Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-15)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Three: #11-15)
Sep 08, 2008, 02:43 am
In our final analysis of the top non-freshman NBA draft prospects in the Big 12 conference, we take a look at Oklahoma State sophomore Ibrahima Thomas, Texas A&M senior Josh Carter, Missouri seniors Leo Lyons and Demarre Carroll, and Oklahoma State senior Byron Eaton.

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part One: #1-5)
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12 (Part Two: #6-10)

#11 Ibrahima Thomas, 6-11, Sophomore, PF/C, Oklahoma State

Jonathan Givony

Despite experiencing an up and down freshman season marred with inconsistency, Ibrahima Thomas comes into this upcoming campaign with some solid playing time and experience underneath his belt, which is exactly what he needed considering his background.

Showing great size at 6-11, with an outstanding wingspan, Thomas is always going to catch people’s attention when he first steps foot on the court. He is about 20-30 pounds from his optimal weight, though, and is not what you would call a very fluid athlete at this point, looking a bit clumsy and uncoordinated the way raw African prospects at times do. His hands are just average and he doesn’t have very much to speak of in the ways of his footwork around the basket.

What’s interesting about Thomas is that he shows an intriguing skill-level facing the basket, being capable of knocking down shots with a pretty nice looking stroke, good enough to hit 11 3-pointers in his freshman season, at an inconsistent 32% clip. This is a nice asset for a player his size to have, but he should not fall in love with it, as he tended to do at times rushing up bad shots immediately once he caught the ball on the perimeter, which led to some very awkward misses in which he did not even draw iron.

As the season progressed, Thomas did a better job of contributing to Oklahoma State, in small doses. He showed some sparks of potential posting up aggressively and knocking down short hook shots and turn-around jumpers inside. Nothing incredible, but enough to show that he is making progress and is willing to use his size and touch to get his team high percentage shots. His timing, decision making skills and all-around offensive polish obviously have a long ways to go, but there may be some room for optimism based on the early results. He showed a pretty decent knack for crashing the offensive glass as well.

On the negative side, Thomas showed very little in the ways of passing ability, turning the ball over five times for every assist he dished out, and only shot a mediocre 58% from the free throw line. He wasn’t much of a shot-blocking presence at all (just 1.1 per 40 minutes), and was incredibly foul prone, averaging 7.1 fouls per-40 on the season. He needs to work on his body to maximize as much of his athleticism as he can (he’s fairly average in this regard), as well as his hands to make him at least somewhat of a consistent threat to catch the ball and finish inside.

Thomas can’t be viewed as anything less than a 4-year prospect at this point in time until he manages to show otherwise, but he will get some looks regardless because of his size, length and budding perimeter skills. The type of work ethic he displays will likely determine how far he is able to make it in professional basketball. He’s playing catch-up right now and has a lot of ground to make up.

#12 Josh Carter, 6’7, SG/SF, Senior, Texas A&M

Joseph Treutlein

After a solid sophomore season, Josh Carter didn’t have quite the breakout junior season he had hoped for, failing to take advantage of the greater offensive role that came his way. While the departure of floor general and shotmaker Acie Law opened up a lot more shots for Carter in the Aggies’ offense, it also decreased the quality of many of those shots, without Law to set them up for him.

Carter did manage to slightly increase his scoring to 12.2 points per game, but with his field goal percentage dropping 7 points to 42%, his three-point percentage dropping 12 points to 38%, and his eFG% dropping a remarkable 13 points to 53%, it’s hard to see that as a good thing.

In terms of what he looked like on the floor, there really wasn’t much different about Carter’s skills, just his role. His shot looked the same and he still was absolutely deadly at times, but he is a much better shooter when he gets his feet set and his body squared, and this season he had defenders sticking him tougher and closing in on him faster, making it harder for him to do those things. Carter does show flashes of ability to hit shots coming off screens, fading away, and pulling up off the dribble, but he doesn’t do it consistently enough, something that was a problem last season as well. After a pretty consistent start to the season in terms of scoring production every night, Carter’s point totals began to fluctuate wildly again towards the latter half of the conference schedule.

With the ball, Carter looks very comfortable in space, and is still capable of making one or two dribble drives to the basket, but he doesn’t take it all the way there often. On the contrary, he’s actually developed a nice mid-range game with runners, floaters, and fadeaways, where he shows good touch and body control. While his ball-handling looks comfortable in space, and he has the first step to get past his man, he struggles to get all the way to the basket because of a high center of gravity, lack of change of direction ability with the ball, a high dribble, and the inability to make advanced moves in space. Off the ball, Carter shows very good recognition of angles and space, doing a good job to cut off screens or lose his man to get open for lay-ups at the basket.

Defensively, Carter makes good use of his length on perimeter defense, and shows a good stance and commitment, but often being assigned to smaller guards, he lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front. His high center of gravity also hurts him when having to change directions, even though he does a good job of getting into squad position. His hustle, length, and athletic abilities allow him to make some weakside plays in terms of blocks and steals, but they are far and few between, as he averages just 0.8 blocks/steals combined per game.

As a senior, the pressure is on Carter to pick up where he left off as a sophomore, and it will be interesting to see if he can bring his shooting percentages back to where they were without so many wide open jumpers. Carter is likely someone we’ll be seeing at the pre-draft camps in the offseason, and he should have ample opportunities to prove he’s worth taking a shot on in the NBA. With a great shooting touch and good size for a wing, he definitely has a chance, but he’s going to need to help himself more than he did as a junior.

#13 Leo Lyons, 6’9, Senior, Power Forward, Missouri

Rodger Bohn

After testing the waters for the 2008 NBA Draft, Lyons received some feedback from NBA scouts and realized very quickly that he would be much better suited returning to college for his senior season. It has been known since his sophomore season that we were looking at an incredibly productive scorer based upon the minutes he played, but he will need to show improvement in the other facets of his game throughout his final year at Mizzou if he hopes to give himself the possibility of being drafted in June.

As we’ve written, there’s very little not to like about Lyons physically and athletically. He fits the mold of today’s face the basket power forward, long and lean, blessed with nice coordination and explosiveness. Moving around the court with great fluidity, you often forget that you are looking at a player standing 6’9.

The bread and butter of Lyons’ game has continued to be his ability to put points on the board in a number of ways. His go-to move would have to be his mid-range jumper, which he is perfectly hitting from a static position or off of the dribble going either way. The first step that he possesses is downright outstanding and enabled him to beat the vast majority of power forwards that he was pegged against off of the dribble. Leo showed off creative ball handling skills from time to time and was outstanding slashing to the rim late in the season for a post player. The senior showed off some pretty nifty passing skills when unable to score for himself, as well.

Defensively, Lyons is a bit of a nightmare, showing very little in terms of man-to-man defense or defensive rebounding ability. He lacks fundamentals on the defensive end, struggles rotating, and gambles for just about any block/steal possible. Lyons also tends to forget to box out quite often, wasting away the superior physical tools he has by letting smaller players corral rebounds. Scouts are certainly going to take a hard look at Lyons improvement on this end of the floor throughout the next 9 months.

Consistency issues have also plagued Leo in the past. On one night, you will feel that you are looking at a “can’t miss” NBA player. Then on the next night, you will walk away feeling like you just saw a talented player who doesn’t really “get it”. Whether or not Lyons is able to grasp how good he can potentially become and play like it will likely decide how far he makes it as a player. Either way, he’s a guy who will still probably get an opportunity to show his stuff to NBA brass at Portsmouth and the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp if he chooses to do so.

#14 DeMarre Carroll, 6-8, Senior, Power Forward, Missouri

Over the past few seasons, combo-forwards and hybrid forwards have become an increasingly popular addition to NBA rosters. This is both good and bad for Missouri senior forward DeMarre Carroll. His 13.0 ppg on 53.6% FG and 6.7 rpg were all career highs and he achieved those numbers while playing four less minutes per game than in his sophomore campaign. Scouts will be watching to see, however, if he is closer to translating his offensive and defensive abilities to the perimeter because right now, he is very much a tweener.

Standing somewhere between 6-7 and 6-8 with a solid wingspan and a slight frame, Carroll is definitely a tweener by NBA standards. He has solid athleticism, running the floor in transition hard, but not looking freakishly explosive finishing around the basket.

The problem is that, like most undersized collegiate power forwards, Carroll’s offensive ability is still very much in transition. The most significant change that has to happen is that he must become a better ball-handler. His handle was erratic last season and while he shows some basic mid-range instincts and slashing abilities, he often looks out of control simply because he cannot dribble that well yet. Similarly, cleaning up his shooting mechanics would help his mid-range and perimeter offense tremendously. Carroll will pull up from mid-range, but his shot is awkward and almost never goes up in the same manner. He has an inconsistent release point and, as evidenced in his 17.6% he shot last year from the perimeter, his shot gets worse the farther out he goes. With young NBA combo-forwards like Renaldo Balkman never developing a consistent long-range jumpshot, it is vital that Carroll shows scouts that his shot has improved from deep.

Like Balkman, though, it is Carroll’s scrappy attitude as well as his willingness to draw contact and attack the basket that are his main sources of offense at the moment, rather than his skill-level. He attacks the basket aggressively, and though sometimes it is clear he does not know what he is going to do with the ball in traffic, he is aggressive on the offensive boards if things do not go as planned. Unlike Balkman, though, Carroll does not handle the ball nearly as well and doesn’t fill up the stat-sheet quite as effectively as he did at the collegiate level.

Carroll looks similarly between-positions on the defensive end. He is a versatile defender, with above average lateral quickness and size to guard multiple positions at the NCAA level. That being said, he’s at his best defensively against perimeter oriented power forwards. He gives guards and wings too much room on the perimeter and frequently fails to close out shooters. It seems at this point to be a problem of awareness rather than a lack of ability, but he must maintain focus and continue to improve his perimeter defense if he wants to have a chance at the next level.

It’s very difficult to evaluate players like Carroll because of the fact that he is caught between positions and plays power forward or center most of the time when he’s on the floor. It is up to him to continue to work on his perimeter skills and prove to NBA scouts that he has potential to make a full transition at the next level.

#15 Byron Eaton, 5-10, Senior, Point Guard, Oklahoma State

Joey Whelan

While the Cowboys struggled as a whole last season, senior point guard Byron Eaton made noticeable strides in his play. The former McDonald’s All-American posted career bests in scoring, rebounding, steals and saw his turnover numbers drop to the lowest they have ever been. In seeing a little more time off the ball than he had in the past, we got an opportunity to see more of Eaton’s offensive abilities.

Physically, Eaton doesn’t pan out as an NBA prospect; plain and simple. Generously listed at 5’11,” he is severely undersized for the point guard position, and he doesn’t possess freakish explosiveness around the rim either. Eaton has struggled with weight problems throughout his career thus far, but has reportedly made strides in this area recently. His plump 243 pound frame allowed him to deal effectively with contact, particularly when attacking the basket, but more often than not he struggled to get a good shot off around the rim because of his small stature and poor elevation. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified report (which looked mostly at OSU’s games against reasonably strong competition), Eaton shot a very low 41% on field goal attempts around the basket.

From the perimeter, Eaton is a decent outside shooter. Nearly 40% of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, where he shot a respectable 36.8% last season on 2.9 attempts per game. Where issues arise though is with his actual shot. Eaton has a very flat footed stroke that is quite slow and takes him a while to get off. While he is able to get away with this at the college level, he will almost undoubtedly have real problems getting his shot off against NBA defenders, unless he can find a way to make it more compact. Even against opponents now, Eaton will often wind up taking shots from well beyond the three-point line where defenders are less likely to actively contest his shots.

Once he puts the ball on the floor, Eaton shows some nice ability, but once again is limited by his size and lack of conditioning. He is a solid ball handler with good speed and quickness. Rarely will he have trouble beating defenders off the dribble if he wants to, but from here problems arise. Eaton struggles with his pull up jumper, showing an inconsistent release point on the move, and often not getting himself square before shooting. When he decides to go to the rim instead, he shows great physical toughness and a knack for drawing fouls (5.4 free throw attempts per game last season). When he isn’t bailed out by whistles though, his shot selection is often erratic since he must contend with much bigger defenders.

Eaton’s assist numbers stayed consistent from his sophomore to junior season at around 3.5 per game, but they need to increase substantially. As previously mentioned, he does a solid job of getting into the lane and drawing additional defenders, but Eaton gets tunnel vision when attacking the rim. Rather than looking for open teammates, he often forces up poor shots.

Defensively, Eaton would likely struggle a lot against NBA talent. While he has very quick hands and feet that allow him to come away with over 2 steals per game, these often fail him against bigger, athletic opponents. Despite staying with his man through an entire offensive series, often times opponents can simply elevate right over the top of him for easy looks at the hoop.

There are certainly things to like about Eaton’s game: his toughness, his athleticism, and his aggressive mentality. However, his lack of size, his inconsistency as a scorer and his long, slow shot, make him a long shot at best for the NBA. Certainly he is capable of showing further improvement during his senior season as he did last year, and his new svelte frame (reportedly down 28 pounds) may be able to help him substantially, but in all likelihood, Eaton is destined to be a solid player for a team somewhere in Europe rather than an NBA roster.

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