Trending Prospects (1/6/2011)

Trending Prospects (1/6/2011)
Jan 06, 2011, 03:37 pm
Updated scouting reports on Justin Harper, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Goudelock and Trevor Mbakwe.

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Justin Harper, 6-10, Senior, Power Forward, Richmond
15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, 54.9% FG, 50.8% 3FG, 68.8% FT

Kyle Nelson

A solid contributor at Richmond throughout his career, power forward Justin Harper has taken a big step forward as a senior. Harper has proven himself as one of the nation's most skilled big men and perimeter shooters, developing into a legitimate NBA prospect along the way. Now, as Richmond begins its conference schedule, scouts will be watching to see if Harper can maintain his efficient scoring and heady play and finish off the season on a positive note.

At 6'10, Harper has excellent size for the power forward position, but he could still stand to add strength to his 225-pound frame, particularly to his lower body. He is an above average athlete, as well, with decent quickness in the open floor and good explosiveness around the basket.

Harper has improved significantly on the offense end, where he averages 23.1 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He is most effective spotting up around the perimeter, where he finds over a quarter of his possessions, and shoots a blistering 50.8% on 4.2 attempts per game.

Though he does not get much elevation on his shot, he has a lightning quick release and a consistent, fluid shooting motion. His range extends well past the NBA three-point line, as well, and he shows very good potential as a pick-and-pop threat. Clearly this will be his calling card as an NBA prospect.

His scoring abilities around the basket have improved, as well, where he displays improving footwork and a developing arsenal of moves. Though he likely lacks the strength to carve out position at the next level, his touch around the basket is solid and he has become more comfortable attacking the rim as a senior.

He does have a tendency to shy away from contact, however, preferring to fall away from the basket instead of going straight up with the ball.

This lack of aggressiveness results in a subpar 3.2 free throw attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which is disappointing given his size, athleticism, and skill. His ball handling also limits his effectiveness as an inside scorer, as he rarely uses his left hand or exploits his above-average first step.

Harper shows a solid basketball IQ, and clearly knows his role as a senior. Even though he's averaging slightly less touches than he did as a junior, he is putting up career highs in almost every category, and is doing so in an efficient manner at that.

Furthermore, he turns the ball over just 1.7 times per 40 minutes pace adjusted, a career low and indicative of his overall court awareness and passing ability. Harper is a savvy player, rarely playing outside of his strengths and seemingly knowing his limitations, looking more than capable of finding a role at the next level.

Never known as the toughest or most active player throughout his career, Harper is just an average rebounder at best, collecting an unspectacular 9.4 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. While occasionally he will crash the offensive glass, he does not have great fundamentals and oftentimes finds himself out of position on the perimeter.

On defense, Harper displays just average lateral quickness and could struggle guarding perimeter oriented power forwards at the next level. He is not the most consistent defender either, particularly inside where his lack of strength does him few favors, but where he also fails to contest every shot.

He will have to prove to scouts that he can play with intensity and consistency against interior and perimeter oriented big men, as this is not something he's been known for in his four years at Richmond.

Scouts will be watching nonetheless to see if Harper can continue to prove himself against quality opponents in the Atlantic-10 portion of Richmond's schedule. At this point it is not difficult to imagine him in a Channing Frye or Matt Bonner-type role, spotting up around the perimeter and knocking down shots.

With that said, he must continue to show effort and consistency on the defensive end and on the boards, proving to scouts that he can compete with the much higher level big men he'd potentially be facing every night in the NBA.

Garnering zero draft buzz up until now, Harper is a bit of sleeper at this stage, and is well worth watching as the season continues. Not only is he a late bloomer, but he doesn't turn 22 until late September, giving him quite a bit more upside than your typical college senior.

Players with his size, athleticism skill-set are difficult to come by, and if he can finish the season as strongly as he started, and ride that momentum into the pre-draft process, he'll definitely have a chance to hear his name called on draft night.

Nikola Vucevic, 6-10, Power Forward, Junior, Southern California
15.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 47% FG, 78% FT, 33% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Coming off a solid sophomore season, in which he was named the Pac-10's most improved player, Nikola Vucevic has taken his game to the next level as a junior, increasing his scoring while rounding out his skill set and improving his frame substantially. Standing at least 6-10, with a superb wingspan, Vucevic was always going to attract attention to himself with his physical profile, especially once his body began to fill out.

On the offensive end, Vucevic has managed to increase his pace adjusted scoring and assists while simultaneously lowering his turnovers, making good use of the possessions he gets while taking on a larger scoring load. His shooting distribution has also had a slight adjustment with him taking a larger percentage of jump shots this season, something that's helped both his effectiveness as a collegiate player and his outlook as a draft prospect.

Looking at Vucevic's improving perimeter game, he's developed into a very reliable option out of pick-and-pop situations while becoming a more dangerous threat from three-point range as well. He's very confident with his jumper, which boasts a pretty high and quick release, showing no hesitation to put the ball up when he has an open look. While he's still just hitting 33.3% of his 2.4 three-point attempts per game, it's a noticeable improvement over his 22.2% on 1.2 attempts per game last season, and it's clearly an area where he's putting in the work and looks to have considerably more potential down the road. The fact that he can operate as a floor-spacer at 6-10 (or possibly 6-11) makes him quite a bit more intriguing considering the other things he brings to the table, which should be duly noted by scouts.

As for the rest of his scoring game, Vucevic does most of his damage operating in the low to mid-post, showing a solid finesse game centered around a right-handed hook shot with range to 10 feet. He has pretty good touch and decent footwork, but he does a great job staying active and calling for the ball while moving around the floor, being extremely aggressive in getting open and wanting the ball in his hands. He tends to do his best in the post when matched against undersized, overmatched opponents, however, showing trouble when matched against more NBA-caliber frontcourt players.

Off the ball, Vucevic looks a bit more confident going to the rim with power moves on cuts, showing improved strength and having no problem going up strong with the ball. He's still a below average athlete, but by virtue of his size and outstanding length he's capable of finishing with some strong dunks and has no problem drawing contact to get to the line when there's a defender in his way. He's still mostly a below the rim player and projects to have more problems in these areas should he play at the next level, but the toughness and improved strength he's showing are good signs, as is his 78% free-throw shooting, which is excellent for a big man.

When he's spending time in the high post or on the perimeter, Vucevic doesn't really show the first step or ball-handling skills to take his man off the dribble consistently, but he does a good job serving as a passing cog in the offense, making simple flow of the offense passes and not showing any selfishness despite his aggressiveness in always looking for the ball.

On the defensive end, Vucevic shows a solid fundamental base in the post, though he's prone to being both backed down and beaten laterally by stronger and quicker opponents. He does a good job compensating for this with his length, contesting shots and showing good timing with his shot block attempts, but he's still mostly overmatched against NBA caliber athletes. On the perimeter, he likewise shows decent fundamentals, but his lateral quickness is severely lacking here, being beat off the dribble often and being forced to foul from behind. This is the area of his game that could hold him back the most as an NBA prospect.

The one area he does really hold his own defensively is on the glass, showing a good nose for the ball and using his length and size well. That's a major plus when evaluating his pro prospects, as players in his mold tend to project as below average rebounders. His wingspan, fundamentals and effort-level clearly help him a great deal here.

Looking forward, Vucevic's continued development with his perimeter shot is crucial for his stock, and the steps he's taken with his improved shooting, strength, and toughness this season are all very helpful. Continuing to work on his pick-and-pop game, becoming a better defender, and maximizing his strength and athleticism should be among his priorities. At just 20 years old with another season in college and seeing how he's improved each of his three seasons so far, he could certainly play himself into draft discussions with continued improvement, and he already has a nice foundation with his rebounding and perimeter shooting.

Players with his combination of size, length and skills aren't very easy to come by, which is why he'll surely be getting an extended look whenever he decides to go pro. The fact that he's reportedly a very high character individual who comes from a strong basketball background will surely help his chances.

Andrew Goudelock, 6'2, Senior, Combo Guard, College of Charleston
22.9 Points, 4.1 Assists, 4.1 Rebounds, 3.4 Turnovers, 1.1 Steals, 48% FG, 42% 3P, 81% FT

Matt Williams

Hailing from the College of Charleston, Andrew Goudelock epitomizes the small-school college basketball star. A scorer in the mold of Stephen Curry, but without the same quickness, the Georgia native has been productive from the day he stepped foot on campus, scoring 27 point in his first game for the Cougars as a freshman in 2007 and keying each and every one of the program's big victories over the past four years.

Scoring upset wins over North Carolina last year and Tennessee this season, Goudelock has saved his best for last, ranking amongst the top players in our database in point per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

Standing just 6'2, Goudelock functions as Charleston's first option, but shows a penchant for finding the open man when he's well defended. A below average athlete in terms of explosiveness by NBA standards, Goudelock excels on the NCAA level because of his tremendous shot-making ability and his ability to maximize his average quickness by setting up his first-step with jabs and fakes.

The biggest part of Goudelock's offensive arsenal is his jump shot. With more than three-quarters of his shots tagged as jumpers by Synergy Sports Technology, Goudelock is heavily reliant on his ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Fortunately for him and his team, he's knocked down some 47.1% of his total jump shots and is scorching the nets at a torrid 49.4% clip off the dribble. Just as good with his feet set as he is off the bounce, Goudelock has compact mechanics, NBA range, an extremely quick release, great perimeter footwork, and a knack for shrugging off defensive pressure and sticking to his form.

Using the threat of his jump shot to open up his midrange game, Goudelock's lack of great size and quickness force him into some tough situations off the dribble, since he struggles to get all the way to the rim and turn the corner consistently┬Śsomething that is reflected in his mediocre free throw rate.

Despite his lack of blow-by ability when he puts the ball on the deck, he uses changes of speed well and is shifty enough in the paint with his repertoire of crossovers, shot-fakes, and step-throughs to create ample space for his arsenal of high-effective floaters, runners, and step-back jumpers at the college level.

A creative force from the midrange, Goudelock takes and makes high degree of difficult shots from all over the floor. Seeing a limited number of attempts right around the rim due to his lack of great quickness, that shot-making ability manifests itself in his impressive body-control and renders him fairly efficient when he does get a look near the basket. The talented guard is not one to play above the rim, but he flat out gets the job done on the offensive end.

Spending most of his time off the ball, Goudelock doesn't get to show much in the way of point-guard skills, raising some questions about his position at the next level in the process, but he's an unselfish passer who knows what his team needs from him to win. Most of his touches come in pick-and-roll and one-on-one situations, where he's first and foremost looking to score, even though he does bring the ball up the floor from time to time to initiate Charleston's sets. His ability to show his mettle as a passer and handle pressure more consistently will be worth keeping an eye on throughout the draft process.

Defensively, Goudelock plays hard, shows solid fundamentals, and plays within Charleston's team concept. On the college level, he's usually able to prevent his man from getting all the way to the rim by staying low, giving a cushion when he needs to, and never surrendering an easy basket when defending one-on-one. He doesn't always close out aggressively, though, and his size and lateral quickness would be substantially bigger concerns in the NBA than they are in the Southern Conference.

An exceptionally efficient scorer for the type of shots he attempts, Goudelock lacks NBA physical tools, but he's a terrific shooter from range and knows how to compensate for his weaknesses. While he's had some solid games against quality competition over the years, a tournament berth and a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament would be big steps in the right direction as he attempts to make the transition from small conference scorer to NBA draftee. We've learned over the years not to rule out scorers in Goudelock's mold, but there's no question that he's going to have to catch some breaks and hope that all of his cards fall the right way if he's to make it.

Trevor Mbakwe, 6-8, Junior, Power Forward, Minnesota
13.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, .7 assists, 2.1 turnovers, 1.5 blocks, 59% FG, 59% FT

Walker Beeken

Trevor Mbakwe has given Minnesota a big lift so far this season with his rebounding and presence in the paint. The redshirt junior, who will be 22 years old later this month, played his freshman season at Marquette in 2007-2008, before transferring to Miami Dade Junior College. He spent one season there, then committed to Minnesota, but he was forced to sit out all of last season due to a bizarre assault charge (of which he was eventually cleared) stemming from his time at Miami Dade.

He's made a big difference on the court for Tubby Smith's squad this season though, and has caught the attention of NBA scouts as a potential player to watch at the power forward position.

Mbakwe makes his biggest impact on the game with his tremendous rebounding ability. He's currently grabbing 14.3 rebounds per forty minutes pace adjusted, which ranks him sixth amongst all prospects in our database.

Although he's a bit undersized for an NBA power forward prospect at 6'8”, he makes up for that with a great motor, good elevation, a strong body, and an excellent wingspan. His intensity on the boards is something he should continue to focus on, as rebounding is clearly his bread and butter and will be the skill that that he hangs his hat on as an NBA prospect.

Offensively, Mbakwe has been pretty efficient so far this season, but he still lacks quite a bit of polish. He uses about 25% of his possessions in the post, and right now he's still a work in progress. He does a nice job using his strong lower body to establish position and is at his best when he can catch and make a power move to the basket. He goes up to the rim aggressively, usually looking to dunk the ball, but he can also finish with either hand with decent touch.

With his back to the basket, Mbakwe lacks some skill and doesn't have much in terms of a go-to move. He also struggles with turnovers, which can be traced to putting the ball on the floor in traffic, as well as travelling calls due to poor footwork.

A key to Mbakwe's development going forward will be his ability to establish himself as a better jump shooter. Right now, Mbakwe rarely attempts any jumpers, and when he does, it is clear that he's uncomfortable and lacks confidence.

Even when left wide open inside fifteen feet, his release is tentative and his balance is usually off. His free throw percentage further illustrates this as he's shooting a very poor 59% from the stripe so far this season. His stroke and touch aren't that bad, though, so there is room for improvement, which would go a long way towards making him more valuable on the offensive end.

Mbakwe has all of the tools to be successful defensively, despite being slightly undersized as a power forward. His length, strength, athleticism, and toughness enable him to compete on the interior, and he's blocking a solid 1.5 shots per game so far this season.

He also moves pretty well laterally for a four man, which should help him in trying to cover pick and rolls and defending face up power forwards. He has too many lapses in focus though, especially off the ball, which occasionally lead to poor positioning and some careless fouls. NBA teams will want to see a player with his offensive limitations bring 100% effort on the defensive end on every single possession, and right now it's tough to say that Mbakwe does that, even if it's clear that he has the tools to if he so desires.

Overall, Mbakwe will face some challenges in proving to scouts that he'd be able to contribute at the NBA level due to his age, height, average bulk, and lack of polish offensively. He still has another season at Minnesota though, and if he can continue to dominate the glass and develop a reliable jump shot, he'll get some looks from teams who need toughness, energy, and rebounding at the power forward position.

We've seen there is a place in the league for players of that mold, and right now the demand for them is higher than the supply.

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