NCAA Tournament Performers, 4/1/08-- Part One

NCAA Tournament Performers, 4/1/08-- Part One
Apr 01, 2008, 02:18 am
Derrick Rose, 6-4, Freshman, Point Guard, Memphis
14.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 48% FG,35% 3P, 70% FT, 29 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Coming off two of the most impressive individual performances of the 2008 NCAA tournament, carrying his team on his back to the Final Four while showing a package of size and athleticism that is unheard of at the college level, there is very little doubt any more about just how good of a prospect Derrick Rose is. The only question at this point seems to be—just how good can he become down the road?

Rose has done everything humanly possible to make a case for himself to be considered the #1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. While just a few weeks ago it was virtually a guarantee that Michael Beasley would claim that spot, Rose has now, at the very least, given NBA GMs plenty to think about before deciding to pass him up. Depending on which team lands the top pick, and what their point guard situation looks like, it’s not ludicrous at all to suggest at this point that he might even be the one. Lucky for him, he still has one or two chances this upcoming week to continue to make his case, as the eyes of every NBA team will be squarely on him in the Final Four in San Antonio.

A lot has changed since the last time we evaluated Rose as a prospect. His assist to turnover ratio has gone from negative to a very solid 1.75/1, his shooting percentages are up, and he’s proven that he can absolutely physically overwhelm the player once considered to be the best point guard in college basketball in D.J. Augustin in their head to head matchup. Memphis deserves a lot of credit for the way they’ve worked with him, as there is no question from breaking down his film that he is a much better all-around player than he was 2-3 months ago.

Reading defenses and attacking his matchups more intelligently seems to be the place that Rose has improved the most. You no longer see him driving into the lane aimlessly at 180 miles an hour with no idea where he’s headed, which has helped him cut down substantially on his turnovers. His pull-up jumper from mid-range and right handed floater in the lane are two parts of his game that he seems to have vigorously on, and he looks extremely confident taking these shots rather than just relying on his freakish athleticism to bail him out in the lane. John Calipari’s offense instilled an incredibly aggressive scoring/slashing mentality in Rose from a very early point in the season, but he’s also learned how to use his extraordinary talent to finish plays with advanced moves that he will surely need in the NBA as well. The fact that he is not showing any type of hesitation executing these moves despite the gigantic stage he’s playing on truly hints at great things that are in store for him in the future.

Some may point to Rose’s relatively low assist totals and wonder why he isn’t doing a better job at getting people involved. While his court vision probably isn’t the best part of his game at this point, we need to keep in mind the type of offense (the dribble-drive motion) he plays in, which is just not conducive to racking up assists. Rather than play a typical pick and roll game like most team’s do Rose’s first goal in Memphis’ offense is to try and find a seam to the basket himself, and if he can’t do so, pitch the ball backwards to a teammate who puts the ball on the floor and thus by definition nullifies any chance for an assist. If Memphis had some better shooters around him, his assist totals would probably be higher, but since they don’t, they need to score in other ways, which they’ve been doing extraordinarily well. Rose has dished out 24 assists in four NCAA tournament games so far, with only 5 turnovers. He also added nearly 21 points per game in that span, on 58% shooting.

Rose’s perimeter shooting has always been the biggest concern around his game, although he did well for himself by completely revamping his shooting mechanics this summer and sticking with them all season. He still hits less than one 3-pointer per game, and does so shooting 35% (as well as just 70% from the free throw line), numbers that are not all that impressive, but are still an indication that his shot is not “broke” as some might say. Teams still back off and go underneath screens on a regular basis while defending him, and he isn’t quite consistent enough with his spot-up shooting to discourage them from doing so at this point. His pull-up jumper from mid-range is much improved, but he’s often a little bit off balance when taking it, not fully squaring his shoulders or going straight up in the air. These are things that NBA coaches will work with him extensively on, and he should be able to improve considerably if the progress he made this season is any indication. To his credit, he does look quite confident in his attempts, which is often half the battle.

Defensively, Rose has definitely made the mental adjustment needed from high school to college basketball, looking quite a bit more intense than he did earlier in the season. He’s getting in a good fundamental stance now, using his phenomenal combination of size and lateral quickness to his advantage, and is taking a more lot pride in this part of his game. It’s not just a matter of the NCAA tournament, but also during Conference USA. He still gets beat from time to time due to a temporary lack of focus, but his incredible quickness allows him to recover in the blink of an eye and close out on shooters the way few guards can, sometimes to even block their shot.

Rose has a big challenge in front of him this weekend, as UCLA has quite a bit of time to study his tendencies in advance and try to exploit all of his weaknesses. How he handles arguably the best defense in the country on Saturday will tell us a lot about how ready he is to produce as a rookie in the NBA. Regardless of what happens, though, he’s shown many times that his future is as bright or brighter than any other player in this year’s draft.

David Padgett, 6-11, Senior, Center, Louisville
11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 1.1 blocks, 67% FG, 66% FT

Joseph Treutlein

Two games into his senior season, David Padgett suffered another in a long line of knee injuries, this time breaking his knee cap, which many believed would be the end to his season and his college career. As he has done in the past, though, Padgett recovered, and defied the odds to come back just a month and a half later, allowing him to play a solid 26 games on the season. His many knee injuries certainly haven’t helped his athleticism, as he’s not a very quick or explosive player, but he is both mobile and coordinated, while having enough overall athleticism to get by, especially at his size.

Despite shooting 60% from the field last season, Padgett somehow found a way to increase his efficiency from the floor even further, shooting 67% this season on slightly more scoring output. When he was out early in the year, Louisville wasn’t really living up to expectations, but once Padgett came back and quickly got re-adjusted to the game, things turned around, and his highly efficient post game and superb basketball IQ certainly had a lot to do with that.

In the post, Padgett has a very large array of moves, and has for quite some time. His go-to move is still his right-handed hook shot, which he can convert with in a variety of ways, but he mixes in dropsteps, turnaround jumpers, up-and-unders, and other moves as well. One of the things Padgett is best with is faking a spin off one shoulder, selling it very well, and then turning back off his other shoulder, putting up a hook shot, which he’s capable of doing with either hand. Padgett has always used an extensive series of fakes to get off his moves, but he’s been more decisive with them this year, and quicker with his execution in general, which has certainly helped his efficiency, and is a critical stride he needed to make for his game to convert to the next level. Padgett’s post sense is still outstanding, as he takes what the defense gives him incredibly well and rarely forces ill-advised shots, opting to reset the possession if he doesn’t like what’s there. Padgett has had problems scoring over longer, more athletic defenders in the past, which is something he’s sure to see more of at the next level, and while he definitely still doesn’t look completely comfortable in these situations, he had very efficient games in his matchups against Roy Hibbert and Hasheem Thabeet this season, scoring 18, 12, and 12 in the three games against them, all above his season average, while shooting over 60% in all of them. While Padgett’s athleticism is definitely not ideal, his excellent coordination, mobility, and footwork help make up for that in the post, and he does show the athleticism to pull off moves such as drop-stepping from one side of the paint to finish with a reverse lay-up on the other side of the rim.

An area we suggested Padgett needed to improve on in our previous progress report of him was his mid-range jumper, which he rarely goes to, even though he shows good form and is fairly successful with it when he uses it. His 82% free-throw shooting in his past two seasons definitely left us encouraged about his potential there, though he inexplicably dropped to 66% from the line this year, which is puzzling to say the least. Regardless, it’s tough to fault someone for not showing a staple of their game more consistently when they’re as efficient as Padgett is, and this is something he’ll just need to adjust with at the next level, as he’ll definitely need to be more reliant on his mid-range jumper if he plays in the NBA.

As for the rest of his offense, you can’t understate Padgett’s ability to do the little things and how he applies his basketball IQ in all areas of the game. Lousiville ran a lot of their offense through Padgett in the high-post, as he shows good passing ability, hitting cutters and shooters alike. Even many of his turnovers were actually passes that went off the hands of his teammates. He’s also an excellent cutter without the ball, specifically in pick-and-rolls, where he reads the defense very well. It’s also quite the common occasion to see Padgett moving around the perimeter setting screens, and directing his teammates to their spots on the floor.

On the defensive end, Padgett’s great basketball IQ stands out as well, as he plays a very fundamentally sound game while showing great awareness, always making the right rotations. These rotations in combination with his size and timing allow him to block some shots, but he’s not very dynamic here due to athletic limitations. In man-to-man defense in the post, Padgett shows great footwork and always keeps his hands up, forcing his man into tough shots, while also doing a good job not getting beat laterally. He can be pushed around by players with a strength advantage and shot over by players with a length and athleticism advantage, but he still makes them work for it. As for the rest of his defense, it’s clear that the multiple injuries in his career have taken a toll on him physically, as he really struggles defending the pick-and-roll and closing out on shooters, just not having the quickness to consistently make the plays. While he isn’t forced to defend face-up players on the perimeter often, his lateral quickness there is also a concern. Padgett’s rebounding is also a concern, as despite his size, he’s never really excelled on the boards, especially on the defensive end. He did excel on the offensive glass last year, but he’s fallen off there as well, and this year didn’t even manage 5 rebounds per game total, though he did play 23.5 minutes per game. Of all centers in our database, Padgett ranks fifth from last in rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted.

Padgett is someone who has a good chance of attending the Portsmouth pre-draft camp, and if not that, he should get into the Orlando pre-draft camp as well. He’s not a lock to get drafted, and any chance of that will depend on how NBA teams feel about him after putting him through extensive physical examinations. Regardless, with his incredible feel for the game and high basketball IQ, he should get plenty of chances to make an NBA team, even with some of his limitations. If not, he should have a very successful career overseas, as long as he can manage to stay healthy.

Sasha Kaun, 6-11, Center, Kansas, Senior
13 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 6/6 FG, 1/3 FT

Mike Schmidt

An experienced big man who never developed quite the way some people expected after his excellent sophomore season, Kaun entered the NCAA Tournament as somewhat of a forgotten guy on a team loaded with prospects. Despite featuring great size, excellent hands and a good feel for the game in the low post, Kaun posted similar numbers in his senior year as he did two years ago as a sophomore. Against Davidson, the Kansas senior was perfect from the field and showed some good tools that will certainly place him on the radar of NBA scouts during the Final Four and going into the heart of the draft process over the next couple months.

Offensively, the senior showed the ability to score with both hands against Davidson, a trait that has aided him in shooting 62% from the field this season. As a player who was only once comfortable with his right hand, it was impressive to see him spin to his right shoulder on his first three scoring attempts. He still lacks any type of game away from the basket, but showed decent agility throughout the game, specifically on an alley-oop dunk in the second half—a set play that Kansas runs somewhat regularly for him. Kaun failed to make the subsequent free throw attempt to complete the three point play, however, and has only converted on 54.1% of his charity stripes attempts this season.

Defensively, the Kansas senior has no fear in banging in the post, and shows good potential as a man to man defender. He rotates well on the weak side as well, and seems to have the proper understanding of how to defend and recover on the pick and roll. Though he moves well in the paint and rotates properly, Kaun doesn’t really stand out as a shot-blocker at this point in time, as he’s not quite that explosive to establish himself here.

Right now, the senior is held back offensively by his limitations outside of the paint. He shows good comfort and patience in the low-post, but appears lost with the ball on the perimeter. Kaun can’t hit a mid-range jumper even when left open, and his passing ability out of the high post leaves a lot to be desired. Rebounding will also be another area of focus for Kaun. He positions himself well under the basket most of the time, but has poor timing and instincts, and sometimes struggles to hold onto the ball. Foul trouble has also plagued the big man at times this season, and might be part of the reason he only played around 18 minutes per game this season (though the incredibly stacked Kansas front court probably has a lot to do with this as well).

Though it’s rare to talk about a senior with 7 point and 4 rebound per game averages as a potential draft prospect, Sasha Kaun has the tools that could make him an NBA player. It will probably help his cause that he has experience as a role player next to a top level big man at the college level. Kaun will most certainly gain an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational and pre-draft camp in Orlando, and his package of size and scoring ability could allow him to really emerge in that type of setting. Even if his name isn’t called on draft night, he will be given every chance to make a team as a free agent next fall. If he doesn’t make it, no one should shed any tears for him, as he will quickly be able to work himself into a 7-figure salary back in his native country of Russia, where local rules make domestic players of his size and quality an invaluable asset.

Josh Duncan, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward, Xavier
12.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 50% FG, 42% 3P, 85% FT, 22 minutes

Joey Whelan

After a regular season that didn’t garner much attention outside of the Atlantic 10, Josh Duncan made himself known during an Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament. His offensive output increased nearly 50% in the four games he played, while his rebounding numbers went up slightly as well. By far the most encouraging thing we saw from Duncan in his two week run in the tournament was the increased diversity in his means of scoring. While the main staple of his game is as a catch and shoot type of player, the senior showed flashes of other aspects of his game.

At 6’9” and a rock solid 238 pounds, Duncan has a strong frame that reminds of Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin. He is slightly undersized for the post at the next level, but his versatility makes him appealing as a face the basket-type power forward. The biggest limitation for Duncan is his lack of tremendous athleticism. He doesn’t possess a great vertical leap, which severely hampers him in the post, as well as on the glass. While he may be able to take mismatched post players off the dribble in college, his first step isn’t all that impressive, and he doesn’t appear to have the necessary quickness to guard perimeter players in the NBA. With that said, though, Duncan does possess a bruising frame, one that is capable of handling and dishing out punishment.

Duncan is really an anomaly for the college game, in that we don’t often see players that are so physically imposing, spend so much time out on the perimeter, but this is where he makes his living. Duncan’s shooting form is unorthodox to say the least; he pushes the ball and has a tendency to contort his body when he shoots. Despite the less than picture perfect form, you can’t really argue with a 42% shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Duncan is a smart player who knows how to maneuver without the ball to get himself open looks. He likes to pick and pop, stepping back behind the play to set up. Duncan also does a nice job of rotating behind the play working as a safety valve when teammates find their drive to the basket stalled. If left open on the outside he can do some damage, but he isn’t a player that is going to create his own shot from the outside.

In the four tournament games Duncan drove to the basket a lot more than he did during the regular season, this is an area that he excels in though, connecting on 70% of his shots around the rim, excluding post moves according to Synergy Sports Technology. While his quickness off the dribble isn’t tremendous and his ball handling skills are just average, if given a line to the basket, Duncan showed that he can attack the rim and score, aided greatly by his chiseled frame, soft hands, nice touch and excellent feel for the game. This added aggressiveness is particularly evident in the number of free throws he attempted. After averaging just 3.4 free throw attempts per game during the regular season, the senior upped his attempts to nearly 8 per game during his four tournament games. In general, Duncan was much more aggressive during the tournament, something we didn’t see during the regular season, partially due to the tremendous amount of offensive balance Xavier has.

From what we have seen of Duncan in the post, it is clear he needs to improve on this area of his game. His back to the basket game is pretty underdeveloped, consisting of an inconsistent hook shot and facing up on his defender. While he was able to operate well enough against defenders of equal or smaller stature in the tournaments early rounds, he clearly struggled against Kevin Love in the Elite 8. Duncan’s lack of explosiveness really hurts him here; since he doesn’t do a great job of creating separation and he can’t elevate over most defenders, he often has his shots blocked or altered in the post.

There is no question though, Duncan can score. When his number are adjusted to a 40 minute pace, he scoring output jumps to over 22 points per game, and we saw in the tournament what happens when he becomes a little more selfish on the offensive end. While his shooting percentages did drop somewhat, he still shot a solid 42% from the field.

Where Duncan does lose points though is with his ability to rebound. His 4.7 rebounds per game aren’t very impressive, not for a player with his frame, even when adjusting for minutes played. Playing in the Atlantic-10, there really is no reason why he shouldn’t be doing a better job on the glass, as it’s not like he was going up against NBA post players every single night. It was pretty evident in the UCLA game just how much he needs to improve here, as Kevin Love dominated him on the boards, often taking rebounds right out of his hands. Even though he doesn’t have a tremendous vertical leap, with his strength, he should be able to outwork other players for the ball.

Defensively, there are going to be a lot of questions surrounding Duncan in regards to the NBA. Ignoring the fact that he doesn’t get many blocks or steals, the real conundrum lies with just who will he match up with at the next level? He isn’t fast enough laterally to cover most small forwards on the perimeter, and while he may be strong enough to hold his own against many power forwards, his lack of size, quickness and leaping ability will hurt his ability to alter shots and rebound. Duncan really looks like he will have to be the type of player that just busts his tail on the defensive side of the floor and develops into a scrappy defender.

At the end of the day it was a nice run in the tournament for Duncan and Xavier, but it may have been too little too late for the senior. While he certainly has drawn some intrigue, he still has a tremendous amount to prove. There is plenty to like about a strong 6’9” player who is a threat from the outside, but he will have to continue to prove his perimeter shooting prowess, as it looks like this will be how he makes his living at the next level. Duncan will have to be a guy that does all of the little things well in order to draw further interest from scouts. He certainly has shown that he has no qualms about deferring to teammates on the offensive side of the floor, now he must become a better rebounder and defender. A deep run by Xavier helped his stock, if for no other reason than the extra chances scouts had to see him on the national stage. Now Duncan needs to put together strong showings at events like Portsmouth (which he’s already been invited to) and the Orlando pre-draft camp.

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