18 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.1 steal, .9 blocks, 51% FG, 42.4% 3P, 68% FT
Young is still the same chiseled 6-6 bruiser, blessed with terrific strength, length and athleticism, playing primarily as a face the basket power forward on a very undersized Pitt team. He gets his points in a variety of waysbe it spotting up from the perimeter, battling down low, grabbing offensive rebounds, and finishing in transition.
He has a good first step, but is not a very advanced ball-handler, as he doesnt change directions very well with his dribble, and the ball clearly slows him down. He is able to play off his perimeter shot (often with very effective shot-fakes) to make his way crudely to the basket dribbling with either hand, where he will at times finish with a nice little floater. He doesnt force the issue too much, seeming to understand his role and limitations quite well, and is very efficient as evidenced by his 51% shooting from the field and 42.4% from behind the arc. Young is terrific finishing around the basket, thanks to his excellent combination of strength, toughness, wingspan, and the fact that he seems to relish contact.
The most interesting development as far as his NBA draft prospects are concerned revolve around the improvement hes made as an outside shooter this season. He hit only 17 3-pointers in his first two seasons combined at Pitt, on a dismal 27%, but is now shooting nearly 43%, albeit on a limited number of attempts, around three per game. He seems to be very confident in his abilities as a shooter at the moment, but rarely will force the issue if hes not completely open with his feet set. His release point looks very consistent, but his shot seems to lose effectiveness if hes forced to shoot the ball off the dribble, or when rushed.
Considering that hes not the most fluid or natural offensive player youll find, Youngs bread and butter at the next level will have to come on the other end of the floor, where thankfully he excels. Hes one of the best man to man defenders youll find in the Big East, blessed with terrific physical tools, but also showing a great deal of tenacity on this end to help get the job done. He stays in front of his man with excellent lateral quickness, and does a terrific job using his smothering wingspan to contest almost every shot, even coming up with some blocks in the process. Youngs team defense could still use some work, as he struggles a bit with his awareness defending pick and rolls and such, but he clearly has a great deal of potential in this area. Hes also a very solid rebounder for his size.
Young looks like a clear-cut role player for the next level, a James Posey type small forward who is responsible for locking down his matchup on the defensive end, and then playing within the offense and knocking down open shots when called up on the other. There is definitely a role for a player with his physical tools and skill-set in the League, but he will have to show that he can extend his range out to the NBA 3-point line, as well as improve on his mediocre ½ assist to turnover ratioif hes to stick. Hes a bit older than most of the mostly 21 year-olds in his junior class, having turned 23 last week, and thus it would not be too much of a shock to see him enter his name in this years draft to see how the NBA values him.
J.R. Giddens, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, New Mexico
15.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.2 blocks, 1.4 steals, 51.5% FG, 35% 3P, 57% FT
Statistically, youd be hard pressed to find a player who has turned himself around as much as Giddens. His scoring averages remain largely the same as last year, but his shooting percentages have rocketed up to impressive heights (from 44 to 51%), largely due to the fact that hes attempting quite a few less 3-pointers (5.2 to 2.3 per game), while also getting to the free throw line at a better rate. Giddens is rebounding the ball exceptionally well (leading the entire Mountain West Conference in this category at 8.6 per game), and has unconventionally seen his assists rise (from 2.3 to 3.0 per game) while his turnovers dropped (2.7 to 2.1) simultaneously. Hes also blocking 1.2 shots per game, and picking up 1.4 steals. In case you need it spelled out all indications seem to be that the light bulb has come on for him in a major way in his senior season. He in fact ranks 2nd amongst all shooting guard prospects in the very interesting Win Score statistic.
To add intrigue to the picture, Giddens remains the same terrific prospect in everything revolving around his physical tools. He has an excellent frame, an outstanding wingspan, and is a phenomenal all-around athlete, blessed in particular with exceptional leaping ability.
The biggest difference we notice in Giddens game is the fact that hes no longer playing as selfishly as he once did. He seems to have no problem giving up the rock these days, and has been doing a very nice job creating scoring opportunities for his not-so talented teammates, who dont always convert at a very high rate. Regardless, Giddens looks very focused on doing many of the little things that need to be done to help his team come away with a victory, and in turn New Mexico is having a pretty solid year, with a 24-7 record on the season going into in the Mountain West Conference tournament. For his efforts he was rewarded with conference player of the year honors, which he shared with BYUs Lee Cummard.
Offensively, Giddens gets his points in a variety of ways. He can come off a screen and knock down a shot, or beat his man off the dribble with a very nice first step. He crashes the glass and comes away with excellent results, and is even going into the post this season to take advantage of his superior physical tools down low. He has terrific instincts as a scorer, and seems to possess a great deal of talent that is yet to be harnessed.
Unfortunately Giddens also seems to have quite a few weaknesses, which get exposed more than they probably should because of the extremely slow pace New Mexico plays at, combined with the unusually large role he is expected to shoulder in their offense.
Never known as an exceptional ball-handler, Giddens has certainly made strides in his ability to create his own shot from the perimeter. As a sophomore, he averaged 8.8 3-pointers per-40 minutes pace adjusted, while posting a paltry 1.2 free throw attempts. This year hes down to 2.9 3-point attempts, but his free throw attempts are up to 5.6.
That should tell you quite a bit about the change in mentality hes gone through, although the difference in level of competition he faces in the Mountain West compared with the Big 12 must be accounted for as well. His first step, and aggressive mentality looking to beat players off the dribble makes him very tough to handle at this level, but his left hand and ability to change directions sharply still leave something to be desired. Hell at times look out of control barreling his way into the lane, unable to finish cleanly or avoid the offensive foul because of his average ball-handling skills. His mid-range game is a nice weapon that shows quite a bit of promise, but also lacks some polish in terms of his ability to utilize his exceptional athleticism to create separation consistently from defenders with a sharp pull-up jumper.
Giddens has only made 24 3-pointers on the season on a 35% clip (for comparison, he hit 74 as a freshman, shooting 41%), and even though he displays great potential here, there is still some work he can do here to make himself more efficient. He has a very quick release, but tends to rush his shots, not always fully setting his feet even when he has time to spare, and often fading away for no particular reason. Cleaning up his mechanics and becoming a dead-eye spot-up shooter could go a long ways in helping him make and stick with a team. Hes also a shockingly bad free throw shooter, at just 57%.
Defensively, Giddens has excellent tools once again, but still cant be considered a great defender at this point. He lacks fundamentals and awareness on this end of the floor, but seems to be putting in a much better effort than weve seen from him in years past, coming up with a great deal of steals and blocks in the process. If he continues to commit himself, he should be able to develop into a solid defender in time.
Despite being older than most players in this draft at 23 years old, Giddens still seems to have a great deal of upside he has yet to tap into, even though he still has a good deal of work left to do as well. It remains to be seen if hes truly put all his many on and off the court issues fully behind him in this his contract year, but if he indeed has, he could be a very intriguing player for teams to look at, particularly in the second round, where he poses very little risk.
Giddens has been invited to Portsmouth, and should be considered a lock for the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando as well. He will need all the exposure he can get at this point, as he has quite a bit to overcome in terms of the negative perception he built up with his actions on and off the court over the past four years. He has also been severely under the radar playing in the anonymous Mountain West conference, which gets zero exposure on the national level because of its terrible TV deal. Even game footage of his has been somewhat difficult to come by. With that said, he could use the element of surprise to sneak up on people and gain some solid momentum going into the draft process as things begin to heat up over the next two months.
Robert Vaden, 65, SG/SF, Junior, UAB
21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 42% FG, 87% FT, 42% 3PT
Looking at Vadens game, it becomes apparent quite quickly how reliant his game is on the three-point shot. 327 of his 488 field goal attempts (67%) came from behind the arc, and he actually shot slightly higher on three-point attempts than two-point attempts (.422 vs. .416). His shot has good form, with a high, consistent, and fairly quick release, which he can get off in a lot of different ways. Hes clearly at his best when spotting up in space, but he doesnt alter his shot when contested. He can also come off screens, catch-and-shoot on the move in transition, or pull up off one dribble following a shot fake. He does a good job getting his feet set in tight spaces to get his shot off when contested, but can show questionable judgment against more athletic defenders, sometimes forcing the issue, leading to blocked shots. He also will make some questionable decisions pulling up when he doesnt have good body control, but for the most part doesnt take many bad shot attempts, and hes capable of hitting some of the high difficulty ones he does try.
With 13.8 of his 21.8 points per game coming on three-point shots, the rest of Vadens scoring game really isnt much to talk about. Hell occasionally hit some spot-up shots from mid-to-long range, hell occasionally pull up off one or two dribbles coming off a shot fake inside the arc, and hell occasionally finish on some off-ball cuts, but he really doesnt have the ability to consistently attack the basket, not having the tightest of handles. He can take the ball to the basket in space, but struggles splitting double teams and doesnt show many advanced ball-handling moves, while most of his turnovers come from mishandling the ball or having trouble trying to penetrate the defense. Even when he does get to the rim, he doesnt show the best finishing ability, as hes not the greatest athlete, often throwing up right-handed floaters that arent highly accurate. To Vadens credit, he seems to recognize his limitations well and usually doesnt stray far from them, as evidenced by his ridiculously high number of three-point attempts per game.
Vaden does show nice court vision and passing ability, showing good sense to find the open man either on the perimeter, cutting to the basket, or in transition. He averages 2.5 assists per game, and averaged 3.5 as a sophomore at Indiana when he was less relied on as a scorer, while most of his turnovers come from ball-handling, not errant passes.
On the defensive end, Vaden shows good attentiveness and hustle, sticking with his man off the ball and playing good team defense, though his man-to-man defense is lacking at times, as he shows questionable lateral quickness and when his man is close to turning the corner, he usually will try to gamble for a steal rather than continuing to shift his feet. With his good hands and timing, this works some of the time, but it also leads to blow-bys.
Itd be in Vadens best interest to return to UAB for his senior season, where he could continue to develop as a player, most notably by trying to improve his ball-handling and ability to attack the basket, to become a more complete player. Hell need to become more than just a great shooter to have a likely chance at the NBA, though he should be a very productive player overseas if he doesnt make it there.
Larry Sanders, 69, Freshman, Power Forward, VCU
4.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 15.8 minutes, 47.7% FG, 45.8% FT
We are talking about a player who is extremely raw, but has tremendous potential. At 205 pounds, he is rail thin and desperately will need to put on a good amount of weight, probably at least 25 pounds, in order to handle the physicality of playing in the post. He doesnt show tremendous quickness or explosiveness, but a lot of this may stem from the fact that he doesnt appear to have completely grown into his body yet. His length helps him overcome a lot of these shortcomings against CAA competition, but these will be issues against bigger opponents.
Offensively, Sanders is extremely underdeveloped at this point, as hes only been playing basketball for three years now. He attempts less than 4 shots per game and is not a major part of the Rams offense, mainly due to the fact that he just isnt that good with the ball yet. According to Synergy Sports Technology, nearly 45% of his touches at this point come from cuts around the basket. When on the floor, he typically stays below the block along the baseline and acts as a safety valve option for teammates that are driving to the rim. While early in the season he would struggle even from this spot, he has gotten better at finishing around the basket as the season as progressed. In the CAA quarterfinals he scored a career high 14 points against Towson, the majority of which came off of big dunks on dishes near the hoop.
As far as his back to the basket game is concerned, Sanders really needs to improve his footwork and touch. Again his lack of substantial bulk hurts him here as he often is forced to fall away from the basket or take a tough angle on his shot, because he cant really body up against defenders. At this point his only real move is a baby hook shot in which he spins to the middle. Often this shot is thrown up without him being completely square to the hoop and without much touch. If not for a high percentage of his shot attempts being dunks, it isnt likely that Sanders would have such a high shooting percentage.
At this point Sanders is no real threat to step away from the basket. His ball handling skills seem to be limited to a power dribble when going towards the rim, and he hasnt attempted more than a handful of shots from further than five feet away from the basket. The little bit we have seen of Sanders in regards to his shooting has come from the foul line. He doesnt get there that often (2 attempts per game) but he shoots an abysmal 45.8% despite showing pretty good shooting form. He has a very long release, which may have an effect on his shot, but this is clearly something he will need to work on in the off season. The fact that hes only dished out 4 assists in 31 games (he commits about 6 turnovers for every 1 assist) tells you all you need to know about where his understanding of the game currently lies.
Defense is where Sanders has made noise this season. He posted some very impressive block totals this season, including 9 in just 25 minutes on February 23rd versus Akron. At this point Sanders shows a tendency to wait until the shot is in the air before reacting and attempting to block it. While he is able to get away with this for the most part in the CAA against smaller opponents, this will not work against bigger and more athletic players. Rather than hanging back trying to come away with the highlight reel block, Sanders needs to work on his timing more while still playing man to man defense, something he could be very good at when he gains more experience.
As is the case with his shot blocking, Sanders excels on the glass thanks in large part to his length. He is able to haul in plenty of balls outside of his immediate area, more so than he should be able to. Its a scary thought to think about how many rebounds Sanders has the potential to garner in the CAA if he adds enough strength and weight to hold his position better. At this point he finds himself taken out of a lot of plays, especially on the offensive end, due to that fact that opponents can box him out fairly easily because of his thin frame. Even so, Sanders is still able to pull in many rebounds over defenders backs.
Sanders is a big time project, there is no denying that. There is a tremendous amount of upside here though, with the potential to be a big time player not just in the CAA, but on a national level, if he can find a way to fill out his frame. Natural growth and maturing should help, but serious time in the weight room will be needed too. It is obviously still very early in the development process for Sanders, and it is hard to say where he will be a couple of years from now.