NBA Draft: Bursting On The Scene
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Going into each season there are those guys who are already on the NBA radar and others who have their work ahead of them in order to get on it. We’re roughly two weeks into the start of the college basketball season and there has already been plenty of movement from a draft perspective. While early-season games can only be looked into so much, the following players have performed at a level that justifies keeping track of their status the rest of the way.
Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) – 6’11, 230 lbs. Power Forward
It’s been an up and down road over the last two years for Moultrie, who was projected as a lottery pick back in 2008 before being overshadowed by Los Angeles Lakers forward Derrick Caracter at UTEP and then being run off by Tim Floyd. Moultrie had plenty of options when he looked to transfer. Kentucky head coach John Calipari wanted him as did Arkansas, but Moultrie surprised some people and choose Mississippi State.
Five games into the 2011-2012 season it appears he made the right choice. Most importantly, it’s evident he used the year off he was forced to take due to NCAA transfer rules to really work on his game and prepare himself for his return. Moultrie earned MVP honors in the 2k Classic this weekend as he led his Bulldogs to the championship with wins over two ranked teams.
On the year Moultrie is averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds, quickly putting himself back on the NBA radar. With a 6’11 frame that could still stand to add some weight, Moultrie has the makings of a prototypical power forward. NBA teams may have forgotten about him a bit over the last 18 months, but they’re familiarizing themselves with him now because he’s playing like one of the best big men in the nation.
Cezar Guerrero (Oklahoma State) – 6’0, 175 lbs. Point Guard
Back during the summer of 2007, all of the talk about incoming freshmen guards focused on O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon. Arizona State’s James Harden didn’t get the same type of hype that they did, but by the end of the year he was mentioned in the same discussion. The same was the case this summer with Duke’s Austin Rivers, Florida’s Brad Beal and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague, but Oklahoma State’s Cezar Guerrero could end up bolting up the rankings just like Harden did.
The product of Bellflower, California has been an absolute stud for Cowboys head coach Travis Ford, coming off the bench to score 15 points, grab two rebounds and two assists a game. He’s been doing so in just 22 minutes a night as well, while shooting 48% from the field and 43% from deep.
Guerrero was the hero against UTSA, helping the Cowboys stave off the upset-minded Roadrunners with a career-high 29 points and some ridiculously clutch buckets down the stretch. Guerrero may not be one-and-done, but he’s demanding a lot of attention and is definitely increasing his stock by the game.
DeWayne Dedmon (USC) – 7’0, 255 lbs. Center
There are few players in the country with a story as unique as Dedmon’s, a diamond in the rough climbing up the draft boards rapidly. He’s severely lacking in experience and still has a whole lot to learn about the game, but he’s booming in potential and definitely capturing the eyes of NBA scouts.
Kevin O’Neil, his head coach, raves about his ceiling and feels like he will be a lottery pick before it’s all said and done. It’s hard to argue with him too based on what Demon has shown here early on in his sophomore season. He’s understandably inconsistent and still a work in progress. Centers are always given a little bit of leeway in that department, though, especially when they’re as new to the game as Dedmon.
Based on his character, work ethic and where he’s at this early in the process, Dedmon deserves a lot of attention. He’s the kind of guy who will grow with every minute he plays. There will be plenty of growing pains along the way, but the thought about where Dedmon will be 3-4 years from now is really intriguing.
J’Covan Brown (Texas) – 6’1, 197 lbs. Point Guard/Shooting Guard
A lot of people, this analyst included, were expecting highly-regarded freshman point guard Myck Kabongo to be starring in the Longhorns’ backcourt this season. Kabongo has been nice, but the star of the team has far and away been Brown. Brown, a junior, has shown some flashes throughout his first two years but is looking like a completely different player now in his third season under Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes.
Going into Saturday night’s contest against Oregon State, Brown lead the nation in points per game with 31 points. However, he’s doing much more than scoring, also dishing out seven assists and five rebounds. That’s more than double what he did in those categories as a freshman and sophomore.
The growth Brown is exhibiting this season is simply tremendous. He’s a bit of a tweener, but if he keeps it up he’s going to have an undeniable case to be considered against all the guards currently ranked above him. A key for Brown for scouts will be how he handles adversity and whether or not he can fight through an off night or things not going his way.
Doron Lamb (Kentucky) – 6’4, 210 lbs. Shooting Guard
As a freshman Lamb was solid, but he didn’t establish himself as a premier prospect like fellow freshman Brandon Knight did en route to becoming a top 10 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. This year Lamb is still in a battle for the spotlight with another incredibly-talented Calipari recruiting class. He’s managed to standout up to this point, though.
Lamb has answered questions about what he will be able to do in the league: knock down the long ball. He’s hitting at an absurd 60% clip so far this year and is coming off of a season-high 26-point performance against Penn State on Saturday.
He’s doing more than just that, too. Lamb is dishing out a career-best four assists a contest and overall just looks like much more of a complete player. He’s playing off of the strong low-post presence that the Wildcats possess very well and looks like the best shooter in the country here in the early going. There’s always going to be a need for shooters in the league, and that bodes very well for Lamb’s stock. Plus, he has one of the nation’s premiere coaches grooming him to be in the best position he can come July. Calipari takes pride in shaping guys like Lamb from being off the radar to a viable draft pick.
Honorable Mention: Alex Young (IUPUI) – 6’6, 210 lbs. Shooting Guard
Young has improved too much over the last three years and is playing too well during his final year of eligibility for us to not include him on this list in some manner. IUPUI is an underrated mid-major program that recently produced former San Antonio Spur and current Indiana Pacer George Hill.
Young has the potential to be their next pro. He’s got the necessary size for a shooting guard and has really become a threat all over the floor. When he first arrived on campus three years ago he was a suspect shooter from beyond the arc at best, now he’s making nearly three a contest on 45% shooting.
December 7th is a big day for Young as he’ll lead his Jaguars up against Louisville. It will be one of the few times this season they get to judge him against the kind of talent level that he’ll be seeing at the next level.
Five Games To Watch This Week: 11/21: Michigan vs. Memphis (3 PM EST), California vs. Georgia (9:30 PM EST), Georgetown vs. Kansas (11:50 PM EST), Missouri vs. Notre Dame (7:30 PM EST). 11/23: San Diego State vs. Arizona (8:30 PM EST)