Today’s draft profile covers three NCAA big men likely picked in the latter half of the first round. If Cleveland wants to make a serious run at any of them, a trade of picks is probably required. In their latest mock draft, ESPN indicates Arnett Moultrie goes #16, Meyers Leonard at #19 and Fab Melo at #21.
Moultrie finished his junior year at Mississippi State, after transferring from UTEP following disciplinary issues. At the start of the next NBA season, he’ll reach 22 years old and is a 6’-11” power forward possessing great running and leaping ability. This past season, he averaged 16 points, based on high-flying finishing ability and a growing face-up game. His 61% true shooting benefitted from 78% makes at the foul line, and he even found net on 8 of 18 three point attempts. Performing admirably on the boards, he rounded out a double-double for the year by posting the SEC’s second best defensive rebounding percentage along with a top-ten offensive board rate. Unfortunately he struggles to show enthusiasm for team defense, rotating poorly and offering limited help at the rim. His slight frame, carrying only 220 lbs, can be abused by stronger, more physical post players. Despite logging 36 minutes per game as a near-seven-foot-tall pogo-stick against only the NCAA’s 89th most difficult schedule, he blocked 0.8 shots a night.
Leonard’s strengths start with his 7 foot height, 240 pound build, and 7’ – 3” wingspan. In addition, he is coordinated and athletic, and obviously NBA decision-makers love this tool kit. He used these attributes to rack up 14 points and 8 rebounds on extremely efficient 62% true shooting during his sophomore season at Illinois. Offensively raw, he primarily scores thanks to his size and agility, with limited post moves and largely unexplored shooting range. He did make 72% of his free throws. While acceptable as a defensive rebounder, grabbing only 9% of available offensive rebounds ranks him 8th of 9 centers in draftexpress’s 2012 database. Defensively, his length and mobility make things difficult for NCAA players, but his two blocks in 32 minutes per game are definitely average. The largest knock on Meyers involves his maturity, confidence and focus. He disappears, including over one-third of his game’s this season featuring single digit scoring. These issues manifest themselves frequently on defense, where his understanding lacks. This will be addressed further in the game recaps.
Fab Melo turns 22 in June and also stands 7-foot tall with a 7’ – 3” wingspan. Originally from Brazil and recently completing his sophomore year as the center in Syracuse’s zone, Melo ranked 11th in the NCAA in blocks per game, with 2.9. This also placed him 11th for percentage of opponent shots blocked. He scores efficiently at the basket, but is very low usage, as his back-to-the-basket game and jump-shooting are not reliable weapons. His scoring average was only 8 per game, combined with fewer than 6 rebounds in 25 minutes. The low rebounding totals present cause for concern, as a propensity to over-pursue blocks & poor fundamentals result in ranking 44th in the Big East for defensive rebound rate. Although greatly improved from last year, his 4.5 fouls per forty minutes ranks 2nd worst of the nine centers most likely to be drafted in 2012.
Now, onto some game recaps…
03/08 Syracuse versus UConn - Fab Melo posted 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in Syracuse’s 58 – 55 Big East tourney win. One of his three field goals came on a two-handed power finish of a pick-and-roll, and another via a putback. This is how most of his NBA offense will also be generated. His court vision looked decent; one assist found a cutter at the basket, while a pass from the post located an open shooter. A defensive trap resulted in a steal, which Melo promptly outletted for a fast break dunk. Defensively, he actively patrols the paint, but the Syracuse zone keeps him from experiencing numerous opportunities for post defense or switching on pick-and-rolls. In limited chances, Alex Oriaki beat him with a drop-step and Andre Drummond sealed Melo on his hip and authoritatively dunked. On the bright side, Melo moved well to defend a guard off a hand-off and on another possession, slid in for a charge. One particularly noteable offensive possession occurred late, with the Orangemen protecting a 4 point lead. After a Syracuse offensive rebound, the ball swung to Melo, who shot & missed an 18 footer with 30+ seconds remaining on the shot clock. During a subsequent timeout, teammate Carter Williams gave Melo a hard time about the play, and Melo barked back. Jim Boeheim pulled his big man aside to calm him down. One other questionable play occurred with 17 seconds remaining, when he fouled a UConn shooter with Syracuse up seven. There was no business fouling there, and the and-one turned a nearly over game slightly more competitive. Melo will be 22 in June; these absent-minded miscues need to end.
03/09 Syracuse versus Cincinnati - I have notes on this game, but won’t use most of them. These profiles get too long with three players and two game recaps each. Melo had 0 blocks and 2 goal-tends in his last game of the season, before sitting due to non-disclosed eligibilty issues.
03/08 Illinois vs Iowa - Despite tallying a highly efficient 18 points in 35 minutes, Meyers Leonard’s college career ended in this 61 to 64 Big Ten Tourney defeat. Leonard converted 9 of 11 field goals and never turned the ball over, complimenting his six rebounds, two blocks & two assists. His size & length immediately jump out, and the announcers described him as “one of the most athletic seven-footers you’ll see”. He scored twice rolling off a pick, a natural ability given his athleticism, and also scored twice from the block, including a righty hook shot. His most skilled possession occurred with a three-dribble drive from outside the three point line, that combined with a little shimmy, ended with a soft bank shot. During the first half, Leonard played very physically at both ends of the court, clearing out space on the defensive boards and establishing deep position on offense. In the second half though, he visibly wore down and Iowa moved him around at will, as Leonard grabbed only one defensive rebound while Iowa dominated, securing 12 of their 14 offensive boards. He did not attempt a field goal in the final ten mintues, and on one possession, he bit on a pump fake and fouled the shooter hard, appearing extremely frustrated afterwards. Throughout the entire game, his help rotations seemed a half-step slow, and Iowa’s bigs netted a few easy transition layups as Leonard trotted down court.
03/13 – Mississippi State vs UMass - In this double-overtime opening game of the NIT, Moultrie tallied 34 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists on 63% true shooting, as his collegiate career ended in a 96 to 101 loss. The game was played loose and fast, with the announcers discussing the “shirts & skins” feel and how the team’s “can get about any shot they want.” Offensively, his most effective moments came in transition, including three alley-oop finishes. He converted two of five from long-distance and displayed strong face-up ability, particularly going right, including a flashy spin move to get to the basket. His post offense lacked, scoring on only one of four attempts with his back to the basket, relying strictly on drop-steps and left-handed hook shots. In contrast to his assists, two turnovers resulted from wild passes nowhere within reach of the intended recipient. Perhaps fault for his non-existent defensive intensity lies with playing 49 minutes, but my notes include the words: lazy, disinterested, non-chalant, sad, half-hearted, etc.
03/08 -Mississippi State vs Georgia - I also have notes on this game, but won’t elaborate. Moultrie posted 7 points, 8 rebounds and 0 assists on 31% true shooting as his SEC tourney run ended. Not much worked for him, particularly from the block, where he converted 1 of 5. Facing the basket is his bread-and-butter.
Summary: My inclination is that the Cavs shouldn’t make an effort to trade up for any of these players, and Festus Ezeli at #33 is supreme value.
Moultrie reminds me of JJ Hickson; an explosively athletic power forward fairly well versed in scoring points and grabbing rebounds, but less accomplished at ummmm…playing winning basketball. Watching him play defense is not impressive, and it is hard to fathom how he only blocked 23 shots in nearly 1100 minutes against theNCAA’s 273rd most difficult out-of-conference schedule (according to kenpom.com). For a quick statistical comparison of 19 year old JJ Hickson to 21 year old Arnett Moultrie, here’s a table. Very similar in alot of ways, and both also carry defensive shortfalls.
At the college level, Meyers Leonard’s size & agility allow him to frequently leave his imprint on a game, but in the NBA, those traits alone won’t be sufficient. After one defensive rebound bounced off his head in the Iowa game, I noted that his ability to operate within the “flow” of the game – his intrinsic anticipation of “what comes next?” seemed limited. This will need to improve with time, as will his conditioning and apparently, his confidence & maturity. As of today, I prefer Leonard of these three big men however. While not a sure thing; his combo of age, size, athleticism and production makes him the best prospect.
Melo is basically only really exceptional at shot blocking, and it’s not always a skill that translates well to the NBA. Also, there’s a tendency for him to make bone-headed mistakes. Best guess as to his place in the NBA is an the starter on a sub-par team or a back-up on a strong one.
Next week, I’ll post profiles including: Royce White, Draymond Green, Moe Harkless, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. Who do I like? Stay tuned…