NCAA Weekly Performers--Freshman Edition, Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers--Freshman Edition, Part Two
Nov 25, 2007, 05:21 am
Part two of our look at the top freshman so far this season. In what is likely going to develop into an ongoing story all season long, we present to you some initial scouting reports of 9 of the top freshman NBA draft prospects in America. Consider this just an introduction to our coverage of this year's outstanding freshman class. Left out are players we did not feel we had enough tape on to accurately evaluate their play this season so far--such as O.J. Mayo, J.J. Hickson, Austin Daye, Chris Wright and others. Also left out are players whom we preferred to wait on at the moment and see how their roles continue to evolve as the season moves on--for example Kyle Singler, Anthony Randolph, James Anderson, Blake Griffin, Patrick Mills, Johnny Flynn and others. We've got a full season ahead of us, so enjoy.

DeAndre Jordan, 6’11”, Texas A&M
6 Games Played: 10.3 ppg (85% FG, 18% FT), 8.4 rpg (3.8 orpg), 1.2 bpg, 1.82 pps


Kyle Nelson

DeAndre Jordan is a special player. You can tell the second that you see him on the court. He is a legitimate 7’0 and at 240 pounds doesn’t have to do as much work physically as many young post projects. His athleticism and quickness are stunning and he possesses athletic ability that recalls Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge. However, apart from his NBA ready size, he already has some NBA ready skills on the offensive and defensive end.

For one, his timing is impeccable. He is a great a rebounder, grabbing 8.4 in 5 games, and has almost as many offensive rebounds (19) than defensive rebounds (23). The way that he times his jump to grab rebounds is very impressive, especially coming from such a raw prospect. Put up against stellar rebounders in the likes of Jon Brockman, he still produces well (10 rebounds and 5 offensive rebounds in 21 minutes). In addition, because of this nice sense of timing and athleticism, Jordan projects to be a good shot blocker at the next level. Despite his 1.2 blocks/game average, he really shows instincts and timing essential to becoming a good shot blocker. At this point, it seems more like he is trying to stay out of foul trouble and less like he exploited his size and athleticism to get blocks in high school. The book is open about his shot blocking ability, but from what he has shown so far, there is a lot to like.

Offensively, he has shown some flashes of potential, as well. For one, the way that he uses his size and athleticism against some of the lesser competition he has faced in McNeese State is impressive, sailing in for acrobatic dunks over smaller competition. Against a more formidable defender, such as Washington’s Jon Brockman, he also showed competency, utilizing some decent footwork to spin and lay the ball in. Overall, Jordan is extremely raw on the offensive end, but these flashes are enough to suggest that he’s going to be able to develop some good post moves in the future. The fact that he has post instincts is promising and the ways that he moves. Also of note is how efficient he is in the Texas A&M offense alongside NIT Tip-Off MVP Joseph Jones. He doesn’t force anything and though he clearly has the ability to be more of a factor on the offensive end, you can tell he is sacrificing his own stat line for the sake of the team.

Perhaps the real reason we’re talking about DeAndre Jordan is the fact that he set the Big 12 record for consecutive baskets made at 17. At this stage, he is probably one of the most efficient scorers in NCAA basketball, averaging over 85% from the field. The only pressing concerns about Jordan involve his horrid free throw percentage, 18% on 22 attempts. Though coach Mark Turgeon attributes it to stage fright, this is definitely something to watch throughout the season.

Jordan is a tremendous talent and has definitely begun to tap into his vast potential at Texas A&M. Already establishing himself as one of the elite athletes and rebounders in the country, Jordan’s continued consistent play is essential if the Aggies want a successful season. With good showings in their NIT Season Tip-Off run, Jordan is definitely a freshman to watch.

Eric Gordon, 6-3, Guard, Indiana
4 Games, 28.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 61% FG, 60% 3PFG


Mike Schmidt

Coming out of high school, Eric Gordon had already proved himself among the elite scorers of his talented class. His start to the college season has even surprised the biggest Gordon fans so far. The first year guard has scored the ball as efficiently as anybody in college basketball to this point, doing so without forcing shots outside of Indiana’s offensive flow.

Through his first 4 games of basketball, Gordon averaged 28 points per game on a very impressive 14 shot attempts, while shooting 60% from behind the three point line. It is unlikely that these numbers will carry over to the high-major opponents that Indiana will face in the coming weeks, but one must take notice of the all-around offensive approach that allows him this great efficiency. In transition, Gordon often handles the ball and can draw contact nearly every time he attacks the basket. Great body control and the ability to adjust around defenders in the air allows him to finish on the majority of these attempts. In the half -court offense, Gordon has proved capable of creating his own shot at will. On his many isolation plays, he can either shoot an early three pointer, pull up off the dribble, or take the ball all the way to the hoop.

Physically, Gordon entered college with an already great body, weighing in at 205 pounds. Along with a chiseled frame, Gordon has explosive leaping ability combined with a quick first step to the basket. These physical attributes give him the potential to lock down defensively. He has proved capable of physical defense against low-major opponents so far, but the real test comes when he will have to defend an elite wing prospect.

As far as the NBA is concerned, most of the question-marks surrounding Gordon stem from the fact that he plays more effectively at the 2 despite having the size of a point guard. To prove this won’t be a problem, he will have to prove capable of handling spot point guard duties. To this point in the young season, Gordon has appeared to be within his comfort zone while running the Hoosier, but the real test here will come with the start of the Big 10 season. It is worth mentioning that Gordon plays bigger than most 6’3” shooting guards thanks to longer than average arms and the aforementioned body and athleticism.

With all of the talk surrounding the freshman class, Gordon has established himself among the elite names. The freshman from Indiana will clearly have a chance to go one and done if he desires, but his performance against a higher level of competition could determine how high he can go. If he carries the early season performances over to the rest of the season, we could be talking about a potential top 10 pick. At the same time, he may decide to return for a second year at Indiana depending on how well he handles the lead guard spot this season.

Donte Greene, 6’9, SF/PF, Syracuse
20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.6 blocks, 2.4 turnovers, 54% FG, 79% FT, 39% 3P


Joseph Treutlein

Donte Greene has gotten his college career off to a very nice start, wasting no time stepping into the feature role at Syracuse. Most scouts were already aware of Greene’s smooth jump shot and athleticism, but he’s showing a lot more than that in the early going for the Orange, with two strong performances against Ohio State and Washington.

Greene’s offensive game is very much built around his jump shot, which has an extremely quick release with a high release point, thanks to his outstanding length, making it pretty much unblockable. Greene has been getting off his shot in a variety of ways thus far, showing range all the way out to the NBA three-point line, where his stroke is still effortless. Greene can be a bit streaky from behind the arc, but is shooting a strong 39% so far, hitting on pull-up and spot-up shots alike.

Greene’s confidence looks improved since we saw him at the various high school all-star games this summer, especially with his mid-range game. Greene still doesn’t have the tightest ball-handling, but he’s doing a good job making use of one or two dribbles to get separation from his man, using his right hand to get enough space to get off his pull-up jumper, which he’s been hitting consistently from mid-range. Greene has also showed flashes of proficiency in the post, using a turnaround fadeaway jumper from the baseline on occasion.

Greene can seem to disappear at times on the offensive end, just going through the motions and waiting for the ball to come to him, but at the same time, he’s also done a good job not forcing the issue when he has the ball this year, being efficient with his possessions and not committing many turnovers or forcing bad shot attempts. He’s also shown some nice vision and decision-making abilities with his passing off the dribble, dishing out four assists against zero turnovers in Syracuse’s win over Washington.

What’s really encouraging about Greene’s first few games at Syracuse, though, is his excellent effort on the boards, where he’s putting his length and athleticism to use well. Greene doesn’t have much bulk and isn’t able to really body up around the basket, but it hasn’t stopped him from pulling in almost nine rebounds per game, as he’s constantly been fighting on the boards. Greene will need some more strength and fundamental rebounding technique to maintain this kind of production, especially in the pros, but his effort is a great sign. That effort is also seen in short spurts on the defensive end, where Greene can show good awareness on team defense and use his length to disrupt in the passing lanes and coming over to contest shots from the weakside. There are questions regarding whether his lateral quickness is good enough to defend NBA small forwards--something we'll have to monitor as the season moves on and more favorable matchups to evaluate him emerge.

Greene is an early-entry candidate to leave potentially as early as after this season, and based on his early showings, that possibility seems to be coming more and more likely. If he does declare, he should be in lottery discussions His priorities need to be on continuing to improve his ball-handling and perimeter defense, along with gaining more strength. He has the potential to develop into a Rashard Lewis type player, but he’s not quite there yet.

Kevin Love, 6’10, PF/C, Freshman, UCLA
19.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 56% FG, 72% FT, 38% 3P


Joseph Treutlein

One of the most talked about freshman heading into this season, Kevin Love is already making his presence felt in the college ranks. The 6’10 (possibly 6’9 or 6’8) bruiser has gotten off to a quick start, showing off his tenacious and fundamentally sound game. The extremely skilled big man probably won’t have many problems imposing his will in the NCAA, though his athleticism has many doubting how his game will translate to the pros.

Love does most of his damage in the painted area, where he establishes tremendous post position with relative ease. Love’s post game looks fairly simple, but he shows a great understanding of countermoves and fakes, using them to get off high-percentage shots very close to the basket. Love has excellent hands for catching entry passes and shows a very good touch around the rim, along with the ability to take contact and not have his shot altered. Love has also shown off a hook shot on occasion, but for the most part works within five feet of the basket on fairly straightforward moves.

For all his skill on the low block, Love does run into some problems in the post, specifically when he’s going up against a longer defender. He is prone to having his shot blocked, and has trouble trying to score over bigger defenders. He doesn’t show much in terms of vertical explosiveness, being a mostly under the rim player. To his credit, he does a great job pursuing his own misses, as his motor never stops, and he’s often able to convert on his second effort. Love also runs into some trouble when a guard drops down to double team, as he isn’t always very quick with his moves, and can leave the ball unprotected.

Love has also shown flashes of a face-up game, but he’s had limited success with it thus far, looking sloppy at times while dribbling into turnovers. His perimeter game is pretty solid, though, as he has a formidable spot-up jumper with range out to the college three-point line, showing good mechanics and effectiveness with his shot.

In addition to his post offense, Love is also a dominant rebounder on both ends of the court, using his massive frame to establish outstanding position and showing excellent timing and instincts in tracking down boards. His strength allows him to pull rebounds away from the opposition, and he does a great job sealing out his man. Love also shows prowess with his passing, specifically on outlets, where his great upper body strength allows him to throw fast and precise chest passes the length of the court with ease. Love also does a pretty good job passing out of the post.

Defensively, Love shows a very good understanding of team defense and defending the pick-and-roll, but his lack of quickness prevents him from really excelling on this end of the floor. On pick-and-rolls, he’s often slow to get back to his man after hedging the ball-handler, and Love doesn’t possess the vertical explosiveness to be a factor as a help defender in the paint. Love hasn’t been exploited much on the perimeter yet in man defense, but his lateral quickness is noticeably lacking and he should have some match-up problems over the course of the season. In the post, he shows a good fundamental base and holds his position well, but longer players should be able to shoot over him.

Love is clearly going to be a dominant college player for as long as he chooses to remain in college, which will likely be one season, but there are serious doubts about how his proficiency will translate to the pro level. There really aren’t many players at his height with his lack of athleticism in the pros, and it’s tough to guess how high in the draft a team will be willing to take a chance on him. His good perimeter shot will definitely help ease his transition to the pros, as will his excellent rebounding ability, but he will have trouble in other areas. Love would do himself well to continue shedding weight to try and maximize his physical potential. Love could see himself drafted in the lottery as Sean May was three years ago, but it’s no guarantee.

Jerryd Bayless, 6-2, Guard, Arizona
18.3 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 45% FG, 38% 3PFG


Mike Schmidt

Known as one of the top players in Arizona high school basketball history, Jerryd Bayless was known for his scoring ability throughout his prep career. Entering his freshman year at the University of Arizona, the talented guard brought high expectations to campus along with his talent. Bayless has been asked to be a full-time point guard for the Wildcats, a challenging proposition for a freshman used to be a primary scorer. Despite some unnecessary turnovers, the young guard has displayed promise at the point this season.

Offensively, Bayless needs to learn to pick apart the defense better, but has done a fairly mature job at choosing his spots to score. An elite athlete with a sweet jumper, he’s a constant threat to utilize a well developed offensive arsenal, whether it‘s a three pointer, mid-range jumper or a slashing move to the hoop. Though not a pass-first point guard, he also shows good instincts when looking for the open man off the dribble-drive. Like many freshman guards, Bayless tends over dribble at times, and sometimes force the ball into bad spots. He has bounced back from his mistakes, however, while showing the willingness to defer to teammates. Through four games so far, Bayless has averages of 18 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds per game.

Defensively, the freshman has lockdown potential for an NBA point guard. In a match-up against Virginia, he forced Sean Singletary into a number of ill-advised shots while cutting off his penetration into the paint. This type of defense is coveted by NBA teams, and the fact that it came from a college freshman in his second game is particularly impressive.

Physically, Bayless must continue to get stronger, but his physical tools can already be described as freakish. This becomes obvious when watching him blow by the opposing defense off the dribble and finishing against stronger, more physically developed players inside.

Few players in college basketball possess the natural ability to put the ball in the hoop like Jerryd Bayless, and it could be downright scary to think how good he could become with polished point guard skills. Playing on an Arizona team with two other potential high draft picks (Chase Buddinger and Jordan Hill), Bayless must focus on leading Arizona to an NCAA tournament run this season. Despite their talent, the Wildcats lack depth, so it becomes particularly important for him to play the full season to his potential. Like many other freshman, we could be talking about a one and done prospect here, but quality play at the one throughout the Pac 10 season is a must for Bayless to crack the lottery in 2008.

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