This was a much anticipated match-up for an up and coming Bruins team against a Duke team chock-full of NBA talent. With 3 projected lottery picks (Parker, Hood, LaVine) in the mix, this was a game worth watching for draft fans. So let's breakdown who performed and who fizzled.
Jabari Parker - Duke
Parker leapfrogged his freshman rival Andrew Wiggins for the projected #1 spot a little while ago after a series of strong performances, and tonight's match-up against UCLA was no exception; Parker dropped 23 points on 7-13 shooting, and 4-8 from deep. He also made it a double-double with 10 boards and also dished out five assists. Looking at the box-score, you can see why scouts and NBA executives are so high on this kid.
However, when a player is projected #1 in such a loaded draft-class, you can't help but nitpick. Firstly, I still have my doubts about his release, while it's consistent, it also takes him a decent amount of time to get up into the shot and it might cause him some trouble getting free to shoot in the NBA next year. Also, while he does have a nice handle, I didn't see much isolation scoring from Parker on the perimeter. Rather, he moves off the ball, spots up for shots or goes to work in the post. While these are all valuable traits, you have to wonder whether he can carry the burden of an NBA franchise without better isolation scoring, especially given the expected decline in his post-up game once he makes the jump to the pros. This might account for an 8 minute stretch in the second half where Parker went scoreless until he found his way back to the FT line.
Athletically, he's not going to wow you, but he's no slouch and should hold his own. That said, lateral quickness appears to be a concern as Kyle Anderson took him to school off the bounce on numerous occasions and Parker appeared completely unable to stop him. There has to be some cause for concern when you're being beaten by a guy nick-named "Slo Mo".
Overall, Parker still has the makings of a franchise player in the NBA, but despite a polished skill-set and productivity, there are still weaknesses in his game he needs to address before I'd take him over a guy like Wiggins - especially on the defensive end.
Rodney Hood - Duke
There was chatter coming into the season that Hood would outperform Parker, but thankfully that has died down and expectations for the 6-8 combo forward have come back down to Earth. Hood showed flashes of a solid shooting touch, great work ethic and athleticism, including a few strong drives to the basket to put the Bruins away down the stretch.
However, he didn't quite seem comfortable creating his own shot and lacks the upside of his team-mate Parker and other projected lottery picks. Hood will play in the NBA and likely enjoy a long career, probably as a starter, but I didn't see anything from him which said "star player". Not a top-5 pick, but good value for a late lottery team looking to add an above average role player.
Zach LaVine - UCLA
This was the first opportunity I had to see LaVine play after hearing almost nothing about him until a few weeks ago, so I was surprised to find him coming off the bench. When he did come into the game, he was invisible through the first few minutes, and touched the ball maybe once, before passing it off to a team-mate. But the second time he touched it was leaking out on missed shot from Duke, receiving the outlet pass from Anderson and nearly grazing his head on the rim when he threw down the rock for a dunk. Ah. Now I understood why teams were so excited.
As the game wore on, it became apparent LaVine is more than just an athlete. He possesses sound form on his shooting stroke, even if it was a little off tonight, and his handle is at a high level. But what really impressed me was his body control and ability to hesitate before exploding past his man, seemingly at will. There was a particular drive where LaVine crossed over Hood (I think) twice on his way to the rim before dishing off a sweet no-look pass to Tony Parker, who unfortunately fumbled the beautiful pass.
While LaVine could certainly be taken in the top-5 in this draft, I think his career would benefit from another year in college refining his jumper and learning to be the man. If he came back he'd have a great chance of going 1st overall, but more importantly it would give him a chance to prepare for the pros properly and make sure he doesn't flame out like other players who made a premature jump to the pros.
Kyle Anderson - UCLA
This kid is almost night and day from the player we saw alongside Shabazz Muhammad and Larry Drew III under Coach Howland last year. He's more aggressive, shooting better, handling the rock more and fighting for rebounds more. He's proving this year that he has a role to play on the next level offensively; a point-forward with good size and vision.
That said, his complete inability to play on- or off-ball D will continue to hurt his draft stock. The kid's lateral quickness is non-existent and while he can play the PG offensively, you have to wonder who he could possible guard?
If Anderson puts on some more muscle and improves his conditioning and quickness he could carve out a niche role as point forward off the bench - a poor man's Boris Diaw, if you will - but despite what Dick Vitale says, Anderson just isn't all that special.
EDIT: Stay tuned for Prospect Watch: Kansas vs Georgetown in a couple of days.