Blogging through Championship Week (Part Five)

Blogging through Championship Week (Part Five)
Mar 18, 2008, 02:59 am

A comprehensive run-down of all the notable performances from this past weekend with NBA draft implications, including the Big 12, ACC, and Conference USA finals. Darren Collison, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Jerome Jordan, Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Blake Griffin, K.C. Rivers, Ty Lawson and others are included.

Jonathan Givony

Darren Collison-
As we predicted a few days ago, Collison indeed ended up being named the MVP of the Pac-10 tournament, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind after his 28 point, 3 assist, 0 turnover performance in the final against Stanford.

Collison is making a case for himself to be considered the most complete point guard in the NCAA if you take what happens on both ends of the floor into consideration. He was incredibly under control setting the tempo of the game as always, but always showed the confidence to go out and make things happen on his own when needed. He did a phenomenal job reading and using screens on the pick and roll all game long, changing speeds and directions with excellent quickness and footwork, and did a terrific job avoiding defenders and finishing spectacularly with his left hand, time after time.

Collison’s ball-handling skills are outstanding, splitting the double-team/traps Stanford tried to use defending UCLA’s ball-screens, and showing a masterful ability to compensate for his lack of height by pulling up off the dribble from mid-range or utilizing a pretty floater when things looked too crowded inside. He knew when to get his team out in transition and when to slow down and run their half-court sets, and hasn’t seemed to take a bad shot all season almost. He’s shooting a ridiculous 51% from 3-point range on the season (on 3 attempts per game), never attempting a shot from this range unless he’s truly open. He’s so unselfish that at times you wonder if he might be hurting his team a bit by not taking some of the opportunities he’s presented with.

There were some question marks that emerged during the season about who UCLA will turn to in critical moments when they need a basket at the end of shot clocks, and Collison is most certainly answering them. He wasn’t just a matter of one game or tournament, but it’s something he’s been doing repeatedly over the past month or so.

The big concern some scouts have about him, besides his size, is just how much weight he can put on. He seems to be really affected by the various bumps and screens he has to get through over the course of the game, and this problem could really be exasperated in the NBA, where everyone is so much bigger and stronger. With that said, it’s hard not to start thinking that he brings enough to the table to be considered a starting caliber point guard in the NBA, with some seasoning. Considering how good he is, and how incredibly well he’s playing leading arguably the best team in America into the NCAA tournament, he may not be the kind of guy you want to overanalyze too much.

Brandon Rush-
Slowly, but surely, Brandon Rush seems to be working himself back into optimal shape, after taking off only 5 ½ months to recover from an ACL tear he suffered last summer. We’re starting to see that same terrific athlete flying up and down the court on a more consistent basis, and just at the right time as far as Kansas is concerned.

Rush strung together two impressive performances to help the Jayhawks win their third straight Big 12 conference tournament (netting himself MVP honors in the process), after one mediocre game to kick things off against Nebraska. He scored a career-high 28 points (9-13 FG, 5-8 3P) against Texas A&M in the semis, and then followed that up with 19 points (6-12 FG, 6-9 3P) in the finals against Texas, adding 6 assists for good measure.

Gone seemed to be that indecisiveness that plagued him throughout his college career, as he showed absolutely no hesitation hoisting up shots with his quick, fluid, effortless release as soon as he received an opportunity to do so. He was superb coming off screens, being very difficult to keep up with due to the speed in which he runs around the court, and looked just as smooth pulling up off the dribble out to 20 feet. It’s reaching the point that we might need to start considering him as one of the best perimeter shooters in the country—as his 43.4% on nearly 5 attempts per game from behind the arc indeed indicates.

He’s still not much of a shot-creator—his ball-handling skills are poor, he struggles to change directions due to his high center of gravity, and he seems to lack some aggressiveness going up strong at the rim trying to draw contact. Considering the fact that he’s a likely role-player at the next level—with the unselfish passing skills and team-oriented mentality that comes along with that, that might not be as great a concern as it once was.

Defensively, Rush has superb size and length on the wing, which helps him greatly in terms of contesting shots and coming up with plenty of blocks and steals in the process. He seems to have lost a degree of intensity, though, from what we could see in this tournament, not fighting through screens very well and getting beat too often off the dribble by smaller players. We’ll have to see how this part of his game looks in the NCAA tournament.

Barring a catastrophe, Rush will certainly be coming out this year and will not have the luxury of testing the waters after already doing so last year. His performance this past weekend in front of a horde of NBA executives bodes very well for his draft stock, and he has a real chance to continue to help himself with a strong NCAA tournament run.

Mario Chalmers-
Chalmers had the best game of his career here in the Big 12 tournament finals, scoring 30 points on 10-15 shooting (8-12 3P), while dishing out 6 assists to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 2 steals. Chalmers is in the midst of a breakout season this year and is actually well overdue for a write-up.

Chalmers has made notable strides in his game in every season he’s been at KU so far, which is exactly what you want to see from a former McDonald’s All-American. His shooting percentages are way up (an incredibly impressive 52% from the field and 48% for 3), as are his assists, while his turnovers are down. Chalmers’ role in KU’s offense has decreased this season (most of his offense comes from spot-up and transition situations), but he’s become a much more efficient player, which is clearly a testament to his willingness to set aside his ego and stick strictly to what he’s best at for the betterment of his team. For someone who projects as a role player and likely backup at the next level, that’s a very encouraging sign.

Chalmers shares ball-handling duties on this squad with two other point guards in Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins. That helps mask many of his weaknesses, but also probably doesn’t give him as much of an opportunity to improve on them as he would elsewhere. If not running the floor in transition, Kansas runs an incredible amount of half-court sets, and Chalmers looks smart enough and more than willing to executes those plays crisply and get the ball to where it needs to be on the floor. He gets most of his 4.6 assists per game in this fashion, and the extremely low 2 turnovers he averages per game tells you all you need to know about how well he does at minimizing mistakes. Although he’s clearly not a pure point guard (he just doesn’t seem to have those type of instincts at the moment), he still ranks 6th amongst all players in our database in John Hollinger’s pure point ratio. The fact that he’s extremely unselfish, relatively mistake free and plays in a high-octane offense with excellent players around him all contributes heavily to that.

As a shooter, Chalmers is nothing short of fantastic, as indicated by his phenomenal 66% true shooting percentage, which ranks him 9th in our entire database in that category. He doesn’t take many bad shots, as we saw in the Big 12 tournament, where he knocked down 8 3-pointers, almost all of which were wide open looks with his feet set. He is absolutely outstanding when left open, and can also knock down shots off the dribble, although his percentages drop when doing so.

Defensively, Chalmers is one of the peskiest guards you’ll find in the NCAA, with his phenomenal length and timing that helped him average a Big-12 best 2.4 steals per game. Although he’s undersized at 6-1, his length really helps him out in this area, as he plays much bigger than his height and manages to contest nearly everything in his area. His lateral quickness is good, but not great, something that D.J. Augustin seemed to take advantage of at times in this game, but this probably isn’t something to be overly concerned about.

Chalmers’ biggest weaknesses as an NBA prospect revolve around his average athleticism and ball-handling skills, which makes him fairly ineffective as a shot-creator at the point guard position. He struggles going right, doesn’t have much of a mid-range game, and often looks out of control on his way to the basket, not being much of a finisher at the hoop due to his clear lack of explosiveness at the rim. This, combined with his underdeveloped playmaking instincts are a pretty big knock against his pro potential, but he should still be able to overcome his deficiencies and develop into a quality backup considering how many other things he brings to the table.

Darrell Arthur-
Arthur has been one of the most inconsistent draft prospects we’ve followed over the past few months, often following up one good performance with two bad ones, and then getting back on track the next game as if nothing happened. As we’ve expressed in the past when evaluating him, very few of our concerns with Arthur revolve around his physical tools or skill-set…for him, it’s all about the mental aspect of the game and whether the light bulb is on on any particular day.

In this particular game, Arthur showed up, and in a big way, to the tune of 16 points and 9 rebounds. That was huge for KU’s chances of defeating Texas in the Big 12 tournament final, particularly with Darnell Jackson rendered ineffective with foul trouble.

Arthur showed why many think so highly of him in terms of his pure talent, displaying fabulous footwork coming up with a couple of outstanding pivot moves in the post, phenomenal touch knocking down turnaround jumpers, and superb athleticism running the floor and finishing explosively inside the paint. He played a big role in picking apart Texas’ zone defense, slipping right into the sweet spot around the free throw line and either knocking down a 15-foot jumper, making a pretty post-entry pass, or moving the ball around the perimeter sharply to keep KU’s offense flowing smoothly.

Defensively, Arthur seemed to be trying to avoid the ticky-tack foul problems that have plagued him all season and played a huge role in his struggles staying on the court for Kansas. He did show very quick feet hedging screens on the perimeter, though, which is very nice to have from your power forward in today’s pick and roll infatuated NBA. Despite the 9 rebounds he pulled down, we again saw why he struggles so badly in this area, as he still suffers those mental lapses forgetting to box out his opponents. Last time we checked up on him, he ranked 79th in rebounding per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He’s now moved up to 58th, which is better, but still fairly disappointing for a player with his combination of terrific length, athleticism and hands. He’s also improved his passing and assist to turnover ratio, which is good to see.

More than most players in this draft, who already typically have a decent body of work to fall back on from the regular season, Darrell Arthur could use a strong NCAA tournament showing to quell some of the many concerns about him. If he can’t show better effort, focus and all-around consistency in what will be the most important games of his basketball career thus far, he will give decision marks some serious room for pause when it comes time to evaluate his draft stock.

Josh Shipp- Shipp’s performance in front of dozens of high level executives at this tournament seems to indicate that he might not be anything more than a fringe NBA player at best. His overall profile as a prospect does not look very strong these days, as he is extremely limited athletically, lacking quickness and explosiveness and therefore being unable to create his own shot. His biggest strength, his perimeter shooting, is proving to be an average skill at best, as he’s shooting only 34% from behind the arc (29% in conference play) after the 31% he shot last season. The fact that he’s just too slow laterally to defend anyone seals the deal here pretty much.

Joseph Treutlein

Jerome Jordan-
A mobile seven footer that’s largely gone under the radar to this point, the sophomore really turned it on to close the season, averaging 16.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 4.8 blocks over his final six games, though he also averaged an impressive 3.7 blocks per game for the season, in just 25 minutes per game.

Jordan had a good showing against Memphis, even though his team wasn’t in the game from the start, scoring 17 points along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. His first offensive possession left me shaking my head, as he caught the ball on the deep right block, matched with Joey Dorsey, and strangely tried to drop-step baseline, looking very awkward and traveling with the ball as he simply had nowhere to go. Later in the game, it became clear what he was trying to do, as he went back to the same move twice. On these next two attempts, though, Jordan executed the drop-step and got underneath the rim, finishing with a reverse lay-up on one attempt and a reverse dunk on the other, showing off just how mobile and long he really is.

While the moves were pretty impressive, it’s worth noting the third one came in the game’s final minutes when Memphis had emptied the bench and Jordan had a 6’8, 300 pounder guarding him in Memphis’ Pierre Niles., who didn’t really try to defend the move. Also, it’s a bit strange that a player with his physical tools and fairly raw overall post game would have a move of this difficulty as his go-to move. It’s also puzzling how Jordan kept going to the deep right block to get position, when he didn’t show any moves off his right shoulder (though he faked it multiple times), yet never tried to post up on the deep left block, where with his size, he could consistently utilize a hook shot across the lane that would be pretty much unblockable. Looking at his post game as a whole, he has nice touch and clearly has a lot of potential, but it’d be nice to see him develop some better post awareness in his future and make better use of simpler, easier moves that he could abuse defenses with.

As for the rest of his offensive game, Jordan got open around the rim to finish with his size and touch often, notably finishing on one alley-oop dunk where he showed very nice coordination, and he also hit a right-handed hook shot off the glass from the right block on one occasion. He didn’t show any mid-range game, though he’s shooting a decent 69% on free throw attempts on the season, and his shooting form doesn’t look bad. Continuing to improve on his free throws and rounding out his post game should be among his priorities offensively moving forward.

On the defensive end, Jordan showed excellent timing on his shot blocks, using his great length and size to consistently patrol the painted area. His elevation isn’t great, but his mobility and size make up for that, and he’s clearly not at his athletic peak yet, not having much muscle mass. His shoulders aren’t particularly broad, so he’ll be someone limited in how much bulk he can add, but he still can improve significantly here. With man-to-man defense, Jordan looked good in the post, contesting and blocking shots with his length, but he didn’t show much in terms of fundamentals, not really bodying up and mostly relying on his shot-blocking abilities.

All in all, Jordan is an extremely raw and extremely intriguing player, and it’ll be interesting to watch him develop in the next two seasons. He still has a long ways to go on all aspects of the game, but with his size and length, he obviously has the potential to play in the NBA when it’s all said and done, and maybe even more than that if he makes some serious strides this summer.

Derrick Rose- Not the greatest setting to evaluate his game, given the level of competition, there really isn’t much new to say about Rose here. He showed off how much more explosive he was than the competition, and he dished out some assists in the flow of Memphis’ offense, but two plays in particular for Rose stood out in this game. On one, he rebounded the ball on the defensive end and quickly pushed it ahead in transition himself, getting from end to end easily and finishing on his own with a right-handed floater. On another, he got back in transition defense to block the shot of a guard on the other team, then got in position to draw a charge from another play on the opposing team who came in for the offensive rebound; he didn’t get the call, but he then soared up over both of them to secure the rebound himself. It’s pretty clear that Rose is on another level athletically when compared with the rest of the NCAA.

Chris Douglas-Roberts- Played a very efficient game, barely touching the ball and quickly scoring every time he did, hitting two spot-up three-pointers and an array of floaters in the lane, pulling up off either dribble, off a crossover, and even one with his left hand.

Antonio Anderson- Had an excellent game, hitting an uncharacteristic 4-for-5 from deep and showing off his explosive first step in the half-court and in transition, finishing at the rim on multiple occasions. Also dished out some nice assists, showing his versatility. Anderson will have a chance to step into a feature role next year with Dorsey and likely Rose and Douglas-Roberts all heading do the NBA, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the role, given that he hasn’t exactly been very efficient as a complementary player over the past three seasons.

Blake Griffin- Had a strong game with 20 points and 13 rebounds, though his team was blown out by Texas. Did most of his damage by using his great athleticism with a combination of post moves. Mostly relied on a right-handed hook shot, though he missed with it at least four times, which didn’t faze him, as he managed to get the offensive rebound and the putback on most of those misses, showing an outstanding second leap. Also showed some nice spin moves, which he executes with exceptional quickness, scoring once on a face-up and once on a post-up attempt. While Griffin mostly relies on simple moves in the post, he occasionally will show off an incredible sequence of moves and countermoves, and the speed at which he transitions between his moves and counters is truly at an elite level. This, in combination with his elevation and overall athleticism, will make him a truly dangerous post player if he continues to improve his awareness and array of moves. Since suffering some more knee problems, Griffin has recently hedged on his initial pledge to stay at Oklahoma next season regardless of what happens this season. It will be interesting to see how things play out here, as he would have a strong case to be considered a lottery pick or even go top-10 would he decide to enter the draft.

K.C. Rivers-
Had a truly outstanding game in Clemson’s hard-fought loss against powerhouse UNC in the ACC tournament finals, doing everything he could for his team and showing off all of his various skills on a big stage. Rivers had 28 points on 9-for-20 shooting, including 6-for-12 from deep, and he also chipped in 8 rebounds and 6 steals. Clemson employed their aggressive pressing defense all game long, and Rivers was a huge part of that obviously, using his length, athleticism, and reflexes to steal six possessions for his team, and causing at least one forced turnover with a deflection as well. In the half-court offense, Rivers was very much Clemson’s go-to scorer, getting it done in a variety of ways, but most notably with his outside shot. He hit several shots with a very high degree of difficulty, coming off screens, pulling up, and fading away, often with a hand in his face. When Clemson was on the verge of falling out of the game, Rivers was usually the one to come up with a big shot to keep them alive. Rivers also attacked the basket well, driving in both directions, finishing at the rim, and getting to the free throw line. Rivers will have more opportunities on the main stage in the NCAA Tournament, where Clemson has first and second round draws against Villanova and Vanderbilt, two teams they are certainly capable of beating. There is not a whole lot of buzz around his name at the moment, and a strong tournament showing could go a long ways in changing that.

Wayne Ellington- Played an excellent game for UNC in a game that very much suited his strengths. Scored 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting, while also chipping in 4 points and 4 rebounds. Ellington did very well getting ahead on the break and in up-tempo situations, catching the ball on the wing in transition and taking advantage of Clemson defenders that were still hustling back to get into position, due to their hard pressing. When the ball came to him, Ellington went to quick work, making smart decisions without hesitation, taking the ball to the rim, pulling up from mid-range, spotting up from long-range, or dishing the ball off to an open teammate.

Ty Lawson- Still recovering from injury and getting up to full speed, Lawson had a pretty good game considering the matchup. With Clemson pressing full court most of the game, it really is impressive that Lawson managed to keep UNC’s offense going so well, considering he was often the only really good ball-handler on the floor. It’s not as if Lawson was flawless breaking the press, but his 8 assists against 4 turnovers against a team this athletic and relentless when he was often the only ball-handler on the floor is an accomplishment, and UNC did win the game. Lawson did a good job dribbling out of trouble and throwing passes three quarters the length of the court to open teammates ahead of the pack when necessary, leading to some easy buckets in the game. In the halfcourt, Lawson wasn’t as smooth, not showing off much drive-and-dish ability and struggling when penetrating into the lane in general, getting his shot blocked a few times. He’s still not quite at 100%, but considering how well Clemson matches up with UNC, he did a pretty good job running the show in this game.

Recent articles

1.3 Points
1.3 Rebounds
0.7 Assists
-0.2 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER
3.0 Points
1.7 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
4.0 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER
15.9 Points
8.1 Rebounds
2.7 Assists
19.7 PER
5.4 Points
1.4 Rebounds
1.7 Assists
9.7 PER
19.0 Points
4.3 Rebounds
2.0 Assists
16.2 PER
4.0 Points
3.7 Rebounds
1.5 Assists
13.1 PER
7.9 Points
3.6 Rebounds
2.0 Assists
12.7 PER
10.4 Points
3.3 Rebounds
2.5 Assists
14.9 PER
5.6 Points
1.3 Rebounds
2.1 Assists
11.3 PER
2.5 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.5 Assists
-9.5 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER
6.1 Points
4.7 Rebounds
1.5 Assists
5.3 PER
14.2 Points
11.7 Rebounds
2.9 Assists
21.7 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop