April 27, 2011

Basketball Listomania

Filed under: Basketball,Draft,Recruiting — Chas @ 10:16 am

I made the semi-conscious decision* not to do rundown of the way too premature top-25 predictions for college basketball until after the May 8 withdraw deadline for the NBA Draft.

Luke Winn includes Pitt in his list of teams with the biggest interest in the May 8 withdrawal date.

The Panthers can be a top-four team in the Big East if they keep junior combo guard Ashton Gibbs, who’s one of the league’s most efficient scorers. Conflicting information has been floating around about him; he reportedly told one agent he was “100 percent certain” about staying in the draft after declaring, but NBA sources seem to think that’s just posturing, and Gibbs’ father has since said that his son’s future is still TBD.

That’s a good thing for Gibbs, because leaving now would be unwise; multiple scouts I spoke with predicted he’d go undrafted in June. “Very good college player,” one scout said, “but not prepared [for the NBA] on a number of levels.” A season as Pitt’s primary scorer and playmaker off the dribble (which was more of what Brad Wanamaker did last year) could enhance Gibbs’ preparedness for the pros.

No guarantees, but it could only help if he can show more ball handling and improve his ability to drive to the basket.

Not that there aren’t other lists to look at as the dead season of college basketball is here.

How about the most overrated and underrated schools for the NBA Draft? Pitt came in at Number 10 for underrated. released their final rankings for the top-100 players in the 2011 signing class.  Pitt signees nabbed three spots. Khem Birch (#14), Malcolm Gilbert (#83) and Durand Johnson (#88).

Birch was also named to the USA Today All-American 2d team. And the National Recruiting Spotlight bumped Birch up to #8 in his final top-50 rankings.

He is a monster shot-blocker and simply dominates on the defensive end. He is very long and can cover a lot of ground quickly which makes you think you can get a shot off before he swats it into the stands. Birch is also a consistent rebounder on the offensive end which allows him to get a lot of easy put-backs and tip-ins. He runs the floor very well and always finishes above the rim as well. One area he needs to improve upon includes his post moves on the block although he has already displayed a better interior scoring skill set as well as his strength. Birch can also improve on his mid-range game but the bottom line is he will earn a spot in Pittsburgh’s starting lineup and will bring a great defensive game with him.

Even Kentucky fans who get to drool over and examine a slew of recruits in the top all-star games have noticed Birch’s defense.

Malcolm Gilbert has been doing some of the other all-star games like the Capital City Classic, but also getting ready to be at Pitt.

Standing 6’11” and pretty strong, Gilbert combines that size with quickness and good feet. Ten points and eight rebounds were tallied by him.

Going forward, the thoughtful Gilbert understands he must continue getting stronger, for which he’s “in a weightlifting program right now” and will report to Pittsburgh in early summer. He also indicated “I have to get my drop step better. Just (make) quick decisive moves”, as well as work on going over his right shoulder for jump hooks.

Keep the focus on the defense first, and Gilbert will get the opportunities with his offense.

Gilbert may also be a key factor for a possible 2012 commit. His AAU team is/was the I-3 All-Stars. That squad includes former 2011 commit Jaylen Bond (reclassified for 2012 as he heads to St. Thomas More in CT, and reopened recruitment) and one of the top targets nationally for 2012, Amile Jefferson.

* I just didn’t have the stomach to think too much about rankings in the days after the NCAA Championship. Had them in a saved file, but then kept putting it off until it got stale and not worth doing. That has since become a choice to wait until we know who is in or out of the draft.

How about Mr. Young’s team one game away from knocking Mr. Blair’s team from NBA Playoffs.

Comment by milo bloom 04.27.11 @ 11:09 am

I think it’s cool to see Sam Young starting and contributing a lot of minutes on a playoff team that has OJ Mayo off the bench and then the “more promising” Blair is contributing slimmer minutes on a solid but ancient team stuck on the bench behind the 87 year old Antonio McDyess

Comment by BCPITT 04.27.11 @ 12:31 pm

A genuine pro prospect can shoot like Gibbs and make plays off the dribble like Wannamker. While both of them are extremely skilled college players, I can’t see either at this point being highly valued by the pros.

Assuning Birch plays the 4 and Gilbert backs up Taylor at the 5 this year, our interior defense may be pretty darn good when they are both on the floor .. of course, our interior offense will consist mainly of putbacks .. much as it has been the last 2 years.

Comment by wbb 04.27.11 @ 12:43 pm

Sam Young will definitely do a great job. Good to see him on a playoff team.

Comment by Pacotes Turquia viagens 04.27.11 @ 1:33 pm

Gibbs is not going to improve his ability to take it to the whole off the dribble. If that’s what scouts are waiting for and if that’s why he returns it’s just not going to happen. Wannamaker has God-given athleticism to take it to the whole. Gibbs just doesn’t have that athleticism so any comparison to that aspects of their games is silly.

Comment by Chicken Little 04.27.11 @ 5:16 pm

Chickie, what if Gibbs slimmed down, say, 15 lbs.?

Comment by steve 04.27.11 @ 5:24 pm

When you can shoot like Gibbs, it’s easy to take the shot, rather than go to the hoop. Taking it to the hoop is almost more of a mindset than anything about athleticism. See Ben Hansborough for an example. Also Gibb’s role at Pitt last year, was to stretch the opposing D by hanging around the 3 point line. A lot of good outside shooters in the past and present, don’t really like the contact that ensues when you take it to the hoop, again it’s a mindset. Wanny wasn’t that good at until his final two years at Pitt, moreso his senior year.

But really if you watch the NBA, in their half court sets you aren’t seeing many guards consistently taking it to the hoop. The NBA has totally embraced the 3 point shot and heave up more 3′s than ever. And then the next most attempted shot is the 2 point jump shot. And since every NBA team is shooting less than 50% and some a lot lower, some of them could certainly need better shooters from long range.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.27.11 @ 5:48 pm

Note on the Spurs.
The Spurs were rolling along with by far the best record in the NBA in late January, thru February, I think they only had like 10 losses in late Feb, when for some reason Popovich took Blair out of the starting lineup. And replaced him with McDyess, since then the Spurs have only been in average team, got surpassed by the Bulls for the best record in the NBA and now face elimination in the very first round by the #8 seed Memphis Grizzlies (they are down 3-1).

Since Blair was the 2nd leading rebounder on the team and provides so much energy and scores when he gets the minutes, that move by Popovich to take Blair out of the starting lineup has certainly not worked and really didn’t make any sense at all.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.27.11 @ 5:56 pm

Yep the Spurs were 49-10 at the end of Feb. Blair was benched in early March, Spurs went 8-8 in March and 4-3 in April in Regular Season. And now 1-3 in the playoffs, so they’re below .500 since Pops took Blair out of the starting lineup. Blair is also 2nd on the Spurs in steals with 95, which has to lead ALL centers in the NBA, and 2nd by far in rebounding.

Comment by melvinbennett 04.27.11 @ 6:23 pm

Wouldn’t it be delicious to have some “bigs” in the middle (Taylor, Birch, Gilbert), with a sharp-shooter in Gibbs on the perimeter who could receive a dish? Oh, and wouldn’t those pieces make it easier then for Robinson to slash to the basket?

My spring-summer daydream…

Comment by Lou 04.27.11 @ 6:29 pm

When does summer league start?

Comment by alcofan 04.27.11 @ 9:19 pm

As deflated as we were after the Butler game it feelss great that Pitt basketball is on the rise. Re: Young, been through Memphis recently and have lots of contacts there and the town is going crazy over the team and in love with Sam, esp the kids. Re: Gibbs, he’s a jerk if he doesn’t come back. The new talent coming in gives him a chance to develop a skill that makes him more marketable. He’ll never be a natural driving to the hoop like Brad but he can develop better drive and dish skills, especially if Birch and Gilbert have the footwork for inside position. Even Taylor’s footwork has improved since freshman year.

Comment by Old School Panther 04.28.11 @ 6:46 am

I was all for Blair leaving early even though it hurt Pitt it was the right thing for him. Gibbs is another story. By the end of the year he was getting better at getting a shot off the dribble. I think another year would add greatly to his repetoire and give him a chance in the NBA, much more lucrative than Europe or Asia. Sam Young was smart to stay, let’s hope that Gibbs makes the right decision for him. He is a great college player and may be a legend if he stays one more year.

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