Computers vs. Scouts

With 16 days left before the draft, teams are busily working out prospects, haggling with agents and breaking down game tape. Could there be an easier way? Last week we were talking about computer rating systems that purport to identify the best draft prospects, without the messy work of actually watching games, administering brain profile tests and trekking through rundown former Soviet airports.  The two systems that have garnered the most attention were designed by Erich Doerr, a David Berri disciple, and ESPN’s John Hollinger. A good summation and explanation of the systems was posted here last year:

 http://www.knickerblogger.net/index.php/2007/06/26/draft-analysis-by-the-numbers/

The short version: Doerr’s “PAWS” (Pace-Adjusted Win Score) rating looks solely at college game statistics, ranking players using Berri’s winscore metric. He adjusts for strength of schedule (40 points against Kansas means more than 40 points against Helen Keller). Doerr’s posts are not easy reading, but it appears he simply takes the best-ranked players and assumes that those are the best NBA prospects.  

Hollinger starts with a similar approach, using his PER (Player Efficiency Rating), calculated with college game statistics.  Unlike Doerr, he makes a number of adjustments.  In essence, this puts Hollinger closer to mainstream draft gurus. He finds that players who are tall for their position tend to do better in the pros. He also finds that certain statistics – like steals – are specific markers of athleticism. Unlike Doerr, Hollinger also takes age into account. An 18-year-old prospect with the same numbers as a 22-year-old prospect (or even a 19-year-old) gets a significantly higher rating.

Even the creators of these systems would say that they are only a tool, and very much a work-in-progress.  A smart drafter might use them to identify promising players to whom he or she hadn’t paid much attention, or to raise red flags about prominent players who might be overrated.  Here’s a comparison of what the Hollinger & Doerr computers spit out last year, along with the actual draft order.  Since both systems rate only college players, for the sake of side-by-side comparison I left Yi Jianlan and Marco Belinelli off the actual draft list.  That’s right, these methods won’t tell you who’s tearing up the Italian League, or whether OJ Mayo’s high school career was more impressive than that of LeBron James.

Oh, and Nick Fazekas? He only played 269 minutes as a rookie, but per 40 minutes he scored 15.9 points and had 13.2 rebounds, along with a TS% of 58.2 and a rebound rate better than David Lee or Zach Randolph.

     Hollinger                                           Doerr                              Actual 2007 Draft

1. Kevin Durant                                  Nick Fazekas                       Greg Oden

2. Greg Oden                                     Kevin Durant                        Kevin Durant         

3. Mike Conley, Jr.                             Al Horford                            Al Horford

4. Thaddeus Young                           Greg Oden                            Mike Conley, Jr.

5. Brandan Wright                             Joakim Noah                          Jeff Green

6. Al Horford                                     Jared Dudley                         Corey Brewer

7. Nick Fazekas                                 Jason Smith                           Brandan Wright

8. Josh McRoberts                             Morris Almond                       Joakim Noah

9. Rodney Stuckey                             Julian Wright                         Spencer Hawes

10. Jared Dudley                                Brandan Wright                     Acie Law, IV

11. Joakim Noah                                Rodney Stuckey                    Thaddeus Young

12. Glen Davis                                   Al Thornton                           Julian Wright

13. Sean Williams                               Mike Conley, Jr.                    Al Thornton

14. Jeff Green                                     Glen Davis                            Rodney Stuckey

15. Kyle Visser                                   Daequan Cook                      Nick Young

16. Herbert Hill                                  Marcus Williams                    Sean Williams

17. Javaris Crittenden                         Jeff Green                             Javaris Crittendon

18. Wilson Chandler                            Sean Williams                      Jason Smith

19. Julian Wright                                 Corey Brewer                        Daequan Cook

20. Daquean Cook                              Derrick Byars                        Jared Dudley

 

 

Draft Analysis By The Numbers

With the 2007 NBA draft almost upon us, there’s plenty of resources around the web for those craving more information regarding the draft. However I’ve stumbled across three that I thought were particularly interesting. The one thing all of these resources have in common is that they offer a statistical look at predicting incoming NBA players. For some time baseball fans have had a good amount of knowledge on what makes a good professional. College pitchers generally fared better than high schoolers. Minor league pitchers that had a good BB:K and HR:K ratios were more likely to succeed than those who didn’t. In the NFL, footballoutsiders discovered that drafted college QBs who had the most starts and the highest completion percentage did better than the rest of the field.

The first is probably the least well known. HoopsAnalyst has run a 4 part series (hopefully to be a 5 part series) on what stats are most important for aspiring professionals. Ed Weiland has unearthed a few interesting gems. Scoring quantity for shooting guards is more important that scoring efficiency. Also important for shooting guards is those that do better in “athletic” stats (per minute rebounds, steals, and blocks). The reasoning is that players who aren’t physically gifted enough don’t do well at the next level (Shawn Respert, Trajan Langdon, Jarvis Hayes and Reece Gaines). Weiland lumps together college players and international ones. Other than Oden & Durant, Weiland sees a bright future for Horford, Noah, Rudy Fernandez, Wright, and Green.

Next is the WoW Journal, with guest writer Erich Doerr. In his approach, Doerr attempts to apply Berri’s Win Score method to the amateur players. Using this method, the sleepers of the draft appear to be Nick Fazekas, Stephane Lasme, and Rashad Jones-Jennings from the college ranks and Jianlian Yi, Marco Belinelli, Luka Bogdanovic, Jonas Maciulis, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Mirza Begic from the international ranks.

Last but not least, John Hollinger has published his method for digging up potential prospects. Hollinger concentrates on college players and adjusts for both strength of schedule and pace. Like Weiland, Hollinger finds such “athletic” stats as steals, blocks, and rebounds to coincide with future success. His system also adds age, three point shooting, height, and passing (ppr). Good news for (probably) Seattle fans: Durant looks to be the best prospect of this decade. Thaddeus Young, who both Wieland and Doerr are lukewarm on, makes Hollinger’s top 5, along with Oden, Conley, and Wright.

While all three methods don’t always agree, there are a few players that there is a consensus on. Oden and Durant are the obvious examples, but also Brandan Wright, Al Horford, Nick Fazekas, and Joakim Noah on the positive side, and Acie Law, Corey Brewer, and Nick Young on the negative side. But more importantly, it’s great to see that there are a few different people looking into projecting future stars. I guess only time will tell if any of these systems bear fruit.

[NOTE: Apologies to Bret at Hoopinion, who also took a statistical look at this year’s draft class as well. At this moment there are 10 articles posted, with some good tidbits there.]

Draft Prospects, Part III

If you missed Parts I & II highlighting PGs and SGs/SFs respectively who may be on the Knicks? radar screen during this upcoming draft click here for Part I and here for Part II.

I?ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats and profiles come largely from draftexpress.net and nbadraft.net.

The Knicks got very good offensive production from their power players this season. The tandem of Eddy Curry and David Lee were both in the top 15 in true shooting %, one of only three such tandems in the league (Nash/Stoudemire and Dampier/Nowitzki were the others). Curry managed to keep himself on the court long enough to shoot his customarily high percentage while David Lee emerged as one of the league’s elite rebounders. Unfortunately, Channing Frye’s dramatic sophomore slump and Lee’s late-season injury threw a sizable monkey-wrench into the development of one of the league’s best young power threesomes. Lee’s and Frye’s names have been connected to potential blockbuster trades (read: pipedreams) for Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. Given the low likelihood of acquiring either superstar and with the addition of free agent Randolph Morris from Kentucky the Knicks seem stocked at power forward and center. Many of the players profiled here are considered late-first or second round picks. So it seems likely that the Knicks would only be interested in a few (if any) of these players at #23. Yet we all know how quickly things can change in the NBA. The Knicks could potentially move down or pick a player at #23 for another team and trade for one of these players.

Power Forwards

1. Josh McRoberts (6’10”, 244#, Duke)

If you can get past the fact that McRoberts didn’t quite live up to outsized expectations at Duke it is easy to like his floor game. McRoberts strikes me as a Jason Collins-type defender with more athleticism. He averaged 2.8 blocks per 40 and he did it without fouling excessively (averaging .99 blocks/foul). He blocks shots in man-to-man and on weakside rotation with good positioning and nice timing. He’s also an excellent passer from the PF position. He averaged just under 4 assists per 40 (tops among PFs) with a 1.43:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. (Keep in mind that none of his Duke teammates look like bona fide NBA prospects.) McRoberts is not a great rebounder, though not necessarily a liability in that area (9 per 40) either. He’s really not much of a scorer, just under 15 ppg on 56% TS. He doesn’t get to the line much and doesn’t shoot threes. But, if he can find his way onto a team that needs his floor game he can contribute right away.

2. Nick Fazekas (6’11”, 225#, Nevada)

If you’re looking for a perimeter-oriented big man Fazekas is the prime candidate (along with Colorado State’s Jason Smith). His calling card is his shooting, though I’ll note that Fazekas is a better rebounder than he’s typically credited for being (14.5 boards per 40, a hair under 29% of his team’s rebounds). He has those Ilgauskas-like long arms. As I mentioned, he is renowned for his shooting, especially the pick and pop. He’s a 65% true shooter but he does it almost exclusively from the perimeter (only .35 FT/FG). To his credit he’s not careless with the ball despite not being an especially good ball-handler, averaging around 2 TOs/game throughout his career. He is adept at the pick and pop, catch and shoot game. He may slide to the 2nd round mostly because he’s been on scouts’ radars long enough to have his game completely picked apart.

3. Jermareo Davidson (6’11”, 230#, Alabama)

Davidson is a Camby-lite shot-blocker and Camby-like bean pole. His 2.9 blocks per game and 1.3 blocks/foul suggest that there is something to the Camby comparison. He offers nothing on offense other than rebounds and putbacks. He could go anywhere in the 2nd round or go completely undrafted.

4. Tiago Splitter (6’11, 240#, Brazil)

There’s a boatload of stuff out already on Splitter. The only thing I’ll add is that he may have some buyout issues, though that could just be a nasty rumor.

5. Jason Smith (7′, #, Colorado State)

Although Smith is a 7-footer, offensively he is mostly a turn-and-face player in the halfcourt. He is also very athletic. He runs the floor well and can handle the ball a bit. He has range in the 15-18 foot area. Unlike Fazekas he managed to get himself to the line in college (.66 FT/FG) while shooting the same TS% (65%). Unfortunately, also unlike Fazekas, he’s turnover prone (almost 4 per 40) but a good rebounder (13 per 40).

Center

Centers are similar to defensive tackles in football. To get a great one you have to get him early. However, you can find limited but serviceable ones later if you have an eye for talent and the patience to wait.

1. Marc Gasol (7′, 270#, Spain)

Pao’s baby brother is a big, strong, classic center. He is purported to have nice hands and a good feel but lacks athleticism, which is a huge drawback.

2. Aaron Gray (7’2″, 272#, Pittsburgh)

Aaron Gray is a decent rotation center for a team that runs a lot of halfcourt sets. He has always been a strong rebounder and isn’t turnover prone. Although he scored over 20 pts for the offensively-challenged Panthers this season his TS% is pedestrian (57%) and he doesn’t get to the line (.46 FT/FG), suggesting that he isn’t likely to develop into much more than a rotation guy.

3. Sean Williams (6’10”, 235#, Boston College)

Most observers at this point are well-aware of what Williams brings to the table. His shot-blocking numbers really are astounding: 6.3 per 40 and 1.56 per foul. For those of you who saw Williams play you recognize how these numbers may understate his defensive impact. On numerous occasions I have seen Williams switch out on screen-roll situations and block jump shots. He has been compared to Ratliff, though I think Camby is the more apt comparison because of Williams ability to play out on the floor defensively. I don’t recall seeing that from Ratliff. What is probably most surprising about Williams’ play, given the athleticism, length, and timing, is that he’s a legitimately mediocre rebounder (8.7 per 40, which was a substantial improvement over his first two seasons). Of course, since he offers little on offense other than putbacks it’s like playing 4-on-5 with Williams on the floor if he doesn’t help much on the glass. (Frankly, I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around how a player can be a truly great shot-blocker without being a great rebounder. Are there other players like this?) Williams gets the all-capsCAVEAT EMPTOR tag. He is in most respects a one-trick pony with a history of poor personal decision-making. He has considerable on-court work to put in just to be a more complete rotation player. He has the talent but to really develop in the NBA takes a fair bit of maturity. I’m not sure anyone has seen evidence of it.

Draft Prospects, Part I

With draft night a little more than a week away I thought I?d take a fresh look at some of the players likely to be on Isiah Thomas? radar since posting this in early May. The Knicks, who have conducted pre-draft workouts in conjunction with the rival Nets, appear to have concluded them. Of course, additional workouts are possible, as today?s Post is reporting that the Knicks may be interested in DePaul’s uber-athletic small forward Wilson Chandler.

As one might expect of a team with only a late-first round selection none of the players New York worked out classifies as a collegiate or international superstar, though the list certainly includes some intriguing names. They include (in reverse chronological order): Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh), Herbert Hill (Providence), Jared Jordan (Marist), Marco Belinelli (Fortitudo Bologna, Italy), Daequan Cook (Ohio State), Nick Fazekas (Nevada), Artem Sabelin (Avtodor Saratov, Russia), Taurean Green (Florida), Trey Johnson (Jackson State), Dominic James (Marquette), Ron Lewis (Ohio State), DeVon Hardin (California), Marko Lekic (Vojvodina, Serbia), Jason Smith (Colorado State), Glen ?Big Baby? Davis (LSU), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Nick Young (USC), Stephane Lasme (UMass), Brandon Wallace (S. Carolina), Jamar Wilson (Albany), DeShaun Wood (Wright State), Derrick Byars (Vanderbilt), Sammy Mejia (DePaul), Demitris Nichols (Syracuse) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova). Of those, Sabelin, Hardin, and James have reportedly withdrawn their names from draft consideration.

I’ll go position-by-position and highlight at most a handful of players who may be available when the Knicks select at #23. The players are listed in no particular order. Player stats come largely from draftexpress.net and team pages and links to player profiles are from nbadraft.net.

Point Guard

Whether you think PG is a position of dire need or a position that could simply use some depth the Knicks could not easily afford to pass over a down the road starter in this draft. Marbury is at the point in his career when he needs to play fewer minutes. Francis’ status with the team remains uncertain. Crawford’s offensive issues and recovery from injury leaves him ideally suited for a sixth man role. Collins remains such an awful shooter it overwhelms what he does well. And Robinson is a SG for all practical purposes.

1. Javaris Crittenton (6’5″, 194#, Ga. Tech)

Crittenton has a similar physical build as Steve Francis and draws favorable comparisons as a player. The comparison is strained for a number of reasons though not implausible. Crittenton is not the same kind of true shooter as Francis. He shot an “okay” 56%. He doesn’t have three point range (and to his credit doesn’t take an inordinate number) but he doesn’t get to the FT line much either (.39 FT/FGA). Crittenton is also a pedestrian decision-maker at this point (1.47 assist-to-turnover on almost 5 TOs/game). He’s clearly talented but far from a finished product. On the plus side the kid is built like a tank, has been widely described as unselfish, and is widely regarded as coachable.

2. Acie Law (6’3″, 195#, Texas A&M)

Law is a do-it-all scoring point, who is solid in every phase–an efficient scorer (60% TS) and a solid passer (1.92:1 assist-to-turnover on just over 3 TOs/game). He doesn’t take a lot of threes but shoots a good percentage. The knock on him is that he’s a slightly bigger Nate Robinson–a natural shooting guard miscast as a point guard because of less-than-ideal size.

3. Taurean Green (6′, 177#, Florida)

Green is a classic beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder type. He is not unlike Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, though not as accomplished a college scorer. The major question, given his size limitations, concerns how well his game translates to the NBA. His meal ticket is probably his shooting. He shot a fantastic 63% TS last season, shoots it well from three-point range (40+%) and also gets to the FT line a fair amount (.48 FT/FGA) for someone that took almost 60% of his shots from behind the arc. Green’s natural tendency is to push the ball and look for something easy before pulling it out and running the halfcourt sets. I like that in a guard. Still, he’s a fairly pedestrian passer, as his 1.37:1 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

4. Gabe Pruitt (6’4″, 170#, USC)

Pruitt is a very athletic point guard who moved over from the SG for Tim Floyd after leading the Trojans in scoring as a freshman. His passing numbers look phenomenal (2.35:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) on only 2.2 TOs/game. A word of caution. Floyd’s offense features a high proportion of post-ups and isolation plays. So my inclination is to interpret those numbers as evidence of Pruitt’s penchant for NOT doing dumb things with the ball rather than evidence suggesting he is a “gifted” passer. I happen to love guards who don’t do dumb things with the ball, so that’s no knock on Pruitt. Pruitt’s also made himself into a good defender. One aspect of his game that does concern me however is what appears to be an overreliance on the three point shot (55% of his FGAs). Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t get to the FT line much and what you have is a decent-but-nothing-special shooter. Ultimately, I think Pruitt may be best on a team where he can backup both guard spots.

5. Aaron Brooks (5’11”, 160#, Oregon)

Brooks is an Eddie House-type shooter. He can put up points in bunches. He is quick enough to get his shot off despite his size. He is best suited to be a second or third guard. Although he is frequently compared to Earl Boykins because of his size he doesn’t quite have Boykins handle but is more athletic.

Up next: shooting guards and small forwards

Tournament Open Thread – Weekend 1

Discuss the NCAA and NIT post-season tournaments on this thread. We will open a new thread next Thursday for the following weekend’s games and so on.

Enjoy, but this isn’t all fun and games. We, the Knickerblogger staff, want to put you armchair scouts to work. Keep your clipboards handy as you watch the games and post reports on players you think might help the Knicks on draft day. Pay special attention to players likely to come off the board anywhere from the late lottery area on down.

Here’s the schedule of opening weekend games (all times EDT). Click on the day to get score updates.

Thursday, March 15

Maryland/Davidson 12:20; Texas Tech/Boston College 12:25; Stanford/Louisville 12:30

ORU/WSU. 2:40; ODU/Butler 2:40; Belmont/Georgetown 2:45; Penn/Texas A&M 3:00; G. Wash/Vanderbilt 5:00

VCU/Duke 7:10; CC St./Ohio St. 7:10; Mich. St./Marquette 7:20; Weber St./UCLA 7:25

NIT: Michigan/Florida State 7:00; UMass/WVU 9:00

Wright State/Pittsburgh 9:30; Xavier/BYU 9:30; E. Kentucky/UNC 9:40; Gonzaga/Indiana 9:45

Friday, March 16

Albany/Virginia 12:15; Georgia Tech/UNLV 12:25; North Texas/Memphis 12:30

LBSU/Tennessee 2:35; Winthrop/Notre Dame 2:35; TX A&M-CC/Wisconsin 2:45; Creighton/Nevada 2:50; Miami (OH)/Oregon 4:55;

Niagara/Kansas 7:10; Illinois/Virginia Tech 7:10; Purdue/Arizona 7:20; NMSU/Texas 7:25

Villanova/Kentucky 9:30; Holy Cross/Southern Illinois 9:30; Jackson State/Florida 9:40;
Arkansas/USC 9:45

NIT: Marist/NC St. 9:30

And here is a list of players that might be around when we select. Of course you’re not limited to these, I just scoured sites like nbadraft.net to get a quick list. They’re sorted alphabetically by school name.

Mustafa Shakur 6-3 183 PG Arizona / Senior
Marcus Williams 6-7 207 SG Arizona / Sophomore
Jared Dudley 6-7 SF Boston College / Senior
D. Alexander 6-5 215 SG Charlotte / Senior
Jason Smith 7-0 240 PF Colorado St. / Junior
Rodney Stuckey 6-4 PG Eastern Washington / Sophomore
Dominic McGuire 6-9 PF Fresno State / Junior
Brandon Rush 6-7 SF Kansas / Sophomore
Stephane Lasme 6-8 225 PF Mass / Senior
Nick Fazekas 6-11 240 PF Nevada / Senior
Daequan Cook 6-5 210 SG Ohio St. / Freshman
Ron Lewis 6-4 195 SG Ohio St. / Senior
Aaron Gray 7-1 280 C Pittsburgh / Senior
Morris Almond 6-6 214 SG Rice / Senior
Brandon Heath 6-3 183 PG SD St. / Senior
Nick Young 6-6 SG USC / Junior
Derrick Byars 6-7 225 SG/SF Vand. / Senior
Curtis Sumpter 6-7 223 SF Villanova / Senior
JR Reynolds 6-3 180 PG/SG Virginia / Senior
Kyle Visser 6-11 250 C Wake Forest / Senior
Alando Tucker 6-5 SF Wisconsin / Senior

Keep a Close Watch on the Madness for Us (Part II)

[For Part I of David Crockett’s two part piece scroll down, unless you’re the type that likes to read the ending first.]

Small Forwards

Player Team Yr PPG RPG APG eFG% FTM/FGA
Gomes, Ryan Prov. SR 21.7 8.2 3.3 55.0 24
Thompson, Dijon UCLA SR 18.2 8.1 2.2 53.2 29
Warrick, Hakim Syracuse SR 21.2 8.2 1.6 56.2 45
Caner-Medley, Nik Maryland JR 16.7 5.9 2.1 52.7 23
Granger, Danny New Mexico SR 18.3 8.5 2.3 59.8 44
Williams, Jawad North Carolina SR 14.4 4.0 1.5 62.4 30
Williams, Marvin North Carolina FR 11.3 6.5 0.8 55.9 56
Graham, Joey Ok. State SR 17.7 6.4 2.0 57.8 39
Lee, David Florida SR 13.3 8.8 2.2 52.4 40
Wright, Antoine Texas A&M JR 17.6 6.2 2.2 58.1 24

The Guys I Like

? Dijon Thompson, UCLA. Strengths: The kid named after a condiment can score. He’s a true SF with a lot of skills. CBS Sportsline lists him as a guard; he played there last year a bit but hasn’t at all this year. Questions: He was a weak defender when he arrived. He still is. Will he ever play any?
? Hakim Warrick, Syracuse. Strengths: He has superb post footwork, and an uncanny knack for getting his shot off against stronger, taller players. The championship-clinching shot block is a “never forget it” play. Weaknesses: Where do you pick him? How do you use him? His career will be all about expectations. He has tremendous tools but may never be dominant at anything. That won’t play on every franchise. He’ll begin his career as a SF, but what will he grow to be?
? Jawad Williams, N. Carolina. Strengths: He reminds me of Ced Ceballos in that he could score 10-12 points just by running the floor and hitting the boards. Questions: Is that enough?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom

Hmm? I’m not sure if there is much conventional wisdom about the small forwards. I
think beauty will be in the eye of the beholder.

* Other Intriguing Players

? Marvin Williams, N. Carolina. Will the freshman declare for the draft? There isn’t much of a “book” on him yet. That may play to his advantage.
? Danny Granger, New Mexico. Strengths: He’s 6’8″/225 lbs. His scoring and shooting numbers have increased every year. He’s also pitching in 2 blocks per game. Questions: The primary questions seemed to be about his range and his attitude, as I recall. Well, he shot 44% from 3pt range this season. I can’t say I know much about his attitude though.
? Ryan Gomes, Providence. Strengths: He’s a fabulous all-around player. Questions: He’s also an undersized power forward. Can he make the move to SF in the NBA?

Power Forward/Center

Player Team Yr PPG RPG APG eFG% FTM/FGA BLKS/G
Allred, Lance Weber St. SR 17.6 12 1.6 52.3 40 3.0
Bass, Brandon LSU SO 17.5 8.8 0.9 59.0 45 1.7
Bogut, Andrew Utah SO 20.6 12 2.4 64.3 34 1.9
Diogu, Ike Az. State SR 22.5 9.6 1.4 59.6 62 2.2
Frye, Channing Arizona SR 15.6 7.5 1.9 52.7 32 2.1
Villanueva, Charlie Uconn SO 13.1 8.1 1.3 51.6 34 1.9
Simien, Wayne Kansas SR 19.4 11.1 1.3 54.3 40 0.7
Williams, Shelden Duke JR 15.8 11.1 0.9 59.6 38 3.8
May, Sean North Carolina JR 16.7 10.9 1.7 54.8 50 1.0
Nicholson, Yemi Denver JR 18.2 8.6 0.9 58.6 22 3.0
Fazekas, Nick Nevada SO 21.5 9.4 1 56.8 42 1.6

The Guys I Like

? Andrew Bogut, Utah. Strengths: He’s the real deal. He can score with either hand. He’s smart and he’s still improving. Questions: Will he declare? He still has another year of eligibility. If he does he’s a virtual lock to be a top 3 pick.
? Channing Frye, Arizona. Strengths: He added something every year at Arizona. This year he’s added a 15-18 foot jump shot. He can score in the post with either hand and will block a shot or two. Questions: Can he add another 15-20 lbs without impacting his quickness? Right now he’s something of a tweener.
? Shelden Williams, Duke. Strengths: He blocks almost 4 shots per game at 6’9″! I knew he could rebound and score, but that surprised me. Questions: How much center can he play in the NBA?

Best Players, Conventional Wisdom (Aside from Bogut)

? Wayne Simien, Kansas. Strengths: Strength. He has also improved the range on his shot and his FT shooting. Questions: Can he stay healthy? He’s not had a single, season free from fairly serious injury in college.
? Sean May, N. Carolina. Strengths: He’s an exceptional rebounder, particularly at 6’8″ or 6’9″. He has a nice assortment of post moves. Questions: Though his conditioning has improved he still gets winded and ineffective in stretches. Could he eat himself out of the league?

Other Intriguing Players

? Brandon Bass, LSU. Strengths: SEC player of the year, yet no one knows about him. He has a nice all-around game. He lives at the free throw line and blocks almost 2 shots per game. His body is right out of the Karl Malone catalog. Questions: How good is he?
? Ike Diogu, Az. State. Strengths: Pac10 player of the year, yet he’s a man some feel has no NBA future. He got lots of points and boards on some bad Sun Devil teams. He’s 6’9″ and not a wide body. He does little beyond 13 feet. Can he play the same game in the NBA?
? Charlie Villanueva, UConn. Strengths: He has amazing athleticism for a man 6’11. He can do it all. Questions: Can he continue to turn his athleticism into a blessing rather than a curse? Last year he totally diminished his size by staying on the perimeter, playing as a 6’11” small forward for all practical purposes. This season he has halved his 3pt FGAs and doubled his FT attempts. Does he need another year of seasoning under Calhoun? Whether he makes the jump may depend on how far UConn goes.

These are just a few of the players who may do something special this march. Keep your eyes open. It’s almost a guarantee that one or more will be playing in the Gah-den next fall.