Tracking The Four: NBA ProspectingPosted by EJacoby on February 3rd, 2012
Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent & regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.
Fans, writers, and analysts aren’t the only ones watching games these days. As the second half of the conference season heats up, more and more NBA scouts also have their eyes peeled to the college game to track how players perform in big games. During the NCAA Tournament and after the season is typically when you’ll hear NBA talks pertaining to players, but those in tune with the draft already know the relative value of many players. This week’s TT4 Wildcard breaks down which players on our four teams have a shot to play at the next level. There’s plenty of time left for guys’ stock to go up or down, as well. Let’s do some NBA prospecting:
There are no surefire lottery (Top 14) picks on any of our four teams, but there are a couple of players who will make a definite push for consideration:
- Cody Zeller, Indiana – He’s only a freshman, and it seems like a sure bet that the big man will be returning to Indiana next season to improve with an even stronger team. But if he were to declare for this year’s NBA Draft, Zeller would likely go in the top 20 picks. Looking further down the road, the big man should have a great chance at being a lottery pick in the 2013 Draft. NBADraft.net currently has Zeller rated as their 13th best overall college prospect, and they have him slotted as a top five selection in 2013. With a smooth game and rock solid fundamentals on both ends, Zeller has been perhaps the most productive freshman in the country this season, averaging 15 points, 6.3 boards, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks on an outstanding 65.2% field-goal percentage. He should only continue to improve as he gets stronger and more confident.
- Mike Moser, UNLV – Our other player with major intrigue is the Runnin’ Rebels leading man, Moser. A top 50 recruit a couple of years ago, Moser was a quick transfer out of UCLA as a freshman and has stormed onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore this season for UNLV. He’s 6’8” and a freak rebounder with tremendous athleticism — his 11.6 RPG leads the Mountain West and is third in the nation. He also has perimeter skills and range out to the three-point line, hitting 30-87 on three-pointers this season. The combination of strength and skill for an athlete his size has Moser as the #22 overall college prospect at Draft Express. They have him slotted as a top 20 pick in the 2012 Draft, though we’d expect him to come back for another season and have a chance to go even higher in 2013.
First Round Fliers:
The following group of players all have something obvious in common, besides the fact that they could be NBA first-round picks. Take a look:
- Kris Joseph, Syracuse – Once touted as a major wing prospect, Joseph has never taken his game to the next level at Syracuse and remains a bit passive for a senior leader. Still, KrisJo leads a 22-1 team in scoring (13.7 PPG) and has small forward prototype size (6’7”, 215). The fact that he doesn’t take over games is actually something that could potentially work to his advantage, as he’s proven he can work smoothly on the wing without demanding a high volume of offense. While experts are torn on his future, NBADraft.net has him at #28 overall on their big board of all college prospects, and DraftExpress has him as a high second-round pick this year.
- Dion Waiters, Syracuse – There is much more of a consensus on Waiters, who all scouts seem to believe has an NBA game. The sophomore is undersized for a two-guard (6’3.5”) and comes off the bench, but he’s the heart and soul of Syracuse. Waiters is a stone cold guard, showing great confidence and strength on both ends of the floor. He excels defensively at 2.3 steals per game and will be a plus perimeter defender in the league. He’s also incredibly efficient offensively and scores 12.3 PPG on 49% shooting in just 22.5 minutes. He’s cracked the Top 25 of Chad Ford’s Top 100, and Waiters could be a first round pick whenever he declares.
- Fab Melo, Syracuse – Rounding out this group is yet another Orange player. No player in the country has improved his NBA stock from last year to this year perhaps as much as the ‘Cuse big man. Melo is a legitimate seven-foot center and averages 3.0 blocks per game this year as one of the best interior defenders in the nation. He is not a one-on-one offensive player and doesn’t score much outside of lobs and put-backs. But he’s improving exponentially and should be coming back for at least one more season at Syracuse. DraftExpress has him going in the top 20 of their 2013 Mock Draft.
This final group of players is quite talented, but their games do not quite translate as well to the next level. Nonetheless, they are all at least in the databases for scouts and should have NBA Draft dreams. Their stocks could continue to rise. Here’s a look at a few potential second-round sleepers:
- Isaiah Canaan, Murray State – We all know about this mid-major star by now, and now scouts are starting to consider him on an NBA roster. Despite barely cracking 6’0”, Canaan is a good point guard and deadly three-point shooter (48% this year, 47% as a freshman). Recently cracking the end of Chad Ford’s Big Board, here’s what the expert has to say about him: “It’s the intangibles that are keeping the handful of scouts who’ve watched him in person interested. ‘When you walk into the gym, your eyes just sort of go to him,’ one NBA scout said. ‘He’s tough not to spot. I’m not sure what he is or where he fits. But he’s got a lot of heart and an NBA skill.’ ” The leader of the nation’s lone undefeated team continues to make a strong impression on scouts.
- Christian Watford, Indiana – He came in as a top 50 recruit and his steadily produced as a wing forward for Indiana. Watford doesn’t stand out with great athleticism, speed, or shooting ability, but he is a smooth player with a polished mid-range game. At 6’8”, he can get his shot off against nearly anybody, and he’s posted steady numbers hovering around 13.0 PPG and 5.5 RPG throughout his college career. The junior is #88 on DraftExpress’s Top 100, and he could crack the league if he continues to produce offensively and improve his defensive skills.
- Anthony Marshall, UNLV – The Rebels’ go-to guard is having a terrific all-around year at 11.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He’s an athletic guard that came in as a top 100 recruit and has steadily improved throughout his three seasons. The junior is not an early entry candidate and will try to keep improving his stock throughout next season while playing for another talented UNLV team. He cracks DraftExpress’s top 50 college juniors and has room to improve.
- Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse – He’s a freshman on a Top 5 team, so his contributions have been understandably limited this season. Still, Christmas is the Orange’s starting power forward and has flashed explosive athleticism in his 13 minutes per game this season. He’s on everyone’s big boards and will be a player to watch going forward. He’s 6’10” with a 7’2” wingspan, which always has scouts drooling. Despite barely cracking each of our scouting services’ top 100 rankings right now, he has great potential to improve and someday be a bigger prospect.
Disagree with our sentiments? Did we leave anyone out? Wondering why somebody is not on the list? Leave a comment and let us know!