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

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Three: #11-#15)
Oct 25, 2007, 12:40 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

Big East, Part III

#11: Jerel McNeal, 6-3, Junior, PG/SG, Marquette

Mike Schmidt

One of the most athletic guards in the Big East, Jerel McNeal gained nation-wide notoriety last season for with lockdown perimeter defense. The season was cut short for him due to injury, but not before he established himself as possibly the best defender in college basketball. Coming into his junior season healthy, McNeal will have his chance to shine again on a talented and experienced Marquette team.

Playing both on the ball and help defense, McNeal managed to make a huge impact when healthy. He had five games with over five steals, and finished the season averaging around three per game. Many guards rack up high steal numbers by gambling in the passing lanes, and they end up causing more harm than good. This couldn’t be further from true with McNeal, who uses his quick hands and constant ball pressure to create turnovers. The junior guard has no problem locking down much bigger players, using superior quickness and perfect positioning to his advantage.

McNeal plays both on and off the ball for Marquette, and has some of the tools necessary to play point guard in the NBA. He shows the instincts of a distributor in transition, and will display flashes of making the proper read while playing at full speed. In the half court, he can get to the basket at will thanks to superior quickness in combination with a decent handle. Decision making in the half-court will be the biggest hurdle for McNeal to overcome in terms of running an NBA offense. He often forces the ball into crowds of defenders with no place to go, and will focus too heavily on scoring the ball when driving inside. This led to an average of 4 turnovers per game last season, far too high for a guard who splits time at the lead guard spot with another point guard in Dominic James.

McNeal often relies on his mid-range game to score the ball, using a series of floaters and running jumpers to score off the dribble. When slashing to the hoop, the junior guard tends to over-dribble and turn the ball over. He doesn’t always drive all the way to the basket, but draws contact at a good rate of success while attacking the rim. To make himself more attractive for the NBA, McNeal must focus on improving his outside shooting stroke. A constantly changing release point combined with abnormal wrist motion will both need attention for him to become an accurate outside shooter.

Jerel McNeal clearly has the ability to play a lockdown defensive role in the NBA, but he must improve his perimeter shooting and decision-making skills over the next two years to maximize his potential. Marquette should make it back to the NCAA Tournament this season, and McNeal will have every chance to shine against top college competition in the Big East. It would not be surprising to see him test his stock after the season is over, but he will likely need his senior season to maximize his draft stock.

#12: Kentrell Gransberry, 6-9, Senior, PF/C, South Florida

Joey Whelan

It has been a well traveled few years for Kentrell Gransberry. The Louisiana native began his college career at the junior college level starring at San Jacinto College for two seasons. As a sophomore, he led the JUCO level in rebounding, at 13.7 per contest. After San Jacinto, Gransberry enrolled at LSU, where he would only manage two minutes of playing time during a preseason game; he would soon thereafter transfer to South Florida where he became eligible at the conclusion of the fall semester (he missed the first seven games of the season). After putting up impressive numbers last year (15.6 points, 11.4 rebounds), Gransberry is set for his first full season with the Bulls.

Standing only 6’9”, Gransberry isn’t that tall for the power forward position, but at 270 pounds, he has a frame that can certainly hold its own physically in the paint. He is very strong, able to bull through opponents and rip down rebounds with tremendous authority. Gransberry runs the floor pretty well for a player his size, but he doesn’t have great quickness or explosiveness.

As one would expect, Gransberry makes his living in the post offensively. While his 15.6 points per game is a very solid mark, don’t let it fool you, Gransberry is not a go-to low post scorer. He was forced into the role simply because of South Florida’s overall lack of scoring ability. Gransberry has a very underdeveloped post game. While he does a great job sealing off defenders and establishing position, he struggles from that point on. He shows some signs of a developing a drop step move, but more often than not takes a quick dribble into his defender to create space, and then throws up a shot, often before he is square. Gransberry has average touch around the basket and has a lot of his shots blocked due to his lack of vertical explosiveness. Adding some head and ball fakes to his repertoire would help in this area.

What can be said of Gransberry is that he shows a tremendous amount of hustle, especially on the glass. He averaged better than four offensive rebounds a game, and picked up a lot of easy baskets or trips to the free throw line as a result of his efforts. Scouts will definitely like the fact that Gransberry averaged better than six free throw attempts per game last season; they won’t like his 55.7% shooting from the line, though. Gransberry seems to have a pretty good sense of how to move around the paint without the basketball, and as a result was the recipient of some nice open looks over the course of the season. The lack of a true point guard on the team though did limit the number of times Gransberry was passed to in these situations however, and you have to wonder whether he was being sold short by that fact at times considering that he’s not a great shot-creator himself.

On defense, Gransberry suffers at times from a lack of athleticism. While he is a tremendous rebounder due to his positioning and strength, he needs to improve in other areas of his game. His lack of quickness makes it easy for more versatile post players to beat him off the dribble, and it also renders him ineffective most of the time as a help defender. His poor leaping ability makes it easy for many players to elevate over him, which explains his .5 blocks per game last season. If nothing else though, Gransberry is a big, wide body that is tough to get around when posting him up. He holds his ground fairly well, and doesn’t often bite on fakes.

Gransberry has a lot to improve upon in his game both skill-wise and physically. What does need to be noted about Gransberry is that he is being asked to do things at South Florida that he wouldn’t be by an NBA team. There he would be one of the last scoring options, not the top one, and his responsibilities would be more limited to rebounding and playing tough defense, which he is clearly better suited for. Another strong showing this year by Gransberry will be enough to get him invited to the pre-draft camps at the end of the season, and he’ll have a chance to really make a name for himself if he brings his typical hustle.

#13: DaJuan Summers, 6-8, Sophomore, SF/PF, Georgetown

Jonathan Givony

A freshman starter on a Final-Four bound NCAA tournament team, DaJuan Summers had plenty of opportunities to make an impression in the lofty shadows cast by Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green. Summers delivered for his team particularly down the stretch, scoring 15 and then 20 points against Vanderbilt and North Carolina in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 respectively. With Green now off to the NBA, Summers will get his wish for a bigger share of the spotlight, likely stepping into the role of 2nd option offensively behind the unselfish Roy Hibbert.

Summers definitely seems up to the task, both physically and in terms of his mentality on the court. Built well at 6-8 and 240 pounds, Summers already looks the part of an NBA small forward. He’s a pretty good athlete on top of that, blessed with good quickness and noticeable explosiveness finishing around the basket. He’s also not afraid to use his athleticism either, possessing more of an aggressive go-to mentality than we typically saw from his predecessor Jeff Green for example, but not quite the versatility.

In terms of skills, Summers was primarily a spot-up shooter for Georgetown last year. In fact, 42% of his offense came in that fashion according to Synergy Sports Tech’s quantified stats, followed by transition play (16%), cuts to the basket (12.5%), offensive rebounds (10%), and finally one on one isolation plays (8%). Summers possesses a quick release and pretty good shooting mechanics, leading you to believe that he will develop into a dangerous perimeter shooting if he continues to put the work in. His shot was a little streaky in his freshman season—only hitting 33% from behind the arc and 41% overall—but that probably has more to do with his shot selection than with his touch or form. He did hit 42 3-pointers on the year, second most on the team.

Summers has two big challenges ahead of him before he will be able to garner immediate consideration as a legit NBA small forward prospect—his ball-handling and perimeter defense. In terms of his slashing game, Summers has a nice first step, along with the mentality needed to take advantage of unbalanced defenses, which means that he’s already going in the right direction. He also is smart enough to know how to move off the ball and find open spots, a necessity in Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense. The ball slows him down significantly, though, and he does not have the ability to execute advanced ball-handling moves needed to create his own shot from the perimeter on a consistent basis. He also lacks any real semblance of a mid-range game, something that is needed from a small forward at the next level.

Defensively, Summers has good tools: size, length, and strength, but does not take advantage of them enough to be a consistent threat on this end of the floor. His lateral quickness is average, making it a bit difficult to see how he will be able to stay in front of some of the more talented slashing small forwards the NBA has to offer, or be able to hedge or switch out defending the pick and roll. A lot of this has to do with experience, though, something Summers will definitely pick up playing heavy minutes at Georgetown, where the importance of defense is at a premium.

Rumors out of our nation’s capitol say that Summers is a little more eager to declare for the draft than your typical Georgetown player, so it’s not out of the question that he throws his name in the mix after this season.

#14: David Padgett, 6-11, Senior, Center, Louisville

Joseph Treutlein

David Padgett has put together a solid three seasons at the college level thus far, his first for Kansas and the second two for Louisville. Because he sat out a year after transferring to Louisville, the senior will be 23 years old when he graduates in June. Padgett, hampered by various knee injuries throughout his young career, isn’t the most athletic player, but he brings size, skills, and a great understanding of the game to the table. One of the most encouraging things to note about Padgett is that in each of his three seasons, his assist to turnover ratio, FG%, FT%, and points per field goal attempted have steadily increased, to the point where he’s now one of the most efficient players in the NCAA.

Padgett’s offensive game is almost entirely based within five feet of the basket, where he relies on post moves and easy lay-ups off cuts and offensive rebounds to get most of his points. His post game has a nice repertoire of moves, including a hook shot with either hand, a series of fakes with an up-and-under move, and excellent footwork and post awareness. He uses fakes and spins extremely well to create space against his defender, protects the ball nicely, and almost always puts up a good shot attempt. He recognizes double teams and knows when to pass out, rarely committing unforced turnovers. His go-to move would be his right-handed hook shot, which he’ll hit spinning off his man, going across the lane, or by just going over his man. Against the vast majority of college competition, Padgett is extremely efficient near the basket.

One of the biggest problems with Padgett comes when he faces bigger, more athletic competition, such as Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert or Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet, both players with NBA tools. Padgett has much less success against these types of players, having to adjust his shots when trying to go over them and getting things down with much less ease in the post. His athleticism is a major concern when looking at the NBA, as is his general slow demeanor going through his post moves. To Padgett’s credit, while he clearly looks overmatched at times, he still will manage to use his craftiness to generate baskets even against tough defenders.

Padgett also gets a lot of his points by cutting to the basket or getting in position for offensive rebounds, mostly due to his outstanding court awareness. He reads defenses very well, and does a good job getting to open space in good position near the basket, where he finishes with good touch around the rim. Padgett doesn’t show much in terms of a perimeter game, which is extremely strange given his remarkable 82.3% shooting from the free-throw line for a big man. He occasionally will put up a spot-up jumper from the 10-15 foot range, but doesn’t go to it nearly enough, something he’ll really need to work on if he wants to play in the NBA, as a mid-range jumper would need to be a staple of his game.

Defensively, Padgett is very attentive with team defense and shows very good footwork and understanding defending man-to-man in the post, also putting in consistent effort fighting his man and contesting shots. While he’s a very good offensive rebounder, Padgett doesn’t bring the same level of play to the table on the defensive end. In terms of perimeter defense, Padgett’s lateral quickness is sub-par, something that will hurt his chances of playing power forward in the NBA.

Padgett is an extremely efficient college player that could probably do a lot more at this level than he’s asked to (he only averaged 9.5 points per game in 24.5 minutes this past season, on 60% shooting), but it’s tough to say whether his strengths will translate to the next level. His post game will be much tougher to use in the NBA, but his cutting, offensive rebounding, mid-range jumper, and general intelligence are things that he could be effective with in the NBA. There are some doubts surrounding him, though, including his upside as a 23-year-old draftee and his history of knee problems, so it’s no sure thing that he’ll be drafted. Still, with a good, injury-free season and a good showing in pre-draft camps and/or workouts, Padgett could definitely see himself drafted in the second round. If not, he should have a long, productive career overseas.

#15: Geoff McDermott, 6-8, Junior, SF/PF, Providence

Jonathan Givony

The only player in college basketball last season to average over 9 rebounds and 5 assists per game (the next closest actually was Dominic McGuire with 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists), it would be safe to say that Geoff McDermott can already be considered one of the most unique players in the NCAA. A former high school quarterback, standing 6-8, McDermott probably stands out on first glance more for what he isn’t than for what he is.

An average athlete at best, McDermott is the type of player who will always need to be one step ahead of the crowd mentally in order to separate himself. And that’s exactly what he is. Blessed with great hands, outstanding timing, superb toughness, and an excellent feel for the game—McDermott outsmarts quicker, more explosive players on a regular basis simply by seeing and reacting to things before others are able to. He uses his body exceptionally well both in the post and when slashing to the basket, keeping his opponent off balance with his old school style of play, for example with shot-fakes, bank shot-runners or by leading with his shoulder on a foray into the paint. It’s not rare to see him anticipate a steal or offensive rebound right before they happen by tapping a ball to himself and stealing a possession in the process.

McDermott has shooting range that extends out to the 3-point line, hitting 36% of his shots on a limited amount of attempts. It’s a flat-footed, power-forward style jumper, complete with a slow, deliberate release. His first step is mediocre at best, and it’s not rare to see him getting his shot blocked at the rim because of his lack of explosiveness in traffic. All in all, McDermott is a pretty limited scoring threat as his 9 points per game averages would indicate. The fact that he only shoots 54% from the free throw line doesn’t help matters much either obviously.

Where McDermott’s true stripes as a former quarterback come out are in his passing skills--easily the best part of his game. When he wasn’t acting as a full-time point guard (bringing the ball up the floor and all), Providence liked to get him the ball in the high post, where he could either find slashing cutters with a nifty bounce pass, or lob a touchdown-style throw deep into the end-zone, usually into the outstretched arms of his top wide receiver Herbert Hill. Continuing with the football theme, we also found an interesting pick and roll play in Providence’s offense, where McDermott takes a block/screen and moves his way into the paint before throwing an option style lateral sideways into Hill’s hands for an easy layup, or backwards for a mid-range jumper.

Looking back at their in-bounds plays, there was never any doubt regarding who would be responsible for getting the ball in play. Having a 6-8 point-forward with court vision like his is a great asset to have obviously, and he would reward them regularly with an easy basket on a set play. His mind works incredibly fast, as he’d often remind us with a beautiful one-time touch pass. He’d also help Providence break a full-court press calmly, as well as provide an occasional spectacular full-court outlet pass after a rebound, or just a fundamental post-entry pass, his specialty.

So where does all this leave him as a draft prospect? That’s a great question, and the answer depends entirely on who you are talking to. Some would say he’s the next Spencer Nelson, the next Anthony Mason, or the next Ryan Gomes. McDermott lacks some height at the power forward position, and is probably not quick enough laterally to guard NBA small forwards. Becoming a lights out shooter from behind the arc is probably going to be a necessity for him to be able to warrant playing time at the next level. Putting him next to a dominant big man who demands double-teams could be one solution, as his post-entry passing is already a skill that few NBA power forwards have. He’ll have to fall into the right situation for sure, but it’s not out of the question that he makes it. You never want to rule out players who show such an outstanding understanding of the game, especially one who is only going into his junior year.

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