Assessing Jabari Smith, J.D. Davison, and Allen Flanigan

January 11th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Today was the first time of watching Auburn’s 6-10, super skilled, freshman forward Jabari Smith play in a live basketball game, as his team squared off against their SEC rival, Alabama.  Jabari Smith thrived as he played a strong all-around game, and so did Alabama’s freshman point guard, J.D. Davison.  It was a very competitive game that went down to the wire, but Auburn was able to make enough plays to pull out a close win.  Here are my thoughts on how Smith, Davison, and other various prospects fared, as well as how their games may currently stack up as prospects for the NBA.

Auburn’s sensational, 6-10 freshman forward, Jabari Smith scored 25 points in his team’s win over Alabama.
(Photo:
Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics, via Eagle Eye TV)

Jabari Smith had a strong, all-around showing in his team’s win over Alabama.  He especially thrived as a shooter, scorer, and defender when he was on the court.  He showed a smooth jump shot as well as the ability to score at will, but he also really excelled as a shot blocker in this game. Smith did a great job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He showed a knack for making threes and mid-range jumpers, particularly off the dribble, and he can use quick jab step moves to effortlessly score the basketball.  He also is a crafty scorer that would use his smarts and ball fakes to draw plenty of fouls on his defenders in order to frequently get to the free throw line.

Plus, he also excelled as a scorer on fast breaks.  He was able to drive up the court to score on a smooth layup in transition.  Smith also ran the floor to score on a fast break dunk.  He tended to favor going to his left, and he was able to score on a strong drive to the hoop while getting fouled early on.  However, sometimes he would be too predictable in going to his dominant hand on half-court drives, and he ended up having a couple of his shots blocked.

Also, Smith displayed perhaps adequate playmaking skills.  Smith is a tall, very athletic forward that can handle the basketball, and sometimes he would throw passes off the dribble to find the open man.  He also managed to set an on-ball screen to help his teammate get an open driving lane.  On the downside, he was a bit turnover prone.  He would sometimes struggle to handle the ball when facing significant ball pressure, which would occasionally lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers.  He also tried to rush a pass when he was in the backcourt, and it ended up getting intercepted.

Smith also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass, and he was able to get boards on both ends of the floor.  On the downside, sometimes he would forget to block out, and on one play, he got overpowered and fouled an opponent on a put back.  Plus, Smith played very good defense in this game.  He did a terrific job of blocking shots due to possessing very good athleticism, timing, and instincts.  He was able to swat a couple of jumpers, and also would often swat shots off of drives and direct those balls to his teammates.  Plus, he also would poke balls away and deflect passes to help his team get steals and deflections.  He was active in contesting shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint to force misses, and he also helped chase a shooter off the three-point line to funnel him into the help to allow his team to get a key stop late in the game.  Every once in a while, he would get beat off the dribble when defending drives to the hoop, but usually Smith did a great job of making plays on the defensive end when he was on the floor.

In general, Jabari Smith played very well to help his team get the victory, and he did just about everything well when he was on the floor.  He is a very skilled, versatile player that can really shoot, score, and defend, and he made a convincing case for himself to be the top pick of the 2022 draft.

Alabama’s freshman point guard, J.D. Davison played well in his team’s loss to Auburn, and he also threw down a vicious dunk in the second half of this game.
(Photo:
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press, via Miami Herald)

J.D. Davison also turned in a strong performance, as he especially played well down the stretch in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He particularly thrived as a scorer and facilitator, and he threw down a ferocious dunk to really give his team a boost late in this game. Davison did a good job of scoring off the dribble.  He can finish plays using either hand, and he has great athleticism, as well as good body control and balance to consistently score at the rim.  He used a spin move and a pump fake to score on a tough, fallaway layup while getting fouled.  He also drove quickly to the hoop and threw down a thunderous dunk while drawing an extra free throw another time.  He also thrived as a scorer in transition.  On the downside, he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well when he would be further away from the hoop, and he struggled to knock down his outside shots.

J.D. Davison threw down ferocious dunk in the second half of the Auburn-Alabama game.
(Source: Twitter/@stoolbenchmob)

Plus, he also showed off good playmaking skills in this game.  He is a patient player that sees the floor well, and Davison can throw draw in multiple defenders and throw accurate kick-out passes to consistently find open shooters.  He also usually passed the ball well, but he did throw a weak lob pass to a roll man that got intercepted once.

Also, Davison was able to chase down a couple of balls to get a pair of defensive rebounds in this game.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Davison would contest jumpers to force misses.  He also was able to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to get a steal.  He also drew a charge to help his team get a stop late in this match.  On the downside, sometimes he would get beat off the dribble when defending out on the perimeter.  Another time, he gave up too much space to his man, which led his team to give up a three-point basket to his opponent.

In summary, J.D. Davison played very well, and while it seemed that at times he wasn’t aggressive enough on offense, he especially thrived at making plays on both ends of the floor down the stretch.  He is a very athletic playmaker that can reliably run the team, and he also has shown some solid scoring and defensive skills.  He’ll need to improve his jump shot, but Davison is a high-upside prospect that is one of the most athletic players in college basketball, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the lottery of the 2022 draft.

Allen Flanigan put forth a solid performance in his team’s close victory over Alabama.  He didn’t look to take over the game, but he made solid team plays, and his clutch free throw shooting in crunch time helped seal the win for his team. Flanigan did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  He showed a knack for going to his left to score on offense.  He in particular thrived at making mid-range jumpers and scoring in transition, as he was able to score on a floater, and he also scored on a layup on a fast break drive. 

Flanigan also managed to split a double team to score on a smooth layup another time.  On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to score on half-court drives, which would lead to some misses.  He did take a three-point shot in this game, but his lone three-point attempt from beyond the arc ended up missing completely. As a playmaker, he looked to be about average.  Flanigan can throw touch passes to find teammates on the move, and he was able to throw a quick touch pass to get an assist on the break.  He also can pass off the dribble as well as from the post, and he is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man.  Sometimes though, he would have trouble creating separation from his defender when handling the basketball, and he was called for a push off once that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.

He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He also played satisfactory defense, and Flanigan was able to deflect a pass to nearly get a steal once.  Overall, Allen Flanigan played fairly well in his team’s win over Alabama.  He didn’t dominate or knock down threes in this game, but he is an athletic, energetic swingman that played solid team basketball, and his ability to compete and make plays could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider in the second round range of the 2022 draft.

Auburn’s 6-11 sophomore center, Dylan Cardwell played very well in his team’s win over Alabama.  He thrived at making hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he did a good job of scoring, blocking shots, and defending to help his team get the victory. Cardwell showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He thrived at scoring off of put backs and rolls to the rim, and he would throw down powerful dunks to give his team a boost off the bench. 

He also rebounded and defended well when he was on the court.  Cardwell did a great job of grabbing boards on both ends of the floor, and he also showed a knack for blocking shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint, as he would often swat them to his teammates.  He did end up committing a Flagrant 1 foul when rotating to foul an opponent on a fast break drive, as he fouled an opponent to aggressively that time. Overall, Dylan Cardwell is a very athletic, energetic center that played well on both ends of the floor.  He could be a prospect to watch in 2023, and Auburn is a very talented team that could make a deep run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, assuming that there is one this year.

Jaden Shackelford did not play very well in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He didn’t shoot the ball very well, and he struggled to defend quicker players in this game.  He missed too often from beyond the arc, but he was able to make a couple of spot-up threes to help his team down the stretch.  He wasn’t much better off the dribble, but Shackelford was much more comfortable in driving to his left to score, as he also was able to score on a couple of layups around the basket. He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Shackelford was able to drive and in and threw a crisp interior pass to set up a scoring chance for a teammate.  On another play though, he telegraphed a pass that ended up getting deflected off his teammate that led to a turnover.

Plus, Shackelford did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he showed a penchant for chasing down boards to get them for his team.  He struggled defensively, as he would tend to get beat on quick moves off the dribble, which would lead him to allow scores to his opponents.  Overall, Jaden Shackelford didn’t have his best game, but he was able to show some timely shooting in the second half.  He will need to shoot the ball better in games, but his ability to knock down jump shots may make him a borderline second round candidate for the 2022 draft.

Keon Ellis had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He is an athletic, energetic guard that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he was also showed some playmaking and defensive skills in this game. Ellis showed a knack for driving hard to the hoop to draw fouls upon his defenders to frequently get to the free throw line.  He has a good first step off the dribble, and he would absorb the contact and find ways to get fouled by his opponents.  He struggled to consistently knock down threes, but he was able to make a quick, spot-up three off of a pin-down early on.

Also, he displayed fairly average playmaking skills. For the positives, Ellis can throw crisp, accurate passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he also ended up committing a couple of turnovers as well.  Plus, Ellis rebounded the ball very well.  On the downside, he was called for a loose ball foul once when going for an offensive board.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Ellis would jump entry passes to get steals, and he also rotated to poke a ball away to get another.  He also would contest outside shots to force misses.  However, sometimes he would tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Keon Ellis played fairly well, but he was not assertive enough on offense in this game.  On the brought side, he thrived as an athletic slasher and as a help defender in this game.  However, he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well from the outside, and he made more mistakes on the defensive end than he should have made.  He’ll need to be a more consistent performer in games, but his athleticism, motor, and versatility may make him a second round prospect for the 2022 draft.

Alabama’s 6-8, fifth-year senior forward, Noah Gurley played well in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He excelled as an interior player in this game, and he did a terrific job of blocking shots to help his team defensively. Gurley showed a solid ability to score in the post.  He showed the body control, balance, and scoring touch to score around the basket, and he also can use short area dribbles to score on offense.  He also was able to knock down an open, spot-up three off the catch to show off some of his shooting skills.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Gurley was able to make a smooth, drive and kick pass to notch an assist, but he also committed a turnover in this game.  Though he didn’t grab many boards, he was able to leap up to grab a pair of defensive rebounds in this game.  Gurley also played very good defense.  He did a great job of blocking shots off of drives, and he would tend to swat them to his teammates.  He excelled at defending shots in the paint, and he was able to make an impressive chase down block late in this game.

Overall, Noah Gurley thrived as an interior player, as he especially excelled as a shot blocker and defender in this game.  He will need to be a more consistent player in games and trust his outside shot more, but his ability to make hustle plays and defend could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Unfortunately, Auburn’s 7-0 sophomore center, Walker Kessler did not play well at all in his team’s win over Alabama.  He was riddled with early foul trouble, and he just couldn’t get into a groove all game long.  He also struggled with turnovers, and he ended up only taking one shot the entire time he was on the floor. Kessler was able to get the ball around the basket once, which enabled him to score on a powerful dunk.  He struggled to pass or handle the ball in this game, though.  On one good play, when he received the ball in the high post, he swung the ball to a corner shooter to notch an assist.  However, he tended to throw hasty entry passes that ended up getting intercepted.  He also tried to make a play off the dribble, but collided into a defender and was called for a charging foul that time.

He didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to get a board on each of the floor.  Defensively though, he struggled, and he ended up fouling out of this game.  Some of this was due to questionable officiating, but he also seemed to struggle to defend quicker opponents on the court in this game.  For the positives, Kessler was able to break up a lob pass to help his team force a turnover.  He also managed to contest a three-point shot to force a miss.  On the downside, he would have trouble defending opponents off the dribble as he wouldn’t cut off penetration, and he would often commit fouls as a result.  Sometimes, he would defend straight up and still would be called for a foul regardless, but Kessler wasn’t able to bring any of his trademark, shot-blocking prowess with him to this match against Alabama. 

Overall, Walker Kessler did not play very well, and foul trouble ended up plaguing him throughout, as he ended up fouling out in just 12 minutes that he played in this game.  He didn’t make much of an impact when he was on the court, and it only served to raise more questions, as he isn’t especially fast nor quick, and he seemed to struggle to defend against quicker opponents on the floor.  Still, Kessler has played very well this season, and his scoring and shot blocking skills will enable him to get plenty looks from NBA teams in the second round range of the 2022 draft.

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