Joakim Noah and Taurean Green showed the country why they are anything but overrated on primetime television on Saturday night; Rudy Gay thinks it's way too early to be calling his season a disappointment; Don't call PJ Tucker a tweener; Quincy Douby explodes for 41 points in the Carrier Dome; Matt Haryasz wants to carry Stanford on his back to an unlikely at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, and Curtis Stinson puts up an impressive triple-double with style.
Joakim Noah, 6-11, center, sophomore, Florida
28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 11-13 FG, 4-6 FT
On primetime television and in front of dozens of NBA scouts, Noah took his team on his back and completely destroyed anyone the Wildcats threw his way. He ran the floor like a man possessed, established deep position time after time in the paint to finish emphatically, blocked numerous shots and altered countless others, and fired up the sold out and incredibly loud Florida crowd on the way to a blowout win over their archrival Kentucky Wildcats. Being a near 7-footer with excellent length and plenty of bounce to his step Noah was always going to draw attention from the NBA, but the way he changes the game with his sheer tenacity and aggressiveness puts him in a rare class when talking about big men prospects in college basketball.
Its tough not to like the way Noah leaves everything out on the floor every time he plays. You can tell that he truly loves playing basketball and winning games, and his terrific attitude comes out in almost everything he does; whether its showing an excellent understanding passing unselfishly out of the post, handling the ball for short stretches and finding the open man, fighting and scrapping all night long inside the paint, showing a good touch and plenty of coordination finishing in difficult situations around the rim, or just being a warrior out on the floor and sparking his team and the fans.
Noah still needs more time in college to continue to add bulk to his extremely lanky frame and work on his fairly imited offensive arsenal that mostly revolves around layups and dunks at this point in his development. His shooting stroke is very unconventional as he releases the ball awkwardly from his chest, and still struggles to hold position in the paint for rebounds and utilize his back to the basket game. With that said, he is clearly improving from game to game and shows the type of motor that players like Randolph Morris could only dream of. He seems to be enjoying himself immensely playing with what appears to be the most talented sophomore class in college basketball with the Florida Gators, which is why sticking around for another year might not seem like such a bad idea for one of the most passionate players in the country.
Rudy Gay, 6-9, small forward, sophomore, UConn
2 Games Combined: 41 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 15-29 FG, 4-7 3P, 7-10 FT
We have been practically begging Rudy Gay all season to take his game back where it belongs, which is inside of 15 feet. Gay is very skilled for a big man, but not yet ready to play the "go-to shooting guard" role. Its not easy being a 6-9 small forward on the college level, as Gays ball-handling skills are just not advanced enough to get by the 6-5 wings most teams put on him. To compound that problem Gay does not do a great job getting low to the floor when driving to the basket, exposing the ball from a quick-handed defender and just preferring to settle for a weak pull-up jumper when he lacks the craftiness to get by his man. In recent games, he has stopped floating around the perimeter and taking low-percentage jumpers outside the offense, and is back to attacking the basket. He has a nice in-between game from 10-15 feet, and will use his size, length or athleticism to beat practically anybody from that range. Gay has been much more aggressive in crashing the glass as well, using his nearly endless reach and superior physical skills to collect points right around and above the rim. In transition he has been phenomenal as usual, giving Sportscenter fans plenty to chew on with a couple of highlight reel caliber plays.
Like we have said before, it isn't going to take much for Rudy Gay to regain his spot near or at the top of the 2006 draft board. Where a player like Adam Morrison needs to play a full season of 30 ppg basketball to keep his stock high, it only takes a couple of nice performances before Gay's listless first fifteen or so games of the season are a distant memory. Rudy Gay's physical gifts are simply too great to ignore. If Gay can take the mentality he has shown over the past four games and extend it into March, he will be a top 3 pick come June.
Taurean Green, 6-0, point guard, sophomore, Florida
29 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 turnovers, 8-14 FG, 3-7 3P, 10-12 FT
Being the catalyst and most important player on a team thats won 20 of its first 22 games will do that to you, though, and that is exactly what Green is for this Florida team.
On Saturday Green continued to show why he is one of the most complete point guards in college basketball. He slashed, shot and passed his way to the tune of 29 points and 9 assists on excellent percentages, controlling the tempo to Floridas liking and leaving the much more highly regarded Rajon Rondo on his backside after a ferocious pick more than often he let him stay in front of him.
Green used the high ball screens his team set him time after time to create offense for himself and his teammates off the dribble almost whenever he pleased, doing a terrific job mixing up his scoring with his passing and giving Rondo fits with his arsenal of offensive moves that left him clueless as to how to defend him. One time he would blow by him and take the ball strong all the way to the basket, the next he would pull up off the dribble from mid-range using a lightning quick release, and when his man got tired of being burned and gave him space he would instead just knock down a three pointer from well behind the NCAA line. He did a great job defensively as well and eventually fouled out the extremely frustrated Rondo; outscoring him by 7 points in the final tally, dishing out 9 more assists, shooting a much better percentage and turning the ball over less. Most importantly, his team delivered a demoralizing defeat to their archrivals, a win that will keep the Gators close to returning to the top 5 ranked teams in the country and within striking distance of the top of the SEC East.
The 6-foot sophomore leads the SEC in both points and assists, but his contribution to his team goes well beyond the boxscore. Green simply does everything you would hope your college point guard to do well; whether its scoring, passing, shooting, handling the ball, playing great defense, slashing to the basket and finishing at the rim, hitting clutch free throws, showing leadership skills and most importantly making everyone better. He rarely leaves the floor and is more than willing to take his team on his back when the offense bogs down. He plays the game with an arrogance and confident demeanor that all the great lead guards have, but doesnt let that affect the way he runs his team and keeps his ego in check the way most cocky point guards cant.
As far as his NBA potential goes, that is really anyones guess. Generously listed at 6 feet, he doesnt have the excellent physical attributes that most of this excellent class of sophomore point guards do, not being incredibly tall, long, strong or explosive, although he is a fine athlete. Players in his mold-- Jameer Nelson is probably his best NBA comparisonusually have to do a bit more to carve themselves a spot in the league. Winning games the way he has so far and being the best player on his extremely talented team is always going to be the best way to accomplish that. Taking his team deep in the tournament will go a long ways in quelling his many doubters (of which we were firmly a part of until Saturday). Little guys always have it a little bit tougher to prove themselves, but Green is clearly on the right track and only seems to be improving week by week after being just a marginal contributor on a decent team in his freshman year.
PJ Tucker, 6-5, junior, small forward, Texas
18 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 6-14 FG, 6-7 FT
Texas, ranked at number 7, controlled the game the entire way against in-state rival Texas Tech. After opening up an 11 point lead at halftime, Texas didnt look back, and finished the game strong. Tucker played all 40 minutes in the 21 point victory.
It was an all-around team effort that led to the victory, but Tucker came out early and set the tempo by making some nice buckets off the fast break, and even dribbling the ball coast to coast for a couple scores. In the half court set, PJ Tucker posted up and took the ball to the hoop, finishing impressively with layups around the rim. On the glass, Tucker always kept his man away from the ball, and anticipated missed shots to grab a couple offensive rebounds.
This season, PJ Tucker has started transitioning his game towards the small forward position. He is comfortable handling the ball, and rarely turns it over in traffic. Though not overly explosive as an athlete, Tucker can finish around the basket like a small forward, and seems very comfortable shooting the midrange shot. Tuckers rebounding numbers have also been outstanding (9 per game), and his play on the court has been very unselfish.
To best fulfill his NBA potential, PJ Tucker will have to develop something in terms of a three point shot. He has only made one three pointer this season on 2 attempts. Though his handle has improved, he still dribbles the ball a little high at times, which leads to sloppy plays and turnovers. Tucker does have a chiseled body at 65" and 225 pounds, and a very wide array of moves on the block. He may struggle defensively guarding quicker small forwards at the next level, especially considering he is used to bodying up bigger players, but he always puts in 100% to help his team come out with the W. Despite being an absolute menace at the collegiate level and making major improvements to his perimeter game this season, PJ Tucker has a long path ahead of him to prove that he can successfully play small forward in the NBA. The comparisons weve heard from people in the business range from Andre Emmett to a sane Ron Artest, but his NBA potential probably lies somewhere in between. Based on everything weve heard from people familiar with his situation, dont be surprised even one bit to find Tuckers name on the early entry list come May.
Quincy Douby, 6-3, PG/SG, junior, Rutgers
41 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 15-32 FG, 9-17 3P, 2-2 FT
Douby went on the road and shattered the record for points scored in the Carrier Dome by putting up a career high 41 points in 43 minutes. His team came heartbreakingly close to knocking off Syracuse, but a miracle three-pointer by Terrence Roberts in overtime at the buzzer eventually saw them leave with a narrow 2 point defeat. Quincy Douby was as good as anybody I've ever seen in here since this building's been open," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We were pushing up on him, man-to-man and zone, trying to do anything we could to get him to just miss a little bit."
Douby was nothing short of amazing down the stretch, knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer from deep range despite Syracuses intense defense and doing a great job of mixing up his scoring with his passing and defense, something that wasnt always the case in his three year career at Rutgers so far. His shot selection was much better than usual, and we are seeing less and less of the immaturity and me-first attitude that has made us so hesitant to call him a legit top notch prospect despite being the best scorer in easily the best conference in America. Douby has now scored in double figures in every single game this year and has reached 20 points or more in 15 of his last 19 games. Rutgers looks like an extreme longshot to make the NCAA tournament at this point, but people are starting to notice just how good of a player Douby is and how impressive it is to see him accomplish what he is despite the double teams and the competition level he is going up against.
Were talking about one of the better athletes the Big East has to offer. Not only does he have excellent quickness and an explosive first step, he also changes gears like a true pro, doing a great job keeping his defender off-balance, going left or right and always making you wonder which direction he is going to contort his body in next. Doubys excellent footwork helps him out tremendously in this area, making him one of the best shot creating guards in the entire country if hes being defended straight up. His ball-handling shows a lot of potential, one of the areas he has made the biggest strides in over the past year. Douby doesnt just have the potential to be a great slasher, though, he is one already, being more than willing to take the ball strong to the hoop and finish amongst the trees even with plenty of contact.
Thats not where his offensive game ends, as Douby is also one of the best 3-point shooters in the Big East despite the attention he draws from opposing teams. He shoots nearly 40% from behind the 3-point arc, and can score both off the dribble with a hand in his face or off the catch and shoot showing a lightning quick release.
If his extremely polished offensive game isnt quite enough to convince you that he is a legit draft prospect, the work he does on the other end of the ball probably should. Douby is an able and willing defender who has no problem getting low in an aggressive defensive stance and getting right in his mans chest. He has quick hands and comes up with a good amount of steals thanks to his quickness and length.
After reading all this you might wonder why Douby isnt placed firmly in the top-20 of our 2006 mock draft. And while its possible that he ends up there, there are just too many glaring weaknesses to his game that are almost impossible to ignore. First would be his position in the NBA. At 6-3, he will probably need to play at least a little bit of point guard, but when he played that position last year, the results were disastrous for his team, winning just 3 games in the entire Big East slate. He is clearly much more comfortable coming off the ball and focusing on his scoring. His negative assist to turnover ratio this year does not exactly dispute that. Second would be some baggage that has been a constant distraction both on and off the court. According to most accounts, Douby has too many people around him who arent exactly looking out for his best interests. His basketball IQ looks questionable at times, and some NBA types already wonder just how coachable he is. His body language can be extremely poor at times, clapping incessantly at his teammates when they have the nerve to refuse to pass him the ball and clear out the floor, killing the ball-movement of his team and overdribbling, getting frustrated easily and generally showing a poor attitude. Third would be his teams record, sitting at just 3-6 in the Big East and being dangerously close to missing the conference tournament if his team doesnt pick up some big wins in the next few weeks. There is no doubt that he is capable of putting up huge numbers on a fairly bad team, but can he do it without dominating the ball with more talented teammates around him?
With that said, there is a place in the NBA for a player in Doubys mold. He is your classic off the bench energy type to come on the floor and erupt for points while providing solid defense for his teams 2nd unit. His trash-talking NYC swagger will find its fans in NBA circle, and hes shown a better maturity level as the season moves on. His feel for the game is good despite only playing organized basketball for the last 5-6 years, being able to find the open man when he wants and showing a lot of passion and fire to his game. Even though he is saying all the right things right now (and everyone always does at this point in the year), I dont think anyone would be surprised to see his name on the early-entry list come May.
Matt Haryasz, 6-11, power forward, senior, Stanford
2 Games Combined: 48 points, 24 rebounds, 6 blocks, 1 assist, 6 turnovers, 19-38 FG, 10-20 FT
Last season, Haryasz played the role of a high-post, finesse type PF, as Rob Little was the space eater in the middle. Haryasz added significant bulk in the offseason, and is now strong enough to compete with college-level bigs in the paint. He has good size, decent athleticism, and a nice array of post moves to work with. His best attribute at the moment would be his rebounding, as he really understands how to get position in the paint.
While Haryasz is far from a sure thing in the NBA, there is a lot to like about his game. He probably isn't strong enough to play center in the NBA, but still can add more strength to his frame. He projects to be a complementary big man at the next level, using his perimeter skill to draw defenders away from the basket, while contributing on the glass. The injury issues are troublesome, especially the nagging foot problems he has been dealing with for some time. Nonetheless, if Matt Haryasz continues his recent standout production and leads the Cardinal to an unlikely NCAA tournament appearance, a second round selection is very possible.
Curtis Stinson- 6-3, junior, point guard, Iowa State
24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 turnovers, 11-17 FG, 1-3 3P, 1-2 FT
With Iowa State clearly needing a win over a surging Colorado team to help their faltering NCAA tournament resume, their flamboyant lead guard stepped up to the plate. Iowa State had lost 4 of their 6 past games in the Big 12 conference, including three straight at home in Ames (usually known as a fortress) and was in danger of losing sight of the top part of the conference rankings if they could not get their act together quick. The Cyclones jumped out on Colorado early in the 1st half and led the game by 20 points or more for much of the 2nd half before Colorado made a futile surge late in the game. This was the 1st triple-double in 6 years by an Iowa State player, and only the third in team history, with Jamal Tinsley being the last to accomplish that feat in February of 2000.
Stinson put on a basketball clinic on Superbowl Sunday for the extremely loud and enthusiastic Cyclone crowd in Ames. He showed a very complete all-around game; whether it was getting into the paint and scoring using his flashy ball-handling skills and creative finishes, locking down his man on the perimeter even if he was asked to guard a much bigger player in Richard Roby (who was awful by the way) at times, but most importantly doing a great job distributing the ball, controlling the tempo and finding the open man, much to the delight of his teammates and fans. Almost every single one of his 10 assists were highlight reel caliber; including behind the back passes, no-look dishes, bullet passes into the paint for easy layups or the old and very reliable drive and kick after the defense collapsed around him. He wasnt particularly prolific from behind the 3-point line today, only hitting one of his 3 shots, but he also didnt rely on this part of his game the way he has had the tendency to do at times in his career, usually with less-than-stellar results.
From watching his progression from last year to this, its clear that Stinson is a better player right now and is still improving on his all-around skill set. His assists totals have risen nicely by 20% while his turnovers are up only slightly. We need to keep in mind that he isnt even Iowa States primary ball-handler, playing next to a more pure playmaker in equally talented Will Blalock. Hes scoring nearly 20 points a game this season, but most importantly is doing so it in a much more efficient manner, shooting nearly 47% from the field, improving his 3-point percentages by over 7 points to a now more respectable 34%, and still getting to the line nearly 5 times per game.
Hell never be a pure point guard in the mold of Steve Nash or Deron Williams, but the NBA has shown us time after time that they are willing to live with scoring lead guards as long as they are capable of running a team in satisfactory fashion. Stinson projects as more of a backup guard anyway, and his skill set is definitely suitable for what NBA teams will need him to do at the end and beginning of quarters while giving the starting point a rest. Hes a two-way guard who puts pride in the way he plays on both ends of the floor. And while he might have a little too much Rucker League in his game still as the epitome of your flashy New York City point, there are coaches who are willing to live with that because of the energy he brings to the floor.
Theres a lot to like about his toughness and the fearless manner in which he plays the game. He has good size at 6-3, but also possesses excellent strength and length to boot, being able to bench press 315 pounds according to Iowa States media guide. His ball-handling skills are outstanding as you would probably expect, being able to change pace nicely off the bounce and create space for himself, use hesitation moves and all the other nifty tricks that he picked up on the playgrounds of New York. He finishes creatively around the basket with Van Exel type floaters and is not afraid to stick his nose in to harass his man defensively or come up with an offensive rebound.
How much love he gets in the draft (whether its this year or next) largely depends on how much upside NBA teams think he still has to improve. Despite being a junior he turns 23 in a little over a week, possibly suffering a bit from the Carl Krauser disease that NBA teams tend to shy away from in the 1st round. And while he was absolutely terrific this weekend blowing out Colorado, he is still a fairly inconsistent player that is capable of killing his team at times with his poor shot selection and tendency to over-dribble and turn the ball over. He lacks range on his shot, but dont ever tell him that when his team is losing, because he just wont listen. His percentages drop significantly when his team is on the losing end of the scoreboard, further proving the notion that he is not the type of guy you want to build an NBA team around, but rather compliment you in small spurts. This is a big reason why Iowa State is such an unpredictable team, capable of beating the best in the country on any given night but also lose to some of the worst. Thats exactly why the way Stinson plays in March could go a long ways in determining his draft stock.