-U-19 World Championship Player Evaluations, Part One
-U-19 World Championship Player Evaluations, Part Two
Jeremy Lamb, 6-5, Shooting Guard, USA, 1992
Jeremy Lamb played a vastly different role on this USA Basketball squad than what we saw from him as a freshman at UConn. For that reason, the U-19 World Championship represented an excellent opportunity for NBA teams to evaluate him in a new light.
Without the dominant personalities of Kemba Walker and Jim Calhoun alongside and behind him, Lamb was free to show both the good and the bad sides of his game he led the U.S. in scoring and field goal attempts, but the team finished a disappointing fifth in the tournament.
Lamb's talent is obvious on first glance, both from a physical standpoint and one based on skill level.
He has the wingspan of a player four or five inches taller than him and is a very smooth and fluid athlete. He's able to score in a variety of different ways and makes his presence felt in multiple facets of the game.
Lamb is first and foremost an excellent shooter, capable of making jumpers both with his feet set and off the dribble. He can come off screens or create his own looks in the mid-range area, pulling up smoothly off the bounce with a quick trigger and a high release point. He's very crafty with that part of his game, utilizing changes of speed, crafty footwork and nifty pivot moves to create space to get his shot off.
Lamb also likes to mix in floaters, hook shots and turnaround jumpers to keep defenders off balance. He shows excellent touch around the rim and terrific body control in the process. His length allows him to get these shots off from unique angles, which makes them difficult for defenders to contest.
Where Lamb needs to improve the most in terms of his offensive game is in his ability to get to the free throw line. He is such a prolific shot maker that he at times has a tendency to bail defenses out by settling for low percentage attempts, either by pulling up off the dribble in the 17- to 19-foot area, or taking difficult shots from just outside the paint trying to use the glass.
Lamb's frail frame is a hindrance in this regard. He often avoids contact in the paint, which makes it difficult for him to draw fouls. He got to the line just 23 times in nearly 250 minutes at this tournament, something we saw as a freshman to an even greater extent in his first season with UConn, Lamb attempted only 59 free throws in 41 games.
As with his offensive abilities, Lamb showed both the good and bad parts of his defensive profile in Latvia. On one hand his terrific length and anticipation skills make him a major nuisance in the passing lanes and in man-to-man settings.
On the other hand, Lamb's laid back demeanor can get him in trouble when he doesn't put forth the intensity required to help his team come up with stops. Team USA had little to no structure or discipline on this end of floor, making it difficult to evaluate Lamb's performance here.
What we did see at times was that Lamb was out of place, not hustling, or defending with his arms to his sides -- showing average fundamentals. While his length and timing will sometimes bail him out on this end of the floor, relying on his athletic prowess probably won't work as well against a higher caliber of competition, for example in the NBA. This is certainly correctable, though.
Improving his shot selection and overall decision-making skills will be an important part of the transition Lamb needs to make from complimentary player to go-to guy at UConn this season. He doesn't show very much emotion on the court and at times gives the impression that he's playing by himself. He's somewhat single-minded (some would say laid back) in his approach to the game, and he had a tendency at this tournament to force the issue and freeze out his teammates at times. However, this likely had at least something to do with the lack of chemistry and offensive cohesion the team clearly suffered from.
Lamb will be closely scrutinized throughout the season. He has a chance to prove that he's worthy of being selected early in the first round if he can overcome some of the flaws he showed in Latvia while continuing to put up points on the board in his uniquely smooth and elegant style of play for UConn.
Tony Mitchell, 6-9, Power Forward, USA, 1992
One of the top 20 high school prospects in the class of 2010, Tony Mitchell was unable to play a single minute of college basketball last season due to academic issues.
While waiting to be cleared to play for North Texas, Mitchell joined the U-19 Team USA squad, which gave us a great opportunity to evaluate him in his first minutes of competitive basketball since last summer's U-18 FIBA Americas Championship.
Playing a limited role (16 minutes per game) in a somewhat dysfunctional situation, the results were a bit mixed. While his talent was evident, it was obvious that Mitchell sorely missed the structure of organized basketball during his year sitting out and was not always able to play through his struggles.
From a physical standpoint, Mitchell fits the bill of an elite prospect and then some, standing around 6-9 with an excellent frame and a tremendous wingspan. He's a terrific athlete on top of that, explosive around the basket with great end to end speed and the length and quickness to make plays all over the floor.
Mitchell was the #1 per-minute rebounder at this tournament, ranking ahead of 2011 top 5 draft pick Jonas Valanciunas. His wingspan, athleticism and intensity level play a major part in his production as a rebounder, something we noticed last summer as well, when he pulled down nearly one rebound for every two minutes he was on the floor.
Mitchell is also a prolific shot blocker. He ranked second overall in per-minute blocks in Latvia, behind fellow NBA draft prospect Lucas Nogueira. His defensive tools are simply terrific, even if his fundamentals are average and his lack of experience clearly hinders him at times.
Offensively, Mitchell is a fairly limited player at this point. His scoring is predominantly relegated to finishing off cuts to the basket, offensive rebounds, transition opportunities and short drives from the power forward position. His quick first step allows him to beat opposing big men off the dribble, but he doesn't have any real ball-handling skills to speak of and his feel for the game is a work in progress. His shooting mechanics are decent, but his range appears to be limited at this stage.
Mitchell's tremendous physical tools and upside may be enough to warrant a draft selection at some point -- a la Latavious Williams but becoming eligible for college and getting some actual reps under his belt should be Mitchell's first priority. If he is able to play starting in mid-December, expect NBA scouts to flock to his games to see how he's progressed since the last time they saw him.
Patric Young, 6-9, PF/C, USA, 1992
University of Florida
Patric Young's production fluctuated greatly from game to game for Team USA at this Under-19 World Championship. He took turns alternating between flashes of brilliance and disappearance.
Young's impressive physical tools have never been in doubt. That was again true in Latvia. With a frame and vertical explosiveness similar to Amare Stoudemire, Young was responsible for some of the best highlights at the event.
Fireworks aside, Young was limited somewhat by his below average skill level and the lack of playmakers on his team. He was mostly relegated to finishing whatever balls he could get his hands on around the basket, converting an outstanding 72% of his 2-point attempts (second best at this event), mostly in the form of thunderous dunks.
Young also made a significant impact on the defensive end, playing with a tremendous energy level when fully dialed in. He took charges, controlled the glass and changed absolutely everything around the basket.
To make the next step in his development, Young will need to show some improvement with his post game and all around offensive polish. Coming off a mildly disappointing freshman year (or at least up until the last six weeks or so of the season), he will be asked to step up his production considerably with the graduation of frontcourt starters Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. Judging by his performance here in Latvia, that's something he's more than capable of doing.
Joe Jackson, 6-0, Point Guard, USA, 1992
University of Memphis
Clearly not a good fit as Team USA's primary ball-handler considering how ill-suited his game is to the international style of play, Joe Jackson was a lightning rod for criticism following USA's incredibly disappointing fifth place finish at this tournament.
Jackson's incredible quickness and lethal ball-handling skills made him something of a legend playing on the AAU circuit prior to committing to Memphis. He's had major difficulties translating those skills to a more competitive setting, though, as evidenced by his uneven freshman season and his experience this summer for USA basketball.
His struggles haven't come from a lack of effort, though. Jackson often tries to make the right play. Unfortunately his lack of experience in a half-court setting against strong defenses caused issues for Team USA at some of the worst moments. In these situations, Jackson often reverted back to his familiar instincts of overdribbling, settling for bad shots and running into brick walls.
Jackson is an extremely gifted athlete who excels in transition and can beat his man off the dribble almost at will thanks to a tremendous first step. However, he must improve his decision making and playmaking skills considerably to overcome his lack of size and court vision.
Jackson's perimeter shooting is incredibly streaky at the moment, due to his inconsistent release point. He made just five 3-pointers in nine tournament games here and was unable to get to the free throw line at a high rate (just 27 attempts) to compensate.
He flirted with a negative assist to turnover ratio for most of the event and had a difficult time getting the U.S.'s athletic frontcourtits biggest advantage at this tournamentinvolved.
Heading into his sophomore season, Jackson clearly has a great deal of work to do in order to realize the high expectations he set for himself as a top shelf high school recruit. This event should serve as a learning experience for him and reiterate that he still has a long way to go to reach his full potential.
Edited by Patrick Crawley, Managing Editor of Basketball Fiend.