More DX Conference Preseason Previews:
-The Top 20 NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-12
Top NBA Prospects in the Big East
(#1) Kris Dunn (Scouting Video)
(#2) Henry Ellenson (Scouting Video)
(#3) Jalen Brunson (Scouting Video)
#4, Josh Hart, 6-5, Junior, Shooting Guard, Villanova
Named to the Big East's All-Freshmen team in 2014 after a very strong first season, Josh Hart took another step forward as a sophomore, being named Big East Sixth Man of the Year. Now likely to move into the starting lineup with incumbent wings Dylan Ennis and Darrun Hilliard both out of the picture, Hart will look to take the next step on a talented Villanova team vying for their (and his) third straight Big East championship.
Hart does not blow you away with his physical attributes, standing 6-5, with an average 6-7 ½ wingspan, a solid frame, and good, but not incredible athleticism. He's no slouch in that department, but won't get drafted on his upside alone.
Offensively, his biggest calling card as a pro prospect will likely revolve around his perimeter shooting ability, which he has made a great deal of progress with since arriving on campus at Villanova. Once prone to holding the ball too long on his release and often shooting on the way down, Hart has done an excellent job of smoothing out his jumper and finding a higher, more consistent release point and overall repeatable stroke. He still tends to contort his body sideways somewhat, but was absolutely deadly shooting the ball with his feet set as a sophomore, hitting 46% of his 2.7 attempts per game, for a blistering 1.38 points per possession, the seventh best rate in the NCAA among returning draft prospects.
Beyond spacing the floor as a spot-up shooter, Hart also showed some ability to come off screens or make shots off the dribble, but in very small doses. It will be interesting to see how his overall shooting holds up in a bigger role this upcoming season, as he saw a lot of time being defended by much bigger players at the small forward or even the power forward position in stretchy lineups. He only hit 31% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman, and is just a career 67% free throw shooter overall.
Besides his shooting ability, Hart is not a very prolific offensive player, with the rest of his touches coming off running the floor in transition, crashing the offensive glass, and cutting off the ball. He does a great job of getting ahead of the defense and finding easy points in the open court, and is extremely aggressive pursuing loose balls off missed shots.
Hart contributes not only with his effort level, but also with his excellent basketball IQ. He makes the extra pass frequently and willingly, either moving the ball along on the perimeter, pushing it forward in transition, or finding his big men in post-entry situations. His intelligence and unselfishness bodes well for his role-player potential at the next level, especially since he's unlikely to make it off his pure talent.
Hart's ball-handling and overall shot-creation ability is still a work in progress at this stage. According to Synergy, he saw only 16 possessions last season in pick and roll or isolation situations. He is mostly a straight-line driver, struggling to change speeds or directions with the ball, and does not look overly comfortable pulling up off the bounce in the mid-range. When he does get to the rim in the half-court, he can't always finish over the top of the defense with his average physical tools, as he made just 31/60 of his inside the paint attempts last season, and doesn't get to the free throw line all that often. We'll likely learn more about this part of his game as his role (and usage) expands this upcoming season.
Defensively, Hart is extremely competitive, getting in the passing lanes frequently (1.7 steals per-40), while displaying strong fundamentals and attentiveness. His technique closing out on shooters is terrific, and he generally does a great job of using his length to contest opponents' looks on the perimeter. On a Villanova team that does quite a bit of switching, Hart saw possessions guarding everywhere from 1-4, and did not look out of place even against bigger players, where his physicality and effort level helped compensate for his lack of size. Hart's average length may relegate him mostly to defending shooting guards in the NBA, but his propensity for crashing the glass (career 7.5 per-40) does help his chances of carving out a role.
Hart won't wow you with his upside, but his role-player potential, toughness and basketball IQ are great traits to have when combined with his perimeter shooting ability. With Villanova again likely to be among the top teams in college basketball, Hart is an ideal place to showcase himself, and should have an even bigger platform to do so this year.
#5, Isaac Copeland, 6-9, Sophomore, SF/PF, Georgetown
A key rotation player as Georgetown's sixth man throughout his freshman season, Isaac Copeland entered the starting lineup for the last ten games of the Hoyas season, including their two NCAA tournament games. The 32nd ranked RSCI player in 2014, Copeland became more comfortable on the floor as the season progressed and will be looking to ride his success from the end of last season into his sophomore season.
The 6'9 Copeland has good size and a terrific frame for a perimeter player to go along with a nice foundation of athletic tools. He can play above the rim at times but he isn't going to explode above the defense in traffic on a regular basis. He has nice speed for a player of his size as he can beat the defense down the floor when he can get out in transition. His overall athleticism doesn't wow you, so he'll need to develop a refined set of technical skills to help him contribute at the next level.
Scouts won't love Copeland's lack of length, as he measured just an average 6'9 wingspan at the Nike Skills Academy. This won't prevent him from being a NBA player but will force him to work a little harder defensively and as a finisher around the rim.
His skill that has the most potential to translate to the NBA at this point is his outside shooting, which could make him a nice stretch big man at the next level. He doesn't have the most consistent or fundamental shooting stroke, at times hopping backwards on his release, but it seems to work with Copeland making 38.9% of his three point attempts last season, as well as 81% of his free throw attempts, and even showing some potential shooting off the dribble with a smooth release.
Copeland moves around the arc well to find open spaces to put himself in passing lanes and he has a quick catch and release that helps him get good looks at the rim. His touch is terrific from all over the floor, leaving a lot of room for optimism regarding his ability to develop his versatility as a scorer.
With Copeland earning more minutes and likely having a larger offensive role in the Georgetown offense, it will be interesting to see what other skills he has added in the offseason to make him a more well-rounded offensive threat. At this time, he's not comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking a closeout when he is ran off the three point line, as his ball-handling skills are fairly rudimentary at this stage, and does not really show the ability to change speeds or directions with the ball.
When he does get to the rim, either in transition or off cuts to the basket, he was a useful finisher at 59.3%. Many of these came off finesse-type plays, so his ability to finish against NBA level rim protectors remains relatively untested. His lack of elite length and leaping ability already hurts his ability to finish in traffic, and he shot under 50% from 2-point range overall as a freshman, so this is something scouts will want to learn more about moving forward.
Copeland will need to improve his defensive fundamentals, including his initial positioning on the ball and his defensive footwork to not waste movements. He needs to fill out his excellent frame, adding bulk to both his upper and lower body. He's up to 198 this summer but still has room to add strength to compete against professionals. Playing mostly the power forward spot, Copeland projects to be more of a small forward in the NBA and will need to demonstrate he can guard small forwards on a consistent basis.
Copeland's commitment to defense is there, as he demonstrates consistent energy and focus defensively, even if he appears to lack a degree of toughness at times. Copeland's short wingspan will prevent him from challenging many shots so he will need to show he can play in the chest of his opponent to prevent jump shots without getting beat off the dribble. He does have quick feet, allowing him to stay in front of dribble penetration but this will be a tougher job against NBA perimeter players or quick big men. He doesn't force many turnovers at the college level, coming up with just 8 steals in 661 minutes last season (.5 per-40), as well as 19 blocks.
Copeland exhibited some nice potential as a role player as someone who can stretch the floor and be a positive defender in his freshman season. He has a nice foundation of skills and a consistent sophomore season where he continues to demonstrate these traits will keep him in the draft conversation.