Tagged: Tyreke Evans

Knicks Pick Picture Clear As The East River

Only two days until the draft and projections are all over the place:

Hahn says the Knicks are after Curry or Evans.

Vescey says watch for Rubio. NOTE: Vescey also confirms the Knicks are looking to get the 5th pick from Washington for just Hughes and a couple of expirings, but would then, instead of taking two skilled players at different positions, package the two picks for number 2. In the end its a trade of 8 and Hughes for 2. Still a good deal but I think I’d rather have 5 and 8.

Berman says the Knicks are taking a Holiday, or Evans, or Curry, or Hill.

Chad Ford says make way for Jennings, or Holiday…or Evans, or Hill, or Curry, or Rubio.

Bad News Brandon

Some of our valued readers know that we aren’t fans of Brandon Jennings here. We just respectfully disagree on the issue. There have been questions about, for example, the kid’s attitude. He’s certainly not doing anything to make anyone lower those red flags, inflating himself at the expense of other prospects (via Hoopsworld):

Jennings Spouts Off: Half of the NBA Draft process is convincing a team that you are a better fit than the guy in front of you, but it is generally considered bad form to call out or disrespect the guys your competing against. Apparently Brandon Jennings did not get that memo. In an interview with Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, Jennings said he did not think Memphis guard Tyreke Evans or UCLA’s Jrue Holiday would make good NBA point guards.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Jennings of Holiday and Evans being NBA point guards. “To be a point guard, it has to be in you. I don’t think you can suddenly be a point guard after one year. You are the leader, you are the quarterback, and that takes a lot of understanding. You have to make the right play, you have to run a team, you have to be a leader, you have to see things out there on the court. People might say, “He can be a point guard in the league.” But that is a hard transition. You have to know how to do it. You have to be the one to take the heat when things don’t go right.”

Jennings is a bit late to the game in terms of meeting with teams. Jennings opted not to play in the Eurocamp last week, a move most scouts were disappointed with as teams really wanted to see Jennings in a competitive 5-on-5 situation. Jennings is projected to go in the top 15 selections.

It’s pretty funny for Jennings to call out Evan’s and Holiday for not “mak[ing] the right play”, “run[ning] a team”, “being a leader”, and displaying those “things out there on the court”.

Last I checked, Evans and Holiday displayed a lot more “out there on the court”, than Jennings, who has struggled to find meaningful minutes in truly competitive situations (Rubio and Gallinari are a similar same age and made solid contributions against the same level competition). Add to that they showed up for the combine and measurements while Jennings did not. Jennings is throwing lots of stones but he’s living in a fragile glass house. Not very savvy.

Further, if you read the glowing, complimentary things that other prospects have to say about one another, its plain to see they are much more professional than this kid.

Will the Knicks wind up with him. Without any inside information, I put it at 1%. I don’t want them to. If they do take him I hope he lives up to the hype of those that like him, but as of now, to me, he’s radioactive.

So what’s the scenario?

Here we go yo.

There are so many scenarios that could play out this offseason. We’re getting to the point of the summer where there is so much information, and misinformation, that my head is spinning. I’m going to run through a few of these and give proposed lineups for next season. Of course, the end result will probably be that none of these are right.

1. Knicks keep their pick and wind up with Jrue Holiday, Stephen Curry, or Johnny Flynn. They trade David Lee, Wilson Chandler and a 2011 draft pick for Chris Bosh. They trade Nate Robinson for Marcus Camby. They trade Cuttino Mobley for Darko Milicic. They buy a late first rounder. They sign Channing Frye. Starting 5:

pg: Holiday/Curry/Flynn

sg: Hughes

sf: Harrington

pf: Chris Bosh

c: Marcus Camby

bench: Gallinari, Chase Budinger, Darko Milicic, Duhon, Frye

2. Knicks trade Chandler, the eight overall pick, and Mobley for Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur, and the second overall pick and take Ricky Rubio. They trade David Lee, a future first rounder, and Duhon to the Pistons for Tayshaun Prince and Amir Johnson. They trade Nate Robinson for Sergio and Frye. They buy a mid to late first rounder. They sign Gortat.

pg: Rubio

sg: Hughes

sf: Prince

pf: Harrington

c: Gortat

bench: Gallinari, Sergio, Budinger/Sam Young, Darko, Frye, Johnson, etc

3. Knicks trade Chandler, the eight overall pick, and Mobley for Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur, and the second overall pick and use it on Thabeet. They trade David Lee, a future first rounder, and Duhon to the Pistons for Tayshaun Prince and Amir Johnson. They later trade Harrington and Nate for Etan Thomas, Mike James, and the fifth pick (Stephen Curry). They buy a mid-first rounder.

pg: Curry

sg: Hughes

sf: Prince

pf: Gallinari

c: Thabeet

bench: James, Johnson, Arthur, Henderson, etc.

4. The Knicks keep the 8th pick and select Curry. They trade Lee, Chandler and Duhon to the Blazers for Sergio Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw. They trade Nate and Harrington to the Wizards for the 5th pick, Thomas and James. They trade Mobley for Darko and the 24th pick. They sign Frye and Gortat.

pg: Sergio/Curry

sg: Tyreke Evans/Curry/Webster/Hughes

sf: Outlaw/Webster

pf: Gallinari/Darko

c: Gortat/Darko

bench: Darko/Evans/Webster/Hughes/Sergio/Frye

I’m done now. This could go on all day. These all look like solid teams though, and the point is, a lot can happen to drastically reshape the roster. Let’s hear some of your scenarios…

Handicapping the Knicks’ Pick

In my opinion, here are the odds of the Knicks drafting popular lottery prospects, from most to least likely:

Stephen Curry: 75%

This seems like a lock. Not only is Curry immensely talented but he also fills a need. With other prospects, you might have to give up some talent for fit or some fit for talent. It makes too much sense, and my impression of Curry’s constant expressions of love for the Knicks is that he’s trying to make clear that he’ll be unhappy playing elsewhere.

As an aside, I’ve often pointed to Bob Knight’s statement that Curry is one of the best passers to ever play college ball. Larry Brown, who is a harsh critic, particularly when it comes to point guards, echoed those sentiments, saying “I heard people rave about the way he shoots the ball. The most impressive thing to me is how he passes the ball. He’s a great passer.”

Johnny Flynn: 25%

It’s just a hunch but I think the order of preference for the Knicks is Rubio, Curry, Holiday and Flynn. Flynn is the second most likely choice because Holiday has quickly risen up draft boards. So if Curry is off the table, I think Flynn is the choice. And a good choice he’d be. While he’s not the best shooter, a lot of players come into the league with below average jumpers. It’s fixable. What Flynn does have is heart, hustle, good length, great point guard skills, and a winning attitude.

Jrue Holiday: 20%

In the unlikely event that Curry is selected before Holiday, and Holiday slides, the Knicks will scoop him up. He has risen quickly up draft boards because of his size, speed, and athleticism. Those are good traits to have in general, but alone they will not make you a good point guard. Holiday is a bit of a risk because while it is undeniable that he has all the physical tools to play in the NBA, his jumper is suspect, and his passing is unproven, as he played only one season at UCLA and played off the ball. In my opinion, the best way to evaluate a player is game film, so his sharp ascent might lead to a letdown. Maybe he’ll be Chauncey Billups one day, but maybe he’ll be Antonio Daniels.

Hasheem Thabeet: 15%

It’s hard to peg Thabeet’s place in the draft. The only team that was rumored to really like him was Memphis, but now they seem more enamored with Tyreke Evans and a rumored trade with the Kings in which they swap picks makes a lot of sense for both teams. It is possible though that he could wind up with Oklahoma or Washington. Minnesota is set up front (though they can add him to the rotation) and Golden State is repeating an experiment I tried in NBA Live once where my roster exclusively guards. There has been rumored interest on the part of Donnie Walsh for Thabeet, but I don’t think he loses a shot at a real point guard for Thabeet. Maybe a Lee or Nate or Harrington or Hughes trade for Etan Thomas, Mike James (Jon originally came up with this idea and it makes sense) and the 5th pick could land the Knicks Thabeet and still allow them to draft a point.

Jordan Hill: 15%

There haven’t been any Hill to the Knicks whispers at all, but he seems to be a popular candidate to slide in many mock drafts. He’d be a cheap Lee replacement but would offer more toughness than Lee and would block a shot or two. Still not sure if Donnie prefers that to a play-maker though.

Tyreke Evans: 10%

Evans has great size and athleticism. He’s a physical presence in the back-court or even as a 3, but be sure, he’s a wing, not a point guard. Not only that but he will dominate the ball, pound it into the ground, and shoot poorly. There has been reported interest on behalf of the Knicks but I’m selling that rumor as a smokescreen. Just because the Knicks are calling a guy’s agent, or trying to schedule workouts, it doesn’t mean he’s a legitimate target. The Knicks have had their fair share over the last epoch of selfish players who pound the ball into the ground and either recklessly bull their way into the paint or heave up a jumper (Marbury, Crawford, Robinson, Francis), and they won’t take a chance on another one.

James Harden: 5%

Harden’s basketball IQ and scoring prowess would force the Knicks to take a long hard look at him if he is still on the board at 8. It would almost certainly mean that both Curry and Holiday have been selected. People knock Harden’s athleticism but he has been compared to Paul Peirce, who isn’t overly athletic and who slid to 10 on draft day somehow.

Ricky Rubio: 5%

There is a chance that the Knicks could land Rubio. Reportedly Rubio is wants to play for the Knicks. But unless he says he will play only for the Knicks, the chances of getting him are very small because other teams he would consider would have more to offer the Grizzlies in a trade. If he did issue such an ultimatum, Knicks fans should be prepared to lose Wilson Chandler in exchange, since it is unlikely that David Lee, who is a restricted free-agent, and thus can simply take the qualifying offer if he doesn’t consent to his destination in a sign and trade, would agree to go to Memphis. At that point you have to ask yourself, with the Knicks looking to win now, does it really make them better to give up 8 and Chandler for a 17 year old who is sure to require time to adjust to a faster game with stronger opponnents and a new culture? I see this trade happening only if the Grizzlies can be convinced to accept an expiring contract and a future draft pick in exchange.

Brandon Jennings: 1%

There hasn’t been any indication that the Knicks have interest in Jennings, and why should they? Why should anyone in the first half of the draft? Jennings showed promise in high school against boys half his size but so did Gerald Green and Kwame Brown. After high school, Jennings went to Europe and barely got off the bench in Italy. Then was replaced on his squad for the playoffs by a back-up power forward. I don’t buy the notion that he should be given slack because he’s 18. So is Rubio. Again, even though he might be good one day, the Knicks are trying to win now, and it is unlikely that Jennings will bring anything to the table next year at point guard.

Tommy Dee: Evans is the Fallback

Tommy Dee just brought the serious intel over at The Knicks Blog regarding the Knicks’ draft plans and other draft-related buzz. In the main, this is what Tommy is hearing about the Knicks’ plans:

We’ve learned that the Knicks have Holiday and Curry ahead of Evans, because they feel that they are more suited at the point guard position, but the Memphis product will work out for the Knicks as well as the Kings, Wizards and Raptors with Toronto keeping their fingers crossed that he falls to 9.  No chance he gets past the Raptors, who have all but guaranteed.

But our sources confirm the Knicks have been doing some serious homework on Evans and like what they are hearing and he should be the pick if both Holiday and Curry are off the board.

Can’t say I’m surprised that Evans has secured a virtual guarantee from the Raptors as we had him going there in our last mock and he fits what they need to a T. But while I recognize that he represents good value at 8 in certain scenarios, from the Knicks’ perspective I think Evans is a poor fit.

At any rate, over the past several days I’ve come to believe that Evans’ stock is rising to the point where it’s unlikely he’ll be there at 8.  Should Memphis and Sacramento make a very obvious and necessary swap of the second and fourth picks, several outlets are reporting that the Grizzlies would target Evans with the 4th pick. In addition, several mocks (including DraftExpress’) have Evans being selected by the Timberwolves at 6 and he’s obviously a fit with Nellie and the Warriors at 7.

Not surprisingly, with three weeks to go until draft day the lottery is in a state of flux and our third mock draft (which will go up this weekend) is going to look quite a bit different at the top than the last one did.

Dan L adds:

Tommy also picks up on reports that the Grizzlies are surely looking to trade their second pick, as Rubio doesn’t want to play there and the Grizzlies don’t love Thabeet. The only way for the Knicks to get Rubio is for Rubio to say he’ll only play for the Knicks, since the Kings are undoubtedly interested. Even if he does make such an ultimatum though, Knicks fans will have to come to terms with the notion that any trade will likely cost them Wilson Chandler, since it is unclear that David Lee, who is a restricted free agent, would agree to play for Memphis.

Draft Buzz: Curry, Flynn, Holiday, Maynor Rising. Rubio Falling. Trades?

Since I can’t live vicariously through myself (like the most interesting man in the world), I have to do it through Chad Ford, who attended the Chicago Draft Combine, spoke with many GMs and coaches, and came away with some solid information.

Notably, four point guards are rising…I’m not surprised that they are Stephen Curry, Johnny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, and Maynor. Three out of these four are on my wish list. The two ishiest guys on my ish list didn’t even show up for workouts.

On Holiday:

…UCLA’s Jrue Holiday garner[ed] the most attention. He was the biggest point guard of the top group and seemed to tower over several of the smaller guys on the floor.

During one 3-on-2 full-court drill, Holiday looked like a power forward running on the wing. And while his size was impressive, so was his game. He was hitting his jump shot, finishing with both hands and showing versatility and an excellent handle.

On Flynn:

Flynn continues to generate buzz with his combination of speed and power — even if he was the shortest guy on the floor. Every GM I spoke with now sees him as a lottery pick, with many projecting him in the Top 10.

On Curry:

Curry put on a shooting show — no surprise there — but many GMs commented that he really looked like he belonged when he participated in a number of ballhandling and full-court drills. If Curry can prove to teams that he can play point guard, he’ll go somewhere between No. 5 and 13. If he can’t, he could slip out of the lottery. The results of the first day of camp had to be encouraging.

On Maynor:

Maynor also generated some significant buzz with his decision-making and shooting.

“He looked like he was totally in control out there. There’s a smoothness to his game that I really like,” an NBA head coach said.

I’d be happy with any of these guys. I don’t think Maynor will be a lottery pick. If he is one it will be late in the lottery and if the Knicks wind up with him it will be because they traded down.

Holiday is taking a rocket ship out of the Knicks stratosphere. I’d be happy if he fell though.

I like Flynn’s toughness, and power and speed go a long way in the NBA. He’ll be a capable starter.

And can we finally put to rest the notion that Curry is an undersized 2 who can’t play 1? Isola has been insisting that Curry is unproven, but I think he proved a lot last year and will continue to prove himself in workouts and as a rookie. Now it seems like there are teams ahead of and behind the Knicks who want the kid. If he really wants to be here (and he can’t seem to hide his desire to be on the big stage), he won’t work out for anybody except the Knicks.

Also, according to Ford (link requires ESPN Insider), Rubio is slipping, with teams questioning his touch and his propensity to turn the ball over:

Speaking of Rubio, I encountered a number of NBA GMs and scouts this week who were pretty skeptical about Rubio’s NBA future. They see him as an average athlete who can’t shoot well and who is turnover prone, and wonder aloud why he’s ranked so high.

A few GMs said Rubio isn’t in their top five. While I’ve heard doubts expressed before, the skepticism was expressed much more strongly this week by more execs. I’m going to keep digging. Maybe Henry Abbott struck a chord with his TrueHoop post on Rubio.

In any case, if Memphis and Oklahoma City decide against Rubio and don’t trade either of their picks to a team that wants to move up to get him, it’s hard to see the Sacramento Kings passing on Rubio at No. 4.

Ford also reports that there are lots of potential trades being discussed at the top of the draft. Things are very fluid. I don’t know about you, but I love draft time.

No. 8 Just Too High for Ty Lawson

Look, I have nothing against the guy and I think it’s undeniable that he had a stellar junior year at UNC, but I think that those who would consider Ty Lawson a viable option for the Knicks at 8 are seriously overrating his ability. When I watch Lawson play, I see a PG very well suited to Roy Williams’ system at UNC, but I don’t see a lottery pick.

Lawson has some terrific attributes that will probably help him carve out a nice NBA career, particularly his speed with the ball and his ability to distribute in transition. But he’s also undersized, injury prone and limited in half-court sets. In the past I’ve compared Lawson to Jacques Vaughn–and I only think that’s a little unfair (Lawson is a more talented scorer. But think about Jacques Vaughn when he played for Roy Williams at Kansas and you get the idea.). Consequently, tonight’s report from DraftExpress that Lawson seems to be sliding a bit comes as no surprise in these quarters. Here’s what Jonathan Givony is hearing:

One player who really doesn’t seem to have very much positive buzz these days is Ty Lawson. “Injury prone” one assistant GM calls him. “A backup point guard…he’s 100% behind Jonny Flynn” another NBA representative says. “He’s a product of North Carolina’s system” a third told us. Lawson seems to be outside of the lottery at the moment, but still has a good chance to be picked by two teams looking for point guards in the late teens, Philadelphia (#17) and Atlanta (#19). He’ll have to keep Eric Maynor at bay, though.

To me, that sounds about right and, in fact, we projected Lawson to be selected by the 76ers in our first mock that we posted after the lottery. I know Lawson has a workout scheduled with the Knicks, but unless Donnie Walsh trades down from the 8th spot, he’s not going to be the pick.

On a related note, DraftExpress also had this to say about the Stephen Curry, Larry Brown, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Knicks:

Larry Brown is reportedly extremely high on Stephen Curry, and may be willing to trade up in order to get him. Apparently he views him as being able to play either guard position, even alongside Charlotte’s current group of point guards, Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin.

Curry is getting love from teams as high up as Washington and also has a chance to be drafted 6th (Minnesota) or 7th (Golden State). While the Knicks clearly like him, he isn’t the only player they will consider—the other top candidates on their board currently appear to be Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday.

Prospect Wish List and Ish List

I’m not as saavy as to the college game as Jon, but I do have my opinions. I put together a wish list and an ish list for this year’s draft.

Wish List (only 8 deep, since it’s pointless to go past 8):

1. Stephen Curry: Elite shooter, elite passer, elite basketball I.Q., astute team defender. Talk about fitting like a glove.

2. Ricky Rubio: Jason Kidd to Curry’s Nash. Great defender, elite passer, creative with the ball, not much of a J.

3. Blake Griffin: Beast. Elite rebounder. Polished offensively. Not a shotblocker or much of a defender, even though he promises he’ll defend on the next level. Reminds me of David Lee in that he’ll take a punch, but will he give one? More talented than David Lee but I’m not sure I want the lane to be a freeway to the paint anymore.

4. James Harden: High basketball I.Q., patient, lets the game come to him, knows how to read the D to set up his O without forcing anything.

5. Jrue Holiday: Apparently a solid point guard who played out of position and thus didn’t get to show it off. But it’s clear that he can defend.

6. Jordan Hill: Reminds me of a big Balkman (and not because of the hair). He’s hyperactive, blocks shots, defends, and chases down rebounds. He has size at 6’10 so you can stick him at center where he can be a weakside defender a la Camby. Downside? Chris Wilcox (not because of the hair).

7. Hasheem Thabeet: Shotblocking skills are unquestionable. But what else? Doesn’t have great footwork and isn’t particularly nimble, so I don’t really ever see him becoming a threat on offense. Got pushed around and outrebounded easily by DuJuan Blair in college, who is about 8 inches shorter than Thabeet. Hey, at least Chad Ford notes that he can hit a 10-15 foot jumper…in an empty gym.

8. Johnny Flynn: Great leader, super fast, great passer, intense, a winner.

Ish List:

1. Tyreke Evans: Just what the Knicks need: another guard to pound the ball into the ground for 20 seconds and then bull his way into the paint or chuck up a desperation jumper. Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, I’m looking in your general direction. Poor shooter, not a willing passer. Doesn’t fit into SSOL.

2. Brandon Jennings: Risk/reward just isn’t there, especially with more solid options like Curry, Lawson, Flynn, Maynor, and Calathes. He goes to Europe because he can’t get into college (we need a smart player at PG), and can’t get off the bench, doesn’t seem to have one particularly useful skill that he’s shown in game action, and might get cut from his team for a back-up power forward. You might say, he’s 19 and playing in Europe against top competition, cut him some slack! Yea? Well Gallo was playing against equally tough competition and was a top player on his team. Same with Rubio. Maybe Jennings will be a good pro, but I’d prefer some other team gamble on him.

3. Gerald Henderson: Fancy Shandon Anderson? No thanks. He can defend and he’s athletic but he couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his J. Tell me how that fits into SSOL?

Knicks FanBlog Sweet 16

We won’t be doing any mock drafts in this space until Tuesday evening following the results of the lottery but, in the meantime, here’s our ranking of the top 16 prospects that are eligible for this year’s draft. This list is simply based on our own impressions and opinions of these players (although names are linked to their profiles at DraftExpress.com). We’re not trying to present some sort of consensus of how these prospects are viewed by the draft experts. Without further ado:

  1. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
  2. Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
  3. James Harden, SG, Arizona State
  4. Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
  5. Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
  6. DuJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
  7. Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
  8. Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA
  9. Earl Clark, F, Louisville
  10. Demar DeRozan, G/F, USC
  11. Terence Williams, G/F. Louisville
  12. Brandon Jennings, PG, Virtus Roma
  13. Nick Calathes, G, Florida
  14. Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
  15. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
  16. Jonny Flynn PG, Syracuse
  • We imagine the first two aren’t very controversial but it did take us a few minutes to decide between Rubio and Griffin for the top spot. In the end, after some discussion, we decided that a big man with Griffin’s athleticism and ability is just too valuable a commodity to pass on in that first spot. But we’re both big believers in Rubio and Griffin has some limitations that make him less than a cornerstone player (you can read about that here).
  • We also struggled with where to slot Thabeet. A player with his size and athleticism has a pretty big built-in upside but he has big-time bust potential as well. In the end, though, we think his ceiling is probably something like Sam Dalembert or Joel Pryzbilla and just couldn’t justify putting him any higher than 7th.
  • You’ll notice how guard heavy this list is. This draft is almost completely devoid of capable big men. A good argument could be made for James Johnson of Wake Forest as a top 16 prospect (he was one of the last cuts), but we like the guards better.
  • And, considering how guard heavy the list is, we know that some will think we’re crazy for leaving Tyreke Evans off our list. But we are not Evans supporters at this blog. Evans is the type of player who would have thrived with Isiah’s no accountability, chuck-and-duck version of the Knicks. Yes, we know he won a whole bunch of games in a row with Memphis in Conference USA. He’ll be a fine pick for the Warriors or any other team that values guards who pound the ball into the ground for 20 seconds and then force up contested shots.
  • It should also be noted that Dan has serious reservations about Brandon Jennings and, if this wasn’t a collaboration, he might not even have him in his Top 16. In the end, though, he was sort of persuaded (but not really) that at 12, his upside justified the risk.
  • Originally the list was going to be a “fine 15″, but we couldn’t decide between Lawson or Flynn so we just expanded it to 16 players. Those two, while very different types of PGs, were difficult to distinguish between for the purpose of this list.

Of course, we welcome debate.

The Knicks Are Bad, Let’s Talk Draft Part III

I’ve been promising a new installment of draft player profiles for a few weeks now and, after last night’s damaging loss to the Knicks’ playoff aspirations, here it is:

(Note: For Parts I and II, click here and here.)

(Second Note: As always, all player links are to draftexpress.com, in my estimation, the best draft site on the web.)

It’s not a deep draft for big men, especially big men worthy of a late lottery choice. Barring a Bulls-like lottery win, the Knicks probably won’t get a shot at Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet or Jordan Hill. (And even if the Knicks did win the lottery, I’d argue they should take Ricky Rubio over all those guys.) As such, for now let’s focus on players that might be there in the 9-12 range and take a look at some bigs and guards that’d be good fits on the Knicks.

Big Men

Cole Aldrich, Sophomore, Kansas, 6’11, 250 – Aldrich is the rare true center in the college game that’s actually a little underrated. It might be because he’s one of those guys, like Brook Lopez, who doesn’t look quite as athletic as he actually is. He’s not explosive and he looks a little awkward at times but Aldrich has a good frame, runs the floor surprisingly well and shows good footwork and coordination. And his skill level is constantly improving. Defensively, he’s very strong on the boards and an excellent shot-blocker with good instincts and timing. He really knows how to use his size to be disruptive in the middle. His offensive game has grown by leaps and bounds this season. He shows a consistent, albeit strange looking, jumper out to about 17-18 feet and he’s developed several post moves that he executes pretty effectively at the college level.

As for his downside, Draft Express has noted that Aldrich lacks toughness, but in the Kansas games I’ve watched this season from beginning to end (around 5 I think), I haven’t detected that. No question Aldrich is a finesse center on the offensive end (due mostly I think to his lack of explosiveness) but I haven’t seen any indication that he doesn’t like to mix it up. I think it’s more fair to say that he doesn’t always play as big as he is, which is a common problem for young big men, and one that often subsides with experience. It’s not clear whether or not Aldrich intends to put his name in the pool this year but, if he does, he’d be a good find in the late lottery and give the Knicks a strong defensive presence and solid shooting touch at the 5.

Craig Brackins, Sophomore, Iowa St., 6’10, 230 – Perhaps no player in college basketball has made a bigger leap, in terms of productivity, from their freshman to sophomore seasons than Brackins has. Playing only 5 more minutes a game than he did last season, Brackins has nearly doubled his scoring average to (up from 11.4 to 20 per game). More importantly, he’s become a much more active rebounder and he now grabs a very solid 12 boards/40 minutes. As such, he’s become an NBA prospect.

Brackins is a legit 6’10 and has some very well developed offensive skills. In the past, he got his points using a perimeter game that revolved almost entirely around his ability to face up and stick jumpers off the dribble. This season, he’s been spending much more time down on the block and he has learned to score on a few back to the basket moves. He has a pretty solid fadeaway and a decent hook but he doesn’t have much game going strong towards the rim. To say he’s a poor passer out of the post at this point is probably too generous. As an aside, another problem he has is his teammates. They don’t really know how to play with him and struggle to get him the ball sometimes.

Defensively Brackins has a long way to go. He’s not terribly quick laterally and he’s not explosive. He doesn’t block shots or control the paint. He has become a very aggressive rebounder, though. Brackins might someday become a capable man to man defender but it’s unlikely that he’s ever going to develop into the kind of big man that can anchor a team on defense.

All in all, Brackins is a solid offensive big man but his upside is somewhat limited by his only o.k. athleticism. He’s an old sophomore at 21 which could mean that, athletically, what you see is pretty much what you are going to get. Draft Express compares him to Channing Frye. I think that’s a little unfair as Brackins has already shown more versatility and toughness than Frye did as a collegian but the fact that Frye even popped into their heads when evaluating Brackins should tell you something.

Guards

Tyreke Evans, Freshman, Memphis, 6’5, 195Evans entered the season hyped as the most NBA-ready freshman in the country and that’s largely proven to be true as other highly-touted freshmen like Demar DeRozan, B.J. Mullens and Jrue Holiday have had their ups and downs and shown that they could probably use another year in school (though its pretty clear that DeRozan, and probably Mullens are going to come out). Evans has an NBA body and an NBA game (for better and worse) and could crack a rotation right away if he landed in the right situation.

Here’s the skinny: From a skill standpoint, there’s a lot to like. He has a very well-developed offensive game and he shows great mastery advanced offensive moves. Evans is a solid shooter inside the 3 point line and he uses his strength to finish plays at the rim, especially in transition. Evans also gets to the free throw line a lot at the college level. When he draws the attention of the defense, he has good court vision and he hits the open man for an assist. Defensively, he’s very good when he wants to be and he’s versatile. He’s proven he can guard PGs on the ball but he’s also big enough and strong enough to slide over effectively guard 2s.

However, Evans is a classic combo guard in the Jamal Crawford mold. He’s got great size for a PG but he isn’t really a 1 because he looks for his shot far too often and, while he sees the floor, he doesn’t really get his teammates involved or control the pace. And he’s not a pure 2 either because he needs the ball in his hands constantly to be effective. He’s been very successful for Memphis this season because, midway through the year, Coach John Calipari realized that the team’s path to greatest success would be to move Evans from the 2 to the 1 and let him create (mostly for himself). This has proved to be an especially effective strategy for Memphis because of the type of offense they run which, if you’ve never seen it before, is a clinic on how to exploit the talents of the modern day, AAU ballplayer. Coach Cal calls it the “dribble drive offense” but in reality it just appears to be a set that allows his players to take turns in Iso situations until one of them either creates a shot for himself or draws enough defensive attention to create an opportunity for someone else. This is the perfect style of offense for a player like Tyreke Evans but it really has nothing to do with what the Knicks are trying to do (and I’d be surprised if Evans learned anything this year running it). Evans may prove to be an effective NBA player, but I think he’d be a poor fit with the Knicks.

Willie Warren, Freshman, Oklahoma, 6’4, 200 – Warren is an example of a freshman who wasn’t quite as highly touted entering the season but has put together a freshman year that thrust him into the lottery conversation (Greg Monroe is another). He’d flown under the radar a little until recently largely because he plays on the same team as All-Everything, Consensus-Number-1-Pick-In-The-Draft, big-man Blake Griffin. But make no mistake, Warren is really, really good. As the year has progressed he’s really taken off and he got to show what he could do when Griffin recently sat out a few games with a concussion (especially in that Kansas game).

Warren is a combo guard with great size, long arms, and above average NBA athleticism. For the most part, he has played off the ball for the Sooners this season but when given the opportunity to run the offense, he’s shown a great handle and good court vision. Warren is also a natural leader and he projects that confident “I’ve got this” deameanor that the great ones tend to have (kinda like a certain Italian forward we know). Earlier this season Warren was a little bit inconsistent with his distance shooting but as the year has progressed and his confidence has grown he’s become downright dangerous out there. Bottom line, on offense there’s very little Warren can’t do.

On defense, Warren is improving, but more of a work in progress. He’s got a good basketball IQ and that enables him to make plays, especially in the passing lanes, but doesn’t really show strong defensive fundamentals. As is the case with everything Warren though, when he decides his team needs a stop, he can be dominant defensively and he uses his strength, length, and quickness to put on the clamps.

Warren is now emerging as one of the best guard prospects in the college game. He reminds me a little bit of the Pistons’ old starting PG, Chauncy Billups and their new one, Rodney Stuckey. While he’s being touted as a late lottery prospect right now, given that the Sooners are likely to perform well in the tournament and given how well he’s likely to show individually in his pre-draft workouts, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Warren enjoyed a Russell Westbrook type rise into the top 5 as the draft approaches.