NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/31/09- Part One

NCAA Tournament Performers, 3/31/09- Part One
Mar 31, 2009, 04:08 pm
Hasheem Thabeet, 7’3, Junior, Center, Connecticut
31.7 Minutes, 13.5 Points, 10.9 Rebounds, .5 Assists, 4.3 Blocks, 2.5 Fouls, 64.9% FG, 62.4% FT

Matt Williams

Last time we checked in on Hasheem Thabeet in late December, he was coming off of a very weak showing against Georgetown in UConn’s first Big East game. Since then, Thabeet has been having a fine season, helping his team achieve a 31-4 record and a Final Four berth. Outside of a couple of losses to Pittsburgh and the marathon that was UConn’s Big East tournament contest against Syracuse, Thabeet has had no trouble helping his team win. However, he’s had his fair share of ups and downs as an individual, and while he’s had some very tough outings, he remains very much in the running to hear his name called near the top of the lottery this summer.

Thabeet’s production has remained somewhat inconsistent throughout the last three months, but his impact on the game has not. Though he’s failed to record more than a handful of points against a number of lower-level teams, Thabeet continues to terrorize opposing offenses. His presence on the floor changes the complexion of the game on the defensive end and often requires opposing coaches to change their game-plans altogether.

His ability to protect the rim has been covered in length on this site, and while Thabeet’s numbers haven’t improved very significant on a per-40 minute basis since his freshman season, he’s made some subtle strides that have allowed him to become even more intimidating. He’s done a slightly better job sliding his feet when he’s forced to defend the perimeter. Watching him step out and draw a charge against Leo Lyons in their match up this past weekend is a testament to how far he’s come. Earlier in his career, he would often get too antsy when his man jabbed, failing to keep his distance and utilize the huge advantage his length can allow him to use in one-on-one situations. With that said, he still tends to look like somewhat of a fish out of water when guarding the pick and roll or forced to guard a quick perimeter oriented big man, as his lack of balance and poor lateral quickness can quickly get exposed.

His reaction time when defending the weak side has also improved quite a bit. As a freshman, Thabeet got a large of his blocks when playing on the ball, which is still the case, but he’s become significantly more adept at recognizing when offensive players are looking to turn the corner and then sliding over to meet them. His blocks are coming on longer rotations that often have him sliding across the lane to send away a would-be scorer.

Those two improvements, coupled with his improved frame and hands have turned Thabeet into an even more capable defender. Though he doesn’t always make the crispest rotations, and still looks like the same awkward freshman he once was on occasion, he’s come a long way. The distance he’s covered in terms of development is much more pronounced in his offensive game, and the role he plays offensively. He still tends to go through spurts of ineffectiveness, though, particularly when faced with foul trouble. It often seems like once he picks up a few early fouls, he won’t even try to make his presence felt on this end of the floor, not even raising his arms in the air at times.

The biggest question-marks about Hasheem Thabeet are concerned with his offensive game, and rightfully so. Though he’s made marked improvements in his scoring ability and shooting percentages, his role in Connecticut’s offense has increased since he arrived on campus three years ago. That subtle change should give NBA decision-makers reason for optimism moving forwards.

When Thabeet arrived in Storrs, he was nothing more than a hustle player, getting all of his looks by sitting under the rim and pulling down rebounds for easy catch and finish opportunities. While he still gets a lot of his offense by being active down low, his opportunities to score with his back to the basket have grown significantly in recent seasons. He’s a relatively capable finisher over his left shoulder, especially when he can get deep position, but needs to work on his hook shot moving forward. He started to show some ability spinning in the other direction and finishing with his left hand, but still needs a lot of polish to finish consistently. He appears to be heading in the right direction, although he obviously has a long ways to go. There have been many games this season in which he’s made absolutely no impact at all on the offensive end, not looking to establish position in the post, and looking extremely limited with his unreliable hands and balance when he did. It also seems like quite a bit of his offensive production has come against teams with mediocre frontcourts, which is not a great sign considering how much the level of competition will increase with the big men he’ll face in the NBA.

Thabeet’s an incredibly efficient player at 65% from the field, as you can expect considering that around 90% of his made field goals are layups or dunks. His hands have looked better at times, as has his coordination at the rim. Unfortunately, he still shows a lack of fundamentals at times, brings the ball too low when he pulls down offensive rebounds and moving a little too fast when he could create an easier look by being patient. He’s continued to get to the line at a great rate, but probably won’t ever be more than a decent shooter from the charity stripe.

Moving forward, all indications point to Thabeet landing amongst the top picks in the draft. However, whichever team drafts him needs to recognize the growing pains that he’s going to experience moving forward. His offensive role may have expanded on the college level, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever be much of a presence on this end of the floor in the NBA. With that said, he’ll be able to make an impact as a shot blocker and position rebounder immediately, and if he can stay out of foul trouble and lands on a team willing to foster his skills, could become a serviceable center in the NBA for a long time.

Cole Aldrich, 6’11, Center, Sophomore, Kansas
14.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 2.7 blocks, 1.6 turnovers, 60% FG, 79% FT

Joseph Treutlein

Since we last wrote about him in December, Cole Aldrich has continued with his excellent sophomore season, putting up strong numbers throughout conference play and coming up big for his team in all three of their NCAA tournament games, though it wasn’t enough to push them past the Sweet Sixteen.

Looking at the season as a whole, seeing Aldrich’s production remain strong through conference play, there is a lot to be said for how much he improved in just one season, taking significant steps in multiple areas of his game, now establishing himself as one of the best big men in college basketball after playing just 8 minutes per game as a freshman.

The first area where Aldrich’s improvement can be seen is with his jump shot, which now has range out to 18 feet and is quite reliable for a big man. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Aldrich hit 24 of his 43 jump shot attempts on the year, mostly of the spot-up variety, many coming in pick-and-pop situations. Aldrich sports an extremely unorthodox catapult-like release where he cocks the ball from way behind his head before throwing it towards the rim, though he shows very good accuracy on his shot, as evidenced by his 79% FT%, a ten-point improvement from a season earlier.

While he has extremely strange shooting mechanics, and the sample size of his jump-shots leaves something to be desired, Aldrich shouldn’t have many long-term issues, as his motion is consistent, his release of adequate speed, and his shot is basically unblockable, unless you’re standing behind him. While Aldrich’s aim is quite good, his touch isn’t great on his arm-heavy shot, as he’s prone to a lot of north and south misses, something that may always be an issue. Still, given his improvement in just one season, this is something that he should be able to show more progress with as he puts in more and more repetition with his mechanics. It’s also worth noting that with his mechanics, Aldrich will likely have trouble adjusting to shooting off the dribble or on the move in general, but that’s not something many centers are expected or able to do in the NBA anyway.

Moving onto his post game, Aldrich has also made notable improvements there this season, showing great ability to establish deep position, either by backing his man down or taking advantage when players try to foolishly front him. When fronted, Aldrich uses his excellent hands and size to catch and finish with power at the rim. When backing his man down, Aldrich usually gets quite deep in the paint, but relies on a finesse game more so than power, mostly preferring hook shots and turnaround jumpers, the latter of which he has varying success with. Aldrich’s shooting mechanics are prone to breakdowns when on the move, and this can be seen with his turnaround jumper from the low block, or when he catches on a flash in the middle of the lane.

While Aldrich has a decent repertoire of post moves, his polish could still use plenty of work, as his footwork looks crude at times, though usually enough to get the job done with his mobility and range. As a finisher, Aldrich shows good body control and takes excellent advantage of his length and mobility to get up some tough reverse opportunities, but his touch around the rim could still use some work. Also, while Aldrich did a good job of adding muscle this offseason, he could still use some more lower body strength, something that would allow him to power up more easily at the rim, which would let him rely less on his finesse game and better take advantage of his size. Aldrich isn’t likely to ever develop into a top offensive option in the NBA, as he just isn’t all that skilled, but he shows enough potential in this area to leave plenty of room for optimism.

On the defensive end, Aldrich plays a physical style in the post, bodying up his man while keeping his arms outstretched, being pretty effective despite his underdeveloped technique, which allows opposing bigs to back him down when combined with his high center of gravity. Aldrich’s lateral quickness is adequate for his size, and he shows good mobility on pick-and-roll plays, even if his decision-making isn’t always great. He shouldn’t have a problem sticking with most fives in the NBA, though continuing to improve his fundamentals is important. Where Aldrich really shines, though, is on the boards, ranking 5th in our database in rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, taking advantage of his size, tremendous length, and hands, something that should translate well to the next level. He’s also a productive shot-blocker for that reason, as he showed against Dayton by collecting a whopping 10 blocks.

It’s still up in the air whether Aldrich will test the draft waters this year, but if he does, he should be firmly in lottery discussions right off the bat. Given his prototypical size, tremendous wingspan, solid athleticism, high motor, the learning curve he’s shown, and the fact that he already does a few things at an NBA level despite being very early in his development, teams could become quite enamored with his potential, and he could quite easily creep into the single digits.

Antonio Anderson, 6-6, Shooting Guard, Senior, Memphis
10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.4 steals, .5 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 45% FG, 25.4% 3P FG, 34.3 minutes

Joey Whelan

Antonio Anderson’s senior season ended in disappointment, when Memphis was eliminated from the Sweet 16 by streaking Missouri. Despite the loss, the fourth year shooting guard was able to display some of the different aspects of his game that will make him an appealing prospect to some team somewhere. In fact, the season as a whole was a major plus, as Anderson saw increases in nearly every major statistical category across the board in his last year with the Tigers.

When we last took a look at Anderson before the season began, the biggest knock against him was his lack of shooting ability and poor ball handling skills. With the year now over, we can say he made some marginal improvements in these areas, but still has a lot of work to do. Anderson shot a career best 45% from the floor this year, even while taking more shots. This was due in large part to the improvements he showed in his ability to finish in the lane. While last season, over 50% of his shots came in spot up situations, that number dropped to 34%, while there was a significant increase in the number of times he put the ball on the deck and attacked the rim. Anderson still struggles mightily with his perimeter game, seeing his three-point field goal percentage drop eight points from last year. The biggest issue in his form right now appears to be the tendency for his non-shooting elbow to fly out and alter his shot from time to time. This may be the biggest issue holding him back from establishing himself as an NBA player long term.

Anderson still does very well in transition thanks to his athleticism and hustle. He runs the floor well and when he gets momentum going proves to have pretty good leaping ability. Generally, this athleticism tends to disappear in the half court set for a few reasons. Despite having good quickness, the previously mentioned poor ball handling skills prevent the senior from beating most defenders off the dribble. While he may show good elevation when in a full sprint, Anderson is unable to explode when caught in traffic as he often is out of control with the ball by that point. With all of that said though, he does have a strong enough body that he can finish with contact in the lane. His hustle is also on constant display in the paint where he averages better than an offensive rebound per game, a good number for a perimeter player.

What proved to be the biggest eye opener with Anderson this season was with the ball in his hands more often this season, he proved to be an apt playmaker, averaging 4.5 assists per game. He has never been a big time scorer during his tenure at Memphis, but he proved that on nights when he isn’t a scoring threat of any kind he can still be a major offensive factor. His 11-assist performance in a second round win over Maryland proved that statement to be true.

Defense will ultimately wind up being Anderson’s meal ticket in the long run. As has been mentioned in the past, the senior’s size and wingspan allow him to cover any perimeter position and he has proven time and again to be more than up for the challenge of a tough scorer. He brings tremendous hustle to this end of the floor, fighting through screens and rebounding the basketball well. Anderson is a very smart defender, not often biting on fakes but rather playing with his feet and bodying up opponents when it is necessary. His combination of strength, intensity and lateral quickness makes it very difficult for players to beat him off the dribble.

At the beginning of the season we posed the question, will Anderson step up as a senior or continue to be a role player for Memphis. The answer has been a little bit of both. While he saw improvements in his numbers and offensive game this year, he was still not a main option for the Tigers when they had the basketball. Ultimately, Anderson may not stick in the NBA unless he improves his perimeter shooting significantly, but he will certainly play somewhere overseas where he has the potential to be a solid player. His size and athleticism make him an appealing prospect as does his defensive prowess. With a couple of weeks left until many of the pre draft camps begin, Anderson will have some time to work on his game before getting the chance to showcase himself in front of GM’s and scouts.

Micah Downs, 6-7, Senior, Shooting Guard / Small Forward, Gonzaga
25.6 Minutes, 9.6 Points, 4.6 Rebounds, 1.1 Assists, .9 Steals, 43.1% FG, 38.7% 3FG, 81.3% FT

Matt Williams

Even though his play couldn’t help Gonzaga survive their Sweet 16 matchup with North Carolina, Micah Downs has strung together an impressive streak of games over the last month. The former McDonald’s All-American, who spent half a season at Kansas before deciding he wanted to transfer closer to home, closed the season playing the best basketball of his career. Possessing an intriguing blend of size, athleticism, and shooting ability, Downs certainly peaked at the right time, playing a key role in Gonzaga’s West Coast Championship run (he was named tournament MVP) and their three NCAA tournament contests. Though he is a borderline case to be drafted this summer, he’s improved his stock and warrants mention here.

Standing 6-7 with a big wingspan, Downs possesses ideal size for a player that play multiple positions. He couples that size with very good speed in the open floor, nice leaping ability, and quick hands. Though he could definitely stand to add plenty of weight to his skinny frame, Downs’s physical profile is definitely a plus considering his position. Those tools, along with his ability to hit shots from the perimeter, have allowed him to be a solid role-player in Spokane from day one.

The best feature of Downs’s offensive repertoire has always been his pure three-point shooting stroke. He possesses great form and a quick release that allows him to be a highly effective catch and shoot player. Though he’s able to hit shots at a very respectable rate with his feet set, Downs looks just as good when he elevates for shots coming off of screens moving full speed –a testament to his tremendous perimeter footwork. While his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc has become his calling-card (he’s shot 11-27 from distance in March), his perimeter scoring ability has some notable flaws.

Downs struggles when he’s effectively closed out, as he doesn’t tend to jump straight up when he’s shooting with a hand in his face –a habit that hurts his efficiency considerably. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s Quantified Player Report, his PPP drops from 1.41 when he’s left wide open to catch and shoot to a meager .73 when he’s defended.

The difficulties Downs has when he’s well defended have been especially troubling this season. While he shows a nice first step and the ability to consistently create space to get his shot off, he doesn’t prove to be a consistent shooter when he puts the ball on the floor, frequently shortening his release unnecessarily. Downs’s struggles from 2-point range this season stem from the fact that he gets in a rush when there’s a hand in his face, which really hurts his ability to score as efficiently as his shooting form would allow.

Considering his solid first step, Downs seldom attacks the rim off the dribble –preferring to go to his jumper once he finds daylight. His poor ball-handling skills and general one-dimensional nature is a major draw-back, but to his credit, he doesn’t force the issue and sports an incredibly low turnover rate. An effective foul shooter, Downs doesn’t get to the line at a very impressive rate. His frame does hold him back when he ventures inside, especially when he can’t blow past his defender, but he proves more than capable of finding looks around the rim in other ways.

Since he isn’t the focal point of Gonzaga’s offense, Downs finds other ways to help his team. His speed helps him make an impact in transition, and he crashes the glass well for a wing. A sound decision-maker, Downs moves the ball well on the perimeter and does a great job not making mistakes, but he isn’t going to make his teammates better either, as his passing skills are just average. His basketball IQ does not appear to be off the charts..

Downs’s length and quickness give him some defensive upside and allow him to tip some passes and even block an occasional shot, but he shows questionable fundamentals when defending the perimeter. His tendency to lose sight of his man when helping over and the way he consistently lunges at shooters significantly diminishes his ability to use his tools when his man doesn’t have the ball. Downs looks a bit better when he’s forced to defend his man one-on-one, showing decent lateral quickness and staying active, managing to keep his man out of the lane with some consistency. Downs’s lack of physical strength is apparent when he’s defending the ball, as he has a hard time preventing stockier guards from getting into the lane once they clear his shoulder. It remains to be seen whether he can effectively guard his position in the NBA, which is a major sticking point.

Given the fact that Downs hasn’t been incredibly productive on the college level as a designated role-player, he needs to have a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament to improve his stock. He’s certainly a talented player, but his lack of bulk, lock down defensive ability, and the fact that he his clearest weaknesses coincide with his biggest strengths present concerns. His solid three-point shooting and athleticism will make him a player to keep an eye on, but considering his limitations, Downs has a lot of work to do still moving forward.

Recent articles

9.5 Points
11.3 Rebounds
0.8 Assists
18.5 PER
15.9 Points
8.1 Rebounds
3.9 Assists
23.9 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER
4.8 Points
1.0 Rebounds
1.6 Assists
0.4 PER
13.3 Points
6.8 Rebounds
5.0 Assists
14.2 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop