Posted Jun 13 2011 10:36AM
The other day while discussing the merits of the upcoming NBA Draft with a scout whose opinion I trust, the topic of scorers came up.
Like everyone else, this scout doesn't see many future first-option scorers coming out of the draft, but he did think there are plenty of players available who should be able to score at the next level on an as-needed basis -- fourth or fifth option guys. The NBA Finals have proven the value of having a shooter on the bench who can come in, knock down a couple shots and change the flow of a game.
Here are three mid- to low first-round players I think can fill that role, and who knows, if they work hard, maybe move up a notch or two on their teams' pecking order:
Brooks toiled a comfortable distance away from the spotlight the last couple of years while playing for a mediocre team. But when you score 52 points, as Brooks did in a late-February loss to Notre Dame, the world at large can't help but notice. With that outburst -- which included 20-of-28 shooting from the floor and 6-of-10 from 3-point range -- as his calling card and some off-the-charts measureables -- 7-foot-1 wingspan, 10.5-inch hand width -- from the Chicago combine, the 6-5 Brooks has gone on to cause quite a stir as he's traveled the workout circuit.
Some people have even compared him to ... Kobe Bryant?
To get the lowdown on that, my first phone call went to Kevin McNamara, long-time Providence beat writer for the Providence Journal and a contributing editor for my Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, has watched Brooks play for four years.
"The word compare, you've got to use it in the right way," McNamara said. "Marshon has patterned his game off Kobe Bryant, who is by far his favorite player. He's got the jab step move like Kobe. He likes to break his man down one-on-one like Kobe. He shoots it off the glass from 15 feet, and off the dribble. His body type is similar to Kobe's.
"But obviously he's not in Kobe's class as a player. ... Having said that, he was the most polished scorer I saw all season at the wing position."
To get another opinion, I called the coach who recruited Brooks to Providence, Tim Welsh. Welsh coached Brooks for just one season, but he has no doubts about whether Brooks can score in the NBA.
"He's not necessarily flashy in what he does," Welsh said. "But he's very skilled; he's got a natural ability that's very hard to teach. Great body control, and he's got a sort of sixth sense [to evade defenders]. Yeah, Marshon Brooks is going to be able to score at the next level."
At a shade taller than 6-1, Jenkins' future in the NBA will probably be at the point, which Hofstra coach Mo Cassara is do-able, even though Jenkins was known primarily as a scorer in college (2,513 career points).
"Not a problem," Cassara said. "It'll be a little bit of a shift in mentality. And he's not a jet, but he's powerful with the ball. He's got an NBA body, and he's a good athlete."
If Jenkins stood about four inches taller, he wouldn't have to worry about proving he can play the point, because he wouldn't have to. Jenkins can put the ball in the hole, but he doesn't have prototypical two-guard size. At Hofstra, that didn't matter, because he could score any way he wanted.
Jenkins worked on his game incessantly -- "he's never been handed anything on a silver platter," Cassara said -- and the proof of that is in the numbers. A 33 percent three-point shooter as a freshman, Jenkins shot .420 percent as a senior because he worked hard at extending his range and becoming more consistent. An improved 3-point stroke made him just about unstoppable in the Colonial Athletic Association, because at a solid 220 pounds, Jenkins was also a battering ram that could get to the rim pretty much any time he thought about it. Jenkins took 221 free throws and cashed in at an 82 percent clip.
There weren't but a handful of players at the Division I level, who, like Jenkins, shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
I'll leave you with one more impressive stat from Jenkins' resume: In 128 career games, he reached double figures 122 times, including the last 58. No wonder he joined Chris Mullin (St. John's) and Jim McMillian (Columbia) as the only players to win the Hagerty Award (given to the top college player in the New York metro area) three straight seasons.
This guy is the ultimate stretch four man because of his deep range. (Like Jenkins, he was a 50/40/80 shooter his senior season). But he's also got some skills in the paint.
"When we would practice our post moves, Justin would get the ball in the middle of the lane and go to his fadeaway, which he can make anywhere from three feet to 15 feet," Richmond associate head coach Kevin McGeehan said. "His percentage on making that shot is pretty high, and you'd always hear our other post guys saying under their breath, 'Green room. Green room.' "
The implication being that Harper was a certain lottery pick. He won't go that high, but he's going to be a real bargain for a team choosing late in the first round. Part of the reason is that, even though Harper shot 45 percent from behind the arc, he wasn't overly reliant on the three.
"This season he started scoring a lot more in the post," McGeehan said. "When he rebounds hard, he is the best player on the court, almost no matter who we're playing. When we played Purdue [and probable NBA first-round pick JaJuan Johnson], he was dominant. A lot of it had to do with going after the ball."
Richmond opponents in the Atlantic 10 couldn't help but admire Harper's game after having seen it on display for so long.
"He made drastic improvement in just a year's time," said former Dayton assistant coach Jon Borovich, who's now on the staff at Northern Illinois. "He's got NBA range as a shooter, but he's also very athletic, which is a part of his game that's underrated. He can score inside because he can score over the top of you. And he can create space with his fadeaway from 12 to 15 feet. This kid's just tapping into his potential."
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