NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/23/08-- Part One

NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/23/08-- Part One
Jan 24, 2008, 01:42 am
Jerryd Bayless, 6-3, Freshman, PG/SG, Arizona
19.2 points, 3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 46% FG, 42% 3P, 84.5% FT

Jonathan Givony

Another in an impressive line of freshman who are backing up the hype and then some, Jerryd Bayless has established himself as the go-to guy for Arizona (the team is 11-3 with him, and 1-3 without him), and in the process is likely putting himself in a situation to be drafted in a great position, already this year.

Physically, Bayless is an extremely impressive prospect. He is certainly stuck between the 1 and the 2 positions, but has solid size at 6-3, with outstanding athleticism on top of that. Bayless is an incredibly smooth player—quick, fluid, explosive, with a terrific first step, capable of elevating off his feet with ease—the entire package as far as athleticism is concerned. He has a somewhat slight frame, but is regardless a strong player for his age, seeming to have maximized himself from a physical perspective fairly well.

Offensively, Bayless can do it all and has basically everything you look for in a scoring guard. He’s an outstanding shooter first and foremost, showing terrific shooting mechanics, superb elevation creating separation from his defender, and all the confidence in the world to fire away in any situation imaginable. His release is a bit on the deliberate side, but this is a minor flaw that surely can be corrected in time.

Bayless can come off a screen, catch and shoot, or pull-up off the dribble equally well. He has great balance and core strength setting up for his jumper, and thus gets terrific results already this early in his career. He hits tough shots going left or right or fading away, even with a man in his feet, never getting flustered regardless of the situation.

More than just a shooter, though, Bayless is also a terrific shot-creator, with an aggressive slashing mentality and a real killer instinct making his way to the basket. He’s explosive enough with his first step or wicked crossover to just beat players off the dribble going left or right, but also possesses excellent ability to change gears, stop and go, and mix in hesitation moves to keep his defender off balance. He gets to the free throw line at a terrific rate, taking contact at the rim, but possibly lacking just a degree of size and strength to consistently finish those moves at the hoop. He often just prefers to find a glimmer of daylight in which he can get his shot off from mid-range, which is a very high percentage shot for him.

Standing somewhere around 6-3, NBA scouts will want to see some point guard skills out of Bayless, and indeed he sees a good amount of time at this position for Arizona. Bayless is not a selfish player, he can certainly find the open man and is pretty gifted passing while on the move, but it’s pretty clear at this point that he’s much more comfortable as a scorer than he is as a playmaker. He has a tendency to pound the ball in the half-court, over-dribbling excessively and making poor decisions when forced to play at a slower tempo. Arizona’s offense seems to lack some fluidity at times when he’s running the show, as Bayless has a tendency to create shots first and foremost for himself and then only look to create for others. He’s still a young player and certainly has time to develop, but right now it looks like he’d be much more comfortable playing a Monta Ellis type role in the pros (alongside another strong ball-handler) rather than as a Chauncey Billups style point guard.

Defensively, Bayless shows a lot of potential, not just with his tools, but with the commitment he’s displayed to competing on this end of the floor. He has excellent lateral quickness, clearly having received some solid coaching on this part of his game early on his career. His awareness isn’t always the best (looking a bit lost trying to find his man in transition for example), and he lacks some strength to get through screens defending the pick and roll at times—taking too wide an angle to avoid contact, but considering his age and huge offensive role on the team, it’s hard to nitpick too much here.

There is a caveat, though, as considering his size, he’d almost certainly be better off guarding point guards than shooting guards, which again brings up the fact that he’ll need to be drafted by the right team (with the right guard next to him) to really reach his full potential. He won’t be a perfect fit for everyone, but if he finds the right situation, Bayless has 20 point per game plus potential in the NBA if he continues to progress. The early indications we’re getting from sources close to the situation are that Bayless is leaning towards leaving Arizona at the end of this season. The reason for that being that with the dominant ball-handling Brandon Jennings coming in next year, he won’t have as much of a chance to develop his point guard skills. It seems like he could definitely use another year of experience before he’s ready to compete for high level minutes in the NBA, but if he’s indeed the lottery pick that most NBA people we’ve spoken to feel he is, then he probably has no choice but to leave.

Dominique Jones, 6’4, Point Guard/Shooting Guard, Freshman, South Florida
15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.8 steals, 48.5% FG, 42.3% 3P, 70.5% FT

Rodger Bohn

One of the more interesting surprises of the season has been the steady play of Dominique Jones, a unheralded combo guard out of Florida. Posting numbers that rank him amongst the top freshman in the country, he is quietly beginning to make a name for himself in the Big East despite USF’s limited success.

The physical package that Jones offers makes him intriguing, standing 6’4 and blessed with a very nice wingspan. He owns a powerful first step, while having strength uncommon for a player so young as well. However, his athleticism is quite average, as he possesses poor lateral quickness and is not very explosive for a potential draft prospect.
Jones does the bulk of his scoring through strong takes to the basket, whether in transition, or in half court sets. He is cable of driving both left and right, able to convert at a high frequency due to his strength and body control. Although he doesn’t get off the ground all that well, the freshman has shown the ability to maneuver himself in the air in order to avoid rotating defenders.

In terms of outside shooting, Dominique has proved that he can knock down three pointers with the best of them, hitting on a sizzling 42% of his attempts. Possessing very nice form and deep range, his shot can get streaky occasionally, as Jones has the tendency to bring the ball down below his waist before going into the shooting motion. The inconsistency of his shooting motion is fixable, and would certainly speed up his ability to get his long range jumper off in most situations.

Seeing heavy minutes at the point guard position for South Florida, Jones has had the chance to show off his playmaking skills and very nice court vision. It is not a problem for him to drive into the lane, draw two or three defenders, and then find the open man. Playing with a high basketball IQ, he tends to make very good decisions for a player who was thrown into the fire early on at point guard in the deepest conference in America. With that said, it is clear that Jones is not a natural point guard, and is looking to create for himself first and foremost when he has the ball in his hands.

Jones’ major weakness on the offensive end revolves around his lack of a mid-range game. In the numerous games that we observed, he did not take even pull-up for even one jump-shot off the dribble from mid-range. All of his scoring came in the way of drives to the rim or three pointers, making him a bit predictable to guard at times. Ball-handling is another area of Jones’ game that could stand to use some improvement, as he dribbles the ball quite high. He can get a little out of control at times with his wild dribble, but it is clear that proper off-season training could help fix these ball handling deficiencies.

On the defensive end, Jones applies great ball pressure out on the perimeter with his superior size and length. Often placed out front in USF’s zone, he gives defenders fits with his ball hawking ability in the passing lanes. Besides that, though, Jones is a pretty average defender. He struggles mightily guarding point guards, not possessing good enough lateral quickness to stay in front of them. Jones does a little better job of guarding shooting guards, but is still nowhere near what you would call a stopper. Also displaying inconsistent effort on this side of the floor, he struggles to get through pick and rolls and contest opposing players’ shot when rotating.

Nothing can be taken away from the excellent year that Jones is having, establishing himself as a near lock to make the All-Big East Freshman Team. He is still a ways away from being considered an immediate draft prospect, but has already cemented himself as one of the better young players the conference has to offer.

Patrick Patterson, 6-8, 232, Freshman, PF, Kentucky

Eric Weiss

Walking into a great deal of playing time, just like he wanted after navigating through an extended recruiting process, Patrick Patterson is one of the top scoring freshman in the country.

There’s a lot to like about Patrick Patterson as a collegiate player. He is athletic and intense, but it isn’t always polished and efficient with his movement on the court. Patterson relies on his athleticism more than his intelligence with in-game situations so far. He gets blocks and steals, but fouls at a high rate relative to these two hustle stats. His length and athleticism should make him a terrific defender in time as he learns how to read the floor better and use his body and feet to set up his opponent before they are into their move.

As it stands now, Patterson doesn't fight for position much and falls for the classic young forward flaw of trying to react to the shot. He gives opponents the spot they want too easily on the floor, and hasn't learned to get wide and press up underneath his man to effect their balance. Right now, he's mostly about slide stepping and staying in front of his assignment, while waiting for the move and the release. His awareness is poor and he struggles to make his presence felt when pulled out onto the perimeter on pick and roll plays.

Despite having great quickness, terrific hands and good reaction time, Patterson only ranks 14th out of the 19 freshmen PFs in our database in rebounding in 40 minutes pace adjusted. He is a very nice range-rebounder right now, but can be lazy when it comes to boxing out and carving space. Again, these are prototypical signs of a young big man who hasn't had to use more than his physical gifts to be productive.

Right now, Patterson stands mostly up-right and goes for the ball without much regard for his opponent. This is common for players who have always had the size, speed, and agility edge. It should be noted that Kentucky is not a great rebounding team, so Patterson is typically boarding against multiple opponents which depresses his overall numbers. His ability to stay extended and jump from his toes instead of his knees should make him a very solid rebounder on the pro level. His double and triple jump speed is very impressive, which combined with his length, make Patterson an excellent offensive rebound threat. Patterson doesn’t gather himself at all before going for the put-back and uses all of his length in addition to having a great sense of timing…this will be one of his best attributes going to the next level.

Patterson is an average passer, looking primarily focused on scoring first and making the rest of his decisions based off whether or not he feels he can get a quality shot off. While he is his team’s best low-post option, it’s easy to tell that Coach Billy Gillespie isn’t comfortable running much of the offense through Patterson at this point.

Despite standing just 6-8, an overwhelming majority of Patterson’s offensive game is with his back to the basket, so he’ll have a big adjustment to make before being effective offensively on the next level. His technique on the block isn’t spectacular, and certainly not progressive enough to compensate for his lack of prototypical size for the NBA game--at least not at this stage in his development. He avoids contact when going into his moves in the paint, instead electing to turn as quickly as possible and use his arm extension to get off his shot. Patterson doesn’t show much in the way of dynamic footwork in terms of drop-steps, reverse-pivots, or up-and-under moves. Without creating space via contact, and without mixing up his post moves, it’s easier for opponents to time his shot and challenge it effectively. He’s more of a play finisher than a play maker, and would really benefit from playing with a creative wing and/or point guard.

Patterson’s jump-shot shows the most promise for his offensive game on the next level, though it’s not a finished product by any means. Patterson leads with his right foot when shooting, but maintains consistency of motion on the shot fairly well. He doesn’t bring the ball down or bend too deeply at the knees when preparing to shoot, which allows him to get off a quick, uncontested shot with frequency. The shot is at full extension above his head and with a quick release, with mostly wrist-reminiscent of Marcus Campy, but with less arm wind-up behind the head. He’s not used much in pick-and-roll situations thus far at Kentucky, but will have to become more familiar with it in time. When he puts the ball on the floor from the high post and drives into traffic, Patterson looks pretty out of control, more likely to barrel into a defender for an offensive foul than he is to weave around him. Generally speaking, his basketball IQ is not off the charts, and it’s not rare to see him make one or two extremely questionable decisions every game, usually in the form of his shot-selection.

Overall, Patterson looks like a high energy role player at the next level, someone who can contribute offensively in a free flowing system when surrounded by playmakers. His hands are good, and his energy is high on the court, but he needs to play off of others to be effective. Patterson is clearly undersized for an NBA post player, although his wingspan looks excellent, but his versatility offensively and defensively isn’t at the level it needs to be just yet for an NBA role playing big. Patterson is very young, though, and has plenty of time to improve on the subtle elements of his game. As it stands now, he has been highly productive in his first year, and should probably be around for a couple more to maximize his draft potential.

Jamar Butler, 6’1, Point Guard, Senior, Ohio State
14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.3 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 43% FG, 96% FT, 42% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

After a strong sophomore season as Ohio State’s starting point guard, Jamar Butler was forced to take a backseat as a junior, moving to the off-guard position to make room for the highly-touted Mike Conley. Now a senior, with Conley off to the pros, Butler is back at his natural position, and has really stepped up for the Buckeyes. His production and efficiency are up across the board, and he’s leading the team in both scoring and assists. Among draft prospects in our database, Butler ranks fifth in assists per game, pure point guard ratio and assist to turnover ratio, and is the only prospect in the top-5 in all three categories.

As a point guard, Butler’s style could best be described as solid but unspectacular, as his primary focus is on managing his team’s offense while minimizing mistakes, not making many flashy plays. He has a very controlled way about his game, possessing strong ball-handling ability with an assortment of crossovers and behind-the-back moves, though he only uses them when absolutely necessary. He keeps the ball close to him and low to the ground, rarely committing a turnover from mishandling the ball. In the half-court, Butler is very much a pick-and-roll point guard, creating the majority of his offense and offense for others out of pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations. He reads these situations well and does a good job creating open shots for both himself and his teammates out of these situations. In addition, Butler also does a good job keeping the ball moving and maintaining spacing in the half-court, finding open three-point shots for his teammates consistently through good ball movement. Butler definitely has somewhat of a laid-back approach to his point guard game, as he doesn’t create much through drive-and-dishing, not spending much time in the lane in general on the offensive end. In transition, Butler keeps his head up and makes strong, precise passes, showing a nice knack for one-handed passes and alley-oop lobs.

As for his own offense, Butler is predominantly an outside shooter, with a staggering 63% of his field-goal attempts coming from behind the three-point arc. He’s shooting a strong 42% from behind the arc on the season, and has pretty close to textbook form on his shot. One thing to notice with his jump-shot is that Butler always gets his feet underneath him and almost never takes an off-balanced shot, while rarely taking contested shots either. He gets most of his outside shots by dribbling off high screens in pick-and-roll situations, pulling up smoothly in space where he consistently makes the defense pay. He also gets a fair share of his shots by spotting up, though he rarely will pull-up on his man in isolation situations.

In terms of attacking the basket, Butler doesn’t do much of that, almost never breaking his man down in isolation, as he doesn’t have an explosive first step he isn’t overly athletic in general. If Butler ever is taking the ball to the basket, it’s off a high screen, where he does a good job using hesitation dribbles to gain additional separation, changing speeds well once in the lane. At the rim, Butler gets very little lift off the floor, so he has trouble finishing over defenders, while he doesn’t possess noteworthy creativity either, so he’s not a great finisher at the rim in general. He relies on his right-handed floater in the lane often, which he hits fairly consistently, and shows good touch on. Butler shows good touch at the rim when he gets out in transition as well, where he doesn’t have to deal with as much defense at the basket. Butler doesn’t attack the rim much, but he pulls up from mid-range even less, with almost all of his offense coming within five feet of the basket or from behind the arc.

On the defensive end, Butler has some room for improvement, showing an inconsistent defensive stance, which can appear somewhat lackadaisical at times, and not really consistently applying himself as much as one would like. He doesn’t fight very hard through screens, and could show a lot more effort with his lateral movement, being beat by low-conference guards at times. He’ll never be a great defender, as he is average at best athletically, but he definitely can apply himself much more than he currently does. To his credit, he shows good awareness and doesn’t lose his man without the ball, while also making impact in the passing lanes with his hands.

A senior, Butler will be automatically eligible for the draft this year, and seems to be a perfect candidate for the Portsmouth pre-draft camp, where he can try to stand out more individually as a player. He has a lot of good things going for him, most notably his outside shot and style of managing offense, which is what many teams look for in a backup point guard, but he will need to show consistency from NBA three-point range and improved defense to have a real chance at that kind of role. At this stage, Butler likely projects as an undrafted free agent, though he should have ample chance to prove himself to NBA executives in pre-draft camps, workouts, training camps, and the summer league. If he doesn’t make it, he looks to have high-level potential for European basketball.

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