NBA Draft Stock Watch: Maui Invitational

NBA Draft Stock Watch: Maui Invitational
Nov 28, 2005, 03:48 am
An incredibly deep and talented field of teams and players at the Maui Invitational this past week provided us with a fantastic opportunity to evaluate some of the most intriguing NBA draft prospects in the country in a neutral setting against outstanding competition. While no one gets drafted based solely off how they played in November, this was a great chance to get an early read on the improvement or lack thereof made by the many excellent prospects in attendance here over the summer. Players here got a great chance to show their stuff to some of the most important decision makers in the NBA. Most of them capitalized, but some didn’t.

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

Stock Up:

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


Jonathan Givony

Ager could very well be the one player who raised his stock more than anyone here in Maui. The beat writers who vote for the All Big Ten team decided that Ager wasn't worthy of being mentioned, but DraftExpress disagreed with that notion and named him our preseason Big Ten conference player of the year, as well as the #1 NBA draft prospect in the conference. Ager certainly showed the country who was wrong on that one in Maui, carrying the Spartans offensively and defensively in all three games here and generally looking like a true NCAA star that is ready to bust out this year as one of the top players in the entire country. He showed terrific strength and athleticism time after time slashing to the basket, finishing alley-oops, blocking shots and doing a great job disrupting whoever he was guarding. His perimeter stroke was on all tournament long, knocking down three pointers from well beyond the arc with his feet set or off the dribble.

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


Jonathan Givony

Finally the nation got a taste of what we've been seeing since his freshman year--the all-around skills that make Brewer such an outstanding basketball player and a strong lottery prospect for this year’s NBA draft.

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. It’s quite foolish for the so called experts to question why he didn’t 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 doesn’t 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 Morrison’s 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

J.L. Weill

Though Davis has seemingly been in East Lansing since the Carter administration, he seems to be finally putting all his abilities together. The Michigan State big was fantastic in scoring 26 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a game effort against Gonzaga in the Maui semis. Most importantly, Davis was dictating the action and taking the team on his back, something that has eluded him at times in the past. Tom Izzo singled out Davis' 53 minutes (of 55 possible) against the 'Zags, calling it perhaps the kid's best game as a Spartan. After wearing the weight of two years of "next Laettner" press, the quiet Davis looked like his own man in Hawaii, and could be on his way to a solid first-round look. Always a nice shooter for a big man, particularly from 14-16 feet out, Davis was equally effective in transition and in the paint in three Maui games, holding his own against the best Arizona and Gonzaga had to offer. He showed great strides in his game by taking the ball up strong to the hoop time after time and making his way to the line 8 times per game, nailing a spectacular 92% of his attempts while there. Defensively, Davis has been taught well by Izzo & Co., bullying his way into position on the blocks and keeping the opposition from owning the lane. Though his blocks numbers aren't huge, he was timely with them, and there's no doubt his above-average coordination and conditioning will be attractive to potential suitors come draft night. So far there have been two scouting reports that have been written about Paul Davis, one for when he is focused, motivated and playing up to his potential, and one when he is not. How consistent Davis can be in his effort and mental approach throughout his senior year will dictate which one NBA general managers will remember on draft night. His stock fluctuates from being a late lottery pick to an early 2nd rounder depending on who you ask right now and which games they've seen of him.

Hilton Armstrong, 6-11, senior, center, Connecticut

8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2.3 blocks, 1 turnover, 60% FG, 67% FT


Jonathan Givony

Anytime a long and athletic 6-11 big man strings together a couple of nice plays and makes his presence felt on both ends of the floor semi-consistently against high-level competition, you have to take notice. When that player plays for arguably the best team in the country, its almost impossible not to. It’s been a long time coming for Hilton Armstrong, and it finally appears that he’s physically and mentally ready to make the type of impact that many expected him to in his senior year.

Armstrong looked particularly good rebounding the ball, playing good defense and getting to the line in UConn’s 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, that’s 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. He’s 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

Jonathan Watters

Kaun came into the season as somewhat of a question mark, after a freshman season at Kansas in which he played a minor role. With Wayne Simien graduated, that has changed. Kaun began the season with a 25 point, 16 rebound explosion at Idaho State, and continued to exhibit an intriguing package of skill and size at the Maui Invitational.

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

Jonathan Givony

Judging by his body and raw skill-set, it’s certainly too early to start talking about true freshman Marcus Williams as an NBA draft prospect. Considering his attitude and the difference he made for his team, though, he probably deserves at least a mention for what he brought the Wildcats in the minutes they were forced to feed off him with the disappointing way their upperclassmen were performing. Williams used his long arms and quick feet to play outstanding defense on whoever he was unleashed against, with Michigan State’s PG Drew Neitzel suffering the most from his efforts. Williams showed good shot selection (a rarity on this Arizona squad), nice passing ability and excellent off the ball-movement to free himself up for easy shots or dunks in transition and half-court sets. Going 0-7 from the free throw line is almost inexcusable for a guard playing at any level, but considering the attitude he showed in Maui, its fair to assume that Williams will be working extra hard on this part of his game.

Stock Neutral:

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


Jonathan Givony

It's usually not a great idea to jump to any kind of conclusions regarding the way a freshman player performs in his first few NCAA contests, but it can certainly be said that Brandon Rush played up to expectations and even exceeded them to a certain extent considering the type of matchups he was going up against (e.g Hassan Adams, Ronnie Brewer) at such an early point of his college basketball career.

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 Gay’s 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

Rodger Bohn

While this former McDonald's All American was forced to play second fiddle to Maurice Ager in Maui, he still wound up having a very nice tournament for himself. It has been known for ages that Brown is an explosive, world class athlete who has the ability to dunk on anyone, but he is really starting to show more of an all around game this year. The Michigan State junior has looked much more comfortable on the perimeter creating his own shot, and has shown improved ball distribution skills for the Spartans. Shannon really showed that he can be counted on as a legitimate complimentary player this year, as he came through big in the scoring department for MSU when they needed him most. The two biggest obstacles that Brown has to overcome are his size (6'3, 6'4 tops) and his lack of ball handling skills, which to his defense, are vastly improved from last year, but still not up to par to make the jump to the next level. While Shannon is able to make up for his lack of size with his great wingspan and gigantic hands, he is really going to have to find a position to solidify himself as a first round pick in the draft, and sticking around for his senior year in East Lansing could really help him do that.

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


Jonathan Givony

Being one of the most important players on possibly the most talented team in the country is a surefire way to get attention from NBA scouts, but from what we’ve seen of Brown this season and over the past three years playing for UConn, it’s not really clear how much that is going to help.

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 anyone’s 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 UConn’s trio of Gay/Boone/Armstrong is, you’d 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

Rodger Bohn

The 2005 Draft early entrant really turned a lot of heads in his three games at Maui, showing that he is much more then just the serviceable scoring option off of the bench that he was in his first three years in college. While his shot selection was truly horrendous at Maui, Rodgers showed nice size (6'4) and amazing defensive ability for a point guard prospect. Any time that Arizona needed a stop on the defensive end, they sent Chris out to take care of the task, which he did very well. Aside from his defense, Rodgers showed the ability to score on absolutely anyone in the country and actually did a solid job of distributing the ball to his teammates when open. The biggest obstacle for the Portland native to overcome is his aforementioned shot selection and decision making. If he is able to improve upon this along with continuing to gain comfort running a team, we will have a legitimate draft prospect on our hands. If not, he will find himself toiling amongst many other American combo guards with little to no understanding of the team game in Europe.

Stock Down:

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

Jonathan Givony

All in all a very disappointing effort for UConn's hustling big man. Offensively he was a complete non-factor despite being matched up with players that he had the ability to dominate inside with his size, length and athleticism. Boone looked extremely content for the most part doing his work on defensively and on the glass and letting UConn's other talented cogs shoulder the offensive load. It's unclear how much his summer injuries have hampered him, but the Huskies will surely need him to do a better job accross the board once they enter conference play in the revamped Big East. The Huskies would be well served to make sure their big man gets the ball inside more as well. Right now Boone is still living off the hype he created for himself with outstanding performances in the first half of the season last year, but has looked nothing like a top 10 or lottery pick since then. Both Boone and UConn's coaching staff contend that he could very well stay in Storrs another year, because that's just the kind of guy he is.

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


Jonathan Givony

Hassan Adams helped his overall stat-line considerably by putting up 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals in Arizona's overtime loss in the final game against Michigan State, but the damage he did himself in the first two games at Maui would be a little bit too much to overcome that quickly. Adams, like Arizona's entire group of street-ballers, was forcing terrible shots left and right showing absolutely no conscience ignoring open teammates or the fact that there is a man right in his face and 25 seconds left on the shot clock. This is precisely the kind of foolish play that we were hoping to see Adams overcome as a senior, as he appeared to have turned the corner last March in the NCAA tournament.

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

Jonathan Givony

Thank god for Chaminade is all Caner-Medley has to be thinking after looking over the stat-line he put up in Maui. Take out his 16 points and 8 rebounds on 6-8 FG against the local Division 2 school hosting this tournament and you will truly understand just how poor Caner-Medley played at this tournament. The fact that his shot wasn't falling for him this time is something that can be excused, but the soft and passive manner in which he played is something that will likely stick in the heads of every NBA scout that saw him play here in Maui. Caner-Medley did a very poor job trying to attack the defenses by putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the hoop, looking slow and hesitant every time he did. As the player that was expected to be their go-to player on the offensive end in his senior year, Caner-Medley did a terrible job stepping up to the plate and providing Maryland with any of the help that they sorely needed going up against the likes of Adam Morrison and Ronnie Brewer. Luckily for him it’s only November, but this is hardly the first time we’ve seen Caner-Medley play like this.

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