Tag Archives: Josh Hart

Roll with the Winners

Most would agree that the top of the NBA draft should be reserved for young players with the most upside, mainly stellar NCAA freshmen and intriguing foreign teenagers. This particular draft goes about 20-deep with such prospects. While scouting and projecting potential draft picks is a complex process that involves pouring into data and film and conducting dozens of workouts and interviews, the strategy of teams drafting outside of the top-20 should be simple: find a winner. The entire point of the draft is to add winning players to your team, so what better place to look than guys who were proven winners at lower levels. More specifically, I would target players who could assume a similar role in the NBA that they had in college. Some recent examples include Malcolm Brogdon, Ron Baker, Larry Nance Jr., Josh Richardson, Norman Powell, and T.J. McConnell. Shooting for a 20 ppg scorer among upperclassmen is how you end up squandering a lottery pick on Buddy Hield or Doug McDermott.

Guards

Monte Morris
6’3″ PG
Iowa State

As someone who would die on the hill of the efficacy of “pure point guards”, I am a strong proponent of Monte Morris as a draft prospect. As a four year starter at Iowa State, Morris compiled by far the best assist-to-turnover ratio for any draft prospect in the last 15 years, to the tune of nearly 4.8 assists per turnover. Iowa State finished each of Morris’ seasons on campus in the NCAA tournament and the AP top 25, breaking a 12-year spell of unranked Cyclones teams stretching back to the Marcus Fizer era.

Josh Hart
6’5″ SG
Villanova

I wrote about Josh Hart as a sleeper-in-waiting prior to last season, and he followed up by winning a national title and then emerging as a POY candidate as a senior. Although his college career ended on a sour note, that is the kind of track record you like to see from a four-year NCAA player. Hart’s tenure at Villanova coincided with the most dominant stretch in the history of the storied program, as he helped the Wildcats to seasons of 29, 33, 35, and 32 wins, albeit in a dilapidated Big East conference.

Sindarius Thornwell
6’5″ SG
South Carolina

Thornwell, who has been vaguely on the draft radar since his freshman year, didn’t really blossom until this his senior season when he emerged as arguably the best player in the NCAA. This is a red flag with older draft prospects, but in watching Thornwell lead South Carolina on a warpath to the Sweet 16 it’s hard to envision him being a bad player at the next level. His improved three-point shooting this season (40%) looks legit, and he is a very good defender and passer. Seeing as outside shooting, passing, and defense are the three main tenets of being an effective SG, Sindarius looks like a good bet to stick in the pros.

Honorable Mention: Joel Berry (UNC), Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan), Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)

Forwards

Nigel Hayes
6’8″ PF
Wisconsin

Even though Nigel Hayes never followed up on the promise he showed as a sophomore on Wisconsin’s Final Four team in 2015, he is a uniquely intelligent kid who knows how to play and has helped lead several under-talented Badgers teams deep into the tournament. I don’t know if Nigel is worth a draft pick at this point, but I would make him a priority in the free agent pool if he were to go un-selected.

Dillon Brooks
6’7″ SF
Oregon

Oregon’s star player is a “master of none” type but his body and game just screams NBA to me. As a sophomore Brooks led Oregon to the program’s first ever no.1 seed and he has the Ducks back in the Sweet 16 as a junior. I would gladly take Brooks over comparable players like Jarron Blossomgame or Justin Jackson, both of whom are higher on DraftExpress.com’s most recent mock draft.

Reggie Upshaw Jr.
6’8″ PF
Middle Tennessee State

Upshaw has made a name for himself as a March Madness hero with memorable first-round performances against Michigan State last year and Minnesota last week. Along with guard Giddy Potts, Upshaw has taken the Middle Tennessee program to new heights as a mid-major power that has advanced in the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years. Reggie has a versatile offensive game to go along with solid defensive metrics, and is worth a shot for a team seeking the next Robert Covington, who coincidentally played at regular Tennessee State.

Bonzie Colson
6’5″ PF
Notre Dame

Bonzie is likely to return to school for another year but I like him so much I’m including him anyway. Colson is just a textbook sleeper; easily written off as short and ground-bound, all the guy does is stuff the stat sheet and win games for Notre Dame. A stocky, undersized power forward with a disproportionally long (7’2″) wingspan, Bonzie’s profile remotely resembles that of Draymond Green coming out of Michigan State. Rockets GM Daryl Morey spoke recently about the pitfalls of the eye-test, recanting a story about how his staff had labeled Marc Gasol “man-boobs”, and guess who has a soft spot for undersized big men and Draymond facsimiles: Darryl Morey! So I’m calling it now: Bonzie to Houston in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Hassan Martin (Rhode Island), Alec Peters (Valparaiso)

The 2015-16 Pre-Season Hardwood Blues All-Americans

ICYMI, these were the 2014-15 Hardwood Blues All-Americans. Cam Payne’s nomination propelled him into the draft lottery! Below are some early candidates for the upcoming season:


Guards

Josh Hart
School: Villanova
Height: 6’5”
Class: Junior

PLAYER 2P% 3P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Josh Hart 0.604 0.400 0.674 15.3 7.6 2.3 1.7 0.6 1.4

These spots are typically reserved for mid-major underdogs, but there are also gems like Josh Hart hiding in plain sight at some of the country’s top programs. This was the focus of my article last season that highlighted a trio of unheralded prospects playing at North Carolina. Pat Cannoughton (Notre Dame), Norman Powell (UCLA), and Josh Richardson (TENN) are just a few more examples of 2015 draftees who slipped under radar this time a year ago. What stands out most about Hart is his offensive efficiency. His combo of 60% 2P shooting, 40% 3P shooting, and anemic turnover rate makes him an intriguing off-guard prospect even with a relatively low volume of scoring.

Of the retuning NCAA guards that played at least 25 minutes per game last season, Hart is 3rd in ORtg and first among major conference players. His rebounding, steal, and block rates aren’t stellar, but are enough to suggest that Hart is more than just a shooter. Nova’s backcourt of Hart and the lightly used (but highly effective) sophomore Phil Booth will be one to watch this season.

Craig Bradshaw
School: Belmont
Height: 6’3”
Class: Senior

PLAYER 2P% 3P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Craig Bradshaw 0.576 0.408 0.776 20.1 4.8 3.9 2.0 0.4 3.5

Although he is older and underwhelming physically (thus lacking the theoretical upside of the other guys), I would be remiss if I didn’t write about Bradshaw: one of my favorite returning players and a certified boss. Bradshaw (pictured above) looks like a Catholic league sharpshooter – and he is dangerous from long range – but it’s his savvy and athleticism that makes him fun to watch. Against Virginia’s #1 KenPom defense, Bradshaw put on a March Madness performance for the ages. He poured in 25 points (10-19 FG) and collected 9 rebounds, showing off the full arsenal that included beating Malcolm Brogdon backdoor for a dunk and a calling bank on a three pointer.

Long live Craig Bradshaw.


Forwards

Bogdan Bliznyuk
School: Eastern Washington
Height: 6’6”
Class: Sophomore

PLAYER 2P% 3P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Bogdan Bliznyuk 0.595 0.558 0.792 18.3 8.5 2.3 1.1 0.8 2.8

When I first spotted Bliznyuk on the list of NCAA PER darlings, I assumed that he was another product of an Eastern Washington offense that produced some cartoonish stat lines last season (what up, Venky Jois!). Then I had a flashback of the blonde-haired Ukranian balling out in the NCAA tournament vs. Georgetown. The 6’6” freshman delivered 11 points (3-7 FG), 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in only 22 minutes of action off the bench against EWU’s toughest opponent of the season. In doing some research, I found an interesting article on Bliznyuk’s path to basketball stardom that shed some light on how a quality swingman might wind up playing in the Big Sky:

The only thing that has set Bogdan back is his mouth. He was born with a gap in his upper jaw. One of his multiple surgeries after moving to the United States included transferring bone there from his hip.

His most recent jaw surgery kept Bogdan out for half of last summer’s AAU season. The half-season was his first club basketball experience since fifth grade.

“I think it’s a big reason he is so under-recruited,” Burkett said. “This kid is an (NCAA) Division I player. If they don’t get this kid, they missed. Whoever gets him gets a steal.”

With the trigger-happy Tyler Harvey gone to the NBA, the stage is set for Bliznyuk to have a breakout season.

Paris Bass
School: Detroit
Height: 6’8”
Class: Sophomore

PLAYER 2P% 3P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Paris Bass 0.480 0.359 0.638 19.7 9.0 3.0 1.9 1.7 2.5

Paris Bass is a string bean hybrid forward who is on the draft radar (projected 45th overall in 2017 by DraftExpress.com) but still merits more attention. Although his scoring efficiency leaves some to be desired, especially for a mid-major prospect, Bass’ all-around impact is quite impressive for a freshman. Not a single entrant from last year’s draft matched Bass’ production across the board in terms of PTS, REB, AST, STL, and BLK. The only guys who came close were mid-major point centers David Laury and Seth Tuttle, both fine players who, unlike Paris, lack the athleticism, length, and upside to play in the NBA. If Bass can improve his shooting this season, there’s a chance he gains steam as a first round prospect.

Isaiah Williams
School: Iona
Height: 6’7”
Class: Junior

PLAYER 2P% 3P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Isaiah Williams 0.704 0.435 0.804 15.7 6.3 2.5 1.7 1.5 1.2

In an NBA landscape where no one blinks at Khris Middleton getting a $70 million contract, Iona’s Isaiah Williams strikes me as a guy that GMs will drool over. An athletic 6’7” swingman, Williams has all the makings of the type of wing player that is so en vogue these days. A search for NCAA players (since 1995-96) who match Williams’ sniper-like 3P shooting (40%, min. 100 attempts) and steal/block rates brings back a variety pack of NBA 3&D forwards: Kevin Durant, Shane Battier, Robert Covington, Wes Johnson, Danny Green, James Jones, and Danny Granger. The fact that only roughly NBA starting caliber SF have put up these kinds of numbers in NCAA bodes well for Isaiah, and that doesn’t even account for his insane 2P efficiency and low turnover rate. Though Williams has yet to surface on mock drafts, I guarantee that he will be drafted by 2017 if he keeps up this level of play.


Center

Josh Ibarra
School: Houston Baptist
Height: 6’11”
Class: Sophomore

PLAYER 2P% FT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Josh Ibarra 0.635 0.543 14.7 15.6 1.4 1.0 4.9 2.9

I couldn’t dig up much on Josh Ibarra, who plays in the obscurity of the criminally ignored Southland Conference. Listed at 6’11”, Ibarra has legit center size and rates off the charts in 2P efficiency, rebounding, and shot-blocking; key statistical categories for his position. The NBA is littered with anonymous big men, and the rise of a guy like Richaun Holmes sets precedent for a mid-major C such as Ibarra crashing the second round in a few years.