Baylor/Kansas Prospect Live Blog

The Baylor/Kansas game is probably the 2nd best prospect game of the year. It features Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, ESPN's Chad Ford's #4 prospect, and Baylor PF Perry Jones III (#5), with the added hook that the two would be matched up against each other much of the game. It also featured possible first rounder Quincy Miller (#12) and three players currently thought of as possible 2nd round prospects in Kansas PG Tyshawn Taylor (#84), Baylor PF Quincy Acy (#139 but potentially with enough athleticism to make a roster) and Kansas C Jeff Withey (potential 2013 prospect).

I'm relatively familiar with Taylor, Robinson, and Acy from NCAA tournaments past. I took notes throughout the game on the prospects' NBA potential, concentrating mostly on the two stars, Robinson and Jones. I'll be the first to acknowledge that I haven't seen enough of these players to make a definitive evaluation. Small sample size caveats apply, especially when it comes to outside shooting ability. That said, I think it's possible to determine a lot about a player's potential in watching one game. Whether his performance will ever catch up to that potential, however, requires a lot more statistical and scouting analysis.

I took a ton of notes on the game, but to avoid TLDR status I'll present my overall impressions first:


Thomas Robinson was clearly the night's most impressive performer. He finished with 27 and 14, shooting 11-18 from the field with only 1 turnover. He flashed all the skills, sealing and posting up, spin moves and hooks in the post, spot up jumpers, and dribble attacks from the mid post and the wing. His ability to race the floor in transition and his overall energy were outstanding, as was his rebounding.

Defensively I don't think he projects particularly well. He had one block in this game, but I don't remember him making any particularly impressive plays in help defense. He only averages 1.1 blocks per game, which is pretty surprising for a player of his athleticism. I'll have to wait for his measurements at the combine, but based on this game and the stats I wouldn't be surprised if he has short arms a la Blake Griffin. Then again, that may just be in my head after reading this post on Griffin's limited defensive potential.

Perry Jones was playing extremely well until his ankle injury. He has a nice skill level and should be able to take power forwards off the dribble at the next level. He shows a nice touch finishing in the 3-9 foot range and should develop a good enough jumper to set up his drives from a mid-post isolation. While a lot of commentators have stated that he has the talent and athleticism to be the #1 pick in the draft if he only played harder, I'm not sure I buy that he's that athletic He's also averaging only a block a game, and his average ability to explode off two feet is a concern. Another is that he's averaging a mere 3 free throws a game. I see him as the second or third best player on a good team.

Defensively I see him as kind of the power forward version of Tayshaun Prince, a guy who can move his feet well and contest shots, but with a pretty low block rate.

Tyshawn Taylor sure didn't look like the 84th best player in this draft class. His shooting this season from 3 has been great at 44%, and he was at 38% last year. He looked great shooting NBA range 3s i nthis game. However, his free throw shooting is a pretty poor 71%. NBA GMs don't refuse to draft guys because of poor free throw shooting, but it may not augur well for his ceiling as a shooter. Still, a PG who can shoot 44% on college 3s, has a great handle, finishes well inside, and averages 6.1 FTA per game is very solid. I also liked his passing in this game, including a very nice lob post entry to Robinson when he was fronted. The biggest problem Taylor has is turnovers; he had five even in the game of his life and is averaging 4.1 per game this season in 32 minutes. Given the weak point guard crop, he should at least be drafted. I think he's a better prospect than Sherron Collins, and he got drafted.

Chad Ford tweeted that Jeff Withey could be a prospect in 2013. Defensively, I can see it. He's averaging a very solid 3.1 blocks in only 21 mpg. He moves his feet reasonably well for a pure center and he can jump when given the time to gather himself for dunks or shot blocks.  But he's kind of a volleyball jumper instead of a basketball jumper. Offensively, I was unimpressed with his ability to finish plays inside when he was contested, as he is not a quick leaper and doesn't seem to have a ton of core strength to handle getting bumped. He shot only 3-10, and his 54.7% FG percentage is unimpressive for a college 7 footer who seems to only shoot in the basket area. He will also be 23 by the 2013 draft.

Baylor Freshman Quincy Miller did not look like a great NBA prospect in this game. His athleticism seemed about NBA average for a PF, and he's painfully thin. He also shoots a set shot with a pretty low release point; not a good recipe for being able to go to the hole from a triple threat position, which would seem to be his only way to score against NBA power forwards since he's so painfully thin. He's more smooth than explosive, and if he's going to be a power forward weighing so little he needs to be an amazing leaper. I didn't see that from him.

Quincy Acy is a relatively young senior who showed his excellent dunking ability a couple of times in this game, but his jumping doesn't translate into much else. He's averaging 2.4 bpg this year and 3 in this game, but this is his first year over 2 despite playing over 20 minutes a game the 2 years before this. He's only listed at 6'7" (though he looks like he has long arms on his dunks) and there's no way he can play on the perimeter. He can shoot a spot-up J surprisingly well, but driving to the basket is beyond him. He didn't show good awareness or fundamentals on defense; for a guy without a ton of scoring ability that would have to be his bread and butter. As a result, I don't see him ever holding down a job in the NBA unless that significantly improves.

Jones or Robinson?

Robinson certainly outplayed Jones in this game, and his statistical resume such as college PER is far superior. That would be mitigated by the fact Jones is younger...except that Jones is really old for his class and Robinson average for his. Jones is only 6 months younger than Robinson. While Jones is ostensibly more athletic, the only real physical tool Jones has over him is his larger wingspan. But if Jones isn't going to use that wingspan to block any more shots than Robinson, what use is it? I see Jones as the slightly superior help defender (though neither impressed in that regard) and pick and roll defender, but Robinson equal or superior in every other aspect. I'll take Robinson.

If you made it this far, here are the nuts and bolts observations that led me to these conclusions. Onto the Simmons trademarked running diary.

First Half.

Robinson guarding Jones at the start as we join 17 minutes in.  Jones shoots a semi-contested 3 on the first possession, somewhat contrary to his reput---Robinson with a ridiculous alley-oop finish!  Based on this play, he'd have to be upgraded to near nuclear athleticism.  

The under 16 timeout. Is Comcast’s lack of a +30 seconds button on their DVR remote a conspiracy with their content providers to make commercials harder to skip or just general cheapness and incompetence?  I’m going with option B.

Jones aggressively goes after an offensive rebound.  He hangs on the rim and commits a violation, but good to see him going hard to the offensive glass.

This diary is supposed to be about NBA prospects, but a beautiful play at the 15:10 mark deserves a breakdown.  Kansas runs an actual play against Baylor's matchup zone to perfection, something I’ve always advocated (usually to whichever poor sap is sitting next to me on the couch) for coaches to do way more of.  You know exactly where the defensive players are going to be so it's easy to draw something up. Defenders aren’t expecting to be screened in a zone and often aren’t in a good stance unless they’re on ball.

On this play, Robinson goes to the high post as the ball goes to the right wing, followed by a Withey back screen against the bottom man in the zone.  Robinson rolls down the lane line and gets the pass for the jam, a play that would have been the bottom man's responsibility to stop.  Outstanding. Usually, the only screens set in a zone are on the wing guys for skip passes. This one got a dunk. Vitale:  “I don’t know if you can zone Kansas and beat Kansas.”  Not with playcalling and execution like that.

Meanwhile, Robinson might have to be awarded 9/10 jumping ability status.  (Blake Griffin would be an example of a 10/10.)  That’s two dunks now that were completely unexpected from where and how he took off.  This time, he didn’t have much of a running start, yet still took off just inside the block and jammed with 2 hands.  Very impressive.  I love big guys who can dunk from unexpected angles like that.

Robinson then "disappoints" me by not dunking a garbage pickup from the dotted line without any kind of running start.  I guess he’ll have to stay at 9/10.  He then has another finish and 1 inside against Acy, an NBA quality athlete if not defender.

Q Miller with a nice finish on a dunk, then nice touch on a 3 foot hook while getting bumped for an and one.  Good to see that he’s got potential to be a reasonable finisher against NBA length. I also like him since he's from Chicago.

Those two Miller plays are split by a 3 from NBA range and then some by Taylor.  I’ve always liked him from a pure skill standpoint because of how hard his dribble is; ie, how fast his dribble hits the floor and returns to his hand.  It’s not a guarantee of success, of course, but guys with that type of handle definitely have an advantage.  They can adjust much more quickly to how the defense is playing them or make a pass off the dribble the instant it’s there instead of having to wait that extra split second for the ball to return to their hand.  Chris Paul has the hardest dribble in the league right now to these eyes, and coincidentally is the league’s best playmaker.

Neither Withey or Acy has impressed so far. I'm not sure Withey had the athleticism and core strength to finish plays inside unless he gets a running start and can gather himself, and Acy seems like the stereotypical only a leaper type.
Robinson with a solid seal and good hands to corral a nice post lob over a fronting Acy from Taylor.  But he’s then blocked by Jones as he turns to a fading hook shot.  Would have liked to see a little stronger move there.  Good to see the shot block by Jones though.  He’s been quite active, belying the lazy and soft tag that was whispered last year.

Jones posts up Robinson high on the left block.  Turns over his right shoulder and could have finished with a short lefty hook off the glass, but he doesn’t appear to have that in the arsenal. Instead he awkwardly forces it up right handed; Robinson bothers the shot and Jones bricks it off the backboard.  Still good to see the aggressive post-up though.

Miller drives into a spin move in the lane and has nowhere to go, and gets bailed out by a foul call.  He's 6'9", but is going to need another 30 lbs of muscle to play as a power forward. He's built like Hakeem Warrick, but without the insanely long arms and jumping ability, the latter of which seems to be NBA average in his case. His quickness and skill level isn't good enough to play small forward either.

Perry Jones with a beautiful move from the left elbow, a one dribble pull-up for a 12-footer in the lane.  Robinson was guarding him and was totally flummoxed, expecting a drive all the way to the rim.  A very impressive move.  If Jones can fill out enough to play power forward in the NBA (and if some stupid coach doesn’t waste his quickness for his size by playing him at small forward like has happened to Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley), moves and quickness like that should enable him to score on most NBA power forwards in an isolation.

Next time down, Jones catches at the top of the key, shot fakes, dribbles inside the line to draw a double, then kicks a nice pass to an open man at the 3 point line who drives in for a layup.  

Next time after that, he hammers home the point about being too quick on the perimeter with his left hand, all over Jeff Withey’s head. (At the 35 second mark.)  He can’t shoot a lefty hook, but he sure can dunk that way.

Even with this dunk though, Jones has much more Tayshaun Prince/Lamar Odom/Austin Daye type athleticism.  He doesn’t appear to be a great, powerful 2 foot leaper, but more of a guy who uses his length to create separation.  Robinson is much more of a 2 foot guy, which I think is a lot more important in a power player.

Robinson beasts Jones the next time down.  Robinson posts up aggressively, and Jones does little to front him or push him out.  Jones then egregiously flops on a Robinson spin move, and Robinson has an easy short hook.  The flop by Jones smacks of the “guy who doesn’t normally play hard/is learning to play hard” attempt to look like he’s playing hard.  (We can also blame overenthusiastic high school and college coaches and their worship at the Altar of the Holy Charge for this.) Jones has plenty of length, jumping ability, and footspeed to stay with that move by Robinson; how about just contesting the shot?

Robinson did show solid footwork and quickness and a nice touch on the play.

Acy with a pick and pop for a 19 footer.  Didn’t know he had that in his game.

Robinson with another impressive spin move in the lane and left hand finish.  The amount of ground he covered as he spun back to the middle from the right block made it very difficult to keep up, although Acy didn't make a great effort.  Excellent explosiveness on that move.  Robinson isn’t an Evan Turner type where he’s just barely getting his shot off against college defenders; he’s really creating great separation when he makes his move. Jones now back guarding Robinson after he completely abused Acy.

Not sure I agree with Chad Ford that Withey is a prospect for 2013.  He’s already a 4th year junior and this is his first time getting any tick.  It's dubious whether he can be tough enough finishing inside to really be an effective NBA center, and he’s too slow to play power forward.

Jones then finishes another beautiful move, creating great separation on a fake spin into a right handed jump hook. (0:47).  He shot it from about 9 feet, a range that’s a little out of the comfort zone for most big men shooting a two foot jump hook. Jones made it look really smooth, but unfortunately sprains his ankle coming down on Robinson’s foot.

He doesn’t look like himself on the next possession, as he doesn’t step out on a pick and roll and Taylor proceeds to blow right past his half hearted contest at the rim for the layup.  

Two reasons why college basketball is uh, inferior to pro basketball:*  Jones has good post position against Robinson but gets ignored so his team can swing it to the other side for a post up by number 34, who can’t hold his position and kicks the entry pass away.  That’s followed by an offering to the Altar of the Holy Charge as Taylor is called for a completely ridiculous offensive foul. Taylor barely grazed the left shoulder of a guy who moved underneath him as he jumped away from the rim on a drive.  The guy falls down like he’s shot in the chest and gets the call.  At least in the NBA guys only get ridiculous calls on flops when they get hit in the chest.

*In fairness, the teams in this game outscored the Mavs and Lakers by 30 points in 8 less minutes.

Jones with a credible miss on a 30 footer as the shot clock expires, but he actually looked pretty smooth taking it.

Jones with good straight up defense against Robinson in the post to make him pass out. See what happens when you actually try to stop the guy instead of flopping? Taylor responds with another deep 3.  He looks very comfortable (and successful) shooting those.

Perry can’t finish in the lane over Withey and looks like he’s having trouble exploding.  He does a nice job staying in front of Robinson off the dribble though and forces a pass.  Robinson probably isn’t at the point where he should be taking guys off the dribble at the top of the key.  

He makes up for it the next time by absolutely barrelling down the floor (1:00) ahead of the ball in transition, which opens a lane for a teammate to get a layup.  I'm really impressed with how hard he plays.

Taylor had #2 for Kansas (obviously a 3-point shooting threat as an undersized white college two guard) in transition on the left wing, but dribbles over to him before passing him the ball,  This works if he were screening #2’s man, but in transition with nobody guarding him it just brings Taylor’s man over and lets him guard both of them.  Not great feel there.  Taylor makes up for it by hitting a 3 off the dribble (1:15) as the clock runs down for the end of the half.

The Jones ankle injury looks like the turning point.  Baylor wouldn’t score again as Kansas rips off a 13-0 run to end the half.  Jones didn’t look like himself after that and spent the last couple minutes on the bench.

Jones with 10, Robinson with 12, Taylor with 14 at the half, 9 on 3s.

Second Half

Kansas starts by abusing Baylor’s zone again.  Robinson is wide open at the foul line, but looks silky smooth in knocking down the jumper.  He doesn't get very high off the ground, but that's not the end of the world for a big guy shooting a spot up J. Given his explosiveness, his smoothness and skill level is impressive.  To underscore the point, he leads the break the next time down in a 2 on 2.  While he’s not handling at absolute full speed, he stays under control and threatens both defenders with a subtle inside out dribble, enough to open the passing lane to irrelevant non-NBA prospect guard # 24 for a layup.  I could not be more impressed with Robinson right now.

Perry Jones is showing good fundamentals as a screener in the P&R game.  He’s letting the guard get a little bit of a running start, then setting the screen behind the ball handler’s man rather than to the size.  This time, the action allows the handler to blow by Jones’ defender as well, draw the help, and dish to Acy for a dunk.  Why can’t the Bulls set more P&R screens this way?

Robinson is just destroying Baylor’s zone.  Vitale is criticizing Baylor going zone, and I agree they should dump it.  But Robinson is showing awareness and quickness to find the open spots and deserves some credit as well.

Taylor blows down the lane line off a Withey pick, aided by horrendous P&R defense by Acy. (1:30 mark.)  He saunters up too late after Withey, and doesn’t even stand on the correct side of the pick to hedge.  He isn’t in a stance at all, and as Taylor blows down the lane he never even gets closer than 17 feet to the basket, which might have been useful if Taylor had missed his layup.  For a guy who is going to have to make a living playing defense in the NBA, Acy sure looks like he has slow feet or a slow head.  Another example was when Robinson left him standing in cement on that spin move in the first half.

For his part, Taylor has a nice finish around Jones, who has not particularly impressed as a rim protector so far when guards drive to the basket. There were at least 3 plays where Taylor was able to finish over or around him pretty easily on a drive.  The injury may have something to do with that though, as did (this time) the fact he had to hedge between Robinson and Taylor due to the lack of any second help by Baylor.

Reason why college basketball is inferior #3:  Withey absolutely packs Jones’ dunk attempt, all ball, no body, straight down into the floor.  The refs ruin it with a preemptive foul call.  NBA refs would let that go 90% of the time.  Jones shows a lack of two foot explosion on the play.  One potential road block to his playing the 4 is whether he can finish passes or postups inside.  It could be the ankle this time though; he’s limping pretty badly.  That said, in my experience ankle injuries are more of a problem when jumping off one foot or sliding defensively rather than jumping off two feet.

Reason why college basketball is inferior #4:  Baylor runs a nice cross-screen out of the timeout for Jones and he’s open on the block.  Irrelevant non-NBA prospect #0 for Baylor, one “Franklin” according to the announcers, backs it out from the wing for no reason 2 seconds before Jones can even flash across the lane, then decides to dribble into a contested 3 from the top of the key without passing it.  When commentators talk about how players like Derrick Favors or Jones will be better in the NBA than in college, plays like this by their inferior guards are a major reason why.

Robinson with an awesome seal against Jones and gets a dunk. (1:39 mark). Not a great effort by Jones on that play, although again the ankle could be compromising his ability to bang down low and move his feet when he got sealed.  I’m going to have to give him a mulligan for the last 26 minutes of this game and catch him again.  He hasn’t been the same.

Robinson really busts his butt to get down the floor on offense and defense.  After a turnover, he raced back behind what looked like a sure bucket on a 2 on 1 and secured the rebound when Baylor missed.

The only two bad plays I’ve seen by Robinson have been his attempts to attack off a live dribble (not triple threat) from the top of the key.  NBA 4s don’t even try this, and the second time Robinson gets the ball stolen by a guard digging down from the wing.  Good coaching will help him realize that he’s much better showing off his dribble game from the mid post or the wing.

Jones with nice help D to block Robinson as he gets deep post position against Acy.  On the ensuing play, Taylor drives unmolested to the basket from the left wing.  Acy was guarding Robinson on the left block and never took so much as a step towards Taylor.  I was really hoping a guy with Acy’s jumping ability could project as a solid defensive big at the next level, but he sure hasn’t shown it tonight.

He is a nice dunker though.  He grabs a little lob pass in one motion directly under the backboard.  Acy does a great job preparing himself to receive the pass, and catches it right as he’s coming down from a little hop.  This enables him to instantly explode upward off two feet for the right hand reverse jam on the left side of the rim.  Very impressive considering where he took off and the fact he had no momentum at all when he caught the ball.

Next time down he reveals that he has one post move, a right handed jump hook that he is going to go to whether it's open or not.  This one is 2 feet long from the right block.

Unbelievable finish by Taylor on a backdoor. (1:47)  The core strength and body control required for this finish is remarkable.  I think Taylor is an NBA quality athlete, dribbler, and shooter, at least based on this game.  The knock on him, as Chad Ford tweeted during the game, is his remarkable inconsistency. I’ll have to see him again and see how his advanced stats shape up at the end of the year.  In previous years when I’ve seen him though, he’s always caught my eye.

Acy finally with a solid hedge and real defensive slides in a stance to force irrelevant non-NBA prospect # 24 into a travel.  Good to see he’s at least capable of doing it.

It’s now 71-55 KU, and the competitive portion of this game is over; ie it’s past my bedtime.


Keep it clean.