Top NBA Draft Prospects in the 'Other Conferences' (Part One: #1-#5)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the 'Other Conferences' (Part One: #1-#5)
Oct 29, 2007, 02:40 am
Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10:

Part One, Two, Three

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC:

Part One, Two, Three

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC:

Part One, Two

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10:

Part One, Two

Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East:

Part One, Two, Three

Non High-Major Conferences Part I

#1: Eric Maynor, 6-2, Junior, Point Guard, VCU

Kyle Nelson

Eric Maynor seemingly came out of nowhere in his sophomore season to lead Virginia Commonwealth University to the CAA tournament championship, an NCAA tournament upset against Duke, and then a near upset of Pittsburgh in overtime. His stock has since soared and he’s now considered among the nation’s top collegiate point guards.

Comparable to former Texas A&M star and current Atlanta Hawk Acie Law IV, Law embodies a lot of the reasons why Maynor is such an attractive prospect. Both possess good size for an NBA point guard, above-average quickness, and a penchant for making big plays down the stretch. However, what sets Maynor apart is that he is a true pass-first point guard, and even though he will likely be the top offensive option on any given night, he never forces offense unnecessarily.

Maynor is also a good scorer, though, efficient slashing, creating his own shot in the mid-range, or spotting up from the perimeter. He is not the fastest player in the world compared to most NBA point guards, and his first-step could best be described as above average, but regardless, Maynor gets a good majority of his offense from inside the perimeter. Slashing to the hoop, he uses his superior size and ability to absorb contact to his advantage. He also draws a lot of fouls and his 5.1 free throw attempts per game ranks in the Top 10 of DX Database prospects for the 2008 draft; he makes those foul shots 77.8% of the time.

His 42.4% field-goal percentage should improve for him to become a true NBA point guard prospect, but he has a good-looking mid-range game. Using a variety of hesitation moves, he is able to create enough space for himself to get off his mid-range jump shots. His mid-range jumpshot, which he takes about as often as he slashes to the basket, shows his mechanics: good elevation, quick release, and the ability to pull up from just about anywhere inside 17 feet. His form would improve from further out if he had a more consistent release point and, like a few other prospects in these previews, would be benefited tremendously by not wasting motion by kicking his feet while releasing his shot. The same can be said about his 3-point shot, an already improving part of Maynor’s offensive repertoire, but as exposed by his 39% on 59 attempts (up from 20% on 15 attempts), clearly one in need of significant work. The worst part about his perimeter shot is the wasted motion as he always kicks his feet out while releasing, and tends to push the shot out more than he strokes it. Maynor has the instincts and potential to become a good jump-shooter on the NCAA level, he just has to work on his form.

Maynor would also benefit by tightening his handle. Last season, he had a very high and sometimes sloppy dribble that prevented him from maximizing his potential as a slasher and mid-range jump-shooter. He also has a tendency to drive left far more than he drives right. He loves to use screens and is absolutely terrific running the pick and roll, showing great timing and decision making alternating between feeding the screener and scoring the ball himself. Being able to punish defenders going underneath the screen with a more effective jump-shot will make him absolutely lethal with this play.

However, the most advanced part of Maynor’s offensive game is his ability to dictate tempo and control the VCU offense through the point guard position. He is a very good passer, throwing fast and crisp passes just about anywhere on the floor. He is a creative distributor and even a tad ambitious at times. However, he is not careless, turnover prone, and he rarely forces any of his passes. As a sophomore he averaged 6.4 assists in 35 minutes per game, but only 2.1 Turnovers. The resulting 3.07 assist/turnover ratio ranked highest among all prospects last season, including Mike Conley Jr., Jared Jordan, and Tywon Lawson. That being said, Maynor is a mature player who plays with patience and poise that often eludes young point guards. Watching a VCU game, it was interesting to look at his understanding and execution of the offense. He tries to feed his big men just as often as his perimeter players and the resulting balance allows him to generate offense for himself. However, what really makes Maynor stand out against the other lead guards in his class is that he is not playing with a team that is very naturally talented and he is still considered to be a legitimate prospect. Maynor helps his team play to just about all of their potential and translates this potential into wins.

As a defender, Maynor is decent, but has room for improvement. He plays good man-to-man defense, despite his lack of lateral quickness, and uses his long arms to disrupt him man. However, he looks less good in a team defense situation. He frequently gets suckered into double-teaming a man in the post and leaves his man on the perimeter wide open for a three. Maynor is a cerebral player, so he has the potential to be a good team defender; it’s just a matter of coaching and focus. He puts in good effort on both sides of the floor and despite his defensive shortcomings: he is not a liability on the defensive end.

Maynor has the vision, size, intelligence, and talent to play point guard in the NBA. However, he is going to have to become a much better shooter and defender before successfully making the jump. He is also going to have to prove his critics wrong and continue to show that he is capable of making his less talented teammates better. After emerging as one of the nation’s top point guards last season, Maynor has the chance to start answering some questions and to cement himself firmly in the NBA Draft conversation.

#2: Courtney Lee, 6’5, Sophomore, SG/SF, Western Kentucky

Joseph Treutlein

After three strong, efficient seasons at Western Kentucky, Courtney Lee seems primed to step into NBA draft discussions, especially after an impressive showing at the Lebron James Skills Academy this past summer. The 6’5 (maybe 6’6) wingman averaged 17 points on 47% shooting and 40% from behind the arc as a junior for the Hilltoppers, almost duplicating his numbers as a sophomore. With his solid athleticism and high basketball IQ, Lee brings an all-around scoring game to the table from the wing.

Most of Lee’s offense is based around his jump shot, showing close to textbook form, aside from a slight tendency to push the ball forward at times, which really isn’t much of an issue. His form is consistent, his release speed good, and his release point high, which is a large reason he shot so well as the focal point of his team’s offense. More impressive than his general form, though, is Lee’s body control when shooting off the dribble, something he does very well from the 15-20 feet area. Lee can shoot the ball pulling up going to his left and his right, showing good footwork and requiring very little separation to get his shot off, rarely having it altered by the defender. His body control is excellent when pulling up, and he has good enough ball-handling to consistently create his shot against Western Kentucky’s competition. Lee is also good spotting up from behind the three-point arc, which he does in transition and in the half-court. In the half-court, Lee does a good job working to get open without the ball, changing directions well to get separation from his defender.

Lee’s offense isn’t limited to his jump shot, though, as he has average ball-handling skills for a wing, and can take the ball to the basket with either hand adequately well. Lee strangely prefers going to his left with the ball even though he’s a righty, showing more confidence and a more controlled dribble going in that direction. When he takes the ball to the basket, he shows very good body control and ability to adjust in mid-air, also taking contact well when necessary with his well-built frame. Lee doesn’t rely on going to the basket much, though, as he’s more effective from the perimeter and his ball-handling is good, not great. He doesn’t really change directions well with his dribble in the lane, though he has a nice crossover he can use in space on the perimeter. Lee also does have a nice floater from around 10 feet that sometimes looks like it’s a half jump-shot, which he gets off quickly and easily. His overall scoring game is very reminiscent of Brandon Roy’s, though he clearly lacks Roy’s point guard skills.

Lee’s best offensive attributes definitely come in terms of scoring the ball, and that’s what he’s asked to do for his team, but he shows the ability to contribute in other ways as well. He’s a solid passer, not being selfish with the ball, and will move the ball well in the flow of an offense, finding open shots on the perimeter or feeding the post. He doesn’t have any real point guard skills in him, but he’s a solid passer for a wing. He also can contribute on the glass with his athleticism and length, going up in a crowd to pull down a rebound. In transition, Lee runs the floor well and finishes with some nice moves at the rim, showing off vertical explosiveness on occasion.

On the defensive end, Lee has great raw tools and a solid fundamental base, getting into a good defensive stance and almost always playing up on his man in man-to-man defense. He shows good lateral quickness and instincts as well, though he’s not a lockdown defender, as he can be beat. He also uses his length and athleticism to disrupt in the passing lanes, averaging 1.5 steals this past season and 2.6 the season before. The biggest gripe to be had with his defense at this stage is that he can get caught out of position when his man doesn’t have the ball, but he’s not much worse there than the average 22-year-old prospect.

Despite mostly playing against weak competition in the NCAA, Lee has shown plenty of signs that his ability can translate to the NBA. Against better competition this season, including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Southern Illinois, Lee’s production didn’t dip at all, and he got off his shot with the same ease against their defenses. He also showed great confidence over the summer going up against Lebron James at his skills academy, showing no fear while displaying his full offensive repertoire. Lee could be a little more dominant against the competition in the Sun Belt Conference if he played a little less passively, and that’s something he could work on showing this season. If he keeps his current pace, though, he should be firmly in draft discussions, possibly even creeping up to the first round if he makes some noticeable strides with his game. His potential is probably that of an 3rd/4th option type player, such as what Anthony Parker plays for the Toronto Raptors.

#3: Jeremy Pargo, 6-2, Junior, Point Guard, Gonzaga

Jonathan Givony

Taking the reigns and often stepping into the go-to guy role for a troubled Gonzaga squad last year was their sophomore combo guard Jeremy Pargo. With Josh Heytvelt kicked off the team and Derek Raivio better suited playing a role where he isn’t constantly forced to create offense for himself and others off the dribble, it was Pargo that became Gonzaga’s primary offense facilitator-- the one responsible for coming up with creative solutions when things got complicated in their half-court sets. Pargo also allowed the Zags to play the type of up-tempo transition basketball they’ve become known for over the past few years, turning on the jets at any given moment and not allowing defenses to get set. Indeed, over 30% of his offense came in transition according to Synergy Sports Technology, an abnormally high rate compared with other guards we’ve evaluated.

Physically, Pargo has great tools to play the point guard position at the next level. Showing adequate size, excellent strength and terrific athletic ability, he will never be at a disadvantage in this area. Pargo’s first step is especially impressive, and he uses it in every opportunity possible to explode into the lane and finish strong at the basket, sometimes with a highlight reel caliber dunk.

This is the basis of Pargo’s game at the moment, his ability to break down defenses and aggressively create his own shot. He’s an outstanding ball-handler, capable of going right or left equally well, and has an emerging mid-range game he can utilize to compliment his ability to finish in traffic—including floaters and pull-up jumpers. He knows how to create space for himself with advanced ball-handling moves (crossovers and such), and is particularly adept at using quick spin-moves to get himself even deeper into the paint. The fact that he shot 49% from the field tells us that he took a lot of good shots fairly close to the basket. Pargo does a nice job keeping his head up and finding open men on the drive and dish as well once the defense rotates, a big part of how he averaged a team-high 4.6 assists per game last season.

Pargo also shot a solid 37% from behind the arc, although it came on a very limited amount of attempts—less than two per game. He has decent form on his jumper, but possesses a slow and deliberate release, making him a solid threat when he’s able to set his feet, but also often makes him miss badly when forced to rush his shot.

Billed as more of a shooting guard coming out of high school (and not a top 100 player according to the recruiting services), Pargo clearly is still making the transition to playing the point full time. He plays a bit too fast and out of control at times, showing sloppy decision making—forcing passes into tight spaces, over-penetrating singly-mindedly into the paint, making unforced errors, and displaying poor shot selection. He was not a consistent player from game to game for Gonzaga, providing dramatic swings in production from week to week.

Defensively, Pargo was a bit inconsistent as well. He has great potential here because of his outstanding physical tools, and even backs that up with a hard-nosed aggressive mentality to help get the job done, but still gets by too much on his instincts rather than with great fundamentals. With experience and good coaching he has a lot of room to continue to improve here, though, like most players his age.

As an NBA prospect, Pargo has quite a bit to offer, as he looks to project as a pretty useful player for a coach to bring off the bench to change the tempo of the game. If he can improve his perimeter shooting ability and playmaking skills, he might even be considered more than that by the time he is finished at Gonzaga. He’s a very different player than his brother Jannero, arguably more naturally talented, and therefore should have an easier initial route to making the league. If he has even half of his brother’s attitude and work ethic, though, then he should be in great shape.

#4: Josh Heytvelt, 6-11, Power Forward, Junior, Gonzaga

Mike Schmidt

During what clearly looked to be his coming out party in his sophomore season, everything went downhill quickly for Josh Heytvelt after he was arrested the night before a game against St. Mary’s. Along with a teammate, he was caught by police with hallucinogenic mushrooms, and thus his sophomore season abruptly ended. Rather than looking to transfer or trying his luck with the NBA draft, Heytvelt chose to complete extensive community service and attempt to regain the trust of his teammates after being allowed a second chance with the university. Now a junior, the big man must prove the incident was an aberration, while still showing the same ability he flashed inconsistently on the court last season.

Heytvelt has a wide array of skills offensively, and was the inside threat Gonzaga lacked in their first round loss against Indiana in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The junior big shows very comfortable facing the basket, as well as shooting turnaround jumpers from the low post. He has soft hands, and is mobile enough to run the floor in transition and finish effectively around the basket. He also relies on a right handed jump-hook and has the ability to face-up and drive past most opposing big men. Heytvelt also can step back and shoot the open jumper when left open. On two 3-point attempts per game last season, he managed to hit 40% of these attempts. Simply put, there aren’t many 6-11 players anywhere in the country who can boast such a large variety of ways to put the ball in the basket. His 23.7 points per 40 minutes averages indeed make him the 5th leading scorer in the country amongst returning big men.

Defensively, Heytvelt can be very effective at times, especially going against traditional back to the basket big men. He uses his body very effectively to deny the ball in the low post, and holds his ground against big men with superior strength. He’s also smart enough to know how to use his length to disrupt shots in the paint, but doesn’t get baited into cheap fouls as often as most other young college big men. Heytvelt has the timing to block shots on occasion as well, as his superior physical tools suggest he might at this level. You would like to see him play a little tougher at times, though, as we’re often missing a degree of activity from Heytvelt that would really put his size and athleticism to work. He often looks a bit too lackadaisical.

Physically, Heytvelt shows very good athleticism and runs the court better than the majority of big men in college basketball. The big man also has a quickness advantage that allows him to dribble past slower defenders, and his leaping ability makes him a good rebounder at the college level. Despite his athletic ability, he needs to work on becoming stronger with his upper body before facing NBA competition.

Heytvelt could stand to improve his footwork when operating out of the low-post, and would be much harder to guard with more post moves and counter moves in his arsenal. For right now, he relies on a few staple moves, which NBA big men and their advanced scouting departments will be able to figure out. He also needs to play with a more consistent energy level. In certain games last season, Heytvelt would disappear for long stretches, and his lack of effort on both ends of the floor was apparent.

Josh Heytvelt has the talent to develop into a lottery pick with a strong season, but he must first answer some questions both on and off the court. Based on talent alone, he should be a lot higher than our ranking here would indicate, but his mushroom incident will be considered a big red flag for NBA scouts. He has two years of eligibility to prove he can play against high-level competition, and stay out of trouble off the court.

#5: Joey Dorsey, 6-9, Senior, PF/C, Memphis

Joey Whelan

When the Memphis Tigers take the floor this season, they will be loaded with talent. With the return of veterans like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Robert Dozier, and the arrival of new prospects like Derrick Rose, John Calipari’s squad is armed for a deep run into March. One important cog on this team that cannot be overlooked on such a star-studded team is senior power forward Joey Dorsey. Aside from incoming freshman Derrick Rose, there may be no more of an intriguing pro prospect in Conference USA than Dorsey.

Dorsey possesses the physical tools to succeed at the pro level; despite being a little undersized at 6’9”. He has a very wide frame, one that packs 260 pounds of muscle. Aside from freshman phenom Greg Oden, Dorsey didn’t meet a single player last year that could stand up to him in terms of raw strength. His mass though is deceiving in that he has tremendous upward explosiveness and the ability to elevate with anyone in the country. Often last season defenders would have to deal with Dorsey skying over them for a thunderous alley-oop. His open floor speed is also above average for a player of his size, but his poor ball skills prevent him from being a threat to do anything but catch and finish around the basket.

For a player as physically gifted as Dorsey is, his 8.5 points per game last season doesn’t seem to add up. There are two reasons behind his low offensive output. First, Dorsey has a severely underdeveloped post game. Against smaller opponents, Dorsey simply tries to outmuscle them on his way to the basket. While this works sometimes, it results in a fair number of offensive foul calls against him. He occasionally shows flashes, able to drop step and elevate over defenders, but these are few and far between. In general , he doesn’t have much touch around the basket, and often will attempt to dunk the ball rather than go for the easier finish. The other reason for Dorsey’s lack of scoring is in that he simply isn’t a major focal point of the Memphis offense. The senior only attempted 5.3 shots per game last season in 25 minutes of playing time.

The majority of Dorsey’s shot attempts come from his tremendous hustle on the offensive glass. An amazing 42% of his shot attempts last season came from offensive rebounds, according to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified stats. While for many players this would be a problem, Dorsey is still able to be a scoring threat because he is such a workhorse down low. He averaged 9.4 rebounds per game and 4.4 offensive rebounds per game. These averages when adjusted to 40 minute averages are 14.9 rebounds (6.9 offensive rebounds) per game, first in the country amongst returning prospects receiving substantial playing time. Dorsey is able to rebound at such an incredible rate on both ends of the floor thanks to his sheer mass and his tremendous leaping ability. It is very hard to keep him from establishing position to go after rebounds because he is so strong; it isn’t unusual to see him come down with a one-handed rebound while holding off an opponent with the other arm. On top of that, he is able to come down with many balls that he shouldn’t be able to since he can out jump most players he goes up against.

Another major benefit of Dorsey’s offensive rebound prowess is it equates into frequent trips to the foul line--he averaged more than four attempts from the line last season. While this is an encouraging statistic; his 47% percentage is not. Dorsey has awful shooting mechanics and non-existent touch, which explains why he almost never attempts any sort of a jump shot.

Defense is where Dorsey is going to really make or break his pro chances. He is an absolute disruptive force in every sense of the phrase. His rebounding prowess alone would make him appealing, but he has great reaction time as well, which further adds to his appeal on the defensive side of the floor. Dorsey averaged 2.2 blocks and 1.4 steals last season thanks to his ability to his instincts and athletic ability. His deceptive quickness allows him to intercept a fair number of passes, and his freakish leaping ability lets him get a hand on some shots that he has no business blocking. Even when he isn’t blocking shots, he alters a lot of shots that are taken in his area.

While he isn’t tremendously quick, Dorsey still does a fairly good job when he is asked to play perimeter defense. He guards the pick and roll fairly well, something scouts love to see with the way today’s NBA works. Dorsey does need to improve on his abilities to close out on perimeters shooters.

Despite how much he needs to improve his offensive game, Dorsey’s athleticism and stellar defensive play will be enough to have him playing at the pre-draft camps and likely hear his name called on draft night. Should we see a big improvement in his scoring ability this year though, Dorsey could possibly even crack the first round. It’s pretty clear that there is a role for him in the league somewhere, at the very least as a Reggie Evans type player.

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