NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/31/09

NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/31/09
Dec 31, 2009, 05:52 pm
Texas' Dexter Pittman, Stanford's Landry Fields, St. John's D.J. Kennedy and Fresno State's Sylvester Seay are the latest to take the spotlight in our NCAA Weekly Performers series.

Dexter Pittman, 6'10, Center, Senior, Texas
13.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 74% FG, 54% FT

Joseph Treutlein begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting

After a breakout junior season, Dexter Pittman continued his physical transformation in the offseason, losing even more weight while working on his game, and it's been showing in his performance this season. Pittman's scoring and minutes are both up, while his efficiencies have shot through the roof, and he continues to rank among the top players in our database in a ton of categories, most notably ranking 2nd in PER, 2nd in EFG% and 6th in offensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

On the offensive end, Pittman has taken his post game to the next level, showing a noticeable improvement in his comfort level and footwork, while he's definitively developed a go-to move in his right-handed hook shot. Pittman does an excellent job of establishing great position on the block, where he either seals his man for an inside power move to the basket or just backs him down for an easy hook shot across the lane. He appears more confident in his game here, and has kept things simple to work to his strengths.

Pittman still doesn't possess much range outside five feet, though he has improved another aspect of his post game, looking more comfortable handling double teams and looking less like a black hole with his passing. He's made quite a few nice passes already this year to spot-up shooters and cutters alike, though this is still an area of his game that he could use work on, and it's definitely not something we'd label a strength.

With his ever-improving physique, Pittman is doing a better job finishing around the basket, getting off the floor quicker and making better use of his raw power, though he still faces situations where his lack of reactive explosiveness limits him.

Oftentimes Pittman will bring the ball down before going up to score, needing to do so to generate the power necessary to elevate, and this holds him back from being as dominant as he could be, a scary thought when you consider he already is converting an outrageous 74% of his field goal attempts. He could probably still lose a little excess weight in his upper body and continue to develop his lower body explosiveness, and given the lengths he's gone to over the past four seasons, this is probably something you can expect him to continue to improve.

In terms of overall conditioning, Pittman definitely looks more comfortable running the floor, and his stamina appears improved as well. His minutes are only slightly up, but his fouls are down, and it'll be interesting to see if he gets more consistent time as conference season begins, as he's only currently seeing a hair under 19 minutes per game.

Pittman also has the dubious distinction of having a FG% 20 points higher than his FT%, as he's shooting a woeful 54% from the line (down from 69% last season), which is very concerning for a player who gets to the line as frequently as he does.

On the defensive end, Pittman's improved physique is certainly showing up in one way, as Pittman's blocked shots are up from 0.9 to 2.3 per game, something that is certainly helped by his improved ability to get off the floor. It's still mostly the same story for the rest of his defense, as he does a good job defending power players in the post, using his strength and length to force them into tough shots, though he struggles against opponents who make good use of lateral maneuvers, not always possessing the quickness to stay in front of them.

Looking forward, Pittman has certainly helped himself with his early play this season, and has probably put himself firmly in first round conversations, assuming he can keep pace. His learning curve, both in terms of his skills and the improvements he's made to his body, are likely to be very attractive to talent evaluators, and there's good reason to believe he's still not anywhere near his ceiling.

Landry Fields, 6-7, Senior, Forward, Stanford
23.4 Points, 9 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2.2 Turnovers, 2.1 Steals, 49% FG, 31% 3FG, 73% FT

Matthew Williams

Though Stanford sits in the lower tier of the PAC-10 heading into conference play with their 6-6 record, senior forward Landry Fields has been nothing short of brilliant through the Cardinal's non-conference schedule. Graduating four seniors from last season's 20-win team, Fields has picked up the slack left behind by Anthony Goods and Lawrence Hill, demanding closer NBA draft scrutiny in the process.

As Stanford's clear-cut first option, Fields has been an extremely consistent performer for Head Coach Johnny Dawkins through the first few months of the season, posting less than 21 points in only one game thus far, while also leading his team in rebounds and steals.

Fields has blossomed into a major mismatch threat at the college level due to his big wingspan, solid athleticism, and ability to play both inside and outside. However, standing just 6-7 and falling a bit between positions, Fields still has a lot to prove to NBA scouts regarding his pro potential.

After serving a complementary role next to Lawrence Hill last season, Fields is the feature player in Stanford's offensive sets, with almost a quarter of his touches coming in pure isolation situations according to the data we have at our disposal.

Displaying a solid first step, nice ball-handling ability, and a knack for using his length and smarts effectively to get his shot off over defenders, Fields is a tough cover for small forwards, let alone the occasional four-man that steps out to defend him. Able to attack the basket and finish with either hand, he looks equally comfortable driving after facing up in the mid-post or operating from the perimeter. Using jabs and jump-stops very effectively, displaying a nice floater, and showing toughness and creativity around the rim, Fields does an excellent job of creating scoring chances on the interior as his outstanding 8.6 free-throw attempts per-contest indicate.

Though Fields has proven to be a high caliber scorer, he is still not a finished product offensively, especially with the polish he shows from the perimeter. When he isn't able to get close enough to the rim to utilize his floater, he struggles mightily with his pull-up jump shot, displaying a lack of fluidity in his form and a low release point. In contrast, Fields is a passable shooter from a standstill, displaying solid range and the ability to make shots with a hand in his face, a nice tool for him on the occasions that he faces up in the post.

Aside from his ability to put points on the board, Fields impacts the game in a number of other ways. A capable passer and rebounder, Fields displays a good basketball IQ, and while he's not looking to make passes when he puts the ball on the floor, he shows good court vision and will hit the open cutter and deliver crisp passes back out to the perimeter when defenders collapse to deny his penetration.

Defensively, Fields successfully uses his length to make an impact in the passing lanes and contest shots. Displaying active hands and a good effort level overall, Fields ranks amongst the top-20 players in steals per-game in our database. Though he doesn't have outstanding lateral quickness, he doesn't get beat off the dribble too often on the NCAA level, and shows good discipline forcing his defender to drive into help and pursuing the ball aggressively off the rim after shots go up.

Like many of his peers in this year's senior class, this is the first season that Fields has had the opportunity to showcase all of the things that he does well on a regular basis. He's taken advantage of his opportunity as well as any player in that group. If he can continue his momentum through conference play, improve his jump shot, and play well in front of NBA decision-makers in Portsmouth and in private workouts, he could work his way into draft conversations.

D.J. Kennedy, 6-6, Junior, Small Forward, St. John's
16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 50% FG, 78% FT, 37% 3P

Jonathan Givony

Quietly slipping below the radar screen of most NBA scouts and mainstream media analysts, D.J. Kennedy has slowly but surely turned himself into one of the most versatile small forwards in all of college basketball.

A major contributor from the moment he arrived at St. John's, Kennedy has established himself as the most important player on the Red Storm's roster in this, his junior season. He contributes in a wide variety of ways, being their leading scorer (while still maintaining excellent efficiency numbers), their main half-court facilitator and playmaker, a major force on the glass, and the one who is consistently assigned to defend the opposing team's best perimeter player.

From a physical standpoint, Kennedy clearly has the tools to play in the NBA. The lefty has good size at 6-6 to go along with long arms and a chiseled frame, not being a freakishly explosive athlete, but clearly having the fluidity and quickness to translate his game to the next level.

Offensively, Kennedy is not a terribly skilled small forward, but still finds ways to contribute to his team in a variety of different ways. Not much of a shot-creator or off the dribble shooter, he is, as mentioned, his team's main facilitator, a sort of point forward who makes good decisions, directs traffic on the floor and does a great job getting his teammates involved, as evidenced by his high assist numbers--which clearly would be even higher with better talent around him.

He is very effective in transition, where his average handle (particularly driving left) and inability to change directions with the ball aren't as much of an issue, as he can use his pure speed and strength to get to the basket and finish around the rim, while putting him at the free throw line at a pretty nice rate. He also takes a decent amount of 3-pointers (3.8 per game) and knocks them down at a solid 37% clip, despite possessing a somewhat flat and awkward lefty stroke that clearly has plenty of room for improvement.

Perhaps the most notable part about Kennedy's offensive profile is the fact that he has already proven his merit as a willing and very effective role-player, which is exactly what he would have to be in the NBA.

Defensively, Kennedy is already one of the best man to man defenders you'll find in the Big East, showing a very intriguing combination of physical tools, smarts and intensity.

He uses his length extremely well contesting shots on the perimeter, doing an excellent job staying in front of his matchup and looking very intelligent in the way he baits opposing players into taking tough shots over his outstretched arms. Watching his defensive possessions from this season and last, it's impressive to see the way in which he was asked to guard everything from point guards to power forwards for St. John's.

As a rebounder, Kennedy is very productive, hauling down 8.3 boards per-40 minutes pace adjusted, a third of which come on the offensive end. He does a good job coming up with the occasional block or steal, but isn't one to gamble unnecessarily, and commits an obscenely low number of personal fouls, only 16 in 367 minutes all season long, or one every 23 minutes.

Kennedy isn't the type of player who will wow you on first glance with his shot-creating ability or pure talent. What he is is a very fundamentally sound all-around player who should be able to blend in seamlessly with better players around him thanks to the excellent versatility he brings to the table.

If he can find a way to become a true knock-down spot-up shooter by the time he's finished at St. John's, he should be able to find a niche in the NBA, as a Courtney Lee type jack of all trades.

Sylvester Seay, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward/Center, Fresno State
15.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 50% FG, 28% 3FG, 68% FT

Kyle Nelson

Despite a 12-20 finish last season and an underwhelming 7-7 start, the Fresno State Bulldogs still boast one of the more interesting frontcourts in the West from an NBA perspective. Everybody knows the name Paul George, but his frontcourt-mate, power forward Sylvester Seay, is certainly worth a look as well.

Though he started his career as a rotation player at Arizona State, Seay has found his rhythm after transferring to Fresno State, and has developed into a productive and versatile big man at the collegiate level.

Seay has decent size for the post, standing 6'9 with a long and wiry 220-pound frame, but would likely have to get stronger in order to compete and produce in the NBA. Though he is a good athlete, Seay rarely shows his explosiveness due to his style of play and fixation with hoisting contested jumpshots, as opposed to playing closer to the basket. He has very good mobility and quickness in the post, both of which could help him significantly at the next level.

On the offensive end, Seay shows a lot of potential and has a sizeable arsenal both facing and around the basket. He loves to shoot the ball, attempting over 5.1 attempts from beyond the arc per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He tends to rely too heavily on this part of his game, though, as about a third of his attempts come from 3-point range, but he only converts on 28% of them. According to the data at our disposal, the overwhelming majority of Seay's catch-and-shoot attempts are guarded, which helps explain his poor percentages from the perimeter.

While he has shown the ability to knock down shots throughout his career, most notably last season when he converted 37% of his 3-point attempts, his inconsistent form and release are his most obvious areas for improvements. There is a role in the NBA for big men that can catch-and-shoot, but Seay must be more consistent in addition to demonstrating far better shot selection before scouts will consider him a legitimate pick and pop threat.

Seay's ability to face up and take his man off the dribble is interesting considering how power forwards are utilized in today's up-tempo NBA, and he does show some potential in the mid-range, as well, mainly in the form of knocking down pull-up jump-shots. He has plenty of work to do in this area, though, before he can truly hang his hat on this part of his game.

His handle has improved, but he favors his left hand and is fairly turnover prone when he puts the ball on the floor on the perimeter. Many of his 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted come as a result of his loose handle and poor decision-making skills. Though Fresno State's poor offensive fluidity and overall lack of basketball IQ certainly doesn't help, Seay would benefit from slowing down his game and doing a better job of understanding his limitations.

Seay's quickness and versatility combined with his good touch make him an effective option around the basket. He gets to the line at a nice rate, attempting 7.3 free throws per 40 minutes pace adjusted. It would be nice to see him spend more time in the post, however, particularly to prove that his reputation for being soft is incorrect.

He averages only 5.4 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game, which is just 7.8 minutes per 40 minutes pace adjusted and just 16% of Fresno State's total rebounds. These numbers are concerning coming from a player with Seay's physical tools and he must attack the boards with more energy and enthusiasm to prove to scouts that he is capable of playing a complimentary role at the next level.

Another area that must improve is his defense, which is lackluster at best. His lateral quickness is above average, but his overall effort must improve. Far too often, he gives up after he is beaten and does not fight for position to grab rebounds in his immediate vicinity. He also has trouble closing out on perimeter oriented big men. Given his inconsistency on offense, his defensive effort must improve dramatically if he wants to have any chance at competing at the next level.

Despite his interesting skill set and NBA-friendly physical profile, Sylvester Seay has quite a few obstacles on his way to becoming a legitimate prospect. His decision making skills, combined with his often poor body language and the fact that he will turn 25 in July limit his NBA upside significantly.

Continued improvements throughout this season are absolutely essential, primarily showing better shot-selection, making a far better effort on the boards, and working harder on the defensive end. With sustained improvement and a positive showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Seay will surely get a decent amount of workouts from NBA teams in May and June.

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