NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (Elite Eight, Sunday games)

NCAA Tournament: NBA Draft Stock Watch (Elite Eight, Sunday games)
Mar 27, 2007, 11:26 am
NCAA Tournament Archive

Stock Up:

Roy Hibbert, 7-2, Junior, Center, Georgetown
13 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 assists, 1 turnover, 6-10 FG, 1-1 FT


Jonathan Givony

Although the stats might not indicate it, Roy Hibbert played arguably his most impressive game in a Georgetown uniform, on the most important stage he’s been on in his young career so far.

Considering how he dominated the game for nearly every minute he was on the floor, it’s almost shocking to see him end up with only 13 points. He did everything Georgetown could have asked from him, and did so while being matched up against two very highly regarded NBA prospects in Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough.

At times, it looked like Hibbert was just toying with those who were on the floor with him. He started off the game on a complete blitz, coming up with 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the first 10 minutes, but having to go to the bench at that point with his second foul. He started to game off with a gorgeous pass over the top of his head to a slashing teammate, and then absolutely wowed by creating his own shot off the dribble from the perimeter and spinning gracefully into the paint for a layup, an incredible move for a 7-2 player. He grabbed offensive rebounds right underneath the rim, sometimes flat-footed, and showed deceptive quickness going out of his area as well.

Hibbert was about as aggressive calling for the ball as we’ve seen him, moving from side to side constantly, setting picks, and establishing deadly position around the basket to finish automatically with his jump-hook or drop-step. When double teams came, he reacted instantaneously, for example by dropping off a perfectly timed back-door bounce pass right into the hands of a cutting teammate for a simple lay-up.

If this game showed us anything, it’s how far along Hibbert’s coordination and instincts have come since we first started seriously evaluating him as an NBA draft prospect. His reaction time has become superb these days—for a 7-2 player at least—and that came out first and foremost in the defense he played against North Carolina. On numerous occasions he had less than a split-second to react to a surprising offensive rebound that took a strange bounce off the rim or a drop-off from Ty Lawson right into the hands of one of his post players. Hibbert didn’t hesitate for a second, showing terrific hands snatching up loose balls and sticking his hands in all the right places to come up with a career high 6 blocks. When he grabbed an offensive rebound, he didn’t need any time to gather himself, going straight back to finish strong the way you’d expect a big man his size to.

Much to the dismay of the Georgetown bench, Hibbert was called for his third foul about a minute into the 2nd half. This kept him off the floor for long stretches, and he only ended up scoring his first basket of the half with 4:15 left to go in the 2nd half. 30 seconds later, he already had his fourth foul, although he would continue to play and play well for big chunks of the rest of the game, including overtime.

In the end, it didn’t really matter, as Hibbert showed the NBA executives in attendance all they needed to see. NBA referees don’t call the kind of ticky-tack fouls that college refs seem to be infatuated with, so one day we might look forward to seeing a player like Hibbert being rewarded for his aggressiveness rather than sent to the bench. This is really the only thing that can ruin this upcoming week’s matchup between Hibbert and Oden…the over-exuberance of the stripes.

Jeff Green, 6-8, Junior, SF/PF, Georgetown
22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 10-17 FG, 1-1 3P, 1-3 FT


Jonathan Watters

Green isn’t known as your prototypical go-to scorer, so when a player this versatile and well-rounded goes out and scores 22 clutch points in the most important game of his career, it is certainly going to make waves with the scouts. This wasn’t a performance that will change the general perception of what Green can do at the next level, but further cements the idea that he has come a long way since last season.

There was little Green didn’t do on the court on Sunday afternoon, as he accomplished whatever he wanted whenever he wanted against a defender in Brandan Wright that clearly wasn’t prepared for the type of versatility Green brings to the table. It took him a while to heat up, clanking a couple of early shots and committing an ugly ball-handling miscue. But as the game wore on, the junior kept at it. He began to occasionally burn Wright on back-cuts, or find a lane to the basket in the open court. By the time the second half rolled around, Green was pouring in points the old fashioned way – with his back to the basket. While the moves he displays are far from refined, besides his jump-hook, the touch is soft and he correctly identified that the skinny Wright did not want to start banging bodies with him.

His fallaway from the mid-post over the fully extended Wright put Georgetown up by 6 with 2 minutes to go in the lopsided OT session, essentially sealing the deal for the Hoyas. This was Green’s most impressive move of the night, probably the only two points he created all night that would have caught the eye of a scout without the rest of his play to go along with it. He does a great job of not forcing the action, but still threw up a handful of ugly shots when attempting to get fancy on the perimeter. But Green can do so many things well on the offensive end and does such a great job of recognizing what the defense is giving him that most teams are likely to look past the fact that he probably won’t be true shot-creator at the next level.

While Jeff Green’s stock has been steadily on the rise since the beginning of the season, the tournament has undoubtedly helped even more. Not only is he showing that he can score at a high level on a consistent basis, but he is also making clutch plays when the game is on the line. Green should really be able to show off his craft against an Ohio State team that has no ideal defensive matchup for him.

Taurean Green, 6-0, Junior, Point Guard, Florida
21 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 5-12 FG, 4-8 3P, 7-10 FT

Jonathan Givony

The good news for Florida is that Taurean Green has gotten better and better with each NCAA tournament game that they’ve played in, despite again getting off to a shaky start. The Gators committed 9 turnovers in 10 minutes to start off the game, and seemed to lack any real offensive rhythm in their half-court sets. Eventually Green settled in, and him and Lee Humphrey put on a shooting clinic to score 24 of Florida’s 40 first half points.

Green showed off his entire package as a perimeter shooter, whether it was coming off screens, spotting up off the dribble, creating his own shot, or just spotting up on the wing from a pass from one of his terrific big men. He got to the basket a few times as well utilizing his quickness, pushed the tempo in transition when the opportunity presented itself, and generally seemed to do a solid job running Florida’s offense outside of the first 10 minutes or so.

Defensively he did an outstanding job, mostly on Tajuan Porter, but also in stretches on Aaron Brooks. Green still took a couple of head-scratching shots from time to time, but it’s pretty definite that Billy Donovan would not mind him replicating the game he had versus Oregon against UCLA.

Malik Hairston, 6’6, junior, SG/SF, Oregon

18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 2 steals, 7-13 FG’s, 4-4 FT’s, 0-1 3-PT

Jonathan Watters

In one of the more unique situational matchups of the tournament thus far, Florida’s Joakim Noah and Al Horford took turns guarding Oregon wing Malik Hairston. With a lack of bodies in the frontcourt, Ernie Kent found much success this season going with four perimeter players, and that left Hairston often matched up with opposing big men. The Michigan native is clearly comfortable in the role, as he did a great job of pulling a Florida big man away from the basket and finding a lane before other defenders could react. Aaron Brooks may have been the big scorer for Oregon today, but it was when Hairston was at his best that the Ducks looked like they might have a chance to pull off the upset.

It isn’t as if we didn’t know Hairston was capable of an effort like this, as his somewhat underwhelming career numbers are more a product of a deep backcourt and a passive nature than anything to do with his skill set. Hairston is a superb slasher, capable of breaking down a defense in a variety of ways. He utilizes a fantastic midrange jumper, which will keep defenders just honest enough for him to get a step to the basket on a slashing move. Hairston does a great job of recognizing what the defense is giving him, and taking advantage of it. He is far from explosive, but makes up for it with a patient style of play that makes him a great teammate.

Hairston’s NBA potential is somewhat murky at the moment, because while the junior has made strides with his jumper, he has actually put on some bulk since arriving on the west coast. He moves very much like a small forward, and needs to shed some mass if he wants to make it on the next level. This could happen with a summer of hard work, but even then he will need to get more consistent with his 3-point shot and improve a surprisingly inconsistent free throw stroke. Nonetheless, this was the type of game that reminds us the kind of potential Malik Hairston possesses. It is now his task to become a leader in the absence of Aaron Brooks, and emerge as Oregon’s go-to scorer. The tools have always been there. But does he have the mentality?

Aaron Brooks, 5-11, Senior, PG/SG, Oregon
27 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 11-19 FG, 3-6 3P

Jonathan Givony

The main reason Oregon managed to stay in this game for as long as they did was the play of their prolific combo guard Aaron Brooks. Malik Hairston carried the Ducks early on, but once Brooks got going, he was nearly impossible to contain for the Florida defense.

As the Gators quickly found out, Brooks is about as pure a scorer as you’ll find. His release is lightning quick and his range extends out to the NBA 3-point line, meaning his shot needs to be respected if you don’t want to get burned. The problem is, he’s also a terrific ball-handler with a phenomenal first step and exquisite body control, meaning you really just have to pick your poison when trying to defend him. Once he gets into the paint, don’t let his tiny stature mislead you. He has absolutely no fear of taking the ball at the hoop with reckless abandon, challenging shot-blockers along the way and finding ways to score instinctively off the glass.

What really hurts Brooks is that at times he just doesn’t even consider that fact that he has four other teammates on his squad that might also want to touch the ball once every couple of possessions. Even when he’s being well defended, he lowers his shoulder and just tries to make something out of nothing, which results in some awful shots that often lead to transition buckets on the other end. All too often he just brings the ball up the floor and jacks up a shot with 28 seconds left on the shot-clock, before his coach has even managed to get his hand in the air to try and call a play. In the Turkish or Israeli league they’ll probably love him for that, but in the NBA he’s just not anywhere near good enough to have that kind of mentality.

Brooks dominated the ball for Oregon, even though Ernie Kent made sure to let Tajuan Porter bring it up the floor and actually try to run some half-court offense before his very effective one-man show was unleashed. He used nearly 50% more possessions than any other player, but scored fairly efficiently this time around. With Oregon in foul trouble and no one else really stepping up, Brooks really kept them in the game for large stretches. At some point, though, Florida caught on, deciding to funnel him into their shot-blockers where Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and even Corey Brewer awaited. Brooks is quick, but he’s still only around 5-11 at best, so he’s going to struggle going up against NBA caliber shot-blockers like he faced against Florida.

How much Brooks helped himself with this game is somewhat debatable. He showed that he can score at will while ignoring his teammates and settling for bad shots (that tonight went in), but he didn’t show anything resembling point guard skills, despite his four assists. He also could not contain either of the players he was trying to defend in Lee Humphrey or Taurean Green, giving up almost just as many points as he was scoring himself. If he lands on the right team (Golden State for example) he will probably be fine, but not many NBA coaches will put up with his style of play

Stock Neutral:

Joakim Noah, 6’11, Junior, PF, Florida
14 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 4-9 FG, 6-7 FT


Jonathan Watters

Joakim Noah has taken a lot of flack recently for his decision to head back to school despite being the likely top selection in the 2006 Draft, as well as the fact that there have been few visible improvements to his game since he lead the Gators to the title last spring. There is no doubt that Noah cost himself some money, and while today’s performance wasn’t the type that will put Noah back in the top 5 overnight, it was nice to see that the fire he played with last March still exists.

This was the Noah we remember from last March, seemingly everywhere on the court – intense, reckless, and demonstrative. From nearly the opening tap, Noah’s presence could be felt in this game. Oregon’s smaller front line really didn’t have a chance, with the junior gaining good position in the post without much trouble at all. While his court awareness in the mid post was as superb as usual, he did have a bit of trouble finishing in this one. But his size advantage was a bit too much for Maarty Luenen and company to handle, so while Noah finished with just 4 field goals, he did get to the line 7 times.

Like normal, Noah’s level of impact doesn’t exactly show up in the stat sheet. The 14 rebounds in 30 minutes do look impressive, but doesn’t truly represent just how dominant he was on the boards. He relentlessly attacked the glass the entire game, with at least a half dozen of his rebounds pulled in on sheer hustle. Noah made numerous crucial hustle plays down the stretch, from an emphatic blocked shot to a near-miraculous offensive rebound that two Ducks should have had no trouble corralling. It was these types of plays that kept Florida’s lead at a comfortable margin most of the stretch run, and deflated the spirit of a very dangerous Oregon team.

It is hard to say whether or not this game affected Joakim Noah’s draft stock all that much. He was certainly back to being Florida’s blue-collar MVP, contributing in areas as diverse as shot blocking, open court ball-handling, back to the basket offense, and guarding Oregon wing Malik Hairston. He is going to be an elite rebounder in the NBA, there is little doubting this. But the Duck frontcourt was clearly overmatched in this one, and the questions about Noah’s frame and polish remain. These types of gutsy outings are what made Joakim Noah an elite prospect in the first place, and another pair would not only likely garner another championship, but also ease the minds of many scouts who may have been concerned by the lack of improvement.

Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, North Carolina
26 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover, 6-15 FG, 14-16 FT

Jonathan Givony

If there’s one player North Carolina fans can’t question for the effort he put in, it’s Tyler Hansbrough. He was really the only one who showed up for them in this game, doing yeomen’s work down low and making sure that Roy Hibbert spent as much time as possible on the bench in foul trouble.

Hansbrough was the reason this game looked so comfortable for the Heels to start out with. He scored 10 points in the first 4 minutes, getting to the free throw line at will and pulling down offensive rebounds by the bushel. He hit a baseline jumper from about 15 feet out, but then missed his next three attempts from mid-range, once of which did not even draw iron. It was pretty clear that Roy Williams wanted to force Hibbert to guard Hansbrough out on the perimeter to open up room for his slashers to operate, but that plan backfired as Georgetown’s team defense rotated well and the shots just didn’t fall for the Heels at all, from anywhere on the court.

With that plan obviously scrapped, Hansbrough went back to what he does best—scoring with his back to the basket. He hit a couple of nice shots and continued to get to the free throw line and knock down his shots, but Hibbert’s size and length really began to take a toll on him down the stretch, forcing him into some difficult shots that he probably would have preferred not to have taken.

The last 15 minutes of this game were pretty forgettable for Hansbrough as they were for the entire North Carolina squad, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort on his part.

Brandan Wright, 6’9, freshman, PF, North Carolina
14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 4-8 FG, 6-6 FT

Jonathan Watters

In what is usually the case for Roy Williams’ supremely talented youngster, Brandan Wright once again showed flashes of downright amazing ability against Georgetown this afternoon. In addition to the usual assortment of athletic dunks, rebounds and fast break exploits, Wright showed off immense offensive skill in specific moments. But at the same time, there were also rough patches. He struggled to finish several times in the second half, and couldn’t contain Jeff Green to save his life.

As far as the offense goes, of course we are talking about the pair of jump hook-half floater moves that were nothing short of NBA-caliber. With Wright’s wingspan, body control and athleticism, such as shot is virtually impossible to block, no matter which league Wright is playing in. Even more impressive was the touch with which he finished the scores, something that he has struggled with for most of the season. It was certainly Wright’s night in the shooting department, as the sub-par free throw shooter managed to convert all 6 of his attempts at the charity stripe. Simply put, if Wright can become more consistent with these types of moves, it won’t be long before he is proving right all those that have compared him to Chris Bosh.

But as the game wore on, Wright seemed to lose his edge. His length and athleticism stopped appearing on the offensive glass and in the open court, while he struggled to finish against physical Georgetown defenders. But the real problem came on the defensive end, where Green abused him in pretty much every imaginable manner. Whether it was poor awareness that led to backdoor cuts and easy points, a lack of foot speed on the perimeter, and absolutely no physical intensity or toughness, Wright basically let Green do what he wanted for most of the game. This is particularly disappointing to see from a player with such immense raw potential on the defensive end.

While Wright certainly has his rough edges and must put on a significant amount of weight before he is ready to be an NBA big timer, it was a productive season for the Tennessee product. His ability to finish at the rim was a big part of why the Tar Heels were able to come back against USC, but this afternoon he faded away down the stretch. Needless to say, Brandan Wright has a very tough decision ahead of him. Could he turn an almost certain spot in the top 5 and return to Chapel Hill to further polish up a few of his weaknesses?

Al Horford, 6’9, Junior, Power Forward, Florida
6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, 1-3 FG, 4-8 FT

Jonathan Watters

It wasn’t a banner day for the quickly rising junior, but Horford did enough against Oregon to keep his name in the neutral section. With Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green hitting from the outside, his post offense wasn’t a necessity today, and Horford must be given credit for his willingness not to force the issue. While he didn’t show any particular amount of skill, his strength and athleticism absolutely overwhelmed the Oregon frontcourt. He did a great job of attacking the glass, and it is impossible not to be impressed with Horford’s powerful athleticism around the rim. He came up with a couple of emphatic blocks, and did his usual superb job on the defensive end.

People won’t’ remember much of Horford from this game, but he plays on a deep team with several other options that happened to be blazing hot this afternoon. The Junior’s natural tools are immense, and it appears that this is one player who did make the right decision in returning to school. His powerful presence will be very much required against UCLA.

Stock Down:

Ty Lawson, 5-11, Freshman, Point Guard, North Carolina
5 points, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 2-9 FG, 1-4 3P


Jonathan Givony

If one were to evaluate where things went wrong in the monumental collapse North Carolina suffered over the last 10 minutes of regulation and 5 minutes of overtime, a good place to start would probably be with their freshman point guard. The Heels shot an incredible 1/23 from the field over the last 15 minutes of the game, only to see Lawson hit a meaningless 3-pointer with the clock running out in overtime and UNC down by 14 points. Their swingman package of Wayne Ellington, Reyshawn Terry and Danny Green could not hit the side of the barn almost throughout this game—shooting 6-30 from the field—which obviously didn’t help matters much, but it would have been nice to see Lawson showing more leadership skills as his team absolutely fell apart.

Even beyond the pitiful display North Carolina closed out the game with, Lawson never really got into his groove here. He looked extremely hesitant throughout, afraid to take responsibilities, afraid to make a mistake, and not patient at all against Georgetown’s half-court defense. After starting off the tournament red-hot from behind the arc, his perimeter shooting came back down to earth, hitting only 1 of his last 7 attempts from this range. A 5-11 guy shooting flat-footed 3’s might work sometimes at the collegiate level, but against longer and athletic defenses (not even thinking about the NBA), that just isn’t going to fly. He’s going to have to improve his perimeter shot greatly to come anywhere close to reaching his full potential as a slasher, and that means changing up his shooting mechanics all together most likely.

Lawson can get into the lane as well as anyone at the NCAA level, but in this game he didn’t quite know what to do once he was there. He must develop better tools to finish around the basket to compensate for his height, whether it’s a capable floater, a pull-up jumper from mid-range, or preferably both. Being able to do neither right now, he is too reliant on his (superb) court vision looking for risky passes in traffic. Sometimes that yield’s spectacular, highlight reel results, and sometimes that results in a turnover or convoluted offensive possession. In the few times he did try to score on his penetrations he either had his shot rejected or altered badly.

Lawson had his moments from time to time, the kind we’ve described numerous times his year already, but this will certainly not be a game he will want to remember in a few years from now. That shouldn’t make people forget what he accomplished during this entire season, but it does show us that he certainly still has a long ways to go before he’s ready to play heavy minutes in the NBA.

Corey Brewer, 6-9, Junior, Florida
14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 3-7 FG, 0-3 3P, 8-12 FT

Jonathan Givony

Florida continues to win and Corey Brewer continues to produce pretty good numbers, but yet, we don’t feel like he has helped himself in this tournament at all so far. How can that be?

Brewer looks like the odd man out in Florida’s offense. While everyone is moving the ball around the floor crisply and making extra the pass—almost to a fault—it always seems like the ball stops on in the hands of the small forward while he decides to take his team, the opponents and the crowd on a little offensive adventure. He’s shooting the ball way too much (2-13 from behind the arc over the last 3 games), dribbling the ball far too often (15 turnovers in the tournament), and not really making much of an effort at all to understand the flow of the game or how he might fit into it.

He’s still managing to show his incredible upside in a few plays or more every game—this seems to be the obvious intent—but it’s not quite clear why he’s picked now all of a sudden to try and show he’s someone he’s not. Still, Florida has needed his athleticism and “creativity” in their half-court offense consistently in the second half over the past few games, and Brewer has been the one to deliver for them, as well as with his free throw shooting in the clutch. His off-ball defense—needless to say—has been terrific as usual, coming up with big stops on both Oregon’s point guard Aaron Brooks and their defacto power forward Malik Hairston in the second half. He had a few very nice deflections and steals just off his length and activity level, as well as an incredible block to ice the game late.

Brewer has more enough upside to work his way into the lottery or even the top 10 when it’s all said and done through private workouts, but he’s not helping himself so far with the selfishness and poor feel for the game he’s showing in the NCAA tournament.

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