Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10 (Part Two: #6-#10)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 10 (Part Two: #6-#10)
Oct 18, 2007, 01:28 am
Kevin Coble, 6’8, Sophomore, Small Forward, Northwestern

Rodger Bohn

In an absolutely loaded freshman class last season in the Big Ten, there was one name that probably came a surprise to most on the Big Ten All Freshman team: Northwestern’s Kevin Coble. Not exactly a household name, the wing posted averages of 13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting a sizzling 49% from the field and 39% from beyond the three point arc. While these numbers may not blow you away on first glance, they are downright outstanding for a player who wasn’t even considered a top 300 recruit nationally and whose next highest offer besides Northwestern was mid-major Pepperdine.

The ability to shoot the ball is what is ultimately going to land Kevin a job playing professional basketball somewhere. While he does not get much lift on his jump-shot, his smooth, quick release allows him to consistently get his shot off over more athletic defenders. Combine that with the fact that he is 6’8 and has NBA range, and you see why he caused problems for so many opposing players last season—particularly playing in Northwestern’s Princeton Offense. Although he does most of his damage as a catch and shoot player, he also showed that he can score from midrange regularly just as well. Coble is comfortable going either way, can shoot off of the dribble, and proved that he can take defenders off of the dribble when intensely pressured on the perimeter.

While shooting is surely the strong point of Kevin’s game, he also showed the ability to post up a bit and score points from the blocks. He doesn’t have the post game of a traditional power forward (the position he played last year in Northwestern’s office), but goes to a plethora of shot fakes and turnaround jumpers to score his points in the pivot. Like when he is playing on the outside, Coble fully uses his height and length to get the ball up over bigger players when placed within 10 feet of the cup.

Showing potential as a scorer, Coble could be much more deadly if he would improve upon his marginal ball-handling abilities. While he can put the ball on the floor one or two times n a straight line when pressured and get to the rim, he is unable to create for himself regularly off of the dribble in isolation situations. Preferring to go with a pick and roll, it is not uncommon for Coble to catch the ball and wait for a ball screen to come, instead of attempting to put the ball on the floor in isolation situations.

Athletically, Kevin is already beginning to face some problems when matched up against some of the more athletic players that the Big Ten has to offer. He is not overly quick and is a really poor leaper, playing the game well below the rim. Given the style of his game and the fact that he is a lights out shooter, this might not as big of an issue, proven by the fact that marginal athletes such as Kyle Korver and Jason Kapono have established themselves as players who will be sticking around the NBA for a long time to come. This is probably the route that Coble will have to take.

Defense is the area of Coble’s game that will be under the most scrutiny, given that he will be forced to guard perimeter players at the next level. In Northwestern’s defensive scheme last season, he usually guarded the opposing team’s power forward when the Wildcats were not playing zone defense. While his gritty play was enough to pester some posts, there were many times in which the Arizona native was just too weak to keep up with stronger post players. In the very few times that we did observe him defending on the wings, it was apparent that his lateral quickness surely needs to improve if he hopes to reach his potential at the next level. The length that Kevin possesses really comes into play on the defensive end, however. His tremendous wingspan allows him to get his hands on a ton of balls and alter opposing players shots, despite his very limited quickness and leaping ability. The numbers back this up as well, with Coble averaging 1.6 steals and nearly one block per game.

In terms of intangibles, Kevin has everything you could ask for out of a player only 19 years of age. He moves incredibly well without the ball, plays hard every time he is out on the floor, and exhibits outstanding shot selection. Within five minutes of watching Coble play, you realize that this kid has received some outstanding coaching throughout his life and really knows how to play the game. The basketball IQ that he’s blessed with allowed him to be one of the best freshman in the conference last season, despite being a limited player athletically.

More recently, some unfortunate news came out regarding Coble and his family. Kevin’s mother Carlys (who attended every one of her son’s games last season) was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Kevin decided to go back to Arizona to be with his mother during these trying times. The university and the NU coaching staff have allowed him to take an indefinite leave of absence from the team, but Coble will be eligible whenever he is able to return to the court.

With the promise that Coble displayed last year as both a shooter and pure scorer, he will certainly be on the radar of NBA personnel whenever he takes the court this year. With development athletically and in terms of putting the ball on the floor, it is certainly not out of the question for Coble to develop into a Steve Novak type prospect by the time his tenure in Evanston is over, although it appears that it will be a while before he is in position to consider the NBA a viable option.

#7: Shaun Pruitt, 6-10, PF/C, Senior, Illinois

Joey Whelan

After a breakout season in which he set career highs in points, rebounds and shooting percentage, and briefly flirted with the NBA draft, Shaun Pruitt is back for his senior year. The burly post player is the team’s top returning scorer (11.4 points) and rebounder (7.5). Pruitt will be one of the top interior players in the Big 10 conference and as one of two seniors suiting up for Illinois, will be a major factor in the Illini’s success this season.

Pruitt is a classic back-to-the-basket player, but at 6’10”, lacks ideal physical tools an NBA post player. He has a very solid frame, at 245 pounds, which he uses freely and willingly on both ends of the floor. Pruitt isn’t a very fast player, nor does he have great elevation, which leads to more of his shots being blocked than one would expect from a player his size. He does however show flashes of quickness with his back-to-the-basket moves. Pruitt’s biggest assets physically are his wide frame and tremendous strength. Often times last season he was able to simply bull though defenders on his way to the basket.

Essentially all of Pruitt’s offensive game is inside the paint, and rarely will he even attempt a shot from further than 8-10 feet away from the rim. The biggest problem facing Pruitt on the block is his lack of versatility with his post moves. His go-to move is a power dribble to the middle followed by a quick drop step back towards the baseline. When this works, it is a beautiful move, often leaving defenders out of position and Pruitt with an easy lay-up. When the move doesn’t however, he often throws up an awkward fade away shot or tries a baby hook. While he occasionally shows some nice touch on the hook shot, more often than not he releases the shot before he is squared to the basket, resulting in a low conversion rate.

If there is one thing Pruitt does well, it is move towards open space in the paint without the basketball. Clearly he has a good basketball IQ when it comes to playing the post, at least as an off the ball guy. He shows a solid understanding of when to flash or post up, and when to screen for teammates. Pruitt’s frame makes him a great player to feed the ball to. He is so wide and has such a strong base, that he creates a big target for teammates and does a tremendous job keeping position on his defender. Very rarely will you see an opponent sneak around to steal an entry pass to Pruitt. His frame also helps him to seal off defenders, leading to a lot of lob entry passes over the top that result in easy baskets.

While his elevation isn’t that great, even for a big guy, Pruitt has other techniques that help him against taller defenders. His strength with the basketball is such that if he doesn’t power through an opponent, he at least creates enough space for himself to get a shot off. What is nice to see from Pruitt, that most post players don’t often do, is his sense of knowing how and when to use the rim to shield his shot from defenders. He does however need to work on keeping the basketball up away from his waist; Pruitt gets stripped and blocked more often than he should. It would also be nice to see him improve his free throw percentage—which hovered around 50% for most of his career so far.

Pruitt also gets a fair amount of his offense from the offensive glass. He averaged 3 offensive rebounds per game last season thanks to his tremendous effort inside. Often he would come down with rebounds that he wasn’t even in position to get, simply because he wouldn’t quit on a play. This is the type of thing that scouts love to see, and something that has helped a lot of other undersized big men break into the pros.

Defensively, Pruitt doesn’t do a poor job, but he could and should be more of an impact player this season. He moves his feet well in the post and is very tough to bump out of position. Pruitt doesn’t bite on many fakes, keeping his hands straight up instead, and while this is solid textbook defense, his lack of aggressiveness hampers him as a defensive presence. He only averaged 2.3 fouls last season, a testament to his disciplined play, but he also only averaged .5 blocks per game, a poor number for a player of his size. His lack of explosiveness clearly comes into play here.

Pruitt does a fairly good job with help defense, able to fill the lane when teammates are beat off the dribble, and he does his best attempting to guard the pick and roll. Where he gets into trouble is when he is forced to step away from the basket and guard quicker players and when he has to contest perimeter shooters due to defensive rotation. Pruitt isn’t quick enough to do either of those effectively, essentially eliminating any real possibility he might have of being projected as a power forward prospect in the NBA.

Though he isn’t going to blow anyone away with his athletic ability or extreme upside, Pruitt is still a player to keep an eye on. He is a work horse inside, with a big strong body that certainly looks like it could handle the physical demands of the NBA. He does however need to add some variety to his post up game as well as become more of an impact player on the defensive end of the floor. If Pruitt can do both of those things, his name will start appearing on some draft boards come the end of the season.

#8: Othello Hunter, 6-8, Senior, Power Forward, Ohio State

Joey Whelan

On the list of recognizable names on Ohio State’s roster last season, Othello Hunter’s was a long ways away from the top. This of course is very understandable when you look at the fact that Hunter was teammates with the likes of Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., amongst others. You can also look at the fact that the former honorable mention NJCAA All-American only averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 17.4 minutes of playing time last year. Those numbers however don’t do justice to the type of player Hunter is. His numbers last season averaged over the course of a 40 minute game would come out to 13.1 points and 10.3 rebounds, numbers that would catch the eye of even a casual fan.

At just 6’8” and 225 pounds Hunter is clearly undersized to play in the post at the pro level like he does at Ohio State. His athleticism and length, though, are off the charts, and will clearly make his transition easier. Blessed with speed, strength and remarkable leaping ability, Hunter is the total package physically that you would want out of a player of his build. He has a great frame capable of adding more muscle, and he reportedly has a wingspan measuring 7’2”, which helps him in multiple facets of the game.

Hunter registered just seven double digit scoring performances last season; partly due to the fact that he didn’t play a tremendous amount and also that he wasn’t a main focus of the Buckeye offensive attack. He got the majority of his points last season on sheer hustle. In the less than 20 minutes of playing time Hunter saw each game, he pulled down over 2 offensive rebounds per game, an excellent number. He manages to grab plenty of boards that he has no business getting thanks to his tremendous athleticism and length and the fact that he never quits on a play. There were plenty of instances throughout the season that Hunter would tap a ball up in the air multiple times before coming down with it in a crowd.

The rest of Hunter’s offense is a medley of things. He was the beneficiary of plenty of good looks near the basket from teammates, especially Mike Conley Jr. Hunter showed decent touch around the rim when he had good position. His post up game though leaves a lot to be desired from a player of his physical capabilities. He does a good job establishing position, but once he has the ball everything is rushed. He fades away too often and usually isn’t squared up on his shot attempts. Hunter has shown some signs of a potentially nice drop step, but again, he needs to slow himself down once he gets the basketball. Skill-wise, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he’s a very limited player.

In the open floor, Hunter makes for a dynamic finish in transition. He has great open floor speed for a bigger player, and has shown the ability to catch a pass and throw it down in a matter of two steps when in full sprint. Hunter isn’t much of a threat outside the paint. He rarely will put the ball on the floor, and his mid-range shot is awkward in that he has a tendency to fade to either side as he jumps.

Defensively, Hunter has a tremendous amount of potential on the block. He is a fairly strong player who holds his ground well, but also is quick enough to stay ahead of his man when he makes a move to the basket. His athleticism allows him to be effective in guarding bigger players down low, and he does a fantastic job not allowing opponents to create space when making a move to the basket. Hunter has shown a knack for blocking shots, averaging over 1 block a game last year in his limited playing time. His timing is a little off sometimes, but he is able to get away with it because of his length and leaping ability.

Hunter is the picture perfect example of a raw physical specimen who needs all sorts of polish. Physically he can hang with just about any player in the country, but his skills need a lot of developing. It’s probably not going to all come in one year, but much like a player he resembles in Solomon Jones, just dropping glimpses of potential on a consistent basis could be enough to get him drafted.

#9: Chris Kramer, 6-3, Freshman, PG/SG, Purdue

Jonathan Givony

If you’ve never heard of a 6-3 stereotypical Indiana basketball product by the name of Chris Kramer, don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t. The freshman combo guard doesn’t shoot too often, doesn’t get to the free throw line too often, doesn’t create his own shot all that much, and rarely is responsible for highlight reel plays. He was easy not to notice in his debut season at Purdue, although that is most likely going to change over the next year or two, especially now that Carl Landry and David Teague have graduated and moved on to professional basketball.

The first thing that stands out about Kramer when watching him on tape is his outstanding toughness. You regularly see him sticking his nose in for offensive rebounds, diving on the floor for loose balls, drawing charges and generally playing the game with reckless abandon. He’s not afraid to take big shots (as his impressive 14 and 16 point outings in the NCAA tournament would indicate), and he doesn’t back down from anyone—as we could see from the way he got right into 6’9” D.J. White’s face after the two got tangled up on one possession. Some might remember a certain play he made in the NCAA tournament against Arizona (pictured), going down to the floor to collect a loose ball, realizing that the shot-clock was running down, and calmly knocking down a 17-foot shot from his knees.

Offensively, Kramer seems to show a great deal of potential in his outside stroke, even though he only hit thirteen 3-pointers in his freshman year. He has fundamentally sound mechanics and a high arching shot, even if he could still stand to improve the quickness of his release. He can shoot the ball both from static situations or pulling up off the dribble, although his mechanics here aren’t perfectly fluid. He’s not an incredibly explosive player, but he’s certainly quick (and surely aggressive) enough to get to the rim at the collegiate level, even though he often lacks a little bit of oomph to finish strong once he’s there, and will at times get his shot blocked.

Defensively, Kramer is very solid. He ranks as one of the top ball-thieves in the country on a per-minute basis, a testament to his tough, in-your-face style of play, as well as his awesome instincts sniffing out the passing lanes. He is capable of putting excellent pressure on ball-handlers, and is usually in charge of guarding the opposition’s top perimeter threat last year. He is very committed to locking down his man, but at times when matched up with quicker guards than him, his average wingspan and lateral quickness get exposed to a certain degree.

As a college player, there is a lot to like about Kramer. As an NBA prospect, though, there are still a lot more questions than we currently have answers for. Most importantly are positional concerns. At 6-3, he seems to show glimpses of potential to play the point guard spot, but nothing quite consistent yet. There are also some questions about his scoring ability—whether he’ll be able to create his own shot on a regular basis. He has plenty of time to answer those questions, and he seems to have landed at Purdue at the perfect time, as the program is clearly on the rise these days.

#10: Brian Butch, 6-11, PF/C, Senior, Wisconsin

Kyle Nelson

Brian Butch was one of the most heralded prep-prospects in University of Wisconsin history. The former five-star from Appleton was rated higher than the likes of Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza out of high school, and was expected to be a force in the Big 10. He has not exactly lived up to expectations, though, redshirting his freshman year even. However, this season, without the likes of Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker by his side, Butch is going to have the opportunity to step up in a major way and assume the role he was recruited to fill.

Looking at his size, a legitimate 6’11” and 240 pounds, he seems to have the physical tools necessary to dominate the Big 10’s undersized big men. He is not very athletic at all, but is mobile enough and seems to have a decent understanding of his own physical limitations to not limit his effectiveness. However, for a guy who has such great size for a college post-player, he really does not spend much time in the post. When he does, he looks extremely awkward, possessing neither good footwork nor good hands. It is almost as if he is surprised when he actually gets the ball in the post. He does not have an advanced set of post moves and when he actually gets the ball, he often brings it straight up to the basket. He doesn’t look to pass, hesitate, or even pump fake his way out of traffic; he merely goes up.

Sometimes he can finesse the ball into the basket or obviously attempt to draw a foul, but oftentimes, he is blocked or stripped before he even gets the ball above his head. Even if he gets the ball to the basket, he does not have the greatest touch around the basket either: a surprise for a guy who is such a prolific jump shooter. The only time that he really scores in the paint is off the pick and roll or in transition, both when he can utilize his length and mobility to his advantage. The problem, as visible in game film, is that he just lacks the understanding of an offensive game when he’s in the post. For him to even think about having a shot at the next level, he is going to have to look a little more comfortable on the blocks. The fact that he works and plays hard will pay dividends for him down the road, though, as it usually takes big men longer to develop.

Butch does not box out incredibly well and lacks some of the instincts and athleticism to rebound the ball at the next level. However, even without fundamentals, he seems to get the job done. Averaging 5.9 rebounds/19.5 minutes and 12.2 rebounds/40 minutes is impressive for any prospect. He lacks certain fundamentals, but he puts forth the effort that suggests better fundamentals is all that is necessary to put him in the forefront of NCAA rebounders this year.

Where Butch does look most promising, however, is from the perimeter. He is a prolific shooter and shot a respectable 47.5 % from the field and 34.0% from beyond the arc. From the perimeter, he displays nice form when he is shooting with his feet set, complete with a quick release. However, he must correct his tendency to push the ball and not fully extend his arms in his shooting form. He must use his height and length more to his advantage in most areas of his game, but it would be most helpful in his shooting motion. His movement around the perimeter is not good enough for him play there at the next level, but he does move more naturally on the perimeter than he does in the paint. He recognizes the mismatch he creates and exploits it to get open shots. He is also a decent mid-range jump shooter. He dribbles the ball surprisingly well for a big man and has better quickness when going into his mid-range motion than anywhere else in his game. This is not to say that he has become a great mid-range shooter, as he still has a lot of work to do in terms of form and consistency.

Butch is also fairly turnover prone, being a sub-par passer and decision maker. His 0.6 assists/game average reflects his inability to create when offensive opportunities are not there for him. He is equally weak in transition and when he is not inches away from the basket with the ball in his hands, he is dropping passes or throwing balls out of bounds. His defensive ability also leaves much to be desired as he is extremely soft in the post, but his mobility and length suggest that if pushed and taught fundamentals, he could at least be intimidating on the blocks.

Butch cannot be considered a great prospect at this point outside of his size and perimeter stroke, but with added responsibility could come a breakout year. Coming off of an elbow injury, Butch has most certainly been working on expanding his game, and Coach Ryan must utilize his versatile big better in the absence of Taylor and Tucker. Butch has a lot of work to do before being considered a draftable prospect, but 6’11 jump shooters with the physical characteristics and past resume of Butch are always on the radar.

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