Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East Part Two (#6-10)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East Part Two (#6-10)
Oct 11, 2009, 10:07 pm
Our second look at the prospects in the always interesting Big East features Syracuse's Wesley Johnson, Louisville's Samardo Samuels, Connecticut's Jerome Dyson, Cincinatti's Yancy Gates, and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame.

As a reminder, incoming freshmen have been excluded from this series.

-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big Ten, Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big 12, Part One (#1-5), Part Two (#6-10), Part Three (#11-15)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part One: #1-5), Part Two (#5-10)
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC Part One (#1-5), Part Two, Part Three,
Part Four
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East Part One (#1-5)

#6Wesley Johnson, 6'7, Junior, Small Forward, Syracuse

Jonathan Givony

After an outstanding freshman (06-07) season at Iowa State—which led us to write a lengthy scouting report that we’ll now use as a reference—Wesley Johnson appeared to stagnate in his sophomore (07-08) year, and promptly decided to transfer to Syracuse, where he’ll now be starting his junior season after sitting out all of last year (08-09).

Before we get into the progress the now 22-year old Johnson made between his first two seasons at Iowa State, it should be mentioned that he’s already bounced around far more than normal for a player entering his junior year of college basketball. He initially committed to play at Louisiana Monroe in 2005, but instead opted to go the prep-school route after the coach that recruited him retired. He momentarily elected to head to Lon Morris College (Texas JUCO) but quickly thought better of that, instead picking the Patterson School in North Carolina for about two months, before again transferring to Eldon Academy in Michigan, a school that eventually shut down and left him out in the cold. He eventually committed to Iowa State largely due to the presence of assistant Jean Prioleau (now at TCU), but only stuck around for two years for unknown reasons, deciding to again leave, this time for Syracuse. While this constant nomadic drifting between cities and schools is surely not going to make or break his NBA prospects, it’s definitely something teams will look at when the time is right.

When we last looked at Johnson back in 2007, we marveled at his outstanding physical profile, particularly his terrific size, length and athleticism. Something went wrong after that excellent freshman season, though, as his minutes dropped somewhat, while his shooting percentages plummeted. It appears that Johnson fell in love with his 3-point shot excessively, as half of his attempts came from that range, while his rebounding and blocks dropped by about 50% and his turnovers increased. It’s a pretty safe bet that Johnson was either moved or felt the need to move away from the combo forward position (where he thrived in a Shawn Marion-esqe role) and was reinvented or decided to reinvent himself as more of a swingman. He was also suffering from a nagging foot injury (reportedly a stress fracture) that surely played a role in his struggles, while there was apparently some sort of disagreement between him and the coaching staff regarding the extent that he should be playing on it, which may have led to him transferring.

With a fresh slate at Syracuse, there will be a number of areas to monitor in regards to his development as an NBA prospect. Johnson showed considerable shot-making ability in his last year at Iowa State, looking absolutely deadly coming off screens and making tough jumpers with a hand in his face. The problem is that he got way too caught up with this part of his game, to the point that his shot-selection looked downright awful at times. Johnson is clearly a much better shooter than the 33.3% he shot from beyond the arc in 2007-2008, the question is how much better? His willingness to avoid taking the terribly off-balance contested shots that he became known for as a Cyclone will play a huge role in this.

Secondly, for someone who is as athletic as Johnson is, you wouldn’t always immediately guess that by the way he operates on the court. His rebounding numbers were paltry as a sophomore, and he doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly as much as he should. The reason for that are his mediocre ball-handling skills, which make it extremely difficult for him to get to the rim in half-court situations, particularly using his left hand. His poor decision making shows up here as well, often in the form of ill-advised drives and turnovers.

Defensively, Johnson has the size, length and athleticism to guard multiple positions at both the college and NBA level, but you didn’t always see him applying himself as much as he should. He seems to lack focus at times, and allows himself to get pushed around a bit too easily, as he appears to lack both bulk and some toughness to help get the job done. Regardless, Johnson has great potential in this area due to his excellent physical tools, and could develop into a very good defender in time with some good coaching, a better mentality, and more experience. We might have to wait a few years to get a better read on this, though, since he’ll be stuck playing in Syracuse’s ultra-conservative 2-3 zone defense for the time being.

Johnson is getting quite a bit of attention in the lead-up to the college basketball season, as Syracuse’s coaching staff has been pumping him up in a major way to the national media. With Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf all decided to leave the team early for the professional ranks, the Orange will need Johnson to have a big year if they’re to hold their own in the tough Big East.

#7 Samardo Samuels, 6’8, Sophomore, Power Forward, Louisville

Joseph Treutlein

A prized top five recruit out of high school, Samardo Samuels had a pretty good freshman season in terms of how he contributed for Louisville, but his performance was more of a mixed bag from an NBA perspective. At 6’8, Samuels is undersized for a power forward, but the bigger problems are that his skill set is much more suited to play center and he’s a below average athlete for either position. While very coordinated and mobile, and also possessing decent quickness, Samuels really lacks vertical explosiveness, especially when he doesn’t have a running start or time to gather himself.

In terms of skills, Samuels is an extremely smart and highly efficient back-to-the-basket player, using his low center of gravity and great lower body strength to consistently establish deep post position, either pinning his man under the basket or getting inside of him and blocking him out. Once he gets the ball, Samuels shows good awareness and always goes for the highest percentage shot, usually a right-handed layup, dunk, or short-range right-handed hook shot. His footwork in the post is excellent, mixing in a rangy dropstep in addition to his mostly simple, compact repertoire. While Samuels shows a propensity for finishing through contact, problems arise when he’s matched with taller players and/or ones who can match him in strength, where his limitations become very evident. With his lack of size and inability to explode up from awkward positions, Samuels has problems finishing against taller opponents, and making matters worse, his touch outside of five feet is not good at all, as he’s prone to missing hook shots by feet rather than inches.

Moving further away from the basket, while Samuels shows flashes of ball-handling ability and mobility with the ball, his face-up game is troublesome, as he doesn’t show near the same awareness or control as he does in his post-up game. Samuels is frequently out of control on his forays to the basket, leading to many turnovers, offensive fouls, and low percentage shot attempts. His jump shot, while showing the foundation of good shooting form, is also a sore spot, as he is very sloppy with his release, never holding his follow through and not showing much consistency with his motion. This translates somewhat to the free throw line, where he shot a solid yet still improvable 67%.

In addition to his post game, Samuels does bring another worthwhile asset to the table on the offensive end, as he has an absolutely relentless motor on this side of the court, something that shows most noticeably in his offensive rebounding. Samuels does a good job reading balls off the rim and takes advantage of his strength and mobility by frequently out-maneuvering and out-pursuing the opposition to pull down boards in a crowd.

Defensively, it’s a different story in regards to Samuels’ athleticism, as his lack of vertical explosiveness doesn’t hurt him much, while his mobility and solid lateral quickness help him greatly. In the post, Samuels holds good position using his strength and shows good reflexes in man-to-man defense, moving well laterally and playing aggressive while keeping his hands up to contest shots. As the center in Louisville’s zone, he doesn’t get much work on the perimeter, rarely being tested in isolations or pick-and-rolls, but his lateral quickness carries over to some of the short face-up drives he gets to contest.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for Samuels on the defensive end, as contrary to his offensive rebounding prowess, Samuels is a very poor defensive rebounder, averaging just 3.6 per-40 minutes pace adjusted. In addition to that, Samuels is also very foul prone, averaging 4.6 fouls per-40 minutes pace adjusted, something which holds down his minutes at times. In projecting him to the next level, there are some concerns about his size and if players will be able to shoot over him, but he uses his strength in combination with outstretched hands to counter this, so he should be able to compensate for it somewhat.

Looking forward, Samuels clearly has a lot of work to do before he starts thinking about heading to the NBA, and while there are many red flags now, there is certainly hope in the future. If Samuels can develop his perimeter jumper and carry over the motor he shows on the offensive glass to the defensive glass, he will have a few things teams could find attractive, even if his post game doesn’t translate. The biggest problem for Samuels is that the things his college team needs him to do are very different than what he needs to develop to improve his NBA prospects, so finding a balance will be key.

#8 Yancy Gates, 6'9, Sophomore, Power Forward, Cincinnati

Scott Nadler

There is much to be optimistic about for the Cincinnati Bearcats this season. They landed one of the most talented (and controversial) recruits in the nation in Lance Stephenson, have a healthy Cashmere Wright returning from injury, and are coming off a very solid season in arguably the toughest conference in the country. With all of that said, much of the preseason hype surrounding this team revolves around the potential of sophomore power forward, Yancy Gates; and rightfully so.

Gates earned All-Rookie team honors in the Big East last season after averaging 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 23 minutes of play. At 6’9, with a chiseled frame, Gates is a physical specimen and has a great presence on the court. He’s an imposing figure and showed flashes of dominance in the paint. He’s also athletic and moves very well, showing good footwork around the basket and a willingness to run the floor –all of the ingredients anyone could ask for in a big man.

On the other hand, Gates has a tendency to blend in on occasion, failing to assert himself or holding back a bit and deferring to his teammates, which is common of most freshmen. The way he began his games would be telling to how his performance would end up –with good starts resulting in big numbers and poor starts resulting in average outings. Maintaining a certain level of consistency will be important for Gates this season.

It will also be crucial for Gates to continue to build on his prowess as a rebounder. Gates averaged 10.6 rebounds per-40 pace adjusted last season and even more impressive was his offensive rebounding production, where he averaged 4.9 per-40 minutes pace adjusted –ranking him 9th in our database. He has big, soft hands, is not afraid to throw his weight around and rebounds well in traffic. With all of these factors going for him, Gates could be even better if he plays with reckless abandon and more aggressiveness.

Similarly, Gates’ ability to score, especially in the painted area, will depend on his forcefulness. He is a very difficult player to stop at the college level considering his strength advantage, averaging 18.4 point per-40 minutes pace adjusted. In addition, he possesses solid fundamentals and good habits around the basket. He rarely brings the ball below his chest, displays great patience, utilizes his pivot foot to establish better position, and has no wasted motion. Consequently, he scores around the basket at an outstanding 66.2% clip and is ranked 23rd in our database in field goals per-40 minutes pace adjusted with 7.9.

In the post, however, he still has room to grow. Even though he does a good job at getting position, he seems unsure on occasion of what he should do. Developing a go-to move, something he currently doesn’t have, would eliminate that problem. Furthermore, Gates tends to settle for turnarounds too often and fades away from the defense, even against smaller players, which is why he only shoots 2.6 free throws a game. Improving his left hand would also benefit him greatly and enable him to power up on either block.

Away from the basket, Gates showed glimpses of an outside touch, shooting with as much as 18 foot range. He has a good shooting stroke with average release speed and a high release point. His success rate is significantly increased when he holds his follow through, as opposed to quickly flicking his wrist and bringing it back, which suggests a rushed approach and a lack of confidence. If he can consistently knock down outside shots, something he showed great flashes of in high school, he will be that much tougher to defend.

Speaking of defense, Gates struggled as a post defender. He allows his man to catch the ball too easily due to his tendency to play behind his matchup as opposed to 3 quartering the post to deny the entry. He’s undisciplined at this stage, jumping and leaning on ball fakes which put him off balance. He also loses focus sometimes –leaving him a step behind and on second late on help situations. He did a better job on the perimeter, showing good lateral speed for his size and the commitment to challenge all shots with his long wingspan.

Gates has all the tools to be a solid player, now it is up to him to decide how good he wants to be. There have been some question marks in the past about some red flags that may hold him back. If he can put it all together this season, the Bearcats should be a factor in the Big East and NCAA tournament bound.

#9 Luke Harangody, 6-8, Power Forward, Senior, Notre Dame

Joey Whelan

Notre Dame senior Luke Harangody has been broken down several times on this site during his three seasons in South Bend. The bruising power forward went from unheralded recruit to an All-American in his meteoric rise during his sophomore season and is the most productive returning player in college basketball this year. His game has been called many things, ranging from unorthodox to unusual, but no one can deny the hustle and tenacity with which he plays. This biggest knocks against Harangody have always been his lack of size and athleticism to play at the next level; his game simply doesn’t appear to translate to the NBA on first glance. While the stocky power forward will never be confused with an elite physical specimen, we may be seeing a different player once the season gets underway in November.

As we reported at the end of May, Harangody dropped a good amount of weight and was in the best shape he has ever been since bursting onto the scene. This was a result of the extra work he put in while preparing for the possibility of keeping his name in the NBA Draft. It will be interesting to see if he has managed to improve his level of fitness in the months since we were last able to observe him in action.

Harangody’s game has stayed consistent throughout his college career, spending close to half of his time getting touches in the post. Despite shooting a respectable 46 percent from the floor, the senior is only an average finisher when operating on the block, connecting on just 37 percent of his shots in these situations. Since he doesn’t elevate well at all, Harangody has been forced to develop other facets of his post game in order to be successful. He does an excellent job of using his body to establish position and create space, also showing a soft touch around the rim. The only real consistent move his arsenal features is an unorthodox turnaround jumper that he gets to fall with some regularity.

It is interesting to note that Harangody is an excellent finisher on other shot types in the lane, mainly moving without the basketball and offensive rebounds. This is one of the major reasons NBA scouts are concerned about his game at the professional level, given that he already struggles a fair amount against collegiate post defenders, many of whom are far below the caliber of athlete he will see in the League. Still, it’s hard not to like his ability to finish with contact and get to the line at a very high rate.

What should be most interesting to observe this season is the continued development of the forward’s ability to shoot from the perimeter. Last season Harangody shot a respectable 37 percent on just over one shot attempt per game from beyond the arc. His form is tremendously awkward and he gets little to no lift off the ground when he releases, but the end results are hard to argue with. When DraftExpress dropped in on one of his pre-draft workouts in May, Harangody was repeatedly connecting on shots from beyond the NBA three-point line, suggesting that he has put in more effort to extending his range. Being able to step out and shoot even just a couple of times per game this season could see the senior become even more of a prolific scorer incredibly enough.

If Harangody comes in in better shape that will most certainly help him at both ends of the floor. He has shown the ability to occasionally attack the basket off the dribble against slower defenders, though he will never be a huge threat in this sense. Defensively, his limited lateral quickness hurts him when he is forced away from the paint, especially on pick and roll situations. Of course, his lack of size hurts against taller opponents who can simply shoot over the top of him.

In the long run, Harangody will never be a prospect who will be talked about as a lottery prospect because of his physical limitations and lack of size. With that said, he is one of the most productive players at the college level in the last few seasons and he is doing it in one of the best conferences – that is hard to overlook. Harangody is a guy who at the end of the day just finds a way to get it done, even if it isn’t always pretty. Many of the same things that were said about Tyler Hansbrough last year are now being said about Harangody, so history tells us that we shouldn’t be too quick to rule players like him out.

#10 Jerome Dyson, 6'4, Senior, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Connecticut

Kyle Nelson

Jerome Dyson has had his share of trials and tribulations since arriving at the University of Connecticut. The 6’4 shooting guard was suspended indefinitely during his sophomore year and tore his lateral meniscus last season. Before his injury, Dyson was playing solid basketball and was oftentimes a top option on an NCAA-contending team that graduated two players to the NBA. That said, however, he displayed many limitations, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. With just one season left in Storrs, Dyson must expand his game significantly while helping Connecticut win games if he wants a shot at getting drafted.

Standing somewhere between 6’3 and 6’4, Dyson does not have the greatest size or strength for the shooting guard position at the next level, though he does have above-average length. Dyson does not stand out physically given his position and style of play, which is an obstacle that he will have to overcome at the next level. He is a solid athlete, however, with excellent quickness in the open floor and decent explosiveness around the basket.

On the offensive end, Dyson has improved since his freshman season, but is still primarily a slash-and-shoot player and quite limited in terms of what he can offer a team at the next level. He has a quick first step that allows him to beat his man and attack the basket at this level. What slows him down, however, is his mediocre ball handling ability, particularly with his left hand. Improving in this area would make him a far more effective slasher and would help him to better utilize his athleticism. Once at the rim, he shows solid body control and explosiveness, which allow him to be a decent finisher. As evidenced by his sub-par 43% two-point field-goal percentage, he is not a particularly efficient scorer and he does not finish well with contact or when guarded.

While transition and isolation opportunities combine to represent a good chunk of his overall possessions, a decent amount of his possessions come from spot-up jump shots. He is not a great shooter at this point in time, however, converting on just under 35% of his 3-pointers on a single make per game, while showing fundamentals that could use serious work. Despite his athleticism, Dyson gets very little lift on his jumper, which, combined with his slow release and a form that finds him often taking shots with his elbows askew, make his shot easy to contest at this level and contribute to his inefficient shooting percentages. For Dyson to develop into an effective shooter while playing against bigger and more athletic wing players at the next level, he must work on his form to develop a more efficient shooting stroke. Such improvement is easier said than done, however, and if Dyson cannot prove to scouts that he can hit spot-up jump shots at an acceptable clip, then he will have a hard time convincing anybody that he is an NBA player.

He does not make the best decisions, either, driving both relentlessly and recklessly to the basket while not looking to defer to his teammates nearly enough. Though Dyson averaged 3.2 assists per game and 4.1 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted, he is not a point guard and is clearly focused on creating scoring opportunities for himself inside and outside of the flow of Connecticut’s offense, rather than looking to set up his teammates.

On the defensive end, Dyson is considered to be one of the premier perimeter players in the Big East. Watching him play, however, reveals that while he certainly is a good college perimeter defender, he has a lot of work to do before he can be considered a stopper at the next level. Dyson’s quick hands and high-energy style allow him to harass his man on the perimeter, where he is his most effective. He has fairly good lateral quickness, which allows him to be a versatile defender at the collegiate level, guarding all three perimeter positions at times. This may not be the case at the next level, as his size will likely render him a shooting guard only. While he bites for too many pump fakes and sometimes loses focus, there is no doubt that when Dyson is dedicated to playing strong man-to-man defense, he can be very effective. Improving his overall fundamentals, such as maintaining his stance and not running under screens, as well as his consistency is important, as well.

Dyson’s lack of ideal height and strength, as well as his raw offensive game, are significant obstacles considering his potential at the next level. Next season is his last chance to show scouts that he can be a versatile perimeter threat in college. This won’t be easy and Dyson is stepping into a Connecticut rotation with many NBA prospects, but short on veteran leadership. Coming off of a knee injury surely does not help, either. Dyson must continue to assert himself on both ends of the floor and incorporate new moves into his offensive repertoire. If he continues to improve while helping Connecticut win games, then scouts will consider him to be a legitimate NBA prospect.

Recent articles

8.2 Points
3.4 Rebounds
1.7 Assists
19.0 PER
6.5 Points
3.2 Rebounds
0.8 Assists
17.1 PER
5.7 Points
2.3 Rebounds
3.3 Assists
0.8 PER
9.4 Points
5.5 Rebounds
0.6 Assists
18.3 PER
8.8 Points
4.6 Rebounds
0.8 Assists
15.0 PER
5.2 Points
4.2 Rebounds
1.0 Assists
10.1 PER
6.5 Points
3.5 Rebounds
2.5 Assists
6.0 PER
17.6 Points
12.0 Rebounds
4.6 Assists
23.7 PER
4.8 Points
2.0 Rebounds
0.6 Assists
12.2 PER
9.4 Points
7.9 Rebounds
1.0 Assists
9.7 PER
14.1 Points
6.6 Rebounds
4.6 Assists
15.5 PER
0.0 Points
0.0 Rebounds
0.0 Assists
0.0 PER

Twitter @DraftExpress

DraftExpress Shop