Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10 (Part One: #1-5)
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part One, Part Two, Part Three
#6 JaJuan Johnson, 6-10, Sophomore, PF/C, Purdue
JaJuan Johnson played a fairly small role for Purdue as a freshman, garnering just under 8% of his team's possessions. He did not do a great deal to show that he deserved a whole lot more with the 42% he shot from the field, but digging a bit deeper definitely preaches patience considering the basic tools he brings to the table.
Johnson is a very quick player both vertically and horizontally, looking especially impressive getting up and finishing around the basket. He has nice hands and the length and explosiveness to finish pretty much everything underneath the hoop if strength isn't too much of a concern, and he draws fouls at a high rate to boot, showing decent touch from the free throw line in the process.
Most of his offense at the moment consists of running the floor in transition, grabbing offensive rebounds, making cuts to the rim, and playing pick and roll with his guards. At times he'll throw in a little jump-hook or turnaround jumper, but nothing to get too excited about just yet. He has no left hand, extremely limited footwork inside the paint, and is about 20-25 pounds away from being capable of holding his spot on the block, which renders him fairly useless with his back to the basket.
From mid-range, Johnson will knock down a jump-shot from time to time (he even hit a 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament), but his footwork looks sloppy and he doesn't show the polish to be very consistent at this point. His decision making skills just aren't there yet, not a shock considering how early in the maturation process he appears to be both physically and experience wise, so we're almost certainly looking at a 3-4 year player despite his extremely high upside.
Defensively, Johnson has great tools thanks to his length, size and athleticism, but he has no idea how to use them right now, getting backed down with ease in the post, and being abused from the outside as well due to his poor fundamentals and awareness. Johnson is too upright in his stance and thus struggles to move laterally on the perimeter, which usually makes him look more like he's chasing his defender than he is containing him. He wasn't much of a rebounder to compensate, grabbing just 7.5 boards per-40 minutes. Adding strength and doing a better job boxing out will probably help him in this area.
All in all, Johnson is an intriguing prospect who needs plenty of time and hard work before he can be considered anything more than a long-term project. He showed enough raw tools in his freshman year to be worthy of keeping an eye on, though.
#7 E'twaun Moore, 6'3, PG/SG, Sophomore, Purdue
On the offensive end, Moore's game starts with his jump shot, which is dangerous up to right outside NCAA range. Moore shot a blistering 43% on the year from beyond the arc, shooting off screens, spotting up, and off the dribble frequently. He has a good, consistent shooting motion with his upper body, boasting a high and quick release, but he does run into some problems on occasion. Mainly, he has a tendency to not always get his legs into his shot, sometimes barely even bending his knees, making his shot rely heavily on his upper body, which leads to inconsistency and some really bad misses. These instances happen most when he's rushed with a hand in his face, and is definitely something he should work on.
Strength in general is a bit of a problem area for Moore, as he definitely hasn't filled in his frame yet, though he seems to have more room to do so. He shies from contact at the basket and doesn't go all the way intro traffic much in general, often relying on an array of right-handed floaters, runners, and pull-up jumpers in the lane or from mid-range. He converts on these with decent success, but he does seem to force quite a few of them, and his lack of ability to finish around the rim hurts him. He doesn't have the greatest vertical explosiveness, which also doesn't help.
Athleticism in general is not Moore's greatest asset, as while he's not a bad athlete, he lacks a certain amount of fluidity and explosiveness, and his first step with the ball is underwhelming. His dribble is controlled but not very advanced, showing little in terms of advanced moves or quick change of direction ability. The right-handed shooter surprisingly is stronger with his left off the dribble, going that direction on 75% of all plays according to Synergy Sports Technology. To illustrate his woes going to the basket, Moore only gets 0.85 points per possession going left to the basket, and an even worse 0.65 PPP going right. Despite shouldering the biggest offensive load of any player on the team, Moore got to the free throw line at the worst rate of any Purdue player on a per-minute basis.
An area Moore does do very good in is transition, where he plays very smart, getting to open space on the floor on the wings when he has the ball or doesn't, leading to a lot of open three-point shots in rhythm. He also does a better job finishing in traffic here, not having to rely on his first step and explosiveness as much.
Moore shares ball-handling duties in Purdue's offense, and he racks up a decent 2.6 assists per game, mostly running pick-and-rolls, something he's really exceptional at. His reads are outstanding and he hits his teammates popping out or going to the basket, on a variety of different cuts, while also knowing when he should pull up for the shot himself. He gets a decent amount of assists through ball movement and in transition as well, but doesn't really have the handles at the moment to be a great drive-and-dish distributor or primary ball-handler.
Defensively, Moore plays with good focus and intensity, always fighting hard on and off the ball, showing a pretty good stance. At a lanky 6'3, Moore often has a higher center of gravity than the point guards he defends, and he often is behind in lateral quickness as well. Despite this, he does a good job of staying in front of his man, even if it looks slightly awkward at times, as he has good reflexes and positioning. He uses his length well on this end of the floor as well, contesting shots on drives and jump shots.
Moore had a very strong freshman season and only got better as the year went on, so he could be primed for a breakout sophomore season. Improving his slashing ability and focusing on always keeping his legs in his jumper should be among his priorities, while adding some muscle wouldn't hurt as well. In terms of NBA potential, Moore would appear to be a few years away, and because he's not an overwhelming athlete, he's going to really need to hone all of his skills to improve his chances at making it.
#8 Kalin Lucas, 6'0', Sophomore, Point Guard, Michigan State
At 6'0' (and that might be generous), Lucas is severely undersized for the NBA; a lack of strong leaping ability doesn't help his cause either. What he does possess is excellent quickness as well as a knack for changing speeds very effectively. Lucas certainly will need to improve on his point guard skill set in order to have a legitimate shot at reaching the next level, as he often looks to shoot first and pass second, but you can't teach the terrific instincts and aggressiveness he shows on the floor, and there is very little doubt that Lucas will continue to make strides as he matures in age.
The majority of Lucas's shots come when he looks to spot up on the perimeter. He has a quick release and solid form; he does have a tendency to short arm his shots when he is rushed by defenders though. Lucas certainly has range on his shot, but wasn't a tremendous threat from the perimeter, attempting less than two 3-pointers per game and connecting on 36.4% of them. When given a moment to set his feet, Lucas can be very effective. When he shoots off the dribble he becomes a much streakier shooter, though. Though he has good ball handling skills and a great first step, Lucas is often very off balance when shooting off the dribble. Despite this less than textbook technique, he still connects on a respectable number of these shots.
Lucas is at his most dangerous in the transition game where he gets to use his speed and aggressiveness to his advantage. He is very tough to stay in front of when he has a full head of steam going, and doesn't back down from bigger defenders. He shows great body control around the rim and is capable of hitting some pretty acrobatic shots, but this is a result of his lack of size. Lucas tended to force the issue often when driving the lane, making life easy for bigger defenders who would be waiting for him around the basket. This is certainly a sign of inexperience and will be something to keep an eye on as Lucas will need to drive and dish more often as a sophomore. He has good court vision and doesn't turn the ball over at too high a rate, though, which leaves plenty of room for optimism regarding his playmaking skills, which already show a lot of promise.
Defensively, there is work to be done for Lucas. Certainly he is at a disadvantage since most of the opponents he will be guarding will have several inches on him. He shows quickness on the offense end, but his lateral quickness doesn't appear to be all that great and he bites on a fair number of dribble moves. Getting stronger in his upper body would help him a lot here as well; often bigger guards are able to bump him out of position to free themselves up for good looks at the basket.
Last season Lucas was the young, promising freshman who showed plenty of potential. His inconsistency (18 points vs. Wisconsin, 19 points vs. Pittsburgh, 4 points vs. Ohio State), while a sign of youth, needs to improve this season, especially now with the departure of fellow backcourt partner Drew Neitzel. Lucas also needs to develop his offensive game more and rely less on his natural speed. Adding a couple of dribble-drive moves would make him much more of a threat with the ball.
Lucas is at least a couple of years away before he should even begin considering the NBA, but there is promise when you look at his all-around combination of skills, athleticism and intangibles. He will always be labeled as being a bit too small initially, but improving his perimeter shooting and distributing the ball at a more consistent rate should be enough to intrigue at least a handful of scouts.
#9 Kevin Coble, 6'8, Junior, SF, Northwestern
Capable of playing multiple positions at the collegiate level, the 6'8, 200 pound Northwestern junior averaged 15.9 ppg (48.1% FG, 38.9% 3FG, 81.3% FT), 5.4 rpg, and 1.8 apg last season. Though his NBA outlook is not extremely bright, Coble has the chance to emerge as one of the best players in a very weak Big 10 as well as one of the better shooters in the country. 34 and 37 point games against Michigan and Indiana (shooting a combined 26 of 34 from the field) gave us a glimpse of just how productive Coble can be when he catches fire on any given night.
Standing 6'8, but possessing a very slight frame, Coble projects as a shooting specialist at the next level. The real problem, however, is that he lacks NBA-caliber quickness and athleticism, which will likely always limit his long-term upside ultimately. Still, there have been plenty of players to make the NBA after finding their unique niche, which is exactly what Coble must now focus on.
Offensively, Coble does a majority of his damage shooting spot up jumpshots, which, according to Synergy Sports Technologies account for 41.5% of his offense. Despite the good reputation that comes along with a 38.9% perimeter shooting percentage, Coble's shooting mechanics are far from perfect. He has an unorthodox looking jumpshot, bringing the ball up from his chest and releasing his shot far away from his body, deliberately but fairly quickly; he lands with his legs far apart and does not get nearly as much elevation as a player of his size should. Regardless, when given a second to set his feet and take aim, Coble is absolutely outstanding on the catch and shoot, which makes him quite a threat on the perimeter considering his excellent size at 6-8.
Arguably Coble's largest improvement last year was his expanded offensive repertoire. While he still attempted over four perimeter jumpshots per game, he showed an expanded mid-range game, using fakes and pull-up moves to get his shot off. He does not have a good first step, but he did improve his ball handling to the point where he was able to somewhat overcome his athletic deficiencies. Similarly, while he lacks the bulk to take much contact around the basket, he did a slightly better job of slashing to the hoop, though this is an aspect to his game that displays limited potential due to his poor physical tools. His post game is similarly developing. He'll likely never be strong enough to bang in the post in the physical Big 10, let alone the NBA, but Coble was able to score in the post last year thanks to some decent moves, including an improved turnaround jumpshot.
Arguably his biggest asset besides his shooting, however, is his basketball IQ. Coble is a smart player who passes well in the perimeter as well as from out o the post. He moves extremely intelligently, knowing how to get open off of screens (10.3% of his offense) and by cutting (22.6% of his offense). Sometimes he does not know his limitations, particularly attempting shots off the dribble, but for the most part he is a very smart basketball player.
Defensively, he uses his length well to harass shooters on the wing and to get into passing zones, but outside of that, his athletic limitations, particularly his poor lateral quickness, will never allow him to be a good defender: even at the collegiate level. Considering the quickness and athleticism of NBA guards and wings, Coble will be an incredible defensive liability should he make it to the next level.
There has been talk of shooting specialists like Kyle Korver, Jason Kapono, and Steve Novak when discussing Coble's future (although he's not quite at that level yet), and while he will always get his fair share of looks considering his perimeter prowess and productivity in the Big 10, the odds will be very much stacked against him. This season, he must improve his defense and continue to put on nightly scoring exhibitions if he wants a look in the future. It is very safe to say that Coble will be a four-year college player, but at this point, it is essential that he maintain relevance in the eyes of NBA scouts by producing heavily.
#10 Demetri McCamey, 6'3, Point Guard, Sophomore, Illinois
McCamey is a physically sturdy guard, weighing around 210 pounds. He uses his big frame to its advantage on both ends of the court with his physical style of play. For a point guard, he has nice size at 6'3, but surely needs to slim down a bit if he hopes to keep up with smaller, quicker guards at the next level. Athletically he can't be described as anything more than just average, particularly in terms of explosiveness.
The Illinois native's scoring game is primarily centered around his three point shot. Possessing deep range and nice form, it is no surprise that half of McCamey's made field goals came from the land of three. His willingness to shoot the ball from deep often hindered him at times though, settling for bad jumpers in less than ideal situations, as evidenced by the 36% he shot from the field.
When not shooting the ball from outside the three point line, the remainder of Demetri's scoring usually comes via floaters in the lane and buckets in transition. While he possesses a below average first step, he is able to pick it up when the tempo of the game increases and shows off very nice end to end speed. McCamey finished at the rim with contact much better on the fast break then he did in half court sets, from the games we observed, but he only managed to get to the free throw line 1.7 times in 27 minutes per game.
Scoring aside, McCamey showed off nice vision for a player who split the point guard duties and should enhance his assist numbers this season with increased time as a playmaker.
The main problem that centers around McCamey's offensive game is his lack of athleticism and problems with shot selection. He struggles very much to blow by defenders in slower tempo games, often looking visibly frustrated and opting to pull a deep jumper. This is why his shooting percentage is so inconsistent from game to game. The sophomore is a very confident player who thinks that every shot he takes is going in, which definitely hurt him at times last year.
Demetri has shown promise as a defender, even though he possesses average lateral quickness. He seems to understand how to defend by using his strength, allowing him to body up players and give them fits. The size that he owns has also enabled him to guard players at both the point and shooting guard positions.
Like most draft prospects in the Big 10, McCamey is not a sure thing by any stretch as far as the NBA is concerned. There are numerous flaws in his game and he must continue to improve upon his conditioning if he hopes to surely make it to the next level. The promise that he showed last season as a freshman may have put him on the broad radar of NBA scouts, and now he must use his second season in Champaign to back up the small glimpses of intrigue he showed as a freshman.