Assessing Walker Kessler, Jabari Smith, and Allen Flanigan in the Auburn-LSU Game

January 1st, 2022

By Alan Lu

Happy new year, everybody!  In welcoming you to the new year, I have decided to take the time to watch Auburn’s 6-10 freshman forward Jabari Smith and 7-0 sophomore center, Walker Kessler play in a December 29th game against LSU in an SEC basketball game.  Smith has been having a superb season, and is a supremely talented player that is in the number one overall pick conversation, but Walker Kessler stole the show in this game, as he had a triple-double, as he scored 16 points, had 10 rebounds, and he also blocked a whopping 11 shots to lead Auburn to get the win over LSU.  Here are my thoughts on how Kessler, Smith, and other various prospects fared on this day.

Auburn’s 7-0 sophomore center Walker Kessler notched a triple-double, which included him blocking 11 shots in his team’s December 29th win over LSU.
(Photo:
Butch Dill/Associated Press, via Star Tribune)

Walker Kessler had a terrific showing in his team’s double-digit win over LSU.  He provided a strong interior presence for his team, and he especially thrived as a shot blocker and defender to lead his team to get the victory. Kessler showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays.  He excelled at scoring off of cuts, rolls, and put backs, and he can absorb the contact to score and get extra free throws.  He ran off of a curl cut to get the ball once, and he then split a double team to score and draw the foul that time.  He also caught a lob pass off of a roll and then scored on a powerful, alley-oop dunk.

He also shot the ball well, as he was able to make an open, spot-up three off the catch to showcase his shooting skills.  He also did a decent job of scoring in the post.  Kessler was able to score on a smooth, turnaround fadeaway jumper from outside the left elbow area.  He also managed to score on a powerful dunk.  He missed on a left-handed jump hook, and he also missed another shot short in traffic, as he may sometimes not display enough touch on his shot and can get caught in a tough situation at times on offense.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Kessler was able to swing a ball quickly to an open shooter to notch an assist.  He also set a solid on-ball screen to help enable his teammate to get open driving lanes.  On the downside, when posting up once, he threw a hasty, rushed pass back that got intercepted.  He also dropped a catchable pass another time that led to another turnover.

Also, Kessler did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor.  On one play though, he was called for committing an over the back foul on an offensive rebound attempt.  He also played terrific defense in this game.  He did an excellent of blocking shots, as he possesses good length, timing, and instincts.  He would rotate to emphatically swat shots, and he has good recovery speed that allows him to make impressive chase down blocks.  He also can stay with his opponents when defending out on the perimeter, and he can swat jump shots to his teammates.  He also has good strength to hold his ground when defending in the post, and he is a good position defender that will swat shots when he is defending in the paint.  Plus, he also showed that he can ably contest and block shots when defending both out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.  Every once in a while though, he would be late on his rotations, which would lead to his team to foul an opponent around the basket.

In general, Walker Kessler played very well in his team’s win over LSU.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he did a tremendous job of blocking shots and defending when he was on the court.  He has really helped himself by having a very strong showing in this game. While he isn’t an overwhelming athlete, his strong interior play and production has really strengthened his case to be drafted this year, and he could be a good pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the 2022 draft.

Auburn’s prodigious 6-10 freshman forward, Jabari Smith didn’t exactly have a flawless game, but he did manage to score 16 points in his team’s December 29th win over LSU.
(Photo:
Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics)

Jabari Smith played fairly well in his team’s win over LSU.  He struggled to make threes consistently and was too turnover prone in this game, but he was much more comfortable in making mid-range jumpers, and he is a very athletic, skilled player that can play all three front court  positions, and he can flat out score the basketball. Smith did a great job of knocking down mid-range jumpers.  He showed a knack for scoring on smooth jumpers from that range, especially off the dribble, and he showed that he can dribble with either hand to score the basketball.  He is a very good pull-up shooter from the mid-range, and he also really excelled at drawing fouls to get to the free throw line.  He also showed that he can lean in and draw fouls upon his defenders in the act of shooting, and on one play, Smith slid his arms underneath a defender to draw a foul, similar to one of Kevin Durant’s go-to moves in order to get to the foul line.

Also, Smith would’ve scored on a strong, powerful dunk from the post, but it didn’t count, because an opponent had committed a foul earlier on the possession.  Smith also used a pump fake prior to driving hard to the hoop, but he ended up getting his shot blocked due to rushing.  On the downside, he was quite turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, he can throw sharp, long outlet passes to find the open man, and he also can ably pass out of the post.  He also threw a high entry pass as he found an open teammate that was around a slew of defenders to set up a score for him, as he threw a nice touch pass that time.  On the downside, he tended to be off-target and inaccurate with his passes, as he would sometimes force his teammates to adjust to get the ball, and other times he would throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.  Smith wasn’t very accurate with his passes for most of the game.  He also would sometimes get into trouble when handling the ball, and when handling it up the court once, he had a ball stolen away from behind.  Another time, a ball slipped out of his hands, as he was about to pass that went out of bounds.

Plus, he also was able to get boards on both ends of the floor to help get his fair share of rebounds.  He also would sometimes aggressively push the ball up the floor after getting defensive rebounds, and he also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team get another. Adding to that, Smith played adequate defense in this game.  He is an active, help defender that can make plenty of plays on the ball.  Smith was able to rotate to block a dunk around the basket.  He also managed to jump on a loose ball to get a steal, and he also poked a ball away to help his team get another.  He did a good job of contested threes and poking balls away, and he also has solid lateral quickness that allows him to cut off penetration when defending opposing ball handlers.  Sometimes though, he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and he would get beat on moves to allow opponents to score on him.  Other times, he would sag too far and would not always contest outside shots in a timely manner, but his opponents often would miss their shots.

In summary, Jabari Smith is a very athletic, skilled combo forward that currently projects to be a top 3 pick in the 2022 draft.  He is a gifted scorer that can do so in a variety of ways, and he is a versatile scorer that possesses a promising outside shot.  He’ll need to improve his passing ability and cut down on his turnovers, but he is a very talented prospect that could project to be a very good player similar to New Orleans Pelicans’ All-Star forward, Brandon Ingram in the NBA.

Allen Flanigan also had a fairly solid showing in his team’s win over LSU.  He is an athletic swingman that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also defended well in this game.  Flanigan shot the ball really well, especially fro downtown.  He showed that he can make threes both off the catch and dribble.  He was able to make a quick trail three over a smaller defender on the break, and he also made a smooth, step-back three while drawing an extra free throw another time. 

He also was able to make a nice rip move to his left to score on a tough, pull-up, mid-range jumper from the baseline.  He also showed that he can score on the break.  Flanigan showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defenders in transition.  He also would’ve scored on an emphatic alley-oop dunk after catching a lob pass, but his teammate had committed an offensive foul earlier on that play.  On the downside, he missed on an aggressive drive in transition another time, as he tried to force the issue too much on that possession.

Also, he was fairly turnover prone on offense.  On one good play, Flanigan threw an accurate lob pass to set up a score for a roll man.  Sometimes though, he would throw careless passes, as he threw an inaccurate pass that led to an over and back violation, and he also threw a lazy pass that was intercepted another time.  He tended to be inaccurate with his passes, and he also committed a couple of ball-handling turnovers.  He was called for traveling early on, and he also committed a charging foul on a post play.  He also would sometimes drop passes that were thrown to him.

Plus, he also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  Flanigan would chase down balls to get boards, especially on the defensive end, and sometimes he would push balls up the court off of defensive boards.  He also would tip balls to help his teammates get extra rebounds.  He also played solid defense in this game.  Flanigan did a great job of getting steals, as he would hustle to jump on loose balls to get steals, and he also intercepted a pass that was thrown right to him.  He also was able to contest a step-back three to force a miss early on.  On one play though, he rotated to cover for a teammate, but also got beat off the dribble, and he ended up committing the foul and allowing the score on that occasion. Overall, Allen Flanigan played fairly well in his team’s win over LSU.  He is an athletic swingman that played well on both ends of the floor, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the 2022 draft.

LSU’s sophomore forward, Tari Eason had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well and was turnover prone, but he played energetically on both ends of the floor, and he was able to make some solid defensive plays at times in this game. Eason was quite active at scoring on hustle plays, and he was at his best when he would look to score in transition.  He would use quick ball fakes to score on aggressive drives in transition.  He also would run the floor and catch passes to score on thunderous dunks on the break.  A couple of times though, he would rush his shots, which would lead him to miss shots in traffic.  He also was able to drive to the hoop, as he took it to the opposing team’s shot blocker to score another time.  On the downside, he didn’t tend to be very clever on his half-court drives, and he would usually get his shots blocked as a result.  He also missed on both of his three-point shots, as he didn’t shoot the ball well when hoisting up jumpers from further out.

Also, Eason was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, he can make drive and kick passes, as he can pass on the move and show good court vision when he plays with patience.  On one play, he used a spin move on a drive and then threw a crafty, wraparound pass to show his passing skills.  On the downside, he generally struggled to handle the ball when pressured, which would lead to ball-handling turnovers.  He had trouble consistently creating separation from his defenders, as he was called for traveling once, and he also was called for pushing off with his off arm to commit an offensive foul and a turnover another time.  He also had a ball stolen away from him as he brought the ball down another time, and he was unable to protect the ball from a defender.

Plus, he also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  Eason was able to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he also brought the ball up off of a defensive board once.  On one play though, he was called for an over the back foul when going for a defensive rebound another time. Eason also played adequate defense in this game.  He is an athletic, energetic defender that can make plenty of plays on the ball, and he especially excelled at blocking shots and forcing turnovers.  He was able to sprint back on defense to steal a ball away from behind, and he also ran in to intercept a loopy pass another time.  He also would apply considerable ball pressure on opposing ball handlers to get them to commit ball-handling and passing turnovers.  He also was able to block a couple of shots, and he also recovered to block a shot off of a drive to a teammate due to possessing good timing, motor, and instincts. 

On the other hand, he also struggled to effectively guard shooters out on the perimeter.  He would be late to contest outside shots, which would lead him to allow baskets to his opponents, and other times, he would over-compensate by closing out too aggressively and would foul opponents on jumpers while they were in the act of shooting.  He also would be too aggressive to contest shots when rotating on drives, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.

Overall, Tari Eason had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Auburn, but he is an athletic, energetic defender that had some solid moments at times in this game.  He was tasked with some important defensive responsibilities, and he would tend to make his opponents work on most possessions.  On the other hand, his offense seemed to be lagging behind when his team would operate in half-court sets, and he was neither an effective shooter nor scorer for most of those plays.   Eason will need to improve his jump shot and ball handling, but his athleticism, motor, and defensive skills could earn him looks from NBA teams in the second round of the 2022 draft.

Darius Days had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He struggled to make shots consistently, but he played fairly good defense and he also showed some shooting skills when he was on the floor. Days was quite streaky with his three-point shot, but he showed that he can make threes off the catch, and he also ran off of a ball screen to knock one down.  He also pivoted and made a smooth, turnaround three at the end of the shot clock midway through this match.  On the downside, he missed too many of his threes.  He also managed to score on a high-flying dunk on a drive in transition.  He also used a ball fake on a right-handed half-court drive, but he ended up getting his shot blocked that time.  He also displayed perhaps above average playmaking skills.  Days would set solid, firm on-ball screens to help his teammates get open driving lanes.

He didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive boards.  Also, Days played solid defense when he was on the court.  He did a good job of contesting and altering shots in the paint to force misses to help his team protect the paint.  He also would get his hands on passes and poke balls away to help his team get steals and deflections.  He also would use his length to contest jump shots to force misses, and he also managed to successfully draw a charge when defending in the post.  On the downside, sometimes he would take bad gambles that would lead him to wind up of position, which would lead his team to be put in scramble situations.  Other times, he would struggle to defend in one-on-one situations.

Overall, Days didn’t have his best game, but he showed a variety of skills in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He will need to shoot better and show that he can consistently create shots for himself and others, especially at higher levels.  Currently, he projects to be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.

LSU’s Xavier Pinson also had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He didn’t shoot well from beyond the arc and he also struggled with turnovers, but he is an athletic, shot creating lead guard that can consistently get to the hoop. Pinson showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He is a strong, quick guard that has a good first step to the hoop, and he did a good job of taking the ball to the rim to score on offense.   He can score in traffic, and he also can absorb the contact to get fouled in order to get to the free throw line.  He also showed a knack for taking on the contact to score on running layups.  Sometimes though, he would miss on tough shots, especially when he wouldn’t get foul calls.  He especially struggled to knock down outside shots, and he didn’t shoot the ball very well when he would look to score from further away from the basket.  He had trouble scoring on mid-range floaters, and he also missed on all of his three-point shots.

Also, he was quite turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, Pinson is a speedy combo guard that can quickly get to the hoop, and he can throw solid passes off the dribble and in transition, and there are times where he demonstrated good court vision with the ball in his hands.  When driving the ball up court, he was able to throw a nifty, no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.  He also showed that he can find his teammates on the move and also make drive and kick passes.  However, he also had trouble handling the ball when facing heavy ball pressure, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers.  He would sometimes mishandle the ball or get it stolen away from him.  He also would commit offensive fouls, as he kicked out his right leg when attempting a three once, and he also drove in and collided into a defender another time.

Also, he did a solid job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would sometimes push the ball aggressively up the court after chasing down defensive boards.  However, he struggled defensively.  For the positives, he is an athletic help defender that can help his team force turnovers.  Pinson was able to intercept a pass that went right to him to get a steal, and he also quickly rotated to poke a ball away from a post player to nearly get another.  He also managed to contest a deep three to force a miss another time.  On the downside, his lack of size made it tough to guard taller opponents, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.  He also had some trouble defending opponents off the dribble, as he wouldn’t always stay in front of his man.  Another time, he fought too high over the screen and trailed the opposing ball handler, which led him to give up the basket that time.

Overall, Xavier Pinson didn’t have a great game, but he showed that he can score on strong drives to the hoop, and he also helped out on the glass to help his team get rebounds.  He will need to improve his jump shot and show that he can reliably run the point.  Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted, but he is an athletic combo guard that could compete for a roster spot in the NBA someday, especially if he can significantly improve as an overall player and hone his game over time.

Auburn’s sophomore point guard, Wendell Green had a decent showing in his team’s win over LSU.  He generally excelled as a scorer on offense.  He struggled with turnovers, but he is a strong, mobile guard that was able to score quite often off the bench.  He did a good job of scoring on strong drives to the hoop, and he has good strength, balance, and body control to finish plays around the basket.  He can score on crafty layups, and he can contort his body in ways while still being able to score at the rim.  He also was able to make a pull-up three, and he also drew three free throws on a crafty, step-back three.  On the downside, Green was a bit too streaky with his shot at times, and he especially struggled to score when taking mid-range jumpers off the dribble.

He displayed fairly average at best playmaking skills.  Green is an unselfish player that at times can throw nice passes and find teammates on the move.  On the downside, he can sometimes play too wildly and out of control, and he would sometimes rush his moves that would lead him to commit a slew of turnovers.  Also, Green did a good job of rebounding the basketball. 

He also played average defense at best.  For the positives, Green is an agile help defender that showed a knack for stealing balls away from opposing ball handlers to get steals.  Sometimes though, he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and opponents would sometimes outmuscle him on drives to the hoop.  He also would take bad gambles at times, and commit fouls as a result. Overall, Wendell Green excelled as a scorer and rebounder, but he also was turnover prone in this game.  He’ll need to cut down on his turnovers, but his ability to score and run a team could make him a prospect to keep tabs on in the future.

I also wanted to see if LSU’s very athletic, 6-8 freshman forward, Alex Fudge would be the X-factor in this game.  Unfortunately, he did not play very well at all against Auburn, and he especially struggled on offense.  He didn’t take many shots, and Fudge air-balled an open corner three off the catch.  That was his lone field goal attempt, and Fudge often had trouble getting involved nor was very successful in being able to create his own shots up on offense.

He also was fairly turnover prone in this game.  Fudge was called for traveling on a left-handed drive, as he shuffled his feet that time.  He also tried to score on a drive in transition, but he had the ball stolen away from him on a spin move.  He generally struggled to handle or protect the basketball, and he will need a point guard that can get him better shots on offense.  Also, Fudge may be better suited to playing in a motion offense where they can utilize his athleticism to try to score on off-ball motion plays.

Fudge was fairly active on the glass, and he was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive boards.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  Fudge was able to deflect a pass to nearly get a steal, and he also would contest outside shots as well as a shot off of a put back to force misses.  He also helped double and press an opposing ball handler in the backcourt, as he applied solid ball pressure to help force his opponent to commit a ball-handling turnover.  On the downside, sometimes he would give up too much space to his opponents or take bad gambles defensively, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, this was quite a disappointing game for Alex Fudge, and he didn’t really do very much overall in his team’s loss to Auburn.  He rarely touched the ball on offense, and he was ineffective when he would look to make a play or try to score on that side of the ball.  Right now, Fudge’s defense is ahead of his offense.  In the meantime, he’ll need to improve his jump shot and playmaking skills.  He’ll likely need to stay in school for at least another season to do so, but his athleticism and motor could make him a borderline second round candidate if he were to enter the 2022 draft.

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