As it says in my signature, I am a sports reporter for the Creightonian, Creighton's student newspaper. Because of this, I was able to get a press pass for the second and third round NCAA Tournament games that were played in Omaha, Neb.
Kansas University and the University of Florida were two of the teams that came to Omaha, and featured on the teams were a handful of NBA Draft prospects, a few of which have been mentioned as possible targets for the Suns. In this first post, I'll take a look at the prospects from the University of Florida, specifically freshman shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Make the jump now, and come back soon for more thoughts on prospects from Kansas.
Beal has been one of my favorite prospects for the Suns for most of the season. There's no doubt that the Suns need a SG, so why not Beal? Here are some of the things that stood out to me in his games against the University of Virginia and Norfolk State University.
Beal isn't the tallest guard, but he is definitely big enough to play the position and not be a liability. Draft Express has him listed at 6-foot-3.5 without shoes, which would put him between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5. He's also pretty thick and should be able to hold his own physically against most guards. His arms look pretty long as well, which always helps.
One of the things that makes Beal so unique is his rebounding ability, which was on full display in Omaha as he hauled in 20 rebounds between the two games. Beal has excellent instincts and is terrific at reading the path of the ball and where it will come of the rim. He relentlessly attacks the glass with a fervor rare to find in perimeter players. He doesn't just track down the long rebounds, however. He has a well-built frame and is strong enough to mix it up in the paint and rip down the tough rebounds. I saw several impressive rebounds in the two games, including a couple of put-backs and a few where he took the ball from the opposing bigs.
Beal is a VERY smart player, who sees the court well and is always willing to make the extra pass. Multiple times I saw him turn down open looks to get even better shots for teammates. He is a solid ball-handler and moves the ball in offensive sets. He is fully capable of bringing the ball up as the point guard, and in fact does this at times for Florida.
In the two games I watched, Beal looked to set up his teammates early and then got more aggressive and looked for his own shot more later in the game. He definitely looks to have combo-guard potential in a shooting guard body, a trait I love in an off-guard.
Beal's basketball IQ is apparent on the defensive end also, as he has good fundamentals and reads the passing lanes well. He isn't the quickest or the fastest, but his strength serves him well here also. Beal looks to have the tools to be a good defender at the next level.
There really isn't a lot of nit-picking to do with Beal's game. He looks to be a complete player that can help a team in multiple ways. However, there are a couple things that worry me.
Beal was heralded as the best shooter in his high school class, but for whatever reason that hasn't translated to the college level, as one can tell by looking at his percentages. I went and watched Florida's practice on Thursday, and even in that setting it took him a lot of bricks before he finally found the net. He went 3-9 from deep in the two games, which is about what you would expect based on his season average.
However, his form looks good and there must be a reason for his reputation as a shooter.
I saw a lot of Ray Allen comparisons in his scouting reports, but I didn't see any of that in his actual game. I've already talked about the shooting, but even discounting the shooting he didn't play the same way Ray Ray does. I'm sure a lot of it was the Florida offense, but he didn't do much off the ball. For the most part, if he didn't have the ball in his hands, he was standing out on the wing and watching. There wasn't any constant motion like we see with Allen. However, that shouldn't be much of an issue as playing on the wing is what Phoenix wants its wings to do anyway.
Beal wasn't exactly what I expected based on everything I've read about him. But I still came away impressed. He doesn't have the look a future 30 ppg scorer, but his all-around game is impressive. He's capable of bringing the ball up and initiating the offense as a point guard (which he does at times for Florida), but he's also able to step up and get to the free-throw line when his tea team needs to score. He is an elite rebounder for a guard on both ends of the court, something that would be more than welcome in Phoenix.
I really like the way Beal plays the game, especially considering how young he still is. He wouldn't be the answer to our lack of a go-to, 20+ ppg scorer as a rookie, but he would give us another play-maker to spell Steve Nash, another desperate need for our Suns. He would give us someone who plays with the hustle and IQ of Jared Dudley except with better ball-handling and more athleticism and potential.
However, with the playoff run the Suns are in the midst of at the moment, we likely have taken ourselves out of contention for Beal, who is projected to go in the 7-10 range of the lottery.
He is really good at this. -via jacksonville.com
My first impression of Patric Young when he walked past me on his way out to the team practice was "Whoa." He truly is an impressive physical specimen. He is every bit of the 6-foot-9 and 247 lbs he is listed at and "cut" is how I would describe his build. He's also a tremendous athlete, and these physical tools basically are his game right now. He is an explosive finisher around the basket and looks to dunk it every time he touches the ball. He uses his strength to bang down low and get position on both sides.
Unfortunately, he is still extremely raw after two years of development at the college level. He does not have much of a post game (I saw him nearly air-ball a hook shot in practice) and his jump-shot is nonexistent. Despite his impressive physical presence, Young did not block a single shot in the two games I watched and his 0.8 average is a little underwhelming.
Young may have all the physical potential in the world, but I haven't seen a whole lot of skill development over his first two years in college and that worries me. Will it ever happen? The latest mocks have Young staying in school, likely for this reason, so we probably won't have to worry about him. Early mocks had him in the 15-20 range, which is where the Suns could possibly end up. If he does declare and the Suns have a chance to draft him, I personally would pass.