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

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Two: #6-#10)
Oct 22, 2007, 02:46 am
#6: Earl Clark, 6’8, Sophomore, SF/PF, Louisville

Joseph Treutlein

After seeing inconsistent playing time in the first half of his freshman season, Earl Clark managed to cement himself into a role on Louisville in the second half, playing double-digit minutes in his final 14 games, topped off by 17 point, 9 rebound performance in 42 minutes against West Virginia. Clark played both forward positions for the Cardinals, but his professional future is definitely at the small forward spot, though he still has some transitioning to do.

Clark’s offensive game at this stage of his development centers around his jump shot, which he’ll use turning around in the post, from mid-range, or from behind the three-point arc. The basic fundamentals of his shooting form are good, though he has a few bad tendencies that hold him back from being a much better shooter. He looks very good stroking the ball from outside when he has his feet set and is open, but struggles when catching the ball on the move or when crowded by a defender. In both situations, he has a tendency to fade away from the basket slightly, hurting his accuracy. This can be seen to a certain extent on his turnaround jumper in the post as well, something he doesn’t convert consistently. Clark shot 37% from behind the arc on just 27 attempts this season, but he should be able to repeat or improve those numbers with a larger sample base next season, depending on if he works out a few of his kinks.

Clark’s post-up game is pretty underdeveloped, and his lack of strength for a big man doesn’t help him when trying to back opponents down in the paint either. He isn’t able to score over people in one-on-one situations down low, and usually is forced to try a fading jump shot from 5-10 feet out, something he isn’t consistent with. Clark does get a fair share of his scoring on open dump-offs and cuts near the basket, but struggles to finish when contested.

The area of Clark’s offensive game that could use the most work is his dribble-drive, especially if he wants to fully transition to the small forward position, something that is definitely in his best interest. Clark has shown flashes of being able to put the ball on the floor going both left and right, usually using the threat of his outside shot to get separation, but he struggles to maintain control when changing directions or dealing with defenders. His ball-handling needs to tighten up quite a bit, and once that happens, he’ll need to develop a more reliable pull-up jumper and work on his touch on lay-ups at the basket.

Clark also makes good contributions on the boards on both ends, using his length and athleticism to rebound over the opposition, something he should really excel at as a full-time small forward. On the defensive end, Clark definitely has the physical tools to defend wings on the perimeter, with very good length and athleticism and solid lateral quickness, to go along with an aggressive style of play. He overplays situations sometimes and can bite for fakes, but with work, he should be able to become a good perimeter defender. He also uses his length to disrupt in the half-court and transition, playing the passing lanes and getting involved in plays. In addition to working on his man-to-man defense on the perimeter, Clark could also do a better job being attentive when his man doesn’t have the ball, as he has a tendency to get separated from his man by paying too much attention to the ball.

All in all, Clark doesn’t look to be ready for the NBA in the near future, unless he makes excellent strides with his game this season. He still has more transitioning to do and has room for improvement in all areas of his game. It’s tough to project where he could be drafted down the road, as there are many variables to consider, but his physical tools are never going to hold him back at the small forward; he just needs to continue working on the skills necessary to play that position.

#7: Stanley Robinson, 6-9, Forward, Sophomore, Connecticut

Mike Schmidt

An athletic combo-forward, Stanley Robinson showed flashes of potential as a freshman, but was very streaky throughout the season. After a breakout 21 point performance against Indiana, he failed to score in double figures the rest of the season, and spent a good amount of time sitting on the bench during the last half of the Big East slate. Robinson must look to add consistency this season to his raw, but developing game.

Robinson started his development playing power forward, but must work on transitioning his game to the perimeter for the next level. Physically, he stands at around 6’9” with a well built frame. He already has good strength and explosiveness for his size, but his frame should allow him to become stronger, without sacrificing in the quickness department. Watching him run the floor and explode for a dunk, his freakish athleticism makes it obvious that he has the physical make-up of an NBA player.

It is easy to see how aggressively Robinson plays, and the energy he brings to the floor. On every dunk attempt, he tries to tear the rim down, and the sophomore forward shows no fear in going inside to fight for rebounds. In games where Robinson received extended playing time, his rebounding numbers were always fairly high.

Offensively, Robinson scored the bulk of his points last season by spotting up for jumpers. He shot the three pointer at a 38% clip, while showing the ability to hit the mid-range jumper as well. Off the dribble, the sophomore also appears to be comfortable shooting the ball. Ball handling ability limits what Robinson can do as a slasher for the time being. When attacking the basket, he looks like a big man without a great deal of experience handling the ball, and the same can be said for the way he finishes at the hoop. To reach his full potential, Robinson will need to better utilize his athleticism to both finish and draw fouls off the dribble.

Defensively, Robinson was effective at times during his freshman year, though uncomfortable at times guarding quicker players. To prepare for the NBA, he must become accustomed to positioning himself properly to defend players on the perimeter. The combination of quickness and strength does give Robinson good potential on the defensive end, however.

Stanley Robinson has the tools to become a first rounder in the future, but he remains raw for a small forward prospect at this point. As was the case last season, he will likely have to play this season by picking up points where he can, since UConn probably won’t run many plays for him. If he can focus on developing his ball-handling, look for Robinson to break out somewhere around his junior season at the earliest, and enter the draft in 2009 or 2010.

#8: Joe Alexander, 6-8, Junior, Small Forward, West Virginia

Jonathan Givony

One of the main reasons why West Virginia managed to stay respectable in 2006-2007—eventually winning the post-season NIT Tournament)was the impressive development shown by sophomore Joe Alexander. Only having averaged 1.3 points as a freshman, few could have expected him to up his scoring into the double digit category, all while still staying with the confines of West Virginia’s rigid offense. With his breakout season behind him and a new head coach in place with the arrival of Bob Huggins, this could very well be the season that Joe Alexander puts himself on the national map.

In terms of his pure physical attributes, there is a lot to like here, particularly from an NBA draft perspective. Standing 6-8, with a nice frame, and a good wingspan—Alexander fits the billing and then some of your prototypical NBA small forward. That impression only strengthens when you begin to examine his athletic ability, clearly adequate if not more for his NBA position. Alexander has good quickness, a very nice first step, and the ability to get up and finish strong around the basket, sometimes to unload a highlight reel caliber dunk.

Skill-wise, Alexander is already a true wing player at this point in his development, unlike most 6-8 forwards at the collegiate level, who are still transitioning at this phase from the post to the perimeter. The most dangerous part of his game potentially looks to be his jump-shot—not incredibly steady at this point at 30.5%--but still showing good enough touch to develop into a real weapon if he puts the repetition in. His follow through seems to need the most work, as he rarely fully extends his arm, and those problems seem to be magnified even more on his off-the-dribble shots, where he seems to rush his release quite a bit.

Alexander isn’t a great ball-handler, but he’s athletic enough to be an excellent threat finishing plays around the basket in transition or cutting off the ball on backdoor cuts. He sometimes looks more aggressive than others depending on what game you’re watching, so it will be very interesting to monitor whether or not he shows more of a go-to mentality as a junior than he did as a sophomore.

Defensively, Alexander has good potential as well—taking advantage nicely of the physical tools he has at his disposal: his size, length, and above average quickness. He tries pretty hard on top of that, looking committed to stopping his man and being pretty fundamentally sound in his approach on this end. He’s not a very strong player (his frame is OK, but clearly still needs to fill out)—but it wouldn’t be rare to see him mixing it up around the paint and even coming up with a block or two in some games.

Alexander’s biggest weakness at this point revolves around his ability to create offense for himself on a consistent basis. He’s a poor ball-handler—the ball clearly slows him down, and once he does get to the rim, he’s often already out of control and unable to finish in traffic. He also doesn’t have the ability to stop and pull-up off the dribble—the type of mid-range game that most NBA wings need to be effective. That’s not to say that won’t come in time, but it will take a lot of work, and will probably be what will distinguish him from being projected as a first round pick or a second rounder.

#9: Dominic James, 6-0, Junior, Point Guard, Marquette

Joey Whelan

As a freshman, Dominic James exploded onto the Big East scene as a high flying, scoring point guard, who could do a little bit of everything to help a team win games. His sophomore season though was a major disappointment. The Indiana native saw decreases in scoring, rebounding, assists, field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage. Some of this may have had to do with the departure of Steve Novak from the previous year, who had certainly kept some pressure off of James. After declaring for the draft last June and coming up empty, the pressure will be on James to make some serious strides in his game and prove that he’s a better prospect than he showed at the NBA pre-draft camp.

Measured at just 5’11 and ¾” in shoes, James is undersized, even for the point guard position. What he lacks in size though, he makes up for with freakish athleticism. Despite an overall poor performance at the Orlando pre-draft camp, James tested out as the third best athlete at the camp. Most impressive is his leaping ability; James’ vertical jump was measured at 38.5 inches. He has tremendous speed and quickness, in both the open floor and half court sets. James has also proven to be a very strong player for his size. He does well taking contact when going to the basket.

Despite being a point guard, James has a shoot first mentality most of the time. In only four out of thirty-four games last season did he attempt less than ten shots. James is at his best when he is slashing to the basket. He has a quick first step and also possesses a wonderful array of jukes and hesitation moves. Once in the lane, James is able to elevate over many defenders, and those that he isn’t, he still often finds ways to score around thanks to his fantastic body control in the air. This knack for penetrating defenses also allows James to set up his teammates with a lot of easy looks around the basket. Despite a drop-off in production, James still doled out nearly five assists per game last season.

James biggest weakness as an NBA prospect relate to his struggles with his perimeter shooting ability. He shows some ability shooting off the dribble from mid-range, but beyond the arc, James was awful last year. He shot just 27% from three-point range, but the real issue is that he averaged over five attempts from the outside per game. James has a tendency to fade away and kick out his legs on shots from the perimeter. He shows very nice form and has a quick release, but his release point is very inconsistent. More importantly, James’ shot selection isn’t always very good.

In transition, James is a real asset to his team thanks to his athletic ability. He has solid handles and great open floor speed, so he is certainly capable of taking the ball coast-to-coast and weaving his way through defenders. James also has a knack for knowing when to leak out on long rebounds. His vertical explosiveness makes for plenty of dazzling finishes on the other end of the floor.

Overall offensively, James has plenty of ability. He needs to improve on his perimeter shooting, but above all he needs to improve his decision making skills. James hasn’t proven to have the highest basketball IQ, forcing the issue more often than he should. Too many times he’ll try to take on multiple defenders, when as a point guard he should reset the offense or pass off to a teammate.

Defensively, James is able to make things happen once again because of his athletic ability. He has fantastic lateral quickness, which allows him to very closely guard opponents when they have the ball, and not worry about being beaten off the dribble. For a smaller player, he does well fighting through screens and following his man through traffic. His 1.9 steals per game last year is a testament to his quick hands and great anticipation. What James does need to improve upon though is his help defense. He has a tendency to get too caught up with his own man, closely guarding him even when on the weak side of the floor. He also gets into trouble against taller guards who are able to shoot over him from the perimeter.

Some people may be forgetting about James since he regressed last year and had such a poor pre-draft, but he will still be one of the more visible guards in the country this year. The physical tools are there, and certainly there is already plenty to be happy about in terms of his offensive game; if James can improve his decision making and his perimeter game, and most importantly lead Marquette deep in the tournament, he will be right back in the thick of things draft wise.

#10: Scottie Reynolds, 6-1, Sophomore, Point Guard, Villanova

Rodger Bohn

Coming off of an outstanding freshman season, Reynolds enters the seasons as arguably the top point guard that the Big East has to offer. Posting averages of 14.0 points and 4.0 assists per game, Reynolds fit perfectly into Jay Wright’s system, given the fact that he loves scoring guards running the show. The 07-08 season will only prove to be more opportune for Reynolds, given the excellent recruiting class that Villanova landed.

The biggest asset that Reynolds brings to the table is his ability to put points on the board in a variety of ways. He had 9 games in which he scored 20 or more points, an outstanding accomplishment for a freshman thrown into the fire in the Big East. He shot displayed an excellent basketball IQ, especially in terms of running the pick and roll. The Virginia native usually made the proper reads when coming off of ball screens, knowing when to deliver a pass to teammates and when to look to put points on the board for himself.

Aside from scoring off of the pick and roll, Reynolds does the majority of his scoring from beyond the three point arc or from the free throw line, where he is equally proficient. He gets his shot off from the land of three in a hurry (although with little lift) and has shown that he can shoot it all the way out to the NBA line. Shooting off of the dribble and from a spot-up position equally well, Scottie makes himself a dangerous player on the floor with his nearly 38% field goal percentage from beyond the arc. He knows this as well, evidenced by the fact that nearly half of his made field goals last season were three pointers.

Despite being limited athletically, Reynolds does an excellent job getting to the foul line. Last season, he was able to get to the line over 5 times per game, an accomplishment for a freshman point guard. Able to boost his average through free throws, he converted on 82% of his shots from the charity stripe and was often the player that Nova gave the ball to late in the game when other teams were forced to foul.

While Reynolds showed that he can put points on the board (ask Connecticut about his 40 point performance), consistency is the biggest weakness that his game has to offer. Even though he had all those 20 plus point outputs, he also had 12 games in which he failed to reach double figures in the scoring column. Not surprisingly, many of those games wound up being Wildcat losses.

In addition to his issues with consistency, Reynolds is not the most gifted player in terms of athleticism. His first step is average, he plays the game below the rim, and his lateral quickness is a bit subpar. The limited quickness effects him both on the offensive and defensive ends, where he struggles to create his own shot at times and is can be a pretty average defender at times on the other end of the floor.

With this year’s draft having the potential of being absolutely loaded in terms of point guards, Reynolds will likely have to wait until 2009 before pondering entering his name in the Draft. The graduation of Mike Nardi should allow him to see more minutes at point guard, although the Wildcats do have another stud point guard in freshman Corey Fisher. Either way, expect a big season for Scottie in terms of production, where he has the opportunity to solidify himself as the best point guard the conference has to offer.

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