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Old 02-13-07, 06:24 PM
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College Players-Who's Hot and Who's Not

KU's Wright on targetposted: Monday, February 12, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry

With the trade deadline just a week away, you can expect more and more NBA front offices to start turning their attention to the NBA draft.

Insider spoke with a number of NBA scouts and executives to get their stock of who's hot and who's not in the college ranks. Each week we'll report in the blog on what we're hearing and adjust our Top 100 accordingly.

Heat Seekers

Kansas forward Julian Wright has been an enigma all year. On talent, he's just a step behind Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. But on production it's been a different story. With the exception of his total first-half domination of Florida on national television, Wright has too often tried to meld into the background. Lately he's been increasing his aggressiveness defensively and on Saturday, he blew up on the offensive end, dropping 33 points and 12 boards (8 offensive) on Missouri.

Wright has such a unique game that scouts believe he can be, like Durant, a unique type of player in the league. He's long, athletic, is a brilliant passer ... he just needs to shoot. Yes, the jump shot is shaky, but he's got the talent to score in just about every other way. Games like the Mizzou outburst remind scouts of just how special he is. A few more like that, and his place in the top 5 of the NBA draft should be secured.

Speaking of enigmas, Georgetown forward Jeff Green, was also supposed to hit the stratosphere this season and came into the season with a top 12 preseason Big Board ranking. While Green has improved, his game didn't take the leap that scouts thought it could at the start of the season and there were legitimate questions raised about whether Green was nothing more than a fit guy, a complementary player who you wouldn't mind having as the eighth or ninth man in your rotation.
Of late, Green has gotten more aggressive and suddenly both he and Georgetown's fortunes look brighter. Green is averaging 19.8 ppg in his past six games, shooting 60 percent from the field and finally seems willing to exert all of that talent on a nightly basis. Combine that with his 44 percent shooting from 3-point range this year and it looks like Green is finally answering some of his critics.

• The point guard class has been, by and large, a disappointment this year with no point guard prospect even sniffing the lottery right now. But two freshman, of late, are challenging that notion.

Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton and Texas' D. J. Augustin have been playing great and drawing considerable buzz from NBA scouts. The two players couldn't be more different.

Crittenton is a power guard with great size and strength for his position. He's also a defensive handful. Over the past three games, all Georgia Tech wins, he's outplayed his much more heralded teammate, Thaddeus Young. Crittenton has averaged 20 ppg, 6 apg, 5.6 rpg and 3.2 spg while shooing an impressive 57 percent from three. "He's really good," one NBA executive said. "I think we got a little down on him with his inconsistent play at the start of the season, but what do you expect from a freshman point guard? Lately he's been so steady and I think he has the skills and body to come in and play in the NBA right away."

Augustin is a different player altogether. He's on the small side for an NBA point guard (scouts believe his 5-foot-11 listing is generous) but he has so much poise for a freshman. Given his life story (he and his family were displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and he had played his senior year in Houston) it's not hard to see why. He's already a leader on the court, he's got a terrific jump shot, is getting to the line, keeping turnovers to a minimum and has done a great job playing in the shadow of Durant. "It's tough to take your eyes of Durant," one scout said. "But if you do, you notice that this kid does all the things we want a NBA point guard to do, including being unselfish enough to get your best player the ball." Lately he's been doing plenty of scoring on his own, averaging 27 ppg and 5.5 apg on 58 percent shooting in his last two.

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

• There was a lot of early-season hype surrounding Marquette point guard Dominic James. The point guard class was weak, he was shooting the ball well and, let's face it, Dwyane Wade's alma matter held a certain sexiness for some.

But lately James is fighting an atrocious shooting slump and the rest of his game has gone downhill with it. James is averaging a horrendous 6 ppg on 14 percent shooting from the field, 0-for-14 from three in the past three games. Even before that dead streak, his shot had cooled off considerably. And so has his draft stock. While scouts never had him ranked any higher than a mid-to-late first-round pick, his play of late has him on the first-round bubble. "He's not as good as Jameer Nelson," one scout said, "and after one good season, Jameer hasn't been great. I think he needs to stay in school."

• In July, a number of NBA scouts were pointing the direction of UConn freshman center Hasheem Thabeet as an up-and-coming big man who could surprise people, a la Mohammed Saer Sene, as a late lottery prospect.

Mind you that was before the season even began. After a decent start to the season, Thabeet and UConn's fortunes have both collapsed. You could see both the good and the bad of Thabeet's game on display this weekend versus Georgia Tech. He had 2 points, 7 rebounds, 7 blocks. While there's no question that defensively the kid has promise as a great shot blocker and good rebounder, he hasn't scored in double digits in a month. His offensive game is beyond raw. We've been steadily dropping him out of the lottery and into the mid first round but he won't drop too far. While every scout believes that Thabeet is better off staying at UConn at least another year, teams get a little crazy on draft night with big men and Thabeet's huge wingspan and penchant for shot blocking will give him lots of looks.

• Gonzaga big man Josh Heytvelt has gotten some love from NBA scouts as a potential first-round pick. He had the best game of his career last week when he dropped 27 points and 22 rebounds versus Pepperdine. But Heytvelt and freshman Theo Davis were pulled over in a smoke-filled car and arrested for possession of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms on Friday and then suspended from the team. Heytvelt doesn't have the upside that Boston College Sean Williams has ... not sure his draft stock can survive a hit like this given the depth of this draft.
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Old 02-13-07, 10:24 PM
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Thinking more specifically about possibilities for the Spurs, I have been thinking about A&M's Kavalaskas. He is 6'10' and can move, (quite well for a big) plays good high-low and passes well inside as well as having good range (can shoot the three), and he has good defensive feet and hands. Point in question, defensively, he did well staying in front of Durant last week. He has made tremendous strides from last year and his coach sees him improving more. He can bang and does well at positioning for rebounds. Seems to me to be a better foil for Tim than any we have had since DRob retired. Should probably last long enough for us to get him. Started and starred for the Lithuanian under 20 team in 2005, yet has come a long long way since then. Gillespie's system is defensive minded so that he would have the right mindset. Just food for thought.
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Old 02-14-07, 10:43 PM
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Considering our current backup PG situation Acie Law is the guy you should want if you're looking at Aggies.
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Old 02-14-07, 10:55 PM
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Agreed, he would be a perfect fit, but I don't think he will laast that long.
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Old 02-15-07, 01:58 AM
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I like Nick Fazekas. The white fundamental.
Let's Have A Black Celebration!!!
-Depeche Mode 1986

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