With all the trade rumors swirling around, its easy to forget that there is basketball being played elsewhere, too! The NCAA season is taking shape nicely and studs are emerging as potential draft picks. If you did not watch yesterday’s USC/UCLA rivalry game, shame on you. Don’t fret though, I checked it out and scouted some of the notable players, including three potential first rounders.
The younger brother of Jrue and Justin definitely has NBA chops. Although undersized at 6’1″, the youngest Holiday has a great 6’6″ wingspan. Not an explosive athlete, Aaron stills displays professional level agility and craftiness. I liken him to a poor man’s version of Kemba Walker. He also compares nicely to Walker’s leadership ability, as Holiday made play after play to lead UCLA to the victory. Holiday has NBA range to boot. He was able to display his playmaking capabilities, using his handle to get into the lane and find open shooters on kick outs. A big PAC-12 tourney run could see Holiday become a late first rounder.
Pro Comparison: Shabazz Napier
Metu is such a tantalizing prospect. He has the height of center (6’11”) but retains the foot speed of a wing. Although currently playing the 4 at USC, Metu would shift to a modern NBA center. Physically, he is quick enough to switch into guards during PnRs while simultaneously being able to protect the paint. By my count, Metu blocked or changed 5 shots against UCLA, despite his pedestrian 6’11” wingspan. His jumper shows touch, although is can be flat sometimes. Regardless, I was impressed with his offensive IQ, as he always made the right pass. He has great PnR instincts and finishes with powerful dunks.
The game has slowed for him but his motor can be slow as well. A two minute sequence of maximum energy saw Metu throw down an alley-oop lob and swat a layup and dunk attempt. There is a reason he is one of USC’s all time blocks leaders. When he is engaged, Metu look like a 10-14 range pick. He is someone who will thrive if he lands on a team with a positive NBA culture.
Pro Comparison: quicker Daniel Theis (yes, this is a compliment)
This was my first serious look at the highly touted UCLA freshman. Off the bat, it was easy to fall in love with his potential. Hands has elite athleticism and great end to end speed. What he does below is NBA caliber as he demonstrates his change of pace, ballhandling and finishing at the rim.
That being said, Hands is still too inconsistent with his game. His three looks good and he is best when pulling up in rhythm, but sometimes he has ugly left/right misses. He can break his man down off the PnR due to his great handle but, he doesn’t always make the right read. This will come with time, as Jaylen would find it best to return for one more year. The foundation is here, though. His 6’2″ height and 6’4″ wingspan may not wow, but the talent is there while his athleticism makes up for his measurables mediocrity. I was especially impressed with his knack for creating space off the dribble; something that will translate nicely to the league. And guess what, he buries the jumper too. Next year will determine if Hands is an awesome second guard (i.e Patty Mills) or someone who can lead a franchise. During the summer of 2019, we could be talking about Hands as a late lottery pick.
Pro Comparison: Terry Rozier
Sleeper Alert: Elija Stewart
Standing 6’5″ with a massive wingspan, Stewart has prototypical 3 and D size. One of the Trojans all time leading three point shooters, Stewart has NBA range. His shot has a minor hitch but it works for him and looks smooth.
Stewart tested the NBA waters last year but decided to come back to school, and wisely so. Ranked towards the end of top 100 big boards, Stewart needs a big March to get drafted. Still, the young man will dunk on you, splash threes and can defend; an NBA scout’s trifecta. He has to work on creating with the ball in his hands and become more disciplined on defense. If this kid ends up on a team known for player development (see Spurs, San Antonio or Heat, Miami) he could end up being a gem.
Pro Comparison: A Joe Harris that will jam on your head