Starting this month, two potential draft prospects will be looked at. There’s a heavy concentration for potential lottery picks: three at Kentucky, three at UNC, two at Baylor, two at Florida, and the two players at Connecticut that will be profiled today. Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb occupy positions of need for the Cavs; Drummond – a mammoth center, and Lamb – a slick shooting wing.
Drummond is currently projected as the 2nd pick in the 2012 draft. Size and athleticism constitute his primary strengths: 6’11”, 275 lbs, 7’5” wingspan, runs the court like a smaller player, jumps through the roof…physically, an extremely rare player. To some extent though, that’s where the definite strengths end. He possesses decent shooting and passing ability, but defers too often. He’s always the biggest player on the court, but doesn’t consistently use it to his advantage. He gathers rebounds due to his size and leaping, but doesn’t show great fundamentals or always assert himself. He blocks shots, but can appear lost defensively. You get the drift; a nineteen-year-old possessing all the physical gifts in the world, that hasn’t learned to utilize them. Oh yeah, there’s also the little problem of 34% free throw shooting.
Notes from recent games include:
01/14 against Notre Dame – In this UConn victory, Drummond finished with 10 points on 42% true shooting, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 36 minutes. Scouting reports on him held up, as he never showed a “strong” post move, instead settling for turnarounds and fadeaways. As a contrast, teammate Alex Oriakhi repeatedly established deep post position on #14 (who also frequently guarded Drummond) and made strong moves. Both of Drummond’s blocks were recoveries to thwart layups that probably wouldn’t have been attempted if his positioning and attentiveness were better. His defensive rebounding fundamentals are also lacking; he rarely showed great movement or positioning after a shot goes up or, instead standing in place and relying on his size and leaping. In this particular game, that was frequently good enough. He is an amazing athlete- there were a couple of rebounds where his hand was two feet higher than anyone else’s. Early in the game on a fast break, he ran the court like a guard, got rewarded and finished with a spectacular dunk.
Lamb finished with 6 points on 3 of 11 shooting with only 3 rebounds in 40 minutes. It was an uninspiring game. He made a couple of jump shots, once off the dribble and another time off a screen. He stole a pass and finished in transition. Other than that, lots of misses and half-hearted defense & rebounding. On the bright side, he had seven assists, plus at least two easy setups that were missed by his big men.
01/29 against Cincinnati
Drummond was largely ineffective in this 67- 70 UConn loss, finishing with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 28 minutes. Again his play was generally “weak”; shooting jump shots, floaters and fadeaways instead of punishing smaller players on the block. Twice when the ball came to him near the basket, he leapt, soaring above everyone for an easy scoring opportunity…except he passed the ball, resulting in turnovers as the intended recipient was not expecting the ball. Some nonexistent box-outs lead to opponent offensive rebounds. Early in the second half, I noted that if Drummond’s size & athleticism could be combined with teammate Alex Oriakhi’s motor & toughness, you’d have a Dwight Howard clone. His play did pick up in the second half and he had a couple of quality defensive possessions, affecting pick-and-rolls on the perimeter before retreating to contest the shot at the rim. He finally showed a strong post move, spinning to his right for a vicious dunk (it was waived off though, due to a hand check). Crunch time was a letdown, with misses on a couple of makeable shots that could have been difference makers.
Lamb finished with 14 points on 53% true shooting with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 turnovers. His game started well; hitting a couple of long shots off of screens, driving into the lane for a tough 8-footer, and threading a sweet crosscourt bounce pass for a layup. In the second half though, he looked disengaged and exhibited bad body language. He only took 3 shots in the last 14:40, as teammate Shabazz Napier scored ten points in the final minutes to nearly rally UConn to victory. Napier was UConn’s best player this game, finishing with 27 points and 7 assists on 64% true shooting.
02/01 against Georgetown
This game was ugly, with UConn losing 44 – 58, but the first four minutes were the best play I saw from Drummond. Displaying a variety of methods, Drummond scored 8 points while leading UConn to a 13-7 lead. A baseline spin move resulted in a lay-up, deep post position netted an easy slam, a cut to the basket lead to an alley-oop finish, and a perfectly timed pick & roll provided a highlight reel dunk. This is how Drummond needs to look every time he steps on the floor. For a reason that is unclear to me, Drummond went to the bench at this point. UConn only made one field goal in the next thirteen minutes (off a Drummond assist), before finding him for another bucket to end the drought. On several possessions, it appeared that playing with better passers could have resulted in more Drummond baskets. He wasn’t perfect though and had occassional defensive & rebounding lapses and puzzling bouts with passivity. Three times in the second half, he tried to steal a pass 20 – 25 feet from the basket and missed, allowing his man a path to a layup. After the third time, he was briefly benched. He finished with 18 points on 65% true shooting with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 32 minutes.
This was a super-forgettable game for Lamb; 14 points on 4 of 18 shooting with 6 rebounds and 1 assist. Lots of missed shots and he also has a tendency to close out on shooters too hard, getting fooled by pump fakes. In a game short on Lamb highlights, a flying dunk on an offensive rebound showcased his athleticism.
Summary: Drummond needs to become the brute force that he was built for. Through 23 games in 28 minutes per game, he’s averaged 9.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. His 16% defensive rebounding rate would be great for a small forward (Kidd-Gilchrist has been better); his 53 free throw attempts, reasonable for a perimeter bomber. He showed some nice high post – low post passing ability in the games I watched, but he’s logged only 12 assists this year. Someone needs to teach him to punish his opponent in the low post, rebound a space the size of Rhode Island, and wreak havoc on everything the opponent brings within five feet of the basket. There’s no reason he can’t do all of these things, and until he does, he’ll never meet the lofty expectations of being pressed from the same mold as Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire.
For me, Lamb is too much of a combination of one-dimensional / not-good-enough-at-that- dimension for him to be extremely effective in the NBA. Also he must have caught word that I was going to be profiling him and let it affect his game; he’s fallen off a cliff since the first Notre Dame game, shooting 37% from the field and 26% from three.
Through 4 draft profiles, my rankings are:
- Andre Drummond – After Anthony Davis, it will be hard to pass up an athletic giant, but could the Cavs really build around two big men that shoot under 50% on free throws?
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – His offense has taken a downturn since the New Year; 10.5 points and 2.5 turnovers in 33 minutes per game on 51% true shooting. He’s still rebounding well and tallying a block & steal per game. He’s a Gerald Wallace-type small forward as a defensive stopper / rebounder / slashing scorer. I was hoping to see a little more promise in his shooting, but 14% from three in the last eleven games is drawing him closer to…
- Harrison Barnes – He keeps scoring with efficiency; 18.7 points on 57% true shooting in 28 minutes per game in January and February. He only has six assists during that time though and continues to be underwhelming as a rebounder.
- Jeremy Lamb – There’s a pretty big drop from MKG & Barnes down to Lamb. A good case scenario may be O.J. Mayo; a capable scorer if you’re content with average to slightly-below-average efficiency, a below average rebounder, and a sometimes disinterested defender.