The Road to the 2014 NBA Draft - Sophomores Part 4

2 weeks into the new season and it’s time to add the final group to the early season Draft Watch List.  We’ve already seen some of these players in the new season, but it will have little effect on their overall preview.

These are not meant to replace scouting reports, which will come out during the season.  These are not all-inclusive and just meant as a brief primer for those who want to track draft prospects throughout the season.  These are also not in any particular order other than who I choose to write about each post.

TJ Warren, North Carolina State, Forward, 6’8, 215

(2012-13) 12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 62.2 FG%, 54.2 FT%, 51.9 3FG% (27 attempts)

Warren may be as pure a scorer as there is in the ACC this year, though he is not as versatile as you would hope.  He does a very good job finding open space within a defense and makes quick cuts to beat his man there. He uses the same strategy to crash the offensive boards, tracking the shot well and looking to beat the defense for position. Once he has the ball, he is focused on getting rid of it quickly, either from a shot or a pass. He is creative in finding ways to score around the rim, and has shown that he can finish with either hand. Warren is an average ballhandler and is able to use his dribble to take many similar-size defenders to the basket. He runs the floor well in transition and is capable of getting out in front of the defense or taking the ball as a trailer.  Warren is capable of defending in the post or on the perimeter, and eventually his size and athleticism should allow him to defend multiple positions.   

What he needs to show this season: With the loss of CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell and Scott Wood, along with the transfer of Rodney Purvis, Warren is the go-to guy as a sophomore and his offensive game will need to adapt to that. He needs to do a better job working off the ball, coming off of screens tighter and ready to shoot off the catch. Warren has shown that he can do just that, but is inconsistent. Also, he has a tendency to fade away and kick out on his mid-range jumpers. It’s not awful, but makes the shot more difficult than it needs to be. Warren needs to be more decisive when he catches the ball, whether he is going to shoot or look to get to the basket. He needs to work on his left hand, especially going to the basket with his left instead of trying to force his drives to the right side. Warren also needs to work on his free throw shooting. He uses little leg in his shot and shoots the ball out, instead of up, causing almost a line-drive at the rim.  Defensively, Warren has a lot of work to do, down to the basics of man defense. His lateral movement when guarding the ball needs to improve. He has a tendency to hop along with his man instead of just sliding his feet. This leaves him very vulnerable to quick moves in the opposite direction. His defensive awareness in general isn’t very good and he will often miss plays going on around him because he isn’t focusing on both is man and the ball. Warren likes to use his hands a lot on the defensive end, though with how the game will be called this year, hopefully he adjusts sooner rather than later.   


Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, Forward, 6’6, 220

(2012-13) 10.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 57.0 FG%, 67.6 FT%, 32.4 3FG%

As a freshman, Robinson was an integral part of the Michigan team that went to the NCAA Championship game. With the loss of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr, Robinson will need to step up from role player to team leader. Robinson moves well without the ball, and he has a very good understanding of spacing on the offensive end. He is able to find holes in the opposing defense and make quick cuts to get in position to score. He has a strong body and good athleticism, both combined with an improving skill-set. Robinson handles the ball well, though he is stronger and more comfortable with his right rather than his left hand. When he has his mind set on going to the basket, he goes strong and is capable of finishing through contact or with some finesse. He is a good offensive rebounder, and he does a strong job of tracking the ball and finding a quick path to the best spot to grab the ball. On defense, Robinson is capable of guarding on the perimeter or in the post, and he uses his length well to disrupt shots or passing lanes. He has no problem playing physical defense when necessary, and he is the speed and strength to guard multiple positions.     

What he needs to show this season:  Robinson needs to become a more reliable perimeter shooter. He has a tendency to rush his motion, even when he doesn’t need to, and his release can be inconsistent, with his hand turning to the side as he lets go of the ball, causing it to be off in either direction. Also, his release should be a bit higher and not out in front of him.  As mentioned, Robinson does a very good job finding openings, but he is not as good at creating his shot. He needs to work on using his dribble to create space to get good looks on the perimeter. On defense, Robinson needs to improve his lateral movement on the ball. Like Warren mentioned above, he hops as he is following his man instead of sliding his feet and he is easily beat by a quick move in the opposite direction. Also, Robinson doesn’t have very good awareness off the ball, and will often lose his man for more than a few seconds because he is following the ball away from him.  The physical tools are there for Robinson, it’s just a matter of bringing up his skill level another notch.          


Chris Obekpa, St. John’s, Forward, 6’9, 240

(2012-13) 3.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.0 bpg, 45.1 FG%, 39.1 FT%

Obekpa is long and athletic, but raw. He took some big strides in his game last season, but is far from where he needs to be as a player, especially on offense.  Obekpa’s strength comes on the defensive side. He has good awareness and improved all season as a help defender. He uses his long arms and quick leaping ability to block shots, and he could still get better if he continues to work on his timing. Obekpa also defends well in pick-and-roll situations, doing a strong job hedging out on the ballhandler. On offense, Obekpa showed development in both his post and perimeter games last season. He does a good job looking to use his lower body to seal off the defender in the post, and he can do a good job cleaning up shots around the rim and getting easy put-backs. Obekpa also showed some ability to hit mid-range jumpers last season, though getting good looks was tough for him.  

What he needs to show this season: Obekpa will still be relied on by the Red Storm to protect the rim, but he could be much more. He is capable of guarding both post and perimeter and his fundamental defensive skills continue to get better. He does need to do a better job rebounding on the defensive end, and a lot of that may need to come with strength development. Obekpa was easy to muscle around last year around the basket and it affected him on both ends of the floor. On offense, he doesn’t have the move set to handle being pushed away from the low block, so he needs to develop at least a few go-to moves to get to the basket. Also, Obekpa has problems as a screener in pick-and-roll situations as he didn’t seem to understand the need for spacing and would just stand around after the screen, keeping an extra defender up there with him. He needs to work on the fundamentals of pick-and-roll basketball. There is a lot of potential here, but it could be a slow process, so hard work and patience are needed.  


AJ Hammons, Purdue, Center, 7’0, 251

(2012-13) 10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 49.5 FG%, 68.1 FT%

Hammons development was up and down last season, and consistency and effort will be continuing concerns as this season progresses. Hammons has good size and solid body, but doesn’t have the strength that he should have at his size. He is a skilled offensive player with a few decent low post moves, good footwork and touch around the basket, and the ability to finish with either hand and make a move over either shoulder. He understands the pick-and-roll well, though he needs to do a better job screening and opening up to the ball.  Hammons has a good nose for the ball on the offensive boards and moves well to establish position for the rebound. On defense, Hammons is fundamentally sound, though the effort isn’t always there. He moves his feet well for his size, though he needs to watch how he uses his arms in the post. He does a good job challenging shots in the lane, and he is capable of blocking shots with either hand.     

What he needs to show this season:  As I said, effort and consistency could be an issue, and Hammons has already served a suspension to start this new season. In the post, the next step in his development will be to develop secondary moves to go to if his first post move is stopped. Last year, he would just force a bad shot, so he needs to work on his options. He has good vision out of the low post, but he needs to work on spotting open men quicker and making stronger passes. Defensively, Hammons has to keep his focus and intensity level up. Also, he needs to get stronger. Last season, he was backed down by players who really shouldn’t have been able to do so.  Pick-and-roll defense, especially being able to hedge hard and recover to his man, is also an area which needs to show improvement this season.   



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