Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part One (#1-5)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part One (#1-5)
Sep 27, 2010, 10:49 pm
Continuing to evaluate the top returning NBA prospects in college basketball, we move onto the SEC. Vanderbilt's Jeff Taylor leads the pack, followed by Georgia's Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, Florida Chandler Parsons and Alabama's JaMychal Green.

Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we come to any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 10 NBA Prospects in the Pac-10

#1 Jeff Taylor, 6-7, Junior, Small Forward, Vanderbilt
12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.2 turnovers, .9 steals, 50% FG, 69% FT, 22% 3P

Having profiled Taylor fairly late in the season with a comprehensive scouting report, we've elected to wait and see what type of progress he's made with a fresh perspective in a few months, rather than rehashing many of the same comments made last year based off his 2009-2010 game footage.

#2 Trey Thompkins. 6-9, Junior, Power Forward, Georgia
12.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, .8 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 1.0 steals, 1.1 blocks, 43% FG, 73% FT, 38% 3P

Having profiled Thompkins fairly late in the season with a comprehensive scouting report, we've elected to wait and see what type of progress he's made with a fresh perspective in a few months, rather than rehashing many of the same comments made last year based off his 2009-2010 game footage.

#3 Travis Leslie, 6-4, Junior, Small Forward, Georgia
14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 turnovers, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, 49% FG, 74% FT, 6/11 3P

Jonathan Givony

A bit player as a freshman, Travis Leslie had a breakout season as a sophomore, and looks poised to emerge on the national level in this his junior season, which could very well be his swan song in college basketball.

Undersized for a wing player at 6-4, but sporting a phenomenal frame and wingspan to compensate, Leslie is arguably the most explosive player in the nation, showing a great first step, phenomenal speed in the open floor, NBA slam-dunk contest caliber leaping ability, and the willingness to make use of that on a regular basis.

Not a terribly skilled player offensively, Leslie sees the majority of his possessions in transition, cutting off the ball, and through his work on the offensive glass, where his outstanding athleticism gives him an incredible advantage at the college basketball level.

Seeing plenty of minutes at the power forward position, he's an incredible mismatch threat in the SEC, able to outquick and simply outwork most college big men, while not giving up too much on the other end of the floor thanks to his length, strength and aggressiveness. Leslie plays with a sort of reckless abandon that scouts love to see from a player with world-class athleticism, throwing his body around relentlessly and looking to dunk the ball anytime he even remotely has the opportunity to do so, which in his case is quite often.

Leslie's strong frame and tenacious nature makes him a major post-up threat, while his tremendous wingspan gives him terrific extension around the basket, allowing him to get his shot off in a variety of ways inside the paint. You often see him reversing the ball around the rim and using the glass, which is quite interesting. He doesn't have great touch at this stage, though, especially with his left hand, which is almost non-existent. His shooting percentages inside the paint are fairly average for that reason, under 50%, which is something to keep track of down the road.

Although not a superb ball-handler, Leslie gets to the free throw line at a great rate thanks to his sheer physical tools, and managed to up his percentages from the charity stripe from a dismal 57.5% as a freshman to a very respectable 73.5% as a sophomore. He still has plenty of work to do on his shot-creating ability from the perimeter, though, especially in terms of changing directions with the ball and operating with his left hand, things that he currently struggles with.

As a jump-shooter, Leslie is fairly limited, attempting just 11 total 3-pointers last season. This is likely the part of his game he needs to work on the most down the road, especially if he's to make the transition to the shooting guard position eventually, where his size indicates he'd be best served. His mechanics are somewhat crude and mechanical, featuring a fairly long wind-up, while his touch leaves something to be desired as well. He did show some potential in this area as the year moved on, though, which is something we'll need to monitor closely in this upcoming season.

Although a fairly raw player in many aspects, Leslie's passing skills and all-around basketball IQ are at least above average, as his solid assist totals from last season would indicate. That's a good sign for the future, especially when you consider his “late bloomer” status—not being considered a top 100 high school prospect by any of the major recruiting services.

Defensively is where Leslie might have the best potential as far as the NBA is concerned, as he has the physical tools needed to guard multiple positions (up to three) and be a real game-changer on this end of the floor with his length and lateral quickness. He's one of the best rebounders in the SEC already, offensively especially, and comes up with plenty of blocks and steals as well in addition to everything else he contributes.

With that said, Leslie's fundamentals and awareness on the defensive end leave a lot to be desired at the moment, as he's clearly getting by on his physical attributes. He often looks lost defending off the ball, relaxing in his stance, getting spun around aimlessly, biting on pump-fakes and swiping at the ball excessively. The fact that his team relies heavily on a zone defense doesn't help matters much, but Leslie still looks very far from reaching his potential on this end of the floor.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of season Leslie and Georgia are able to string together, as on paper they appear to be a pretty talented group, especially in the frontcourt. An NCAA tournament berth would likely do wonders for Leslie's draft stock, but that's not a sure thing if the preseason predictions are any indication.

#4 Chandler Parsons, 6-9, Senior, Small Forward, Florida
12.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2 turnovers, 1.1 steals, 49% FG, 66% FT, 36% 3P

Walker Beeken

Chandler Parsons is coming off a solid junior season for the Florida Gators, where he continued to develop as a player and improved in all facets of his game. This season as a senior, Parsons will have his final opportunity to display his all-around game and versatility for NBA scouts and prove that he is worthy of being selected in the 2011 NBA Draft.

From a physical standpoint, Parsons fits the mold of an NBA small forward prospect. Standing at 6'9” with good length and a thin frame, he could still stand to add some extra strength, but he has definitely improved his body over the course of his career at Florida. And while he doesn't possess elite athleticism, he is a very fluid athlete for a guy his size.

Parsons biggest strength is his extremely high skill level for a wing player at 6'9”. While we noted that after his freshman season that he was primarily just a spot-up jump shooter, Parsons has become much more comfortable and effective handling the ball and making plays off the dribble, displaying a high basketball IQ and excellent passing ability.

He does a very good job utilizing shot fakes on close-outs, where he has the ability to pull up for a jumper off of one dribble or drive the ball and attack the basket. He is skilled enough with both hands to drive either direction, but he definitely prefers going left. And while Parsons isn't a top notch finisher when attacking the rim, he does have the size and body control to find ways to finish, and it was encouraging to see him drawing fouls at a much higher rate last season, when compared to his first two years at Florida. The fact that he sports a positive assist to turnover ratio at his size (and has his entire career) is an indication of his versatility and the way Billy Donovan likes to use him in his half-court offense.

As a shooter, Parsons continued to make strides as a junior, as he saw an increase in his field goal percentage as well as his percentages from the free throw line and the 3 point arc from his sophomore season. Parsons has deep range and shoots with confidence, but he still needs to become a more consistent threat from the outside to be able to play at the NBA level, where he'll likely spend less time making plays with the ball in his hands and more time spotting up for catch-and-shoot jumpers. Two things for him to work on here are improving his low trajectory and keeping his momentum from falling backwards when he shoots.

Defensively, Parsons has a decent base to build on with his great size and above average lateral quickness, but he must continue to get stronger to defend small forwards at the NBA level. Bringing consistent energy and toughness on the defensive end should be a focus of Parsons too.

When looking at Parsons' complete package and how he projects as an NBA prospect, he provides a bit more intrigue than the typical college senior. He has the physical tools and skill set to compete with NBA small forwards and fit in as a role player, and if he continues to expand on his all-around game and show improvement on his perimeter shot this season, he could garner quite a bit of attention from scouts and give himself a good chance to get drafted. Parsons may even be a potential sleeper for the first round if he has a big season.

#5 JaMychal Green, 6'8, Junior, Power Forward, Alabama
14.1 Points, 7.2 Rebounds, 1.1 Assists, 2.5 Turnovers, 1.7 Blocks, 3.1 Fouls, 49.5% FG, 69.5% FT

Matt Williams

When we checked in on JaMychal Green at the beginning of last season we noted that his sophomore campaign would be integral to his draft hopes. While Green put up better numbers in his second year in Tuscaloosa, he wasn't as efficient around the rim, saw his per-40 statistics remain largely static, was suspended briefly for academic reason, and didn't show the progress that would have made his decision to return to school at all shocking. With Mikhail Torrance graduating, Green will inevitably have another statistically productive season, but will still have a lot to prove as Alabama continues their struggle to solidify a spot in the top-half of the SEC.

The development of Green's skill-set this season is critical to his draft stock since he has a good, but not great physical profile from a NBA perspective. He's quick off his feet, which coupled with his very good wingspan, made him an elite high school player and has allowed him to produce at a solid level around the rim and as a shot blocker on the college level.

Green doesn't have great height or overall strength, but he does have a knack for making plays through contact. That lack of strength is most apparent when he looks to elevate in a crowd, as he simply doesn't get off his feet well when he doesn't have space to gather himself, even if he's still able to establish position on the block fairly well and fight the ball up onto the rim. Green would be well served to continue working on his physical tools, as he could still add quite a bit of muscle to his frame, but even if he is able to add some strength, his short-term success will be tied to his polish on the offensive end.

Unlike Green's freshman season when he benefitted from Alonzo Gee's ability to draw the attention of weakside defenders and Ron Steele's knack for hitting the open man, he and Torrance were the focal points of Alabama's offense last year. Though Torrance had an excellent year distributing the ball, the added defensive attention Green was given limited his success around the basket. According to Synergy Sports Technology, he shot just 46.5% at the rim as a sophomore, a considerable drop from the 65.1% mark he posted in finishing situations as a freshman.

Around the basket, Green displays solid touch, but he's prone to having his shot blocked by less athletic defenders since he operates at a methodical pace. Seldom appearing explosive when beating his man to the rim or pulling down an offensive rebound, Green does a nice job getting himself involved offensively by following plays to the rim where his big wingspan and quick leaping ability make him a solid offensive rebounder, even if he struggled to replicate his success as a freshman in his second year with the Crimson Tide.

Though Green struggled at times around the basket, he actually fared pretty well in post-up situations, which accounted for about a third of his total offense. The awkward looking jump hook we identified in our last report has become his de-facto go-to-move, making up in substance what it lacks in style. Green's post repertoire isn't pretty, and he still has a tendency to try to fight his way through crowds and seldom exploits opportunities to catch and finish, but it got the job done last season to the tune of a very respectable 47% mark from the block. He lacks natural rhythm, doesn't look comfortable when putting the ball on the floor, and often seems indecisive on the block, but on the possessions where he put things together, the results were usually positive. Whether he'll be able to translate that success to the NBA level with his current lack of strength is a major question mark, though.

While Green is able to make things work in the post, he struggles mightily when he steps away from the rim. Knocking down just 26.1% of the jump shots he attempted last season, Green showed that the solid shooting numbers he posted as a freshman were an aberration. Much like his post moves, Green's jumper lacks rhythm, which became apparent this season as he seemed to shoot the ball on the way down as often as he shot it at the apex of his jump. Green would be well served to shore up his scoring ability from 15-feet, as a reliable catch and shoot jumper would be very beneficial for his draft stock.

On the defensive end, Green's physical tools prove very useful on the college level. Despite showing a lack of discipline when his man uses a fake, Green's long arms and innate timing allow him to be an effective shot-blocker and afford him some success on the glass. He does a great job fighting for position on the block, even if he's not the strongest player and is prone to reaching in on the catch. His tendency to commit some bad fouls keeps him off the floor at times and he doesn't have tremendous lateral speed, but for the most part, his issues defensively are correctable.

While Green didn't take the big step forward as a sophomore that his freshman season seemed to indicate he would, he still has two years to continue growing as a player and a prospect. As it stands, the developments that will afford him more success in the NCAA are the same that would make him a better NBA prospect. As we've seen time and time again, it takes some players more time to blossom than others, and Green has the tools to become a legitimate NBA prospect and carry Alabama to additional wins if he puts everything together, which makes him a player we'll be keeping an eye on moving forward.

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