Brandan Wright, 6-10, Freshman, Power Forward, North Carolina
Vs. Duke: 19 points, 9 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 block, 24 minutes, 9-12 FG, 1-2 FT
When considering what makes Wright such an intriguing NBA draft prospect, you have to start with his physical attributes. A solid 6-10 with a gigantic 7-4 ½ inch wingspan, he is an incredibly smooth guy for someone his size. He runs the court fluidly and effortlessly, and has a tremendous burst of initial quickness that most college big men just have no idea how to deal with.
More than just an athletic marvel, though, Wright also has excellent instincts despite his obvious lack of experience, being capable of executing a handful of moves that automatically separate him from nearly every other big man prospect in the country. His feet are incredibly quick, enabling him to hedge screens on the perimeter or display superb response time reacting defensively in the post. This allows him to cover an unnatural amount of ground in very short spans. That, combined with his tremendous length makes him a potential terror down the road on the defensive end, and even despite his quite obvious rawness on this end of the floor, he still blocks nearly 2 shots per game just purely off his physical gifts and instincts.
Offensively, Wright has become an absolute rock for UNC in the mid to low post this season. His outstanding hands allow him to catch nearly anything that is thrown his way, making him an incredibly reliable threat to convert easy baskets while running the floor in transition (stride for stride with UNCs speedsters) or cutting to the basket off a pick and roll play. This is how he scores most of his points at the moment, but as Coach Roy Williams begins to trust his superbly talented freshman more and more, hes getting more plays called for him and is being allowed to show off the finesse part of his game.
Wright lacks the upper body strength to back defenders down in the post with his back to the basket, but his incredible quickness gives him the opportunity to surprise his man with a quick spin towards the basket to get off a beautiful jump-hook shot. A natural lefty, he releases this lethal jump-hook shot with either hand and from an extremely high point of release, making it nearly unblockable considering how quickly he sets up and gets it off. Wright has been nearly automatic for Carolina all season long close to the basket, showing phenomenal touch off the glass and great awareness of where he is on the floor. Lately, hes been mixing in a very effective one dribble pull-up shot from 8-12 feet that he looks very confident in and gives him just another weapon to go to when facing the basket.
Beyond 12 feet is where Wrights range appears to abruptly end, though, shooting just 56% from the free throw line due to his extremely ugly looking shooting mechanics-- elbow flailing out to the side and everything. Considering his slender frame, which can surely take more weight, but might always remain on the lanky side, it will be important for him to develop a real skill-set facing the basket from the perimeter. His long arms make it difficult for him to handle the ball in tight, half-court situations, and his terrible shooting mechanics need serious work before hell be considered any type of threat to stretch the defense.
The biggest beef we have with Wright, though, has more to do with his lackadaisical approach to the game. He seems like a pretty laid back kid by nature, not showing too much fire or emotion, but that also shows up in his inconsistent focus and intensity level at times as well. He certainly doesnt go after every rebound with the kind of passion the great glass-cleaners in the NBA do, and he can be quite tentative at times making rotations within the team defense. Some scouts we talked to have already begun to question his heartbeat to a certain extent, but its hard to tell how much of that has to do with his youth and secondary role on North Carolina and how much is a real reason for concern. Wright could help dispel those notions immediately by hitting the glass with more enthusiasm and being more of a beast on both ends of the floor. Regardless, hes having a phenomenal freshman season and will likely continue to improve and see his role expand as we move into the NCAA tournament.
Jarrius Jackson, 6-1, Senior, Shooting Guard, Texas Tech
2 Games Combined: 58 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 steals, 23-47 FG, 9-23 3PT
Jacksons jump shot has pretty much flawless form, with high elevation, a high release point, consistent shooting motions, and a lightning quick trigger. Jackson is extremely efficient from behind the college three-point arc, shooting .469 on the year, which definitely isnt an anomaly, as evidenced by his circa-.450 three-point percentages over the past two seasons. In his games against Texas and Oklahoma, Jackson was able to get his shot off with ease, either creating for himself off the dribble or moving without the ball to his spot-up shots off screens. Very fundamentally sound in his play, Jackson is equally comfortable dribbling left or right off screens, possessing excellent footwork and a seamless motion from his dribble right into his shot. Just the slightest screen, the simplest crossover, the slightest change in speed, or the simplest ball fake are usually enough for Jackson to get room for his shot, and he has no problem hitting them with a hand in his face, not succumbing to defensive pressure.
Jackson definitely is most comfortable behind the arc, as he actually shoots a higher percentage from three-point range than two-point range, but he also uses his craftiness and smarts to create scoring opportunities inside the arc, as he doesnt possess or rely on much quickness or athleticism to create. Continuing in the fundamentally sound theme, Jackson is excellent at using his body to shield the ball, and rather than blazing by defenders with an explosive first step, he relies on changes in speed and direction, ball fakes, crossovers, and the respect defenders give him on his outside shot. Jackson tends to take most of his shots before he gets to the basket, relying on pull-up jumpers and floaters which he converts with decent regularity. Here, he also possesses the ability to go into these moves dribbling either right or left. When going all the way to the basket, Jackson tends to favor his right hand more noticeably, and most of his left-handed drives result in mid or long-range shot attempts. Jackson doesnt show much creativity around the rim, usually just drawing contact and going straight for the basket. With his height, lack of explosive athleticism, and straight-forward style, Jackson sometimes runs into problems with contested shots in the lane, not being able to score if he doesnt have an open path or draw contact to get to the free-throw line.
When Jackson doesnt have the ball, he does a good job frequently staying in motion on coach Bob Knights motion offense, using screens to get open for spot-up shots or cuts to the basket. He does a good job recognizing what the defense gives to him, and will adjust by using floaters or lay-ups and using glass when the angle is right.
Jackson possesses little in terms of point guard instincts, only averaging 1.7 assists per game on the year, though part of that is due to him being heavily relied on as a scorer for his team. Hes averaged as high as 3.5 assists per game in his tenure at Texas Tech, doing so in his sophomore year. Still, Jackson definitely has a scorers mentality, and he doesnt show much ability to break down a defense and create for his teammates. Unlike most undersized scoring guards, Jackson actually doesnt force the issue often, and most of his shots are high-percentage shots. He rarely takes shots without his feet set or without being balanced.
Defensively, Jackson showed some trouble staying in front of some of Texas quicker guards, and his lateral movement is suspect against quicker players, which is a concern looking at the next level. Most smaller guards in the NBA possess good quickness, and despite Jackson being a pesky and fundamentally sound defender, he doesnt really possess the natural ability to consistently stay in front of them. Looking at the next level in a more general sense, Jackson doesnt project to be much more than a role player in the Eddie House, Salim Stoudamire, or Jannero Pargo role, as a scoring spark off the bench. Should he go to Europe, Jackson should be able to have a tremendous impact with his scoring abilities, which may be more appealing than just being a marginal role player in the NBA, if his scoring abilities can even take him that far. Jackson should have a chance at being drafted in the second round, though theres equally a good chance he could go undrafted.
Josh McRoberts, 6-11, Sophomore, Power Forward, Duke
Vs. Virginia : 19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
What makes Josh so incredibly intriguing is his remarkable perimeter skills for a player who is approaching seven feet tall. He is the ultimate high post power forward, with the ability to beat you off the dribble, hit the mid range jumpshot, or find the open man with the simplest of ease. McRoberts' passing ability is what really sets him apart however, as he has shown the ability to play a bit of a point forward role in the open floor at times, finding the open man more often then not. In the half court set, he passes the ball out of double teams freakishly well and always has his head up looking for the open man. He is clearly the best passer of any big man prospect in this years draft, averaging 3.7 assists per game with an assist to turnover ratio (1.62/1) that many point guard draft prospects cant match.
On the low block, the 2005 McDonalds All American MVP has shown the ability to shoot a jump hook with either hand. It is a bit puzzling though how much he favors going to his right (opposite) hand when he touches the ball in the post. He is so much more fluid when going right, looking awfully uncomfortable when forced back to his left hand. McRoberts' tendency to go to his right hand is also apparent when facing the basket, where seemingly every single move he makes towards the rim will eventually find itself going back to his right hand by the time it is time for him to make a decision with the basketball.
Athletically, McRoberts is excellent for a 611 player. He possesses great leaping ability, an explosive first step, and great speed in the open floor. He does not always utilize his athleticism to its fullest potential, but it is shown in flashes throughout the game. McRoberts has also combined his outstanding hops with improved timing this year to make himself a formidable shot blocking presence, although primarily from the help side.
While McRoberts remains a very good athlete, his athleticism does not carry over to the defensive end aside from his shot blocking. He struggles a bit guarding opposing power forwards on the perimeter, and is a pretty average rebounder for a power forward, pulling in 7.7 boards per game. He relies far too much on his leaping ability when it comes to rebounding, and could easily corral more missed shots if he chose to exert more effort into boxing out on the defensive end.
It has also been evident throughout the season that Josh will disappear during some games, making fans forget that he is even on the floor. It is frustrating to see a player so talented produce so little in terms of scoring, leading many analysts and fans alike to openly question McRoberts' mental toughness at times. The examination of his heart is warranted however, as he does seem to shy away from contact at times and settles a bit too much for three point shots, which is definitely not his strong suit.
McRoberts has casually flirted with entering the NBA Draft for the last two years, although there ending up being not much substance to rumors in either year. With this being a somewhat frustrating year in Durham and possessing such great upside as far as the NBA is concerned, it would certainly not be shocking to see Josh throw his name in the draft this year. Although McRoberts is getting enough shots now to begin with, he would be receiving far less with the arrival of scorers Kyle Singler, Taylor King, and Nolan Smith at Duke next year.
Josh Carter, 6-7, Shooting Guard, Texas A&M, Sophomore
Vs. Texas: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 9/17 FG, 3/8 FT, 3/9 3PFG
Against Texas, Carter started the game by scoring on a baseline drive to the basket. His next two baskets came from behind the three point line, where he has scored the majority of his points this season. He finished the first half with 8 points, but really turned it on in the second half by scoring 16 points, including many at key turns in the game. In the second half he started going to the basket with good success, and he continued to shoot well from behind the three point line. He made a couple jumpers while driving towards the basket, and had a tip-in layup to give A&M a 12 point lead with 4:23 remaining in the game.
In addition to his scoring contribution, Carter displayed good rebounding and passing ability. On two different drives to the hoop, he threw a nice crisp pass to a cutting teammate. On the glass, he used his length to get his hands on the ball. Overall it was a great all-around effort for the sophomore from the Dallas area.
Carters ability to shoot the three point jumper has helped both him and his team greatly throughout much of this season. He gets the ball off quickly, and has a nice, high-arching shot. On the season, he has hit the three point shot at an unbelievable clip of nearly 50%, making over two attempts per game. Carter has also been improving his ability to shoot on the move. This skill is still developing, but hes hit jumpers off screens and off the dribble with limited success this season. When watching Carter play, its easy to notice how smooth he moves on the basketball court.
Josh Carter will have to make some improvements to his game before he is ready to play in the NBA. Right now he has good size to play the 2 or 3 in the NBA at 67, but his frame lacks any type of real bulk. This often causes him to avoid contact, and he goes down to the floor hard once he does take contact. This also hurts his ability to finish inside, which is one of the weaker parts of his game to begin with. Carter doesnt possess much creativity near the basket either, though he does get a high jumper off pretty easily from inside the paint. He also lacks the ball-handling skills to get to the hoop on a regular basis, but he does a good job of using the pump fake to gain an edge on the dribble drive.
Defensively, Carter will need to work on his focus, and more muscle on his body would help here as well. He doesnt have the greatest lateral quickness in the world, but generally does a good job at using his length to stay in front of his man.
The biggest problem revolving around Carter at this point is his lack of consistency. Even as a stand-still shooter he can go completely cold at times, and he has the tendency to score his points in bursts.
As a sophomore, Carter has a lot of nice tools to work with in terms of being a shooting specialist, but he needs some work on his all-around game and body before he can play in the NBA. Contributing to a Texas A&M run would greatly help his draft stock, but the best thing he can do at this point is show up next season and prove that he can take over the role as the teams go-to option on offense. Hell certainly have a chance to with Acie Law graduating, and well then learn just how serious of a prospect he really is.