NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/05/2007 -- Part One

NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/05/2007 -- Part One
Dec 05, 2007, 12:44 am
Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6’7, SG, Junior, Memphis
21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 58% FG, 75% FT, 50% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Chris Douglas-Roberts is off to a stellar start in his Junior season for Memphis, with his points per game average up over six points to 21.8, while he’s only averaging 28.2 minutes per game so far. The numbers alone aren’t what’s impressive, though. It’s how he’s doing it.

Douglas-Roberts spent much of his offseason putting in extensive work on his mid and long-range jump shot, and the early results are promising, as he’s hit 8 of 16 from behind the arc. Douglas-Roberts’ shot looks better, too, as he’s showing great release speed and more consistency with his motion. He still pushes the ball forward quite a bit, but it’s not a major issue with his release speed, and is something that can be altered over time. Douglas-Roberts is also showing much greater confidence with his outside shot, looking comfortable spotting up or pulling up off one or two dribbles.

Douglas-Roberts still is at his best when he’s taking the ball to the basket, using crossovers on the perimeter and spin drives in the lane to create high-percentage shots. If these few early games are not an aberration, it appears Douglas-Roberts has diversified and altered his style of play, not taking it all the way to the basket as frequently, but mixing in a lot more floaters inside ten feet of the basket, and trying to go around defenders rather than into them more often. Douglas-Roberts has continued to show good touch around the basket with both hands, and his one-handed push-shot floater is a thing of beauty.

Because he’s making more of an effort to go around defenders, Douglas-Roberts is getting to the free throw line at a lesser rate, but his points per field goal attempt haven’t gone down, as his shooting numbers are up across the board, even though it’s based on a fairly small sample size.

Douglas-Roberts is also making a more concerted effort on the boards, especially on the offensive end, showing he doesn’t need the ball in his hands to contribute there. He still doesn’t really show the point guard skills many know he has from his high school days, but that’s a consequence of Memphis’ offense more than anything.

On the defensive end, for whatever reason, Douglas-Roberts looks a step slow laterally in the early going, having some trouble staying in front of quicker opponents on the perimeter. He’s still playing good off-ball defense and fundamental on-ball defense, while putting in the necessary effort, but his quickness doesn’t look as good as it has in the past.

With his play thus far, Chris Douglas-Roberts is putting himself firmly in first round draft discussions as well as First Team All-America discussions this year. His point totals have fluctuated noticeably between games this season, as with Memphis’ outstanding talent and depth, he isn’t always called upon to score 20+ points, but if he can maintain his current production for the rest of the season while continuing to show an improved perimeter game on the offensive end, he should be in lottery talks in the draft should he choose to declare.

Courtney Lee, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, Western Kentucky
24 points, 3 rebounds, 1. 5 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 28 minutes, 57% FG, 39% 3P, 83% FT


Jonathan Givony

Having already profiled Courtney Lee’s strengths and weaknesses in extreme depth (just click on his name if you haven’t already done so) just a few weeks ago, we’ll offer up the following progress report. Lee seems to have made a very nice progression on some very key parts to his game, making him one of the most impressive early-season performers in all of college basketball. This year’s freshman class is getting most of the hype at the moment, but Lee is averaging 24 points per game in 28 minutes shooting 58% from the field, and his team is playing outstanding basketball.

One of the issues we had with Lee in the past was the fact that he often looked perfectly content being a role player despite being in a situation at Western Kentucky that obviously demanded of him to be much more. That certain lack of aggressiveness was nowhere to be found in the two games we watched early on in the season, as Lee has been taking his team on his back whenever the situation called for it, and has looked excellent doing so. He’s shown a lot of character in the process, stepping up to make big plays on a number of occasions, particularly down the stretch.

Most impressive might be the way he’s putting the ball on the floor and creating shots for both himself and others. He’s handling the ball well with either hand, showing no hesitation going to the basket, and even executing advanced ball-handling moves like splitting traps off the pick and roll before dropping in a beautiful floater, complete with excellent body control. Never one to force the issue (his patience and maturity is really unique), Lee did a terrific job finding teammates for open looks on the drive and dish too, even if they did a poor job finishing. His unselfishness is pretty uncommon for a mid-major draft prospect, particularly a talented scorer.

A part of Lee’s game that continues to show tremendous potential as far as the NBA is concerned is his pull-up jumper. When Gonzaga decided to go underneath the screen defending the pick and roll, Lee punished them instantaneously by pulling up fluidly from behind the arc and creating excellent separation from his defender by elevating off the floor for his picture perfect jump-shot. He then proceeded to do the same on two more occasions, this time from mid-range, showing an uncanny resemblance to DraftExpress favorite Anthony Parker in the process.

Defensively, Lee’s team plays a lot of zone, making him a little tougher to evaluate, but you could clearly see how intelligent he is with everything that has to do with awareness and positioning on this end of the floor. In the man to man setting, he puts really nice pressure on the ball, and has really pesky hands, as his 3.2 steals per game this year so far would indicate. He’s even blocking a decent amount of shots, thanks to his superb timing, activity level, and also his nice physical profile (he has an NBA body already.)

As far as the draft is concerned, it’s clearly way too early to make any sweeping judgments, but we’re having somewhat of a hard time figuring out what exactly might keep him out of the first round. Lee has been discussed and ranked exclusively on DraftExpress since his freshman season, but he’s really starting to take his game to the next level, despite the conference he plays in (the Sun Belt). Maybe he lacks a slight bit of explosiveness creating his own shot or finishing at the rim, nothing chronic, but he really seems to be making a terrific case for him early on in the season so far. We’ll obviously be back to check on his progress as the year moves on.

Trent Plaisted, 6-11, Junior, PF/C, BYU
18.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 59% FG, 71% FT


Jonathan Givony

A major storyline as far as breakthrough NBA draft related performances are concerned occurred when Trent Plaisted and his BYU team paid a visit out West to Las Vegas last week. Coming up with two outstanding performances against NCAA Final Four contending teams loaded with NBA prospects, Plaisted announced his presence in a major way.

Not quite the unknown he was made out to be by the stunned ESPN announcers that were assigned to cover his games, Plaisted was already considered an extremely intriguing prospect in NBA draft circles (including on our 2009 mock draft) following his freshman season. Last year he seemed to hit a wall, though, seeing his numbers fall off in every major category (and often looking soft, unfocused, and uninvolved when we saw him) making many wonder what this upcoming season might hold for him as far as improvement is concerned. Improvement is the key word here, since Plaisted seems to have made a huge leap in ability this past summer and has now engrained himself firmly in the NBA draft picture as long as he continues to stand-out from this point on.

Physically, there is a lot to like here. Blessed with excellent height at 6-11, complete with a decent frame, a nice wingspan, and terrific mobility, Plaisted is already in a rare class of big men in the NCAA. He runs the floor extremely well, is agile in the post, and can really get off the ground and finish plays above the rim. Making him all the more intriguing, though, is the fact that he is actually extremely skilled as well, particularly when it comes to the rare skill of scoring with his back to the basket.

Plaisted has a terrific feel for creating offense for himself in the post. He has nimble feet, beautiful footwork, and outstanding touch on his jump-hook shots all the way out to 10 feet. He prefers mostly going to his left hand (his stronger hand), but can spin quickly to either shoulder and drop in a gorgeous high-arching floater from a high vantage point that makes it very tough to stop. The speed in which he makes these moves (as well as the left-handed release) makes it all the more difficult to guard, and just to create even more of a challenge for his matchup, he’s also very adept at sticking his shoulder into his man to create space, as well as using fakes, drop-steps, and little dunk-throughs from underneath, all in extremely patient fashion looking for the precise angle he covets. Watching him elegantly flip in hook shots off the glass at will all game long against Louisville and North Carolina was simply a thing of beauty.

More than just a back to the basket scorer, though, Plaisted has a few other things going for him as well. His excellent hands allow him to be a fairly solid rebounder when factoring in his other physical gifts, and he’s also a pretty nice passer, blessed with a high basketball IQ. He rewarded his cutters on a few occasions by dropping off some very nice bounce passes, and on one other impressive sequence, brought the ball up the floor and got all the way to the rim for an intelligent finish after utilizing a brilliant pass-fake. His face up game is actually a part of his game that seems to have great potential for the next level, as we’ve seen him knock down mid-range jumpers in the past, and he showed a basic ability to get by his man with a quick first step and decent ball-handling skills as well. Still a bit on the skinny side, it seems like his most natural position at the next level will be at the power forward position.

In terms of weaknesses, Plaisted has his fair share. He struggled at times finishing around the basket through contact, clearly looking like he could use another 10-15 pounds on his lanky frame. Although he scores fairly easily for the most part with his back to the basket, he’s not a banger, and you wonder if he’ll be able to get the same deep position he does in the paint in the NCAA as he will at the next level. He also at times unnecessarily switched hands from his right to his more natural left, even if the situation did not call for it. He clearly showed the ability to finish with either hand against Louisville and North Carolina, but getting more comfortable with his right hand will obviously make him even more deadly.

Defensively, he’s a bit stuck between the 4 and the 5 at the moment, possibly a bit too big to hang with perimeter oriented PF’s on the perimeter (although his lateral quickness leaves some room for optimism here), and maybe not strong enough to bang in the post on a consistent basis with some of the more physical centers that are becoming increasingly rare these days anyway. Derrick Caracter seemed to have his way with him in certain moments early in the Louisville game, so this is an area we’ll have to continue to monitor in order to gauge just how good a prospect Plaisted really is. Continuing to rebound the ball strong will also be essential for his draft stock. More than anything really, Plaisted will have to show that his performances against North Carolina and Louisville were not a fluke.

All in all, though, we seem to have a very interesting prospect on our hands here, and it will be fascinating to keep track of him as he continues to progress throughout the season.

Jason Thompson, 6-11, Senior, Center, Rider
19.6 points, 12 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 3.5 blocks, 52% FG, 54% FT, 2-6 3Ps

Jonathan Givony

Having shown a good deal of progress over the summer, as well as possibly even having grown an inch, Jason Thompson has done a solid job early on in his senior season acclimating himself with any NBA scouts that were still not familiar with him. Standing somewhere 6-11, with an excellent body and frame, it’s not hard to tell why he would be drawing attention on first glance. Thompson also had some nice showings against pretty legit competition to start off the year as well, highlighted by a 24 point, 15 rebound effort against N.C. State, and a 24 point, 17 rebound game against Kansas State.

It was in those games that Thompson continued to show off his bread and butter of what has made him such a productive college player—his back to the basket game. Thompson has a couple of nice moves he can utilize in the post, including spin moves, turnaround jumpers, and a solid jump-hook shot with his right hand. But he also has fairly average footwork, avoids going to his left hand for the most part (and shows poor touch when he does), and doesn’t always fully square himself in fundamental fashion when rushed, which can lead to some awkward, wild shots that he just seems to heave up at the rim. For the most part, though, Thompson is a pretty imposing target in the paint at the collegiate level.

We knew all that for the most part last year already, though. The biggest progression Thompson seems to have made lately seems to be in his ability to create shots for himself, making him both much more dangerous offensively at this level, as well as significantly more intriguing for the next level. Thompson can put the ball on the floor fairly well with either hand, sometimes in impressive fashion, either to go the basket and finish with a layup or floater, or even pull up off the dribble from mid-range, in not-so-fluid fashion. He will also knock down an occasional jump-shot, maybe even a 3-pointer at times, which is not something you typically expect from a guy this size who looks like a clear cut inside player. It’s not the prettiest shot in the world, with an inconsistent release point coming from above his head, but it goes in at a decent clip and shows some potential.

Defensively, Thompson can make his presence felt thanks to his combination of height, length, and strength. He lacks the vertical explosiveness to be an outstanding shot-blocking presence, but his timing and activity mean he can be productive at times in this facet. Not the most fluid player in the world, his hips are definitely on the stiff side. When forced to step out on the perimeter and hedge a screen or challenge a jump-shot, Thompson’s average lateral quickness gets exposed somewhat, but his toughness and aggressiveness allow him to rotate over to draw an occasional charge. These same attributes make him a very good rebounder at the collegiate level, even if more athletic players can outquick him at times, although this doesn’t happen all that often.

The biggest hurdles Thompson faces as far as establishing himself as a top center prospect in this draft revolve around his average athleticism and the fact that he does not seem to know his limitations. He doesn’t really have a conscious on the offensive end, trying to execute moves that are well out of his repertoire, and thus throwing up really bad shots, often airballs. At times he’ll look absolutely terrific, while in others he’ll look extremely average—there really doesn’t seem to be any consistency or middle-point to his game at this juncture. The fact that he bobbles so many balls in the post make you wonder sometimes just good his hands are.

Thompson looks like a bit of a cross between Nazr Mohammed and Jason Collins (probably a less effective version defensively), two fairly useful NBA players who get minutes even though their games aren’t the prettiest. At this point, Thompson looks like a backup center for the next level, but even those end up being drafted in the first round sometimes. We’ll have to see how good of a season his team and him can have, and how he fares at places like Portsmouth and the pre-draft camp.

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