from his teammates, Tucker hit the offensive glass and rebounded his misses. Things were different in the finals against Iowa, though, when Tucker shot just 2-10 from the field and did not have that same comfort that he showed in the semi-finals against West Virginia. The one area of Tucker's game that has not improved as much would be his outside shooting, as he attempted only one three pointer in the two tournament games. It will be very easy as the season goes to see if we will see the emerging combo forward that we saw against West Virginia or if we'll see the flustered big man attempting to play on the wing like we saw against Iowa.
Daniel Gibson, 6-2, sophomore, point guard, Texas
18 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 5.5 turnovers, .5 steals, 48% FG, 53% 3P
Daniel Gibson's selfish play and terrible shot selection from last year were for the most part written off by experts as the growing pains that come along with being a freshman point guard in a tough conference on a team that lost its two best players to injuries and academic trouble. This year, its going to be a lot tougher for NBA scouts and pundits to ignore the way he downright hurts his team at times when he has the ball in his hands, as he did almost throughout the Guardian Classic versus West Virginia and Iowa.
Gibson started off the first game by hitting 5 three pointers in the first half of the West Virginia game, but countered that with non-existent defense and 7 turnovers to go along with just 1 assist and therefore the deficit that his team faced on the scoreboard. His coach openly criticized his play at halftime on national television, but Gibson did not improve much if at all in the second half. He continued to heave up shots early in the shot clock without even glancing in the general direction of his outstanding frontcourt time after time, and continued to make foolish passes that were picked off time after time by West Virginias guards. Mike Gansey lit him up like a Christmas tree for 28 points, beating him down the floor repeatedly, and Texas coach Rick Barnes looked like he was on the verge of a stroke down the stretch, an induced look we saw last year already in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Nevada. Thankfully, West Virginia came up with one of the biggest choke jobs in recent memory from the free throw line and Texas big men were there in crunch time to rebound the bad shots taken by their guards and play outstanding defense in the post to eliminate any easy baskets and eventually come up with the win. Both in the West Virginia game and in key stretches against Iowa Coach Barnes opted to put the ball in the hands of shooting guard Kevin Paulino rather than face the unbearable task of watching his talented combo guard Gibson try to execute his offense. He proved to be at his best when he is playing off the ball and not forced to execute tedious tasks like running a pick and roll or making a post entry pass. This tournament was hopefully the worst weve seen out of Gibson and his always developing playmaking skills, as Texas is far too talented of a team to look the way they did against the Mountaineers. Gibsons perimeter scoring ability is truly a thing of beauty, but he must do a better job executing simple plays and getting his extremely talented teammates involved to adapt to playing in a league such as the NBA where his teammates will always be just as talented--if not more--than he is.