Also check out the article yesterday for a look at the draft prospects at the Guardians Classic and Preseason NIT, along the updated 2006 and 2007 mock drafts reflecting the developments described in these articles.
Stats provided are per game averages of the three game tournament in Maui
Maurice Ager, 6-5, senior, shooting guard, Michigan State
26.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, 2.7 turnovers, 49% FG, 48% 3P
What scouts will be looking for as the season moves on is the most advanced skills that separate backup shooting guards from the true difference makers in the NBA, mainly in their off the dribble game. Ager will need to show progress in his ability to pull up off the dribble from mid-range rather than forcing his way to the basket predictably every time (he has a tendency to almost always go right). Showing better instincts by creating for others with his passing skills--slashing with his head up rather than glued to the rim-- and better recognition of what the defenses give him through his inside-outside game will make Ager a more complete player and likely a strong candidate for the lottery if he can maintain the consistent approach he showed in Maui.
Ronnie Brewer, 6-7, junior, PG/SG, Arkansas
22.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 4.3 steals, 3 turnovers, 40% FG, 35% 3P
Brewer could very well be the most complete player in the country right now, excelling in all parts of the game and being a true difference maker in almost everything he does. Brewer played outstanding defense on whoever he was guarding, slashing to the hoop like a pro showing excellent fluidity and body control, and doing all the little things that you usually never see out of a star player of his caliber with his rare set of intangibles.
This year's Arkansas team is too deep at the 1/2 positions to give Brewer the time at PG that he really needs to truly show off his incredible versatility, but scouts should have gotten enough glimpses of his passing and ball-handling skills in the three games here to come to that conclusion on their own, even if his teammates didn't always finish his passes. Its quite foolish for the so called experts to question why he didnt show the PG skills he has in the past when he is obviously playing small forward almost the entire game. Arkansas wants to play a stagnant style of offense that doesn't really suit Brewer's individual strengths, so he responded time after time by coming up over a dozen steals with his terrific hands and much improved strength in three games and igniting the fast break on his own.
Even though his field goal percentage might have suffered a bit in the process, Brewer showed a lot of the leadership skills and go-to ability that we were missing out of him at times last year. As the only player on his team that can create his own shot consistently he was forced to heave up some bad shots at the end of the shot clock in Arkansas' grind it out offense, but he never looked selfish doing so. The biggest concerns that arose from this tournament relate to his ability to get his shot off on the perimeter when he doesnt have much space, as is often the case in the NBA as well as here in Maui as the focal point of every team's defense. Brewer's release is not the quickest in the world due to his very poor shot mechanics, and it's still not clear how much of an outside shooting threat he is going to be at the next level despite the decent percentages he puts up at the college level. What he lacks here he makes up in almost every other facet of the game, though, and Brewer more than held his own going up against an outstanding Rudy Gay in a particularly impressive performance in the first day.
Adam Morrison, 6-8, junior, small forward, Gonzaga
28.7 points, 7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 50% FG, 54% 3P
A full recap of Morrisons highly intriguing Maui matchup with UConn forward and fellow lottery prospect Rudy Gay, providing plenty of insight into his game and this tournament can be found here.
Paul Davis, 6-11, senior, center, Michigan State
20 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 53% FG, 92% FT
Hilton Armstrong, 6-11, senior, center, Connecticut
8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.3 blocks, 1 turnover, 60% FG, 67% FT
Armstrong looked particularly good rebounding the ball, playing good defense and getting to the line in UConns semifinal victory against Arizona. He looked very impressive bouncing up and off the floor repeatedly for rebounds, showing a nice combination of athleticism, length and determination. For a player whose biggest weakness has always been considered his physical and mental toughness, thats a great sign. He still has a long ways to go in terms of showing the kind of consistent ability as a senior to make up for the time he lost sitting on the bench behind Emeka Okafor, Charlia Villanueva and others, but he is clearly off to a good start. Hes nowhere near a finished product yet, as evidenced by his almost non-existent post moves in the paint, but still clearly looked better and more active than fellow teammate and more highly touted draft prospect (so far) Josh Boone.
Sasha Kaun, 6-11, sophomore, center, Kansas
11 points, 7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1 block, 1.3 turnovers, 58% FG, 56% FT
Kaun isn't the most polished big man you will see in the NCAA this season, but he is blessed with a 6'11, 245 pound and impressively chiseled frame. Unlike your stereotypical European big, Kaun spends nearly all of his time on the low blocks. His post game is certainly still a work in progress, but he is having better luck scoring with his back to the basket this season. This was evident in his 12 point, 6 rebound outing against Arizona, where his numbers certainly would have been better had the Jayhawk ball-handlers been even somewhat capable of breaking the Wildcat press. Where last season one may have been able to classify Kaun in the "lumbering" big man mold, he looks significantly more mobile this year. He doesn't appear to be overly athletic, but shows off some serious explosiveness when he gets close enough to the basket to dunk. Kaun is only going to get better as he learns how to utilize his NBA-level body. Sasha Kaun may still be a year or two away, he is showing early this season that the NBA is likely in his future.
Marcus Williams, 6-7, freshman, shooting guard, Arizona
4.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .7 turnovers, 1 steal, .7 block, 46.7% FG, 0% FT
Brandon Rush, 6-6 ½, freshman, SG/SF, Kansas
16 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 61% FG, 50% 3P, 89% FT
Rush looks up to the unenviable task of being thrust into the role of Kansas' go-to scorer on the perimeter for this extremely young team. He looked comfortable with his role in Kansas' offense and showed good decision making skills for the most part in his shot selection and overall ability to fit into Bill Selfs' offensive scheme. Having a capable ball-handling PG who is able to make plays for Kansas in half-court sets would help him out greatly as his ball-handling skills are nowhere near good enough to create offense for himself on a consistent basis, but Rush still managed to pick his spots well, score his points and do so shooting an excellent percentage from the field.
With all the scouts and GM's watching his every move and the fact that he's clearly a one and done candidate you might have expected Rush to force the issue at times trying to impress the scouts, but that wasn't an issue here at all. Rush was more than willing to make the extra pass, but still looked confident enough in his skills to shoulder the offensive load that his extremely young and inexperienced team desperately needed from him. You can even say that Rush might have been a little too unselfish at times, as he clearly passed up taking a shot designed for him by Coach Self at the end of the Arkansas game, and was later reprimanded for it.
All in all Rush showed off his extremely advanced offensive skills and explosive athletic ability while also doing a very good job with his effort on the glass. His ball-handling skills still leave a lot to be desired when he's forced to create off more than one or two short dribbles, but its hard to imagine him not improving in this area at least somewhat as he continues to go up against high level athletes every day in practice and in games in the Big 12. Defensively is where Rush will have to adapt himself from high school to the NCAA and eventually in the pros, but even here he didn't look as horrible as you may have thought going up against the talented and extremely athletic juniors and seniors he was asked to guard in Maui.
Rudy Gay, 6-9, forward, sophomore
14.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 4 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 46% FG, 11% 3P
A full recap of Gays highly intriguing Maui matchup with Gonzaga forward and fellow lottery prospect Adam Morrison, providing plenty of insight into his game and this tournament can be found here.
Shannon Brown, 6-4, junior, shooting guard, Michigan State
18.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals, 45.7% FG, 30.1% 3PT, 83.3% FT
Denham Brown, 6-6, senior, shooting guard, Connecticut
15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1 steal, 41% FG, 31% 3P
First the good. Brown is clearly the leader of this UConn team and very likely will be the X-factor in many of their key games this season. He is strong and extremely tough, with great size and a knack for putting the ball in the basket in tough situations. In the all-too common cases of teammate Rudy Gay floating around the court aimlessly, Denham Brown was often the one that stepped up the plate for his team to deliver points when his team needed them most. He is committed to playing good defense, minimizing mistakes and moving the ball around the floor unselfishly, and UConn will rely on his scoring ability and senior leadership all season long.
Now the bad. In terms of his NBA draft potential, how does Denham Brown stack up with most NBA shooting guards? Not extraordinarily well from what we saw in Maui. His quickness is very average, as is overall athletic ability compared with your typical explosive NBA shooting guard. His ball-handling, shot-creating ability and perimeter shooting do not appear to be all that special either to really make up for that. Defensively he is quite solid at the collegiate level because of his strength, smarts and the effort he puts in. How his lateral quickness will translate to the pros in terms of guarding his position is anyones guess, though. For a player that will get as many open looks as he will likely benefit from playing alongside such a dangerous frontcourt as UConns trio of Gay/Boone/Armstrong is, youd like to see him knock down his outside shots at a much higher clip. Brown will surely get his chance to prove himself at Portsmouth and probably Chicago if all goes well there, but his road to the NBA will not be as easy as most TV analysts and beat writers might lead you to believe.
Chris Rodgers, 6-4, senior, PG/SG, Arizona
14 points, 3 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 3.6 steals, 1 turnover, 30.5% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 76.5% FT
Josh Boone, 6-10, junior, Center, Connecticut
7.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, .6 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 0.3 blocks, 58% FG, 72% FT
Hassan Adams, 6-4, senior, small forward, Arizona
15 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 3.3 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 36% FG, 27% 3P, 53% FT
The most concerning part about what Adams showed at Maui is that's yet to realize what his strengths and weaknesses are on the basketball floor. Instead of using his lethal combination of strength and explosiveness as a weapon against his opponents, he falls right into their hands by shooting fade-away three pointers time after time off the dribble from 22 feet out. This never has and never will be his game. While he probably still doesn't have good enough ball-handling skills to beat strong defenders off the dribble consistently in half-court sets, that is still a much better option for him than forcing up long-range shots.
Even if scouts didn't necessarily come to see him posting up his man, crashing the offensive glass and hitting shorter mid-range jumpers; as a player that is projected as a shooting guard at the next level, he'll be in much better shape scoring this way than exposing his weaknesses time after time and hurting his team in the process.
Not many NBA front office types are planning on building their team's future offense off of Hassan Adams' ability to create scoring opportunities for himself in half-court sets. If he is drafted in the top 20 it will be because they think he can be a valuable contributor as a tough and defensive oriented spark-plug role player who can wreak havoc on the floor with his freakish athleticism and swing the momentum in his team's favor coming off the bench. Lute Olson is doing him no favors with the way he appears to be just throwing his players out on the floor with little to no guidance, direction or any resemblance of a game plan on the offensive end, but Adams needs to be smarter and play more under control in the Pac-10.
Nik Caner-Medley, 6-8, senior, small forward, Maryland
8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.3 turnovers, 1 steal, 36% FG, 17% 3P