Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part Three (#11-15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part Three (#11-15)
Sep 06, 2010, 10:56 pm
To get a jump on the rapidly approaching NCAA season, we continue to break down the top individual NBA prospects in college basketball, going conference by conference. Part two of the Big Ten is led by Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, followed by Northwestern's John Shurna, Wisconsin's Jon Leuer, Illinois' D.J. Richardson and Penn State's Talor Battle.

Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we come to any long-term conclusions.

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part One (#1-5)
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part Two (#6-10)

#1 Rodney Williams
#2 Maurice Creek
#3 Kalin Lucas
#4 Durrell Summers
#5 JaJuan Johnson
#6 Robbie Hummel
#7 William Buford
#8 Demetri McCamey
#9 Christian Watford
#10 Brandon Paul

#11 E'Twaun Moore, 6-4, Senior, Shooting Guard, Purdue
16.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.5 steals, 45% FG, 73% FT, 35% 3P

Kyle Nelson

Though his teammates JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel are better known in scouting circles, senior shooting guard E'Twaun Moore made quite a mark in the Big 10 last season. As Purdue's leading scorer for three consecutive seasons, Moore has improved steadily since he stepped on campus, and has emerged as one of the most productive guards in the Big 10. Unfortunately, he failed to elevate his game when Purdue lost Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury, shooting just 32% from the field and 26% from beyond the arc. With just one year of college eligibility remaining, Moore has much to prove before scouts consider him a legitimate NBA player.

For one, Moore hardly looks the part of an NBA shooting guard. Standing around 6'4 at best with just average length, Moore will be undersized at the next level and must work on adding strength to his lean frame. Additionally, he is just an average athlete, without ideal explosiveness and quickness off of the dribble. Moore is certainly not unathletic, but he will have to adapt his style of play in order to overcome his physical limitations at the next level.

At the collegiate level, Moore is a talented scorer, equally capable in the half court offensive sets as he is in transition. After hovering around 17 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Moore averaged 20.9 as a junior while shooting a career high 45% from the field.

This is not to say, however, that his production will immediately translate to the NBA. While Moore has steadily improved his shooting percentages from inside of the arc, his 3-point shooting percentage has plummeted since shooting 43% as a freshman. His shooting mechanics are inconsistent at best and he must work on developing a more fluid shooting motion while maintaining a high release point. While he is more than capable of scoring in bunches, he is very streaky, rarely shooting the ball well in consecutive games and connecting on just 35.5% of his jump shots according to the data at our disposal.

Moore's slashing game does not look as though it will translate to the next level as he lacks a quick first step, the strength to finish in traffic, and ideal touch around the basket. He also is a bit predictable as he drives left 60% of the time and has a fairly high dribble. He is not the greatest finisher at the collegiate level and he will likely have even more trouble scoring in the lane against bigger and more athletic defenders at the next level.

While Moore's offense is a mixed bag, he is a very good defender. Moore displays good fundamentals and awareness, maintaining his stance and chasing his man over screens. He does a good job of closing out on shooters and he almost always gets a hand in his man's face. He is both a good team defender and individual defender at the collegiate level, by far one of the Big 10's best, but there are questions about how his lack of ideal physical tools will translate to the NBA. Quicker slashers have little trouble beating him off of the dribble. His fundamentals and high basketball IQ should help him adjust, however, even if he could struggle from a physical standpoint at times on the defensive end.

Moore has the scoring instincts to emerge as a collegiate star and a contributor at the next level, but he was inconsistent and lacked poise down the stretch. While he is a very good defensive player at this point, he must improve his versatility on the offense end before considering himself a legitimate NBA prospect. Becoming a more consistent shooter is essential, but so too is learning how to produce with fewer possessions. With Purdue primed once again to make a deep run in March, E'Twaun Moore will have plenty of opportunities to endear himself to NBA scouts and differentiate himself as a legitimate prospect.

#12 John Shurna, 6'8, Junior, Power Forward, Northwestern
18.2 Points, 6.4 Rebounds, 2.6 Assists, 2.0 Turnovers, 46% FG, 36% 3FG, 78% FT

Matt Williams

One of the most improved players in the nation last season, John Shurna capitalized on the opportunity presented by a season-ending injury to Kevin Coble. Stepping up to seize Coble's role as Northwestern's top scorer, Shurna was one of the most productive players in the Big Ten and is poised for another big year for the Wildcats after a summer which included a stint playing on the USA Select Team in Las Vegas. From an NBA perspective, Shurna has some clear shortcomings but his production, basketball IQ and skill-level are hard to ignore.

Standing 6'8 with a solid wingspan, Shurna has good size for the small forward spot, but would be a bit undersized at the four on the NBA level. His biggest weaknesses athletically are his lack of physical strength and lateral quickness. While neither of those traits limit him that much at Northwestern, they raise some concerns about his ability to defend either forward spot at the NBA level.

Despite his shortcomings athletically from an NBA perspective, Shurna's skill set and physical tools are perfectly tailored to Northwestern's Princeton-style offense. His long arms and soft touch allow him to pull down and finish the numerous lob passes he's thrown when he cuts to the basket and exploit the mismatches he sees in the post. A gifted catch and shoot threat, Shurna attempted 6.5 3-pointers per-game last season, converting 35.5% of them. He has an extremely quick release, little wasted motion in his mechanics, and his size gives him the extra space he needs to get his shot off with a hand in his face. His experience in the Princeton offense make him adept at moving without the ball and operating off of screens, but on top of that, he shows a tremendous feel for the game offensively.

The question is how those skills will translate to the next level. Capitalizing on smaller defenders and creating very little off the dribble, Shurna's lack of great leaping ability and strength suggest that he won't enjoy the same success as a finisher on the NBA level, making his jump shooting that much more important. While he shot a respectable percentage from three last season, Shurna's ability to emerge as a top-flight 40+% marksman could improve his NBA stock considerably. He has a great basketball IQ and work ethic, but questions about his athleticism and defensive potential could predispose him to being considered a one-dimensional stretch-four.

Defensively, Shurna proves to be highly competitive, and his length allows him to effectively contest shots out on the perimeter. However, his lateral quickness limits his ability to deny penetration and his lack of physical strength would make him a target for NBA-caliber athletes in the post. While he may not have the tools to be a great one-on-one NBA defender, he's a highly coachable player on all accounts, shows outstanding discipline, and has the timing to make plays from time to time.

Unfortunately Shurna's activity level does not translate to the glass, as he rates as one of the worst rebounding power forward prospects in college basketball. This is surely something he will need to improve on.

Heading into his junior season, Shurna has come a long way in a short period of time. He wasn't a heralded recruit, but ranked as one of the most productive players in his class last season. That said, he still has some things to work on to legitimize his candidacy for the NBA draft. If he can add some weight to his frame, become more consistent both off the catch and off the dribble, and continue to play at a high level, he should garner some buzz down the road.

#13 Jon Leuer, 6'10, PF/C, Senior, Wisconsin
15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 52% FG, 72% FT, 39% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Coming off a breakout season in which he led the Badgers in scoring, nearly doubling his previous season's output, Jon Leuer brings an intriguing set of skills the table for a player his size. A 6'10 big man with a smooth perimeter game, Leuer is a very tough matchup at the college level and a big reason for Wisconsin's potent offensive attack.

From a physical standpoint, while Leuer has good height for a PF/C, he doesn't have ideal strength and overall size, and he seems to lack the frame to add significantly more upper body mass. Athletically, he has very high levels of coordination and mobility for someone his size, though he's certainly a below average athlete by NBA standards all things considered, lacking in explosiveness both with his first step and vertical leap. While he probably can improve some in these areas, most notably by working on his lower body strength, this isn't an area that's likely to be a strength for him in the future.

On the offensive end, Leuer is an extremely effective and efficient college player with a large variety of skills, being able to beat his opposition equally well inside and out. According to Synergy Sports Technology, his 1.09 points per possession rank in the 95th percentile of all college players, and in watching him play it's easy to see why. Possessing an extremely high basketball IQ, Leuer makes outstanding decisions with the ball, nearly never turning it over, as evidenced by his ridiculously low 0.08 turnovers per possession, second lowest of any player in our entire database.

While Leuer does most of his damage with his back-to-the-basket at the college level, his perimeter game is most intriguing from an NBA standpoint, as there are multiple concerns projecting his post game to the pros. Leuer has outstanding footwork, a great touch, and a nice array of hook shots and turnaround jumpers in the post, but his lack of strength prevents him from establishing great position and his lack of explosiveness prevents him from getting good separation against long, athletic defenders, leading him to rely heavily on fadeaway shots when matched with NBA-caliber defenders.

On the perimeter, Leuer combines a deadly jump shot with surprisingly adept ball-handling abilities, making him a multi-dimensional threat with the ball in his hands. As a shooter, Leuer possesses excellent form with a high and quick release, having range to the college three-point line and the ability to hit shots equally well pulling up off the dribble and moving from side to side. While Leuer shot a strong 39.1% from three-point range this season, he did so on only 1.8 attempts per game, though this is certainly something he will want to make a more prominent facet of his game going forward, as it is a skill that will translate very well to the next level and is something that is often in high demand for players his size.

In terms of creating his own shot off the dribble, Leuer does a very good job at the college level, having short, confident dribbles with both hands and a good command of some advanced moves such as crossovers and spins. He moves very nimbly for someone his size and is very capable of pulling up out of his moves into jumpers and floaters, though his ability to get separation is sometimes underwhelming, as he often relies on hitting high difficulty shots with a hand in his face (which he does well), something that may not work nearly as well at the next level.

Defensively, Leuer has a great fundamental base and approach to the game in general, showing a high motor and awareness level in all areas. His lateral quickness on the perimeter is not great, but he makes up for it somewhat by always being in position and keeping his feet moving. In the post, despite showing great fundamentals, his lack of lower body strength leads to problems with holding position, while he's also prone to being shot over and beat laterally. Considering the quality of post players he'd see in the NBA are considerably high than those he sees in college, this area is a major cause for concern. On the positive side, he never gives up on plays and does a good job making rotations and staying involved, though his underwhelming physical attributes hold him back in some areas, namely rebounding, where he pulls in just 9.0 per 40 minutes pace adjusted, well below average among PF/C in our database.

Looking forward, while Leuer has a very intriguing skill set, good size, and excellent intangibles, there are some question marks in how his game will translate to the NBA, along with what position he'd play and defend. Maximizing his physical abilities and continuing to develop his overall perimeter game (specifically his three-point shot) should be among his priorities, while stepping up his rebounding also would certainly help. As of now, Leuer isn't projected to be drafted, but with a strong senior season he could certainly be in second round discussions, and finding an eventual niche in the NBA is certainly possible, even if it may require some significant adjustments to his game.

#14 D.J. Richardson, 6-3, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Illinois
10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 40% FG, 78% FT, 39% 3P

Jonathan Givony

Playing 31 minutes per game for Bruce Weber at Illinois, D.J. Richardson was one of the most valuable freshmen in the Big 10 last season. Not a big time scorer, but rather more of an offensive facilitator, defender and shooting specialist, Richardson showed unique poise and maturity considering his young age.

57% of Richardson's shots came from beyond the arc, which tells you quite a bit about his role for Illinois offensively. He made an excellent 39% of those attempts, giving him a nice framework to build off as he moves forward in his career. He does a good job moving off the ball and coming off screens, and is very dangerous when able to get a shot off with his feet set.

Richardson is not a particularly impressive physical specimen, as he's somewhat undersized for a shooting guard at 6-3, and doesn't possess a great frame or overwhelming athleticism to compensate for that. He struggles taking contact around the basket, lacking strength and explosiveness, and is not very efficient at all scoring inside the arc, posting a very poor 41% conversion percentage from 2-point range, and getting to the free throw line at an unimpressive rate.

With that said, Richardson is a very intelligent guard who understands his role offensively and managed to string together a positive assist to turnover ratio as a freshman. He moves the ball around nicely, rarely forces the issue, and seems to be a highly unselfish player who is always willing to make the extra pass.

Richardson is very effective as a spot-up shooter, but he is not quite as effective when forced to create for himself off the bounce. If he wants to show that he's capable of making the transition to playing the combo guard, he'll need to show that he can be a little more effective in pick and roll and one on one situations. Similarly, he could stand to improve his off the dribble jumper.

Defensively, Richardson had some impressive moments as a freshman, showing great smarts and fundamentals staying in front of his matchups, and maintaining a high intensity level on virtually every possession he played.

With that said, he has some limitations, as he often gives a couple of inches in height to wing players he matches up with in the Big 10, and doesn't always have the length, strength or explosiveness to compensate for that. He's a poor rebounder for those exact reasons, pulling down a meager 3.4 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, playing on a team that was hardly known for its rebounding ability.

Richardson does not project as a high-level NBA prospect at the moment due to the concerns over his limited physical attributes and shot-creating ability and the question marks about his true position. Only a freshman, Richardson still has plenty of time to round out his all-around game and prove his mettle as a terrific role-player who can operate effectively in a system as a rotation piece. It might take him a few years, but there is definitely room at the highest levels of pro basketball for smart, skilled and versatile guards who understand how to play the game, which is exactly what Richardson is.

#15 Talor Battle, 5-11, Senior, Point Guard, Penn State
18.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 42% FG, 71% FT, 35% 3P

Walker Beeken

Following a strong junior season as the Big 10's second leading scorer at 18.5 ppg, Penn State's Talor Battle put his name in to make himself eligible for 2010 NBA Draft. After testing the waters and garnering little interest from NBA teams, Battle ultimately decided to return to Penn State for his senior season, where he'll look to help the Nittany Lions improve from a dismal 3-15 record in the Big Ten in 2009-2010, and also give himself one last chance to showcase his game for NBA scouts.

Battle played over 37 minutes per game last season, and the Nittany Lions relied heavily on his abilities on the offensive end. His biggest strength is clearly his shooting ability, which he utilizes to open up the rest of his game. Playing the point guard position with a scorer's mentality, Battle is able to create opportunities off the dribble for himself and others, as defenders are forced to honor the deep range and quick release on his jump shot. He is effective shooting off the catch and either direction off the dribble, and he's learned how to find ways to create space to get his shot off, despite his lack of height and the fact that he is the primary focus of opposing team's defense at Penn State. This would likely be much more difficult for him at the NBA level though, against taller, longer, more athletic defenders.

As we've mentioned before, Battle isn't a prototypical pass-first point guard, but he does display the ability and willingness to distribute the ball to the open man. And although he tends to force some turnovers when he gets into the lane on dribble penetration, he excels at finding his teammates on drive-and-kick situations, and he generally displays good decision making skills, as evidenced by a solid 1.79 to 1 assist to turnover ratio.

From a physical standpoint, Battle lacks the attributes that scouts like to see from an NBA point guard prospect. Standing at 5'11 with a decent frame, he doesn't possess the elite speed or explosiveness of most players his size that have been able to succeed at the NBA level. While he does display a fairly quick first step, which enables him to get into the lane off the dribble, his lack of size and great elevation often leads to poor decisions in traffic. He does display craftiness and sense of how to draw contract when attacking the basket, but he must learn to operate more efficiently in the lane.

Battle's lack of physical tools limits his effectiveness on the defensive end as well. His average lateral quickness often leads to getting beat by his man off the dribble, and his lack of size and length would surely be a bigger issue in the NBA, trying to contest shots and defend dribble penetration.

When evaluating Battle's prospects of playing in the NBA after this season, he is most likely a long-shot, due to the disadvantages he would face from a physical and athletic standpoint in the NBA at the point guard position. His top notch shooting ability and solid feel for the game should no doubt earn him some looks though, and at least give him the opportunity to make a nice living playing basketball overseas.

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