With 2012 NBA Draft coming near, I thought about looking at some under-rated prospects we have not talked. Below are prospects that I feel have a chance to be a huge surprise at the next level. Since we have covered a lot of late first/early 2nd, I feel it is a good chance to talk about other players that I could not get to.
By just covering these additional prospects, I feel confident in stating that this will be a deep draft since there have been other 2nd round prospects already covered that I feel confident will make key contributions. Also, I have not studied enough to know about Euro Prospects, so this is not factoring in what their contributions might be. I have heard that it is not as deep as in the past, but that there are a few sleepers there too.
Marcus Denmon (6’3, 190 lbs., SG, Missouri, Senior) – I feel very strongly that Denmon will make a NBA Roster and should be a player that sticks at the next level. While he should never be a starter at the next level, he should be a great player off the bench.
Offensively, Denmon should make his calling as a very efficient player. He's an excellent three point shooter that shot near 41 % on a very high 7 attempts a game. While playing for a very good Missouri team, he has shot above 40% from three his last three years. While not elite with his ball-handling, he has good handles, a good first step, and is aggressive, but unselfish and smart guard.
There are many under-sized guards that get drafted with his ability such as E’Twaun Moore, Eddie House, Luther Head, and Mo Williams. What I like about Denmon is that he is unselfish but aggressive, has a good vertical, and is quick like Mo Williams and Luther (much quicker naturally than Moore/House). Denmon, while not as good of a ball-handler as Williams, he is near that, and much better than Eddie House and Luther Head. He also has enough versatility to shoot off the pull-ups.
Defensively, Denmon will struggle against shooting guards (his only position) because of his height. He is very quick laterally, good basketball IQ, strong, and aggressive. He is not a liability like a Mo Williams or an Eddie House.
Overall, I think Denmon will be a good scorer off the bench at the next level because he is very quick and very consistent on his shot-making ability. I would be tempted if I were the Bulls to buy a later second round pick and use on Denmon. His game could be similar to Marcus Thornton if he carves out that specific role. Thornton is a little taller and a more natural scorer, but Denmon has a higher basketball IQ, efficient, and is quick.
Festus Ezeli (6’11, 265 lbs., C, Vanderbilt, Senior) – Ezeli should make it at the next level as a Kendrick Perkins type player. He presents great size at the center position at 6’11 and 265 lbs., is a heady player, sets hard screens, is physical, and blocks shots at a solid rate at the next level.
Offensively, Ezeli is not going to be much. He has a nice jump hook from about 6-7 feet out. His calling offensively will be setting hard screens and something he will do rather well. He did make strides on the offensive side as he was very raw entering his freshman year and somewhat new to basketball. I don’t expect him to grow too much as he does not have great footwork or a formidable looking jumper.
Defensively, Ezeli is Vanderbilt’s all-time leading shot blocker and has great timing. He did not look as explosive this year due to a knee injury, so his timing should be better next year. He can be very physical in the post and should carve out some space with his size. Ezeli will struggle sometimes defending a pick-and-roll. While a solid rebounder, at his size, he should bring even more of an impact.
The big thing for Ezeli at the next level will be finding his niche as a physical defender and that sets hard screens. If he can make his niche performing these tasks, he will be a steal in the early 2nd round. His game reminds me of a Kendrick Perkins, but if Ezeli can regain some of his athleticism, he is actually slightly more bouncy than Perkins.
Mike Scott (6’9, 245 lbs., PF, Virginia, Senior) – He's a slightly under-sized, but very skilled Power Forward. I like him better than say a JaMychal Green as he wants it more, is more heady, and more consistent. While under-sized height-wise, he has solid athleticism, is built, and heady.
To me, several 2nd round steals occur when either a player dropped due to concerns of athletic measurements, but they are heady enough to overcome them or they are raw, but hard-working players that just need to find their niche. Mike Scott fits the bill to me for the first category.
Scott is known mainly for his offensive game and could be good in situations. Scott can score in the post off of a turn-around jumper or a jump hook, but this will be less prevalent at the next level since he is only 6’9. However, I really like Scott’s game from the face-up position or as a spot-up four. He can hit a mid-range jumper and has a variety of flare-type shots with floaters, short pull-ups, etc… He's only an average athlete with slightly below average height for the power forward position. Maybe he can be like a Carl Landry type offensively.
Defensively, Scott will probably struggle, but it will not be due to lack of effort. He should be solid in guarding the post as he is strong and can get underneath his opponent. Where Scott will struggle will be the ability to take on the pick-and-roll.
To me, Scott’s offensive awareness should garner him some 2nd round attention. I feel he is smart enough to carve out a role at the next level. Since he is not limited to just a post-up game, I feel he can adjust once he is on a team that gives him a defined role.
Jae Crowder (6’5, 240 lbs, SF, Marquette, Senior) – Crowder is an intriguing player to keep tabs on. He is an all-hustle player that will be playing out of position for him. Crowder really bursted onto the scene this season with Marquette by improving upon his perimeter shot and developing his post game. While he will not be posting as many players in the NBA, he has the smarts to take on NBA Small Forwards; especially since he is a good passer and has a few moves with a chiseled frame. The big key for Crowder receiving lots of minutes at the next level will be if he can continue to develop a NBA Three Point Shot?
Defensively, while not as fleet of foot as other small forwards and slightly under-sized height wise, he should still be a pesky defender to get underneath opponent’s skin. He will be able to body up opponents, has strong hands, is a fighter, and has smarts. He knows how to angle his opponent to shooting tough shots. Just for fun, while giving up three inches to Lebron in the post, I don’t know if I can see Lebron moving Crowder out easily and being forced to shoot tougher shots than he is used too.
To me, many hustle players make it in the NBA if they can be good at one spot. Crowder should make it at the next level alone on being a tough defender that is smart for the small forward position. I like him better than say a fellow alum, Lazar Hayward, because he is known as a defender and much headier overall. If Crowder can develop a 3 point-shot, he could be a good starting small forward at the next level. If not, he will be an energy guy off the bench. In his prime, he could be a sane version of Ron Artest.
Kim English (6’5, 195 lbs., SG, Missouri, Senior) - I don’t think English will ever be a big steal (in terms of draft steal) and starter type. However, with his prolific shooting and solid athleticism at his height, I do think he can be a good shooter off the bench. English shot 46% from three this year on 5 attempts a game and has always been a good shooter.
Defensively, he will struggle the next level as he does not always play tough and can be knocked off the pick pretty easily. While he has solid athleticism and solid height, he will need to toughen up on picks and angle his defenders better this year. At times this year, he guarded Power Forwards and learned to toughen a little bit.
Overall, English presents an opportunity to make the league, but he must learn to shoot off the curl quickly and effectively. If he can do so, he can carve out a nice roll off the bench.
Scott Machado (6’2, 205 lbs., PG, Iona, Senior) - I don’t know if I am as high on Machado as others, but I do believe he can contribute at the next level due to his understanding of the game and court vision. He is not a creator in the sense that he can just set up his own shot regularly, but he is an opportunist and developed three point range this year.
Defensively, he is not atrocious, but he is about average if that. He is not the fleetest of foot, but he does do okay in angling his opponents. He could use his body to size up his opponent at the next level if needed.
I think Machado can be a player such as an Eric Maynor or Chris Duhon with a better shot if he maxes out his potential.
Darius Johnson-Odom (6’2, 215 lbs., Combo Guard, Marquette, Senior) - What I do like about Johnson-Odom is that he is aggressive, tough, and physical. While undersized, he will cause opposing guards problems as he will be right in on them.
Offensively, Johnson-Odom is a solid shooter when his feet are set, but he's not as natural of a perimeter shooter as Denmon, another undersized shooter that should be drafted in the 2nd round. Johnson-Odom is much more aggressive in getting to the rack, but will need to learn some floaters and such as he will not always be able to finish with a lay-up. He is very crafty with the ball and has a quick first step.
Defensively, Johnson-Odom should cause some problems for opposing guards. Point guards will struggle against him because he is quick laterally, aggressive, and very physical. He is tough enough to fight through screens and physical and fast enough to push the point guard off from the point of attack. While he might struggle with some shooting guards, he is tough enough to push some off the point-of-attack or their shooting spot. There are not as many posting shooting guards now-a-days, and those that can, he will be able to push them off the block.
What concerns I have with Johnson-Odom is that he is undersized at the guard position and does not possess point guard skills. He does not see the floor real well as he is a scorer. Outside of the immediate paint, he struggles to shoot off the dribble. Defensively, he presents a mismatch because he is undersized to be guarding shooting guards. Since he is not really a point guard, he will be mainly paired up against shooting guards.
Best case scenario is a LeAndro Barbosa type without quite the scoring ability due to Barbosa’s speed. Worst case scenario is pretty much being out of the league.
Surprises I am not high on
Miles Plumlee (7’0, 250 lbs, C, Duke, Senior)
To me Miles is very athletic, but I feel he is too soft and too mechanical for my liking. Plumlee does not have any NBA style moves offensively and is not a good enough shooter to overcome this. Defensively, while heady, he is still not strong enough for me to stand his ground.
If Plumlee does make it at the league, it will be because he is smart and can hustle. Can he provide more because he is not really anything, but average at best at anything. As a Center with his athletic ability he nearly averaged 1 block a game which is a concern. The best outlook I have for him with his ability to draw charges is Nick Collison. Can he do much else or be tough enough?
Kyle O’ Quinn (6’10, 245 lbs., C., Norfolk State, Senior)
To me I struggle with seeing O’Quinn providing much at the NBA level because he is not very athletic and is slightly undersized at 6’10 for the Center position, his only position. He has a chance only because of his long wing-span and solid understanding of the game.
Offensively, O’Quinn is used to getting his shots against powering down opponents and shooting a jump hook. Occasionally, he will shoot a baseline jumper, but is not consistent enough for my liking. Defensively, O’Quinn, is able to use his timing and wing-span to block shots. He is not fast enough laterally to be an asset in the pick-and-roll. He is physical enough at times to play the post.
Overall, I don’t care for his game translating because I don’t feel he is fluid enough to really solidify any set role. He is too mechanical offensively and was able to bully his opponents in a weaker conference. He struggled for the most part when playing stronger competition. If he maxes out his potential, I can see a player at his best in maybe a Kurt Thomas from the past few years. I just don’t know if he is heady enough yet to pull that off.
JaMychal Green (6’9, 220 lbs., PF, Alabama, Senior)
Green is an unique product in that he has talent, but he is very inconsistent, not always the best motor, and has had some off-the-court issues. Green offensively, has a solid mid-range jumper as a 6’9 PF, but is not very consistent with it. He is pretty athletic so he can do a nice job setting a pick and slicing to the basket for a feed. He showed a nice turn-around jumper in the post, but I don’t know if I see him getting post position at the next level at his size and height and finishing that very well.
Defensively, Green provides a very nice wing-span and decent athleticism and timing. He swatted a solid 1.5 blocks a game. He is quick enough to guard the pick-and-roll at times, but does he have the understanding on where to guide his opponent? Also, he is pretty thin, and I feel he will be pushed around pretty easily in the post. While he averaged 7.5 rebounds a game, he was very inconsistent in doing so.
Overall, I think Green has talent, but is not disciplined enough to make an impact at the next level.
William Buford (6’5, 215 lbs., SG, Ohio State, Senior)
I feel Buford hurt his stock as much as anyone else in the drafts, sans fellow Ohio State teammate, Jared Sullinger. Buford could have been late first/early second last year. Buford possesses some nice traits offensively, but he is very inconsistent in producing them. When on a roll, he can shoot from mid-range and three-point range very well. Buford is very good at finding spaces ala a Rip Hamilton, but he is not quite that seasoned and consistent enough to set those picks for. If his shot is not on, he is not tough enough, have enough vertical, or strong enough with the handles to finish in the paint.
Defensively, while he possesses solid size and is solid athleticism, he gets beat way to easily. Opposing guards easily can lose him as he loses sight of his man. Also, he is easy to set picks on. Last, he gets blown by very easily. He presents nice tools here and has the skills to be at least adequate, but really was covered up by the system last year.
Overall, Buford could be a poor man’s Rip Hamilton if he maxes out potential, but I don’t know if he has that desire to be that. He is too inconsistent for my liking.