Scouts weigh in on top prospects after tournament (cont.)
Kendall Marshall, G
6-4, 195 pounds
Sophomore, North Carolina
If any of UNC's three underclassmen are justified in their early exits, it's arguably Marshall, who could benefit from the dearth of quality point guards in the 2012 class. He has the best court vision of any guard coming out, and his importance was immediately clear after his wrist injury: The Tar Heels committed a combined 20 turnovers in their first two tournament games. They committed a whopping 34 in the two that he missed.
"He's an elite passer," a scout said. "Someone is going to take him in the teens or early 20s."
While his offensive adjustment should come naturally, his defensive transition could be trying. Marshall lacks the speed to hang with many current NBA point guards, and could prove to be a liability if he doesn't improve his lateral quickness.
"I think athletically he's going to be challenged," the same scout said. "When you have to guard Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis, he could really get exposed."
John Henson, F
6-11, 220 pounds
Junior, North Carolina
Another distinctive prospect in this year's draft, Henson boasts the high motor that many of this year's forwards lack. He blocks, rebounds and runs the floor well, and upped his scoring, free-throw percentage and Player Efficiency Rating in each of his three years in Chapel Hill. He finally seems comfortable after the six-inch growth spurt he experienced his senior year of high school. He could make an immediate impact with his shot-blocking.
Problem is, he's still frighteningly frail. And lacking an established perimeter game (he took just 24 three-pointers in his entire UNC career), he could've benefited by adding some weight before testing the NBA waters.
"People still don't know what position he's going to play," one scout said. "He's got the size and the length to play a four or five, but his body and his frame suggest that he should be a wing. He might have been better off to come back to school."
Said the other scout: "I think he needs to go to a team that plays really, really fast. I think he can get beaten up physically in a slowed-down type game. But I think he can sneak into the back of that lottery, that 13-to-17 range."
Austin Rivers, G
6-4, 200 pounds
Ready or not? That question may resonate most strongly with Rivers, as he's been criticized for leaving prematurely following a less-than-perfect freshman season and a stunning first-round exit. He scored consistently, but often did so inefficiently: Despite averaging 16.4 points over his final 10 games, he shot an underwhelming 38.7 percent from the floor (50-of-129).
His assets are obvious -- he's supremely confident and is a terrific penetrator -- but so are his flaws (he's undersized, can lag on defense and has a questionable shot selection). Celtics coach Doc Rivers' son is a project, to be certain, but maintains the potential to be a potent NBA scorer.
"I heard somebody say that he has more AAU game in him than he has a Duke game," one scout said. "That's actually pretty good analysis. He's a great one-on-one player and can get to the basket, but he's still learning to play within the team concept. Staying another year at Duke would've been pretty beneficial to help him do that."
Said the other scout: "He's a first round pick, but I just don't see him in the lottery."
Terrence Ross, G
6-6, 195 pounds
A less-heralded prospect than Rivers, Ross could have higher upside as an NBA shooting guard. He has good size for his position and pro-ready athleticism, and, more strikingly, has demonstrated his ability to score in bunches. He averaged 23.5 points over four NIT games, making the most of his lesser March opportunity.
"We were all kind of hoping [Washington] would make the tournament so we could see him a few more times on a national stage," a scout said. "But he played great. I liked him coming into the year and I still like him now."
He tends to check out defensively and force ill-advised, contested shots, but many of his issues could be resolved via coaching. He passes the eye test. Other than Beal and UConn's Jeremy Lamb, Ross may boast the most pure potential of any guard in the draft.
"If he takes good shots, he's got a chance to be a really good player," the other scout said. "I think he finds his way into the 13-to-19 range."
Meyers Leonard, C
7-1, 245 pounds
Subject to a coaching change that could alter his role with the Illini, Leonard's decision to enter the draft makes sense. His college situation would feature as much uncertainty as his professional one, and he made colossal strides from his freshman to sophomore year. He more than tripled his minutes (8.2 to 31.8) and scoring (2.1 to 13.6) while showing a much-improved feel for the game.
But he's still far from a finished product. Leonard lacks an offensive presence outside of five feet and can be emotional on the court. In stretches, he's prone to lose focus.
"I think he goes through moments where he just disappears out there," one scout said. "He drifts out on the perimeter too much. I think he has a short attention span at times."
Yet, the adage holds true: In the NBA, size matters. Given Leonard's frame, youth and athleticism, his potential outweighs his immaturity. He could enter draft discussions starting in the last few picks of the lottery.
"There's such a need for size and he's a center," the other scout said. "I think he gets consideration in the teens. You could start with him in that 13-to-19 range."