Evaluating Luguentz Dort and Shamorie Ponds in the First Four
March 21, 2019
by Alan Lu
I took the time to watch a First Four game between Arizona State and St. John’s that took place on March 20th, as this contest featured a couple of potential first round prospects in Arizona State’s freshman guard Luguentz Dort, and in St. John’s junior guard, Shamorie Ponds. Arizona State jumped on St. John’s early on, and while the Red Storm tried to make a comeback in the second half, the Sun Devils proved to be too much as they were led by the strong play of Luguentz Dort and Zylan Cheatham to get the win. Here are my thoughts on how Dort, Ponds, Cheatham, and Mustapha Heron played, as well as how they may rate as prospects for the NBA.
Arizona State’s freshman guard, Luguentz Dort played very well in his team’s win over St. John’s. He excelled at attacking the basket to score often, and he also showed some playmaking skills, and played solid defense in this game. He did struggle with his three-point shot and with some turnovers, but he is an athletic, high motor player that played well on both ends of the court.
Dort did a good job of scoring on drives to the basket. He has a good first step to the hoop, and he would often draw free throws on his opponents. He was able to score on an acrobatic, up and under layup off of a high post drive, and he can routinely get past his man off the dribble. He also has good strength and body control, which allows him to take on the contact to get tough scores in traffic, and he was able to excel out on the break, but sometimes he can be off-balanced when he takes shots, which can lead to misses. Also, he showed a knack for scoring off of backdoor cuts, and he also managed to score on a nifty layup on one such play.
However, he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers. Dort can make pull-up jumpers from both mid-range and beyond the arc, but he had trouble continually knocking down pull-up or spot-up threes. But when he was able to make his jump shots, it would open things up for him on offense and allow his team to have better floor spacing. On the plus side, he used a crossover and a step back move to make a pull-up, mid-range jumper, and he handles the ball well that allows him to create separation between himself and his defender.
On the downside, Dort was quite turnover prone in this game. Most of them came in the post-collision with Mustapha Heron early in the second half after being accidentally low-bridged while coming down with the defensive rebound. Dort had made good passes prior to that moment, as he can kick balls out to shooters, throw accurate interior passes, and he handles the ball well, and he also made some good passes afterwards. But after colliding with Heron, Dort was briefly knocked out of the game before returning, made ended up throwing a slew of lazy passes that ended up getting picked off by defenders.
He also was able to get his fair share of boards when he was on the floor, and Dort will go hard for defensive rebounds due to possessing very good athleticism and motor to do so. Also, Dort played solid defense. He is a rangy defender that excelled at playing passing lanes, and he would often jump passes to get steals. Dort also can deflect passes, and he has very good hands to catch balls thrown his way. He also managed to backtap an opponent from behind to nearly force another turnover, and he also managed to contest a three to force a miss. But sometimes, he may not always be in position, which can lead him to allow scores on off-ball motion plays, and he also was called for committing a foul on a three-point shooter late in this match.
In general, Luguentz Dort had a solid showing to help get Arizona State the win, as his team was able to defeat St. John’s to advance to the 1st Round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, where they will face Buffalo in the West region. Dort is an athletic, physical specimen that can get to the basket often to garner scores, and he also is a skilled playmaker that can play either backcourt position. He will need to be a more consistent shooter and focused player in games, but he is a very talented player that could end up being selected by an NBA team in the mid to late first round range of the upcoming draft.
St. John’s junior point guard, Shamorie Ponds put forth a fairly good performance in his team’s loss to Arizona State in the First Four. Ponds consistently knocked down shots, and he can make them from anywhere on the court. He also made some solid defensive plays, and he was consistently his team’s best player in this game. Ponds did a fairly good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team on offense. He can make contested pull-up threes from way out, and he has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off. He also managed to draw three free throws on a deep three, but sometimes he would be streaky with his jump shot, as he also wound up missing plenty of outside shots during the middle portion of this contest.
He also is a good post-up guard, as he possesses solid strength, footwork, and shooting touch to excel as a scorer on the block. Ponds was able to successfully back down his man to score on a left-handed, turnaround jump hook over a defender. Plus, Ponds can score off of cuts and in transition, and he was able to score on a high-flying dunk after getting a steal early on. He also showed an adequate ability to get scores off the dribble. Ponds has a good first step to get to the hoop, and handles the ball well. He can draw plenty of free throws on his defenders, but he also had some trouble getting some of his shots to fall, as he can struggle to score in traffic when looking to score inside the arc.
Plus, Ponds displayed adequate playmaking skills. He can get his teammates the basketball, as he can kick balls out to shooters, and he also can find teammates in transition to set up scores for them, but sometimes, he can be inaccurate with his passes, which can lead him to occasionally commit turnovers. While he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Ponds was able to get a board on each end of the floor, and he also managed to run down a ball to nab an offensive rebound once. Ponds also played good defense. He can jump passes and heap on loose balls to get steals, and he also will stay with opposing ball handlers to tightly contest jumpers to force misses. But sometimes, he can be a bit out of position, which can lead him to commit a foul or allow a score every once in a while.
In summary, Shamorie Ponds played well in his team’s loss to Arizona State. He is a quick, agile player that can provide instant offense with his ability to score the basketball. He showed off a solid ability to shoot the basketball as usual, but he also showed that he can post up to score on the block. Ponds may need to work on being a more dynamic playmaker to get the rest of his teammates more involved on offense, but he is a gifted scorer that could end up being a good value pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.
Arizona State’s redshirt senior forward, Zylan Cheatham played fairly well in his team’s First Four win over St. John’s. He made a variety of shots on offense, and he also rebounded and defended well in this game. Cheatham showed an adequate ability at scoring on drives as well as in the post. He is an agile combo forward that can quickly get to the rim, and he also can draw extra free throws after scoring on strong drives to the hoop. He also was able to use a quick hesitation move before scoring on a drive while getting an extra free throw once.
He also was able to knock down an open corner three, and Cheatham showed that he can make spot-up three-point shots off the catch, but he also struggled to make mid-range jumpers. Also, he was quite turnover prone on offense. On one good play, he threw an interior pass after dribbling in from the high post to find a teammate that led him to notch an assist, but Cheatham was called for committing an offensive foul while backing his man down in the post. He also had a ball poked away that led him to commit another turnover due to carelessness.
Cheatham also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would frequently leap up to get defensive rebounds, and on one play, he was able to push the ball up the floor. He also played very good defense. Cheatham is a long, rangy defender that can make numerous plays on and off the ball, as he was able to block a shot off of a drive as the ball ended up being wedged between the rim and backboard, and he also jumped a pass to get a steal. Cheatham also managed to knock a ball off of an opponent to force another turnover, and he also caught an opponent’s lob pass but landed out of bounds. On the downside, he can be too aggressive as he can be prone to biting on pump fakes. Overall, Zylan Cheatham had a good game in his team’s win over St. John’s. He’s an athletic combo forward that can score in a variety of ways, and he also is a solid defender that can guard a variety of positions. Right now, he may project to be a second round prospect, and if he can improve his jump shot, Cheatham could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.
For St. John’s 6-5 junior guard Mustapha Heron, he did not have a very good game as his team lost to Arizona State. He really struggled to knock down jumpers, and he committed many turnovers on offense. He also almost incidentally injured Luguentz Dort on an unfortunate collision when going for a defensive rebound, as that led Heron to be called for a Flagrant 1 foul that sent Dort’s teammate, Rob Edwards to the free throw line.
Heron did play better in the second half, as he can score and draw free throws on strong drives to the hoop, and he also played fairly good defense. Heron was able to jump a pass and poke a ball away to help his team get steals. He also can defend in the post to force misses, and he also will draw charges when defending opponents off the dribble. However, he showed a penchant for missing jump shots and for turning the ball over, and he ended up fouling out of this game.
He scored 6 points on just 1 of 12 shooting, and that along with committing 4 turnovers and 5 personal fouls was not what Heron had in mind. But even when he had a porous outing, Heron showed that he can still drive hard to the rim, draw fouls on his defenders, and defend in the post and in space. Right now, he will need to be a more consistent shooter and cut down on mental mistakes made in games. If he can do those things, Heron could end up finding his way into the NBA, and perhaps thrive as a role player in the league.