NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/19/10

NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/19/10
Feb 19, 2010, 08:17 am
Updated scouting reports on Ed Davis, Trevor Booker and Da'Sean Butler.

Ed Davis, 6-10, Sophomore, Center, North Carolina
12.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, .9 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 58%, 66%

Jonathan Givony

With his season coming to a close following a broken wrist that will keep him out of action for 6-8 weeks, this is as good a time as any to summarize the performance of North Carolina big man Ed Davis.

Coming into the season with massive expectations after flashing brilliant glimpses of potential playing a small but important role en route to winning a national championship, the general consensus amongst NBA teams and the mass media is that Davis had somewhat of a disappointing sophomore campaign—especially when considering how badly his team has underachieved.

Digging deeper, though, and seeing the glaring offensive limitations he showed as a freshman, it was pretty obvious that Davis was always going to need time to develop into the player many envision him becoming down the road.

Looking at his physical profile, Davis continues to sport an outstanding frame that is still at least 2-3 years away from fully filling out. His wingspan is outstanding on top of that, and allows him to play much bigger than his size.

He displays a strange blend of athleticism, on one hand running the floor extremely well and being fairly explosive around the rim, but on the other lacking a significant amount of fluidity and reactivity, being somewhat upright and clearly on the mechanical side. From time to time you’ll see him make some extremely impressive plays, but for the most part it’s difficult to describe him as being a great athlete at this point in time, at least in terms of his ability to actually utilize his athleticism.

Offensively, Davis remains extremely raw, being mostly limited to finishing plays in the immediate area around the basket and having a difficult time creating his own shot. His lack of strength makes it tough for him to establish position deep in the post and finish through contact in traffic, something that forces him to settle for difficult shots outside of his comfort zone. His footwork is raw and he avoids his right hand like the plague (he’s left-handed), not looking all that impressive when forced to improvise on the fly, and having a very difficult time against more physical defenders.

You’d like to see him develop somewhat of a mean streak to compensate for his average skill-level, as it would make it much easier for him to get on the floor in the NBA early on in his career. That’s not really the type of player he is, though.

On the flip side, Davis’ length makes him a terrific target for his (very streaky) guards to lob the ball into the paint to, and he finishes well around the basket for that same reason, getting amazing extension on his jump-hook shot, being able to elevate from long vantage points, and showing excellent touch around the rim. He draws fouls at a good rate and converts on a solid 66% of his free throws.

Facing the basket, Davis has a long ways to go, as his ball-handling skills are close to non-existent and he lacks significant range on his jump-shot. He’s taken only four jumpers all season long according to Synergy Sports Technology, and you can tell why for the most part when looking at the ones he did attempt.

Davis must continue to work on honing his perimeter game and become at least a respectable mid-range shooter to reach his full potential down the road, as he’s probably not going to make a living as a banger early on in his career. At the moment he’s obviously more of a center than a power forward on the offensive end of the floor, which made him a less than ideal front-court pairing at North Carolina with the similarly interior oriented Deon Thompson.

Now that we’ve had 23 games to evaluate him in a fairly significant role, it’s easier to confidently assert that he’s more likely to emerge as a complimentary scorer than as a real go-to guy. With that said, he has some truly excellent attributes that he brings to the table—as he’s a team player, an unselfish guy, fairly smart and executes his team’s offense very well. These are exactly the things you would expect being the son of a former NBA player, and is precisely what you want to see from an excellent role-player.

Defensively and as a rebounder is where Davis shows the most potential, thanks to his rare combination of fundamentals and physical tools. He ranks as one of the best shot-blockers in college basketball, being a major presence in the paint with his terrific length and timing, and should be able to make big strides as a post-defender and rim-protector as he continues to add strength to his frame. His wingspan allows him to go well outside of his area for rebounds as well, again being very productive in this area on both ends of the floor with his 12.4 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted.

On the downside, Davis tends to get pushed around by older and stronger players, giving up deep position in the paint at times in the process. His perimeter defense is just average, as he’s mobile enough to get out and hedge screens defending the pick and roll, but is a little too upright in his stance to stay in front of big men laterally who can attack him off the dribble. Once again, the impression you get from watching him play is that he may be better suited (at least initially) for the center position rather than the power forward spot you often see him projected at.

While many would contend that Davis is being overrated if considered a high-lottery pick like most NBA draft services have ranked him all season long, counter to that argument is that there just aren’t many big men available (either in free agency or the draft) with his physical tools, intangibles and potential.

With that said, there is no question that whichever team drafts him will need to be patient with the way they bring him along, as he’s clearly not ready at this stage to play a major role in the NBA. You have to wonder how much different of a player he’ll be once he’s able to put on a good 15-20 pounds to his terrific frame, though, as it should make things considerably easier for him on both ends of the floor.

Davis’ untimely injury puts him in a bit of a difficult spot, as he needed to have a strong showing in March in order to give his NBA draft stock a boost. He’ll now have a tough decision ahead of him this spring in terms of deciding whether or not to enter his name in the draft, as he probably could have fooled an NBA team into drafting him way too high last year purely based on upside, but won’t be afforded the same luxury if he decides to come back for another season and again doesn’t “live up to expectations.”

Another year at North Carolina under Roy Williams and highly respected strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian may not be such a bad thing for his long-term development, especially since he’ll be able to move to his natural position at the 5-spot with Deon Thompson graduating, but it also comes with a significant amount of risk. Considering that his background is fairly different than most NBA prospects, he’s in a position to make the right decision.

Trevor Booker, 6-7, Senior, Power Forward/Center, Clemson
15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks 51.7% FG, 26.9% 3FG, 60.5% FT

Kyle Nelson

Going into the new season, Trevor Booker was a borderline first round pick with an expanding skill set. Booker and Clemson went into the year with high expectations and a challenging schedule to match. Despite assuming a greater load of the offense and adding new aspects to his game, Booker may not be having quite the type of season that scouts expected, as his numbers have stagnated or regressed in many key areas. His shooting efficiency inside and outside the arc, free throw percentages and rebounding have fallen off quite a bit, while his assist numbers have risen as opposing teams have made it a point to try and shut him down. Now, as Clemson sits 18-7, firmly on the NCAA bubble, Booker must continue to take advantage of any opportunity to improve upon what has been an up-and-down senior season.

Booker is just 6’7, but he has excellent length and strength, which suggests that his transition to the next level should be smoother than expected from undersized post players. Similarly, his explosiveness and quickness in the open floor will help him overcome his lack of size at the next level. Though undersized big men have done well in the NBA lately, and Booker’s athleticism helps his case significantly, but he still must prove to scouts he has what it takes to operate as a power forward at the next level.

Booker’s offense this season reveals considerable questions, impressive improvement and yet untapped potential. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 35% of Booker’s offense comes on post up plays, something that is probably not all that likely to translate over to the NBA. Though his post repertoire is still limited to more basic moves with few countermoves and his touch is somewhat suspect, he continues to get to the rim by utilizing his athleticism, strength, and improving ball-handling abilities.

Also of note is how he has cut down on his turnover rate impressively, passing out of the post very well when he encounters double teams. His slow, but continued improvement throughout his four years at Clemson, combined with his toughness, suggests that he can continue to improve, though his ability to score against bigger and more athletic players at his size is still a very significant question mark.

Despite being tougher and more athletic than most post players at the collegiate level, Booker has become far more perimeter-oriented and somewhat less efficient on the offensive end. Though his 3-point shooting numbers are down to an unsightly 26.9%, his form is much improved, far more fluid and quick than in past seasons, suggesting that he could develop into a solid shooting option at the next level from inside of the NBA three point line. He also looks considerably more adept on pick and pop plays from mid-range.

Evaluating his ability to attack matchups off the dribble, he appears to have improved as well, looking eager to beat opponents with his terrific first step. Unfortunately, for as much as he has improved his ball handling abilities through the course of his career, he is still not that efficient in this area, looking overly ambitious at times, turning over the ball over in iso situations, not getting quality looks at the basket, and not drawing contact at the rim. Similarly, he does not seem to know his limits, as he lacks the offensive polish and basketball IQ at this point to be a prolific slasher at this level or in the NBA.

All things considered, though, Booker’s improvements from the perimeter as a shot-creator and jump-shooter should be duly noted, despite the fact that it’s hurt his efficiency numbers in the process.

On the defensive end, it is much of the same for Booker, which is both good and bad. While his awareness could always stand to improve, he continues to assert himself defensively and work hard whether he is playing inside or outside.

Despite his outstanding athleticism, which allows him to impact the defense in a variety of ways, his lack of height is still concerning, as he continues to have trouble guarding bigger and more athletic players inside and out. Most troubling, however, is his decreased rebounding numbers, and though he stills grabs 10.4 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, he must continue to work hard on the boards and use his athleticism and fundamentals to beat bigger players to the ball—something that will be more difficult in the NBA. While his effort-level or toughness will never be questioned, his lack of size continues to be a significant question mark that complicates his draft position.

This season has been a telling one for Booker. He has improved in some areas while stagnating in others. He has improved his scoring numbers, but has struggled for stretches against inferior competition. Nonetheless, he is an interesting prospect, certainly a player with the potential to play in the NBA.

Though his size definitely is an obstacle that he must overcome and he must figure out how to adept accordingly in the post on both ends of the floor, players with Booker’s aggressiveness and athleticism have found success at the next level, often in a huge way. Scouts will be watching to see if Booker can put Clemson on his shoulders in the final stages of his college career and prove that he has what it takes to win games.

Da’Sean Butler, 6-7, Small Forward, Senior, West Virginia
17.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 44% FG, 38% 3FG, 78% FT

Joey Whelan

We last looked at Da’Sean Butler exactly one year ago when the junior was in the midst of a career year, emerging as the top scoring option for West Virginia. Now in his final season at the college level, the combo forward is once again the top offensive weapon for the Mountaineers, but has made slight improvements in both his efficiency and his ability to facilitate the offense as he has seen his role as a playmaker increase.

The upperclassman’s frame and physical attributes have been discussed at length in the past, specifically the solid size and length he possesses for his position. Given that he has undergone the gradual progression from undersized four to a perimeter player with the ability to operate against smaller players in the post, Butler has made himself an even more intriguing pro prospect in this regard. Unfortunately he remains a below average athlete, though, which may end up proving costly in the final evaluation NBA teams make on him.

As has been the case throughout his career, Butler continues to build his offense around his jump shot, with two-thirds of all shot attempts in half court sets falling into this category according to Synergy Sports Technology.

His size and somewhat awkward, high release make him a difficult player to stop from getting his shot off, but his average ball handling skills continue to hamper him from creating in isolation situations, as does his below-average quickness.

He is at his best when he can catch and shoot, something that West Virginia utilizes a great deal by running Butler off of screens, an area he excels by hitting on 60% of all shot attempts. Certainly the ability to score with a quick release will help him at the pro level, as will his perimeter shooting. While Butler’s 37.9% shooting from beyond the arc may not jump off the page, it should be noted that this is a career high mark for him and is coming on more than five attempts per game, also a career high. West Virginia plays at an extremely slow pace and Butler is forced to shoulder a considerable role as a shot-creator on this point-guard deprived team, something that clearly hurts his efficiency.

What seems to have remained consistent in the senior’s game is his lack of consistency to operate off the dribble. This is reflected in the fact that he opts to catch and shoot in the overwhelming number of his spot up chances. When pulling up off the dribble, Butler tends to rush his shot, often line driving his shot, resulting in just a 31% shooting average from mid-range spots, some 13 percentage points lower than he shoots in the paint or from beyond the arc.

When he does opt to go all the way to the rim, his size and strength help him a great deal to finish while absorbing contact, but his lack of explosiveness prevents him from being more efficient in this area. While he manages to get by reasonably well at the college level right now, this will become more of a glaring issue at the next level.

Where Butler definitely has turned some heads this season is with his added versatility. His single most impressive development has been as a playmaker, as Butler is averaging twice as many assists this season as he did a year ago while also significantly cutting down on the number of turnovers he commits. NBA teams are definitely going to show more interest in a 6-7 perimeter player with nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, especially considering his likely role at the next level.

Butler continues to be an adequate defender on the perimeter, benefitting from his length and good instincts. As has been discussed though, his average athleticism will make life more difficult for him against professional level opponents.

The Mountaineers leader is still very much in the mix for seniors who could hear their name called on draft night. While he hasn’t made the kind of improvements in his shot-creating ability that he needed to, his increased production as a playmaker and perimeter shooter can certainly only help him. Butler will definitely benefit from a strong showing in March, where West Virginia could make a deep run, followed up by an impressive outing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.

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