April 25, 2011

DraftExpress Essentials for Irving, Walker, Williams and Kanter

This post is simply giving you Draft Express‘ view on the four players projected to go somewhere around where the Raptors will be picking. You can click on the name to go to their Draft Express page to read more, these are just summaries. Have a nice Sunday.

Kyrie Irving
He shows excellent shooting mechanics and is already near-automatic with his feet set, also being very capable of making shots off the dribble with a quick release. He’s constantly probing the defense and won’t hesitate for a second to pull up for a 3-pointer if an opponent goes under the screen in hopes of cutting off his driving angle, which makes him quite a handful to game-plan against.

To complete the picture, Irving not only has the skill-set teams look for in a franchise point guard, but he also has the attitude and intangibles. He plays with great maturity and an amazingly confident demeanor on the court, an almost cocky swagger that makes it impossible for even the most casual observer not to realize who the best player on the court is. At some point in his career this might rub some people the wrong way, but considering the way he’s actually performing, no one on this Duke squad can dispute his alpha-dog status.

Luckily for the team that drafts him, according to all reports Irving is a serious, highly competitive and extremely intelligent player both on and off the court, with a terrific work ethic and a winning mentality. He not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk, making him exactly the type of prospect a NBA team would want to invest a high draft pick on.

Not as blazingly fast with his first step as Derrick Rose, John Wall, or even Kemba Walker, Irving plays at a very unique pace that keeps defenses consistently off-balance and allows him to get to the basket seemingly whenever he needs to. Able to drive left or right almost equally well, he has excellent timing on his drives, very good body control, and the ability to operate at different speeds. Rather than just attempting to blow by opponents using his pure first step, Irving instead likes to toy with his defender, using tricky stutter-steps, strong body fakes, and perfectly timed hesitation moves to beat opponents smoothly and slitherly.

Defensively, Irving won’t have any problems from a physical standpoint in the NBA, as he has good size, strength and lateral quickness, even if his wingspan probably won’t measure out off the charts. He’s already way ahead of where most freshman are on this end of the court too, as he plays with good intensity, has excellent fundamentals, and shows great timing jumping in the passing lanes. Like all freshmen, he has some issues defending off the ball and can get impatient coming out of his stance in long possessions, but these are minor qualms that can and likely will be corrected playing under one of the most respected coaches in all of basketball.

All in all, Irving is clearly an elite-level prospect who will only add to the embarrassingly rich crop of point guards the NBA is enjoying at the moment. He’s polished enough to help a team right away, but has plenty of potential to continue to improve at the same time, making him a very exciting prospect for a bad team to pluck very early in the draft.

Kemba Walker
Walker wasn’t known as a great shooter coming out of high school, but he has put an unbelievable amount of time into improving his mechanics and increasing his range over the past few years. He’s absolutely deadly now – both with his feet set and off the bounce. The fact that he can find the space to get his shot off whenever he pleases makes him that much more difficult to guard, particularly at this level. It’s also made his shot fake (a frequent part of his arsenal) more credible, which has, in turn, made him an even more effective threat slashing to the basket.

Walker has always had terrific quickness and ball-handling ability, but it’s only this year seemingly that he’s really learned to use them at all times. Often quick to defer to teammates in his first two years at UConn Walker is embracing his role as the end-all, be-all offensive catalyst for the Huskies.

It’s simply impossible for defenders to stay in front of him – both in transition and in the half-court. His aggressiveness with the ball, ability to change speed and direction instantaneously, and phenomenal body control allow him to knife through defenses effortlessly. He’s not afraid to drive full steam into the paint and draw contact at the rim, either. He shows great strength and toughness around the basket and is getting to the free throw line at an exceptional rate.

Walker is noted for his strong intangibles and has showed improved leadership skills this season. He seems to enjoy making his teammates better and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue in the NBA where he’ll be surrounded by more talented players. The fact that he’s already a prolific pick-and-roll threat will only make his transition to the next level easier.

He is at times criticized for questionable shot selection and a penchant for playing out of control, but Walker’s turnover rate is down substantially this year. This is a very good sign, especially considering the huge role he’s forced to shoulder offensively. We’ve seen a handful of possessions this season that reminded us of Walker’s old ways, but nothing that should make NBA decision makers overly concerned. This is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, as opposing coaches will surely be throwing everything in their arsenal at Walker in an attempt to slow him down.

Defense is the part of Walker’s game that will raise the biggest question marks from NBA evaluators – not because of his actual defensive ability, but rather his size. Standing somewhere around six-feet and change, Walker will always carry the “undersized” label, even though his height rarely affects him on the offensive end. He’ll match up against bigger, stronger, longer point guards in the NBA, which could make things more difficult. To his credit, though, he shows excellent lateral quickness, terrific instincts in the passing lanes and the type of toughness you come to expect from a New York City guard. Nevertheless, there is a bias amongst certain NBA-types against shorter point guards, which must be taken into account. While some will question his limited size and wonder how his game will translate to the next level, players such as Aaron Brooks, Brandon Jennings and Tony Parker have proved that point guards in this mold are incredibly valuable assets in today’s NBA.

On the offensive end, Walker has really become a much more reliable outside shooter this season, namely spotting up from behind the three-point arc. Walker has great mechanics, boasting a high and quick release with a smooth, consistent motion. He’s very effective with his shot both catching and shooting and pulling up in space, while he uses his excellent quickness and craftiness with the ball to create separation pretty consistently. He’s only making about one three per game, but he’s doing a lot of damage pulling up from inside the arc, while he’s also shown proficiency with pull-up jumpers and runners in the painted area.

Defensively, Walker plays aggressive, focused perimeter defense, getting into a good stance and moving his feet well to stay in front of his man. He sticks with his man well off the ball and doesn’t give up on plays, while also doing a good job in the passing lanes, pulling in 2.1 steals per game. Walker’s size is certainly an issue on this end of the court, however, as opponents can shoot over him and he doesn’t have the greatest strength, something that is problematic when getting through screens.

Looking forward, Walker clearly has a lot of attractive qualities from an NBA perspective, namely his outstanding first step and overall quickness, his ability to get separation, his improving outside shot, and his prowess in the pick-and-roll game. His decision-making remains inconsistent, though, and that’s something he’ll likely need to work on to become a starting point guard in the NBA.

Derrick Williams
For his height, Derrick Williams might be one of the best shooters at his position, shooting 56.8% from the three point line on 74 attempts. He is also top six nationally in the two advanced shooting metrics, posting an eFG% of 65.0% (6th nationally) and a TS% of 69.0% (4th nationally). In terms of his form, Williams has a very smooth stroke that is easy to repeat, no matter if he is catching and shooting or taking a shot off of the dribble. He takes off and lands in the same area, and his footwork is very good. ccording to Synergy Sports Technology, Derrick Williams is in the 96th percentile in terms of points per possessions in isolation situations, scoring about 1.130 per possession. Part of the reason Williams is so successful when he isolates his man is because he is quicker than most power forwards, but his defender can’t play off of him because of his shooting ability. The threat of Williams taking and making an outside jumper forces defenders to close the gap and not give Williams any space. Because of this, Williams is able to use his speed to his advantage and take the basketball to the rim. Williams is also an above average ball handler and this lets him get to the rim with ease.

Watching his film, the thing that stands out the most is how complete a scorer he’s become. Williams is a nightmare for college coaches to gameplan for. He’s able to shoot the ball from beyond the arc (knocking down an outrageous 70% of his attempts, on only about one make per game), operate effectively in the post, and create his own shot from the perimeter.

While his 3-point shooting percentages are likely to come down to Earth, and he may not be able to post up in the NBA at quite the same rate, Williams’ ability to create shots in isolation situations — where he ranks in the 99th percentile of college basketball players according to Synergy Sports Technology — is a highly coveted skill that most certainly will translate to the next level.

The deadly combination he brings to the table with his quick first step, long strides, polished footwork and outstanding body control hasn’t been seen in college basketball since Michael Beasley. Power forwards at this level simply have no way to slow him down, as evidenced by the incredible rate at which he gets to the free throw line. Better yet, he converts 76% of his attempts, up from 68% last season.

Not only can Williams create marvelously, he’s also an excellent finisher. He’s able to throw down emphatic dunks when given a head start and he shows the ability to contort his body and avoid contact in a manner more reminiscent of a wing player than a power forward.

He finishes with either hand, uses the glass extremely well and has a super soft touch that he uses to coax the ball into the basket from the most difficult of angles. Although he is prone to getting his shot blocked, Williams has such a quick second bounce that he’s often able to rebound his own miss and go up immediately with a follow-up attempt, usually before the flat-footed defense can react.

While he’s not the biggest player in this draft (he’s likely to measure somewhere between 6-8 and 6-9), nor the longest, Williams’ athleticsm, polished skills, high basketball IQ and fantastic scoring instincts are tools that NBA teams are in desperate need of these days. Smart, versatile power forwards who can create their own offense and score from anywhere on the floor are viewed by many as the second-most coveted players in the league right now after pick-and-roll point guards.

Where Williams lack of size really hurts him is on the defensive glass. In addition to getting caught watching the basketball and not holding his box out once in a while, Williams tends to get bullied around when the ball is in the air. The biggest example of that is when Williams gives up his inside position. Too many times, Williams gives up his position and lets his man get inside of him to the point it looks like he is the one trying to grab the offensive rebound. Add this lack of size to the fact that he doesn’t really hold his box-outs and that means he isn’t going to be grabbing as many rebounds as he should.

Enes Kanter
Measuring in at 6’10 with shoes on and sporting a 7’1 wingspan, Kanter wasn’t the tallest player on the floor, but his 260-pound frame afforded him a ton of success on the block. He’s not a great athlete by any standards, though he flashes some explosiveness from time to time, but uses his body as well as any player you’ll see on the high school level. He exceptionally good at using leverage, is extremely patient, won’t hesitate to initiate contact, and shows outstanding hands.

When Kanter gets the ball in the post off an entry pass or offensive rebound, he’s very good finding angles to create clean looks for himself at the basket. Able to establish deep position and showing an array of drop step moves and little pivots, Kanter has a knack for taking what the defense gives him and doing exactly what he needs to get the job done. Savvy beyond his years, Kanter excels at the rim for a player without outstanding athleticism.

Defensively, Kanter had some excellent possessions in practice, coming up with some blocks by being a step ahead of the play and contesting shots with his positioning, rather than his athleticism. His body helps him fight for position on the block, and his physical nature allowed him to deny penetration when his man attempted to take him off the dribble. Once the shot goes up, Kanter does a nice job of sealing off his man and pursuing the ball. Though his ability to rebound outside of his area wasn’t as apparent as it was in junior play, he’s still, more often than not, the player coming down with the ball in a crowd.

On top of his excellent skill level, Kanter impressed with his intangibles as well. He’s the type of quiet, competitive player that simply goes about his business without getting frustrated at officials or letting a few bad possessions throw off his game. The fact that he didn’t start the Hoop Summit game didn’t seem to faze him, as he could be seen enthusiastically supporting his team from the bench.

DraftExpress Essentials for Irving, Walker, Williams and Kanter
By Arsenalist

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