Analyzing Malik Monk, Justin Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, and Others

December 19, 2016

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to analyze the Kentucky-North Carolina game that was recently played on December 17th, thanks to YouTube via UKBasketballLive.  Freshman guard Malik Monk scored 47 points for the Wildcats, while North Carolina’s junior swingman Justin Jackson also scored 34 points in the loss for his team.

But also, Kentucky’s other freshman guard, De’Aaron Fox scored 24 points, and collected 10 assists in a win for his team.  This game presented the opportunity to scout numerous high-end prospects on two of the top teams in the country.

More importantly, Monk has been drawing rave reviews over his strong play, and this also presented the chance to assess his performance in this game in depth.  Here are my observations on Malik Monk, Justin Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, and other various prospects that performed on this day.

Kentucky’s 6-3 freshman combo guard, Malik Monk had a terrific showing as he poured in 47 points, and made 8 threes in a win over North Carolina.  He showed the ability to shoot and score from anywhere on the court, and he can really punish opponents for leaving him open.  He also has great footwork and a silky smooth jump shoot, and he is a nifty ball handler that can use a wealth of moves to knock down a slew of pull-up jumpers from both the mid-range and three-point land.

Monk can make threes from NBA distance, but he may struggle to make jumpers more if he is being guarded very closely from the start, and if defenders tightly contest his shots.  But Monk’s ball handling ability, ability to move off the ball, and shooting prowess makes him very tough to guard on offense.  Mostly, Monk scores on spot-up and pull-up jumpers, and he also can run quickly off screens to knock them down.  Plus, he is a solid ball handler that can use crossovers and ball fakes to create separation to get his shot off, and he also can ably score on runners.

He also has very good body control that can allow him to score on quick, strong acrobatic drives on fast breaks, and Monk also can score on a quick cut to the hoop.  He does not look to go all the way to the rim often on half court drives, but Monk does not need to do so at the collegiate level due to his terrific ability to shoot the basketball.  Monk naturally has more of a scorer’s mentality, and as he often looks to score rather than set the table, his role in the NBA may be to play off the ball as a shooting guard in the association.  That said, he does seem to exhibit adequate playmaking skills.  Monk can throw solid interior passes to set up a couple of scores.  But sometimes, he can be prone to over-dribbling, which can lead him to commit some turnovers.

He also may be an adequate defensive player.  Monk has great athletic tools and anticipation skills, as he can quick jump passes to garner steals for his team.  But sometimes, he can be gamble too much defensively, which can lead him to being out of position at times.  In general, Malik Monk is an excellent shooter that can knock down shots in many different ways, and he had a sensational game against North Carolina.  He could perhaps be the best pure scorer among all draft eligible prospects, and he may be a strong candidate to be a top five pick for the 2017 NBA Draft.

North Carolina’s 6-8 junior swingman Justin Jackson also had a stellar showing, as he scored 34 points, made 4 threes, drew 15 free throws, and also collected 5 rebounds as well as 3 assists in a loss to Kentucky.  Jackson is a very good scorer from all over the court.  He has a good first step, as he is a smooth athlete that can score often on strong drives to the hoop.  Jackson has the strength and body control to draw lots of fouls upon opposing defenders, and he has the shooting touch to score on runners and turnaround jumpers off the dribble.

He also is a solid outside shooter that can make plenty of threes off the catch.  Jackson has great size to make shots over defenders, and he also can run quickly off of screens to score on jumpers off the catch.  In addition, Jackson also can utilize a jab step to create separation from the defender to get his shot off.  Also, Jackson can mix it up in the paint to get scores for his team.  He excels at scoring in the open court, as he can often draw free throws on strong moves to the hoop.  He also can post up smaller defenders, and he also can score on quick cuts to the basket.  Plus, Jackson also showcased good playmaking skills.  He is a solid interior passer that will throw accurate throws to big men to set up scoring opportunities for them.   He also tends to be very smart with the basketball, which keeps his turnovers to a minimum.

He also displayed decent defensive skills.  Jackson can be a solid defender when he is engaged, as he can use his length, athletic ability, and instincts to intercept passes to obtain steals, and he also can contest shots to force misses.  But sometimes, he can lose his focus on this end of the floor.  Occasionally, he will lose track of his man on a backdoor cut, which can lead him to commit a foul or allow scores as a result.

In summary, Justin Jackson is a versatile scorer that can create his own shot to score off the dribble, and he also is a solid shooter that excels at making jumpers off the catch.  He is a skilled offensive player that has a high basketball IQ.  Jackson may have the skills to be a mid to late first round pick, as he could perhaps end up being a similar player to Tim Hardaway Jr. in the league.

6-3 freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox put forth a strong performance in a victory for Kentucky.  He is a gifted athlete that can make plenty of highlight reel worthy plays on both ends of the floor, and he showed a strong ability to attack the basket to get scores and assists, as well as solid defensive skills in the win over North Carolina.  Fox showcased a very good ability to score on dribble.  He has a terrific ball handler that has great speed, and he can utilize an array of crossovers to score on acrobatic layups around the basket.  He has a magnificent first step, and he can regularly get past his man off the dribble.

In addition, he really excels at scoring in transition.  Not only does he have blinding speed, but he has solid leaping ability and body control to finish plays in the open court to garner scores and an extra free throw afterwards.  Plus, Fox can really elevate to catch lob passes to score on alley-oop dunks on the break.  Also, he showed an adequate ability to knock down pull-up mid-range jumpers.  He does a decent job of making shots off the dribble.   However, Fox had trouble knocking down long-range jumpers from beyond the arc, as he can be quite streaky with his jump shot at times.

Fox also displayed rock solid playmaking skills.  He did a great job of finding his teammates to set up many scores for them.  He continually made sharp, timely passes, and he also threw excellent lob passes to his teammates on the break.  He also showed a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  Fox would come way with an occasional defensive board, and he would also really battle to try get defensive rebounds on the floor, as he would dive on the ground to try to help his team collect them in games.

In addition, Fox also showcased good defensive skills.  Fox is a quick instinctive defender as he can knock a ball away off of an opponent, and he also can run in to get his hands on a ball to force a tie-up if an opposing player is holding the ball too long.  Fox also has the leaping ability and timing to swat a shot to prevent an opponent from scoring on a drive in transition.  But sometimes, he can be prone to committing an occasional touch foul, or to giving up too much space to allow an opponent to make a jumper every once in a while.

In this game, De’Aaron Fox had a solid all-around game, as he continually made plays to help his team get the victory.  He showed a strong ability to score in transition as well as off the dribble, and he showed off great playmaking skills, as he was able to set up a wealth of scores for his team.  With his skill set, he will likely be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Other Notes:

6-0 junior point guard Joel Berry II showed off a solid ability to shoot and score the basketball for North Carolina.  He has great end-to-end speed that enables him to get many quick baskets off the dribble in transition.  Plus, he has great range on his shot, as he can make spot up and pull-up threes, even over taller opponents due to the high arc of his jumper.

He only displayed average playmaking skills.  Berry has a strong score-first mindset, as he can tend to overtly look for his own offense, though in this game he helped his team by making numerous shots efficiently.  But while he generally made solid interior passes, he would occasionally be prone to committing careless turnovers.  He also excelled at rebounding the basketball.  Berry would collect some defensive boards, and he would go coast to coast to score on fast breaks for his team.  However, he may need to improve defensively.  He did show a solid ability to get steals, as he can quickly knock balls away from opponents.  But he tended to pick up quick fouls due to over-aggressiveness.

In this game, Berry generally played well.  He is a very good shooter and scorer that can get baskets from anywhere on the court.  He may be undersized and he will need to improve defensively, as he fouled out, but with his offensive skills, Joel Berry could end up being a solid role player in the NBA in the mold of a Chucky Atkins type.

For Kentucky’s 6-9 freshman big man Bam Adebayo, he had an up and down game, but he showed off some solid skills in a win for his team.  He only played 19 minutes due to foul trouble, as he eventually fouled out, but he did get 13 points and 7 rebounds in this game.

Adeqbayo showed off good low post scoring skills.  He is a great athlete that has an explosive first step to the hoop when he sets up in the paint, as he can back his man down, and he can use a quick drop step to score on a powerful dunk around the basket.   But he can be inconsistent in scoring on jump hooks, as he may not always exhibit great shooting touch when he is on the block.

Plus, he exhibited a good ability to finish plays around the basket to garner scores.  Adebayo excels at catching passes, as he can score on alley-oop dunks as a roll man or when he is open underneath the basket.   He also can score on strong put back dunks.  But Adebayo also missed on a couple of put back attempts, as he can occasionally miss shots wildly around the basket.  He also exhibited adequate playmaking skills.  Adebayo is a willing passer that generally made accurate passes, and he showed a deft ability to hit the cutter from the high post to set up scoring chances for his team.  Also, he did not turn the ball over once against North Carolina.

Also, Adebayo rebounded the ball well.  He was quite active on the glass on both ends of the floor, and he came away with many scoring opportunities after grabbing numerous offensive boards for his team.  However, he occasionally picked up fouls by overtly going for rebounds even when he may not be in great position to collect them.

Defensively, he may have been about average.  Adebayo generally showed good strength and the ability to hold his ground, as he would force some misses when defending the post.  However, Adebayo also tended to be foul prone, as this would lead his team to allow scores and free throws in this game.

In general, Bam Adebayo had a decent showing against North Carolina, as he showed off great athletic tools, and he showed a glimpse of what he can do on the court if he can consistently play a solid game.  He is a gifted athlete that can excel as a low post scorer, finisher, and rebounder on the court, and he has the potential to excel as a two-way player in the NBA.  However, Adebayo may not have much of a face-up game, and he tended to pick up quick fouls.  Right now, his range may be in the mid-first round range, but he will need to be more of a consistent performer in games.

North Carolina’s 6-9 senior big man Kennedy Meeks put forth an uneven performance, as he had his highs and lows in a loss to Kentucky.  He started off by having a good first half, but he then ran into foul trouble, as he ended up fouling out with about five minutes left in the game.

Meeks generally excelled as a finisher around the basket.  He is quite nimble and light on his feet for a player his size, and he generally capitalized on his activity on the offensive glass.  He was able to score on a couple of early tip ins, and he also scored on a put back another time, as he showed a very good motor to do so that time.

He also showed a decent ability to score in the post.  Meeks can score on drop step moves, as he is quick for a player his size, and he showed the body control to score once on a reverse layup after setting up on the block.  However, he had trouble making jump hooks in this game, as he would take tough shots with the defender contesting them.  He also showed below average playmaking skills.  Though Meeks may usually be a good passer in most games, especially from the post, against Kentucky, he was quite turnover prone.

A couple of his turnovers were as a result of him committing offensive fouls.  Meeks set a moving screen once.  On his last play of the game, he fouled out by using his arm to push off when trying to set up on the block, as he was called for a clear-out foul in the post.  On top of that, he also lost the ball in the post on his own another time.  Generally, when Meeks would find his way to get to the rim from the post, he would put himself in good position to garner buckets for his team.  But when the opponent would hold his ground, this would then generally lead Meeks to miss shots or to commit turnovers.

Meeks did do a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, and he did a great job of scoring on second chance points off of offensive rebounds to help his team.  But he did not do a great job defensively against Kentucky.  For the positives, Meeks showed solid timing, strength, and instincts, as he was able to block a shot to prevent an opponent from scoring on a put back.  He also was able to hold his ground to force a couple of misses in the post.

However, Meeks would rotate in such a way where he would leave his man completely open when defending pick and rolls, as the opposing player would end up catch lob passes to score on alley-oop dunks.   Also, Meeks also was prone to getting beat on quick moves in the post, and he also would commit touch fouls defensively.

In general, this was probably not a great showcase for Kennedy Meeks.  Some of the NBA scouts and teams may be unusually down on him this year, as he has seen his draft stock drop noticeably by some of the sites since the season began, and his inconsistent play did not help matters.  Sure, Meeks showed a strong ability to finish plays and rebound the basketball, and he also displayed decent low post scoring skills, but he also was plagued with turnover and foul trouble.

To move up draft boards, he will need to cut down on the mistakes he may be prone to committing in games, and he will have to be a more consistent performer in big games.  Right now, Meeks may be a borderline second round candidate, but if things break his way, he could maybe still end up being a solid role player in this league akin to Isaac Austin in the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-10 freshman big man Tony Bradley had an uneven performance, as he had an up and down game against Kentucky.  For the positives, he showed off good athletic tools, as he generally showed an ability to be a finisher and rebounder on the basketball court.  Bradley can score on quick put backs, and he is a very good free throw shooter, which gives hope that maybe he might develop his jump shot in the future.  He even showed solid leaping ability, even though he missed emphatically on a dunk after being open to catch a ball around the basket.

He generally looked to have good hands, as he was able to catch most passes thrown his way, and he can catch long passes to put himself in prime position to score on fast breaks.  Bradley even found an open shooter to collect an assist to show adequate court vision on the floor.  He also may be a good rebounder.  He showed an adequate ability to crash the glass on both ends of the floor, and he can get numerous scores on put backs.  But Bradley missed some easy shots around the basket, as he would not always play under control.  He also struggled to score in the low post against Kentucky, as he had a couple of awkward misses as his jump hooks were being tightly contested.

Defensively, he looked to be a mixed bag.  He showed a good ability to block shots, as he can swat one off of a drive due to his athletic ability and timing to do so.  Plus, Bradley showed an adequate ability to contest shots to force misses, and he also was able to step up on a drive to force another miss.  However, Bradley tended to pick up quick fouls.  He tended to commit touch fouls when defending the paint due to over-aggressiveness, as this would lead his team to allow scores and free throws as a result.

In general, Tony Bradley is an interesting prospect, as he may have the athletic tools and the skills to be a first round pick someday.   He will need to improve his ability to score in the half court, and he must be a more consistent defender, but Bradley may have the ability to succeed at the next level.  With his skill set, he could end up being a solid role player in this league.

North Carolina’s 6-8 senior combination forward Isaiah Hicks also had a decent game.  He showed a good ability to score in the low post, as he can score on turnaround jumpers and step through moves.  Plus, he also can take slower opponents off the dribble to score from the high post.  Hicks also showed adequate playmaking skills, as he was able to hit a cutter from the post to set up a score.

Defensively, he looked to be about average.  Hicks showed a fairly good ability to block shots due to his athletic tools and timing, and he also was able to rotate to contest a shot to force a miss.  However, he also tended to commit touch fouls, which would lead his team to allow scores and free throws.  In general, Isaiah Hicks has been having a solid senior season.  He may not have much draft stock right now, but he could be an interesting candidate for teams to consider in the second round portion of the upcoming draft.

In conclusion, the game between Kentucky and North Carolina was very entertaining to watch, as the players involved in this match generally played well, and they were playing it at quite a frenetic pace.  Malik Monk put on a masterful performance to lead Kentucky to a narrow three-point victory over North Carolina, and other prospects such as De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson also shined in this contest.  So far, this may be one of the best games in college basketball in the 2016-17 season right now.

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