Observing Ja Morant, Austin Wiley, and Chuma Okeke
December 24, 2018
by Alan Lu
I decided to take the time to watch Ja Morant and Murray State take on the Auburn Tigers in a non-conference, college basketball game that took place on December 22nd, as this featured numerous prospects that could get selected in the upcoming NBA draft. It was a very competitive back and forth game in which teams traded leads, but in the end, Auburn managed to hold on to get the win. Many players played well in this contest, including Morant. Here are my thoughts on how the various prospects fared in this match, as well as how their skills may translate to the NBA.
Murray State’s 6-3 sophomore point guard, Ja Morant had a very good showing in his team’s loss to Auburn. He excelled at attacking the basket to get numerous scores and assists to help his team, and he also rebounded and defended well. Plus, he also shot the ball early on, as he was able to show off some range early in this game. Morant did a very good job of scoring on speedy drives to the hoop. He has a good set of dribble moves he can use to get past his man, and he also can often get to the free throw line due to possessing great speed, ball handling skills, and body control to do so. He also utilized a behind the back dribble move to score on a nifty floater. In addition, Morant was able to score on an emphatic dunk on the break, and he also managed to score and draw an additional free throw off of another drive in transition, but sometimes, he may rush his shots, which can lead him to miss occasionally in traffic.
Also, he excelled at scoring off of cuts against Auburn. Morant was able to get the ball on one backdoor cut, and he was able to score on a crafty, double-pump layup at the rim. In addition, he also made a nice play another time by drawing free throws on a put back after getting an offensive board for his team. Early in the game, Morant showed off the ability to knock down jumpers, but he struggled to consistently make them from long-range as the game wore on. Early on, he was able to make a deep three from well beyond the arc. He also was able to make a long two-point shot from just inside the arc. However, he had a tendency to miss on pull-up threes afterwards, and he even attempted a pump fake, step-through three-point shot from way out that ended up missing. Morant struggled with his outside shot, but it seemed that he forced some of them up as his shot selection was suspect at times.
Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills. Morant is an unselfish player that can quickly get to spots to create scoring chances for his teammates, and he can get them the ball in a variety of ways. He can kick the ball out to shooters to get assists, and he also throws solid outlet passes out in transition as well. He is a creative playmaker that can subtly get them the basketball in prime spots to score. But Morant was also turnover prone in this game as he tended to throw inaccurate passes that would go astray and he had a handful of them that ended up getting intercepted.
He also rebounded the ball very well in this game. Morant showed a knack for hauling in boards on both ends of the floor as he can leap up to get numerous defensive rebounds, and he also can get tough rebounds in traffic. Morant also played adequate defense. He is an active help defender that can get steals and blocks, and he can make numerous plays on the ball. Morant managed to jump a pass to get a steal, and he also was able to recover to block a shot off of a drive another time due to possessing very good speed, leaping ability, and timing to do so. Plus, he also can tip passes to make it difficult for his opponents to cleanly get their passes through.
However, he can be undisciplined at times, which can lead him to be out of position defensively. On one play, he whiffed on a steal attempt, and allowed his man to score on an open three-point shot. On a separate occurrence, he sagged too far his man, which led him to give up a three-point basket. On another possession, he ended up getting beat off the dribble, which allowed his opponent to make a pass that led to a corner three score.
In general, Ja Morant had a very good showing against Auburn, as he played well in virtually all facets of the game to help his team on both ends of the floor. He is a speedy, athletic point guard that can get numerous scores off of drives and cuts, and he also is an unselfish playmaker that has good court vision. He will need to improve his jump shot and play with more focus consistently in games, but Morant is a tremendously talented player that could be a likely lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
Auburn’s 6-11 junior center, Austin Wiley also had a strong performance in his team’s win over Murray State. He excelled as a low post scorer and rebounder when he was on the floor, and he provided an interior presence that made it tough for his opponents to stop in the paint. Wiley did a very good job of scoring in the post. He had a knack for scoring on turnaround jumpers and jump hooks, and he also would score on drop step moves due to possessing the strength, mobility, and shooting touch to do so. In addition, Wiley can score on hustle plays, as he was able to score on a tip-in off of an offensive board, and he also ran the floor to score in transition.
He also showed off fairly average playmaking skills. While he looked to score quite often, Wiley can pass from the post to set up scoring chances for his teammates. Adding to that, he also did not commit a single turnover in this contest. Also, Wiley excelled at hauling in boards, especially on the offensive end, to get many rebounds for his team against Murray State. Wiley would often leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor. But there was one time where he didn’t block out, and he ended up committing a foul on a put back.
Defensively, he looked to be about average. Wiley was able to contest a shot in the post to force a miss. However, on one play, though he rotated to help a teammate on a drive, he ended up getting beat off the dribble, which led his team to allow the basket. In summary, Austin Wiley played very well, and he is a strong, physical big man that can get numerous points and rebounds to help his team in the paint. He is a solid low post scorer, and while he may need to improve his face-up game, Wiley is a productive player that could be a find for an NBA team in the second round range on draft day.
Auburn’s 6-8 sophomore forward, Chuma Okeke put forth a good performance in his team’s win over Murray State. Okeke showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also played terrific defense to help get his team the victory. Okeke excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He was able to fly in to score on a tip-in, and he also managed to score on a put back after grabbing an offensive board. He also was able to get the ball on a cut, and then posted up to utilize an overhead ball fake to get a score and an extra free throw afterwards. Okeke also was able to use a shoulder fake to score on a right handed jump hook after posting up on the block, all while getting an additional free throw as well. However, he struggled at the foul line, as he was unable to make any of his free throws against Murray State.
He also did a good job of knocking down spot-up threes to space the floor, as he can take advantage of opponents giving him the space to shoot the basketball. Okeke also attempted to score on a drive, but ended up missing in traffic, and he also missed when attempting a baseline, mid-range jumper another time. However, Okeke was quite turnover prone in this game. For the positives, Okeke would make the extra pass to keep the ball moving, and he was able to throw an accurate entry pass to get one assist. However, he had a tendency to commit turnovers due to carelessness. He was called for committing an offensive foul once as he may have pushed off the ball to do so. Another time, Okeke ended up getting the ball poked away by an opponent when taking the ball to the rim off of a drive to lose it to the opposition. He also was caught shuffling his feet on a pass, which led him to commit another turnover.
He also helped out on the boards, as he was able to get multiple rebounds on both ends. Okeke also played great defense. He showed a knack for getting steals, as he would often intercept passes to do so, and he also ran in to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to force another turnover. He also did a tremendous job of blocking shots, particularly off of drives, and he also swatted a three-point shot, and he is a solid athlete that would tend to make timely rotations and show good agility to do so. He also was able to contest a shot in the post to force a miss, but there was one play where he committed a foul on a drive in transition, which led his team to allow a score and an extra free throw. Overall, Chuma Okeke had a solid showing, and in this game, he was able to help his team in many different ways to get his team the win. He is a versatile, fill-in-the-blanks type of player that could project into a 3 and D role at the next level, and he could be a good value pick for a team in the late first to the second round range whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft.
Auburn’s 5-10 junior point guard, Jared Harper quietly played well in his team’s win over Murray State. He excelled as a facilitator when he was on the floor, and he is a quick, agile playmaker that can get his teammates the ball in a variety of ways. He also did a fairly good job of getting scores off the dribble and was also able to make a couple of deep threes, but he struggled to knock down outside shots consistently from beyond the arc. Plus, he played decent defense, and he was able to successfully draw a charge when defending an opponent off the dribble. Overall, Jared Harper was able to get a double-double in Auburn’s victory in this game, and he is a smart, reliable distributor that could help an NBA team at the next level in a backup role, as he may project to be a second round pick for the upcoming draft.
Murray State’s 6-5 redshirt freshman guard, Tevin Brown played very well, as he scored 19 points, made 5 threes, and hauled in 10 rebounds in his team’s loss to Auburn. He excelled at scoring on spot-up threes to space the floor on offense, and he showed a knack for making corner three-pointers. He also was able to make a quick three in transition, and he also ran off of a screen to score on another quick three-point shot. Brown also showed a solid ability to score on pull-up, baseline mid-range jumpers. Also, he rebounded the ball very well, and he was able to get a couple of steals on the defensive end. In summary, Brown is a smart, skilled basketball player that excelled as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder in this game, and he also was able to make some solid defensive plays. Right now, he might not have much draft buzz, but he could be a player to keep an eye on in the future.
Murray State’s 6-3 senior guard, Shaq Buchanan played very well in this game against Auburn. He did a tremendous job of running the floor, as he would often leap up to score on alley-oop dunks to bolster his team’s offense. He also showed a gifted ability to score on threes, as he can do so off the catch or dribble. However, sometimes he would look to do too much off the dribble, which would lead him to commit some turnovers.
In general, Buchanan is a very athletic combo guard that excelled as a shooter and scorer to help his team stay in the game all the way until the end. He also possesses a good motor, and he would compete relentlessly on both ends of the floor. Buchanan may be a long shot to be drafted, but he may have the skills to end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster either in 2019 or sometime down the road.
Auburn’s 6-4 redshirt sophomore guard, Samir Doughty played very well, as he gave his team a boost to help his team get the win over Murray State. He did a great job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop, and he also would knock down spot-up threes to help his team space the floor. He is an athletic, skilled player that excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game, and Doughty could be a player to watch in the future.
Auburn’s 6-3 senior guard, Bryce Brown also played well against Murray State. He excelled as a shooter on offense, and he showed a penchant for making spot-up threes off the catch. He also ran the floor to score on an emphatic jam in transition. However, he did also commit some turnovers due to carelessness. Overall, Brown is a skilled player that shoots the ball well, and he could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster in 2019.
Murray State’s 6-8 junior big man, Darnell Cowart played fairly well in this game against Auburn. He was active as a scorer off of put backs, and he did a great job of scoring off of hustle plays. Also, he was able to intercept a pass to get a steal, and he managed to drive up the court to score on a nifty layup on the break. He also played fairly good defense, and he showed a very good ability to play passing lanes and poke balls away to get steals for his team. Overall, Cowart played well in his team’s loss to Auburn, and he is a player that has a game that may be similar to former Boston Celtics’ forward, Glen Davis. He has been a solid role player for Murray State, and he could be a player to keep an eye on in 2020.
Auburn’s 6-7 junior forward, Anfernee McLemore had some good moments in his team’s win over Murray State, though he did have his struggles early on. He was not much of a factor in the first half, but he played well in the second half when the game was on the line. McLemore can make a variety of shots to help his team on offense. He made a spot-up three off of a pick and pop play, and he also scored on a put back dunk. He also played fairly good defense. McLemore was able to intercept a pass to get a steal, and he also did a great job of positioning himself to draw charges in order to prevent opponents from getting easy scores in the paint. However, he also had a tendency to commit fouls when defending drives inside the paint.
Overall, McLemore is an energetic, athletic combo forward that can make plays on both ends of the floor, but sometimes he can be too passive on offense. He also will need to improve his jump shot and find ways to stay away from foul trouble. He has not had a great season so far as his numbers seem to be down across the board, but McLemore could project into being a defensive specialist in the NBA similar to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Andre Roberson in the league.