Incoming freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA level before we come to any long-term conclusions.
-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the ACC
-Top 11 NBA Prospects in the Big XII
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Pac-12
-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big East
-Top NBA Prospects in the SEC, Part One
(#1) B.J. Young Video Scouting Report
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part Two
(#2) Phil Pressey
(#3) Patric Young
(#4) Jarnell Stokes
(#5) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
#6, Ryan Harrow, 6-2, Redshirt Sophomore, Point Guard, Kentucky
Before jumping head first into the excitement of the 2012-13 regular season and the build-up to the 2013 NBA draft, it makes sense to take a step back and revisit the play of Ryan Harrow at N.C. State, a prospect who we haven't evaluated in writing since August of 2009 due to his transfer to Kentucky following his freshman season. Looking back at N.C. State game film can give us a valuable gauge to compare him against when evaluating his performance this season and the progress he's making as a NBA prospect down the road.
Harrow is likely a different player now than he was in 2010-2011, as it's been over 18 months since his last official game. He's been able to practice under John Calipari since enrolling at Kentucky in June of 2011, which should make for a much smoother transition than the Kentucky's head coach is typically accustomed to at the beginning of a season. Calipari has had a freshman point guard in charge of running his team every season since sophomore Darius Washington in 2005-2006 at Memphis, making the 21 year old Harrow look like somewhat of a veteran in comparison.
Two things that stand out immediately about Harrow: he is immensely talented, and he was extremely inconsistent as a freshman.
Harrow was hardly a model of efficiency for the Wolfpack, as his shooting percentages (44% 2P%, 22% 3P) ranked him amongst the least effective scorers in college basketball amongst point guards. This was likely a factor in his team finishing second to last in the ACC at 5-11, which ultimately cost the coach that recruited him, Sidney Lowe, his job. John Calipari, owner of the second most efficient offense in the NCAA last season, will certainly demand much more out of him, and Harrow has more than enough tools to deliver if he's used his time off wisely.
Standing between 6-1 to 6-2, Harrow has adequate size for the point guard position, even if his extremely narrow frame could always be an issue long term. He has reportedly added significant strength under Kentucky's conditioning program over the last year and change, though, and is now supposedly up to 168 pounds.
Harrow could very well be the fastest end to end point guard in college basketball, possessing Ty Lawson-esqe ability to turn on the jets and explode instantaneously to the rim at any given moment in the open court. Harrow's first step is also extremely impressive in the half-court, as he can beat opponents with ease from a standstill, without the benefit of a screen. His speed, combined with his tremendous ball-handling skills, give him outstanding potential as a shot-creator, as he can turn the corner exceptionally well and has a number of potent hesitation and crossover moves he can utilize to further keep defenders off-balance.
Harrow saw most of his offense, as expected, as the lead ball-handler of N.C. State's offense in 2010-2011, getting around 2/3 of his possessions in transition, isolation and pick and roll situations. He showed intriguing sparks of potential creating for both himself and his teammates off the dribble, even if he wasn't able to do so efficiently on a consistent basis.
Harrow was able to get to the rim on a semi-regular basis at N.C. State, and once there, finished 58% of his attempts around the basket, which is a very solid rate. Considering his size, Harrow will surely need to continue to improve in this area to remain effective at the NBA level, though, particularly in terms of doing a better job of drawing fouls. He tended to take a lot of tough shots from difficult angles just outside the paint as a freshman, which he can often finish thanks to his excellent touch. Despite that, his style of play may not be quite as effective against taller, longer and more athletic help-side defenders, which will require him to continue to make adjustments as his career moves on. He already showed flashes of possessing a very nice floater, but was only able to knock them down around 30% of the time according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Harrow's new coach, John Calipari, was very clear about what he expects from his starting point guard recently. I want Ryan to be the best layup shooter in the SEC, Calipari told Kentucky reporters. I don't need any cuteness. Get to the basket, shoot layups. If they absolutely back off like they tried to play Marquis Teague, he shoots it a little bit better. But I want you to shoot layups, and that's what you're doing, which means you've got to play through bumps and keep going.
Harrow's shooting was actually one of the weakest parts of his game two years ago, and a major reason why he made just 39% of his field goal attempts as a freshman. While capable of making shots on occasion with both his feet set and off the dribble, showing solid mechanics in both areas, he struggled badly with his consistency, largely due to poor shot-selection. N.C. State's offense as a whole was extremely chaotic during the latter part of the Sidney Lowe era, and Harrow's wild style of play accentuated that, as he tended to settle for too many off-balance, contested jumpers off the dribble early in possessions.
Improving his decision making and finding a better balance between scoring and passing will be a major key for Harrow with all the weapons that will be around him this season, and based on what we can see on film, he has enough acumen as a playmaker to learn how to utilize his teammates effectively.
Harrow was not a bad passer by any stretch at N.C. State he finished fourth in the ACC in assists per-40. He actually has solid court vision and is capable of making some extremely creative and unselfish plays for teammates off the pick and roll for example, forcing the defense to rotate with his excellent first step and then finding shooters and cutters, sometimes in spectacular fashion, on the drive and dish.
The problem is that he tends to get out of control and make poor decisions with the ball too often, overdribbling, running into brick walls, trying to force the issue with highlight reel passes instead of making simple plays, and as a result, being very turnover prone. Like many young point guards who grew up on the AAU circuit, he needs to gain more experience and receive better guidance in learning how to run a team efficiently in terms of valuing the ball, maintaining his focus and being consistent from possession to possession. Luckily for Harrow, he is in a perfect place to get that, even if this will surely be a work in progress all season.
Defensively is another area where Harrow has plenty of room for improvement still based on the film we've watched from the 2010-2011 season. He does not bring much of a presence to the floor from a physical standpoint with his average size, length and frame, and did not make up for that with great fundamentals either. His lack of strength made it relatively easy for bigger point guards in the ACC to push him around and get to where they wanted on the court, and his lack of height made it easy for them to shoot over them.
Harrow has good quickness and is more than capable of putting solid pressure on the ball, but he was not very consistent moving his feet and staying in front of opponents, often gambling in the passing lanes and just swiping at the ball from behind once he's beat. Similar to his play on offense, he would have good and bad possessions throughout the game, rarely showing much consistency. John Calipari will surely demand a much higher level of physicality and aggressiveness from him, and there's little doubt that Harrow has the tools to satisfy him with added strength, focus and effort.
It will be very interesting to track the progress Harrow is able to make this season at Kentucky, as it's very rare that we get to see an elite prospect transfer in to national championship contending squad in the middle of his college career. Harrow is more than talented enough to continue John Calipari's five year streak of his starting point guards being drafted in the first roundso it will be fascinating to see how things play out.
#7, Michael Dixon, 6-1, Senior, Point Guard, Missouri
Coming off the bench in all 35 games last season, Michael Dixon played an understated, yet extremely important role for Missouri. Forced to shoulder a smaller role than he would virtually anywhere else in the country alongside one of the best point guards in college basketball in Phil Pressey, Dixon nevertheless had an extremely impressive 2011-12 season in his own right, averaging over 20 points per-40 on excellent efficiency (58% 2P, 37% 3P, 88% FT) while posting a 2/1 assist to turnover ratio.
Late in games, Dixon often morphed into Missouri's go-to guy, playing some of his best basketball in the months of February and March, while leading the team in usage rate in the 27 minutes he averaged per game.
Standing 6-1, with an identical wingspan, Dixon isn't particularly impressive physically from a NBA standpoint, even if he brings excellent quickness to the table.
Dixon's best attributes revolve around his tremendous shot-creating ability, ranking as one of the most efficient pick and roll and isolation threats in all of college basketball according to Synergy Sports Technology. Showing a quick first step, excellent ball-handling skills, and unlimited confidence, Dixon is a handful for any defender to stay in front of at the college level in both transition and in the half-court, drawing fouls at a solid rate, and making 88% of his free throws attempts.
Possessing one of the best pull-up jumpers in the NCAA, opponents are forced to guard him very closely, but he's also highly capable of driving both left or right aggressively and finishing with either hand around the basket, despite his average size, thanks to his hard-nosed mentality and soft touch off the glass. Converting 58% of his 2-point attempts, Dixon was one of the most efficient PGs in college basketball last season inside the arc.
Also a solid 3-point shooter, Dixon is curiously better shooting off the dribble (43%) than he is with his feet (39%). While he sees a decent amount of time playing off the ball alongside Phil Pressey, he shows unconventional mechanics on his catch and shoot jumpers, catching and releasing the ball with a very wide stance, that may be affecting his rhythm. Nevertheless, he makes over one and a half 3-pointers per game, on good percentages (37%), and shows a quick release and deep range on his pull-up jumper.
More than just a scorer, Dixon is also a very effective distributor, as his strong assist to turnover ratio and 2.2 pure point rating indicates. He makes crisp passes in a variety of ways, be it on drive and dish plays, pick and roll bounce passes or lobs, moving the ball ahead in transition, or with skip-passes to an open shooterDixon is an unselfish player who shows great timing setting up his teammates for easy baskets like a real point guard should.
Despite being named to the Big-12 All-Defensive team last season, Dixon's outlook at the pro level on that end of the floor doesn't look quite as promising. Lacking ideal size, but also not showing great length or strength to make up for it, Dixon will be at a disadvantage physically against most NBA opponents. He does possess quick feet, nice hands and a real competitive streak to help compensate in this area, but there's no way around the fact that he struggles guarding bigger players as we can already see at the NCAA level, where he sees a good amount of his minutes defending collegiate shooting guards.
With Marcus Denmon, Matt Pressey and Kim English off to the pro ranks, Dixon was on track to return to the starting lineup in his senior year, a place he found himself often as a sophomore. Unfortunately for him, he was recently suspended indefinitely for apparent academic reasons, which is a tough blow for Missouri.
Luckily for them, while most teams would kill to have one great point guard on their roster, Missouri has two, which should go a long way in helping them replicate having the most efficient offense in college basketball, as they did last season, should Dixon's issues be resolved.
In terms of his pro prospects, it's a little strange for NBA scouts to evaluate a point guard prospect like Dixon seeing many of his minutes playing off the ball, but Dixon and Pressey, as well as Missouri's coaching staff, seem to do a good job of making the best of the situation, which can sometimes be more of a problem defensively than offensively.
While Dixon's lack of size isn't ideal, it's difficult to find point guards who can shoot, create efficiently inside the arc, and make plays for others, which makes him an intriguing prospect for the professional level. Playing on a seemingly much more balanced team than last season, he will have every opportunity to show his merits as a NBA prospect playing under the spotlight all year long.
#8, Alex Oriakhi, 6'9, Senior, Power Forward, Missouri
The 2011-2012 season was a struggle for Alex Oriakhi. After playing an integral role for the National Champion Huskies in 2011, Oriakhi saw his numbers fall across the board as a junior with heralded freshman Andre Drummond entering the fold. He played fewer minutes, saw fewer easy shots created for him at the rim, and looked apathetic at times amidst the program's tumultuous year. Opting to transfer to Missouri, where he will be immediately eligible to play due to UConn's NCAA tournament suspension, the big man instantly fills a need for the Tigers, stepping into the role played by Ricardo Ratliffe last season. Considering Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon helped Ratliffe, and the Tigers as a whole, post gaudy efficiency numbers, Oriakhi's decision has put him in perfect position to rebound as a senior.
Oriakhi's ability to fill Ratliffe's role will have a lot to do whether he's able to recapture the active, athletic, and physical style of play that earned him praise among scouts and helped UConn win the National Championship. The 6'9 big man may be slightly undersized for a center at the NBA level, but his strong 240-pound frame, impressive 7'3 wingspan, and very good athleticism are coveted attributes at the pro level. When he is dialed in and playing to his potential, Oriakhi is a presence on the defensive end of the floor and can make plays with his athleticism around the rim by virtue of his physical tools.
If Oriakhi shows a willingness to work hard on the offensive end and stay active in his minutes on the floor this season, he will be rewarded. He can be a productive finisher when he is crashing the glass and his guards are able to deliver him the ball in position to score. The former McDonald's All-American should have plenty of motivation to bring his best every night and will see plenty of easy opportunities coming his way compliments of Frank Haith's high powered offense and Phil Pressey, whose passing prowess we outlined in just a few days ago.
Looking at Oriakhi's contributions last season, the Tilton School product scored 3 points or fewer on 9 different occasions while scoring in double figures in 8 contests. In the games he scored over 10 points, he was physical on the block, establishing deep position and making quick decisive moves in the post, and appeared significantly more active and energetic in all phased of the game.
Oriakhi does not have a terribly polished back to the basket game and is not the type of player who has the touch or skill set to score consistently or create his own offense away from the rim. The former RSCI top-15 recruit can, however, score in the post one-on-one at this level with his basic array of drop-step and step-through moves when he's decisive with them, can finish plays above the rim, and ranked among the best per-40 minute pace adjusted rebounders in the country when he was bringing his A-game every night just two seasons ago. His rebounding fell off by 25% last season, which is something to keep an eye on as he attempts to show that his poor junior year was just an aberration and not an indication of his long-term potential at the pro level.
Defensively, Oriakhi has the ability to impact games at the college level. He's a good shot blocker for his position and possesses the package of physical tools necessary to capably defend the pick and roll as well as back to the basket and midrange-oriented fours alike. His physical tools wouldn't be quite as advantageous to him at the next level, but Oriakhi's ability to be a physical defensive presence at the increasingly versatile power forward position is a key piece of his value proposition at the NBA level at this point.
Alex Oriakhi certainly didn't have the season many anticipated he'd have last season, and remains a rather raw, limited offensive threat in the post and away from the basket, but he's put himself in an ideal situation to have a bounce back year. If he can mesh with Laurence Bowers, set solid screens for Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, and bring a blue collar demeanor to the floor, Oriakhi will no doubt help repair his draft stock this season.
#9, Kyle Wiltjer, 6-9, Power Forward, Sophomore, Kentucky
One of the highest ranked players in the 2011 recruiting class, Kyle Wiltjer had a modest freshman season, but that's not at all surprising given the immensely talented team he played for. Headed into this season, Wiltjer should have opportunities to significantly increase his role, but he'll still have plenty of competition from Kentucky's perennial top recruiting class.
Standing 6'9 with a decent frame, a still developing body, and solid length, Wiltjer is just an average athlete for his size, running the floor awkwardly, but relatively well, and being coordinated in his movements, even if he's lacking in exceptional quickness or explosiveness.
On the offensive end, Wiltjer was best known for his strong outside shooting ability heading into his freshman year, and he lived up to that reputation on the floor, shooting a very good 43.2% from three-point range, and taking nearly half of his 4.1 field-goal attempts per game from behind the arc. Wiltjer has excellent form, sporting a high and quick release that benefits from his very good height and length, making him a dangerous threat for spot-up jumpers and especially on pick-and-pops. His strength in this area is ideally suited for the style of play many NBA teams use, and it will be interesting to see how significant a staple of his game this remains as he expands his playing time and role in Lexington.
Beyond his outside shooting, Wiltjer performed decently in a number of other areas, but didn't really stand out at one in particular. He rarely operated with the ball from isolation situations, though he did look solid with simple, straight-line dribble-drives on spot-up attempts when he had the opportunity. Wiltjer's face-up game was a selling point of his heading into college, but the jury's still out on whether he can continue to excel with that against the physically gifted opponents he faces in the SEC and beyond.
Wiltjer's post-up game was also largely a non-factor his freshman year, though he did look competent on simple hook shots and turnaround jumpers when he had the opportunity. His ability to finish around the basket in general wasn't particularly impressive, as he is a decidedly below-the-rim player, but he still does a decent job and has room for improvement given his skill level and feel for the game. He has developed a nice, uncharacteristic floater in the lane for a player his size, which is also something to watch for going forward.
Wiltjer wasn't able to contribute much beyond the scoring game his freshman year, showing some flashes in the passing game but being mostly a non-factor otherwise. His rebounding ability is most concerning, as he averaged an awful 6.0 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted while playing exclusively at the power forward and occasionally center positions throughout the year. While his upside with offensive rebounding is somewhat limited given where he plays on the floor, putting a more concerted effort to improving on the defensive end will be very important for him, as it's difficult to find a single power forward in the last 10 years who was drafted with such poor rebounding numbers.
Defensively, Wiltjer shows a good effort level and fundamental base in the post, using his size and length well to contest shots. He is prone to being backed down by stronger opposition, but for the most part holds his own and still has the room to add more weight to his frame and bolster his strength on the block. His perimeter defense is more concerning for a power forward, as he doesn't possess good lateral quickness and can be severely outmatched by face-up oriented power forwards with his extremely high center of gravity and upward stance. He doesn't really have an ideal position on this end of the floor from an NBA perspective, but will still need to maximize his abilities to become as good of an individual defender as he can.
Looking forward, Wiltjer strongly excels with one skill in particular, his outside shooting, and that combined with his size gives him a strong foundation to build upon as a prospect. There's good reason to believe based on his pre-college performance that he still has much more to show on the offensive end, and should have opportunities to do so this season. How he expands his game offensively and how he can improve defensively will both play key roles in determining his prospects as a player.
#10, Kenny Boynton, 6-2, Senior, Shooting Guard, Florida
Having profiled Boynton fairly late in the season with a comprehensive scouting report, we've elected to wait and see what type of progress he's made with a fresh perspective in a few months, rather than rehashing many of the same comments made last year based off his 2011-2012 game footage.