Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Five (#21-25)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Five (#21-25)
Oct 27, 2010, 08:02 pm
Wrapping up our coverage of the top returning prospects in the ACC, we profile Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, Jerai Grant of Clemson, North Carolina State's Tracy Smith, Larry Drew of North Carolina, and C.J. Harris of Wake Forest.

Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we come to any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 10 NBA Prospects in the Pac-10
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the SEC

-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the Big East

Top NBA Prospects in the ACC Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

#1 Mason Plumlee
#2 Chris Singleton
#3 John Henson
#4 Kyle Singler
#5 Nolan Smith
#6 Tyler Zeller
#7 Xavier Gibson
#8 Iman Shumpert
#9 Ari Stewart
#10 Durand Scott
#11 Andre Dawkins
#12 Mfon Udofia
#13 Seth Curry
#14 Michael Snaer
#15 Dexter Strickland
#16 Miles Plumlee
#17 Jordan Williams
#18 DeQuan Jones
#19 Milton Jennings
#20 Leslie McDonald

#21 Malcolm Delaney, 6'3, Senior, Guard, Virginia Tech
20.2 Points, 4.5 Assists, 3.0 Turnovers, 3.7 Rebounds, 1.2 Steals, 38.7% FG, 30.6% 3P, 84.2% FT

Arguably the most dynamic scorer in the ACC last season, Malcolm Delaney withdrew his name from the NBA Draft after discovering that he wasn't a likely first round pick. A known commodity with clearly defined weaknesses, the senior could improve his stock if he can show progress in some key areas and lead his team deep in the NCAA Tournament.

Delaney's weaknesses as a prospect are rooted in the ambiguity regarding his position at the next level. Standing just 6'3, Delaney is undersized for a NBA shooting guard, and while he has great quickness, he isn't a great leaper and needs to get stronger. Couple his physical profile with the fact that he uses his quickness to score more frequently than he does to pass and his sometimes questionable shot selection, and it is safe to say that anything Delaney shows as a floor general this season on top of what we've seen from him in the past will improve his stock.

Though Delaney is known on the national scene for his scoring prowess, he flashes some playmaking ability. He can get into the lane and draw addition defenders seamlessly off the dribble with his excellent first step. However, needs to do improve his left hand and do a better job of identifying when to give the ball up and when to keep it –a tall order for a player who is naturally looking to score . Any time Delaney spends orchestrating Virginia Tech's offense this coming season will bode well for his future, as the experience he gains should aid him when he attempts to prove the he can assume the role of primary ball-handler on the next level.

In addition to his passing ability, it would be nice to see Delaney improve his offensive efficiency on the whole. Though it is his aggressive nature that allows him to light up the scoreboard against the NCAA's best, he's prone to force a few guarded jumpers from the perimeter every game and doesn't finish at the rim at a very good rate. He dones compensate for both of those limitations by getting to the line as much as anyone, but according to Synergy Sports Technology, he made just 35.3% of his jump shots last season and only finished 35.9% of his chances at the rim.

Virginia Tech's heavy reliance on Delaney to create for himself and carry his team through one of the toughest conferences in college basketball certainly plays into his lack of efficiency, but the guard does make some questionable decisions at times –especially in the half court. A polarizing figure in the Hokie offense, Delaney's is asked to do a lot for his team, and ability to improve his consistency as a jump shooter and strike a balance between shot selection and passing will be a big part of his team's success.

Defensively, Delaney's quickness is an asset to him, as it gives him the ability to be a disruption in the passing lanes and deny penetration with some consistency. Displaying excellent anticipation when going for steals, Delaney is a solid on ball defender when he focused, but takes a few too many risks in pressuring the ball up near half court and reaching for steals. He'll need to add some muscle to his frame to improve his defensive potential at the next level and struggles to recover when he's beat, but has some useful tools should he get the chance to defend point guards at the next level.

Though Delaney may never be one to make the extra pass out on the perimeter, he'll need to become a more proficient floor general and perimeter shooter to compensate for the athletic shortcomings that will make it difficult for him to finish around the basket at the next level. There's no questioning Delaney's slashing ability and knack for getting to the line, but the rest of his game will be under the microscope this season.

Jerai Grant, 6'8, Senior, Power Forward/Center, Clemson
7.2 Points, 4.7 Rebounds, 1.7 Blocks, 1.2 Turnovers, 63.2% FG, 59.3% FT

Matthew Williams

Having seen limited playing time over his three year career at Clemson, Jerai Grant returns for his senior season with a golden opportunity to earn minutes and showcase his talents in the ACC. A gifted athlete, Grant has a NBA pedigree. Both his father, Harvey, and uncle, Horace, enjoyed long pro careers. Though Grant hasn't posted big numbers or shown much versatility, he has some NBA tools and could emerge as a prospect with a strong senior season.

Grant's biggest asset is his tremendous leaping ability. A very solid all-around athlete, who like most collegiate power forwards, could stand to continue improving his frame, Grant is extremely bouncy in the paint, looking to dunk anything and everything around the basket. He's a touch undersized for a power forward in the NBA, but has long arms and plays with intensity.

Though Grant would be a fine fit athletically as a power forward spot on the next level, his offense game resembles that of a center and he hasn't shown much in the way of a one-on-one arsenal or midrange skills in his NCAA career so far. With virtually all of his scoring opportunities coming within the immediate vicinity of the rim, Grant uses his leaping ability to finish easy opportunities on cuts and from offensive rebounds. Ranking in the top-20 in offensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, Grant is primarily a hustle player, though he gets an occasional touch in the post.

When he isn't simply dunking the ball at the rim, Grant relies on simple catch and finish moves to score. Looking to establish deep position and seal his man once he receives a post entry pass, Grant flourished in a limited role last season, ranking in the top-25 in our database in true shooting. While Grant is very efficient at what he does in a limited usage role, he has to develop his midrange shot to open up his offensive game on the level. He took only a couple of jumpers last season, and his poor free throw showing is indicative of the progress he needs to make. Though there's something to be said for Grant to play within his limitations, he'll need to hone his skills and improve the polish on his post repertoire to maximize his potential offensively.

Defensively, Grant does a good job of maintaining his position inside and using his leaping ability to contest shots around the basket. An effective defender in the post on the college level, Grant needs to continue getting stronger to improve his NBA potential. His biggest downfall is his lack of discipline when faked, as he struggles not to leave the floor. Considering how many minutes he could gain from staying out of foul trouble, he'll need to do a better job defensively to ensure he gets the touches he'll need to develop his one-on-one skills offensively.

Considering how Grant almost never created his own shot last season off the dribble or with advanced post moves last season, it will be interesting to see if he emerges as a scoring option or if he stagnates as a roleplayer or undersized center as a senior. Either way, he provides some intrigue, but has a ways to go to legitimize his draft stock. A good candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Grant is worth keeping tabs on as he is a great athlete as has an opportunity to assume a bigger role offensively for the first time in his career.

#23 Tracy Smith, 6'6', Power Forward, Senior, North Carolina State
16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 52% FG, 65% FT

Joseph Treutlein

Steadily improving his game over the past three years, Tracy Smith has developed into a very productive player against the toughest competition in the country in the ACC, though there are questions about how his game will translate to the professional level.

Standing 6'8 with decent length, Smith is a power forward through and through, though certainly undersized for the position projecting to the NBA. While he isn't the most powerful or explosive player, he is a good athlete overall, possessing very good quickness and reactiveness along with high levels of coordination and mobility.

On the offensive end, virtually all of Smith's game comes within 10 feet of the basket, as he possesses virtually no perimeter skills aside from an occasional turn-in, face-up drive from the mid-to-high post. He doesn't have much in the form of a jump shot, rarely if ever taking a shot from beyond 15 feet, though this is certainly something he'll want to develop to have a chance in the NBA given the question marks about how the rest of his game will translate.

Operating with his back to the basket, Smith has a very large arsenal of moves, having turnaround jumpers off either shoulder, a nice right-handed hook shot, the ability to occasionally finish with his left hand, and a nice ability to create separation on all of his moves with rangy footwork. He has good instincts in the post to go along with toughness and an ability to finish through contact, though his touch is inconsistent and his accuracy falls off considerably outside of 5 feet. Beyond that, he shows major problems finishing over NBA-caliber defenders, not doing well against taller, stronger, longer opponents with either his finesse or power game. Because his post game accounts for nearly all of his offense at this level, this is extremely concerning projecting to the pros.

Smith is also a capable finisher on cuts, pick-and-rolls, and offensive rebounds, showing a high activity level and a good second bounce, but he's definitely more comfortable operating on than off the ball at this stage of his development, and his lack of elite physical attributes or rebounding ability make it tough to see him developing into the type of player whose game revolves around this at the next level.

Defensively, Smith shows a very good fundamental base in the post along with a good basketball IQ as well, doing a good job moving his feet and understanding how to compensate for his size in other ways, using a forearm to get into bigger opponents and keeping his arms outstretched to make shots against him as difficult as possible. Still, he is highly prone to being scored upon by bigger, stronger opponents, just not having the strength or length to match up. On the perimeter, his fundamental base is much weaker and he looks very uncomfortable at times, rarely being put into the situation, though he does seem to have the raw foot speed to develop into a better defender there in time. On the boards, Smith doesn't put up the kind of numbers a player with his physical profile needs to from an NBA perspective, and getting better in that area needs to be one of his priorities.

Looking ahead, Smith is probably on the outside looking in in terms of getting drafted unless he can make significant progress in some of the weaker areas of his game, namely rebounding and showing a perimeter jump shot. Without elite physical attributes and not having much outside of his low-post game, which is just good not great in its own right, it's going to be an uphill climb for him to make it in the NBA, but he should get opportunities in summer league and should be a productive overseas player regardless.

#24 Larry Drew, 6-0, Junior, Point Guard, North Carolina
8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.2 turnovers, .8 steals, 41% FG, 61% FT, 35%3P

Walker Beeken

The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off of a disappointing 20-17 season in 2009-2010, but they have high hopes to return to glory this season with a young, talented roster. At the point guard position, the Tar Heels return junior Larry Drew, who had an inconsistent sophomore season as the starter, averaging nearly 29 minutes per game. He'll have some competition this season if he plays poorly though, with freshman Kendall Marshall and sophomore combo guard Dexter Strickland both capable of picking up the slack.

Drew is a pass-first point guard who should be helped tremendously this season with the arrivals of freshmen Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock on the wings, as well as the development of big men John Henson and Tyler Zeller, all of whom should make Drew's job as a distributor much easier. Drew's ability to run the team and get his teammates involved was highlighted by the fact that he led all players in our database in assists per forty minutes last season, averaging an impressive 8.3. Though he had his fair share of turnovers and lapses in decision-making as well, he still managed to have a solid 1.83 to 1 assist to turnover ratio and 2.37 pure point rating. With the new additions likely giving the Tar Heels a more potent offense, Drew has the opportunity to really shine this season and demonstrate his court vision and abilities as floor general. He has good speed with the ball in his hands in the open court, and he does a nice job changing speeds and directions as a ball-handler.

As a shooter, Drew improved quite a bit from his freshman to sophomore season, but he still has quite a bit of work to do. He increased his free throw percentage from a miserable 41% as a freshman to 61% as a sophomore, which is still very poor for a point guard. The strides he made as a 3 point shooter were encouraging though, going from 23% as a freshman to 35% last season, while also increasing his attempts.

At this stage though, Drew doesn't appear to have much of a mid-range game at all, and his lack of elevation, size, and strength prevents him finishing at the rim with much effectiveness, as shown by the fact that he connected on only 43% of his field goal attempts in the basket area. Becoming more reliable on mid-range jumpers off the dribble and establishing a teardrop shot in the lane would really enhance Drew's game on the offensive end, as he was pretty inefficient last season for the most part.

Physically, Drew is fairly limited, as he's a bit on the small side at 6'0” with a slender build. He has good lateral quickness on the defensive end though, allowing him to pressure the ball keep his man in front of him, but his lack of size and strength prevents him from effectively challenging some jumpers and hurts him in the paint on dribble penetration against bigger guards.

Drew has shown that he can distribute the basketball and run a team, but with his physical limitations, he'll likely need to improve as a shooter and become more of a scoring threat in order to boost his draft stock. He has two more seasons at Chapel Hill, and running the point with the talent he has surrounding him should give him every opportunity to showcase his game for NBA scouts.

#25 C.J. Harris, 6-2, Sophomore, Guard, Wake Forest
9.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 0.9, steals 38.5% FG, 32.4% 3FG, 83.1% FT

Kyle Nelson

Wake Forest is one of the ACC's least experienced teams and the Demon Deacons will have little success without sophomore combo-guard C.J. Harris. Harris exceeded expectations as a freshman where he was named a member of the ACC All Rookie Team despite coming onto campus as an unheralded local prospect. Continued improvement will not be easy during his sophomore season, however, as he must transition to point guard and assume more offensive responsibilities.

Even before he touches a basketball, Harris's legitimacy as a prospect is questionable from a physical perspective. Though at 6'2, Harris has good size and length for a point guard, he is an undersized shooting guard at this stage and lacks the strength to compensate. He is just an average athlete, however, and, though he has solid speed in the open floor, he is not an explosive player around the basket.

While there is much talk of a pending transition to the point guard position, Harris was a shooting guard as a freshman and was not a particularly high usage player. He accounted for just 12% of his team's offensive possessions and 66% of his touches came in transition or from spotting up around the perimeter. He attempted 4.7 three point per 40 minutes pace adjusted and he made just 32.4%. While his mechanics are good and he has a quick release, he is a very streaky shooter whose effectiveness visibly flagged with fatigue. It is essential that Harris must become more consistent as a sophomore as a more reliant jump shot would open up his game considerably.

Inside of the arc, he shot just 44.8% and was neither effective nor efficient. Even though he is a crafty player with solid body control, his below-average first step and shaky handle limit his effectiveness as a slasher. His lack of explosiveness hinders him, as he struggles to score over defenders around the basket and lacks the touch to compensate. His mediocre ball handling abilities also limit his a mid-range game at this point.

Ultimately, however, the most significant question following Harris into the 2010-2011 season is whether or not he is a point guard. He averaged just 1.2 assists per game versus 1.6 turnovers as a freshman. He struggled with tunnel vision off of the dribble and he rarely had opportunities to run the pick and roll. He also must improve his handles significantly. He did made good decisions in transition however, and, though he was asked to score first last season, he even made some nice passes off of the dribble. Whether or not he can capably running Coach Jeff Bzdelik's offense is unknown, but he seems to possess solid instincts that suggest that he can potentially make the transition.

Harris is a very good defender, however, though his lack of size and strength could limit his potential at the next level. He has good lateral quickness, energy, and focus, which combined with his length, help him stay in front of all but the quickest and most athletic point guards and shooting guards at the collegiate level. He is also solid defending the pick and roll, though he sometimes struggles to run through picks due to his lack of strength.

While Harris is almost certainly a four-year college player, there is still a chance that he develops into a prospect. At this point, however, there are simply too many questions regarding whether he can make the transition to the point guard position. Similarly, while he is a good collegiate defender, will he continue to develop offensively and physically while improving his limited skill set? Harris will have plenty of opportunities and possessions to prove himself as a sophomore and if he can help a depleted Wake Forest team win games, then scouts will notice.

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