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Portsmouth Invitational - '62 Years Running - The Best of the PIT'

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) is a major NBA event that showcases some of the top senior talent across college basketball. It is noted for featuring many of the great players of NBA's past. And, over the course of its 62-year history, the PIT has become a staple for NBA scouts, agents, and media members alike, who all flock to the four-day event to see some of the top senior talent square off in organized scrimmages.

In the current agent-dominated landscape, where players are too often concerned with harming their draft stock and are focused more on how they will conduct themselves in team interviews, the PIT is a breath of fresh air for those who subscribe to the mantra: 'actions speak louder than words.'

At the PIT, a player's game does the talking, so to speak, which provides a glimmer of hope for those out there who still clamor to the notion that head to head matchups can still tell a lot about a prospect. While no scout in their right mind would substitute a player's body of work in the regular season for one's performance at the PIT, the event does allow scouts to glean some aspects of a player's adaptability, toughness, and willingness to buy into a team construct, especially given the fact that most of these guys are playing alongside each other for the first time.

While many players stood out in certain contests but failed to live up to their promise in others, several individuals were consistent throughout, standing out from the pack and really helping their draft stocks. Five players in particular really impressed from an NBA prospect perspective: Markel Starks, Travis Bader, Akil Mitchell, Javon McCrea, and Andre Dawkins all really helped themselves at this event.

Markel Starks, Georgetown - While Davante Gardner took home the MVP trophy for his spectacular performance in the final game, looking pretty dominant on the glass and in the post, Markel Starks was far and away more deserving of the MVP award. Although he played alongside pure point David Stockton, who had a tremendous camp in his own right, Starks looked every bit the part of the best point guard at the event. In terms of his ability to break down the defense, Starks employs an adequate first step and regularly turned to his arsenal of hesitation moves to break his man down off the bounce and either take the ball all the way to the rim, or pull up for an often uncontested jumper. He did this with impunity at the PIT,  and demonstrated excellent body control when confronted with a bigger help defender. Not only was Starks hyper aggressive attacking the basket, but he was incredibly crafty at the rim, evincing tremendous body control and the concentration and strength to finish through contact. He also possesses an array of floaters and scoop shots. With that said, Starks' bread and butter at the next level will be his ability to keep defenses honest with his pullup jumper, which is somewhat of a lost art in today's game. Starks has the balance and poise to score off the bounce, elevating and creating enough separation on his shot to likely receive clean looks at the next level. While Starks displayed good range on his outside shot, he was not particularly consistent in this respect throughout the season.

Starks is more than just a scorer though. At the PIT, Starks demonstrated that he can serve as a floor general, seeing the floor and creating plays for his teammates. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to read the defense, hitting open cutters and making winning basketball plays. On the defensive end, Starks is a savvy defender who committed only 2.55 fouls per 40 minutes (good for 11th best in the Big East). Starks does a nice job getting in a stance and possesses the lateral quickness to defend at the next level. While Markel Starks was not given the MVP nod, he more than impressed with his performance at the PIT, capped off by his game winning three pointer as time expired to earn his team the championship trophy.

Travis Bader, Oakland - While I did not have the pleasure of witnessing Bader's most impressive three point shooting barrage in his first game at the PIT, the 6'5 wing clearly stood out as the best shooter at this event. Travis Bader sports textbook mechanics, nice elevation, and a quick release on his jumper shot.   And even though he did try to display a more diversified game at times, Bader's potential at the next level rests in his ability to nail the long ball. While he is not as effective shooting off the bounce, Bader was remarkably accurate connecting off the catch in transition or hitting shots off a curl. He also did not get rattled by the physicality of the game, drawing several three point fouls. This came as no surprise to me given his performances during the year, where teams absolutely did everything they could to clamp down on him from beyond the arc. Bader is a master at properly utilizing screens and reading defenses in order to get off his shot. Oakland regularly ran set plays and he was able to dial in from distance with only a little bit of daylight.

In terms of the other facets of his game, Bader did employ a shot fake at times and got to the rim on a few occasions, but this was few and far between. Defensively, Bader shows good effort and a solid intensity level, working hard to stay with his man, but will likely be average to below average at the next level given his limited physical profile, which will hurt his ability to fight over the top of screens. All in all, Bader has good size for a wing and a defined role at the next level, making him an obvious candidate to be drafted.

Akil Mitchell, Virginia - Akil Mitchell was one of the most highly touted names coming into the PIT, and he did not disappoint with his performances here. Mitchell was dominant defensively and controlled the glass throughout the tournament, two areas he will likely have to specialize in next season if he is able to earn an NBA roster spot. The lengthy Mitchell has a fairly raw offensive game at this point, but was physical attacking the basket. His explosiveness off the bounce was evident, and he likely has not reached his full potential on this end of the floor. For instance, he made several explosive maneuvers to the basket, spinning off of his man and finishing at the rim before the defender could even react. Mitchell is not particularly shy in this regard, and will ferociously throw the ball down if a defender allows him to get deep enough post position. While Mitchell certainly has the strength to back his man down, he does not yet boast the advanced footwork to truly create for himself off the initial post entry feed in any meaningful way. He instead relies heavily on his athleticism and strength to finish at the rim on both back to the basket and faceup moves. In terms of his other capabilities on this end of the floor, Mitchell does not yet have the range to stretch defenses and keep them honest at the next level. This likely could be a big area of improvement for him in the coming seasons.

In terms of his promise on the glass, Mitchell did a nice job securing rebounds and this will likely be a strength at the next level. He did a nice job of blocking out more physically imposing players and utilizing his superior athleticism to corral loose balls. On other trips, he was able to tip it out to his teammates and keep possessions alive. Defensively, Akil is a great help defender who can come over from the weakside and contest at the rim. He works hard in the post to maintain position on the block and utilizes his length to deflect post entry feeds. He is active in passing lanes and regularly deflected the ball on several occasions due to his great timing and quickness (he led the PIT with 2.3 steals per contest according to realgm.com statistics). Ultimately, Mitchell is a consummate role player at the next level who possesses the requisite athleticism to make an NBA roster next season.

Two Additional Players Deserving Mention:

Andre Dawkins, Duke - Dawkins was a revelation at this event due to his tremendous shooting display. Dawkins gets good elevation on his shots and was able to pull up from virtually anywhere on the floor. He also demonstrated a lot more aggression attacking the rim than most were accustomed to seeing during his time at Duke. He was able to get past his man on several occasions and possesses the strength to finish through contact. All in all, Dawkins projects as a jump shooter who can spot up off the dribble or off the catch.

Javon McCrea, Buffalo - McCrea was arguably the most consistent big man at this event and was able to physically dominate his opponents at times. He likely is the strongest player at the event, and regularly attacked his man's body and finished through contact. McCrea possesses the necessary girth (body type wise) to create separation in the post and finish against bigger opponents. At the PIT, McCrea was a dominant physical presence facing up and scored on several up and under moves and scoop shots which were heavily contested. He was also aggressive on the offensive glass, creating extra possessions for his team and looking every bit the part of an undersized power forward. Defensively, McCrea was physical enough to move his man out of the post area, but struggled a little bit when lengthy players were able to get the ball super close to the hoop. With that said, he was active defensively and readily poked the ball away on numerous occasions. McCrea also demonstrated his midrange jump shot, and connected with some consistency. His form is still rather awkward looking though, and a larger sample size is needed before it can be said that he has improved in this area. Overall, McCrea will likely be limited initially by his size, but can eventually make a roster down the road if he can show some consistency on his jump shot and extend his range.

Pressing On: Lineup Considerations For The Grizzlies In A Post-Rudy Gay World

When the Rudy Gay trade was initially announced, many Memphis Grizzlies fans instantly lost their confidence in the direction of their franchise. A season that was once filled with unbridled enthusiasm had now given rise to forecasts of “doom and gloom” on the horizon.

Following the completion of the trade, the Grizzlies struggled mightily, dropping three of four, with the one win coming against the Wizards at home. The resulting backlash from Lionel Hollins gave the media much ammunition. Justifiably, the internal tension between the coach and front office, coupled with the aforementioned three decisive defeats, failed to instill confidence and rightfully caused many to doubt the wisdom of the moves in the short-term.

Speculation ensued amongst many.

Was Zach Randolph next on the chopping block because Hollins refused to play front office darling Ed Davis? Is Hollins definitely gone next season after voicing his considerable displeasure with the moves? There was some truth to both of these lines of questioning.

Since that point in time, however, the front office has done an excellent job of assuaging these concerns, promising that Randolph will not be traded and verbalizing Hollins’ importance to the franchise. It also helps that the Grizzlies began winning again. After dropping three of four, they have since won three in a row, including a victory against Western Conference rival Golden State. While it is still a bit premature to assess the merits of the Rudy Gay trade, the front office has done its best to mollify some concerns in the interim and ensure fans that the franchise is moving forward.

With this in mind, the operative question then is, how should the Grizzlies move forward?  A fair starting point should involve identifying what made this team successful in the past. And, in doing this, it is important not to jump to rash conclusions concerning the current state of the Grizzlies. One must consider that the new players are not even a month into their tenure with the team. If previous additions are any indication, it is likely going to take some time before they can adjust to Hollins’ system and build chemistry with their new teammates. After all, it took the Grizzlies’ previous starting five a couple of seasons to gel.

With the front office and coaching staff vehemently disagreeing on what made the Grizzlies a potential contender, and so many members of the media entrenched in their stance on the trade, how can we sift through these competing agendas and determine how to move forward? Given the scenario at hand, it is necessary to objectively examine team production. And what better way to do this than to turn to statistics to discover and evaluate lineup trends?

Evan Zamir’s newly-devised NBA WOWY tool provides us with the means of shedding light on many questions regarding team chemistry. According to Mr. Zamir, NBA WOWY allows one to “see which players do better or worse given any arbitrary pairing of his teammates being on or off, with the hope of being able to ‘explain’ why certain combinations of players worked better than others.” After all, what better tool is there for discerning what is/was happening on the floor, than one that allows us to consider different lineups and their net effect on offensive and defensive output?

One notion that I sought to dispel coming in is the idea that inserting Tony Allen into the game crippled the Grizzlies’ offensive output and was a driving force behind many of his team’s offensive droughts. While I was always well aware that Tony Allen’s outside shooting left a lot to be desired, I felt that these claims that he would almost single handedly stagnate the offense were exaggerated to an extent. So, I decided to compare a Grizzlies starting backcourt lineup featuring Tony Allen, Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay on the floor and Pondexter out of the game, to one where Pondexter replaced Allen. In the first scenario, which occurred on a healthy sample size of 1,464 possessions, the Grizzlies shot a 51.0% True Shooting Percentage. On the other hand, a lineup featuring Pondexter, Conley Jr., and Rudy Gay (which had 325 incidences) shot a 54.1% TS%, a fairly substantial improvement. Further, the Grizzlies posted a 101.4 Offensive Rating with Allen in the game compared to a 118.8 Offensive Rating with Pondexter substituted for him. This differential is certainly worth noting and suggests the opposite of my initial impression- that when holding the rest of the starting backcourt constant, inserting Pondexter into the game for Allen substantially improved the Grizzlies’ offensive efficiency. (not for the reasons that one might think though) With that said, other considerations could have factored in as well. For instance, many theories had arisen regarding the fact that Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay did not exactly complement each other, something which I will address later on in this piece. Because this analysis does not necessarily suggest that Randolph and Gay were always on the floor at the same time, additional chemistry considerations may have factored in.

Nevertheless, when Randolph and Marc Gasol were both added to the mix, the Grizzlies posted a 110.5 Offensive Rating and a 51.6% TS% with Pondexter replacing Allen as a starter. When these big men were added to the lineup alongside Allen, these offensive metrics remained virtually identical. This is due to the fact that when the starting backcourt was on the floor together, they were paired with both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph nearly 80% of the time. Given both sets of results, it is safe to say that these findings corroborate the position that adding Pondexter to the Grizzlies’ previous starting lineup would have bolstered the offense.   

On a more micro level, there was a case to be made for the fact that Tony Allen’s lack of outside shooting created a logjam in the paint and hindered the Grizzlies’ ability to score from four feet to nine feet from the rim. Overall, substituting Pondexter for Allen resulted in little change in the Grizzlies’ ability to score from three feet in. However, putting Pondexter in for Allen tended to open up the game for Gay to score baskets at the rim, as Rudy shot about 14% more of his shots from this distance playing alongside Pondexter. He also connected on a higher percentage of his attempts with Pondexter in the game, hitting 60.0% compared to 53.9%. On the other hand, Mike Conley Jr. shot 42.9% around the rim with Pondexter in the game, as opposed to 57.1% with Allen in the game. A likely explanation for this could be that Allen moves more without the ball, whereas Pondexter tends to camp out on the perimeter in halfcourt sets. With more players converged on the perimeter, it may have been more difficult for Conley to penetrate to the rim. The most obvious explanation for this discrepancy, though, is that the defensive threat of Allen and improved defensive rebounding capabilities with him on the floor helped create transition opportunities for Conley. Just outside of three feet, the Grizzlies tended to have more success with Pondexter in the game, shooting about 8% higher from four to nine feet out.

With that said, the notion that substituting Tony Allen for Quincy Pondexter would have resulted in greater gains from beyond the three point line is a myth. The Grizzlies’ starting lineup actually shot a higher percentage from beyond the arc with Allen in the game. However, in both instances, three point shooting accounted for less than 17% of the team’s shot selection, meaning that the long ball was not a central part of the Grizzlies’ offensive attack with the starters in the game. The Grizzlies also shot a higher percentage from the midrange with Allen in the game, so it does not appear that Pondexter’s shooting ability actually enabled the Grizzlies to shoot a higher percentage from the perimeter. While this is somewhat counterintuitive, Pondexter shot well below his average as a part of the starting lineup, likely due to spacing issues.

So why were the Grizzlies a more efficient offensive team with Pondexter on the floor with the starters?  The answer is that every single player in the lineup tended to get to the line more frequently when Pondexter replaced Allen. This was particularly evident for Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, whose free throw rates climbed, likely due to the paint opening up and better spacing all around. Rudy Gay tended to get to the rim more often, and both Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay had higher usage with Pondexter on the floor.    

On the defensive end, the usual starting lineup held opposing teams to 50.5% TS% and a 92.4 Offensive Rating, compared to the 52.6% TS% and 102.1 Offensive Rating that occurred when Pondexter replaced Tony Allen on the floor. As one might have guessed, team defensive metrics for the pre-trade starting lineup point to Tony Allen’s strong defensive impact on the game. These findings suggest that substituting Pondexter for Allen in the starting lineup was more of an offense-for-defense tradeoff.  

Aside from the offensive chemistry concerns with Tony Allen, other questions abound. Was the Rudy Gay trade necessary because of Gay’s incompatibility with Zach Randolph? To address this issue, I decided to examine the statistics of the starting lineup with Rudy Gay and without Gay prior to the trade. The results were actually fairly surprising. With Rudy Gay removed from the lineup, the Grizzlies posted an Offensive Rating of 111.2 on 152 possessions, while shooting a 50.3% True Shooting %. This was substantially higher than the starting lineups’ 101.4 Offensive Rating, as alluded to earlier. However, their opponents shot a 61.8% TS% and posted a 109.9 Offensive Rating with Gay out of the lineup. Compared to the starting lineups’ previous job of holding teams to a 92.4 Offensive Rating, this differential is dramatic and suggests that Gay had a strong value to the Grizzlies’ starting unit from a defensive perspective. While it says nothing about the fair value that the Grizzlies received in return in the Gay trade, this analysis suggests that the front office may have taken this on/off knowledge into consideration when trading for Prince, who should help fill the defensive void left by Gay.  As for chemistry concerns, I had noticed that Randolph received many easy looks this year as a result of Gay’s penetration to the basket. Randolph posted a 50.7% TS% with Gay in the lineup and a 45.8% TS% without him there. This suggests that Randolph was more efficient shooting the basketball with Gay in the game, and that chemistry issues in the starting lineup were not as evident given this season’s data.

Looking ahead, there is not enough of a sample size to make a determination as to the strength of new lineup combinations. However, early indications are that the starting lineups’ offensive production has declined, turnovers remain virtually identical, and the team defense is also weaker. Still, it is way too soon after to assess whether or not this trade was a success, as there has not been enough time for the new starting unit to develop team chemistry. Moving forward, I believe that the Grizzlies should look for a spot up shooter to bolster their offensive output and a mobile shot blocker off the bench who is versatile enough to keep defenses honest from the midrange. The front office is hopeful that with increased usage, Randolph might be able to replicate his performance in 2011 and replace Rudy Gay’s offensive output. For the Grizzlies’ sake, I hope this is the case.

Freshman Prospects Before New Year's: Marcus Smart

In my last entry for “Prospects Before New Years” I review the ultimate freshman impact player in Marcus Smart. While Smart has a long way to go before he can enjoy success at the NBA level, he possesses some of the best intangibles of any guard in this year’s freshman class.

After winning at the high school level, Smart decided to join sharpshooting teammate Phil Forte at Oklahoma St. His presence has provided an immediate boost, and his play alongside the Cowboys’ returning talent has enabled this squad to attain a slot in the top 25. The Cowboys’ offense has looked more crisp than ever, and they are sharing the ball. Most importantly, though, their defense has been stifling with Smart as the catalyst. Apart from his statistical contributions, Smart has a high motor on both ends of the floor, regularly chasing down loose balls and pushing it in transition.

While Smart is not yet an efficient weapon at the college level, there are a number of things to like about his offensive potential down the road.

First and foremost, Smart functions as a de facto coach on the floor, initiating plays and making sure that everyone is in the right spot on the floor so that the Cowboys can execute their offensive sets. Smart possesses a good awareness of floor spacing and is constantly in motion when the ball is not in his hands, so as to not crowd the player with the ball. As a result, he is often open on back door cuts and gets a good portion of his offense moving without the ball. He also does a nice job coming off of curls, freeing himself for open three point attempts and drives to the basket. While he is only shooting 28.1 percent from behind the arc, he is much more efficient shooting the ball off the catch. When shooting off the catch, he squares his body to the basket more effectively.

While he demonstrates some promise without the ball in his hands, Smart is most comfortable creating for his teammates and thus projects as a combo guard or a bulky lead guard at the next level. The vast majority of Smart’s offense comes from drives to the rim. He has a below average first step for a point guard at the next level. With that said, Smart is crafty enough to drive when the opposition is overplaying or out of position defensively. Despite not being particularly explosive off the dribble, Smart uses his strength and body control to get his defender on his hip. Smart consequently gets to the line with regularity, drawing 5.4 fouls per 40 minutes of action, good for 10th in the Big 12.

He usually capitalizes on these trips to the charity stripe as well, hitting approximately 80 percent of his free throw attempts so far this season. Because of his 6’4 200. physique, Smart has the strength and hangtime necessary to finish through contact at the next level. And unlike most freshmen, Smart typically plays under control driving to the rim, and is fundamentally sound enough to pull up for an open jumper when defenders step in the lane.

In terms of his ability to shoot the basketball, Smart is very much a work in progress at this stage.  While he does have a serviceable enough shooting form with a high release point, he is connecting on a paltry 28 percent of his shots from behind the arc. This is largely due to the poor job that he does squaring to the basket on perimeter shots off the dribble. It is also possible that he jumps at different heights each time he shoots the ball, which could be contributing to his inconsistencies shooting the ball. With that said, Smart is fairly effective on mid range pull ups in the lane, getting good separation and elevation on these shots.

Aside from his raw scoring abilities, Smart does an excellent job creating for his teammates, which is why some envision him playing point guard at the NBA level. Before going into depth about his passing abilities, it must be noted that Smart is most effective with the ball in his hands and thereby would be best served to convert to the point guard slot. As a point of reference, he currently receives a touch on 27.3 percent of his team’s possessions. Not only does he initiate the Oklahoma St. offense by bringing the ball down the floor, but he is unselfish enough to swing it around the perimeter to execute the Cowboys’ offensive sets. Instead of attacking right away, Smart and his team exhibit considerable patience forcing the opposing defense to shift from side to side.

From there, whenever Smart has the ball in his hands, he is a threat to set teammates up for open shots. In particular, when Smart is able to get in the lane, he typically looks to create for them, either dumping it in to his big man for an easy finish or kicking it out to open three point threats on the perimeter. Time and again, Smart’s favorite target, lifetime teammate Phil Forte, is the beneficiary of pinpoint passes, which enable him to get right into his shooting motion. 

Smart also has an uncanny ability to read defenses, often feeding his teammates on their off hands if defenders are overplaying. In particular, on one possession in Oklahoma St.’s recent matchup with Gonzaga, Smart was able to thread the needle to his big man with the defender almost completely standing in the passing lane. Smart understands the relatively lost art of the post entry pass and regularly uses bounce passes to set up his teammates on the block. He is also adept at passing with either hand. As a result of his court vision, Smart ranks fourth in the Big 12 in Assist Rate. Smart also projects as a solid pick and roll player at the next level because of his ability to drive his man into screens, along with his aforementioned vision and passing instincts. His instincts are particularly important in this regard, and I expect him to keep defenses honest with his ability to pull up from the midrange. Finally, Smart does a nice job of making quick, cross-court passes, which set his shooters up with wide open opportunities from beyond the arc.

With his strengths in mind, Smart does have a long way to go before he can become a full time point guard at the next level. He currently plays at one speed, and has a below average handle for a guard looking to transition to the point. He has a fairly loose dribble, which will be stolen more often in the pros than it is at the collegiate level. Because Smart constantly has the ball in his hands and creates for his teammates, he does turn the ball over at a fairly high rate. For instance, he ranks in the bottom 20 of the Big 12 in Turnover Percentage. If Marcus Smart wants to become a full time point guard, he must develop a change of pace dribble to keep defenses off balance.

In addition to his strong passing ability, Smart is also one of the better rebounding guards in the draft. He possesses the length and leaping ability needed to corral loose rebounds, and generally has a nose for the ball. Smart utilizes fundamental box outs, and is also adept at tipping in baskets on the offensive end against bigger opponents. He ranks in the top 30 in the Big 12 in both Offensive and Defensive Rebounding Percentage and may even improve on these numbers as the season progresses.

On the defensive end, Smart demonstrates the most promise, as he has done a nice job of shutting down his opposition’s top guard. Smart’s length and leaping ability have allowed him to become one of the more impactful wing defenders at the college level already. He has been productive on the defensive end, ranking second in the Big 12 in Steals Percentage (35th in the nation overall) and 15th in Blocks Percentage. He has very active hands, and is able to swipe the ball away from players, but is best at anticipating in the passing lanes, where he is incredibly active. He typically turns these opportunities into break away dunks out in transition, where he is very difficult to stop. Further, Smart is one of the most prolific shot blockers under 6’5, and relishes opportunities to swat the ball away from the weak side.  Smart’s leaping ability has enabled him to become one of the leaders in blocked jump shots as well. He does a nice job of avoiding the body of jump shooters and rarely sends them to the line.

Aside from his productivity, Smart possesses many intangibles on the defensive end. He has tremendous awareness on the court and constantly shouts out where his teammates should be on the floor. Unlike most players his age, Smart has a great understanding of help defense. He is accustomed to coming over from the weak side and either double teaming and forcing a timeout, or blocking a shot away. On one occasion, he was faced with a two-on-one situation, but was able to delay a pass by driving the player with the ball towards his teammate, before recovering to the open man. Moreover, he does a nice job of defending the pick and roll, oftentimes trapping the guard up top. 

Otherwise, he is able to go over the top of the pick and negate any advantage. When he is defending a prolific shooter, Smart face guards him all over the court and causes a great deal of frustration, recovering through some difficult screens. In terms of his one-on-one defense, Smart has the length and lateral quickness to stay in front of just about anyone. He has a highly developed understanding of defensive angles, and regularly drives his man into a bigger defender or a trap situation. He has the strength to drive players off of their spot and will step in to take charges.  When he is forced to switch on a bigger player, Smart does a nice job of ‘chesting’ big men off the block without fouling.  

Overall, Marcus Smart plays with a poise uncharacteristic of most freshmen just acclimating themselves to the college level. He has a great motor and works extremely hard on both ends of the floor. His basketball IQ is highly advanced relative to his age, and his body is strong enough to compete at the highest level. Smart must continue to progress as a shooter and develop a better handle if he hopes to play the point guard position in the NBA. While these are considerable holes and would prevent him from contributing immediately as a lead guard at the next level, Smart is still at a very early stage of his development. All in all, Smart is a high risk, high reward player with a winning pedigree that should entice any NBA General Manager. 

Freshman Prospects Before New Year's: Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett exhibits considerable promise as a faceup post player who can step out and hit from the mid range. With that said, Bennett has a lot of room for growth on the defensive end.

Freshman Prospects Before New Year's: Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad projects as a high energy slasher with a developing mid and long range game. As the season progresses, look for him to improve considerably and become one of the nation’s most un-guardable weapons, not to mention a surefire top-5 NBA draft pick.

Freshman Prospects Before New Year's: Nerlens Noel

If Nerlens Noel can continue to progress in his understanding of basketball and improve his skillset along the way, he could actualize his potential and become a top player from the 2013 draft class. He does have a long way to go before he can make an impact in the NBA though.

Freshman Prospects Before New Year's: Archie Goodwin

Archie Goodwin projects as an athletic slasher with arguably the highest upside in the 2013 draft. He must continue to learn how to play without the ball in his hands, as he struggles using screens effectively.

Big East Prospect Watch

With Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Khem Birch and Mouphtaou Yarou, the Big East once again has several high-quality NBA prospects.

Atlantic-10 Prospect Watch List

With players like Tu Holloway, Chris Gaston and Terrell Vison, the Atlantic-10 has several intriguing prospects.

Horizon League Prospect Watch List

Ray McCallum, Khyle Marshall, Alec Brown, Eli Holman and Andrew Smith are intriguing prospects that scouts will be looking at in the Horizon League.

Conference-USA Prospect Watch List

Even though the All-Conference USA first team was comprised entirely of seniors, the vast majority of the league’s talent returns from a year ago

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