NCAA Weekly Performers, 02/08/2008 -- Part Two

NCAA Weekly Performers, 02/08/2008 -- Part Two
Feb 08, 2008, 04:08 am
Darren Collison, 6-1, Junior, Point Guard, UCLA
14.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.8 steals, 49% FG, 42% 3P, 89% FT

Jonathan Givony

When evaluating the reasons behind the success of clearly one of the top teams in the country, UCLA, it would probably be wise to start with the play of their point guard Darren Collison.

One of the steadiest floor generals you’ll find in the NCAA, Collison is a calm, poised and extremely unselfish half-court point guard who fits like a glove seemingly in UCLA’s slow, balanced attack. He executes Ben Howland’s offense to a T, never looking rushed and not concerned in the least bit with his own numbers, fully committed seemingly to the success of his team. He keeps all of his teammates happy with the unselfish manner in which he moves the ball around, always getting the ball to the right man and rarely making any mistakes.

Despite starting off the year slowly because of a bum knee, Collison’s numbers are up almost across the board once again this season. His scoring numbers have improved, his shooting percentage from the field is up slightly, he’s getting to the free throw line at a better rate, his turnovers are down, and his assist to turnover ratio is up from 1.95/1 to 2.16/1. His assists are actually down by a fairly large rate (from 7.1 per-40 minutes pace adjusted to 4.9), which has a lot to do with the fact that he is playing significant minutes next to an additional ball-handler in Russell Westbrook, whereas last year he was almost UCLA’s lone facilitator (next to Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp).

Collison’s physical tools are not ideal for an NBA point guard. He’s small, very skinny, and not particularly explosive around the rim. His quickness looked pretty average early on in the year, but has looked better as the season moved on as he gets into better shape following his knee problems.

Offensively, Collison picks his spots and finds ways to put the ball in the net, despite not being the most naturally skilled point guard you’ll find .He’s an excellent ball-handler with either hand (although he prefers to go left), and has a nice crossover move he likes to go to in order to create space for himself to shoot a floater or pull-up off the dribble from mid-range. He needs some time to get his shot off, though, but with the great deal of attention all his teammates draw, combined with the extremely high basketball IQ Collison possesses, he’s finding ways to get his shot off, more than last year. Collison also gets a fair share of production in transition, where he makes excellent decisions, and is particularly effective utilizing the pick and roll. One clear weaknesses we can evaluate lies in his struggles finishing around the basket, as his lack of strength and explosive hinders him, and makes him more likely to pull-up from mid-range or attempt a floater instead. This will probably become more noticeable in the NBA.

As a perimeter shooter, Collison continues to knock down shots at an excellent rate for the second straight year, despite his awkward shooting mechanics, slinging the ball at the basket from over his head. He has a high, consistent release point, though, and doesn’t take many bad shots, which has helped him again shoot the ball at over 40% from behind the arc. He’s mostly a spot-up shooter with his feet set because of the time he needs to get his shot off, but is hitting more shots off the dribble (just like with his mid-range game) than he did last season.

Defensively, Collison is very effective, as you would expect considering that he plays for one of the top defensive teams in the nation. He is a pesky, physical defender, who gets right in his man’s grill and denies space extremely well, and also possesses good lateral quickness and a very good wingspan. He puts the effort in, but is also very intelligent in the way he approaches his work on this end of the floor, showing excellent timing and awareness in terms of contesting shots and bothering his opponents, both in man to man and team defense. His lack of size and strength is a bit of a hindrance for the next level, though, and it’s not hard to see how much he’s effected by good solid screens, which he really struggles to fight through.

Collison continues to establish himself as one of the top floor generals in the country at the collegiate level, and looks like someone who will have a successful career in the NBA, even though he projects as a role player. The jury is still out regarding whether he’ll be considered starting material or more of a Chris Duhon-type backup, but there is surely a lot to like here anyway you slice it.

Joey Dorsey, 6’9, Power Forward, Senior, Memphis
7.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 2.5 blocks, 69.4% FG, 35.5% FT

Joey Whelan

Memphis has posted a blistering 21-0 record while reaching the number one rankings in both major polls this season. Aside from a couple of close calls with USC and UTEP, the Tigers have made short work of their opponents thus far on their schedule. While John Calipari’s squad can put a slew of players on the court that can light up the scoreboard, it is defensive minded Joey Dorsey that continues to be one of the cogs of this team.

Not a tremendous amount about Dorsey’s game has changed since we last took a look at him before the season started. Offensively the bulk of the seniors scoring is still done as a result of his hustle on the offensive glass, where he is averaging over three offensive boards per game. As was the case last season, over 40% of Dorsey’s shot attempts come off of offensive rebounds according to Synergy Sports Technology. Interestingly though, despite the continued hustle inside, Dorsey’s free throw attempts have decreased from over four per last season to down near three so far this season. His percentage at the line has also taken a nose dive; after shooting a career best 46.7% last year, he is shooting a career worst 35.5%.

In the post is where Dorsey has shown he is taking baby steps towards improving his play. In the past his back to the basket game consisted primarily of trying to bull his way through smaller defenders and simply throwing up shots against bigger more athletic opponents. Now we are starting to see Dorsey incorporate a strong drop and the occasional jump hook shot. On a rare occasion against slower defenders Dorsey has shown some ability to face up and take opponents along the baseline. Considering his past history of post moves, or lack there of, any sign of development is encouraging. At this point it is a lack of touch that is keeping Dorsey from being a threat to score in the post. Often times he is able to execute his move but then overshoots the ball; this does tend to occur more often though against taller opponents, as was the case in his match ups with Hasheem Thabeet and Roy Hibbert.

It is clear that Dorsey still isn’t a tremendous part of Memphis’s offensive game plan, (he’s attempting 4.5 shots per game, down from 5.3 last season), so often he acts as a bail out option for teammates attacking the basket. He is the recipient of plenty of great looks around the basket thank to the amount of attention some of his perimeter players demand from opposing defenses. With his tremendous strength and leaping ability, Dorsey is a dynamic finisher when he is given any sort of room around the rim. Again though, lack of touch is holding him back from being a more effective scorer. As was the case last season, Dorsey still tries to dunk the ball in some situations where he would be better served laying the ball up over or around a defender.

There is still a tremendous lack of versatility to Dorsey’s game. Aside from acting as a safety valve when perimeter players are stuck with the basketball or screening for teammates you will almost never see Dorsey far from the basket. Aside from the occasional straight line drive to the basket against slower post players when he faces up, Dorsey shows limited ball handling abilities outside of a power dribble towards the basket. While we haven’t gotten much of a chance to see Dorsey attempt any sort of shots from beyond five feet away from the basket, his horrendous free throw shooting is probably some indication of where that aspect of his game currently stands.

As always, defense continues to be the most appealing aspect of Dorsey’s game. When his statistics are adjusted to a 40 minute pace, Dorsey ranks first in total rebounds and ninth in blocked shots amongst all players in our database this season. His tremendous athleticism allow him to alter a tremendous number of shots and makes him a stellar help defender, which works well when Memphis goes to their zone defense. This also allows him to pull down plenty of rebounds that aren’t in his immediate area. As a post defender Dorsey has proven to be very intelligent in the past, and that continues to be the case this season. He is very strong and tough to back down, where Dorsey separates himself from a lot of other strong post defenders though is he isn’t just a pusher, he knows how to use his strength. In situations where opponents are able to get the ball on the block against him, rather than always trying to push them out of position, Dorsey does a great job of positioning himself in a way that opponents are forced to take tough shots over him. He did a particularly good job of this in Memphis’s win over Georgetown, holding Roy Hibbert to just six points on 3-8 shooting.

More than just a low post presence, Dorsey is tough when he steps away from the basket as well. He has good reaction time, a characteristic that has allowed him to average more than a steal per game every season of his college career. Dorsey’s quickness allows him to do a good job of covering the pick and roll, something NBA scouts love to see; he does get into trouble once in a while when he sticks with the ball handler too long, leaving his man with an open look near the basket.

Dorsey is clearly a player that it would be easy to see in an NBA uniform next season. His lack of ideal height is certainly an issue, but he combats this well with his tremendous strength and athleticism. His effort is going to win him points, and his fight on the offensive glass is definitely a characteristic that will get him playing time regardless of where he ends up. Defense will be his main selling point, but the fact that we are starting to see some signs of a back to the basket game will only help his cause. Being an integral part of the number one team in the country is going to do a lot for Dorsey’s stock, nothing attracts attention like winning could very well be hoisting a national championship trophy come March.

James Gist, 6’8, Senior, Power Forward, Maryland
15.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.6 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 2.3 blocks, 51.2 FG%, 74.5 FT%, 26.1 3PT %

Rodger Bohn

While Maryland has had its ups and downs as a team thus far, they have had a major bright spot in the development of forward James Gist. Previously thought of as just an athlete, he has improved mightily over the last year to the point that he is now Maryland’s second leading scorer, along with leading the squad in rebounds.

The bulk of James’ damage is felt within five feet of the basket, where his excellent leaping ability is put on center stage. Owning a great set of hands, he converts on basically everything thrown to him in the paint with a powerful dunk or acrobatic lay-in. He could very well be the top leaper in the ACC not named Deron Washington, and he uses his leaping ability to extend over the defense when making scoring attempts at the basket. Gist’s ability to get off shots at a high release point is especially crucial in his case, given that he is a bit undersized for a power forward.

Showing off a rapidly improving post game, Gist has established himself as the Terrapins go-to-guy in the pivot. He really enjoys going to his turnaround jumper out, which he can hit going towards either shoulder. The quickness that he possesses allows him to maneuver his way around bigger, bulkier posts and he has shown no problem getting his shot off when matched against defenders of any size for that matter.

On the defensive end, James has done a very good job against the elite players that he has faced this season. His physical gifts allow him to immediately make his presence felt as a shot blocker, and when combined with his nice timing allows him to swat an above average amount of shots for a 6’8 player. Gist is usually relegated to guarding power forwards, where he has shown adequate enough quickness to stay in front of those big men who try to face the basket on him. There is surely a lot of upside in terms of his potential on defense, something that NBA scouts will surely notice when evaluating him before the draft.

The senior’s perimeter skills are definitely a work in progress, surely not up to par of what you would look for in a combo forward. He has a pretty nice short jumper out to about 10 feet, but his accuracy declines drastically as soon as he goes any farther out on the floor. The form on his jump shot is not bad, leaving optimism for improvement in this area, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Gist’s ball handling and passing skills are also poor for a player hoping to transition to a combo forward. He looks uncomfortable when putting the ball on the floor more then two ore three times in a straight line, lacking much creativity off the bounce. He goes right virtually every time he puts the ball on the deck, only driving to his left in 11% of the possessions that we observed. Passing is also not a strong point for the Maryland forward, who averages nearly twice the amount of turnovers as he does assists.

Gist is certainly going to receive an invite to Portsmouth, giving him an opportunity to convince scouts that he can carve out a niche to make it in the NBA. He has NBA caliber athleticism, but is definitely lacking the skills that teams desire in a combo forward, making him a borderline draftee presently. Either way, his combination of great motor and athletic talents should be enough for a team give him a shot in training camp at the very least.

Maarty Leunen, 6’9, Power Forward, Senior, Oregon
15.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 56% FG, 78% FT, 46% 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Maarty Leunen has really hit his stride for the Ducks this season, as his production and efficiency are up across the board. One area that really stands out for Leunen is True Shooting Percentage, where he’s up from 59% to 68% this season, which is good for fourth among all draft prospects in our database, and he’s doing it against strong competition in the Pac-10. To put that in perspective, there is only one player in the NBA averaging at least 20 minutes per game with a True Shooting Percentage of 68% this season, that player being Portland’s James Jones.

Leunen’s outstanding three-point shot has a lot to do with his scoring efficiency, as he’s shooting a career-best 46% from behind the arc thus far. His shot boasts a very quick release with good height and textbook form, while he isn’t phased when he has a defender’s hand in his face. Also, he regularly will step back to NBA three-point range, where his shot is just as effortless and effective.

As for the rest of Leunen’s offensive game, he relies heavily on a hybrid dribble-drive/post-up game, where he’ll put the ball on the floor from behind the arc, take his man down to the mid block, turn his back to the basket, and quickly go into a mini right-handed hook shot or a fade-away jumper. This works very well for Leunen, as he doesn’t have the strength to really back his man down in the post, and he doesn’t have the vertical explosiveness to take the ball to the basket and finish going into opposing defenders, so this method allows him to consistently score while not exposing his weaknesses. Leunen will also finish some of his dribble-drives on a right-handed floater in the lane, which he’s also effective with. Leunen’s ball-handling isn’t anything to write home about, but he does a good job getting past his man using the threat of his jump shot, and can go both right and left, though he heavily favors his left, despite being right-handed.

As aforementioned, Leunen doesn’t really have the strength to body up in the post, nor the size or explosiveness to finish over opposing big men when matched up. When he does work on the low block, he’s at his best with moves fading away from the basket, such as hook shots and turnaround jumpers. Leunen does finish at the rim fairly often, though, by using his excellent basketball IQ to cut without the ball and adeptly find open lanes to the rim, where he catches and finishes with his soft hands and soft touch around the rim. He even can get crafty around here, going reverse off the glass to avoid defenders when necessary.

Leunen is also strong on the glass, where he consistently boxes out with good fundamentals and shows good timing and pursuit for rebounds. On the defensive end, Leunen also shows a good fundamental base in the post, and will really work to force the opposition into tough shots, but he’s prone to being beat by bigger and stronger opponents, as he can be backed down or shot over often. On the perimeter, Leunen also puts in a good effort and looks fairly competent when forced out there, but he can be beat here, too, by better athletes, and can be targeted on this end of the court in general, something that’d be even more of a problem at the next level.

Leunen has definitely improved his case for being an NBA prospect this year, with his improved efficiency and production and continued hard work and smart play (he’s also a very good passer for a power forward), but he still has a lot of things working against him, most notably that he isn’t very strong or athletic, and he doesn’t have a frame that looks like it can naturally add much more bulk. He’ll have a chance to prove himself at the pre-draft camps this summer, and his exceptional outside shooting is a skill that will definitely get him some looks, but how the rest of his game holds up against stronger competition will likely be what determines his future in the league. If he doesn’t make it in the NBA initially, his game is very well-suited for the European game, where he should have a very successful career.

Recent articles

1.3 Points
1.3 Rebounds
0.7 Assists
-0.2 PER
10.7 Points
5.0 Rebounds
4.3 Assists
15.5 PER
5.4 Points
1.4 Rebounds
1.6 Assists
9.9 PER
4.4 Points
2.2 Rebounds
1.3 Assists
7.6 PER
2.9 Points
1.5 Rebounds
2.9 Assists
8.0 PER
14.2 Points
11.7 Rebounds
2.9 Assists
21.7 PER
9.5 Points
11.3 Rebounds
0.8 Assists
18.5 PER
5.2 Points
3.6 Rebounds
0.5 Assists
13.7 PER
8.5 Points
6.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
7.7 PER
5.3 Points
3.8 Rebounds
2.2 Assists
5.1 PER
2.8 Points
0.8 Rebounds
0.3 Assists
11.3 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop