NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/15/09

NCAA Weekly Performers, 3/15/09
Mar 15, 2009, 01:34 am
Wayne Ellington, 6-5, Shooting Guard, North Carolina
14.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 46.4% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 80.2% FT

Scott Nadler

With UNC wrapping up another ACC regular season title and a number one seeding in the NCAA tournament, it appears as if the Tar Heels are ready to make another run at the Final Four. While Tyler Hansbrough gets much of the publicity and Ty Lawson is credited with leading the team, Wayne Ellington may very well be their most talented player, and is quietly putting together another solid season.

Ellington is as smooth as they come, as he possesses a finesse game with a sweet looking stroke and a great ability to score in a variety of ways. He entered college as strictly a jump shooter, and his strength still lies in his ability to catch and shoot, but he has certainly become more of a complete player. He’s particularly improved over the past couple of seasons scoring off the dribble.

Ellington is not terribly explosive off the bounce, but he does a good job of getting in the lane by covering a lot of ground with one or two dribbles. He’s also incorporated a little shake in his game, and is finishing at the rim at a good rate of 58.25% according to Synergy Sports Technology. He is an extraordinary talented player, as there aren’t too many things he can’t do on the offensive end. Although not an incredible athlete, he is fundamentally sound as he has great shooting mechanics, displays good footwork, and he takes care of the basketball – sporting a very solid 1.59 A/TO ratio.

Despite that, the few flaws that he has are definitely holding him back. He’s still not getting to the free throw line at a great rate (3.6 FTA per-40 pace adjusted) which is a result of his tendency to avoid contact by fading away and is also a result of his reliability on his pull-up fade away jumper. He showed great improvement in this area last season and now it appears as if he’s a bit too comfortable and has fallen in love with it too much.

Furthermore, he tends to fade away and disappear throughout the course of a game as well. He will go several possessions without touching the ball and it’s easy to forget that he’s even on the court at times. Part of this is due to Carolina’s emphasis on pounding the ball inside in the half court, but a greater majority falls on Ellington himself. He’s almost content with being a role player when in fact he should be demanding the ball late in games with his skill set. He has the ability to explode for big performances, particularly against up-tempo teams with who don’t defend particularly well (25 points vs. Clemson, 34 points vs. Maryland) but more often than not he is not someone that leaves an overwhelming impression after games.

Defensively, Ellington leaves a lot to be desired. He’s not someone that you would ever call a scrapper and doesn’t really cause havoc on this end of the court. He doesn’t have an overly impressive wingspan (6-7) and his lateral quickness could use some work. He gets exposed when isolated on the perimeter against a quicker player, but struggles perhaps even more when chasing an opposing guard through screens. He must improve greatly here for his stock to have any chance at rising. The tournament will be a great chance for him to change the perception that many have of him.

The NCAA’s will also be a good opportunity for Ellington to erase the memory of his poor performance last summer at the pre-draft workouts. He was overmatched by a strong draft class and his lack of size and athleticism was concerning—making many to wonder if he’s a product of North Carolina’s extremely up-tempo system. Coming into this season, scouts were looking for big improvements but that has not been the case, as his numbers are eerily similar to last season’s marks. Ellington’s uniform production could cost him a first round selection—he surely isn’t there right now. Since he already burned his draft card last June, he’ll be in to stay if he decides to put his name in again this time around.

With that in mind and with the upcoming departures of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Danny Green to the NBA, Ellington could be best suited staying in school for his senior year. With a strong incoming class, and the anticipated emergence of soon to be sophomore’s Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, Ellington will be the star of a team surrounded with talent. He will have a chance to be a number one option and the opportunity to show his true talent.

Robert Dozier, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward, Memphis
12.6 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 1.7 blocks, 52% FG, 72% FT, 40% 3P

Jonathan Givony

A strong senior season continued on an excellent note this weekend, as Robert Dozier put up back to back excellent games in the semi and final games of the Conference USA Tournament, helping his Memphis Tigers win yet another conference title, and becoming a member of the winningest class in NCAA history along the way.

Dozier made a number of important improvements to his game as a senior, becoming a much more productive and efficient all-around player. His field goal percentage is up substantially, from 44 to 52%, despite shouldering a bigger role offensively, and he’s become much more consistent both from the free throw line and beyond the arc.

His shooting stroke would probably be a good place to start. Dozier has made 21/52 3-point attempts so far this year, which is a good percentage (40.4%) but probably too small a sample size to get overly excited about. Dozier is pretty solid at making open 3’s with his feet set and space to get his shot off, but he struggles when rushed or forced to shoot off the dribble. Part of the reason he’s improved his percentages this year is because he’s improved his shot-selection, cutting down on many of the wild fade-aways he would settle for in the past. He is pretty solid from mid-range now, also with his feet set, particularly from the elbow, where Memphis likes to let him go to work.

Dozier is still a pretty crude ball-handler, especially trying to change directions with the ball or utilize his left hand, but he’s very capable of taking his man off one or two short dribbles if isolated 12-17 feet away from the basket—and especially once again from the elbow. His first step is excellent, and he’s become much smarter at knowing when to put the ball on the floor, which has made him a pretty nice mismatch for Memphis at the PF position this season, and has helped him get to the free throw line at a solid rate.

Not particularly strong in either the upper or lower body, Dozier has regardless become fairly effective operating with his back to the basket at the C-USA level, mostly utilizing his excellent quickness and above average footwork to beat opponents in the paint. His length and athleticism also allows him to be a fairly reliable finisher around the basket, making him a fairly popular target for Memphis’ guards to find on cuts or transition situations.

Defensively, Dozier is very solid, and obviously deserves credit for helping Memphis become one of the stingiest teams in all of college basketball. His length and athleticism play a big part in Memphis’ full-court press and pick and roll defense, where they like to switch on pretty much every screen. In the post he does a great job contesting shots, even though he lacks the strength to hold his ground against bigger opponents at times. He’s active in the passing lanes and is an above average shot-blocker as well, where his length comes in very handy. The downside here is his rebounding numbers, which are nothing to write home about.

Dozier has yet to really show what his niche will be at the next level, as he’s not particularly skilled offensively in any facet, and there are question marks about how his defense and rebounding will translate to the NBA. He may lack the bulk to guard some of the stronger power forwards he’ll match up with at times, and probably is too upright on the perimeter to defend small forwards full time. The fact that he will turn 24 by the time the NBA season kicks off may make you wonder just how much weight he’ll be able to add to his skinny frame, as his body hasn’t changed much over the last few years. Still, it’s not out of the question that a team decides to take a chance on him somewhere in the second round, or by offering a roster spot via training camp, as his combination of length, athleticism, activity level and ability to space the floor are all big pluses.

Lester Hudson, 6’1, PG/SG, Senior, Tennessee Martin
27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.4 steals, 3.2 turnovers, 45% FG, 36% 3PT, 88% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After an underwhelming showing at the NBA pre-draft camp last summer, Lester Hudson decided to return to school for his senior season, where he may as well have carbon copied his statline from the prior season. In analyzing the limited footage we have access to from Tennessee Martin, there are a few new observations to be had about the 24-year-old combo guard, but we’re mostly looking at the same player we extensively covered a year ago.

Hudson’s role for the Skyhawks is very much the same as it was last season, as the scoring guard spends time at both guard positions while carrying the burden of having to create a large amount of offense for his team, leading our entire database in percentage of team possessions used. It’s tough to evaluate Hudson’s true potential as a distributor given the role he’s forced to play, but he shows flashes of decent court vision, is not a selfish player, and shows nice prowess in drawing the defense and kicking the ball to the open man.

As a scorer, Hudson is still the same smooth shooter, capable of pulling up with a hand in his face and scoring from all areas of the court. As we highlighted last year, despite his high number of shots taken, he doesn’t force the issue very much in context.

If Hudson’s improved in any area this season, it’d have to be with his ball-handling, where he’s showing a better command of advanced moves and more creativity in getting open for shots. His 0.14 turnovers per possession is well above average, especially for a guard burdened with spending so much time with the ball in his hands. Hudson’s creativity extends to his lay-ups as well, where he shows very good body control and touch, frequently scoring on floaters, reverses, and other high difficulty shots.

Defensively, Hudson is as strong as ever, still ranking near the top of our database in steals, while also playing aggressive and effective man-to-man defense with his strong fundamental stance. As alluded to last year, his lateral quickness is a concern when projecting to the next level, and he’s even beat laterally on occasion against the low level of competition he plays against.

Given the competition level he plays against, the unorthodox role he plays in his team’s offense, and the struggles he faced earlier in the season against quality opponents, it may be hard for talent evaluators to come to strong conclusions about Hudson, and his showing at last year’s NBA pre-draft camp certainly doesn’t help his case. With the changes in the camp this year, Hudson won’t be able to show scouts what he’s capable of in an orthodox role in a 5-on-5 setting against high level competition unless he attends the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, something he should be highly considering, as he needs every chance he can get to be seen by teams, since he’s no lock to be drafted at this point.

DeMarre Carroll, 6-8, Senior, Small Forward/Power Forward, Missouri, 17.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.6 steals, 57% FG, 65% FT, 39% 3PT

Kyle Nelson

When we wrote about DeMarre Carroll during the pre-season, he was a power forward transitioning to the wing, a prototypical collegiate tweener with much work to be done. This season, Carroll has made great strides in his game, emerging as one of the NCAA’s most versatile players in addition to being the top option on the 14th ranked team in the country. He still has a long way to go and much improvement needs to be made before he can consider himself a small forward in the NBA, but based on his improvements over the course of this year, he is well on his way.

Physically, there is much to like and to question about Carroll. He has optimal size for the NBA wing, standing 6’8 with a good wingspan, but could stand to add more muscle to his slight 225-pound frame. At this time, he lacks the bulk to contend with collegiate post players, let alone NBA big men. While he runs the floor extremely well for a player his size, he is not freakishly athletic. This, particularly his lack of elite leaping ability, will likely hinder his transition to the wing on both sides of the floor at the next level.

Offensively, Carroll has made many improvements, most notably in his ball handling. While he certainly has a lot of work left to do, as he still looks awkward handling the ball in traffic, still favors his left hand over his right hand, and at this point isn’t very creative off of the dribble, Carroll’s improved handle has opened up a lot of his offense, particularly his mid-range and slashing games. Also much improved is his shooting stroke, which, as seen in his career high TS% and eFG%, has become a reliable part of his offensive game. That being said, he still shows a lot of room for improvement, particularly in his shooting stroke, which would benefit from consistency. His shooting motion is also a bit slow for the next level and sometimes he has the tendency to hang at the top of his jump, and shoot on the way down, which hurts his shooting stroke, particularly with a hand in his face. At this point, he is most comfortable in catch and shoot situations on the perimeter and pulling up inside of the three-point arc. He looks much improved in terms of these perimeter-oriented skills, but he needs to continue to work, proving to scouts that he can knock down perimeter jumpers consistently and practicing so as to become more comfortable with his mid-range game.

In terms of his slashing game, Carroll has made nice strides, as well. His handle has improved tremendously, allowing him to get to the rim faster than in previous years. He shows good touch and finishes well at this level, but lacks the strength and leaping ability for his scoring ability in the paint to translate well to the NBA game. Similarly, while he shows good quickness and decent footwork in the collegiate post, which allows him to have a fairly reliable back to the basket game, he lacks the size and athleticism to be much of a factor in the NBA post.

Carroll might have trouble defensively at the next level, as he may have to defend small forwards at times rather than post players, as he does now. His lateral quickness is only average and despite the fact that he has improved this year, he still does not look capable of staying with the NBA’s elite wing players. His awareness doesn’t look that improved, either, and he still gives guards and wings open shots far too often. This might be the area in which he will have to impress scouts most, as many of the players in his mold have thrived in the NBA based on their defensive prowess.

Thus, the outlook on Carroll is more positive than the last time we evaluated him, but still leaves a lot room for questions. For one, how much more can he improve his perimeter skills? How much better can he get with his perimeter defense? Carroll has made many improvements since his junior season, but he still has some work to do before he can consider himself a wing at the next level. He should look to the career trajectories of players such as Dominic McGuire and Renaldo Balkman. Carroll is not quite as athletic as either player, but, if he wants to stick in the NBA, then he should take notice of their commitment to improving defensively in addition to brushing up his all around game. A good NCAA or Portsmouth Invitational tournament performance would open scouts’ eyes significantly, however. Therefore, Carroll has a lot of work left to do with few opportunities to impress on the big stage.

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