Thorpe: Scouting draft gems outside the mainstream

Thorpe: Scouting draft gems outside the mainstream

Postby JSM on Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:06 am

David Thorpe of ESPN wrote:The NBA draft is full of players who have been talked about and hyped since they were in high school. But each draft also has some gems who are either late bloomers or were just missed by most major colleges, so they went to lesser-known basketball programs -- or at least ones that aren't on national TV very often. NBA teams have to evaluate the whole world, so they are used to scouting talent that doesn't receive as much mainstream media attention as most of the other draftable players.

Here's a look at three guys who are very draftable that you may not have seen, all with first-round potential.
Terrico White, G, Ole Miss

Ole Miss isn't exactly a mid-major, but the majority of the country hasn't had a chance to see much of White. I watched him play in the SEC tournament last season and I liked him as a point guard. It's not his natural position, but it was clear he likes to play with the ball in his hands much more than off the ball. This year, he still does.

He's playing a lot more shooting guard, but he definitely projects as a combo guard who looks to score. He uses strength to get many of his buckets, flaunts a mature midrange game and is making more than 38 percent of his 3s. I think he can be a much better shooter than that, once he learns to consistently put more arc on what is now typically a very flat shot.

His lack of quickness at this point of his career causes concerns about his ability to defend in the NBA. He does not make as many athletic plays as he should, but enough to make me think that he can improve that part of his game a great deal over the next few years. (As an example, Courtney Lee plays much more athletically now than he did as a senior at Western Kentucky).

White's game resembles O.J. Mayo's in a lot of ways, and Mayo gets it done despite being small as a 2. But Mayo also defends with passion and has become an excellent and smart basketball player. For White to get drafted and succeed down the road, he'll have to develop those talents.

Paul George, F, Fresno State

When I studied tape on George, I kept thinking to myself, "someone needs to tell him that the NBA is not interested in him because he can get 3-point shots off, they want to see you make them."

Here's what I mean. He is a 6-foot-8 small forward who has some ball skills and a decent feel for scoring. And yes, he can shoot the 3, evidenced by his 45 percent mark last season in 141 attempts. This season, 46 percent of his shots have been behind the line (making 38.5 percent), far more 3s per field goal attempt than last season (39 percent).

The question is, does he want to be competing for a spot in the top 20 or run the risk of being a borderline first-round prospect?

Since he's not playing in a BCS conference, the level of play is lower and the overall number of athletic guys 6-8 and taller is smaller, creating more matchup advantages for him. He needs to take advantage of that. Fire off fewer 3s and look to create off the dribble more, or move without the ball and make plays as a cutter. He clearly has NBA talent and size, and his super-quick hands earn him more than two steals per game.

Showing more discipline from the perimeter and using his talents to get buckets and consistent free throw attempts would be a wise move. It's the kind of approach that normally comes with maturity, so George, were he to stay in school, may start showing those traits more frequently next season. Pro teams may project him to learn those things anyway and still draft him high. However, it's best for George to start that process now and remove all doubt.

Larry Sanders, C, VCU

In football recruiting, some high school phenoms are listed as "athlete" because no one is sure what their best position will ultimately be. To some degree, this is the case with Sanders.

Though he's built like an NBA 3, his lack of skills help project him to be a 4 or a 5. No matter, because as an "athlete," he has a chance to help a team at either spot. I don't worry much about his weight now (reports suggest it's 220 pounds), as he should have no trouble getting to 240 within a few years. And though that might seem light for an inside player, it has its advantages, too. He is a very bouncy guy with a wingspan over 7-5, and he competes hard. That alone gets him drafted.

I like how he has learned to play the game in his two-plus years at VCU, becoming a smarter player and adding the foundation of a decent pick-and-pop game. A player that shows rapid progress in college helps us to project him more accurately in the pros because increased improvement is given.

The exceptions are players that have already hit their ceilings, but Sanders is far from that. He'll likely be a guy who has to play off his four teammates on offense for a long time, but he can develop into someone who can anchor the defense because he's such a terrific shot-blocker. Those guys are not easy to find, and thus become valuable players.

He reminds me of Serge Ibaka, the Thunder rookie who was too raw to play in Oklahoma City last year but is coming on strong for them now. They were (and still may not be) sure what his best position was, but he's in the rotation and learning on the fly. The same thing could apply to Sanders.
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