Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC (Part One: #6-#10)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC (Part One: #6-#10)
Sep 28, 2007, 10:59 am
Top Returning NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10:

Part One, Two, Three

#6: Wayne Ellington, 6-4, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, North Carolina

Jonathan Givony

Widely considered the #1 shooting guard prospect in his high school class, Wayne Ellington had a solid, but unspectacular freshman season that left most pundits looking for a bit more going into his sophomore year. Ellington’s appeal as a prospect for both the collegiate and NBA level is quite obvious when watching him play—he’s a scorer through and through, blessed with awesome instincts to put the ball in the net and as aggressive a mentality as you’ll find from a wing this age.

A good, but not incredible athlete, Ellington is an extremely fluid player who possesses a nice first step and solid all-around quickness. He’s not terribly explosive getting into the paint and finishing around the rim, relying on smooth finesse moves and being extremely crafty using the glass, but possibly lacking some strength and leaping ability to play above the rim.

Ellington’s bread and butter from what he’s shown so far revolves around his ability to shoot the ball. 70% of his offense (according to Synergy Sports Technology) in fact came in the form of jumpers, getting to the free throw line only 1.6 times per game. He did shoot 37% from behind the arc, though, showing a very nice high-arching jumper that he has no conscience utilizing both in spot-up, or off the dribble situations. His mid-range game in particular shows great promise. What’s scary about Ellington is that his perimeter shooting ability actually has much more potential than he was able to show as a freshman, as he has plenty of room for improvement on his footwork and body control while releasing his jumper, having a tendency to rush his shots at times and release the ball off-balance without being completely set.

This didn’t hamper him from trying to establish himself as North Carolina’s go-to guy, indeed leading the team in shots per minute, and not by a narrow margin. Ellington’s shot-selection is something he must improve on moving forward in his college career, as he has a tendency to focus too heavily on his own offense, taking bad shots early in possessions, despite only being a freshman on arguably the most loaded team in the country.

Although he showed potential putting the ball on the floor from all over the court, Ellington could still stand to improve his slashing game. His left hand is almost non-existent, both driving and finishing, and you’d see defenses adjusting to this as the season goes on to make him more and more one dimensional.

Ellington could also stand to improve his defense, as he is already at a disadvantage as far as NBA scouts are concerned considering his height. He puts in a decent effort, but lacks fundamentals on this end, getting beat off the dribble too often and clearly struggling getting around ball-screens. This could very well end up being a deciding factor in how good of a prospect he is judged to be by the time he’s done with college basketball—will he project as an instant offense type to bring off the bench? Or possibly more than that if he expands his game. Playing at North Carolina, he’ll be in a great situation to prove himself, as he’ll be under the spotlight at all times.

#7: James Mays, 6-9, Senior, Power Forward, Clemson

Joey Whelan

James Mays will certainly be a player worth watching in the ACC this season. The senior has slowly developed in his first three years at Clemson, and as his minutes have increased, so has his production. He will be a major factor in the success of the Tigers this season.

As a power forward, James’ size is not unique at 6’9”, but that is where the physical shortcomings end. James has a good frame, weighing 220 pounds with the potential to add much more. He is fairly strong, often bowling over opponents on his way to the basket, or while trying to establish position. He has great length (7-1 ½), but most impressive is his quickness. James has a great first step and is surprisingly agile for a big man. While his skills in nearly every facet of the game need to improve, his athleticism is such that it isn’t improbable for James to one day play out on the perimeter as a face the basket power forward at the next level.

Offensively, James makes his living primarily in and around the paint. He is very raw in the post, with an underdeveloped back-to-the-basket game, but is able to make up for it with his strength and explosiveness. James is fantastic at establishing position on the block, and once he has the ball with a defender on his back, he will generally use a pseudo drop step to power his way to the rim. Once in a while he will use his quickness to pull off a quick spin move to the baseline. Where James gets into trouble on the block is he has a tendency to sometimes lose track of where he is on the floor, resulting in tough angle shots, or even shots from under the basket. A great shot-creator he’s not, but his athleticism allows him to do some things that most players can’t at the collegiate level.

James’s quickness and explosiveness extend away from the basket as well. He is a great finisher in transition, often ending a Clemson fast break with a thunderous dunk. He has really strong leaping ability, which allows him to elevate over most defenders. Another major part of James’s game that is still developing is his ability to drive from the perimeter. He is quick enough to beat most big men off the dribble in a straight line, and those that can stay with him; he often overpowers going to the basket anyway. His touch certainly needs to improve around the basket, but he did draw a fair number of fouls last season, averaging over four free throws per game.

James has started to step out and extend his range a little bit in the last year. He is by no means a polished shooter, though. His form is awkward, and often results in him overshooting the ball. He is however starting to show more confidence, attempting thirty-one three pointers last year, but only connecting on 22.6% of them. James has shown some ability to create shot opportunities for himself and shoot off the dribble, but again, these abilities are very raw right now.

Defensively, James has shown loads of potential. He struggles on the perimeter closing out on shooters and staying in front of ball handlers, but his interior play has been solid. He is almost always hustling and making things happen, whether it be deflecting and intercepting passes with his long reach, or coming down with rebounds in a crowd. His court awareness needs to improve, as he often was caught napping on the weak side or help defense last season. With his athleticism though, James could be a disruptive force at the next level, blocking shots and making hustle plays. He’s already Clemson’s top option at the top of their press, where his length, athleticism and tenacity allow him to wreak havoc on opposing defenders and help the Tigers come up with at least a few possessions every single game.

James is already on a lot of NBA teams’ radars simply because of his physical tools. Now he needs to develop his game. Both his post game and his perimeter game need work, but the fact that he is showing the potential to play inside and outside will only help his stock. He already makes plays on the defensive end, but increased awareness could make him one of the better disruptive defenders in the conference.

#8: Tyrese Rice, 6-1, Junior, Point Guard, Boston College

Jonathan Givony

Quietly emerging as one of the most improved players in the nation last year was Boston College point guard Tyrese Rice. Just a 2-star recruit out of high school according to Rice went from solid to spectacular between his freshman to sophomore years, upping his averages to 17.6 points (6th in ACC) and 5.4 assists (3rd) per game. Al Skinner seems to have done it again (see: Smith, Craig and Dudley, Jared)— developing yet another supposed mid-major recruit into a future NBA player.

That seems to be the direction Rice is heading right now, despite the fact that he still has work to do on rounding out his game. Listed (generously?) at 6-1, Rice is a terrific athlete blessed with supreme quickness. He’s an outstanding slasher first and foremost, showing great ball-handling skills and absolutely no hesitation taking any opening he gets to make his way to the rim. He has a wide array of fancy dribble moves at his disposal to get his man off-balance, particularly a lethal crossover which he mixes in nicely with strong hesitation moves and quick spins into the lane. He can go either left or right and finish with either hand as well, even if he’s a natural lefty and still noticeably prefers that hand. Once he gets past his defender he likes to go to an unconventional, but highly effective floater (even from tough angles high off the glass) that he knocks down with regularity all the way out to the free throw line—ala Nick Van Exel. Not one to settle once he’s inside the arc, his aggressiveness stepping into the lane was well represented in the six free throws per game he attempted last season.

More than just a waterbug slasher, though, Rice can shoot the 3-ball quite a bit better than his 32% averages last year would indicate. Featuring a quick release and NBA range on his shot, Rice is absolutely deadly once he gets a second to set his feet. The problem is that BC’s offense is largely designed around milking the entire 35 seconds of the shot clock, which means that someone is forced to make something out of nothing a dozen times or more every single game. Being the only player on the roster who can create his own shot consistently from the perimeter, that burden fell onto Rice’s shoulders on a regular basis, which killed his shooting percentages (even though he still shot a solid 46% from the field). That doesn’t mean that he can’t still improve his consistency or shot-selection (he has a very quick trigger), but watching his film, it’s hard to get too concerned about his perimeter shooting ability. He would be well served improving his ability to pull up off the dribble from mid-range, though.

Rice did a good job running his team’s offense last year as well, despite being considered more of a shooting guard coming into college. He is not a selfish player as his 5.4 assists per game would indicate, being able to execute half-court sets effectively, and looking particularly good on the drive and dish. He has a tendency to try and force difficult passes that just aren’t there at times, though, which contributed to averaging 3.3 turnovers per game—certainly on the high end. We should keep in mind that despite being a sophomore, he played just under 37 minutes per game, which ranks him 1st amongst all players currently on our draft board All in all, Rice seems to have a pretty nice feel for the game, although we shouldn’t mistake him for being anything less than a scoring point guard, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing these days.

On the downside, Rice’s defensive potential is something that is certainly going to be questioned by NBA decision makers—who are already biased against smaller point guards. He doesn’t do himself a lot of favors in this area even when ignoring his height, getting beat on a regular basis off the dribble, gambling wildly (thinking he’ll be able to poke the ball away from his defender from behind), and generally giving his man way too much space. Part of this probably has to do with the amount of minutes he plays coupled with the fact that BC cannot afford to have him in foul trouble under any circumstances, but this is clearly an area that he’ll have to show quite a bit more potential in if he’s to maximize his draft stock, as well as his decision making skills.

All in all, Rice has all the makings of a solid NBA point guard prospect—probably as a backup due to his lack of size. Players who can come off the bench to change the flow of the game and add some scoring punch are definitely en vogue these days—look no further than Aaron Brooks being drafted 26th overall by the Houston Rockets this past year for example for a comparable case.

#9: Deron Washington, 6-7, Senior, G/F, Virginia Tech

Joseph Treutlein

Deron Washington had an inconsistent junior season for Virginia Tech, but he came on strong in the later half of the season, giving us a glimpse into the potential of an extremely athletic wingman. Washington stands 6’7, with good length and excellent athleticism, and he has a nice groundwork of skills to go along with it. With teammates Jamon Gordon, Zabian Dowdell, and Coleman Collins all graduating, Washington will be thrust into a feature role, where he’ll be able to show just how good of a prospect he really is.

Washington doesn’t really have one stand-out skill offensively, but he’s shown flashes of very good things in all areas, starting with his outside shot. He shot a less than impressive .308 from three-point range last season, but his shooting form is solid, he has a decently quick release. He also has a consistent release point, and he looks confident taking it. With more work, it’s definitely feasible to see him become a much better outside shooter.

Washington’s pull-up jumper is another weapon of his, and he’s had a bit more success with that than his outside shot thus far in his career. His accuracy isn’t all there yet consistently, but one thing he is excellent with is his body control, as he’s able to pull up on a dime and maintain solid form, keeping his body upright and square to the basket. He has a nice in-between game when he catches the ball around 10-18 feet away from the basket, being able to put the ball on the floor for one or two dribbles and showing excellent footwork on little slashing drives; using drop-steps, pivots, hesitations, and fakes to find a route to the basket. Washington struggles a bit when he is in pure isolation situations far away from the basket, though, as his ball-handling could use some work, especially his left hand, which he rarely goes to.

At the basket, Washington shies away from contact due to his lack of strength, and while he shows good creativity in getting to the rim with his footwork, he could use a bit more polish in creating high-percentage shots once at the rim, struggling when he’s contested in that area. Washington does do a good job moving without the ball, though, getting open near the rim and easily finishing on cuts with his explosive athleticism.

Defensively, Washington has all the tools you look for in a defender, with his length, athleticism, and quickness. At times he looks very good playing pressure defense, not giving his man much breathing room and moving his feet to stay in front of his man, but at other times he can look lazy and not put in the effort laterally. He often was matched up with opposing big men last year, even though he’s clearly a SG/SF, so that’s not helping him develop his perimeter defense. He’s woeful defending in the post, not possessing the footwork or strength to force his opponent into tough shots, though his length occasionally compensates.

All in all, Washington could be a bit of a sleeper prospect at this moment, and he should have plenty of opportunities to awake over the course of the season, as he should get extended minutes and offensive touches on the diminished Virginia Tech team. Right now he’d probably be a fringe second rounder, but with his physical tools and hopefully improving skill-set, he could easily raise his stock over the course of the year and down the road at the pre-draft camps.

#10: Sean Singletary, 6’0, Point Guard, Senior, Virginia

Rodger Bohn

With the graduation of fellow guard J.R. Reynolds to professional basketball, Singletary will have the spotlight all to himself this season. The last three years have shown us that the diminutive guard can score on anyone in the country; His senior season will show us whether he can continue to do that, while handling full time duties as playmaker.

In terms of creating his own shot, there are only a handful of guards who can say they are on the same level as the UVA product. His hesitation dribble and crossover are downright lethal, routinely leaving opposing guards in the dust. Singletary confidently shoots the ball from beyond the arc with a quick trigger and NBA range. In fact, he actually shoots a better percentage from the three point line than he does on his midrange jump-shot.

Not only able to create his shot with ease from beyond the arc, he is able to stop on a dime and pull-up from midrange, or lob a feathery soft floater over an opposing big man. The senior's ability to collapse a defense benefits his teammates as well, evident by his nearly 5 assists per game last season.

Now you may be asking yourself "how is a player who seems to be such an offensive nightmare only considered a second round draft pick?" Well, there are quite a few reasons. Because of his ability to create his own shot whenever he wants, he seems to feel that he can take any shot he wants. It is not uncommon to see the Philly native jack up contested jumper after contested jumper, while dominating the ball (a la Philly legend Allen Iverson) and leaving his teammates standing around scratching their heads. Secondly, Sean has not yet exhibited the ability to put his teammates before himself yet on the college ranks. Whether it be through his role in the offense or his personal preference, it is clear that he is looking to score first and pass second. He will have the opportunity to disprove that notion this season, where he will be the full time quarterback for the Cavaliers.

Defensive inconsistencies have proved to plague Singletary as well. In one game he will look like an absolute shutdown defender, keeping his man in front of him at all times and wreaking havoc in the passing lanes with his explosive quickness. Then in the next game you will see a player who is getting beat off of the dribble (due to out of control closeouts, not lack of quickness) and giving half effort getting through screens. With improved fundamentals and effort, Sean certainly has shown the potential to emerge as a top defensive point guard by the time the 2008 draft rolls around.

Measured at 6 feet tall at the Orlando pre-draft camp, Sean is definitely smaller than most NBA execs would prefer for a point guard. Although only 180 pounds, he owns a muscular frame that allows him to absorb contact when taking the gall to the rim. While not an explosive leaper, Singletary is resoundingly quick and explosive, using his quickness on both ends of the floor. Keeping up with the speed of the NBA does not appear to be a problem for this jettison guard. The problem is he was not able to show that at this year’s pre-draft camp, looking lost for the most part and coming up with a real lackluster performance. This proved to be a real set-back, and Singletary was clearly at risk of going undrafted had he decided to keep his name in the draft.

This season will be imperative in terms of Singletary’s draft stock. With the abundance of potential point guard prospects in this year’s draft, it is not out of the question that he could find himself on the outside looking in by the time it is all said and done if he proves unable to run his Virginia squad. However, if Sean continues to build upon the improving playmaking skills that we’ve seen in his first three seasons, this electric guard certainly has an opportunity to earn himself a good spot in the draft at the conclusion of his collegiate career.

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