Assessing Lauri Markkanen, Przemek Karnowski, and Others in a Game Between Gonzaga and Arizona

December 4, 2016

by Alan Lu

This game presented the opportunity to not only get a first glimpse of potential lottery pick and Arizona’s freshman forward, Lauri Markkanen’s skill set, but it was also a chance to see how he would perform against some of the best players in college basketball on one of the top teams in the country.

But in the actual game itself, Gonzaga ended up having the upper hand for almost the entire way en route to their victory over Arizona, sans a few moments in the second half when the Wildcats made a late run in attempt to rally from behind.  But Gonzaga generally shot the ball better, had better ball movement, and defended better than Arizona to get the win.  Here are my observations of various prospects on this day.

Arizona’s 7-0 freshman forward, Lauri Markkanen had a fairly uneven performance, as he had his highs and lows in a loss to Gonzaga.  He did score 14 points and he also grabbed 8 rebounds, but he also needed 14 shots to get to that point total, and he missed all of his threes in this game.  Markkanen excelled at scoring on the move.  Early in the game, he scored on a sweeping jump hook off of a quick cut to the hoop.  Plus, he was quite active on the glass, and Markkanen was able to draw plenty of fouls on put backs after grabbing offensive boards for his team.

He showed a decent ability to score on drives.  Markkanen is quick and handles the ball well, and he was able to make a couple of strong moves to garner a couple of scores off the dribble.  But sometimes, he had his shot blocked at times, as he struggled with the length and athleticism of Gonzaga’s freshman forward duo of Zach Collins and Killian Tillie in the first half.

Also, he struggled to consistently knock down jump shots.  Normally a standout shooter, Markkanen had trouble getting his jumpers to fall throughout the game.  He did make one contested, step back, pull-up mid-range shot in the second half, but he generally had trouble making mid-range jumpers or threes against Gonzaga.

He also had trouble operating out of the post. Markkanen had trouble sealing his man or getting deep position in the post, even when he would be guarded by smaller players, as they would push him off the block.  When he did attempt a shot down low, he missed on a turnaround jumper off the glass.

Markkanen also showed off good playmaking skills.  He was fairly unselfish in this game, and he seemed to look for his teammates far more often than the actual guards on his own team.  He made one solid drive and dish pass to a teammate down low to notch an assist.   Markkanen generally was able to find the open man, as he played like a point forward when he was not trying to force up shots in attempt to get his own offense.

He also rebounded the ball fairly well.  Markkanen was quite active on the glass on both ends of the floor, as he would block out his man and leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.  He would chip in to create scoring opportunities off of offensive rebounds, and he also managed to pull down an impressive one-handed defensive rebound after boxing out his man.

Plus, Markkanen displayed adequate defensive skills.  He generally moved his feet well, as he would stay in front of his man to contest shots on drives and cuts to force misses.  Also, Markkanen would hedge quickly out on screens, and he also prevented Karnowski from getting deep post position by using his length, activity, and quickness to front him while cutting off angles for the opposing point guard to throw the entry pass.  He did have a couple of miscues on the defensive end, albeit they were relatively minor.  Markkanen was once called for committing a foul on a drive.  Another time, he was beat off the dribble when defending a high post drive to allow a score.

In general, this was not the best game for Lauri Markkanen, as he generally did not shoot the ball well, but he managed to show off his other skills against Gonzaga.  He is a smart, unselfish player that moves well off the ball, and he will generally look to set up his teammates to get them scores.  Also, he defended much better than anticipated, as he showed both a solid ability to guard opponents out on the perimeter as well as in the post.

He did have some bad moments at times, as he ended up forcing up shots as a result of his teammates not really looking to get him the ball for prolonged stretches.  Markkanen generally struggled when having to operate as a primary shot creator, but he generally played better when he was able to make plays in the natural flow of the game.  Assuming that his shooting woes against Gonzaga were an aberration and not the norm, this game should not hurt Markkanen’s draft stock, as his wide range of skills could allow him to be a likely lottery pick in 2017.

Gonzaga’s 7-1 senior center, Przemek Karnowski had a terrific game as he helped lead his team to a 7-point win over Arizona.  He did an outstanding job of getting deep position to garner many scores in the low post, as his size, strength, and shooting touch enabled him to score often throughout the contest.

He often was able to use his great strength to back his man down considerably, as he usually scored on turnaround jump hooks.  Karnowski also was able to score on a drop step move, but his best move was when he scored on a fadeaway jumper from the post against Arizona’s Chance Comanche.

While Karnowski did not pick up an assist in this game, he did show adequate playmaking skills.  He made sound passes out of the post to find open shooters, and he was able to pass out of a double team to zip a pass all the way crosscourt to an open teammate in the corner.  Karnowski was able to set up a slew of scoring chances, and he also did not turn the ball over in this game.

Also, he showcased good defensive skills against Arizona.  Karnowski’s length and timing enabled to block a couple of shots around the basket, as he made it tough for his opponents to finish shots at the rim.  Karnowski was active in contesting shots, as he would rotate to help defend drives to force misses, and he excelled at defending in the post when opponents would attempt to back him down.

However, there were times where opponents were able to take advantage of his average mobility.  Karnowski struggled to move his feet one time, and ended up allowing a score on a roll to the hoop.  He also committed a touch foul in the post another time.  On a separate occasion, he gave up too much space when defending the post, and allowed a score on a turnaround jump hook.

In general, Przemek Karnowski had a very good game in a win for Gonzaga, as he really dominated opponents in the post, especially when he would get a clean entry pass to catch the ball, and when he was allowed to go one on one with a defender.  When he was doubled, he would make the right pass to keep the ball moving.

On defense, he used his length, timing, and smarts to make plays to block shots and force misses.  Karnowski is a smart, high IQ basketball player that really excels at operating out of the post on both ends of the floor, and his ability to score on the block and make timely passes could make him a worthwhile second round pick for an NBA team in the 2017 draft.

Gonzaga’s junior point guard, Nigel Williams-Goss had a fairly up and down performance in his team’s win over Arizona.  He did score 10 points and he also grabbed 6 rebounds and 3 assists in this game, but he struggled to make shots consistently and had some trouble with turnovers on this day.

Williams-Goss showed a decent ability to garner scores off the dribble.  He managed to score a couple of times off of half-court drives, including one where he scored on a teardrop runner off the baseline.  But he did miss other shots when he would go too fast in attempt to get a score around the basket, or when he would attempt to score in traffic.

He also showed a decent ability to make threes.  Williams-Goss was able to make a pull-up three early in the game.  However, he then missed two other shots despite being open on the floor to hoist up jumpers from long range.

In this game, he displayed average playmaking skills.  He generally made solid interior passes, as he would set up plenty of scoring opportunities, especially when operating as a facilitator off of pick and rolls.  But sometimes, he would play too recklessly, which would lead to some turnovers.  He had a pass that got deflected and then intercepted once.  Another time, he committed a charging foul off of a drive in transition that led to another turnover.

Generally, Williams-Goss rebounded the ball well.  He did a very good job of hauling in defensive boards, as he would race in to get tough boards, and he showed solid instincts to chase them down and to collect them for his team.

In summary, Nigel Williams-Goss had some good moments as he was able to help his team get a hard-earned victory over Arizona.  He was not the most consistent offensive player in this game, but he did a terrific job on the boards to help his team get rebounds.  Right now, he looks to be a bubble candidate for the second round, but if he can consistently shoot the ball well, and make shots like he did against Iowa State, he could be a very interesting player for the NBA.

Other Notes:

Gonzaga’s 7-0 freshman forward, Zach Collins had a very good showing in his team’s 69-62 win over Arizona.  He generally shot the ball well, and excelled as a rebounder and defender throughout this contest.  Collins did a very good job of scoring the basketball.  He excelled as a three-point shooter from long distance, as he was able to knock down an open three off the catch after running off of a curl.

Plus, he excelled as a finisher to score off of motion plays.   Collins scored a couple of times on rolls to the rim, and he was able to throw down an emphatic dunk on one such play.  Also, he was able to catch a high pass when making a cut to the hoop, as he went up strong to get a score around the basket, and drew an extra free throw afterwards.

Generally, Collins displayed decent playmaking skills.  He did a good job of finding the open man to set up a couple of scores for his teammates.  But he did end up committing some turnovers.  One was where he used an overhead ball fake in the post, but the opponent did not bite, as he ended up getting the ball knocked away that time.  On another instance, he threw an errant entry pass that ended up being picked off.  In this game, Collins did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active on the glass, as he used his length, athletic ability, and instincts to haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor.

He also displayed adequate defensive skills.  Collins is long and athletic, and he showed good timing to block a couple of shots, one against Markkanen off of a high post drive, and another on a mid-range shot, as Collins managed managed to keep the ball inbounds as he was able to later throw an accurate outlet pass to a teammate to help set up early offense.

However, Collins did run into some foul trouble.  At times, he would be a bit late on his rotations, and he would try to contest opponents’ shots at the rim, but would end up committing touch fouls around the basket.  Some of these led to allowing scores and the extra free throw afterwards, as Collins would try to contest every shot, but he may have been a bit overly aggressive in doing so on some of the occasions.

In general, Zach Collins had a solid game in a win for his team.  He showed a very intriguing set of skills, as a seven foot tall forward that can make threes, score inside the paint, rebound and block shots, and run the floor could be a great fit for today’s NBA.  With his unique skill set, he could be a very interesting prospect for the 2017 draft or for future drafts down the road.

Arizona’s 6-8 junior forward, Keanu Pinder put forth a solid performance in a loss to Gonzaga.  He made his presence felt first by rotating quickly from the blind side to swat a shot on Collins to prevent him from scoring on a dunk off of a roll to the rim.  Also on defense, he was able to steal a ball from an opposing ball handler in this game.

He also was fairly active as a finisher around the basket.  Pinder was able to score on a put back, and he also drew plenty of free throws after getting the ball in the post.  He has very good hands, and he showed a great ability to catch the ball in traffic.

But all of his scores were in the paint, he had zero assists, and he also ran into some foul trouble at times in this game.  Pinder was mostly an inside player, but he struggled to rebound the basketball consistently against Gonzaga.

Right now, Pinder is a very athletic, energy player that could perhaps end up being a defensive specialist in the NBA.  Currently, he will need to significantly improve on offense though, as he is a big man that has the size of a small forward, but he does not appear to have a whole lot of perimeter skills on offense.  Pinder is a terrific shot blocker, and he could end up being a versatile defensive player at the next level, but he could also benefit by staying at Arizona for his senior year to polish up his game, especially on offense.

Gonzaga’s sophomore point guard, Josh Perkins continues to be a very effective playmaker at the collegiate level, as he put forth another solid performance to lead his team to a big win over Arizona.

Generally, Perkins shot the ball well, as he made spot up and pull-up threes, and he was a care taker for his team on offense.  He also played solid defense, as he has quick hands to get knock balls away from opposing ball handlers to get steals.  He also showcased his excellent motor by grabbing an offensive rebound past an opponent, and he managed to draw free throws on a put back.

In summary, Josh Perkins may not be a very flashy player, but he is a smart, cerebral point guard that has the skills to help a team win at the collegiate level.  He is a good shooter that can make shots efficiently, he is a solid playmaker, and he also plays good defense.  He does not possess overwhelming athletic ability, but his skills and smarts could help him get to the NBA whenever he opts to declare for the draft.

For Arizona’s freshman guard duo of Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins, it was not really a great night for them.  But among the two, Alkins fared better as he had a decent 2nd half showing to help his team stay in the game.

It was particularly a disastrous outing for Arizona’s 6-5 freshman combo guard, Kobi Simmons.  He struggled to make shots off the dribble consistently, as he kept attempting tough shots in traffic.

Simmons also struggled to make jumpers, as he would generally settle for the long, pull-up mid-range jumper, and he also missed the two three-point attempts that he hoisted up.

He also displayed below average playmaking skills.  He tended to rush his decisions, as he threw an errant pass that was picked off that led to his first turnover, and he lost the ball on a spin move that led to another.  Simmons occasionally would find the open man, but he tended to fade into the background, and he would generally force up contested shots that resulted in misses when he was active offensively.

Simmons also was not very active on the boards, either, as he collected just one rebound in under 30 minutes of play when he was out on the court.

Surprisingly though, he did play good defense when he was zoned in.  Simmons showed solid defensive skills early, as he managed to jump a couple of weakly thrown passes to obtain steals.  Plus, he was able to draw a charge on an opponent’s drive to the  hoop.  However, he also tended to bite on pump fakes, which led to his team allowing three-point baskets to the opposition.

In general, the much anticipated viewing to see Kobi Simmons play against Gonzaga turned out to be a massive disappointment.  He did not play well at all offensively, and he was an absolute non-factor on the boards.  He did not show great basketball IQ, and he tended to be too inactive, especially on offense.

But if there was a silver lining here, it was that he can play great defense when he is focused, and he is a good athlete that has the speed and acceleration to excel as a scorer in the future.  If this was supposed to be Simmons’ showcase though, it looks as though he may need more time in school to polish up his skill set before he can declare himself ready to play in the NBA.

Rawle Alkins had the better game of the two, as the 6-4 guard scored 16 points, and had 7 rebounds, though he needed 15 shots to get to that point total.  Still, his strong second half play was encouraging, as he could end up being a key performer for Arizona later this season.

Alkins excelled at scoring on the move.  He did a very good job of scoring off of a cut as well as off put backs, as he showed a strong ability to score in traffic off of motion plays.

He also did a good job of shooting the basketball when he would elect to do so.  Alkins excelled at scoring on pull-up mid-range jumpers, and he showed a decent ability to make threes off the catch.

While he showed a decent ability to score on drives, he appeared to try to do so too much.  While he does have the strength and a decent step to finish plays off the dribble, Alkins tended to play out of control, especially when he would attempt to score in traffic.  He would generally force up difficult shots which would lead to some awkward misses around the hoop.

Alkins also showcased below average playmaking skills.  While he made one good pass to a roll man to set up one scoring opportunity, Alkins showed a general unwillingness to pass the basketball for pretty much the entire contest.  In addition, he committed a couple of turnovers due to recklessness.

Unlike Simmons though, Alkins did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active on the glass on both ends of the floor, and it was clear that his strength, ball skills, and instincts served him well in collecting rebounds for his team.

He also showcased adequate defensive skills.  Alkins was able to jump a pass and find a loose ball to collect a couple of steals.  But on one play, he was late to rotate to a shooter, as he allowed his opponent to make an open three that time.

In summary, Rawle Alkins showed off scoring skills and some defensive prowess, and he was the much better rebounder between him and Simmons.  But he tended to force the issue on offense, especially in the first half, which led to plenty of misses and turnovers.  If Alkins can be more of a team player, and let the game come to him rather than try to do too much, it could benefit him much more as it may help his shot selection and playmaking ability in the future.

Gonzaga’s 6-4 senior guard, Jordan Mathews had a decent game.  While he had a pedestrian stat line of scoring 10 points on 9 shots, while collecting 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist in a win over Arizona, he show off some interesting skills.

He showed a fairly decent ability to shoot the basketball, as he made a couple of pull-up threes early in the game.  However, he was quite streaky as a shooter in this contest, as he was unable to make a third three as the game wore on.

Mathews also showed off the ability to score off the dribble, as he was able to score on a graceful drive to the hoop.  Plus, he displayed good defensive skills, as he was able to jump passes to collect steals.

Right now, Jordan Mathews may be a long shot to be drafted, but his athleticism, scoring ability, and potential to be a 3 and D player in the NBA could make him a viable candidate for Portsmouth when the season ends.

Arizona’s 6-3 senior combo guard, Kadeem Allen showed off a solid ability to score off the dribble, and he was able to block a shot in the paint early in the game.  He is a good athlete that can score the basketball, as he is an aggressive driver to the hoop.   He also was able to make a long, pull-up two-point shot in this game.

But, he did not attempt a three, and frequently had trouble with turnovers and fouls against Gonzaga.  Allen may be a long shot to be drafted, but his athleticism and scoring ability could get him looks from teams as he could be a candidate to be on an NBA summer league roster.

Arizona’s 6-11 sophomore center, Chance Comanche was mostly a non-factor against Gonzaga.  He is a good athlete that ran the floor to make a tough catch in transition, but he missed the shot wildly around the basket.  He did score on a turnaround jumper in the post, though.

However, Comanche rarely got many chances to score on offense, did not come away with many rebounds in this game, and he also did not block a shot on the defensive end.   When he was tasked to defend Karnowski, he struggled significantly, as Karnowski would use his size, strength, and shooting touch to continuously score over him on the block.

In general, Chance Comanche is rated by some as a potential second round pick for the 2017 NBA Draft.  But it seems clear in this game that he is far from being a polished player.  Comanche was not often active on offense or on the boards, nor was he much of a presence defensively.  Right now, he will need to focus on getting playing time and staying in the lineup in order to progress as a player, but he may have a long way to go before being a serious prospect for the NBA.