By Aran Smith
Despite his recent back injury, scouts are becoming more and more enamored with Indiana's Eric Gordon's potential as a scoring guard at the next level.
Gordon came down hard on his back after being up-ended against Tennessee State. He finished with just 8 points in 12 minutes. If not for the injury, Gordon could be leading the nation in scoring.
He was at 26.6 ppg before the injury and is currently at 24.3 ppg, good for second (Beasley) among high major players. His shooting numbers make it all the more impressive as he's hitting 53% from the floor and 22-44 (50%) from 3.
Gordon's injury unfortunately knocked him out of the Hoosiers nationally televised showcase with Kentucky on Saturday.
Despite mishandling his recruiting and creating an uproar in the state of Illinois, Gordon is a mature and thoughtful kid who understands how to utilize his strengths in a team concept. That maturity will help him to make a fast transition and ultimately have considerable success at the next level.
Scouts rate Gordon as the top shooting guard prospect in the country and feel he has a shot to be a top 3 pick in the 2008 draft.
Tyler Smith was never able to play at Tennessee in front of his father after the well documented story of his father's passing away over the summer. But, alive in spirit, Smith is making his Dad proud with tremendous play through the first month of the season.
Smith is making all the right moves, playing great team basketball and doing all the things to help the Vols win. He doesn't appear concerned with leading the team in scoring, only wins and losses.
Though just a sophomore, scouts consider Smith a first rounder right now. His great vision and passing ability and all around feel for the game make him the type of guy that can immediately come into the NBA and contribute.
His versatility and unslefishness makes him very intriguing, Smith is averaging 13.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.6 apg and a 2.29 a/to ratio. Over his past four games he has averaged 15, 8 and 5.
Smith abilities are somewhere between Sonics forwards Jeff Green and Damien Wilkins. His unselfishness and vision are similar to Green only not quite as polished and he's got thoroughbred speed and athletic ability and excellent strength ala Wilkins.
Scouts see Smith as a mid-late first rounder with an outside chance to slip into the lottery.
Arizona had already suffered two early season losses and found itself down big at home late in the first half against Texas A&M.
The Wildcats were in good hands as they turned to their freshman point guard, and he took them on his back scoring a barrage of baskets and trips to the line to pull the game close at the half.
He kept the momentum going in the second half seizing control of the game and helping turn a 15 point first half deficit into an 11 point win.
Bayless finished the game with 26 points (10-10 from the line) and 6 assists.
He still must make improvements upon his PG skills but his ability to get the the basket, using his great speed and athleticism to draw fouls and finish puts him in elite company.
Mustafa Shakur had the same type of hype coming into college at Arizona, but unlike Bayless, Shakur lacked a jump shot, focus, or a killer instinct. As a freshman, Bayless is miles ahead and better now than Shakur ever became.
Eight games into his freshman season, Bayless has quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic guards in college basketball averaging 19.9 ppg on 48% shooting and 46% from 3. His 4.9 assists per game is good for 2nd in the Pac-Ten.
Bayless is reminiscent of former Duke star Jay Williams with his athleticism and relentless, attacking style of play. Williams (who tragically had his pro career cut short by a motorcycle accident) was considered the top player in his class winning National HS player of the year. Bayless might be even more talented than Williams.
Bayless stands an excellent chance of landing in the mid-lottery with a chance to crack the top five come draft night.
Things are beginning to click for Thabeet recently. He had 22 and 14 in UConn's second match up with Gardner Webb, and followed that up with a blocked shot shy of a triple double with 12 pts 12 boards and 9 blocks against Florida A&M.
After a slow start, Thabeet has shown that his decision to return to UConn for his sophomore season appears to have been a good one. He's showing improved balance and offensive skills.
Though he's far from a finished product, the improvement from last year is a great sign. He's also showing improved cardiovascular, with the stamina to run the floor for extended minutes at a time, something unusual for a player his size and age.
Maybe most encouraging is Thabeet's shooting numbers. He's raised both his FG and FT shooting considerably. His 70% from the line is no fluke as his form is excellent and he goes to the line with confidence. It's obvious the coaches at UConn have been working with him and doing a terrific job.
Thabeet learned the game late and though he still can look awkward at times, he often runs out of space with other players crowding him and his sheer size puts him off balance. But as he continues to get stronger, those episodes seem to be less frequent.
NBA teams list Thabeet as a top 20 pick for this year's draft.
Augustin has been the best point guard in the country thus far this season. Texas is undefeated and has slayed two giants with wins against Tennessee and UCLA.
Augustin's scoring ability is his greatest asset. At 5-11, Augustin's low center of gravity and quick feet make him a terror off the dribble.
He spent the summer working out with former Longhorn PG TJ Ford. The two reportedly went at each other playing one on one, and (the currently recovering) Ford acted as mentor giving Augustin tips on what parts of his game weren't up to NBA speed.
Against UCLA, Augustin had a runner in which he leaned back and floated the ball over Lorenzo Mata-Real. The shot was wet and all game long he showed that he has the ability to score and create shots against bigger opponents. Last year he likely would have taken the ball further in and been rejected.
For a munchkin like DJ, that ability to stop and drain a midrange floater is an essential NBA skill, and appears to be great coaching. (Thanks TJ! and get well soon).
Augustin won the match up with Collison, but it's important to rmember that DC was not at full strength having just returned from his preseason knee injury.
With Ford (2003), Daniel Gibson (2006), who both left after their sophomore years, and now Augustin in the past six years, Texas is quickly establishing a tradition of developing quality NBA point guards. Now if only coach Rick Barnes could get them to hang around a little longer.
With the departure of Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall, it's now Rice's team and the point guard has responded raising his scoring average (17.6 to 21.5) and effectively distributing the ball (6 assists per game and a 2-1 a/to ratio).
With great leadership skills, Rice is a true floor general who has taken the younger players on the team under his wing. He has the Eagles soaring out to a 7-2 record including an impressive win at Maryland in which he frustrated Maryland standout PG Grievis Vasquez.
Rice still must improve his outside shooting. As a freshman he shot nearly 40%, but as a sophomore on a high volume of shots, Rice's 3 point average was just 32%. So far this year he's at shooting just 16-49 (32.9%) 4-20 over his past 4 games dropping what had been a good start to the year from 3.
He is more athletic than he looks showing excellent body control on drives to the basket. Rice's first step and ability to get into the paint and draw fouls (90% from the line on the year) makes him deadly at the end of games.
If Rice can continue his steady early play and raise his 3 point shooting percentage over the next two seasons, he'll have a chance to be a first rounder next year.
It took him two years to gain his college eligibility, and like his teammate Taj Gibson, Jefferson is two plus years old for his grade. But unlike Gibson, Jefferson has a true NBA position: small forward.
Jefferson is a show stopper type of athlete who has already put together a bundle of highlight reel dunks including one put back where he reared back and caught a rebound over his head and dunked it all in one motion. Jefferson is one of a short list of guys on the college level capable of completing that play.
Along with his phenomenal agility and length, Jefferson has a mid range jump shot and the ability to face the basket and make plays off the dribble.
Jefferson is finally playing college ball, and well. He's averaging 14 ppg, 5.8 boards and shooting 54% from the floor.
His athleticism is truly special, and despite a checkered past and some character question marks (21 year old freshman), he is considered a mid first rounder. It would be no different if he were a juco transfer, which he's essentially the age of.
After losing 3-of-5 to begin the season, Anderson has led Oklahoma State to three straight victories including an impressive 96-71 win over Washington.
Anderson has been absolutely sensational making scouts take notice of him in his debut in the Maui Invitational. He showed that his skills were way ahead of schedule and has not let up since.
He is averaging 20 ppg on the year and shooting 52% from the field and 48% from 3. Not many guards in the country can say that. He also continues to get better averaging 23.3 ppg over his last three on 21-37 (57%) shooting
Making things all the more impressive is the Cowboys lack of quality point guard play. It's not as if Anderson has 6-to-8 points per game served up on a platter.
Anderson still has some areas of his game to work on. He's got a negative assist to turnover ratio and must learn to better protect the ball.
It's hard to imagine Anderson slipping out of the first round whenever he decides to declare for the draft. He's currently projected as a top 5 pick in 2009.
Mayo came into college with huge expectations as the biggest household name in high school basketball since LeBron James. The problem is, people were expecting LeBron, and he just isn't that caliber of talent.
What he is is an extremely talented offensive player with go to ability ala Gilbert Arenas or Ben Gordon. But his point guard skills and shot selection have been suspect at best through the first nine games of his college career.
Two straight four point losses in which Mayo shot 6-20 and 6-21 have taken the Trojans out of the top 25 and looking for answers. Mayo needs to limit the bad shots and look to pass the ball instead of forcing things. With Daniel Hackett running the point and forwards Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson, USC has quality talent surrounding him.
If OJ doesn't work on his point guard skills and improve his shot selection, or at the least tone down his shot volume and concentrate on team play, he could be destined to be a Stephon Marbury type albatross to a team at the next level. A prolific scorer, always on a bad team.
Mayo is already 20 years old leading some to question his upside. He doesn't show much ability to elevate his teammates play, and his early season run in with Daniel Hackett (broken jaw) added to speculation that the troublemaker reputation of he'd built in high school was still true.
In one game, Mayo had an interview segment where he mentioned Magic and Steve Nash were his two favorite players. He said he liked Nash because he was "exciting and fundamental". He forgot the essence of Nash's game and ironically what is missing from his own game: Unselfishness, making his teammates better, and a complete disregard for individual accolades.
All reports are that Mayo is a bright kid. He reportedly scored a 29 on his ACT, which is very impressive. He also has tremendous strength and great defensive ability. He was able to keep Derrick Rose off the scoreboard for much of their match up with Memphis.
Who knows, it's early in his freshman season. Maybe Mayo will turn things around and become more composed offensively and more team oriented. But right now, Mayo has failed to impress and is looking more like a mid-late lottery pick, instead of the possible top overall pick he came into college as.
What happens when too many people tell you how good you are before you've ever accomplished anything? Derrick Caracter seems to be finding out.
Caracter was suspended from the team early this week for violating the team's curfew. The decision was made by his teammates and no timetable has been set for his return. the suspension could be a positive for Caracter if it serves as a wake up call and he realizes the enormous opportunity he's wasting.
He had been solid so far this season, but no where near the player he was at 15 and 16 years of age who regularly dominated players two years older than him. For a player with such immense talent, he seems content with being good but not great. His lack of fire and hunger to dominate is not a good sign for his NBA aspirations. He's an undersized power forward with limited leaping ability and fading skills.
Unless he rededicates himself and comes back with more focus and energy, he's likely to enter the 2008 draft and fall into the second round or go undrafted. There is no guaranteed spot for him in the NBA and it will require hard work and dedication for him to make one.
Without question Love is a talent with an extremely high basketball IQ and skill level and . He has range out to 20 feet and passes especially well for a bigman. How well? At last year's Elite 24 at Rucker Park, he was seen throwing full court ally oop passes to Michael Beasley repeatedly on a dime.
He started off the year very impressively averaging 20 and 11 through his first five games, so why the lack of love for him?
Love's inability to run the floor well and lack of foot speed will ultimately limit his effectiveness at the next level. He has solid lift but struggles to jump with contact. He prefers to jog up the court and lacks much of a transition game.
His lack of speed also limits his ability to grab rebounds out of his immediate area. His uncanny ability to ignite the break with his outlet passes is impressive, but might be overrated.
Love's statistics have dropped off some of late and he has been visually frustrated. Over the past four games, he has averaged 12 and 8.
Quick and athletic post guys are able to neutralize him. Against Texas, the tandem of Alex Wangmene and Connor Atchley limited him to 11 points and 5 boards. When the game was on the line, it was Lorenzo Mata-Real on the floor instead of Love.
Against Davidson it was a similar story as UCLA made their late first half run getting back into the game with Love on the bench.
It would likely be in Love's best interest to leave this year, as he has a lot of hype surrounding him. Some people close to the UCLA program actually feel that Love's desire to leave this year could be a detriment to UCLA's title hopes. If he's playing for his draft stock and worrying about statistics he could actually cost them in a close game in March. But it's doubtful coach Ben Howland would allow that to happen.
Sean May was a lottery pick, and though Love doesn't move as well as May, he's more skilled. If UCLA wins it all, Love's draft stock will surely receive a boost and he could find a spot in the late lottery. Playing to win, instead of for statistics will be key for him.