Bulls

Scouting the NCAA: Power Forwards and Centers

Scouting the NCAA: Power Forwards and Centers

Sunday, Apr. 4, 2010
5:20 P.M.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

On the eve of the NCAA Tournament's national championship game--who could imagine hometown Butler would make it to Indianapolis, let alone get to the championship game?--here is the final installment of college players who are prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, with a slant toward those who could be available when the Bulls make the selection and fit the team's needs. While several post players are expected to go extremely high in the draft this June, there are also some options outside of the elite prospects. Please note that some of these players are centers for their college teams, but will play power forward on the pro level, so the respective positions are combined here.
POWER FORWARDS AND CENTERS
Overview: Although Kentucky's Patrick Patterson is projected to be a lottery pick, the 6-foot-9 junior isn't viewed as having the same upside as other prospects, so the bruiser could slip, depending on the needs of various teams. Georgetown sophomore Greg Monroe is in a similar boat--although he might opt to return for another season, unlike Patterson who will graduate in three years--as his skill set, albeit unique, may not fit every franchise, as the 6-foot-11 southpaw is more of a finesse, passing big man than a true low-block big man.

A pair of post players who weren't on the radar as future pros when the season started, but are now considered at least borderline lottery selections are Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and freshman Hassan Whiteside of Marshall. Whiteside, a seven-footer, is still raw offensively, but his athleticism, shot-blocking ability and strong numbers this season has NBA personnel types salivating, despite coming from a mid-major program. The 6-foot-11 Udoh, a junior transfer from Michigan (where he wasn't much of a standout), is also an excellent shot-blocker, but adds another dimension as a versatile offensive player, as his unorthodox game intrigues next-level decision-makers.

True centers Solomon Alabi, Andrew Ogilvy, Dexter Pittman and Jerome Jordan form a quartet that intrigues pro teams, but each of the players have holes that worry teams. Alabi, a 7-foot-1 shot-blocking force from Florida State, has the defensive presence and athleticism NBA franchises love, but lacks strength and is raw on offense. Vanderbilt's Ogilvy, a native of Australia, has some similarities to countryman Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, but doesn't possess Bogut's athletic ability and projects as more of a role player, although he's skilled--albeit basic--on the offensive end and has the requisite size for his position. While Alabi and Ogilvy are underclassmen with the option to go back to school, Texas' Pittman and Tulsa's Jordan are both seniors. Pittman's massive weight loss throughout his college career speaks to his work ethic, but he is still a project, although his touch and huge frame have scouts convinced he will be drafted at some point, likely in the second round. Jordan may have faced mid-major competition, but he is a known commodity, and like the aforementioned Alabi, he is coveted for his defense and agility, and is a bit more offensively polished.

A group of potential early-entry candidates at power forward are also high on the radar of NBA teams. Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal was overshadowed by teammate and likely lottery pick Derrick Favors, a freshman, this season, but his bruising style and physical, blue-collar mentality appear to be able to translate well to the pro level. Iowa State's Craig Brackins came into the season with high expectations and although he had a bit of a disappointing year, his high skill level and ability to face the basket may be a good fit for teams looking for some versatility. Larry Sanders of Virginia Commonwealth is still somewhat of a project, but his athleticism, rebounding and tremendous shot-blocking talent should earn him a niche as a role player, even though his offense is behind his defense at this stage. JaJuan Johnson of Purdue is in a similar boat, as he needs to significantly bulk up, but showed major signs of development as a high-energy, pogo stick-type on both ends, especially in the wake of the season-ending injury to teammate and Boilermakers star Robbie Hummel.

Lastly, we come to a trio of seniors who have established themselves as college stars, but aren't viewed as having the same ceiling as their counterparts. Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado is one of the most prolific shot-blockers in the history of the college game, but his rail-thin frame and relative lack of offensive prowess has professional organizations wary. Likewise, Notre Dame's Luke Harangody has done everything he can possibly do to improve his stock--increase his shooting range, get his once-flabby body into better shape and continue to dominate the Big East's considerable interior talent as an inside scorer and rebounder--but his lack of explosiveness and size are regarded as deterrents for his future success moving forward. Trevor Booker of Clemson has the necessary strength and explosiveness to make it in the NBA and although his height, at 6-foot-7, is seen as a minus, he is low-maintenance player who doesn't require a lot of touches to be productive, so while he may never be a big scorer, his toughness and workhorse nature may make him a high-value pick in the second round.

Scout's take: "It's always so hard to get that true back-to-the-basket guy beyond the lottery...the majority of points scored in the paint in the modern NBA are scored through dribble penetration."

Potential lottery picks: Cousins, Favors, Aldrich, Monroe, Davis, Patterson

Bulls fit: Booker

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more and read his Running with the Bulls blog.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

dunn-stl-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: A sprained MCL and Trubisky's performance. vs the Pats

David Haugh, Jordan Cornette, Shae Peppler join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Mark Schanowski joins SportsTalk Live to discuss Kris Dunn’s sprained MCL, Fred Hoiberg’s tough luck and Zach LaVine postgame criticisms of the coaching. Plus they’ll discuss another 0-3 team- LeBron’s Lakers.

20:00 – The panel discusses Mitchell Trubisky’s performance vs. the Patriots. Jordan makes the case that the media is giving the former No. 2 pick a pass.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

Subscribe:

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

kemba.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls bracing for a Kemba Walker onslaught

Through the opening week of the NBA season, Hornets' All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and former Bull Niko Mirotic share the league scoring lead, averaging 33 points per game.

Bulls' fans have seen these hot stretches from Niko before, and chances are he'll start moving down to the mid to high-teens before long. But Walker is a big-time scorer who's quietly emerged as one of the most consistently productive point guards in a league loaded with stars at that position. He's averaged over 20 points and 5 assists in each of the last three seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team twice.

Last season, Walker lit up the Bulls for 47 points in an overtime loss at the United Center in November, making some of the most difficult shots you can imagine to keep his team in the game. He seems to be as this best when facing the Bulls and you can bet Fred Hoiberg and his staff will pull out all the stops to try to slow him down, especially with defensive ace Kris Dunn out 4-6 weeks after suffering a sprained left MCL in his season debut on Monday.

The Hornets made some personnel changes since last season. The one-year experiment with Dwight Howard at center is over. Howard put up solid numbers for Charlotte a year ago, but didn't make much difference in the win-loss column, so he's moved on to Washington in his NBA odyssey. Cody Zeller is now the starting center, backed up by Bismack Biyombo and former Benet Academy and University of Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Charlotte tried to improve the athleticism on their roster by selecting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in the first rounds of the last two drafts. Monk is getting more playing time this season, averaging 13.5 points in the Hornets' first four games. Bridges is averaging just under 16 minutes a game as a backup to starting forwards Marvin Williams and Nic Batum. Just like he did at Michigan State, Bridges is providing those highlight reel putback dunks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll develop a consistent enough outside shot to be a quality starter in the NBA.

The well-traveled Jeremy Lamb is now starting in the backcourt with Walker, and the Hornets brought in long-time Spurs' point guard Tony Parker to add some much needed experience and veteran savvy off the bench. Given the current state of the Eastern Conference (post-LeBron), it's not out of the question for this group to contend for one of the final playoff spots.

Here's what the Bulls need to do for a shot at their first win of the season. This also applies to the rematch in Charlotte on Friday.

1. CORRAL KEMBA. For whatever reason, seeing that Bulls' logo turns Walker into an almost unstoppable scoring machine. Walker is adept at working off his big men, either in straight pick and rolls or cutting through the post on give-and-go plays. He's one of the league's most creative scorers, and doesn't require much room to get his shot off. The Bulls' bigs will have to provide help on Walker whenever he comes off screens to keep him from taking over the game.

2. PUT THE BALL IN ZACH'S HANDS. Whether he's playing shooting guard or point guard, Zach LaVine needs to be the primary facilitator with Dunn sidelined. LaVine scored 34 points against Dallas Monday night on just 15 shots, which led to him questioning some of the offensive sets that were run in the 2nd half. LaVine told reporters on Tuesday that he smoothed things over with his head coach, explaining his comments were the result of the frustration he was feeling after a third-straight loss to open the season. Still, LaVine is on a major hot streak, joining Bulls' all-time greats Michael Jordan and Bob Love as the only players to start the year with three straight games scoring at least 30 points. The Bulls will need to ride that hot hand for as far as LaVine can carry them.

3. DEFEND THE 3-POINT LINE. You knew I would eventually get to this, right? Dallas made 15 of 47 3-point attempts on Monday after the Pistons knocked down 18 of 40 in a two-point win last Saturday. The Hornets have all kinds of capable 3-point shooters in Walker, Lamb, Monk, Batum and Williams (they're shooting .397 as a team on 3's), so guarding the arc will be crucial for the Bulls to have a chance at their first win.

Don’t forget you can catch Wednesday's game on NBC Sports Chicago and the new MyTeams by NBC sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 pm when Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play-by-play call at 7 pm, then stay tuned after the final buzzer for Bulls Postgame Live and the always entertaining Bulls Outsiders.