The NBA Draft Blog look at the players to watch in the Sweet 16 with an eye towards the 2011 NBA Draft continues down to New Orleans and the Southeast regional (Click here to read the West preview.) With 2 good matchups – Butler-Wisconsin and Florida-BYU – and some big names, including America’s darling, Jimmer Fredette, there are a bunch of names you need to remember as you watch the games. So here is my look at the players to watch in the Southeast regional (If you want to read about Jimmer, he is last.)
Chandler Parsons, Florida, 6’10, 215, Senior, Forward
Parsons, the SEC Player of the Year, may be the most versatile player left in the NCAA Tournament. On the offensive end, there is no one thing that he excels at, but the Florida offense runs much smoother when he acts as a facilitator. He is average shooter from both mid-and-long range, but at 6’10 and with decent ballhandling skills, he can create space to get his shot off. He sees the court extremely well and is a huge asset when playing in the high post or on top of the offense. Parsons is also very good on the offensive boards, using great body control and timing to get to misses before others. Defensively, he has a few problem areas – he doesn’t guard well in space, his footwork is average, and his lack of strength hurts him against most other forwards.
While many don’t see enough that stands out about Parsons to warrant him being drafted, I see a high value second round pick – even in the upper half of the second round. His combination of IQ and all-around skill could make him a valuable role player to almost any team, and I still think he can improve enough as a shooter to force players to guard him tightly.
Check back after the Tournament for a complete scouting report on Chandler Parsons.
Vernon Macklin, Florida, 6’10, 240, Senior, Forward
Macklin, who struggled both early in his career at Georgetown, and during his early time at Florida, has finally started to show some of the strength and skill which made him a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He is a solid body, has gotten much better at establishing himself in the post – especially getting low and maintaining his balance, and he has developed a pair of go-to moves, including a sweeping mini-hook across the lane. His touch around the rim leaves a lot to be desired, and he isn’t really effective outside of 6-8 feet. Defensively, he does a good job both as a post defender and as a weak-side help defender, though he has had issues with looking to make plays he should know he can’t make and ends up picking up a lot of silly fouls. He also could do a better job getting position for rebounds – he should do a better job boxing out with his body.
I think the chances of Macklin hearing his name called on draft day are slim, unless he is a key part of Florida making a Final Four run, and even then, I think teams will need to believe that there is still some untapped potential. I do think with some time in the D-League, Macklin could one day play at the NBA level, but it will be important that he go somewhere that will get him a lot of court time.
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin, 6’10, 228, Senior, Forward
Leuer is tough and a versatile offensive player, having the ability to play in the post, or step out and hit consistently in the 15-18 foot range. He uses his length well to get his shot off and has the ability to get to the free throw line, where he is very good. He does need to get stronger to play the same type of game at the next level, and he will especially need the added muscle to defend other forwards in the NBA. His perimeter defense is average – his footwork needs improvement and he needs to work on his positioning, but he has a solid basketball IQ and makes adjustments well.
While I originally projected him as a possible late first-round pick, he is more of a very solid early-to-mid second round pick, but someone who should definitely make a team somewhere this upcoming season.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin, 6’1, 195, Junior, Guard
Taylor has not only opened eyes this season with his scoring ability, but his command and presence running Bo Ryan’s offense have made his pro potential very bright. He is very good at breaking down his defender off the dribble, has great control once he gets in the lane, and has improved his ability to finish with a soft floater or short jumper. As his scoring increased, so did his ability to draw extra defenders, which he took advantage of with excellent court vision and the knack for making the right passes. He came back this season with a more consistent mid-to-long range jumper, though he needs to improve hitting it off the dribble or off of screens. The most important part of his game though is – he rarely gives up the ball. His poise under pressure has been fantastic and has saved Wisconsin more than a few times this season.
Defensively, he is decent on-the-ball, though he has a bad habit of reaching for the ball, and either committing bad fouls or getting caught leaning while his man beats him off the dribble. His lateral movement could improve, as could his ability to work around screens. Off-the-ball positioning could also use some work, but his quickness allows him to lay off a bit.
I think if Taylor was declare this year, he would most likely go in the first half of the 2nd round, but this is a case where I think he can make a huge leap if he comes back for his senior year. He values the ball and knows how to run a team, but it would be interesting to see what he does without Leuer there as a go-to guy.
Check back after the NCAA Tournament for the full scouting report on Jordan Taylor.
Shelvin Mack, Butler, 6’3, 215, Junior, Guard
Mack was another player who benefitted from competing with the US Select team last summer against the US Olympic team. Though his numbers were down almost across the board, he showed greater leadership skills and is one of the keys to why Butler recovered from a rough early part of the season to land again in the Sweet 16. His control of the Butler offense is fantastic, he knows where everyone of his teammates should be at all times and delivers the ball to them in great position for them to make a play. Where he ran into problems this season was trying to create opportunities for himself – especially when he got by the first defender to get into the lane – where he would end up forcing poor shots instead of drawing and kicking out to a shooter. Also, he seemed to lose confidence in his jumper during the 1st half of the season, and even know still shows some tentativeness on open looks. Defensively, he is a tough on-ball defender, though he still looks to gamble for the steal too much. When he plays straight-up, he positions himself well, has great lateral movement, good balance, and gets through screens very well. He is also very explosive in transition, though he needs to keep his head up more and see whether keeping it himself is the best option.
I think going into this season, a lot of people assumed Mack would have the type of year which would lead to him leaving for the NBA. However, this season exposed even more where he needs to tighten up his game for the next level. If he was to leave, he still would be an early-to-mid second round pick, but with a good senior year, could see himself back in the late first in 2012.
Matt Howard, Butler, 6’8, 230, Senior, Forward
Calling Howard’s game awkward may be kind, but he knows how to play the game well, plays to his strengths, and, as he has proved this post-season, he will step-up when the team needs him to. Howard was the Horizon Player of the Year 2 years ago, but his junior year saw him sitting long stretches of games because he couldn’t resist picking up silly fouls. A lot of that was with good intentions though, he was just always a step slow to plays. This season he came back in better shape, showed improved footwork, and only fouled out 4 times this season. Along with this, he showed extended range on his jumper, to the point where he was able to knock down the open 3 consistently. In the post, he is strong, but mechanical, but he finds ways to either get a good shot, or draw contact and get to the line. Defensively, he is still not very good, but he plays the post tough, and has adjusted his balance to make sure he doesn’t get caught flat-footed.
I mention Howard in this group of players because he is guaranteed to be involved in the outcome of this weekend’s games, but I really don’t see the NBA in his immediate future. But with a good knowledge of the game and a strong work ethic, you can never rule it out.
Jimmer Fredette, 6’2, 200, Senior, Guard
I am going to address Fredette in much more detail next week, but here is my view on him. I don’t deny that Jimmer can score – he has ridiculous range, has great lift on his jumper and is very good at creating space to get his shot off, which he does with a very quick release. He is also solidly built, but quicker than you would think he is, and knows how to find his way to the basket, where he can either take the contact and finish, or he shows tremendous body control to find creative ways to score.
That being said, 2 parts of his game really bother me – his need to constantly try and force plays, and his utter disregard for playing defense. First, while he has showed average playmaking skills, he is often too concerned with looking for space to shoot or get fouled, and ends up trying to move the ball through 2 or 3 defenders. He averages almost 4 turnovers a game, while averaging just over 4 assists per game, and a lot of the turnovers could have been avoided if he would just pick his head up. He does have very good ball-handling skills, but if you aren’t going to protect the ball, it doesn’t matter much.
I have heard all the arguments about his lack of defense during games, the most prevalent one being that his team needs him to rest up on the defensive end to pick up the slack on offense. One, even a token effort wouldn’t tire him out enough to affect his scoring, but he rarely gives that – sometimes it looks like he doesn’t even lift his feet as he tries to move with his man. Two, even in close games, where a defensive stop is needed, he just isn’t good. His positioning is poor, his lateral movement is poor, he often looks to release down court before his defense has secured a loose ball.
Obviously, his scoring ability alone will make him a first round pick, but I peg him towards the 20-25 range. He will be able to get some points in the NBA and he may even turn into a decent back-up point guard, but who will he guard, and more importantly, how will he handle not being the focal point of his team’s offense?
Check back next week for a full scouting report on Jimmer Fredette.
Make sure to check back tomorrow as I move over to the Southwest bracket and see what players you need to keep an eye on towards the 2011 draft. As always, leave your comments, contact me at [email protected], and follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog.