Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Three

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences, Part Three
Nov 10, 2009, 10:16 am
We continue our evaluation of the top NBA draft prospects in the non-BCS conferences with part three, featuring Arnett Moultrie, Elliot Williams, Matt Bouldin, Mark Payne and Damian Saunders.

As a reminder, incoming freshmen have been excluded from this series.

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#5-10)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#5-10), Part Three (#11-15),
Part Four
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10),—3327
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC: Part One(#1-5), Part Two (#6-10),—3330,—3331
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Non-BCS Conferences: Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10)

#11 Arnett Moultrie, 6-11, Sophomore, Power Forward/Center, UTEP

Kyle Nelson

Despite averaging 8.8 points and 8.2 rebounds and posting a double-double against Wake Forest on national television during his freshman campaign, UTEP forward Arnett Moultrie is still a relative unknown. There are few players in the country with his combination of size, athleticism, and potential, but with Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper responsible for over half of UTEP’s possessions last season, Moultrie had few chances to shine. During his sophomore season, however, Moultrie will have an expanded role and should be a significant contributor on a team that will be very competitive in Conference USA.

Standing 6’11, Moultrie has excellent height for a post player at any level. He has a good, albeit undeveloped, frame, and with added strength, could develop into a force around the basket. He is a very good athlete, as well, quick and mobile in both the post and in the open floor. Physically, there are few players like Moultrie at the collegiate level and if his body and skill set can catch up, he could develop into a very interesting prospect.

As a face-up power forward in the mold of former lottery pick Jason Thompson, Moultrie has an interesting skill set, but is not consistent enough yet to be a premier post player at this level. He is a player with surprising range on his jumper and quick feet in the post, capable of playing down low and on the perimeter. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is consistency. Moultrie is still a very raw prospect. He is a capable shooter at this point, but he must work on his form, particularly making sure that his motion is the same every time he shoots the ball. Far too often, he will kick out his feet or fade away when he is guarded and his shot selection under pressure could definitely use some work. He only made 53% of his free throws last season, which means he obviously has a ways to go here.

While he shows plenty of promise facing the basket, he does not have the ball handling ability to properly utilize his quick first step and what looks to be a soft touch. Last season, he oftentimes resorted to a floater as opposed to finishing with contact around the basket. On one level, this is intriguing considering his size and position, but next season, he must show the ability to put the ball on the floor and use his size and athleticism to finish around the basket.

Similarly, for as much potential as he has in the post based on his size and athleticism, he does not have the strength or the footwork to properly utilize his physical advantages on this end of the court. He pauses for a moment when he receives the ball in the post and his skill level is nowhere near his athletic ability. Working on establishing a go-to move is absolutely essential at this point because while Moultrie shows a tremendous amount of potential, he is not nearly consistent enough at anything to really be considered a threat in the post.

One thing Moultrie does very well is crashing the offensive boards. Averaging 4.5 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, Moultrie is ranked seventh in our database among returning NBA Draft prospects. He shows solid energy level around the basket, which combined with athleticism and size, allows him to be a good finisher at this level. It would be nice to see him box out his man more often and develop better fundamentals on the offensive glass, but considering the stage of development he’s currently at, his future is bright.

On the defensive end, Moultrie has a tremendous amount of work to do before distinguishing himself as an NBA-caliber post player. His lack of strength certainly hurts him on the defensive end of the floor, as he lets smaller and stronger players get by him in the post. He does not have the greatest lateral quickness either, but it is his lack of fundamentals that are really holding him back on his stage. Last season, he let his man establish deep post position far too often, which severely limited his post-defense. Despite his length, he also is not much of a shot blocker, as his timing and awareness are simply not there yet. Perhaps most important, however, is that he gain a better understanding of defensive spacing and rotations. He frequently gives his man too much room on the perimeter because he is out of position, resulting in missed opportunities and cheap fouls. His lack of awareness also hurts him on the defensive boards as he oftentimes finds himself out of position to collect missed shots.

Despite the criticism, we need to keep in mind that Arnett Moultrie was an unheralded freshman on a team dominated by two ball-dominant scoring guards. He still hasn’t even turned 19 years old yet, being a young prospect for his class. Scouts will be watching to see if the UTEP sophomore can get more touches on the offensive end and develop his all-around polish. Moultrie has undeniable potential, but has a significant amount of work to do before the NBA is a legitimate option. If he can continue to improve on both sides of the ball, however, as well as add bulk to his frame, scouts will take notice, as not many players in college basketball possess Moultrie’s physical tools and versatility.

#12 Elliot Williams, 6-4, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, Duke

Jonathan Givony

Playing a small, but important role for a Duke team lacking energy and athleticism, Elliot Williams had a solid, if not overwhelming first season of college basketball. A serious illness his mother is suffering forced him to transfer back home to Memphis this summer, though, and allowed the former McDonald’s All-American to become immediately eligible for the Tigers due to NCAA hardship rules.

From a physical standpoint, it’s not difficult to tell why Williams was such a highly touted player coming out of high school. He has ample size for either guard position, a frame that should be able to put on plenty of weight, a long wingspan, and terrific athleticism. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that he’s left-handed, making him a bit more unique.

Offensively, Williams is currently at his best in the open court. His first step is excellent, and he sports long, powerful strides, allowing him to get to the rim effectively and making him very dangerous in transition. He’s an aggressive player who is not bashful about trying to make his impact felt on the game, a characteristic that come in handy playing in an incredibly demanding environment last season.

On the downside, Williams is not a great ball-handler at the moment, as he goes left pretty much all the time and struggles to change directions with the ball. He is talented and aggressive enough at this level to make that work at the moment, but probably not as the focal point of an opponent’s defense. He must become a better shot-creator in order to really take advantage of his tools physical tools, something he’ll probably work on over the next few years.

As a jump-shooter, Williams is fairly limited, showing poor range and very little ability to make shots off the dribble. His shooting mechanics aren’t terrible, but the fact that he only was able to convert 50% of his free throws as a freshman tells you that he has a lot of work to put in in this area. He must improve his mid-range game and become a better all-around decision maker as well, as he averaged more turnovers than assists as a freshman.

Defensively, Williams has excellent potential thanks to his physical attributes and the intensity he displays. He has the size and length to defend either guard position, which gives him nice versatility that NBA teams should like in time. At Duke he was often the one asked to defend the opposing team’s most talented backcourt scorer. He needs to continue to get stronger and more experienced, but this should be an area he keeps improving in as his college career moves on. He’s already a solid rebounder for the guard spot, on both ends of the floor at that.

Right now, Williams is a raw player with plenty of talent and a good deal of upside who is still a ways away from being discussed as an immediate NBA prospect. His physical attributes and the confidence in which he plays with means that teams will want to keep track of him, and it will be interesting to see what kind of strides he can make with his game in his sophomore season at Memphis.

#13 Matt Bouldin, 6-5, Senior, PG/SG, Gonzaga

Having profiled Bouldin extensively at the end of last season, we will wait until the season kicks off to revisit his scouting report and evaluate his progress.

#14 Mark Payne, 6-7, Junior, PG/SG, UC Davis

Jonathan Givony

One of the more unique prospects you’ll find on the NCAA landscape, not many teams in college basketball have a 6-7 player running the show for them. UC Davis in the Big West conference is one of them, in redshirt junior Mark Payne.

Payne has the size to play any of the backcourt positions, to go along with a good frame. He’s a very good athlete who is fluid in the open court and shows a very nice first step, but is probably most notable for his explosive leaping ability. He’s often on the receiving end of alleyoop lobs from his teammates, which is not something you see very often at this level.

Offensively, Payne has a very strange profile, on one handing making an absolutely ridiculous 74% of his 2-pointers (he was #1 among all prospects in TS% last season, #2 in EFG%, and #2 in overall FG%), but on the other hand only attempting 5.4 shots per game. He gets almost all of his offense around the basket, being a very limited perimeter shooter (converting just 2 of 16 3-point attempts), and showing little in the ways of a mid-range game as well. Part of that has to do with the lack of aggression he shows as a scorer, often driving the lane while not even looking at the basket, and part of that is a lack of overall polish in the half-court. The 12.1 points he averages per-40 minutes pace-adjusted is not very impressive at any level of college basketball, especially not in the Big West.

As a point guard, Payne does a solid job getting his teammates involved, sporting a very nice 2.35/1 assist to turnover ratio. Beyond the assists he picks up by making reads out of UC Davis’ Princeton offense, he likes to use his athleticism to beat opponents off the dribble and then create scoring opportunities, showing solid court vision a very nice feel for the game in the process. It’s doubtful that he’s quite that talented a playmaker to man the point full-time in the NBA, though, which is why he must improve substantially as a shooter and overall scorer, and also learn how to contribute playing off the ball. The “big point guard” fad that so many teams seemed to like experimenting with a few years back has rarely worked out, so we’ll have to see how that effects Payne’s stock.

Defensively, it’s tough to judge too much about Payne with the footage we have at our disposal. He appears to have quick feet, decent length and average strength, as well as a tendency for anticipating and making plays on this end of the floor. There is a big difference between playing defense in the Big West and the NBA, though, so we’ll have to watch more here to get a better read on Payne’s potential on this end of the floor.

All in all, Payne is a very unique prospect, even if his game needs a lot of work to convince scouts that he can make the transition to the next level. Only being a junior (albeit a redshirt), Payne is a guy that should be able to draw NBA teams to his games, if only to make sure they aren’t missing out on something really interesting. We’ll have to see what kind of strides he makes in his game this season before drawing any definitive conclusions.

#15 Damian Saunders, 6-7, Junior, Power Forward, Duquesne

Joey Whelan

While senior guard Aaron Jackson earned the most acclaim for the Dukes last season as one of the premiere players in the Atlantic-10 Conference, it was power forward Damian Saunders who showed just as promise to emerge as a legitimate pro prospect as he continues to develop. The Connecticut native posted very solid averages across the board – 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals – and proved to be an exceptionally efficient scorer. Early season outbursts like the 22-point, 10-rebound game he hung on Duke were enough to draw the attention of scouts, and now as the top returning scorer on his team, the upperclassman will have the opportunity to prove his name belongs on NBA draft boards.

Physically, there is a good deal to like about what Saunders brings to the table. Though he is listed as a severely undersized power forward at 6-7, he possesses the body and athleticism to eventually make the transition to the perimeter full time as his skill set continues to develop and become more refined. His 210-pound frame allows him to handle himself against more physical forwards, and his length allows him to wreak havoc on the defensive side of the floor – something we will touch on more later.

Offensively, Saunders is a mixed bag. While his stroke itself is soft and fluid, there is a good deal of wasted motion. The junior has a long wingspan so his shot tends to be a long slow process that often times features an inconsistent release point. He shot a modest 34 percent from beyond the arc last season, on a limited number of attempts, but was definitely a streaky shooter, something he will have to improve upon if he’s to show that he can play small forward down the road.

Where he really shows the most potential at this point is as a dribble drive threat. Saunders has pretty good quickness for a player his size, capable of beating most defenders off the dribble on a consistent basis. His ball-handling skills are adequate at this level, but could certainly get much tighter in order for him to cut down on his turnovers even further. Once in the lane he demonstrates excellent body control and leaping ability, but because of his thinner frame he will get bumped off his path a lot of the time and forced into a difficult shot. He has the athletic ability to elevate and score in the lane at a high level right now, but his lack of physical strength is definitely a hindrance to this process right now.

Saunders’ off the ball presence at the offensive end of the floor makes him a valuable asset. He rebounds at a very high rate on the offensive glass for a perimeter-sized player and does an excellent job of finishing on these attempts thanks to his hustle and touch around the cylinder. He also moves well without the basketball, showing a knack for finding openings in the defense near the basket to set himself up for easy looks inside. It is this knowledge of how to position himself off the ball that allowed Saunders to shoot a stellar 54 percent from the floor, including nearly 65 percent on two-point field goal attempts.

Defensively, Saunders is a machine and a big time difference maker – ranking in the top 15 in our database in blocks and steals per game at 2.4 and 2.1 respectively. His wingspan and lateral quickness allow him to deflect a tremendous number of passes and intercept a good deal of them as well. Inside, his leaping ability and timing make him a real shot altering presence when forced to play closer to the basket. He isn’t likely to see much time guarding the post at the next level – but if and when it does occur, Saunders has proven that he has the ability to play bigger than he is and to make his presence felt.

There is a lot of like about this junior’s game: he is long, quick, athletic and already shows promise operating on the perimeter despite being playing almost exclusively inside last season. Saunders still has a good deal of work to do in polishing his overall game, most noticeably his shooting range. Being able to consistently knock down perimeter jumpers while also getting a little stronger to handle attacking the basket will make him an intriguing prospect to pro scouts – especially considering his defensive prowess, versatility and athleticism. Now as the focal point of the Dukes attack this year, Saunders will get the chance to prove he deserves to have his name called on draft night in June.

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