Trending Prospects (3/22/2012)

Trending Prospects (3/22/2012)
Mar 22, 2012, 02:30 pm
Updated scouting reports on Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers, C.J. McCollum and Garrett Stutz.

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Jeremy Lamb, 6-5, Sophomore, Shooting Guard, UConn

Walker Beeken

Jeremy Lamb was one of the breakout stars of last year's NCAA tournament, emerging as a second scoring option next to Kemba Walker, and playing an integral role in Connecticut's surprising run to a National Championship. His impressive play towards the end of his freshman season, as well as his time spent over the summer as Team USA's leading scorer in the U-19 World Championships, had Lamb as a hot name in NBA Draft circles entering his sophomore season.

His team also had high preseason expectations, but the Huskies struggled for the majority of the season, finishing 8-10 in Big East play and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament last week to Iowa State. While Lamb did show progress in some areas as a sophomore and was the team's leading scorer, his team's disappointing season will likely be a concern to scouts, as Connecticut's team chemistry appeared to be very poor, and Lamb didn't do much to alleviate some of the questions we've outlined previously regarding his questionable shot selection and passive demeanor on the court.

From a physical standpoint, Lamb has nice size for an NBA shooting prospect at 6-5, which he combines with a freakishly long wingspan, smooth athleticism and solid explosiveness. His thin, lanky frame still needs added strength, but he already appears to have made some strides in that area since last year, and he should continue to fill out more in time, as he's still only 19 years old.

After playing off the ball last season next to Walker and using over half of his possessions spotting up or in transition, Lamb took on a new role this season as the team's primary scorer and spent much more time with the ball in his hands.

However, with backcourt mates Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier also looking to take their turns creating off the dribble and taking plenty of ill-advised shots, Connecticut's offense looked very ugly at times, with Lamb often alternating between disappearing for stretches and taking bad shots trying to assert himself in the offense.

Despite these struggles, Lamb still showed why he's considered one of the most talented wing players in all of college basketball, showing more versatility as a scorer than he did as a freshman. He used over a quarter of his possessions this season in isolation sets or as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and while he had mixed results, he also displayed his potential as a shot-creator.

He has a smooth first step and very good ball-handling skills, fluidly using change of speed and direction dribbles to keep his defender on his heels. At this stage, though, Lamb prefers to utilize his step-back jumper or use his dribble to create space for mid-range jump shots, often bailing out his defender, rather than attacking the rim. This is evidenced by how infrequently he gets to the free throw line, where he ranks 5th in attempts per-40 amongst the 21 shooting guards in our top 100 prospect rankings, as well as in the fact that 73% of his shots in the half-court come on jumpers.

With that said, Lamb was still a very efficient scorer inside the arc as a sophomore, able to use an array of floaters and smoothly pull up in mid-range, making things look easy at times. His 60% on 2-pointers this season was actually the highest of any shooting guard in our top 100.

As we've mentioned before, in addition to his talents off the dribble, Lamb is also an outstanding jump shooter. He has range well past the NBA 3-point line and can shoot the ball with his feet set, off the dribble, or running off screens. He's shown nice footwork coming off curls and does an excellent job creating space, squaring himself, and elevating to get off his jumper.

From behind the arc this season, he shot an unimpressive 34%, taking over six attempts per game, displaying poor shot selection at times and often settling for long, difficult jumpers. He clearly has the potential to be a more efficient deep shooter, but he'll need to do a better job of being more selective.

Another area Lamb can improve in is as a passer. He ranks 18th of the 21 shooting guard prospects in our top-100 rankings in assists generated on a per-possession basis.

Defensively, Lamb has the physical tools to excel, as he has good lateral quickness and instincts and is able to utilize his tremendous wingspan to cause havoc on the ball and in the passing lanes. His energy on this end looked very inconsistent this season, however, not displaying the competitiveness, fundamentals and attention to detail that will likely be demanded from him at the NBA level, particularly off the ball.

Overall, Lamb's sophomore season probably didn't have a big effect on his draft stock, as he's still considered a lottery-level talent thanks to his terrific physical attributes and scoring instincts. His team's lack of success, poor on-court chemistry and his often apathetic demeanor will likely be concerns that NBA teams will want to further investigate in the pre-draft process, but he's shown tremendous growth as a player after barely being a top 100 recruit out of high school.

Lamb has all of the tools to flourish at the next level as a shooting guard who can play off the ball and create his own offense, but teams will want to do their best to find out how likely they think he is to reach his potential and fit into a winning culture.

Austin Rivers, 6'4, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Duke

Matt Williams

The second ranked recruit in the 2011 high school class according to the RSCI, Austin Rivers entered his freshman season facing lofty expectations. Though he struggled with inconsistency and could not led his team past Lehigh in the first-round of the NCAA tournament, he showed improvement late in the year, led the Blue Devils in scoring, and gave scouts a clear picture of his strengths and weaknesses in a polarizing role for one of the nation's top programs.

Standing 6-4 with a wiry frame that he's added some bulk to since his days at Winter Park High School, Rivers is a bit undersized for a NBA shooting guard, but compensates with a 6'7 wingspan. Athletically, the 19 year-old guard lacks elite strength and explosiveness as a leaper in traffic, but has very good quickness and fluidity, which he maximizes with the timing of his first step and ball-handling skills.

It was Rivers' athleticism and scoring instincts that made him the catalyst for the Blue Devils offense and defined his role as freshman. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Rivers's total number of pick and rolls and isolations used this season (356 over 34 games) ranks in the top-5 in the NCAA. Perhaps the only player on Duke's roster dynamic enough to consistently distort defenses with his dribble penetration and generate his own shot in a pinch, Rivers may not have been his team's primary ball-handler, but he was the creative force behind his team's offense all year long, for better or worse.

A crafty ball-handler with no shortage of shifty hesitation moves or blistering cross-overs, Rivers showed the ability to create separation from his defender in one-on-one situations and turn the corner to get into the paint on the pick and roll, even splitting the defense in impressive fashion on occasion. Extremely confident and aggressive, River's decision-making once he got into the paint and drew additional defenders quickly became a point of interest for scouts, as the young guard struggled with aspects of his dribble-drive game throughout the season.

When attacking the basket early in the year, Rivers often seemed to get tunnel vision, heading straight into the teeth of the defense and attempting to either finish over or around opposing big men regardless of whether or not he had a shooter open in the corner or an open 15-footer after his initial move. Though Rivers managed to convert some difficult shots around the rim in impressive fashion with his floater, he shot a dismal 49% at the rim through the first 19 games of the season.

As Rivers began to adjust to the pressures of being his team's go-to creator, he seemed to become appreciably better about pulling up when he had space, seeking out contact, and not driving directly into help defense as frequently, even if he still has room to improve on this part of his game. Thanks to those adjustments, Rivers shot 63% at the rim over Duke's last 15 games and was able to cut down on his turnover rate as well.

While those improvements were certainly significant, they paint an imperfect picture of Rivers' continued bout with the burden he carried offensively. Though he became more discerning with his own shot selection in the mid-paint area when he beat his man, he continued to press as he looked for his own, often contested, shot, even with open teammates with better shots often waiting on the wing. Posting an even 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in half court situations, Rivers was at his best when his pull-up jumper was falling and in the games where he was able to balance his scoring with savvy passing.

Notorious for his ability to score from the outside at the high school level, Rivers was very streaky this season, but lived up to his reputation in that regard for the most part. Shooting the ball with somewhat unorthodox mechanics that appear to be smoother off the bounce than in spot-up situations, Rivers gets great elevation on his jumper and has the footwork and quick dribble moves to get his shot off in virtually any situation.

Knocking down a solid 36.2% of his pull-ups and mediocre 33.3% of his catch and shoot jumpers, Rivers showed the ability to take and make difficult shots from everywhere on the floor, displaying his range and unabashed confidence in his jump shot on a number of notable occasions this season, such as his game-winning buzzer beater to defeat North Carolina. That confidence sometimes played against him, as he clearly struggled with his shot selection at times, a difficulty only compounded by the significant offensive role he was asked to play for Duke.

Rivers' efficiency, decision-making, and ability to make an impact without the ball in his hands remain areas for improvement. Playing a role geared towards the things he'll be asked to do in the NBA, the freshman's ability to take his terrific skill level and become a better passer, more controlled shot creator, and better shooter off the catch are all areas worth keeping an eye on moving forward, especially as he attempts to re-adjust to a different level of competition.

On the defensive end, Rivers was not an impact player. Playing with an inconsistent energy level, Rivers did a respectable job staying in front of his man when dialed in, but sometimes gave up penetration to more explosive players or was too aggressive stepping up to meet a ball-handler with a head of steam. Fairly assertive with his positioning, Rivers is a bit of a gambler, but on the whole, was fairly average defensively. Lacking great size and length for his position from a NBA perspective, Rivers could stand to add some muscle to his frame to prepare him for the rigors of the pro-game, as he'll need to make the most of his tools considering he does not stand out in any one area on this end of the floor.

One of the top freshman scorers in the country, Rivers had an up-and-down season relative to expectations that ended prematurely just as he appeared to be getting things rolling. His swagger, skill level, and scoring ability were unmistakable, even early on, but scouts also got an eyeful of his average decision-making, poor body language in the face of adversity and bouts with inefficiency from the perimeter.

Although he's a year older than many of the players in his class, Rivers is still an extremely young prospect who will have plenty of opportunities to continue developing his game, and some of the areas he struggles in are certainly correctable. A likely early entrant candidate, Rivers has the potential to be a terrific scoring threat in the NBA, even if the rest of his game still needs to be rounded out.

C.J. McCollum, 6'3”, Junior, PG/SG, Lehigh

Derek Bodner

Playing in relative obscurity to the basketball viewing public in the Patriot League, junior guard C.J. McCollum was introduced to the national audience with an incredible 30 point, 6 rebound, 6 assist showing as Lehigh upset 2nd seeded Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It wasn't McCollum's first appearance in the national spotlight, as the Mountain Hawks played Kansas tough the first round of the NCAA tournament during McCollum's freshman season, a season that saw him lead all freshman in scoring at 19.1 points per game. But for a player on the fence about declaring for the NBA draft who had previously struggled in his limited appearances against top competition, this was exactly the kind of coming out party McCollum needed to put his name in the basketball worlds collective conscience, and a perfect recap to what has been a very good bounce back season for the focal point of the Lehigh offense.

McCollum is a 6'3” lanky combo guard with solid length. Coming into Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as a 160 pound freshman, McCollum has done a good job of adding strength to his now 190 pound frame, although he still must get stronger in order to effectively compete with NBA guards. McCollum isn't particularly explosive around the rim, but he's a quick, fluid and very smooth athlete with terrific ability to change speeds and utilize hesitation moves to create offense for his team.

McCollum has improved as a passer, averaging 4.2 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted, by far a career best. Most intriguing has been his court vision coming off pick and rolls, particularly useful considering his ability to generate his own offense in those sets and the likelihood he will be placed in that situation at the next level.

That being said, McCollum is first and foremost a natural scorer. His 25.8 points per-40 ranked him 6th amongst NCAA prospects, while he was able to improve his efficiency significantly from his somewhat disappointing sophomore season, as his 2-point percentages rose from 43% to 50%, his true shooting percentage rose from 52% back up to 57%, and his three point percentage settled in at a much more respectable 35.3%.

McCollum is very comfortable shooting off the dribble, with a combination of pull-ups and step back jumpers that allows him to get shots off over bigger defenders. This allows him to be effective as a scorer off pick and roll sets, which will likely be his bread and butter in the NBA. This year he's also used that attention to set his teammates up better, a key ingredient to allowing him to become a better setup man than he has been in years past.

McCollum has also improved his mid-range game, shooting a solid 38.2% on those attempts, a vast improvement over the 27.3% he shot as a sophomore, according to Synergy Sports Technology. The development of a lethal pull-up jumper has been crucial for somebody who isn't a terribly explosive finisher at the rim, and makes him tougher to defend.

One area where he still at times struggles has been as a spot-up shooter, shooting just 35.5% on catch and shoot opportunities. Much of this could be attributed to the defensive attention opposing teams pay to him, as the majority of his catch and shoot opportunities are contested, something that should change as he moves to being more of a complementary player at the next level. He shot a more respectable 40% on uncontested catch and shoot opportunities, against 32.6% on contested shots, although this is on somewhat of a limited sample size, as McCollum has been the focal point of the Mountain Hawks offense since the moment he set foot on campus. He has also had some success shooting coming off screens, lending more credence to the belief that he could see some time playing off the ball if paired with another playmaker in the same backcourt.

In terms of creating off the dribble, McCollum has good, controlled ball-handling skills and does a very good job of changing direction and speeds, allowing him to get into the lane virtually whenever he wants. He's not the greatest finisher at the rim due to his average explosiveness at the rim, but he has good body control and touch around the hoop, and this year saw his field goal percentage around the basket increase substantially, to 50.5%, up from 35.6% the prior year.

He'll likely never be a Derrick Rose type finisher at the rim due to his average strength and explosiveness, but his willingness to go get into the paint and draw contact will serve him well. McCollum's 8.2 free throw attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranks 6th in our database amongst top-100 prospects, further illustrating how much of a complete all-around scoring weapon he's become.

Another area where McCollum excels is in transition. Extremely fast with the ball in his hands, his excellent defensive rebounding ability (7.6 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, #1 in our database amongst guards) combined with his ability to generate turnovers (3.1 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted, #1 amongst all college prospects) provides him ample opportunities to get out and run.

On the defensive end, McCollum is still somewhat of a mixed bag. He is clearly undersized, both in length and in strength, to defend the shooting guard position. He also has a tendency to put himself out of position when gambling, although with the amount of steals he generates, this was likely by design. But the effort and especially the anticipation skills are there, and in a smaller role where he's not forced to shoulder an entire college team's offense, he has the potential to be fairly effective, especially defending point guards.

It's hard to take too much out of a short tournament run, but for a player who has clearly been one of the most productive guards in all of college basketball, McCollum success -- and the success of the team -- against Duke was an eye opening performance. While McCollum won't have the offensive freedom he had at Lehigh, he shouldn't have too many problems finding a role in the NBA, at the very least as a spark off the bench, something that is very much in need in today's NBA.

With his overall offensive ability and his excellent work ethic, it's hard to believe McCollum won't at least get the chance to prove he belongs if he decides to enter the draft this year. The success of smaller school players like Jeremy Lin and Stephen Curry—who he very much resembles—should work in his favor, and he's more than talented enough to do the rest, if given the opportunity

Garrett Stutz, 7'0, Center, Senior, Wichita State

Joseph Treutlein

Garrett Stutz and the Wichita State Shockers had an early end to their excellent season, suffering an upset lost to 12 seed VCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This culminated the end of Stutz' four-year career, one in which he improved dramatically since arriving on campus as a very raw, 215 pound, 7-foot tall freshman.

Standing a legit 7'0 with a strong, well-built 255 pound frame and solid length, Stutz has excellent size and strength for the center position at any level. He has done a great job developing his body, which was no easy task, as he reportedly had to eat 6,000 calories daily and work out every day early in his collegiate career, a testament to his work ethic.

While Stutz has strong physical attributes for his position from a pure size and strength perspective, he has some considerable disadvantages from an athleticism standpoint, not being an especially quick or explosive player. While Stutz does exhibit high coordination and doesn't really look awkward in any of his movements, he is slow running the floor and gets very little elevation off the ground, being a decidedly below-the-rim player even at his height.

On the offensive end, Stutz does most of his work directly around the basket, with his back-to-the-basket game making up almost 50% of his half-court possessions according to Synergy. Stutz is a physical post presence, constantly fighting for position and having no problems backing down anyone he faces. When he gets the ball, Stutz has a simple but well-developed post game, relying mostly on hook shots with either hand turning off either shoulder.

Stutz does a good job finishing in the post at the college level, showing good touch and taking advantage of often getting the ball very close to the basket. He's excellent at keeping the ball high and not wasting movements, usually going right into his move with little hesitation. Unfortunately for Stutz, he does often run into some problems with his post game at this level, and there are questions about how this aspect of his game will translate to the next level.

Stutz' inability to elevate is his biggest problem going forward, as he rarely gets any lift on his moves in the post. Despite usually having a considerable height advantage on his opposition, almost all of his post moves are closely contested in one-on-one situations, and despite a strong willingness to absorb contact, he doesn't do a great job finishing through it.

Stutz' lack of elevation also renders him almost completely unable to finish with power in the post, as he rarely goes up for a power dunk when contested, which is surprising given his height and how close he plays to the basket. At the next level, playing against larger, more athletic competition, Stutz should have an even more difficult time getting his post moves off, and could have a tough time translating this aspect of his game.

Aside from his post game, Stutz does most of his finishing on cuts, pick-and-rolls, and offensive rebounds, something that would surely have to become a larger part of his game were he to make it in the NBA. Not having to create on his own, Stutz' lack of athleticism doesn't hurt him as much here, and he does a slightly better job getting up around the basket.

Stutz is an excellent off-the-ball finisher at the college level, showing good hands and nice ability to catch and quickly transition into a lay-up, showing good awareness of where he is relative to the basket when he gets the ball.

The other intriguing aspect of Stutz' offensive game is his spot-up jumper, something he's shown decent success with in his four years in college. Shooting a very strong 82% from the free-throw line and as solid 32% from three (albeit on just one attempt per game), Stutz clearly has some solid ability in this area of his game, and it will be very important for his success if he further develops it moving forward.

Stutz does a solid job finishing on spot-up mid-range and three-point jumpers, and could have a chance at being utilized as a pick-and-pop big at the next level, something he didn't do much of in college.

On the defensive end, things are a bit more concerning for Stutz' chances, as his lack of athleticism leaves him very limited defending one-on-one situations. On both the perimeter and the post, Stutz has a very tough time moving laterally and is prone to being beat badly off the dribble, despite good effort to move his feet and stay in front of his man. He's also very vulnerable in the pick-and-roll, being forced to play a conservative strategy where he drops back almost every play, not having the change-of-direction ability to hedge well.

He's also limited as a shot blocker, seeing most of his blocks in man-to-man situations, not being a significant weakside force. While Stutz could be a solid positional defender and could do a good job holding his own against other slow-footed, power centers, he will likely have problems against better athletes on this end of the floor in the NBA.

Stutz is, however, a great rebounder on both ends of the floor, something that could somewhat make up for his other defensive shortcomings, as he does a good job taking advantage of his size and motor to get close to the rim for boards. His 12.5 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranks near the top of our database, and will definitely be one of his biggest selling points as something highly likely to translate.

Looking forward, Stutz brings some clearly defined strengths to the table as a player with his size, rebounding, inside scoring, and developing jump shot, but also has some significant liabilities with his lack of explosiveness and defensive abilities.

His excellent improvement in his four years on campus, both from a production and physical standpoint, is surely a strong point in his favor, and he may still be able to squeeze out some increased athletic ability by firming up the significant mass he's put on in college.

Given his size, he'll likely have multiple opportunities to catch on in the NBA down the road, and could be an effective overseas player regardless if he's unable to crack the NBA.

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