Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Six (#10-14)
|by: Derek Bodner - College Basketball Scout, Jonathan Givony - President, Josh Riddell - College Basketball Scout, Joseph Treutlein - Director of Scouting/Analytics
|September 11, 2013
|We continue to evaluate the top NBA prospects in the ACC, moving on to part six, players ranked 10-14: C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman, Brice Johnson, Robert Carter and Jerian Grant.
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 NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part One
(#1) James McAdoo
-Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part Two
(#2) T.J. Warren
-Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part Three
(#3) Rasheed Sulaimon
-Top NBA Prospects in the ACC, Part Four
(#4) P.J. Hairston
-Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC, Part Five
(#5) Jerami Grant
(#6) Olivier Hanlan
(#7) Dez Wells
(#8) Rodney Hood
(#9) Joe Harris
#10, C.J. Fair, 6-8, Senior, SF/PF, Syracuse
The last time we profiled Syracuse's C.J. Fair, we noted his increased effectiveness from the foul line and the development of good touch on runners in the lane, and speculated that he may be able to extend that out to jump shots in game situations.
That success came in a big way during the 6'7 ½ forward's junior season, as he maintained his free throw percentage at 75.5%, but increased his three point shooting substantially, from 25% at 0.6 attempts per game up to a lofty 46.9% on 1.6 attempts per game. According to Synergy Sports Technology, his efficiency on jump shots increased from a below-average 0.793 points per possession to a much more respectable 0.97 points per possession, turning one of his weaknesses into a staple of his game and allowing him to go from a role player to one of the focal points of the Syracuse team. The net result was Fair was able to increase his scoring from 13.0 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted to 16.7 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted.
The major area of improvement came with his feet set. Fair struggled in catch and shoot situations during his first two seasons at Syracuse, shooting just 18.2% and 31.4% during his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. That jumped all the way up to 48.6% during his junior year, ranking in the 90th percentile in terms of points per possession according to Synergy Sports Technology, and he was virtually automatic when left unguarded, connecting on an astounding 58.1% of those attempts. Unfortunately the sample size of just 74 possessions (1.9 attempts per game) leaves a lot to be desired, so Fair will have to continue to shoot the ball effectively and possibly more frequently to convince NBA scouts that this significant improvement wasn't just a fluke.
Fair has clearly worked on his release, and has turned it into a technically sound, repeatable, and effective release. He does a good job squaring up to the basket in anticipation of the pass, has excellent balance, gets good elevation, and follows through well. There's a little bit of extra motion in the release, which causes it to not be the quickest release in the world, but it's overall a very effective and consistent weapon for the forward, and a huge step forward from where it was in previous years.
The results are not quite as consistent when Fair is on the move, as he isn't nearly as effective either coming off of screens or shooting off the dribble. Fair's effectiveness off the dribble fell from 0.933 points per possession his sophomore season to a well below-average 0.633 last year. Part of this is due to a change in role, as he attempted to create more of his offense this past season and thus took shots with a higher degree of difficulty. The form on his pull-up jump shots doesn't seem to be broken, and it may be something he can improve upon with enough repetition as he becomes more comfortable with the shot, particularly when forced to go to his right.
The rest of Fair's offensive game remains relatively the same as the last time we profiled him. His two point field goal percentage of 47% continues the disappointing trend from his sophomore season, both of which were well below the 54.7% he shot inside of the arc during his freshman year and well below average for somebody who plays a majority of his time at the power forward position.
While not a prolific shot creator, Fair did create more for himself off the dribble than he did in year's past. This was largely due to the increased attention he received shooting from the elbow and foul line extended areas of the court, as opposing power forwards were forced to defend his improved jump shot, and Fair used that attention along with an effective pump fake to get around his man. That being said, Fair could definitely stand to improve his ball handling, especially if he hopes to make the transition to small forward at the next level, as he's fairly limited in terms of advanced ball handling moves and struggles to get all the way to the rim when driving to his weak right hand.
Another thing contributing to his relative lack of efficiency inside the arc is that Fair doesn't get much offense in the post, despite playing most of his time at power forward. Fair has decent footwork, but his lack of lower body strength and inability to establish post position limits this aspect of his game. He does do a good job of finding seams in a defense and moving without the ball, something which should be useful when he makes the transition to the next level.
Defensively, Fair has many of the same question marks when trying to project to the next level that many Syracuse players face, particularly when trying to determine whether he could effectively guard small forwards on the perimeter. Standing under 6'8" without the wingspan to make up for it, Fair may struggle to see extended time at the power forward position. As we noted during our previous write-up, Fair maintains consistent focus and a high energy level on this side of the court. An overall athletic player, how well he can move his feet laterally and defend the perimeter will be one of the major factors to keep an eye on when he gets to individual workouts.
Always on the radar as a high energy, athletic role player, the development of a more consistent jump shot (albeit on just 64 3-point attempts in 40 games) was a noteworthy development in C.J. Fair's status as a prospect. Continuing to develop his perimeter skills, ball handling, and shot creating abilities will be a key for Fair going forward as he looks to show decision makers that he could make the transition to the perimeter at the next level, as long as his outside shooting percentages don't revert back to where they were his first two seasons.
#11, DaJuan Coleman, 6-9, PF/C, Sophomore, Syracuse
After a solid beginning to his freshman campaign, starting at the center position in all of Syracuse's first 20 games, DaJuan Coleman's season was derailed in January due to a minor knee surgery. While Coleman's stat line doesn't exactly jump out of the box score (4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 12.7 minutes per game), he's poised to take a noticeable step forward in his sophomore season where he will have every opportunity to earn more minutes.
Standing 6'9 with a large and strong frame and an excellent 7'2 wingspan, DaJuan Coleman boasts the same physical strengths and weaknesses as the player we've profiled since his freshman year of high school. Coleman still has some baby fat and will always need to work a little harder to maintain his conditioning, but he's done a solid job of getting into decent shape, and is plenty mobile and fluid regardless. Coleman actually spends a good deal of his possessions playing above the rim by virtue of his excellent size and length, but could do so a much higher percentage of the time if he increased his explosiveness and became quicker off his feet by further cutting down his excess weight.
On the offensive end, Coleman's strengths lie primarily within five feet of the basket, where he has no problem establishing dominant position, backing his man down, finishing through contact, and going up for powerful dunks when he has the opportunity. He has a decent repertoire of running hooks and spin moves along with decent touch on his finesse finishes. As Coleman gets farther away from the basket, however, his efficiency drops notably, and he was far too reliant on post moves and jump shots outside five feet during his shortened freshman year. Despite being a good finisher around the rim in general, Coleman had an extremely weak 43.8% two-point percentage last season, an inexcusable mark for someone with his size and physical abilities.
Looking at Coleman's finesse and perimeter game, he has some bright spots with his flashes of ability to put the ball on the floor and somewhat respectable-looking 15-foot jumper, but his 46.2% free-throw percentage is a pretty good barometer of where his perimeter skills are overall at this stage, and his game and team would benefit greatly by him spending a much higher degree of his time operating as close to the basket as possible.
Coleman's inside game is already very effective at the college level, as he gets to the line at an excellent rate (8.6 times per-40) and already is a good overall finisher, especially when he has the room to power up. If Coleman has been spending his time this summer wisely by focusing on his conditioning and really maximizing his explosiveness, he could vastly improve his ability in what is already the strongest area of his offensive game.
On the defensive end, Coleman shows good awareness, intensity, and rotation ability manning the center spot in Syracuse's signature 2-3 zone. He also fares well on the rare instances he's matched up against power post players, showing good ability to keep his man away from the basket and very good timing on shot blocks. On the downside, however, Coleman has issues with lateral agility when matched against more finesse-oriented post players, and looks like a fish out of water whenever he is dragged out to the perimeter against guards or has to close out on outside jump shots.
The most positive aspect of Coleman's game at this stage, both as a collegiate player and projecting to the next level, is his superb rebounding ability on both ends of the floor. Coleman boasted an excellent 12.5 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted last season in a Syracuse zone system that's known for spreading the boards around somewhat. Coleman does a great job staying near the basket on both ends of the floor and showing a good nose for the ball off the rim along with soft hands to pull in caroms. His ability to finish on putbacks offensively is another area where maximizing his explosiveness could pay big dividends for his production and efficiency, though he's already very effective in that area.
Looking forward, Coleman is certainly a player to keep an eye on as a sophomore, as he's likely already Syracuse's most talented big man going into this season without even making noticeable improvements, so he should have no problem expanding his role if he spent time working on his game and body this offseason. Coleman's NBA potential will be heavily dependent on maximizing his physical attributes, and he already has a solid groundwork of skills to offer with his rebounding, inside scoring, and interior defense, along with the obvious assets of his size and strength. If he checks out character-wise, particularly in terms of his work ethic and off the court habits, it's a pretty safe bet to say the NBA is in his future.
#12 Brice Johnson, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, North Carolina
A top-50 high school recruit from South Carolina, Brice Johnson came into college weighing just 187 pounds, despite standing 6-9. He started the season off extremely well but cooled somewhat as the year moved on, seeing fewer minutes down the stretch due to Roy Williams' decision to play smaller lineups with James McAdoo at center and P.J. Hairston at power forward. Up to 205 pounds now reportedly after a full offseason working in North Carolina's renowned strength and conditioning, Johnson will be looking to build off a promising freshman campaign and establish himself as a legitimate NBA prospect.
Johnson did not play major minutes as a freshman, but nevertheless was able to drop some impressive glimpses of potential, on the offensive end in particular. His per-minute numbers were very strong, even when adjusting for UNC's torrid pace, at 18.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per-40 pace adjusted.
The main intrigue surrounding Johnson as a long-term prospect revolves around his excellent combination of size, mobility and scoring instincts, as well as the fact that he did not turn 19 until this past summer, making him one of the youngest players in college basketball last season.
Johnson is a very good athlete, running the floor well and being an extremely quick leaper. That makes sense considering he was a gifted track and field star in high school, winning consecutive South Carolina state championships in the high jump, as well as competing in the long jump and triple jump.
Johnson's athletic prowess translates well to the basketball court, where he is an excellent finisher around the basket thanks to his mobility and terrific touch, being a regular recipient of lobs from UNC's guards because of how reliable he is around the rim.
Highly aggressive calling for the ball and looking to establish position inside, Johnson saw a fair amount of touches in the post last season, even if he struggled at times to convert his looks due to his lack of bulk. Still, he shows good potential as a back to the basket scorer, being very assertive trying to post up opposing big men, displaying nice footwork and feathery touch on his hook shots and turnaround jumpers, and sometimes finishing in impressive fashion off the glass.
It will likely take a number of years for Johnson's body to catch up to his skill-level inside the post, but the fact that he shows the willingness and ability to throw the ball in the basket so easily, despite how frail his frame is currently, has to be considered a good sign for the future.
Where Johnson can already be effective is playing off the ball, be it off cuts, as a pick and roll finisher, crashing the offensive glass, and running the floor in transition. He made an impressive 71% of his non post-up attempts around the rim in the half-court as a freshman, again showing good mobility, reliable hands, and the ability to finish strong from a stand-still off two feet with relative ease.
Johnson should be able to extend his range comfortably outside the paint, as he shows good shooting mechanics and the ability to knock down jumpers out to about 18 feet, particularly from the baseline. His shot-selection leaves something to be desired, though, as he tends to shoot the ball any time he touches it with even a hint of daylight, which may not have always endeared him to his teammates and coaching staff. Gaining a better understanding of what his limitations are will be important as he matures and receives more playing time.
Where Johnson will likely have to improve the most in order to earn minutes and establish himself as a legit prospect is on the defensive end. He struggles badly here at times due to his frail frame and average toughness, getting pushed around mercilessly by stronger opponents. He also doesn't seem to have the best fundamentals here either, biting on pump fakes and regularly falling asleep and giving up deep position before his man even catches the ball.
On the perimeter, Johnson shows good mobility with his ability to cover ground quickly and hedge the pick and roll, but gets beaten off the dribble too easily by more skilled power forwards. He shows good timing as a shot-blocker and rebounder to go along with his strong athleticism, though, so it's possible that with added strength, experience and coaching he could make some serious strides as time moves on.
All in all, Johnson is a very raw prospect who is still far from garnering legit consideration as a NBA draft prospect at this point in time, even if it's difficult not to be impressed by his physical tools and natural knack for scoring which simply cannot be taught.
It will be interesting to see how much additional playing time he will be able to garner in the incredibly crowded frontcourt that Roy Williams has assembled this season, as he'll be competing with no fewer than six other big men in James McAdoo, Joel James, Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks for minutes. Considering that UNC played some of their best basketball with four guards on the floor last season, there might not be all that much playing time to go around, which could lead to some disappointment.
Nevertheless, Johnson is a prospect that scouts will continue to track the next few seasons to see how his body develops and skill-level evolves over time.
#13, Robert Carter, 6-8, Power Forward, Sophomore, Georgia Tech
After watching Carter intently at the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team training camp this past June, we offered up the following report. We prefer to wait and see how Carter performs as a sophomore before adding to his scouting report.
#14 Jerian Grant, 6-5, RS Junior, PG/SG, Notre Dame
Jerian Grant enters his redshirt junior season coming off a Big East All-Conference second team selection and looking to build off of two promising campaigns while improving his overall draft stock in a new conference. Grant now has two years of playing experience in the Big East and will need to take a leap forward for Notre Dame to have success in the new look ACC.
Grant played with the ball in his hands significantly more last season than his freshman season. His usage rate increased from 21.2 to 24.4%, even if his scoring only saw a slight uptick on a per-40 basis, from 14.5 to 15.2.
Grant's biggest asset at this point is his ability to create offense, not necessarily for himself, but especially for his teammates. Grant averaged 6.3 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted, tops among returning shooting guard prospects in our top-100 rankings by a wide margin, showing his vision and unselfishness as he made good post entry passes and kicked out to open teammates off dribble penetration.
While Grant is capable of beating his defender off the dribble, getting to the rim and finishing, he doesn't have much upper body strength so he may have trouble replicating this skill against the bigger players in the NBA. Although he has shown the ability to get all the way to the rim, his average athleticism and strength often forces him to settle for pull up jumpers. He did see an increase in his efficiency in jump shots off the dribble, as he improved his field goal percentage from 24.7% in 2011-12 to 32.8% in 2012-13 on these types of plays, but it's difficult to rely on this type of offense as a primary source of production. While he still has some work to do in this area, he saw an uptick in production due to a lower reliance on step back jumpers, allowing him to stay on balance as he pulls up for jump shots.
Grant is a terrific at creating out of the pick and roll, as Notre Dame scored 0.911 points per possession when accounting for Grant's points and assists, according to Synergy Sports. He could do a better job of using the screen, as he has a tendency to pull up for a jump shot behind the screen instead of using the pick to create a lane for the dribble drive. He will also completely reject the screen at times and is an ineffective creator when he does so. Grant is great at passing out of the pick and roll, both to the roll man and to shooters on the wing, thanks to his excellent combination of size and court vision, which are arguably his best traits as a NBA prospect.
With that said, poor decision making haunted Grant on a nightly basis, from turning the ball over on jump passes to forcing contested jumpers early in the shot clock when Notre Dame was in need of a good possession. Grant saw a rise in his turnovers, from 2.0 to 3.1 per 40 minutes pace adjusted (or 15.6% to 20.8% when looking at turnover rate). He will be a focal point of the Notre Dame offense again and will need to improve on his decision making skills to cut down on these mistakes. Grant shows flashes of brilliance on the offensive end, but these mistakes are hampering him from being a more efficient offensive player.
Generally speaking, Grant is neither an overly prolific or efficient scorer at this stage, as his 15.2 points per-40, while an improvement on last season, ranks last among top-100 shooting guards, while his true shooting percentage also ranks last in that group. He's not a high-level perimeter shooter at this stage, making just 34% of his 3-point attempts, and he doesn't get to the free throw line all that frequently either. His calling card is his passing ability, but there are question marks regarding he will have the ball in his hands enough to translate that part of his game to the NBA.
Defensively, Grant has a tendency to get beat off the dribble, as he sometimes loafs on his first lateral step, allowing the offensive player to get by him. However, he often is able to make up that difference with lateral quickness to contest the shot, but he won't be able to do that so easily on a regular basis against high level competition.
In other defensive areas, Grant is an adequate defender and uses his quickness and hands to create steals or turnovers for the Irish. He's an average pick and roll defender, but again, his lackadaisical effort on his first step allows offensive players to get by him and force him to scramble to recover to try to defend the shot attempt. His size, length and lateral quickness give him the potential to be a strong defender, but he needs to work on staying in front of the ball by concentrating on his footwork.
Grant has some very nice tools to work with, as his size, length, passing ability and basketball IQ give him a good framework to build off. With that said, he will likely have to improve his perimeter shooting and defensive prowess in order to help transition into a more compact role at the pro level.
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