Archive for June, 2012

Draft Profile: Andrew Nicholson

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

This week, a look at St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson.  The Cavs have worked him out twice, as he fits a pressing team need – a stretch four.  The June 9th draftexpress mock included him at #24, making the trek to Cleveland to compliment Kyrie and Tristan.

Andrew Nicholson shoots against Florida State this season (photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Nicholson completed his senior year at St. Bonaventure and turns 23 in December.  With barefoot height of 6’ – 8.5” and carrying 234 lbs, he possesses fine size for an NBA power forward.  Utilizing a bevy of post moves, solid face-up skills, and a jumper that netted 43% of his threes, Nicholson’s per-forty-minute pace-adjusted scoring ranks 2nd of 21 power forwards in draftexpress’s 2012 database.  Combined with 78% free throw shooting, his highly-efficient 64% true shooting ranked 2nd in the Atlantic Ten; impressive for a player that uses nearly 3 in 10 possessions. Despite improvement this year, his rebounding remains marginal, with defensive rebounding percentage ranked 84th in the NCAA and offensive rebounding rate falling at 233rd; relatively disappointing for a first-round-prospect Senior against a non-elite schedule.  He utilizes his outstanding 7’ – 4” wingspan to block two shots per game in 30 minutes.  Due to middling ball-handling, he turns it over on 18% of his possessions, made even more disappointing by his total of 33 assists in 32 games.  Other than his size and length, limited explosiveness and agility pose defensive concerns against the world-class athletes waiting in the NBA.

Game Recaps: During Christmas week against North Carolina State, Nicholson tallied 16 points on 56% true shooting with 6 rebounds in 37 minutes.  Ineffective through his two best scoring means, he posted four points on six post plays and two points on three jump shots.  The Wolfpack double-teamed him nearly every time he touched the ball, with fairly successful results, forcing five Nicholson turnovers.  Subpar reaction time and general inability to hold position allowed NC State center Richard Howell to grab seven of NC State’s thirteen offensive rebounds, compared to Nicholson’s three defensive boards.  On defense, bouts of non-alertness resulted in easy NC State buckets, but many high points occurred, too.  On several occasions, strong effort running the court in transition provided for blocked or altered shots, and at least twice, smart hedging and recovering by Nicholson thwarted Wolfpack pick-and-rolls.  On back-to-back possessions, he obstructed a driving big on a face-up and forced travels.  He generally plays below the rim and does not look particularly explosive; I expect his shot-blocking decreases in the NBA, where his length alone will not get it done.  In this game against several co-NBA prospects, he registered one block.

In the Bonnies thrilling double-overtime victory over St. Joseph’s in February, Nicholson registered 32 points and 14 rebounds on scintillating 69% true shooting.  His three makes from deep came in the final minute of regulation and both overtimes, each hugely clutch for St. Bonaventure to pull out the win.  Less effective near the basket, he generated only 11 points on 12 plays from the post, excessively relying on right-handed hook-shots, which he took ten of.  Defensively, his play did not appear particularly fast or agile, with marginal “bounciness” and an oafy gait running the floor.   Opposing big men drove past him twice, and his help defense frequently featured tardy rotations.  On the boards though, he sported constant effort, while also displaying solid lower body strength in defending the post.

Summary: The June 9th Draftexpress mock draft included the Cavs selecting Nicholson,  Bradley Beal, Doron Lamb and Festus Ezeli.  I am very supportive of this, despite not knowing exactly where to fall with regards to Mr. Nicholson.

Several sources compare him to David West; appropriate in that they measured nearly identical and possess capable back-to-the-basket and perimeter games.  An identifying trait for West however is his competitive fieriness.  Over Andrew Nicholson’s first three years with the Bonnies, his aggression & toughness were questioned by scouts. Bringing passion to the court every play will help determine whether his career pans out similar to fellow former Atlantic 10 player-of-the-year West, or if he finds obscurity like Justin Harper, last year’s “stretch 4” from the A-10.

While I think limitations exist that keep him from West’s level; Nicholson’s combination of size & skill will provide an effective bench big man for the team drafting him.

Cavs Offer Entire Draft to Hornets, Who Laugh and Hang Up

Monday, June 11th, 2012

From the PD’s Cavs Twitter:

ESPN Insider Chad Ford says NO told ‪#Cavs no thanks when CLE reportedly offered Nos. 4, 24, 33 and 34 for No. 1. Can’t blame ’em for trying.

I mean, obviously. Word is the Cavs are exploring their options as far as dealing the fourth pick (perhaps in a package that includes their 24th and/or two second-round selections) to move either down (the Blazers have the 6th and 11th picks) or up (the Bobcats might be willing to deal the 2nd pick). Hearsay is all we have at our disposal, really. It seems logical to me that the Cavs would look to move somewhere in this draft. If they want Barnes or Lamb, like some have surmised, then they can probably still get one of them with a lower selection, and if they’re set on getting Beal or MKG (especially MKG), they’ll likely have to move up.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Can’t Shoot. Who Cares?

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Cavs:the Blog’s draft profiles on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and Jeremy Lamb arrived in December, January and February.  Things change fast with teenaged basketball players though, so time has come to freshen up our thoughts a bit.

Today, I’ll re-visit MKG.  I liked him in December and still do today.  There exists however, a sentiment that his current inability to shoot makes him unworthy of the fourth pick, let alone second.  I’ll estimate that 25% of Cavs fans do not consider MKG as a top-five pick.  For what it’s worth, a poll on basically falls at 50 – 50 with regards to “MKG vs Barnes”.  My understanding of the rationale is that the UK freshman star does not possess the offensive chops to warrant such a high rating.  I disagree, and will offer a few points on why.

He played well on offense this year

On a balanced offensive team where six players scored between 10 and 14 points per game, MKG finished fourth in scoring, including a respectable 112 offensive rating on 21.4 usage.  His true shooting percentage of 57% derived through beastly finishing in transition, off-cuts and through offensive rebounding.  With developing ball-handling ability he attacks the basket, earning five free throw attempts per game; he hit 75%.

Frequently, I see an excuse offered up on behalf of Harrison Barnes, that the NBA game will really open things up for him.  The same applies to MKG.  In addition to the NCAA three-point line falling one-yard nearer the basket than the NBA distance, Kentucky’s starting line-up featured four non-shooters.  Finding open lanes for a driving, cutting slasher will be easier in the better-spaced pro-game.

He will be one of the NBA’s best wing defenders

Within five years, maybe THE best.  I don’t know how people can ignore this.  Capable of guarding at least three positions and widely regarded as lock-down, his defense presents a completely elite NBA skill.  He turns nineteen in September and should be fighting for a place on NBA all-defense teams for over a decade.

At the NBA draft combine, he measured 6’ – 5.75” barefoot, 6’ – 7.5” in shoes, 233 pounds, with a 7’ – 0” wingspan and 8’ – 8.5” standing reach.

Not that this means a ton, but as I perused similarly sized prospects in draftexpress’s database, two of the NBA’s best wing defenders popped up.  Luc Richard M’bah a Moute registered 6’ – 5.75”, 6’ – 7.5”, 221 pounds, 7’ – 0.5” and 8’ – 7.5” while Andre Iguodala measured 6’ – 5.75”, 6’ – 6.75”, 217 pounds, 6’ – 11”, and 8’ – 9.5”.

These players are almost identically sized to MKG with one distinction.  At 3 and 1.5 years younger, respectively, he already sports an extra 10 – 15 pounds of muscle.  Defensively, he could be peak-level-Ron Artest, minus the crazy.

His floor is about as high as anyone in the draft listed MKG’s “worst-case” as Gerald Wallace; a player who over the last seven seasons registered per-36 minute averages of 17 points on 56.5% true shooting with 7.4 rebounds per game.  Basically one point every two minutes with above average efficiency, while making one all-defense team.  That’s “WORST CASE” according to one reputable source; that rating is also known as “bust-proof” according to me.

He can learn to shoot

As a side note on Wallace, during his freshman year at Alabama he converted 18% of his three-point attempts, despite the NCAA line at a one-foot shorter distance than it is today.  Over the last six years in the NBA, he made 34% from long distance.

By all accounts, MKG is one of this draft’s hardest working players, a man with an unquenching desire to improve.  I find it unlikely that his three point shooting will not improve to respectable levels.  A quick search reveals several other small forwards besides Wallace to improve their shooting.

  • Kawhi Leonard knocked-down 20% his freshman year, 29% his sophomore year, and in his first season working in the Spurs system – 38%!  With hard work, great coaching and a well-oiled system, he exhibited an overnight transformation.
  • Richard Jefferson shot well in college, but his first five NBA seasons featured 32% three-point shooting, before improving to an average of 39% over the last six seasons.

The following players all played NCAA-ball before the three-point line extended to 20’ – 9”:

  • Paul Pierce made 30% his freshman year at Kansas
  • Danny Green hit 32% his first two NCAA seasons and is now a 42% NBA three-point shooter
  • Andre Iguodala bricked 21% his freshman year, before improving to 33% in the NBA, including a career-best 39% last season.
  • Jared Dudley started at 31% three-point shooting his freshman season, improved every year thereafter, and now strokes 40+% in the pros.

Shooting isn’t the most revered trait for an NBA Small Forward

Without comparing MKG to several of the players included; eight small forwards made an all-NBA team in the last ten years.  Their average three-point shooting percentage in that season was 34.7%, more than one-percent lower than NBA average shooting.  As many three-point shooting specialists rated as all-NBA (Peja Stojakovic) as players noted for their stout defense (Ron Artest).


Once upon a time, Ron Artest was the second-leading scorer on a 60-win team, the lock-down wing defender on a top-3 NBA defense.  Early in his age 25 season, his up-and-coming team hit their stride, rolling the defending NBA champs by 15 on their own court.  Then he punched a fan and started the brawl that crippled a franchise.

I think Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hits all those high notes, except his story ends without a riot, and instead finishes with a decade-long run of title contention.

Draft Profile: Marquis Teague and Scott Machado

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Today, let’s look at the position that Cavs fans love to ignore.  Kentucky’s Marquis Teague generally falls as a late first round pick, while Iona’s Scott Machado ranks in the first half of the second round.  I know there’s no chance that Cleveland takes a point guard at #24, but what’s a series of draft profiles without the sixth member of Kentucky’s national champs?  Oh, and if Cleveland chooses to look for Kyrie’s backup at #34, Scott Machado may be right in their wheelhouse.

Marquis Teague

Athletically, Teague meets all the criteria for an NBA floor general: 6’ – 2” tall, 6’ – 7” wingspan, fast, and explosive – he checks all the boxes.  Speed serves as his most elite trait, as he cruises around at warp pace, capably keeping the ball on a string.  His best work comes in transition, both attacking the basket and finding cutting wingmen or open shooters.  Struggles in the half-court result due to excessive dribbling, forced passes, and a frequently errant jump shot; overall his efficiency is poor, with true shooting of 49% ranking 37th of 44 qualified SEC players.  He converted only 32% of his threes. While he could certainly improve on his 2.7 turnovers per game, the corresponding 4.8 assists provide a respectable ratio for a freshman.  On defense, his size, speed and aggressiveness provide the tools to be an excellent contributor at that end.

With nearly ten per game, Machado lead the NCAA in assists last season.  As a 6’ – 1” tall senior, he posted 13.6 points on exceptional 50 / 40 / 81 shooting.  His “pure point rating” calculates as the second best of all prospects in draftexpress’s database for the last ten years, behind Kendall Marshall.  Marginal as an athlete; his leaping and agility tested below average at the New Jersey draft combine.  These flaws mostly manifest themselves on defense, where combined with his small size, they cause problems staying between his man and the basket.  As a quick point guard with deep shooting range and elite court vision, NBA teams searching for a “one” will surely look closely as the draft approaches.

Game Recaps: In UK’s final four victory over Louisville, Teague tallied 8 points, 5 assists and 2 turnovers on 50% true shooting.   Offensively, his damage came in transition, through the pick-and-roll, and from isolation, as he gathered buckets & assists from each set.  His speed looked great, including controlled coast-to-coast gallops, where he forced a few non-shooting fouls.  Two assists came via drive-and-kicks and two via no-look transition dishes.  On defense, it was a tale of two halfs.  For the first twenty minutes, he played the best point guard defense of this year’s prospects; attentive and quick, keeping U of L’s guards from penetrating and tying up big men on double-teams.  In the second half, perhaps he winded, as the opposing ball-handlers breezed by him on several plays and he limped through picks.

Scott Machado

Machado netted 24 points on 71% field goal shooting to go with 7 assists in Iona’s 75 to 85 conference tourney loss to Fairfield.  His best work came from the perimeter, producing 12 points on 7 shots, including shots out to NBA long-ball range.  Less effective at the basket; besides the six points scored during the last minute of garbage time, he procured only 6 points on 9 plays.  Several isolation forays resulted in blocked shots or wild tosses at the hoop.  He threw several nice passes, including two drive & kicks for corner threes and a beautiful cross-court transition dime from at least thirty feet out.  An odd aspect of the game included Machado receiving credit for three assists in the first four minutes though.  When the announcers mentioned this, I needed to check the play-by-play and rewind.  Two included passes to players at least eighteen feet from the basket, one technically a hand-off, then the player drove for a score at the basket.  To me, those aren’t assists, and I’ll assume Iona’s score keeper is not always that friendly.  Defensively he disappointed, frequently lit up by his opposing number in isolation and struggling through screens.

I watched this Iona game, because it was the only one available on ESPN3.  Obviously an efficient 24 & 7 looks pretty good in the box score and has it’s highlights, but as described, much of his work proved non-inspiring.  Maybe he battled some off-court drama on March 4th.  Draftexpress tweeted twice during the game, both negative, once saying “Scott Machado totally MIA here.  Not talking or trying to show any leadership.  Passive body language.  No emotion.  Very disappointing stuff.”  Anyways, it goes to show that even an efficient twenty-four points does not always mean dominance.

Summary: I like Teague.  From February to the end of the season (17 games), he scored 10.3 points on 50% true shooting with 5.3 assists and 2.5 turnovers.  All marks better than the first half of the season, and his distributing numbers jumped very nicely against a schedule that included Florida and Vanderbilt three times each, plus the NCAA tournament.  He’s really fast, plus as a teenager, he lead the NCAA champs in minutes played.  I’m not sure what else people expect from eighteen-year-olds on a big stage (not everyone can be Kyrie-fricking-Irving!).  I foresee steady improvement in his shooting and decision making, and a nice NBA career.  The close-constraints of the NCAA game, combined with the fact that four of UK’s starters combined to shoot 29% from three, lead to a lot of paint-packing-defenses and tough driving conditions for Teague.  The more open pro-game serves Teague very well.  My inclination is he won’t last until #26, but ESPN’s mock draft 5.0 included selection by his hometown Pacers.  It’s not NBA championship material, but adding Teague to 22-year old Paul George builds a strong backcourt foundation for many years.

Steve Nash played for a mid-major college and was too small, not athletic enough, etc.  Of course, he developed into one of the NBA’s all-time great point guards.  Do I think the same will happen with Scott Machado?  Of course not…that would be stupid.  Should the Cavs consider drafting the Iona Senior at #34, instead of mowing through a season’s worth of D-League all-stars at back-up point guard?  That seems like a reasonably defensible decision.

Hornets Shopping Tenth Pick

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

From Shaun Powell:

Hornets will entertain offers for 10th pick if someone also agrees to take Ariza or Okafor contracts.

I mention this only because the Cavs have a bunch of cap space and could conceivably absorb one or both of those contracts. Okafor will make $28 mil over the next two seasons, and Ariza (who has a player option for the 2013-14 season) is owed $7.2 mil next season and $7.7 mil in 2013-14. I haven’t heard anything as far as the Cavs being in talks with the Hornets, but I thought I’d make you guys aware.

Something to keep in mind: I’m not sure exactly what the cap is going to do this offseason, but the Cavs will likely need to have about $50 mil committed to player salaries to hit the mandatory salary floor (else they’ll have to distribute the extra money evenly amongst their roster), and as it stands (per this article, which I think is accurate) they have $31.5 mil tied up at this very moment, without having signed any rookies, picked up or terminated Daniel Gibson’s team option, or dealt with the proposition of re-signing Alonzo Gee.

Draft Profile: Mike Scott

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

After last week’s lottery and this week’s draft combine; next week I plan on updating my opinions on MKG, Harrison Barnes and other players where my prior profiles have gotten stale.  I discussed these prospects in mid-December (noted that MKG may end up the second best player from the draft class) and early January (compared Barnes to 2010 – 2011 Danny Granger).  By the end of this week, a lot of additional information is available since January 5th, so time to give another look.

Today though, a player that only rates as significant to me steps up.  ESPN ranks Mike Scott at 49th and draftexpress places him 56th.

Mike Scott shoots a layup as future teammate Brad Beal looks on (Photo by Eric Francis / Getty Images)

Scott finished his senior year at Virginia and due to a season of medical red-shirting turns 24 shortly after draft day.  Aided by four years of additional experience compared to some players, he shared first-team ACC honors with four potential lottery picks.  At 6’ – 8”, his height is non-ideal for an NBA power forward, but his 237 pound frame and physical style-of-play provides the necessary tools to bang with the big boys.  This season, he averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds; deceptive numbers due to Scott playing only 31 minutes and Virginia playing at the NCAA’s 11th slowest pace (of 344 teams).  Per forty minutes, pace adjusted, his scoring ranks second and his rebounding twelfth for all likely drafted NCAA players in 2012.  With true shooting of 62 and offensive rating and usage of 115 and 30, his efficiency excelled last season.  Virginia relied on Scott to generate offense from the post and facing up, where his range out to eighteen feet proves beneficial.   His height somewhat limits him, but he finishes effectively around the basket, although back-to-the-basket scores will be much tougher to come by in the NBA.  While not a shot blocker, his strength allows him to man-up on the block, and he routinely plays hard at this end of the court.  His defensive rebounding percentage ranked 3rd in the ACC and 41st in NCAA, and Virginia’s defense finished with the sixth-best schedule adjusted rating in Division One.

Game Recap: In Virginia’s ACC tourney defeat against NC State, Scott scored 23 points alongside 10 rebounds.  The scoring came inefficiently on 23 field goal attempts as he struggled with his jumper; often forcing contested looks, whether facing up, off-screens, or the catch-and-shoot variety.  Much of his damage occurred in the post, where he scored 10 points in 10 plays.  He used a variety of moves; scoring on drop-steps, hop-steps, and turnarounds, while missing lefty and righty hooks.  These myriad moves are surely a product of five years in college.  Rolling off a pick appeared as an area he was less expert, resulting in a few poorly spaced plays.  Solid on defense, he primarily guarded Richard Howell, currently draftexpress’s #32 pick in 2013, and held him to 10 points and 4 rebounds.  Howell and CJ Leslie (#9 in 2013) both scored in the paint against Scott, but generally he showed nice skills and effort; hedging well on pick-and-rolls, fighting through screens, and displaying box-out fundamentals & a low perimeter stance.

Despite the less than perfect game, Scott’s NBA team will never request this much shooting.  He should be very capable of performing the tasks he will be asked to: convert the shots his guards create for him from 17 feet and in, hold his own on defense, and rebound.

Summary: Perhaps Cleveland swings a trade with Orlando: #24 and #34 for #19 and #49.  Then the Cavs draft Bradley Beal at #4, Moe Harkless at #19, Festus Ezeli at #33 and Mike Scott with #49.  To me, that would be awesome.  A great blend of size, athleticism, skill, and experience.

For a rookie, Scott brings a certain “veteran” presence. If by chance Cleveland adds four rookies, making two of them Seniors seems like a priority to me.  Scott’s efficiency, toughness and jump shooting strike me as skills that will make him a valuable second-string player.

In the 2012 draft, ideally the Cavs snag a future all-star, a starter, and a guy that makes you think, “he looks like an NBA player.”  Mike Scott can be that last guy.  Lavoy Allen was selected 50th last year by Philadelphia, then posted what I rated as the 10th best rookie season from his draft class, before knocking-out a 17 PER in twelve playoff games.  I envision Mike Scott making similar impacts with the team that selects him.

Cavs: The Podcast 0007 – Scott Raab

Monday, June 4th, 2012

I’m very proud and excited to present the 7th episode of Cavs: The Podcast, featuring the one and only Scott Raab.  In this episode Mr. Raab and I spend some time discussing The Cavs, Cleveland sports, and the playoffs.

In addition, I’m excited to give you this…

That being the link to the podcast’s iTunes subscription.  Check it out, subscribe, and enjoy.  It does take a few days to upload, so, as always, the podcast can be found on our soundcloud at:


Links to the Present: June 4, 2012

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“This will put me in the minority, I think, but I believe Lamb would be a fine selection at 4. It is easy to forget how good Richard Hamilton was, but Lamb really has his potential, with the frame to support more muscle than Rip ever did. He shoots midrange lights out, is a fine long distance shooter, can create a bit of his own offense but uses off-ball screens better than most his age. Without Lamb, there is absolutely no way UCONN would have won a national championship in 2011. He was able to feed off a shoot first point guard and get his own opportunities and make the most of them. I believe with Kyrie Irving, its a perfect fit.” [David Zavac]

“The Suns could present Gee, a restricted free agent, with $16 million over four years in hopes the Cavaliers won’t match the offer, according to The Morning Journal of Northern Ohio. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being available at No. 4 in the NBA Draft is one scenario under which the Cavs could let Gee go.” [Sporting News]

“As the draft rumors keep picking up steam, word is the Cleveland brass are leaving no stones unturned when it comes to upgrading the roster. The Cavaliers have been linked in a trade with Charlotte, which would have them move up to No.2 overall in exchange for the No.2 and No.24 (via Los Angeles Lakers) overall picks. In addition to that scenario, it appears the Cavs are also kicking the tires on a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, with Cleveland receiving the No.6 and No.11 selections for the 4th and 24th picks.” [Neal Leitereg]

“It might be possible for the Cavs to move up a spot, maybe even two, to get their hands on Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6-foot-7, 232 pounds) or Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal (6-3, 207). The price, however, might be prohibitive. It might take their No. 4 pick, maybe one of the second-rounders and forward/center Anderson Varejao to accomplish it. The Cavs’ No. 24 overall pick could also be in play. That’s totally absurd and a steep price to pay. This team is void of NBA talent. Why are people so apt to just give away their second-best player, and perhaps several viable draft picks, for something that’s not a sure thing?” [Bob Finnan]

So, a few thoughts:

–You tell me on Lamb. I’m not a fan, but I find that’s not based on much other than my own intuition from having watched him play about ten games over the course of his freshman and sophomore years. Obviously draft positions will change as players go through workouts and interviews, but four seems high, no? Could the Cavs move down, pick up another pick, and still get Lamb at seven or nine?

–I’d like to emphasize that the Suns haven’t offered Alonzo Gee anything yet; what the Sporting News is reporting is just what’s in the ether. But if they did offer him four years/$16 mil… oof. That’s rich for a pretty good defensive player with a limited offensive game. (By the way, of course the Suns would offer Gee about four million dollars more than he’s worth. Is their goal to ultimately create a superteam of overpaid sixth men?)

–You know where I stand on trading up. I’m cool with that Blazers trade (which may or may not be a real thing) if the Cavs don’t love anyone at four or think they can get still someone they love at six.

Draft Profile: Orlando Johnson, Kevin Murphy and Kyle O’Quinn

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Today, I bring focus back to Clevland’s later picks with three Senior mid-major draftees on the docket.  Orlando Johnson, Kevin Murphy and Kyle O’Quinn expect to don their new team’s hat near Cleveland’s second-round selections.

Orlando Johnson (Photo by Ethan Miller - Getty Images)

Orlando Johnson of UC-Santa Barbara gained buzz at the recent New Jersey draft combine by measuring a 6’ – 11” wingspan and a 39” vertical.  He is a 6’ – 5”, 220 pound shooting guard, who due to a redshirt season turned 23 years old in March.  One of college basketball’s best scorers, he posted over twenty points per game on 56% true shooting, using his strength, length & deceptive ball-handling to find looks from the perimeter and at the basket.  Most skilled as a shooter; he drained 43% of his threes this season, despite taking over five per game, with many off-the-dribble.  Also functioning as a primary ball-handler in 2011 – 2012, he dished three assists per game versus only 2.5 turnovers.  In contrast to the impressive leaping; his speed and agility are marginal, confirmed in New Jersey, where his sprint time ranks 119th of 128 drafted shooting guards in draftexpress’s database.  These areas of weakness pose defensive concerns; however his length and size proved sufficient against UCSB’s schedule.

Kevin Murphy recently turned 22 and completed his senior year at Tennessee Tech.  At the recent pre-draft Portsmouth Invitational, his scoring landed him on the honorary first-team, and his barefoot height of 6’ – 6” impressed scouts looking for NBA-sized shooting guards.  Last year, with nearly 21 points per game, he finished as the NCAA’s 11th leading scorer, thanks to outstanding shot-making.  Utilizing smooth athleticism, he exhibits a strong mid-range game, launching a variety of pull-ups and step-backs.  Although connecting on a scintillating 42% of his long-range bombs impresses, his skinny 195 pound frame and propensity for jump-shooting leaves him converting only 45% of two-point attempts; 16th of 18 shooting guards in the 2012 draftexpress database.  Marginal ball-handling and occasionally bad on-court decision making caused turnovers on over 18% of his used possessions.  All combined, his offensive rating of 103 barely outpaces the NCAA’s average last season, which can only be partly blamed on high usage.  Defensively, he is not elite, showcased by his 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks per night.

Kyle O'Quinn (Photo by Doug Pensinger - Getty Images)

Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State entered the national spotlight in a big way, exploding for a 26 & 14 in an NCAA tournament upset of second-seed Missouri.  As the MVP at Portsmouth, thanks to weekly averages of nearly 12 rebounds and 4 blocks a game, his 7’ – 5” wingspan and quality leaping wowed scouts.  Turning 22 this year, he accumulated 16 points, 10 rebounds and almost 3 blocks per outing, leading to dual honors of MEAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.  Offensively, he’s quite limited, both near the basket and on the perimeter, primarily utilizing his impressive size & strength to overmatch inferior opponents; of 345 Division One teams, Norfolk State played the 38th easiest schedule.  His post repertoire relies too much on finesse, and he takes too many ill advised jump shots, including making only 19% of his three this year.  On the bright side, he converted 70% of his free throws.  At Portsmouth, his speed and agility tested well below-average, which confirms scouting reports on his play.  These attributes, combined with an often non-revving motor, don’t allow him to maximize the formidable gifts that could otherwise make him an NBA defensive force.

Game Recaps: UCSB’s attempt to three-peat in the Big West Tourney was thwarted, as Orlando Johnson tallied 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a 64 to 77 defeat to Long Beach State.  Most of his damage came shooting off the dribble, totaling 13 points on 7 possessions, pulling up from mid-range to outside the NBA three.  Although converting only one of four shots at the basket, he exhibited driving ability left-handed and right, and craftily changed pace to power his way into the paint.  His ball-handling was non-elite though, as several plays featured bobbles or balls tipped away, without registering a turnover.  His length and leaping were on display for really strong looking defensive rebounds, which he often uses to directly initiate the offense.  He threw a lot of nice passes, but of his four turnovers, three occurred due to poorly conceived or lazy foists.  Defensively, the Gauchos played a matchup zone, where Johnson sometimes seemed more likely to reach than rotate, and his slow-footedness was also apparent.

Kevin Murphy

In losing a conference tourney semifinal to Murray State, Murphy dropped 31 points on 64% true shooting.  Launching only 2 of his 21 field goal attempts in the immediate basket area; Murphy scored on pull-ups and step-backs, off hand-offs and around screens, banking shots from eight feet and swishing heaves from NBA range, while starting left and right equally.  His constant attacking resulted in Ohio Valley conference defensive player of the year Jewuan Long battling foul trouble all game and playing only sixteen minutes.  One issue mitigating the greatness of the performance though, consists of Long and his back-up being 6’ – 1”; Murray State played one player taller than 6’ – 7”, for five minutes.  Defensively, both his strength and lateral quickness serve as weak-points.  On at least three occasions, the small & fast “Racers” left him in the dust in isolation, and at only 195 pounds, his physicality battling screens suffers.

O’Quinn scored 18 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in leading Norfolk St to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.  The opponent, Bethune-Cookman, didn’t play anyone taller than 6’ – 7” or weightier than 210 pounds.  That’s a large part of what makes this performance disappointing.  On seven low-post possessions, O’Quinn generated only six points, four through fade-aways.  Given his substantial size advantage, ideally he punishes the opposition with drop-steps and other power moves.  This appears symptomatic of a larger “motor” issue, where a few possessions stand out.    On one offensive trip, he made it down court and crossed the three point line after sixteen seconds ticked off the shot clock.  On one transition defensive stand, where BC missed-and-missed-and-missed again, O’Quinn never entered the television screen, to which the announcers said he needs to “get his butt back on defense” and that they see too much of that.  Half-hearted at that end; he recovered slowly on pick-and-rolls and was frequently beat off-the-dribble by his counterpart.  Maybe simply bored with an over-matched opponent, he’ll definitely need to dial up the intensity to matter in the NBA.

Summary: Johnson dominated the Big West for a few seasons, winning two conference tournament MVP’s and one regular season player of the year.  He will be 24 by the end of next season though, and I don’t think he’ll generate high-percentage looks in the NBA or be stout enough on defense.  Much of the recent momentum in his draft stock rides on his losing 16 pounds between March and May.  His explosiveness looks dramatically increased in workouts because of the improved physique.  Is it really this easy for some people: “Maybe I’ll spend a couple of months getting in shape…NBA stardom, here I come!”  I think “no” and that Cleveland should pass on him.  If the answer is yes…well, life’s not fair.

Based on his performance at Portsmouth in the three-quarter court sprint, lane-agility drill, and vertical jump, some of Kevin Murphy’s most athletically similar pre-draft compatriots include Michael Redd and Caron Butler.  Can the Tennessee Tech senior follow in the foot-steps of former second-round draftee Redd, and post a half-decade of twenty point per game seasons?  My inclination is NO; he hasn’t been terribly efficient on offense, he won’t earn his bread on defense, and the competition is about to get bigger and more athletic.  He won’t have the opportunity to dominate the offense like with the Golden Eagles. But he is a player that ESPN described as “a bit like a Richard Hamilton sort of player with much deeper range”.  If available at #33 or #34, choosing to roll the dice on the tall jump-shooter from the mid-major may be a solid plan (I am biased though, as the Tennesse Tech athletic department fed-exed a DVD to me, and that was cool).

After the destruction of Missouri, O’Quinn followed up with 4 points and 3 rebounds against Florida in the second round of the NCAA tourney.  If he maintains focus and displays constant effort, a career as a quality defensive force can he had.  Given the lack of a consistent “motor” during his collegiate career and limited offensive upside, I think better opportunities exist at #33 and #34 for the Cavs.