Observing Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, and Jordan Bell in the 2nd Final Four Game

April 2, 2017

By Alan Lu

In the second game of the Final Four, North Carolina and Oregon squared off for the right to advance to the title game.  It was a close game that came down all the way to the wire, but ultimately it was North Carolina’s superb rebounding that helped them win the game, as Oregon was unable to get a rebound off of the Tar Heels’ free throw misses.  In this match, Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks appeared to play the best, while Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell, and Dylan Ennis played fairly well for Oregon.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, and how they rate for the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-8 junior swingman, Justin Jackson put forth a strong all-around performance, as he really excelled as a shooter and scorer, he played unselfishly, and he also played outstanding defense to get his team a narrow victory over Oregon.  Jackson did a great job of shooting the basketball to space the floor for his team.  He really excelled at making quick threes off the catch and dribble, as he can knock them down in transition as well as in the corner.  He has great size to play out on the wing which enables him to shoot over the top of most defenders, and he also has a quick release that makes his shot almost unguardable from beyond the arc.

Plus, he also did a very good job of getting scores off the dribble as well as in transition.  Jackson has a good first step, and he was often able to score on smooth runners off the dribble.  Also, he would draw plenty of free throws on fast break drives to the hoop, as Jackson possesses great speed in the open floor.

He also showcased decent playmaking skills.  Jackson is an unselfish passer that will make the extra pass, and he would find shooters and throw entry passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  But sometimes, he would force passes into traffic that would get intercepted.  Another time, he drove baseline, but ran out of space, and tried to pass, but got the ball deflected off of him to commit another turnover.

Also, he was trapped and doubled by the opposition in the backcourt, and he ended up airmailing a pass that sailed out of bounds.  Jackson sometimes tries to play it too safe, as he will tend to pick up his dribble if he is trapped in the back court, as his perhaps unwillingness to create plays on his own may make him less suited to be a go-to scorer in the NBA, and more suited to being a role player at the next level.

Jackson played excellent defense, as he is a really long, athletic swingman that can defend opposing point guards, wing players, and maybe even big men due to his versatility.  He did a great job of defending Dorsey when he was matched up on him, and he made it tough for his man to make his way into the paint.  Jackson also really excelled at defending Brooks, as he would often force him to miss awkwardly on drives to the hoop.

Plus, Jackson did a great job of quickly jumping passes to get steals, and he would drive up the court to create fast break scoring chances for his team.  Also, he managed to block a shot off of a drive due to possessing very good timing on that play.  With his length, athleticism, and instincts, Jackson is a very rangy defender that could end up being a defensive stopper in the NBA.  In general, Justin Jackson played very well, as he really excelled on both ends of the floor.  He put forth a strong showing in a Final Four win over Oregon, and he could be a solid candidate to be drafted in the lottery by an NBA team for the upcoming draft.

North Carolina’s senior big man, Kennedy Meeks also played very well, as he had a terrific game in his team’s win over Oregon.  He did great work on the glass, and he really excelled as an inside scorer to help get the Tar Heels the victory.  Meeks did a terrific job of scoring off offensive rebounds, as he scored on many put backs and tip ins, including one where he threw down a powerful put back slam early in the second half.  Plus, he also excelled at scoring on cuts to the hoop, as he would catch tough passes to score in traffic.

Also, Meeks showed off very good low post scoring skills.  He managed to score on a fade away jumper, and he also has a quick spin movie n his arsenal.  He has great hands to catch tough passes, as that enables him to get strong scores down low.  He also really excelled as a finisher around the basket, as he threw down a thunderous dunk in traffic once.  He also showed adequate playmaking skills.  Meeks made good passes to shooters from the post, and he also did not commit a single turnover in this game.

Plus, he showed an outstanding ability to rebound the basketball.  Meeks is a quick leaper that has a tremendous motor, and he will constantly outwork his opponents to haul in many boards on both ends of the floor.  He is a terrific offensive rebounder that would run down a ball to collect an offensive rebound, and leap up to get other boards, and he was able to score often on second chance points to help his team.

He also played adequate defense.  Meeks showed a knack for getting steals, as he can reach in to rip balls away, including one where he helped trapped a player in the post to get one.  However, he had a tendency to commit fouls on opponents’ drives to the hoop, as he may not always move his feet well at times.

In general, Kennedy Meeks had a terrific showing, as he put forth an outstanding performance to help lift his team to a one-point win over Oregon.  Strangely, despite being a productive player on a national powerhouse, Meeks has flown significantly under the radar.  Still, his strong play could raise his draft stock, and he could be a good pick for an NBA team in the late first round of the 2017 draft.

Oregon’s junior big man, Jordan Bell played fairly well in his team’s Final Four loss to Oregon.  He excelled at scoring in the paint when he would elect to do so, and he also did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball and blocking shots, but he also struggled with turnovers and did not look to score enough on offense.

Bell did a very good job of getting scores in the post.  He managed to score on a jump hook as well as on a turnaround jumper.  Plus, he used a drop step, step through move to draw free throws once.  Another time, Bell scored on a floater from the high post.  Plus, Bell also showed an adequate ability to create his own shot off the dribble, as he managed to draw free throws once on a high post drive.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Bell would score off of some offensive rebounds, and he also drew free throws after rolling hard to the basket once.  But there were a few times where he would miss awkwardly in traffic around the hoop.

However, he appeared to display below average playmaking skills.  For the positives, he showed a willingness to find the open man.  On the other hand, Bell tended to throw hasty, inaccurate passes that would either be intercepted or would sail out of bounds, as he committed far too many turnovers in this game.

Also, Bell showed a gifted ability to rebound the basketball.  He would often leap up to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he also tapped a ball to a teammate to help his team come away with an offensive rebound.  But Bell can be out of position on rebounding attempts, as sometimes he will try too hard to block shots, other times, he would forget to box out, which can allow his opponents to score on put backs.  Bell also played very good defense.  He did a terrific job of blocking shots, as he is a very athletic, rangy defender that can swat numerous shots, as he swatted some on jumpers, and one off of a drive.  Bell also made a nice chase down block to prevent an opponent from scoring in transition.

Plus, he managed to quickly jump an entry pass to get a steal, and he also can stay in front of quick players off the dribble to force misses and turnovers.  However, he struggled to defend in the post at times, as he would give up deep position to stronger players, which would lead him to allow scores in the paint.

In general, Jordan Bell had another strong showing, as he especially played well on the defensive end.  Defense will be his calling card in the NBA, and he shows promise as a player that could be a potential shutdown defender at the next level.  He may need to refine his offensive skills, as he will especially need to be more assertive on that end of the floor, but Bell could be a good pick for a team in the mid to late first round range of the upcoming draft.

Oregon’s sophomore guard, Tyler Dorsey also played fairly well in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  He may not have proven to NBA teams that he can play the point at the next level due to his low assist totals throughout the year, but Dorsey continued to excel as a scorer when he was on the floor.  Dorsey did a good job of making threes to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making long-distance shots from beyond the arc, and he even made a deep pull-up three from well beyond NBA range.  But Dorsey struggled to make mid-range jumpers in this game.

He also did a very good job of getting and making many free throws for his team, as he would do so by taking floaters off the dribble, as well as by driving hard and fast on fast break drives to the rim, but Dorsey may have shown fairly average playmaking skills.  For the positives, Dorsey showed an adequate ability to find the open man, as he would do so off the dribble.  However, he did not actually collect an assist, and he committed one turnover where he threw an errant, inaccurate pass that ended up being dropped by a teammate of his out of bounds.

Also, he showed off adequate defensive skills.  On one play, he managed to cut off penetration on an opponent’s baseline drive, and he ended up deflecting a ball off of his man to help his team get a steal.  Dorsey also contested a mid-range jumper to force a miss.  On the other hand, he can commit reach-in fouls due to over-aggressiveness, and on one play he bit on a pump fake, which led to one where he fouled an opponent in the post.

In summary, Tyler Dorsey ended up having a strong NCAA tournament this year, as he shot the ball very well in postseason as well as all season long.  Dorsey is an athletic combo guard that can really shoot and score the basketball, and he may be able to run the point in the NBA, but the real question is if he can convince decision makers if he can run the point at the next level.  For now, his draft stock suggests he hasn’t yet, as Dorsey’s stock is strangely down despite him having a terrific tournament.   Still, Dorsey may have a vastly underrated player that could be a good find for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Oregon’s senior point guard, Dylan Ennis had a decent showing in a Final Four loss to the North Carolina, and he appeared to continually play better as the game wore on.  He started off slowly, but he eventually showed off a fairly good set of skills later in the contest.

Ennis showed an adequate ability to get scores off the dribble.  He especially excelled when he would drive to the hoop in the open court, as that would help him get scores and draw fouls on opponents in transition.  Ennis also scored on numerous strong drives to the hoop in the half court, but he would occasionally miss wildly, as he would struggle to score in traffic at times, but he struggled to make threes consistently.  Ennis did make two threes in the corner, but he missed numerous other threes, including a couple that he attempted to take from well beyond the arc.

He also showed off fairly average at best playmaking skills.  Ennis did show the willingness to make the extra pass, as he would kick it out to a shooter off the dribble, and throw an interior pass to collect some assists.  However, sometimes his passes would be off-target, and other times, he would struggle to protect the basketball when driving to the basket.

Ennis also rebounded and defended well.  He was quite active at crashing the defensive glass in this game.  Also, Ennis showed surprising athleticism, as he would fly in to block numerous shots in the paint to show off his superb leaping skills.  There was one play where he ended up getting beat off the dribble, but generally Ennis played very well defensively.

In general, Dylan Ennis had a decent showing in a loss to North Carolina.  He may be one of the oldest prospects in this year’s draft, so he may not have much upside as a prospect for the NBA.  But he is athletic, is a versatile scorer, and he also can rebound and defend.  If he can prove that he can play the point, he could perhaps make an NBA roster in the mold of a Will Bynum type at the next level.

North Carolina’s junior point forward, Theo Pinson again proved himself to be very valuable to his team, as he showed off a strong ability to do virtually everything on the floor, that is except shoot or score the basketball.  Still, his solid play helped his team get a narrow win over Oregon.  Pinson showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  He managed to get a quick offensive rebound, which allowed him to score on a put back for his team afterwards.

However, he struggled to shoot or score consistently.  Pinson did make an open three off the catch, and he showed off some surprising three-point shooting skills.  However, he also tended to miss on mid-range jumpers.  While he showed the ability to draw fouls on a drive in transition, Pinson also tended to struggle to score in traffic, as he would miss wildly around the basket.

Pinson did show tremendous playmaking skills.  He is a very accurate passer that sees the floor well, and he throws brilliant interior passes to set up scores for his teammates.  He also successfully threw a lob pass to set up another score at the rim.  He also did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  Pinson has great athleticism, motor, and instincts, and late in the game, he beat every one to the ball off of his teammate’s free throw miss to tap a ball out to help his team secure an offensive rebound.

Plus, he also played good defense.  Pinson managed to block a shot off of an opponent’s roll to the rim, and he also dove for a loose ball to almost get a steal.  But he also would commit fouls, as one was where he attempted to draw a charge on a drive, and another was when he fouled an opposing player on a jumper.

Oregon’s junior swingman, Dillon Brooks did not play very well in his team’s loss to North Carolina, as he really struggled to find his footing early on or often.  He struggled to make shots, with turnovers, and ultimately with fouls, and he ended up fouling out of this game.

For the positives, Brooks showed a decent ability to create his own shot off the dribble, as he would often draw fouls upon opposing defenders.  He used a pump fake to get an opponent to foul him on a mid-range shot, and he also would draw plenty of free throws on drives to the hoop.  But Brooks also tended to miss on awkward leaners, as well as on shots in transition, as he would play far too wildly on offense.

Also, Brooks managed to score on a put back after grabbing an offensive rebound for his team.   He also showed a very good ability to score in the post, as he also scored on a contested fadeaway jumper.  But he struggled to shoot the basketball.  He did make a deep three, but he missed several others off the catch, as he was not consistent in knocking down long-range jumpers from beyond the arc.

But Brooks showed off below average playmaking skills in this game. For the positives, he generally showed off a good ability to pass the basketball, as he would generally throw solid interior passes.  But he committed far too many turnovers, as he would commit traveling violations off the dribble as well as in the post, and he also would lose the basketball once, as he would struggle to protect the ball.  Brooks also threw a bad pass another time that was intercepted.  Brooks struggled to consistently get past his man, and he may need to significantly improve his ball handling skills to succeed at the next level.

He also displayed a good ability to rebound the basketball, as he managed to score on a put back off of his lone offensive board, and he also was quite active at crashing the glass to get defensive rebounds.  Brooks also showed off adequate defensive skills.  He would quickly jump entry passes to get steals due to possessing good anticipation skills.  He also blocked a shot on a drive., and he also contested a three to force a miss.  However, he tended to commit touch fouls, as one was when he clumsily collided into an opposing ball handler, and others were reach-in fouls, as he eventually fouled out.

In general, Dillon Brooks did not have a very good game against North Carolina, and he has not looked like the same player that played very well in his team’s December 28th win over UCLA, in which his game-winning three provided heroics and clutch shooting for Oregon, but today, he was largely trying too hard to force the issue, which generally led him to commit lots of turnovers and fouls, and he also struggled with his jump shot.  Brooks may also not be as good of an athlete as advertised, as he does not seem to possess a great first step to the hoop off the dribble.  Still, Brooks is a shot taker that has been relied on to be a primary scorer on offense, and teams love his grit and intangibles, so he could likely end up being a second round pick whenever he elects to enter the NBA draft.

Other Notes:

North Carolina’s freshman big man, Tony Bradley did not play much, but he showed some inside scoring and rebounding skills when he was on the floor.   He managed to score on a high post drive to the hoop, but he also missed on a mid-range jumper.  Bradley rebounded the ball very well.   However, his defense was only average at best, as there was one play where he did not rotate in time, which led his team to allow a score on a drive.  Right now, it may be tough to evaluate him as a prospect as he does not get consistent playing time, but his likely draft range may be in the late first to the second round if he declares for the 2017 NBA Draft.

North Carolina managed to get a one-point win in the Final Four over Oregon, but it seemed as if they won and did so spite of Joel Berry II and Isaiah Hicks, as neither Berry nor Hicks played very well.  Both of those players had a terrible time shooting the basketball, and they also committed plenty of turnovers.  But of the two, Berry was slightly better on offense, and he also seemed to play significantly better on defense than Hicks, as Berry would pressure opponents to force turnovers.

Hicks was largely shut down on offense because he would tend to force up tough shots in traffic.  Still, both of the players’ offensive woes could potentially be troubling for North Carolina in the title game, as Berry could end up facing an even better point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss, who may be the best point guard remaining in the NCAA Tournament, and Hicks will likely be defended by the talented trio of Collins, Williams, and Karnowski.

North Carolina’s senior point guard, Nate Britt played well off the bench, as he provided his team a boost when he was on the floor.  He made a three, scored on a drive to the basket, and he also passed and defended well.  Britt showed good court vision, as well as a solid ability to jump passes to get steals.  As a draft prospect, he may not likely be drafted, but Britt could end up being a quality addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster.

For North Carolina’s sophomore forward Luke Maye, who had a tremendous game off the bench as he scored 17 points and his last-second heroics helped lift his team past Kentucky to advance to the Final Four, he did not play nearly as well against Oregon on this day.  Unlike his previous game, Maye struggled with his jump shot, and he did not look nearly enough to shoot the basketball.  But he did use his signature pump fake move, as he managed to draw free throws when he looked to score in the post.  Even when he struggled to score against Oregon, Maye’s pump fake move has proved to be very effective this season, especially in the NCAA tournament.  Maye did pass the ball well and was active at collecting some rebounds.

But defensively, he looked to be below average, as he was prone to committing fouls on jump shooters, as he would struggle to move his feet, and he also once bit on a pump fake another time.  Right now, Maye would be best suited to stay in school another year or two to work on his overall game, but he could perhaps end up being a shooting specialist in the NBA one day.

Overall, the North Carolina-Oregon game was a fascinating one to watch, as it was played at a frenetic pace early, but then it eventually slowed down to a more normalized pace for college basketball.  Still, there seemed to be only a few stoppages, aside from the handful of free throws that were doled out in this game, and this game was close all the way until the end.  In this game, North Carolina’s rebounding proved to be the key to their victory, and Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks played really well, as they have been very integral to their team’s success this season.