NBA Draft Stock Watch: Conference Tournament Week (Part Two)
NBA Draft Stock Watch: Conference Tournament Week (Part Three)
Al Horford, 610, PF/C, Junior, Florida
Vs Arkansas: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, 6-7 FG, 6-6 FT
Horford had an excellent game on the boards, using all of his abilities to track down rebounds, utilizing his strength and fundamentals to box out and maintain inside position, his length to rebound over the opposition when he didnt have position, and his mobility to track down rebounds that didnt come directly to him. Defensively, Horford did a good job in the post both fronting and playing his man straight up, and also did a good job contesting shots on the weakside. He had some trouble when forced to drift out to the perimeter against some of Arkansass smaller lineups, as he didnt seem to heavily contest outside jumpers, preferring to stay closer to the paint where he could assist on the weakside. Then again, this seemed to be Floridas defensive game plan from the beginning with both Horford and teammate Joakim Noah, and its tough to argue with the 77-56 final score.
Bryce Taylor, 6-5 Junior, SG, Oregon
Pac-10 Championship vs. USC: 32 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 11-11 FG, 3-3 FT, 7-7 3P
Whether its knocking down deep threes with a hand in his face, blowing by a defender to the basket, or exploding for a dunk in the lane, Taylor is always a threat to score. The fact that he averages only 14.8 points per game is a testament to the tremendous offensive fire power that Oregon possesses. On most other teams in the country he would be a threat to score close to 20 a night.
For Taylor, his game begins on the outside and moves in. He is a deadly three point shooter, and as he showed on Saturday a couple of times, is at his scariest coming off of screens because of his fluid release. He has no qualms about launching from beyond NBA range or with a defender in his face. When he does decide to pass on shots from the outside, he usually can beat his man to the basket thanks to his opportunistic style of play. He lacks much of a pull up jumper, and still has plenty of work to do on his ball-handling skills, but still excels because of his ability to finish in the lane. At 200 pounds, Taylor has a solid build for a guard and can still get off good shots when he is bumped by bigger players. His most dangerous attribute going to the rim though is his finishing ability. Despite being 6-5, Taylor is capable of elevating over many taller players and finishing a play with a strong dunk thanks to his quick leaping ability.
Toughness is a major part of Taylors appeal as a player. Hes a good rebounder for a player his size, and consistently picks up garbage points by following his own shot. This toughness translates well for him at the next level where he will be a little undersized as a shooting guard. Defensively, Taylor isnt going to wow anyone, but he does play good hard defense. He has average lateral quickness, but sticks to his man tightly, forcing a lot of tough and contested shots. Against USC, neither Nick Young nor Gabe Pruitt were able to do much when Taylor was covering them.
The biggest strike against Taylor in an otherwise very good season has been his consistency. After putting up double digit scoring performances in 19 of his first 20 games this year, he went cold for a stretch of several games. This cold spell interestingly enough coincided with a two week slump for Oregon in which they dropped 5 out of 7 games. In the last month of the season Taylor only has two other solid performances before exploding against USC.
With Aaron Brooks set to graduate after this season, expect an increase in Taylors numbers, especially in the number of shots he sees and his scoring. With his shooting, basketball IQ, and toughness, expect to see Taylors name firmly in the mix for draft projections.
Joakim Noah, 611, PF/C, Junior, Florida
Vs Arkansas: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks, 5 steals, 8-15 FG
On the defensive end, Noah used his length to disrupt on the perimeter in the post, netting nine combined blocks and steals on the game, while also playing excellent man-to-man post defense throughout. Like teammate Al Horford, Noah alternated between fronting and playing his man straight-up, and he and Horford did a good job playing off each other, covering one anothers backside when fronting. Noah got most of his blocks coming over from the weakside, but got his steals through both man-to-man defense and by getting in the passing lanes. Noah showed off his excellent ability to run the floor on two occasions, finishing two fast-break opportunities creating by his own forced turnovers. On one occasion, he actually dribbled the length of the court himself to score the lay-up, also drawing a foul in the process.
Stephane Lasme, 6-8 Senior, PF, Massachusetts
NIT Vs. Alabama: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 9 blocks, 1steal, 5 turnovers, 7-11 FG, 7-9 FT, 0-0 3P
All season long Lasme has been wreaking havoc on opponents offenses inside the paint. His long reach and good leaping ability allow him to alter most shots that occur in his area. Add in his fantastic timing and it becomes clear why he has blossomed into one of the nations most feared interior defenders. Lasme also has above average lateral quickness for a post player which allows him to cut opponents off as the drive to the basket.
Offensively, Lasme had one of his best performances of the year against the Tide; he averages 13.5 points per game for the year. Like most super strong, raw post players, Lasme picks up a good percentage of his point off hitting the offensive glass. He is extremely tenacious on the boards, especially on the offensive end where he pulls down nearly 4 offensive rebounds a night. Lasme has such a strong, broad upper body, and explodes so well off the floor, that he simply overpowers most opponents in his ability to score off of rebounds.
Though he still relies mainly on his brute force in the post, Lasme is beginning to develop some basic touch around the basket. His go to move down low is his hook shot, but hes becoming better at using his pivot foot to get position when the first option is taken away. If forced off the block, he can knock down the occasional mid-range jump shot, or fall back on his pretty good first step and drive to the basket. No matter how he takes it to the basket, one thing is for sure, Lasme is a pretty efficient guy, as the power forward is shooting a stellar 62% from the field this year.
Some doubts start to creep in when referencing Lasmes size. At 6-8 and with his leaping ability, he just barely has the height to play power forward at the next level, but might be considered slightly undersized if he doesnt measure out exactly that tall. Offensively, he can be extremely mechanical at times when forced to do anything beyond the very basics, for example putting the ball on the floor once or shooting the ball when not completely set. He hasnt been playing basketball for that long, and you can definitely tell that in his lack of polish, particularly in his mediocre passing skills. Whats odd is that Lasme is already 24 years old, so some scouts might wonder just how much room he has left to continue to improve. The level of competition he faced in the A-10 this year wasnt exactly stellar, and Lasme has not dominated the conference except on the defensive end.
Despite this, Lasme shouldnt be counted out from being a pro player somewhere. Stellar defense is always a good way to get yourself noticed by pro scouts and he is one of the nations best defenders inside the paint. NBA coaches are usually looking for something very specific to bring off their bench in terms of skills, and Lasme has that with his hustle, defense and rebounding ability, as well as his attitude. Lasme certainly has the drive and the aggressiveness to wind up as a second round pick this summer, but he will to play well against better competition in Portsmouth and the pre-draft camp first.