Early Look at the Freshmen

What I do here is pretty simple. I take the stats from the 3 major High School all-star games and form an early opinion on the freshmen. Like everything that happens before the conference games start, this opinion is going to be considered very fluid and likely to change dramatically in some cases as the year progresses and these players develop or fade.  All-star games aren’t the best forum for a player showcasing his skills. They are played at a fast pace, aren’t terribly competitive and are more of a showcase of skills than anything. That said, I feel something can be taken from these numbers.

The strength of the freshman class appears to be PGs and SFs. This will make the draft interesting, since those are currently the 2 strongest NBA positions.  I’m not wild about the bigs right now, even though they dominate the early top 10.

The other thing to know is that the power schools just keep gobbling up the blue chippers. Thirteen of the top 25 players will attend Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky or Kansas.

The players are listed in their ESPN top 100 order and is no way reflective of my early opinion of the prospects. I only included players in the top 20 and Tyler Ulis who I felt was also worth a mention.

Jahlil Okafor, C Duke: .628 2PP, 33.3 P40, 14.4 R40, 0.6 SB40, 0.2 A/TO: The top-ranked prospect didn’t really look the part during the all-star circuit. In 72 minutes he had only 1 steal, 1 assist and 0 blocks. His scoring and rebounding were just fine, but a big man needs to display dominant defense and Okafor’s wasn’t even good. He’s definitely a solid prospect because of the offense, but the all-around game needs to improve.

Myles Turner, C Texas: .500 2PP, 12.4 P40, 13.8 R40, 0.0 SB40: Like Okafor, Turner was not a very impressive defender. Unlike Okafor he didn’t excel on offense either. Turner appears to be a project.

Cliff Alexander, PF Kansas: .438 2PP, 21.1 P40, 11.7 R40, 3.9 B40: He looks weak on offense, but solid on defense. It is better for a prospect to excel defensively at first. Offense is more easily developed, while defense is more innate.

Tyus Jones, PG Duke:  .545 2PP, .333 3PP, 15.6 P40, 14.5 A40, 7.8 RSB40, 4.7 A/TO: Jones seems like not only a pass-first PG, but a happy-to-pass-first PG. He distributed a lot with few turnovers. He didn’t score much, but scored efficiently when asked. His defensive numbers were OK. All things considered it was a pretty impressive show by Jones.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong (Chinese League): .500 2PP, 33.2 P40, 16.7 A40, 5.9 RSB40, 3.0 A/TO: Mudiay flashed some nice PG skills, both offensive and passing. His low RSB40 is a red flag and something he’ll need to improve.

Trey Lyles, PF Kentucky: .600 2PP, 27.8 P40, 15.6 R40 4.4 SB40, 1.5 A/TO: Lyles was the most impressive big in the all-star games. He did everything well including passing the ball. The problem for Lyles is Kentucky is already loaded on the inside with 3 potential 1st rounders returning at center and PF in Cauley-Stein,  Johnson and Poythress. Lyles will have to force his way into PT and looks good enough that he might just do it.

Stanley Johnson, SF Arizona: .441 2PP, .333 3PP, 22.3 P40, 4.6 R40, 3.4 ASB40: Not a particularly good performance. He was an inefficient scorer and the non-scoring numbers were pretty weak. He’s heading to an Arizona team that already has a couple of solid forward prospects on board in Ashley and Hollis-Jefferson. He’ll have to play better than this to make an impact on the Wildcats’ loaded roster.

Justin Jackson, SF North Carolina: .727 2PP, .667 3PP, 32.4 P40, 7.6 R40, 3.9 ASB40: Scored often and very efficiently, with so-so rebounding, defensive and passing numbers. While I’d like the defense to be better, the dominance on offense makes Jackson a player to watch.

Karl Towns, C Kentucky: .500 2PP, 17.6 P40, 14.1 R40, 3.5 A40, 2.4 B40: Another impressive big guy for Kentucky. While Towns wasn’t dominant, he did get a few blocks and passed well. Like Lyles he’s going to have to work hard for PT in the Wildcat’s loaded front court.

Theo Pinson, SF North Carolina: .400 2PP, 15.2 P40, 7.6 R40, 8.6 A40, 12.5 ASB40: Pinson’s numbers are what I like to see in a SF.  He has a nice range of skills. His offense was pretty abysmal, but with offense the assumption is improvement will happen. Jackson and Pinson give the Heels a solid pair at the forward spots.

Kelly Oubre, SF Kansas: .457 2PP, .313 3PP, 30.6 P40, 10.6 R40, 8.1 ASB40, 0.6 A/TO: Oubre is a very intriguing prospect. Based on his stats it is easy to see why he’s risen to the top 5 in the mocks. He has the wide range of skills necessary in any SF. The downside is his numbers look erratic. TOs are high and efficiency is weak.

Kevon Looney, PF UCLA: .375 2PP, 21.8 P40, 40.0 R40, 7.3 B40: Looney only played 11 minutes, but had 2 blocks and 11 rebounds. It’s an impressive, but very small sample.

D’Angelo Russell, SG Ohio State: 316 2PP, .200 3PP, 17.0 P40, 10.1 A40, 12.1 RSB40: Russell scored infrequently and unefficiently with 0 total blocks and steals. The only bright spot is he rebounded well and passed like a PG. So while Russell didn’t look like much of a SG prospect in these games, he did flash some skills and that’s a good thing.

Isaac Whitehead, SG Seton Hall: .400 2PP, 26.7 P40, 8.8 RSB40: Numbers OK, but for only 9 minutes of court time. Not much to be gleaned here.

Justise Winslow, SF Duke: .531 2PP, .400 3PP, 29.8 P40, 8.6 R40, 7.1 ASB40: Winslow might have the best all-around numbers of any SF. There’s nothing here that blows me away, but he does everything well. With the Devils losing their top 2 scorers from last year, both forwards, Winslowe is in a great position for early success.

Joel Berry, PG North Carolina: .429 2PP, .500 3PP, 11.7 P40, 8.3 A40, 6.7 RSB40, 1.7 S40: These numbers are for only 24 minutes in 2 games. Berry looks like a pass-first PG. Two good signs are that he had no turnovers and didn’t appear to be overmatched. The defensive numbers were low, which isn’t such a good sign.

Devon Booker, SG Kentucky: .313 2PP, .500 3PP, 26.2 P40, 6.9 RSB40: There isn’t anything impressive in Booker’s numbers. He’s the one Kentucky recruit most likely to eventually transfer.

Rashad Vaughn, SG UNLV: .429 2PP, .375 3PP, 34.1 P40, 14.9 RSB40: I have a theory that it is better for a prospect to head to a school where he’s likely to play, as opposed to joining a loaded roster. Vaughn is headed to a UNLV team that will need 5 new starters. His all-star numbers are pretty strong, so I expect him to have a big impact as a freshman.

James Blackmon, SG Indiana: .615 2PP, .250 3PP, 33.9 P40, 7.0 RSB40: Blackmon scored often and efficiently, with soft defensive numbers. I prefer a prospect to do it the other way, but with the small sample size of playing time we’re looking at it isn’t the worst way to start a career.

Tyler Ulis, PG Kentucky: .429 2PP, .400 3PP, 17.0 P40, 14.5 A40, 15.7 RSB40, 12.0 A/TO: Ulis isn’t a top 20 prospect, he’s at #25. I wanted to mention him though, because his numbers were so impressive. He’s short, listed at 5’9”. Kentucky could use a floor general with the skills Ulis showed in these games. He’s a player to watch.

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