Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UConn Eyes Owls; NBA Scouts Eye Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels

UConn takes on Temple Thursday night at 9 (ugh!) in Philly. While the Owls are an undermanned team who are 2-10 in the AAC and lost to the Huskies by 24 points in Hartford a month ago, there's reason for UConn not to take them lightly. Temple, after all, is fresh off a stunning home win on Sunday over SMU, knocking the Mustangs out of the AP Top 25 a week after they were ranked for the first time in nearly 30 years.

If UConn gets by Temple and is then able to exact revenge on SMU on Sunday in Storrs, it will overtake SMU for third place in the AAC standings. It behooves the Huskies to finish third in the league to avoid the 4-5 game in the conference tourney and ensure they face one of the bottom five teams in their opener. (UConn could be tied with Memphis for third by the end of Sunday, but would own that tie-breaker by virtue of beating the Tigers twice this season).

*** Meanwhile, it's never too early to take a look at the NBA draft prospects of Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright. I talked to a couple of NBA scouts this week about the three players, and the consensus among them (and the NBA mock draft sites, for what they're worth) is that Napier will likely be a second-round pick who could sneak into the late first round. As for Daniels and Boatright, the scouts feel both should return to UConn for their respective senior seasons next year, where they can ostensibly raise their draft stock without playing in the shadow of Shabazz.

Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but always interesting to hear from the guys whose jobs depend on evaluating college talent.

Here's some of what the scouts had to say:

Western Conference scout:

(can Napier be a first-round pick?)

“I’d be a little surprised, but not shocked. He’s gonna have to do it the hard way, probably as a second round pick. He's a bit of anomaly. Everybody recognizes his toughness, his ability to make shots. But guys going with all the analytic stuff, I don’t know how they're gonna grade him. I suspect the computer, with his verticals and all that (garbage), won't grade him too high. He's more of a shot-maker than a point guard. I think if he snuck into the late first, it would be great for him,. You could make a case he deserves that if there's a lack of quality point guards, which I think there is."

"A guy was asking me about him the other night on the road, saying he couldn't figure him out. I said, 'I know what you mean,' but there's something you've got to put on paper for mental toughness, the ability to take as many key shots. Not just the buzzer-beaters. He has a knack, when a team's on the ropes a little bit, whether they're up by three or down by three and things are going haywire, he makes that big shots.

(on Boatright, who this scout really didn't like at all a year ago when I talked to him)

"(He's improved) a little bit. I think he’s really trying. I give him credit with all the things he’s been dealing with. I'm sure he thought he was gonna be their main guy. But I just don't see how his game translates. He's not a point guard, he's not dynamic enough. When I first saw him, he had unbelievable quickness, but he's an OK shooter. He doesn't make shots the way Napier does. He'd almost have to be a (Nate) Robinson kid, an unbelievable catalyst. People put up with all (Robinson's) madness because he can help you win some games."

(on Daniels)

"He's very, very thin. There's nothing wrong with that, not everybody has to be LeBron James. But it doesn't look like an NBA body. It's not even wiry-strong. He's just weak. He's got to get stronger. I think his weakness prevents him from doing what he's needed to do. Michael Jordan was only 196 pounds, you don't have to be bulky, but at least you have to be wiry-strong."

Very, very thin. Nothing wrong with, not everobyd has to be Lebron James, but it doesn’t look like an NBS body. It’s not even wiry strong, he’s just weak. He’s gotta get stronger. Think weankness prevents him from doing what needed to do. Jordan 196 pounds, don’t have bo be bulky, but at least have to be wiry-storng.

Eastern Conference scout:

(on Napier)

"I think he's a first-round pick. First of all, he's got the ball on a string. He's got great ball control, a great understanding of the game, tremendous confidence. He's a knockdown shooter from the perimeter with a big heart, a big-game player. He understands who to deliver the ball to. When you're playing with a $15 million player, that player gets the ball first. I think he gets it. He also does what's necessary to make his team win.

(on Daniels)

"I think he should stay in school and get tougher. He's very talented, he's had some great moments, but he needs to get tougher. Have a big year next year for Connecticut and show some consistency.

(on Boatright)

"He's a talented little guy, aggressive. He should stay. He's capable of having a great year next years, be one of the dominant players in that league. He would eliminate any questions.

"He's gonna have t play point guard and give the ball up, understand and cooperate, not go so much on his own. In college, he can get away with it because he's better than a lot of players. But at the next level, it's different ... It's a man's league."

(this scout also mentioned Amida Brimah)

"I think he has a great future. He reminds me of the kid who played at Louisville (Gorgui Deng) last year. He's got mobility, great length. He's a future prospect. He's got to learn how to play, the whole thing. But he's a nice piece right now."

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