If you only look at his junior year statistics at New Mexico (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 rebounds per game), Tony Snell appears to be nothing more than a nice pickup in the early portion of the second round.
A first-round pick might be a stretch for the former Lobo, but he is one of the top catch-and-shoot (42.2 field goal percentage and 39.0 three-point percentage) prospects in the 2013 Draft Class, with a smooth stroke, good perimeter footwork and an ability to move well without the basketball or off of a teammate’s pick.
Snell doesn’t have elite ball-handling skills, but he can get to the rim rather easily with his long strides, a 6-foot-11 wingspan and first-rate athleticism.
The Riverside native has the shot, the length and the lateral quickness to play the three at both ends of the floor but at 200 pounds he lacks the frame and upper body strength to stay with a majority of the league’s top-flight players at the position.
In addition to concerns about his potential tweener status, Snell’s motor should also be considered a major issue. While he got hot (double-digit scoring in nine of last 10 games to finish the regular season) at just the right time in 2012-13, when things were going bad for the former New Mexico standout, they went real bad. Either he’d continue to throw up bad shot after bad shot, or he’d disappear.
In the Lobos’ six losses last season, Snell averaged just over 10 points per game and shot 36.3 percent from the field. On the year, he had seven 20-point contests, but also had eight games where he made two field goals or less.
While he was certainly streaky in 2012-13, Snell didn’t exactly help himself out by getting to the charity stripe. As a junior, he made 84 percent of his attempts from the free throw line, but often settled for floaters lane rather than letting his dribble take him to the basket.
Snell averaged an abysmal 2.9 free throw attempts per game and on nine different occasions never even took a trip to the line – including New Mexico’s second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Harvard.
Above all, Ohio State Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas is a scorer by breed and by trade. He put up 15.6 shots per game as a junior in 2012-13 and 5.6 of those were from three-point range. While the efficiency might not be there, Thomas’ 19.8 points per game led college basketball’s best conference in scoring. And though his percentages decreased in the limelight as Thomas took the lead following Jared Sullinger’s departure from OSU, he proved a plenty capable first option for coach Thad Matta. Thomas loves to score – love being the key word – and that is his niche role at the next level. If nothing else, Thomas is as confident a scorer as any in this draft.
But it’s his play earlier in his career that could shed light on how he projects as an NBA prospect. He’s an underrated off-the-ball scorer and has the ability to finish in the paint off cuts. He is a great catch-and-shoot jump shooter who could fit well into three-point-happy offenses and showed in his first two years with the Buckeyes that he can play off the ball — he is at his best not being the first option.
Despite being only 6-foot-7 in shoes, Thomas has a 6-foot-10 wingspan which somewhat makes up for his lack of size.
Starting with the pass to Laettner to the Fila/Sprite and Dream Team III days when he was a triple-double threat every time he laced them up, Hill’s early career placed him among the best to play the game.
Yet if Hill had never gotten hurt and continued on that trajectory he never would have become a Phoenix Sun and perhaps never would have been able to learn as much about himself as he did through the injury-filled years of misery and finally the redemption in the final act of his career with the Suns.
After logging at least 30 games only twice in seven years in Orlando due to his treacherous ankle injury among other issues — maladies that allowed him to play just 47 games in his first four years with the Magic — Hill turned into an iron man with the Suns, missing just three games in the three seasons between 2008-11 despite being well into his 30s. To make this a reality he put in more time to get his body right than any player Suns trainer Aaron Nelson has ever worked with, Nelson said a few years ago.
In his time with the Suns, he also reinvented himself from an elite scoring threat into a defensive ace who routinely guarded the Suns’ toughest opponent, from point guards to power forwards and every wing in between, and served as a role model in the locker room.
His leadership and professionalism set a tone for the post-D’Antoni Suns that culminated in Phoenix’s special 2010 run to the conference finals that Hill described as a career highlight in an interview with ESPN.com: [Read more →]
There are very few certainties going into this year’s NBA Draft, but Anthony Bennett being far and away the most polished frontcourt player at the offensive end is unquestionably among them. While he may look like an undersized four at 6-foot-8, the UNLV standout is a multidimensional scorer and a terrific threat both in the lane and from the perimeter.
Bennett is freakishly athletic for his size, finishes at the rim extremely well with either hand and surprisingly has some touch in the paint when pushed away from the basket.
While the Toronto native has the length and athleticism to be a terrorizing force down low, it’s his knack for the three-point shot that really gives opposing defenders reason to panic. As a freshman, Bennett averaged exactly one three-point field goal make a game and shot 37.5 for the season. On four separate occasions, he made three or more in a game. Although it’s not his primary offensive weapon, Bennett’s ability to face up to the basket and hit jump shots with confidence will almost certainly play an important role in how successful he is at the next level.
Heading into the draft process, Bennett’s defensive laziness, up-and-down motor and size were among the major concerns NBA scouts had, but at this point, those are secondary to his health.
Bennett’s shoulder issue presents a small red flag only because he was injury-plagued throughout his last two years in high school as well. His surgeon, Dr. David Altchek, however, said the damage done to his rotator cuff was by no means considered career-threatening and that Bennett is expected to make a full recovery.
While teams would have liked to have seen what Bennett could do in a controlled setting like the NBA Combine, all and all, his absence shouldn’t affect where his name is called on June 27.
“You always would prefer a guy is healthy, works out for you and can play in summer league,” one GM told ESPN.com. “However, I don’t think in this case that it will really matter. We got a good feel for his game. He’s one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. I wouldn’t blink taking him in the Top 5 as long as the surgery is successful.”
Although he spent just a year with the Running Rebels, Bennett did more than enough to prove his worth as a top 5 pick. The former McDonald’s All-American has all the traits that make for a great low-post scorer — 7-foot-1 wingspan, impressive footwork and an ability to create space for himself in the lane or at the basket — but he also has a few that are not common for one-year college prospects.
Among NCAA frontcourt players, Bennett was as efficient as they come in 2012-13. Per 40 minutes, he averaged over 26 points per game and had a true shooting percentage around 60 percent.
He can score in just about every way imaginable – dunks, tip-ins, eight-foot floaters, free throws three-point shots – and did so at a very consistent level as a freshman.
Laziness might be a concern at the defensive end but it’s never been one for Bennett at the offensive end. He is relentless on the glass, an above-average ball handler and a threat to score regardless of where he is on the floor.
Few other players being considered in this year’s lottery can say that.
Jeff Withey is hands down the second-best defensive big man in the draft. The seven-footer from Kansas averaged 3.8 blocks per game this season while anchoring the sixth best defense in the county. Other than Nerlens Noel, there is no one in the draft with better shot blocking skills and instincts than Withey. Just as impressive, he is excellent at contesting shots without fouling having averaged only 2.5 fouls per game while playing more than 30 minutes per night this season. In four years at Kansas, he fouled out of only three games. Jeff is also an excellent weak side and help defender with great defensive vision and positioning.
Offensively, Withey is less comfortable and versatile, but that doesn’t mean he is devoid of skill. Truthfully, despite his relative lack of elite athleticism, Withey might be the best finisher at the hoop in college basketball. He doesn’t sky when he jumps by any means, but he does elevate with great quickness, which is just as important when trying to finish in a crowd. He also has great mobility and works well in the pick and roll. He is most effective as a scorer when facing the hoop.
Zeller’s biggest strength is his combination of size and athleticism. Despite being seven feet tall, he runs the floor with the grace and speed of a guard. Most NBA players with Zeller’s height are slow and don’t get out in the transition very well, but Zeller decisively breaks that mold. This season at Indiana, he consistently got himself easy buckets by beating opponents down the floor.
Outside of his size and speed, Zeller’s most notable strength is his athleticism. Earlier this month, he posted the one of the highest marks at the NBA Draft Combine for standing vertical leap (no running start.) His mark impressed scouts because as a big man who plays in the paint, Zeller does not have the option to take steps before elevating. The fact that he can get up that high from a stance will aid him as a rebounder and scorer.