NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/25/09- Part One

NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/25/09- Part One
Mar 25, 2009, 02:59 am
After a full weekend of NCAA tournament games, we continue to analyze what we just saw, digging deep into a select number of prospects that deserve a closer look based off what they showed in March and during the regular season. Jeff Teague, Trevor Booker, Chris Wright and Jon Brockman are the first ones up.

Jeff Teague, 6-2, Sophomore, PG/SG, Wake Forest
18.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 1.9 steals, 49% FG, 82% FT, 44% 3P

Jonathan Givony

It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride for Jeff Teague since his last write-up nearly three months ago. After wins versus North Carolina and at Boston College and Clemson, complete with huge scoring barrages from his end, there was plenty of talk that Teague might run away with ACC player of the year honors, and find himself as a top-5 draft pick. Things haven’t quite worked out that way, though, as he hasn’t managed to be anywhere near as productive since moving off the ball almost full time once undersized point guard Ish Smith fully recovered from his injury, which happened to correspond with Wake Forest losing 7 of their last 15 games, and flaming out of the NCAA tournament in the first round in blowout fashion to #13 seed Cleveland State. Teague fully exposed all of his weaknesses over that stretch, but also continued to show the same tantalizing scoring potential that got so many NBA teams excited to begin with.

Teague is still the same phenomenal athlete he was when we last wrote about him, showing an amazing first step and a real knack for creating his own shot going equally well left or right. He gets to the free throw line at an excellent rate, and shoots 44% from beyond the 3-point line, which is a pretty impressive combination. Generally speaking, you won’t find many more talented scorers anywhere in college basketball, even if he still has plenty to work on.

Teague’s shooting ability is very unorthodox, as 77% of his jump-shots come on off the dribble attempts, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Despite his strong percentages, it must be noted that he only attempted around three 3-point shots per game, which leaves a lot to be desired. What’s odd is that he seems to struggle quite a bit in pure catch and shoot opportunities, as he cocks the ball below his waist as sports plenty of wasted shooting motion, which in turn slows down his release. When shooting off the dribble, though, Teague’s shot looks very fluid and compact, and he actually converts at a similar rate. This is clearly something teams will want to look more closely at in private workouts, should Teague decide to enter the draft.

Playing off the ball for most of the second half of the season didn’t seem to suit Teague’s style of play very well, as he’s clearly the type of player who needs the ball in his hands in order to be successful, as you can begin to understand by the way he his shooting mechanics developed. Teague is a clear-cut feast or famine type player, who tends to be either absolutely spectacular or completely awful on any given possession, and very rarely anywhere in between. As advanced a scorer as he is, he shows incredibly poor decision making skills at times, giving up his dribble mid-way through a possession, jumping in the air aimlessly before deciding what to do next, forcing terrible shots early in the shot-clock, and trying to squeeze incredibly difficult passes in between multiple defenders. Teague is far too careless with the ball, which makes him extremely turnover prone, as he coughs up the ball on 1/5th of his possessions.

As he gains more experience (he is after all, a late-bloomer who nearly committed to Southern Illinois in high school), Teague will likely improve on his decision making and hopefully his just-average basketball IQ. Considering his shoot-first, second and third mentality, though, and his 1/1 assist to turnover ratio, it’s tough to ever see him developing into a “true point guard.” He’s capable of finding the open man from time to time, for example on drive and dish and simple pick and roll plays, but his court vision is underdeveloped and it’s pretty clear that he’s not very comfortable running a half-court offense.

What Teague does possess, with his ability to create offense in the blink of an eye, is an incredibly valuable skill in today’s NBA. With the way the game is called these days, he will be virtually impossible to keep out of the paint and on the free throw line, especially if he can find a way to get a lot stronger than he currently is. As athletic as Teague is, he’s not a great finisher around the rim at all already at the college level, as he tends to struggle with contact due to his underdeveloped frame.

Defensively, Teague has all the tools to be effective, but he isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. His fundamentals are poor, as he tends to get out of his stance quickly and fall asleep off the ball. At times he’ll display some good energy and do a nice job contesting shots and staying in front of his man, but he seems to get bored quickly and will not always put much of a fight in, particularly when being posted up or forced to fight through screens.

The biggest question mark surrounding Teague will be whether or not he decides to enter the draft. He made some comments a few weeks back indicating that he may return for his junior season, but recently seems to have hedged on that issue. There is no question that Teague is a fairly raw prospect who could clearly benefit from another season of experience playing the point guard position full time, as well as in the weight room. The problem is he’d be running a big risk coming back and possibly seeing his draft stock drop, especially since Ish Smith (a starter since his freshman season) will still be around for his senior season. It will be a tough decision either way for Teague, and he’s clearly already under a lot of pressure from Wake Forest’s coaching staff.

Trevor Booker, 6’7, Power Forward, Junior, Clemson
15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.5 steals, 1.8 turnovers, 57% FG, 71% FT, 41% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

After steady freshman and sophomore seasons, Trevor Booker finally took the next step with his game as a Junior, stepping up to lead his team in scoring, playing more minutes, upping his production and efficiency across the board, and showing an increased skill level as well.

Looking at his offensive game, Booker didn’t really make great strides in any one particular area, but he did take baby steps with almost every aspect of his game, showing flashes of improvement everywhere. The first place this is evident is with his jump shot, where Booker looks more comfortable and fluid with his mechanics this season, showing better consistency in his motions as well. While not a huge staple of his offense (1.9 possessions per game according to Synergy Sports Technology), Booker shows flashes of the ability to score in pick-and-pop situations, while even showing some three-point range (9-for-22 on the season).

Booker’s shooting form has a noticeable hitch at the beginning of his shot, as he brings the ball above his shoulder prior to shooting, but he’s consistent with his motion and his release speed is adequate, so it’s not something that poses a long-term problem. When he has time to spot up, Booker’s mechanics are quite good, the only problem being a slight tendency to not hold his follow through. Things fall apart, however, when he’s shooting off the dribble or being rushed by a defender, with his mechanics becoming increasingly sloppy. Booker also made some nice strides at the free-throw line this season, up to 71% from 57%, an encouraging sign for the future. Continuing to develop his spot-up jumper and ability to thrive in the pick-and-pop game will be critical for his long-term success, and this season’s improvements are very encouraging.

Booker does the majority of his damage in the painted area, where he does a lot of work with his back to the basket, even though his post game is still pretty raw. Booker relies predominantly on his physical attributes to get it done in the post, being very physical both in establishing position and backing his man down, relying mostly on power spins from deep on the block. When he gets outside of the five feet range, Booker mostly relies on his left-handed hook shot, which he has inconsistent success with, seeing how he rushes many of his attempts, often barely glancing at the basket and seemingly just throwing the ball in the general direction. Booker’s footwork is passable enough to get by when on an island, but he struggles to execute moves when double-teamed. To his credit, however, he does a very good job of recognizing when the double teams are coming, and shows good court vision and passing ability on kick-outs to behind the three-point line.

Because of his size and lack of polish, it’s questionable how big of a post threat Booker could be in the pros, but where he is most dangerous is finishing off the ball, taking advantage of his outstanding explosiveness, mobility, and hands, finishing off pick-and-rolls, offensive rebounds, off-ball cuts, and by leaking out in transition. He shows pretty good creativity and body control at the rim despite the fact that he has no right hand to speak of, something he should be highly focused on developing.

On the defensive end, Booker has made some nice strides this season, showing better attentiveness and activity levels consistently, often playing at the head of Clemson’s unorthodox press attack. Booker uses his length and agility to make a lot of plays, as evidenced by his high steal and block numbers. In the post, Booker plays a very physical game with a decent fundamental base, bodying up the opposition early to try and negate his height disadvantage. On the perimeter, Booker is often matched up with wings and even small guards, and while he doesn’t show the lateral quickness to keep up with them, he does a respectable job, clearly having excellent mobility for his position. He’s a bit too upright in his perimeter stance, however, and his fundamentals here could definitely use some work to maximize his abilities.

There are some rumblings that Booker could test his stock in the draft this season, which makes sense given that he’s a junior with nothing to lose, however it’s expected he’d return to school unless he’s guaranteed a first round pick, as his younger brother, Devin, is committed to join Clemson next season. With the recent success of players like Jason Maxiell and Paul Millsap, Booker’s chances in the pros seem to be improved, as he’s a super-athletic player who makes an impact in many areas of the game, as evidenced by his high PER and EFF/40 (ranked 14th and 10th in our database respectively). Talent evaluators will likely be attracted to the learning curve he’s shown this season, however it might be best for his long term development if he returned to school to continue developing his game.

Chris Wright, 6’8, SF/PF, Sophomore, Dayton
13.3 Points, 6.6 Rebounds, 0.9 Assists, 2.4 Turnovers, 0.9 Steals, 1.3 Blocks, 47.8% FG, 25% 3FG, 67.6% FT

After missing the middle-half of last season with an ankle injury, Chris Wright returned for his second year poised to make a big splash in the A-10. The super athletic forward had his ups and downs in conference play, assuming quite a few of the possessions left behind by graduated point guard Brian Roberts. Though his numbers may not jump off the page, Wright’s game has made some strides since last season, and his new role for the Flyers should accelerate his long-term growth. After posting 27 points and 10 rebounds in Dayton’s NCAA tournament upset of West Virginia, the young forward certainly deserves a reevaluation –especially when you consider the transition he’s made this season.

Wright’s biggest strength lies in his tremendous physical profile –which has, and could become even more valuable as he continues to improve his perimeter game. A bit stuck between positions this season after functioning almost exclusively as a power forward last season, Wright would be undersized at the four on the next level, but has ideal size for a wing. In addition to a well-developed frame, Wright is also one of the better athletes in college basketball. He’s quick off his feet, incredibly explosive, and displays a terrific first step that has helped him score from the perimeter despite lacking much in the way of guard-skills.

Those physical assets alone made Wright a productive and efficient player as a freshman, when he shot 60.2% from the field as a role player. This season, Wright has seen his touches increase significantly, and though that increase has hurt his efficiency, much of the difference can be attributed to the fact that he has spent significantly more time out on the perimeter this year. Last season, Wright scored a lot of his points by being active without the ball, crashing the offensive glass, running the floor in transition, and being opportunistic when his teammates created looks for him. While he still gets many of his points in that fashion, his offensive opportunities now consistent of significantly more spot up and one-on-one opportunities. After functioning essentially as a catch-and-finish player last season, he is now beginning to become a more dynamic option on the offensive end.

Though Wright hasn’t been as productive as he was against West Virginia on a regular basis this season, his tournament performances are a microcosm of what he excels at at on the offensive end. His first step allows him to get to the basket against most perimeter defenders, and though he desperately needs to work on his ball-handling ability, his knack for getting to the rim allows him to use his frame to get to the line and do some damage slashing inside. Despite his ability to create some looks for himself at the rim, Wright still needs to improve his finishing ability. He won't hesitate to dunk in traffic when he can gather and explode, but he tends to take a lot of short range shots moving away from the rim when defenders deny his penetration, and lacks the footwork to be an effective shooter off the dribble. Though he displays some range and catch-and-shoot ability, his offensive repertoire is still a major work in progress, but he’s going to have every opportunity to improve on the job next season.

On the defensive end, Wright gets by on his physical gifts, but could definitely stand to show more discipline and generally improve his fundamentals. He’s quite a shot blocker for a player his size –showing the ability to make athletic plays on and off the ball, and is also active in the passing lanes. Despite his physical stature, Wright doesn’t always play physical on-ball defense, and should take the time to reach his defensive potential considering how beneficial that could be to him when he’s making the transition to the next level.

Just a sophomore, Wright has plenty of time to blossom as a prospect. Head Coach Brian Gregory seems content to let him go through his growing pains on the perimeter, which could pay big dividends to both parties in the long run. While he’s still got a lot of improving to do, Wright is a player to keep an eye on next season, when considering the draft may make sense considering his junior status.

Jon Brockman, 6-7, Power Forward, Senior, Washington
14.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, .9 steals, .1 blocks, 52.6% FG, 64% FT

Joey Whelan

When we last took a look at Jon Brockman (before the season started), he was a somewhat under the radar player putting up fantastic numbers on a mediocre team. With his collegiate career having come to an end on Saturday at the hands of Purdue, he is now the best player on the regular season Pac-10 champs, which is quite an accomplishment. Brockman had an excellent NCAA Tournament showing, posting double-doubles in each of Washington’s two games against solid frontcourt competition. While his scoring numbers have taken a dip this season, due to a smaller role in part brought on by the arrival of freshman Isaiah Thomas, Brockman has continued to be a solid presence inside.

As has been the case in his previous three seasons, Brockman does his scoring almost exclusively within eight feet of the basket, most of the time even closer than that. His massively thick 260-pound frame allows him to get position pretty much whenever he wants on the block. He has great hands, able to catch almost anything thrown his way and once he has the ball he goes to work with a fairly polished post game. Brockman has good footwork and shows surprisingly nimble feet when making moves with his back to the basket. The senior primarily goes to one of two moves, either dribbling to the middle and drop stepping towards the baseline to pin his man, or when facing up he likes to go to a quick spin move that he executes pretty well. Brockman has a very soft touch around the rim, finishing at a high rate thanks to his fantastic use of his body. Despite usually giving up several inches to defenders and having a poor vertical leap, the undersized big man is still able to score effectively at the college level. His ability to finish with contact and draw fouls at a high rate reminds somewhat of Tyler Hansbrough, although he’s not quite as skilled or prolific. Unfortunately for Brockman, his lack of size and athleticism makes it a bit difficult to see his post-game translating to the NBA level.

The biggest downfall for Brockman offensively is his inability to be effective when stepping away from the basket. While he will knock down the occasional mid-range jumper if left open, by no means is he a consistent threat outside the immediate vicinity of the basket. His shot is very flat and his form involves an awkward hitch motion that results in an inconsistent release point. The senior’s only saving grace here is his soft touch that gets some otherwise ugly shots to bounce his way. Brockman attempts very few shots from this spot on the floor, but given the examples we have seen coupled with the fact that he is a 64 percent free throw shooter (a big upgrade from last season’s 52% actually), it is safe to say he has a long way to go in developing this part of his game.

One thing that can’t be denied about Brockman, and this has been the case for his entire career, is his ever constant hustle. As we said in our write up of him before the season started, the senior goes all out on nearly every single possession at both ends of the floor. The fact that he is able to haul down under 14 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted with his undersized frame and below average athleticism is a testament to his hard work. Brockman is the classic example of a workhorse, making up for his lack of physical gifts by outworking other players.

It’s been said in the past and continues to ring true still; Brockman leaves a bit to be desired as a defensive player. He does a fine job of holding his ground when being posted up; few players at this level are capable of pushing him around. With that said though, most players can easily elevate over him for good looks at the rim. For a post player who averages over 30 minutes a game, the fact that Brockman recorded just 4 blocked shots all season says volumes about his inability to be a game changer at the other end of the floor. While he shows good speed in the open floor, his lateral quickness is subpar and leaves him susceptible to quicker post players. During Washington’s first round match up with Mississippi State, Jarvis Varnado was able to step through and score a few times against Brockman, who was slow to respond. On the few occasions when he is forced away from the basket, he looks out of place on the perimeter, often lunging at would be shooters. He would absolutely have to get quicker in order to cover the pick and roll at the next level.

In all likelihood, despite being a stellar college player, Brockman is not lock to hear his name called on draft night. The senior is likely too undersized and not athletic enough to be project as an NBA caliber rotation player. While he is able to use his strength to get shots off at the collegiate level, bigger more athletic players in the NBA would be a much tougher task for Brockman to handle. In addition, he would struggle defensively against better athletes as well. That should not diminish what has been a great college career for him, though, as he has been one of the top post players in the country each of the last two seasons. He’s certainly a hard guy to rule out considering his toughness and productivity.

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