Vs. Miami: 45 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 4 blocks, 2 turnovers, 16-24 FG, 11-11 FT, 2-3 3PT
Florida States Al Thornton put on quite possibly the most remarkable performance thus far in the collegiate season, dropping 45 points in a must win game Saturday for his Seminole squad. He was absolutely unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor, and showed everyone throughout the country why he has shot up draft boards this season as much any other player in the country.
What makes Thornton even tougher to guard however is his remarkable first step for a 67 player. He is too quick for opposing power forwards to stay in front of and too skilled on the blocks for a small forward to defend. The Florida native has shown the ability to absolutely smoke big men off of the dribble and get to the rim, especially when going to his right. In the low post, he generally goes towards his left shoulder for a turnaround jumper, but does a pretty adequate job of actually feeling his defender out and taking what the defense gives him.
We briefly touched on Thorntons athleticism when mentioning his first step, but there is so much more to his athletic prowess then that. He is an incredibly quick leaper, often getting off the ground twice before his opponent is able to leap once. This also allows him to score over taller, longer opponents such as Brandan Wright and Josh McRoberts. His leaping ability is quite freakish, although he relies on his hops a bit more then youd like when it comes to his rebounding. Thornton does not do a remarkable job boxing out, attempting to outleap other power forwards in an effort to coral rebounds. While this has worked to the tune of 7.2 rebounds per game this year, he would be much closer to 10 rebounds per contest if he chose to box out from time to time, and put in slightly more effort on a consistent basis.
It has been a bit hard to gauge his defensive ability due to the fact that Florida State runs quite a bit of zone, and even when they play man to man defense, Thornton is usually guarding a post player. One thing that is awfully evident is his insistence to bite for virtually ever shot fake, leaving his Seminole teammates to play five on four basketball since he takes himself out of the play. While he is a decent shot blocker (1.2 blocks per game), he needs to stay on his feet more if he wants to be a solid defender at the next level.
Generally, Thornton does a solid job with defensive rotations and keeping his man in front of him once the offensive player has put the ball on the floor a few times. One thing that he struggles with though is closing out, as he routinely sprints out at 100 miles per hour out of control when rotating, allowing his man to simply drive right around him and collapse the defense. This is due to Thorntons lack of defensive fundamentals, though, and not his natural ability to move his feet. The potential is certainly there for him to be a solid defender in the NBA, but he will first need to learn the necessary defensive principles in order to fully utilize his athletic gifts, as well as show better awareness on this end of the floor.
On the offensive end, Thornton is a downright atrocious passer. He is averaging less then 1 assist per game on the year, and is sporting a .33/1 assist to turnover ratio. He just doesnt really seem to have a good feel for finding the open man, and often dribbles with his head down. His ball-handling ability has also been a question mark, considering that some view him as a full time small forward prospect. While he will never be a guy who breaks players down with a remarkable crossover or inside out dribble, he is completely adequate as a quick two to three dribble threat, and has no problem creating space for himself off of the dribble when need be.
Many have questioned what position Thornton will play at the next level, but it has been made evident this season that he is capable of playing both forward positions in spurts in the NBA. The Shawn Marion comparisons are inevitable, with remarkably similar athleticism, first steps, and quick leaping ability to go along with lack of a true position on the floor. He would be best fitted in an up and down style of play, where he would be able to utilize his athletic abilities and length to the fullest capabilities.
In the past year, there might not be another player whose stock has gone up as much as Thorntons has. He went from intriguing prospect last year to a possible first team All-American this year. Had he entered the draft last year, he would have likely seen himself picked somewhere in the second round. With the 2007 Drafts lack of depth outside of the top ten players, Thornton has a good a shot to land in the late lottery and looks very solid right now as a top 20 pick.
Ivan Radenovic, 6-10, Senior, PF, Arizona
Vs. Stanford: 37 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 0 turnovers, 12-18 FG, 11-11 FT, 2-2 3P
As has been the case all season, Radenovic was able to score both inside and out. Typically when on the perimeter he likes to float around behind the play, waiting to step up and shoot from beyond the arc, but against Stanford he was much more aggressive moving without the ball. Radenovic set himself up for some easy looks thanks to cuts in the lane as well as running the baseline well. Not fast enough to create much space against quicker perimeter players, Radenovic likes to run the pick and roll, typically stepping back after the screen to give himself an open look.
A very encouraging sign was how aggressive and effective Radenovic was driving to the basket. When catching the ball beyond the three point line this season, he has at times it seems done everything in his power to keep from driving to the basket, often forcing up very tough shots. On Saturday however, he was driving from all over the court and finishing strong. At times during the season, Radenovic has had trouble finishing his drives strong because stronger players muscle him when he gets into the lane. At 244 pounds, he is a solid weight for an NBA power forward, but he needs to get stronger in the upper body to deal with the contact he will face in the paint.
What Radenovic does at times to deal with the contact he faces inside is to pull up on the dribble. It is rare to see a 6-10 college player able to hit the pull up jumper, but Radenovic certainly has the ability to do so. His mid-range shot is somewhat streaky at times and he will need to improve upon his consistency in the future, but the potential is certainly there.
What separates Radenovic from most post players that can step outside is all of the little things he does well, and these were on display against Stanford. He runs the floor very well for a player his size, but he also runs with a sense of purpose. Radenovic oftentimes will trail the break up court and look to spot up at the top of the key, where he shoots nearly 40% from beyond the arc. He is a good open floor dribbler for a big man, and is capable of grabbing a rebound and taking the ball right down to the other end of the floor. He is also a very good screener, which Arizona uses a tremendous amount on offense, often running several players off of his screens each time down the court.
When it comes down to it, Radenovic is just a very hardworking, fundamentally sound player. He is an average athlete for a big man, not being the quickest of players by any stretch. He is a very smart player in the post, though, relying on his basketball IQ more often than not to score points in the paint. He prefers to face up to the basket down low, relying on his spin move and soft touch to score in the post. Radenovics problem down low is not getting physical enough with the ball. Often times stronger players are able to keep him in check down low because he doesnt create enough space for himself by bumping his defender. When this happens Radenovic is often forced into taking tough angle shots or pulling up for a contested jump shot.
Defensively, Radenovic is a question mark for the next level. He plays fantastic help defense for a post player, relying on his good speed for a big man to cut ball handlers off and deflect a fair number of passes. It is his one on one post defense that is suspect. At 6-10, Radenovic certainly has ample size for the power forward position in the NBA, but he isnt very strong inside. The concern is that bigger forwards would be able to back him down and score with ease, especially since Radenovic lacks great leaping ability to block or alter shots. On the defensive glass he does a solid job (he averages over 7 total rebounds per game) not by jumping over players, but simply by working harder than them and anticipating the trajectory of the ball.
Radenovic has the fundamental skills and the work ethic to be a player at the professional level, the only question mark is his athleticism. He has a good shot for a player his size and plays very well within his team. A solid showing at the summer camps could potentially raise his stock from an early second round pick to possibly a late first rounder. Regardless of what happens, hes going to find a niche for himself somewhere since hes the type of player that coaches love.
D.J. Augustin, 5-11, Freshman, Point Guard, Texas
Vs. Texas A&M and Kansas (combined): 44 points, 20 assists, 5 turnovers, 9 rebounds, 15/30 FG, 4/9 3P, 10/14 FT
Augustin's ascent to elite status at the NCAA has already taken place. He is one of the top five point guards in the country, now averaging 15 ppg, 6.8 apg and 2.0 spg, while shooting 48% both from field and beyond the arc. Augustin is also coincidentally seeing his stock rise rapidly in terms of his professional future.
Augustin is remarkably well-rounded for such a young prospect, but the aspect of his game that immediately sticks out is how he plays the game under control. His fantastic 2/1 Ast/TO ratio doesn't tell the entire story here, as Augustin plays at very high speeds - his explosiveness, quick hands and court vision allow him to weave in and out of traffic at will- and gets the most out of his ball-handling ability while usually managing to keep himself out of turnover situations.
Augustin isn't the most creative passer in the open court or on the perimeter, but has made impressive strides in his ability to control an offense. At the beginning of the season he tended to dominate the ball and look to drive instead of setting up his teammates, but Texas' offense is now running like a well-oiled machine. This is in large part thanks to Augustin's willingness to focus on setting up his teammates.
While he may not thread the needle the way that some pass-first point guards do, Augustin has mastered the art of the penetrate and kick. With Texas' small lineup and defenses' attention elsewhere, he has done a great job of identifying and capitalizing on the resulting lanes to the basket. Its hard to put a value on his ability to make defenses pay for hounding Durant at every turn. There aren't many guards that can stay in front of Augustin defensively, and if the help defense doesn't react immediately, you can put the two points on the board. Augustin makes up for his lack of height with a full bag of tricks for getting his shot off over taller defenders, often appearing to force dribble penetration but rarely putting up a low-percentage shot.
Add in a lethal outside shot, and it isn't hard to get the picture in regards to the dilemma coaches have in attempting to contain DJ Augustin. His 5'11 height somewhat limits his upside at the next level, but he has the quickness and skill set to make up for it. He doesn't quite display the athleticism of a Terrell Brandon, but probably belongs in that mold for play style comparisons. Augustin can probably add a bit more strength/explosiveness with some time in the weight room, but one really has to stretch to find any sort of hole in his game, beyond his shortcomings defensively.
DJ Augustin has the look of a future first rounder, but it isn't clear how soon that will be. He has passed all but a couple of point guards at the NCAA level, and will continue to get his share of the spotlight as long as Durant is around. It isn't unfeasible to think of Augustin as a first rounder this season, but he could improve his stock even more by returning for a sophomore season. He already announced that he will be back in Austin next season, but eventually, Texas fans will have to face the inevitability of D.J. Augustin's early departure.
Craig Bradshaw, 610, PF/C, Senior, Winthrop
2 Games Combined: 38 points, 16 rebounds, 13-25 FG, 9-11 FT, 3-12 3PT
Bradshaw had two solid showings to close out Winthrops season, playing a large helping hand in defeats over UNC-Asheville and Virginia Military, securing them a seed in the NCAA tournament. Bradshaw did most of his work in the paint on offense, showing a nice array of moves including the basic hook shots, drop steps, and spin moves. He also showed an excellent propensity for using fakes to get his shot off, as well as a pretty nice touch around the rim.
When Bradshaw wasnt working in the post, he was finding open space on the perimeter, where he has range on his shot out to the college three-point line. His shooting form and release speed are both decent, though hes only shooting .316 from behind the arc on the season, his worst shooting year at Winthrop, down from .352 last season and .434 in his sophomore season. Bradshaws only really a spot-up shooter from behind the arc, not possessing the dribbling skills to create his own shot. Bradshaws passing skills are pretty solid, though, and he shows good court awareness at times, hitting cutters from the high post or kicking out to three-point shooters when he doesnt have anything to work with in the low post.
At times Bradshaw does a good job using his athleticism and length on the offensive boards, but hes often out of position due to his perimeter game and he doesnt use much physicality when battling for rebounds. Bradshaws physicality is also concerning defensively, where he doesnt do a good job defending in the post, giving up position too easily and not trying hard enough to force the opposition into a tough shot. His weakside awareness is also questionable, as he doesnt always keep his eye on the ball and his man.
Bradshaw has the skills and size one would look for in an NBA power forward, and hes shown flashes of high level performance, but he needs to show more consistency, and he should get a good chance to do so at the NBA pre-draft camps in April and June. He will also get the chance to go up against stiff competition in the frontcourt there, which he rarely sees at Winthrop. Heading into these camps, Bradshaw needs to be more persistent with his post game on offense, though he also could greatly benefit from getting his outside shooting efficiency back to where it was his sophomore year. He also needs to put in a more concerted effort on the defensive end, where he is very questionable right now. If Bradshaw can impress scouts at the pre-draft camps by playing with more consistency and tenacity, he has a good chance of putting himself in draft discussions for the second round, if he isnt there already.
Avis Wyatt, 6-10, Senior, Power Forward, Virginia State
Wyatt is a skinny big man who plays almost exclusively facing the basket. He runs the floor extremely well, has good quickness, and is pretty explosive off his feet. Offensively, his range extends to the college 3-point line, where he hits flat-footed jumpers occasionally at a decent clip (15-42 on the year, 36%). He has solid shooting mechanics and can hit the mid-range jumper too, although hes a surprisingly weak free throw shooter at just 57%. Wyatt can put the ball on the floor as well to create his own shot from the perimeter. His skill-set is fairly intriguing for a player his size, but he looks pretty far away from being able to put it all together consistently on a nightly basis.
Wyatt is a pretty raw overall prospect, showing poor decision making skills and not really dominating his competition despite the weak opposition he faces at the D-II level. He settles for bad shots all too often and does not appear to be the most fundamentally sound guy in the world, certainly lacking some direction in the coaching department. In the post, Wyatt doesnt know how to use his size at all despite having a distinct height advantage against nearly everyone he faces. His post-moves are unpolished and he doesnt seem to show great touch on any his moves in the paint, particularly when opponents make him shoot the ball with his left hand. When forced to finish through contact, Wyatt really struggles, getting his shot blocked on occasion and being pushed around by the undersized big men he goes up against in the CIAA. He is unable to hold his spot on the block at this point in his career due to his lack of strength, and therefore prefers to hang around the perimeter where he looks a lot more comfortable.
As a rebounder, Wyatt is just average even for the level he plays at, pulling down just 7.2 rebounds per game. He doesnt go after loose balls the way you might hope, and besides being able to block shots due to his size and athleticism, is not a very good man to man defender, sometimes just swatting aimlessly at shots that are around him rather than displaying advanced fundamentals or timing. His feel for the game in general does not appear to be off the charts. Making the transition to the small forward position does not seem like a realistic option anytime in the near future as he lacks the lateral quickness to defend the perimeter and is not quite skilled enough offensively to play that position at any level, let alone the NBA.
Playing at Virginia State, Wyatt is close enough and good enough to be invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He should get a chance to show off his skill-set there, and will benefit greatly from going up against stronger competition than he faces in the CIAA. He has some nice raw tools to work with, and is clearly not done developing as a player yet, so he could be an intriguing guy to follow down the road. If youre looking for an NBA comparison, think Mikki Moore.