In what is likely going to develop into an ongoing story all season long, we present to you some initial scouting reports of 9 of the top freshman NBA draft prospects in America. Consider this just an introduction to our coverage of this year's outstanding freshman class. Left out are players we did not feel we had enough tape on to accurately evaluate their play this season so far--such as O.J. Mayo, J.J. Hickson, Austin Daye, Chris Wright and others. Also left out are players whom we preferred to wait on at the moment and see how their roles continue to evolve as the season moves on--for example Kyle Singler, Anthony Randolph, James Anderson, Blake Griffin, Patrick Mills, Johnny Flynn and others. We've got a full season ahead of us, so enjoy.
Derrick Rose, 6-4, Freshman, Point Guard, Memphis
16.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.0 turnovers, 47% FG, 29% 3P
Watching his footage, its hard not to wonder whether Rose might actually be the most athletic point guard weve ever evaluated at the college level. We talk about quickness and explosiveness and such all the time on DraftExpress, but Rose is clearly in a class of his own. His first step is nothing short of breathtaking, and when combined with his terrific ball-handling skills (particularly his awesome crossover) and outstanding body control once in the lane, were talking about an unstoppable force when it comes to his slashing game. Rose can handle the ball very well with both hands (although he favors his right), and is always looking for an opportunity to use a lethal assortment of jukes and hesitation moves to get to the basket, as hes supposed to in John Caliparis offence. Once hes there, his excellent leaping ability allows him to just hang in the air and finish strong with a variety of acrobatic layups, floaters or sometimes even an emphatic dunk. This leaping ability gives him a chance to finish almost every single time, as he can just wait for the defense to subside and then kiss the ball off the glass on his way down.
This incredible ability to create his own shot almost whenever he pleases has served as mostly a gift, but also sometimes as a curse this year. Because of the green light he has in this offense to take the ball strong to the rack every single time, Rose sometime fails to read the defense and ends up looking out of control. Learning when to rev it up into the fifth gear and when to stay in second or third will be one of the biggest things that will define whether Rose is indeed able to capitalize on his superstar potential at the next level. Right now its not too rare to see him lowering his shoulder and bullying his way into the lane, sometimes heaving up a bad shot (lacking some strength to finish here, and clearly avoiding his left hand), or even committing an offensive foul. That seems to be a major reason why the so called next Jason Kidd is currently averaging more turnovers than assists, even if its not difficult at all to see where this comparison came from.
Coming into college, the biggest concern most people had about Roses game was his inability to consistently knock down shots from behind the arc. And even though hes only shooting 29% for 3 on the year so far, there seems to be some room for optimism here. For one, his shooting mechanics look much better than we recall them being, locking in his elbow and releasing the ball mechanically (a good thing in this case) with his feet set. Its not the type of stuff legends are made out of, but if he sticks with it, we should begin to see better results at some point.
Defensively, Rose has shown both good and bad so far. He obviously has huge potential here, but you dont always see him taking full advantage of it. It wasnt rare early on to see him getting beat off the dribble for example, failing to attack screens, giving his man too much space, or just generally being a little too lackadaisical not valuing every defensive possession. But on the possessions where he really put it together and fully utilized his outstanding physical tools, Rose looked like an absolute menace with his terrific size, length and quickness.
At this point, it wouldnt be a stretch to say that Rose is only beginning to scrape the surface on what hell be showing up as the season moves on. Hes nowhere near a finished product, as his fundamentals still need work, but there is a lot to like already.
Michael Beasley, 6-9, Freshman, Power Forward, Kansas State
30 points, 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 3.7 turnovers, 1.7 blocks, 62% FG, 43% 3P, 65.5% FT
Beasley is a prototypical face the basket modern-day power forward. He is strong, but incredibly quick, possessing the type of agile first step that makes him an absolutely devastating threat creating his own shot from the perimeter. Kansas State is utilizing him a great deal at the top of the key on Isolation plays, where the lefty likes to take his man off the dribble with his smooth ball-handling skills and finish with either with and a variety of pretty floaters and layups. He has incredible body control to get the job done on these types of drives, handling the ball in the open floor like a guard, and at times pulling up off the dribble fluidly from mid-range with the greatest of ease.
Had Beasley settled for displaying his typical array of perimeter talent, mixed in with a steady dose of post-ups letting him utilize his quickness on the left block, he might have finished his first three games with a solid 20 and 10. Hes managed to pad his stats incredibly though by crashing the offensive glass like a man possessed, indeed grabbing nearly 9 per game so far. Thats the primary reason why hes managed to get himself into the 30 and 20 range, which is in itself a pretty incredible feat. Beasley has just been bigger, stronger, quicker and more explosive than all of his opponents so far, allowing him to absolutely dominate the offensive glass. But hes also stood out nicely with the terrific coordination he possesses, as well as with his awesome hands and reaction time.
Weve seen a fair share of Beasley-esque plays where he forces the issue and tries to do too much out on the perimeter (for example an ill-advised double-clutch pull-up fadeaway jumper), but hes been able to make up for his mistakes largely by just rebounding his own misses and putting them back in. Beasley was known to be somewhat of a selfish player in high school at times, and from what we could tell from the game footage we evaluated early on, hes not quite shedding that label quite yet. The ball-movement often stops once it reaches his hands, and oftentimes it seems like he is going to take the ball at shoot it no matter what, regardless of how the play develops around him. Thats something some NBA scouts wont mind at all, while others will hope hell grow out of as he continues to mature.
Defensively, there is absolutely no way around the fact that Beasley has looked awful so far--not really a surprise considering his reputation coming into college. Even when he tries to put in a legit effort, he looks unfocused--almost completely lost-- constantly out of position, and too often caught with his hand in the cookie jar gambling for steals. He doesnt always put in that legit effort, though, as its not rare to see him looking a bit lazy running the floor to get back, particularly in transition situations. Again, some scouts will shake their heads at these types of things, while others will chalk it up to youth and inexperience.
Were only starting to write the book on Michael Beasleys freshman campaign, so lets see how he progresses as the competition stiffens over the next few weeks. His first major test will be at home at the end of the month against Oregon.
Kosta Koufos, 71, Freshman, Center, Ohio State
20.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 2.0 blocks, 61% FG, 63% FT, 67% 3P
At a legitimate 71 and possessing a massive wingspan, Koufos has ideal size for a center prospect in todays NBA. Although he is not an exceptional athlete, his length and timing combine to equal a nice shot blocking prospect. The frame that the Ohio native owns is perfectly suitable for a player only 19 years old, as he tops the scales at a solid 265 pounds with a frame that has plenty of room for growth, if desired.
Kostas offensive repertoire is surely his main selling point, given that he possesses skills uncommon for the vast majority of seven footers on this planet. Able to shoot the ball with consistency out the collegiate three point range, he can expose players defensive liabilities through his immense skill set. When playing closer to the rim, Koufos exhibits a soft touch off of the glass on many of the shots he attempts. He faces the basket and shoots 12-15 jumpers with regularity, semi-reminiscent of those of Spurs superstar Tim Duncan. On the low blocks, he has surely favors a right handed jump hook as his go-to move. Given the extension that he shows off on his hook, it is no wonder that he is a nightmare to guard in the pivot.
The primary weakness that Koufos has on the offensive end is his inability to go left out of the post. He struggles mightily when turning towards his right shoulder, opting to still attempt shots with his right hand in situations that his left would have been much more appropriate. The former McDonalds All Americans lack of a left hand has resulted in his shots being rejected by much smaller players, something that shouldnt be such a regular occurrence for a prospect with such a remarkable skill set. Koufos also struggles a bit on the defensive end when guarding players who choose to face the basket, but this is not as big of an issue due to the fact that the vast majority of NBA cents play with their backs to the basket.
Koufos presently stands as the top center prospect that the 2008 draft has to offer, offering more production and promise then Georgetown mammoth Roy Hibbert. His package of size and skills leaves NBA scouts drooling, imagining how this inside-out big man could fit in their teams offensive scheme. With the nations top center B.J. Mullens coming in next season and the stellar start Koufos has had thus far, it appears likely that the Greek big man will bolt for the NBA after his freshman campaign and should wind up as a lottery pick if he continues at this pace.
Andrew Ogilvy, 70, Freshman, Center, Vanderbilt
19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 70% FG, 85% FT
The big Aussie is more of a traditional center, in that he excels playing near the basket as opposed to out on the perimeter. He showed off excellent footwork in the low post, softly pivoting off of either foot en route to his scoring attempts. Able to finish with either hand, A.J. is unpredictable in guarding due to the fact that he finishes equally well going to his left and right shoulders respectively. He catches virtually everything that is thrown his way and is able to convert when placed in scoring situations, as shown by his 70% field goal percentage.
Ogilvy exhibits toughness similar to that of most Australian players who have hit the college ranks, being absolutely fearless in terms of drawing physical contact. He is extremely tough on both ends of the floor, fighting mercilessly for post position offensively and defensively. The gritty style of play that Andrew owns has not made him the rebounding force that he was over the summer however, snagging an undistinguished 6.7 rebounds per game thus far.
Although Ogilvy owns legitimate size and length for a center prospect, his athleticism is below average for NBA standards. He struggles when guarding players facing the basket, where his subpar lateral quickness is put on center state. The seven footer has also had problems defending the pick and roll, not rotating quick enough to help out in a reasonable matter. While he possesses outstanding timing in terms of shot blocking, Ogilvy is not an exceptional leaper by any stretch of the definition and occasionally is baited into cheap fouls when trying to swat shots.
Kosta Koufos and Roy Hibbert aside, Ogilvy has the capability to leapfrog everyone else and establish himself as the third best center prospect that the 2008 draft has to offer with a strong season. The package of size, scoring ability, and toughness that he boasts is uncommon for most freshman centers. It is clear that Vanderbilt will do everything in their power to get him the rock in scoring positions and that he will be the focal point of their offense, so in all likelihood the NBA will be a viable option for Ogilvy to consider once his freshman season in Nashville comes to an end, although we feel he would be best suited to spend another year at the college ranks.