Assessing Jonathan Isaac, Jayson Tatum, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and More

January 11, 2017

By Alan Lu

This game presented the opportunity for us not only to witness two of the best teams in the country in Duke and Florida State, but also to watch Florida State’s 6-11 freshman forward, Jonathan Isaac play in a live basketball game.  Throughout the contest, Florida State and Duke traded leads back and forth, but then Florida State was able to run away with the game as they managed to win by double digits.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects performed on this day.

Florida State’s 6-11 freshman forward Jonathan Isaac turned in a solid showing after starting off slowly in the first half.  He had some trouble getting his jump shot to fall, but Isaac helped out in other ways as a finisher, facilitator, rebounder, and defender in a win over Duke.

Jonathan Isaac excels at finishing plays around the basket to garner scores for his team.  He will find open spaces to get the ball around the basket, and he also can make solid cuts to the hoop, as that can enable Isaac to catch lob passes to score on alley-oop dunks.  In addition, Isaac was able to throw down a thunderous put back dunk in the middle of the game.

He also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  Isaac had trouble scoring on half-court drives, but he was able to score on a fast break drive to the hoop.   He did not make a jump shot as he missed his only three-point attempt, but Isaac did draw free throws on a pull-up mid-range jumper, as opponents do respect his ability to shoot the basketball.

Isaac displayed good playmaking skills.  He is a patient player that passes the ball well, as he can throw accurate passes to set up scoring chances for his team.  He will generally find the open man, and he also can throw pinpoint lob passes to set up dunks for his teammates.   Adding to that, he also is a solid ball handler that can ably create his own shot when he is on the court.

Also, he also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Isaac was active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, and he capitalized on his lone offensive board at scoring on a put back dunk quickly afterwards.  Plus, he hauled in numerous defensive rebounds, as he would leap up to collect them to help his team.  In addition, Isaac displayed solid defensive skills.  He is long and athletic, as he can use his reach and instincts to find loose balls and knock balls away from opposing ball handlers to collect steals.

Also, Isaac did a very good job of contesting and altering shots on drives, and he also was able to block a dunk attempt from Tatum late in the game due to possessing great timing, instincts, and awareness to do so.  He did commit a couple of touch fouls, but generally Isaac did a very good job of making plays defensively.

In general, Jonathan Isaac put forth a good performance to help lead his team to a double-digit victory over Duke.  While he did not shoot the ball as well as hoped, Isaac was a key contributor in just about all of the other areas of the game.  Isaac has a very good set of all-around skills that could help him thrive in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-8 freshman forward Jayson Tatum had a fairly good game in a blowout loss to Florida State.  He excelled as a scorer and defender on the floor, but he struggled to rebound consistently, and he also had some turnover trouble.  Still, he was one of the bright spots for his team as he scored 21 points and made 3 threes in this contest.

Tatum did a very good job of shooting the basketball.  He excelled at knocking down threes from beyond the arc, as he showed a good ability to do so both off the catch and dribble.  He did miss a pull-up mid-range jumper, but Tatum was able to space the floor for his team when he would hoist up shots from long range.

He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  Tatum was very aggressive in taking the ball to the basket, as he was able to score on quick, strong drives to the hoop on numerous occasions.  But he also tended to force the issue at times, as he had his shots blocked numerous times in traffic.

But he did not show great playmaking skills against Florida State.  Tatum tended to overtly force the issue, especially in the second half, as plenty of his troubles came when he tried to rush his moves off the dribble.   He had a tendency to get the ball knocked away at times, and he also traveled once in transition.  But Tatum also did not pass the ball well, as his passes were inaccurate and prone to being intercepted by defenders in this game.

Tatum did showcase solid defensive skills.  He did a great job to use his length to contest jumpers to force misses, and he also managed to break up a lob pass.  Also, he was able to use his length, athleticism, and instincts to get a steal in the backcourt.  But he did commit a couple of touch fouls at times.

In summary, Jayson Tatum had a good showing in a loss to Florida State.  He played well for the most part, but he did force the issue a bit too much at times in the second half, which led to misses in traffic and unnecessary turnovers.  But he did show a solid ability to shoot, score, and defend, and he still remains as being one of the best prospects for the upcoming draft.

Florida State’s 6-4 junior point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes had a terrific showing as he lead his team to a blowout win over Duke.  Individually, he had the best performance among all players that played in this game, as he managed the game well, and he excelled as a shooter, scorer, and facilitator on the floor.

Mayes did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball.  He was able to knock down a couple of threes, as he can score on spot up or pull-up jumpers.  Plus, he really excelled at scoring off the dribble, as he showed very good speed, quickness, and body control to get into the lane to garner scores in the paint, as he did so at will.  Also, he demonstrated terrific playmaking skills.  Mayes made pinpoint passes throughout the course of the game, as he routinely made crisp, accurate lob passes to set up a wealth of alley-oop dunks for his teammates.

In this game, Rathan-Mayes played exceptionally well, and when he is on his game, he can be one of the best point guards in the country.  He showed great decision making skills against Duke, and he generally made one sound play after another.  Though he may not have much draft buzz right now, Mayes may have the skills to excel as a solid role player in the NBA.

6-5 sophomore guard Luke Kennard also played well in a loss for Duke.   He generally excelled attacking the basket to garner scores, and he also shot the ball fairly well.  He did struggle to rebound the basketball, but Kennard’s ability to shoot and score helped keep Duke in the game for quite awhile.

Kennard showed a good ability to score off the dribble.  He is a crafty player that can use a wide array of moves to get his shot up to garner scores around the basket.  He has a nifty pump fake move, and he also can score on a stepthrough leaner even when he appears to be covered.  Plus, he also is a good ball handler that can take the ball coast to coast to score on fast breaks.  He also showed a good ability to score on the move.  Kennard was able to make a quick backdoor cut to the hoop, and he was able to draw and make both of his free throws on that particular possession.

He also showed an adequate ability to shoot the basketball.  Kennard can make pull up threes, as he was able to utilize a jab step move to make one of them in this game.  But he had trouble making threes consistently later in the game, as he had one blocked, and he missed a couple of other pull-up jumpers from beyond the arc. In addition, he also was able to make a pull-up, mid-range shot on another play.

Also, Kennard showed off fairly good playmaking skills.  He is a patient player that can find open shooters off the dribble, and he also can throw accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances down low.  But he did commit a couple of turnovers, though.  One was where he lost the ball far into the crowd, and another was when he had the ball ripped away from him when he looked to make a play off the dribble.

He did not grab many rebounds, but he was able to haul in multiple offensive boards in this game.  Defensively, Kennard appeared to be about average.  He was able to heap on a loose ball to get a steal.  However, he committed a foul off of a drive once.  Another time, he lost track of a cutter, which lead to his team to allow a dunk to a taller player.  On his defensive miscues, his lack of elite length or athletic ability showed, as this could perhaps be problematic at the next level.

In general, Luke Kennard had a fairly solid game, as he generally played well on offense.  He was one of the best players on Duke’s team on this day, though he did not quite shoot the ball as well, and had some struggles defensively.  Even still, Kennard scored the ball in a variety of ways, played unselfishly, and he may have the smarts and skills to be a solid role player in the association.

Florida State’s 6-6 sophomore swingman Dwayne Bacon also put forth a decent showing in a double digit victory over Duke.  He had a strong first half for his team as he generally displayed good court vision, versatile scoring ability, and solid defense.  But as the game wore on, he struggled to make shots and ran into turnover trouble, though his team eventually pulled away to get the win.  Bacon showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  He has great speed and strength, and he can quickly get past his man to garner scores around the basket.  However, he did struggle to make runners, as he had some awkward misses in the second half.

Plus, he excelled as a scorer on the move.  Bacon was able to score on a tip shot off of an offensive rebound, and he also scored on a fast break drive another time.  He also showcased a good jump shot.  Bacon did not look to take many threes, but he was able to knock down a pull-up three from beyond the arc.  He also was able to make a tough pull-up, mid-range jumper, but he generally struggled to make mid-range shots consistently.

Bacon also showed adequate playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that generally would find the open man, as he can make an assortment of passes to set up scores for his teammates.  However, some of his passes ended up being intercepted, and Bacon had a tendency to force the issue, as he was called for multiple charging fouls when looking to score off the dribble.  He also rebounded the ball well.  Bacon excelled at crashing the glass on both ends of the court, and he was able to score on a tip shot off of an offensive board on offense.  Also, Bacon played very good defense.  He used his length and athleticism to hound the opposition, as he would alter shots off of drives, and he would jump passes to get steals and deflections for his team.

In general, Dwayne Bacon had an up and down game, but he generally was able to help his team in plenty of ways.  He scored the basketball from all over the floor, and he showed the ability to be a primary facilitator on the floor.  Bacon also rebounded the ball well and played stout defense.  He did struggle to score off the dribble consistently in the second half as he also became turnover prone though.  Still, Bacon’s ability to help out on both ends of the floor could make him be a serviceable role player in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-4 junior guard, Grayson Allen put forth a decent showing in a loss for his team.  He generally passed the ball well, and he was sharp defensively.  While he struggled to make jumpers, he excelled at taking the ball to the basket when he would elect to do so.

Allen did a very good job of getting scores off the dribble.  He would make quick, strong moves to the hoop, and he would use great speed, strength, and body control to get tough scores as well as many free throws for his team.  On the downside, he struggled to shoot the basketball.  He missed all of his threes, as he struggled to make spot up or pull-up jumpers from beyond the arc.

He did show solid playmaking skills.  Allen would patiently find open shooters by kicking it out to them off the dribble, and he would make smart passes by hitting cutters as he would weave it to them in traffic.  But some of his passes were inaccurate, as they would either sail or be intercepted at times.  Allen also displayed good defensive skills.  He did a very good job of playing passing lanes, and he would get his hands on balls to deflect passes when he was on the court.

In this game, Grayson Allen was more of a facilitator in this game, as he was unselfish perhaps to a fault against Florida State.  He did not shoot or rebound well, but he excelled as a driver, facilitator, and defender in this match.  His draft stock will most likely remain the same, as he may be a late first to second round pick for the upcoming draft.

Other Notes:

Duke’s 6-11 center Harry Giles sporadically made some good plays at various junctures of this game against Florida State, but as a whole his performance was generally disappointing.  He was plagued by foul trouble so he was not on the floor very much.  But while he showed some scoring skills, he generally did not defend well.

For the positives, Giles shows promise as a scorer.  He was able to hit a mid-range shot off the catch to get his first bucket early on.  Also, he runs the floor well, as he was able to do so to catch a pass and draw free throws on a fast break.  Later, Giles was able to score in the low post on a jump hook.  His only miss was when he missed a dunk after catching a lob pass.

But he showed below average playmaking skills.  He committed a couple of turnovers, as one was where he threw an interior pass so far off-target in attempt to hit a cutter that it sailed far out of bounds.  His other turnover was when he set a moving screen, which also resulted in him committing an offensive foul.

While Giles did grab a couple of boards early on, he did struggle to do so later in the contest.  One attempt to grab a defensive board resulted in a ball going off his hands, as Giles did not secure the basketball, so the ball ended up with the opposition.  He did not rebound the ball well in this game, though he has done a much better job on the glass in the other contests this season.

He also did a terrible job defensively.  Giles was pretty much a defensive liability, as he was prone to committing fouls and allowing scores.  He would give up too much space to his man, as he would allow his opponent to knock down open jumpers.  He routinely got beat off the dribble, which resulted in him allowing a score and in him committing a foul.  Another time, he got bullied on a drive to allow a score due to his lack of physical strength.

In general, Harry Giles’ performance was disappointing overall, though he did show some solid scoring skills within the few times he was able to touch the basketball.  But he did not play well in any of the other facets of the game.

So far, his performance over the course of the season has been something of a mixed bag, as Giles has generally rebounded the ball well, but has struggled to score efficiently, block shots, or to stay away from foul trouble.  While he did score well in limited touches in this game against Florida State, he failed to block a shot and ran into foul trouble once again.

It likely did not help that Giles started the season hurt, as he did not play his first game until mid-December.  But regardless, it seems that he may still be quite raw as a basketball prospect, as he may not be as polished of a player as anticipated.  Giles may need another year of seasoning, as he may be far from being ready for the NBA.

Duke’s 6-5 senior guard Matt Jones had a decent game in a loss to Florida State.  He generally excelled as a three-point shooter off the catch, but he also excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, as he did so once off the dribble, another time off of a cut.

He also generally moved the ball well as he was able to pick up a couple of assists, and he was able to jump passes to collect steals.  On the downside, he did not rebound the ball well, and ran into some brief foul trouble.  But generally, Matt Jones was able to make contributions on both ends of the floor, and he may have the skill set to be a serviceable role player at the next level.

Florida State’s 7-1 senior center Michael Ojo started the game really well, and he generally excelled as a finisher around the basket.  He has very good hands to catch lob passes to garner scores at the rim.  Ojo also was able to score on a quick put back.  Plus, he was able to score on a roll to the rim.  Another time, he used a drop step move to score in the post.

Generally, Michael Ojo did a very good job of scoring the basketball, as he generally provided instant offense when he was on the floor.  He was not on the floor very much after starting the game, but he is a tall, massive center that can provide points in the paint.  With his skill set, he could perhaps end up on an NBA roster sometime down the road.

6-3 combo guard Frank Jackson did not have a very good game for Duke.  For the positives, he excelled at rebounding the basketball, and he would draw some free throws by crashing the basket.  But generally, Jackson had trouble making shots, and he tended to commit reach-in fouls off of drives.

He did not make a field goal against Florida State, and he also ran into some foul trouble, so he was quite ineffective on both ends of the floor.  Jackson has not played nearly as well since the Michigan State game, and it is looking as if he may need to either play significantly better or another year in school to hone his game.

Duke’s 6-11 center Marques Bolden continues to be one of the more frustrating prospects to watch for the upcoming draft.  Based on his size, athleticism, and perhaps what he did in high school all-star games, Bolden has been rated by numerous draft analysts as a first round prospect.  But so far, nothing he has done in games has warranted this claim.

Bolden again had a terrible game, as he was held scoreless, and without a rebound, assist, block, or steal in limited minutes.  He had the ball once in the post, but he was called for a traveling violation.   He also struggled to defend the paint, as he committed a foul off of a drive once, and he was beat another time to allow a score off the dribble.

Right now, it is clear that Bolden is in no way ready to play in the NBA.  Like Giles, he started the season hurt, and did not play his first game until early December.  But he has been buried on the depth chart as he has rarely seen the floor, and so far statistically he has not seemed to be capable of providing substantive minutes unless he is on the floor for an extended amount of time.  To date, his only made baskets have come when he gets a double-digit number of minutes in a single game.

Therefore, Bolden may be quite divisive as a prospect.  Those who have seen him play in high school may feel him to be worthy of being a first rounder, as they may envision him to be something of a Steven Adams type of center in the league.  However this season, albeit in limited minutes, Bolden has neither shot, passed, rebounded, or blocked shots particularly well so far to date.  Skill wise, he may be closer to former 1st round pick, Daniel Orton as a prospect for the NBA.

Most likely, Bolden will need to stay in school, as he will need to improve his skills vastly.  Another year under head coach Mike Krzyzewski could do him some good, as he could get another year to improve as an overall player.  But mostly, for him to improve substantially, he needs to play and get on the floor, whether or not if that will be at Duke or somewhere else.

6-6 sophomore guard Terance Mann played very well for Florida State, as he scored 13 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in a win for his team.  He is a very athletic swingman that excelled at getting scores off the dribble.  Plus, he also excelled at scoring on the move, as he did so off of tip ins as well as off of a backdoor cut to the hoop.  In this game, Mann excelled as a scorer and rebounder in the paint, and he is a high motor player that could project into a defensive specialist role at the next level.

6-4 sophomore guard P.J. Savoy did a very good job of making threes from beyond the arc to help Florida State when he was on the floor.  He was not on the court often, but he would run quickly to his spots, and he would make spot-up jumpers off the catch.  If he makes it to the NBA, he could perhaps be an Anthony Morrow-type of player sometime down the road.

Overall, the Florida State-Duke game was a tightly played contest in the first half and for a portion of the second half, and numerous of the top prospects played well.  But ultimately, Florida State’s depth combined with Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski and senior forward Amile Jefferson being out for this game ended up being pivotal factors, as Duke without Jefferson struggled to defend the interior.

Isaac, Tatum, and Kennard may have played the best among the prospects that could potentially be picked in the first round, while Rathan-Mayes appeared to have the best game overall.  It was somewhat surprising to see Florida State run away with the contest, but in general, this was a fun, entertaining game to watch in which numerous of the prospects ended up playing well in this match.

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