Analyzing Lauri Markkanen, Elijah Stewart, and More

January 19, 2017

By Alan Lu

I decided to see a Pac-12 conference matchup between Arizona and USC because it featured a likely lottery pick in freshman forward Lauri Markkanen, and it was the first time I would get to see the USC Trojans play this year.   The game itself started off very shaky in the first half, as it contained missed shots, little ball movement, and it was played at quite a slow pace, but Arizona was eventually able to take a commanding lead.

However, late in the second half, the USC Trojans made timely shots and rebounds to make their way back into the game, but ultimately Arizona was able to hang on for the win.  Overall, Lauri Markkanen and USC’s junior guard Elijah Stewart played the best among all players that participated in this contest.  Here are my thoughts on how they and other prospects fared on this day.

Arizona’s 7-0 freshman forward, Lauri Markkanen played very well to lead his team to a seven-point victory over USC.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer on the floor, was active at crashing the glass, and played quite well defensively in the win for his team.  Markkanen did a great job of shooting the basketball to space the floor for his team.  He really excel as a shooter off the catch, as he would make numerous spot-up threes from beyond the arc.  In addition, he also was able to make a three off of pick and pop play, and he also made a key pull-up bank three late in the game.

Plus, he also showed a good ability to score in the post.  On the block, he was able to utilize a spin move to score on a turnaround leaner around the basket.  In addition, he also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble, as he was able to use a spin move to draw free throws once.  Markkanen was also able to score on a couple of quick put backs after collecting offensive rebounds on the court.  But sometimes he would struggle to finish plays in traffic, even though he was also able to make some with defenders around him in this game.

But he did not display great playmaking skills in this game.  He did not make many, if any noteworthy passes, though he did not look to overtly force up shots on offense.  He did tend to commit turnovers, mostly due to carelessness.  One was when he clumsily dribbled the ball off of his own foot on an isolation play.  Another was when he was called for setting a moving screen.  His third turnover was when he threw a low entry pass in traffic that ended up being intercepted.  He did display adequate rebounding skills against USC.  Markkanen was quite active on the glass, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  He would display a great motor to collect offensive boards, and he was able to get a couple of baskets to provide second chance points for his team.

Defensively, Markkanen was solid.  Though he does not possess elite athletic tools, he is a smart defender that tended to be in the right positions on most occasions.  Markkanen was able to block a shot off of a drive, as he did not bite on an opponent’s pivot move.  Plus, he did a good job of defending passes, as he would help his team force turnovers.   Also, he would quickly hedge on screens and get back to his man, and he also was able to force a miss when defending in the post.

In general, Lauri Markkanen put forth a very good showing to lead his team to the victory.  He showed a solid set of all-around skills, and he has shown that he is an extraordinarily skilled shooter that can also contribute in a variety of ways.  With his skill set, he looks to be a lock to be a lottery pick, as he could end up being a very good player in the NBA.

USC’s 6-5 junior guard Elijah Stewart also played very well as his team narrowly lost to Arizona.  He generally excelled as a shooter, scorer, and shot blocker on the floor, and he consistently made key plays to keep the Trojans in the game for most of the way.  Stewart did a very good job of shooting the basketball.  He really excelled as a spot up shooter off the catch, as he would tend to make open threes in the corner.  Also, he was able to utilize a jab step move to make a three in this contest.

Plus, he also excels at scoring on the move to get buckets in the paint.  Stewart ran the floor well, and he was able to throw down an emphatic dunk on the break off of a give and go.  Also, he was able to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound, and he drew an extra free throw afterwards.  However, he struggled more to score off the dribble, as he did not always go to the hoop under control, and he would rely on drawing fouls, which occasionally led him to miss shots in traffic.

He also showcased decent rebounding skills.  Stewart was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he was able to capitalize on his lone offensive rebound by turning it into a three-point play to help his team.  But he did commit a Flagrant 1 Foul when pursuing a rebound due to over-aggressiveness, though he displayed great leaping skills in an attempt to haul that one in.  Also, Stewart displayed adequate defensive skills.  He is a long and athletic defender that excels at blocking shots, as he has the leaping ability and timing to do so.  However, he tended to cheat off his man, which would leave shooters open to knock down shots.

In this game, Elijah Stewart played a solid game, as he consistently performed well throughout the match for USC.  He made shots from all over the court, and he excelled at blocking shots.  With his skill set, he will likely be a player to watch in the future, as he could potentially be a late first to second round pick for an NBA team sometime down the road.

Arizona’s 6-5 freshman guard Kobi Simmons put forth an uneven performance, as he had his highs and lows against USC.  He generally had a solid first half, though he struggled to play well consistently on this day.  He showed an adequate ability  to score in transition and make mid-range jumpers, though he did miss a dunk on the break as the ball slipped away from his hands just when he was able to throw one down at the rim.  However, Simmons struggled to make threes or score off the dribble consistently, despite having made a three off the catch in the first half.

He did show solid playmaking skills.  Simmons displayed very good passing and ball handling skills, as well as strong court vision to set up numerous scores for his teammates.  One notable assist in particular was when he drove on the baseline and found an open shooter to set up a three for his team.

Plus, he showed an adequate ability to defend his opponents.  Simmons was able to use his length and anticipation skills to rip a ball away from an opponent on a drive to collect a steal, and he was able to contest jumpers to force misses.  However, he did commit a couple of touch fouls in this game as well.

Though Simmons had his ups and downs, he shows plenty of potential as a player for the next level.  He is a very athletic combo guard that can comfortably run the point, and he can also score the ball in a variety of ways.  He will need to be a more consistent performer in games, but he may have the talent to be a first round pick in the NBA someday.

Arizona’s 6-4 freshman guard Rawle Alkins put forth a decent showing in a win over USC.  He generally excelled as a shooter on the floor, but he had some lapses late in the game, especially defensively, which almost lead USC to come all the way back.  Alkins shot the ball well, as he excelled at knocking down open threes off the catch.  He has a rather quick release, as he can get his shot off easily, and he can knock down jumpers when he is given the time and space to take them.

But he was an inconsistent scorer off the dribble, however.  He did show the strength and body control to draw numerous free throws when driving to the hoop.  However, he tended to miss shots wildly, and he also tended to struggle to score in traffic.  He displayed average playmaking skills at best.  For the positives, he showed a decent ability to find open shooters to set up scores for his team.  However, he also committed several turnovers off the dribble, as he would play too out of control on those occasions.

He also showed decent rebounding skills.  He was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he is a high motor player that was able to run down an offensive board as he promptly threw it off of an opponent to help his team retain possession on that particular play.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  He was able to find a loose ball to get a steal when defending an opposing ball handler.  But, he also tended to commit touch fouls, including one on a three-point shot late in the game.

In general, Rawle Alkins had his ups and downs, but he showed that he may have the skills to be a solid role player in the NBA if he continues to hone his overall game.  He is a versatile scorer that shoots the ball well, and he could end up being a player similar to current Washington Wizards’ guard, Marcus Thornton in the league.

USC’s sophomore big man Chimezie Metu did not particularly have a great game against Arizona, but he did showcase an intriguing set of skills, as well as tremendous athleticism wen he was on the court.  Metu showed a good ability to finish plays around the basket.  He would use off-ball movement to get open, and he was able to draw numerous free throws on hustle plays.  In addition, he was able to throw down a couple of thunderous dunks in this game.

Plus, he showed a fairly good ability to score off the dribble.  On one play, he was able to score on a quick high post drive, and he managed to draw an extra free throw afterwards.  But he missed on a dunk attempt another time, as he would miss easy shots around the basket at times.  In addition, he struggled to make shots in the post, as he generally struggled to find his shooting touch when he would look to score from the block.  While Metu did use a jab step to make one mid-range jumper, he generally had trouble knocking down jump shots against Arizona.

Metu also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He is a good interior passer that generally makes solid, accurate passes, and he showed both the ability to hit a cutter as well as to pass off the dribble.  But he did lose the ball once as he had it knocked away from him when attempting to score off of a drive to the hoop.  He also showed off a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  While his rebound rate per minute in this game may have been disappointing, Metu did haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he was able to capitalize on the offensive rebounds that he collected for his team.

Metu also showcased fairly good defensive skills.  He is a very athletic, active defender that will play passing lanes and defend the paint, as he can jump passes to deflect passes and get steals, and he will use his length, athleticism, and timing to block shots.  However, he also struggled to defend jumpers at times, and he also would commit touch fouls in the paint due to over-aggressiveness.

In summary, Chimezie Metu did not consistently perform well for his team, but he showcased an intriguing set of skills that could help him at the next level.  He is a rim protector that possesses elite athletic tools, and if he can continue to improve in the finer points of the game, he could end up being a first round pick in the NBA.

Other Notes:

USC’s 6-4 freshman guard De’Anthony Melton put forth a decent showing in a loss for his team.  For the positives, he appears to be a stat stuffer when he is on the floor.  Melton excels at attacking the basket, as he can get numerous scores off of cuts as well as off the dribble.  In addition, he also was able to draw three free throws on a three-point attempt, despite not being able to make a three on this day.

Plus, he showed off adequate playmaking skills.  He is a very unselfish player that will find the open man to set up scores for his team.  However, he can be too passive on offense.  Also, he can tend to commit turnovers, as some were due to bad passes, and others were because he struggled to protect the basketball.

Melton also generally defended well.  He did play in a 2-3 zone as he did not have to play man-to-man defense, but he is a gifted athlete that excels at blocking shots, as he can really leap up to swat them from the blind side.  However, while he can get some steals and deflections, he can also tend to commit touch fouls when defending drives due to over-aggressiveness.

Right now, De’Anthony Melton has had a noticeably better season than perhaps anyone had ever anticipated from him this year.  But it may be unclear as to how well he may rate as a prospect for the NBA.  On one hand, he does not shoot the ball enough, and he plays in a zone defensive scheme, which may hide his abilities to play man defense.  On the other hand, he is an athletic combo guard that can comfortably run the point and may have the skills to excel as a driver and defender in the league.  Regardless, he is an intriguing prospect that could be a potential late first round pick in a future NBA draft.

USC’s 6-1 junior point guard Jordan McLaughlin played fairly well in a loss to Arizona.  He showed a fairly good ability to score off the dribble, as he has good quickness, shooting touch, and body control to garner buckets in the paint.  Plus, he showed good shooting skills, as he can knock down plenty of open spot-up threes off the catch.  He also showed off good playmaking skills.  He can make an assortment of passes to set up a wealth of scores, and he also showed the ability to hit the cutter.  However, he also can be a bit turnover prone, as he is not always accurate on his interior passes.

McLaughlin also showed off adequate defensive skills.  While he occasionally would commit reach-in fouls, he showed the ability to get steals and deflections for his team.  Currently, McLaughlin is an effective game manager that may be one of the best point guards in the Pac-12 conference, as well as one of the better players at his position in the country.  But he has not been getting much draft buzz due to his average size for the position and athletic tools.  Still, he is a productive player that could be a potential second round pick for the upcoming draft.

Arizona’s 6-3 senior guard Kadeem Allen had an up and down game, but he had his moments at times against USC.  He generally excelled as a scorer off the dribble as he has good speed and quickness, but struggled to make jumpers consistently.  He did showcase good playmaking and defensive skills, as he was able to get a couple of assists and steals for his team.  While he may be a long shot to be drafted, he may have what it takes to land on an NBA summer league roster this year.

Arizona’s 7-0 junior center Dusan Ristic rebounded the ball very well, and he also showed a solid ability to score in the post as well as finish plays in traffic.  He did not look to shoot the ball often, but he was quite effective when he did so.  He has not been drawing much draft buzz this season, but he could be a player to watch in 2018.

In general, Arizona appeared to have the upper hand for most of this contest against USC, as they shot the ball well early on.  But then USC started coming back, as they made timely shots and started crashing the glass to cut into the deficit.  In the end, Arizona made enough plays to hang on to the win, as they were led by the strong play of freshman forward Lauri Markkanen in the process.  That is all for today, and thank you for reading.

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