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Scouting NBA Draft prospects: Arizona's Gordon, Ashley, Tarczewski

I worked Thursday night's Arizona/San Diego State game, and got a chance to assess the Pac-12 favorite Wildcats not only the basis of their team strength, but also the potential abilities of some of their projected pros.

Some quick scouting of Arizona's NBA prospects:

Aaron Gordon -- I would say Gordon is 6-8 and a perfectly constructed 225 pounds. Gordon's jumper looked balanced and he did not force it. When penetrating Gordon seems to like to go left and is trying to get to the rim, but will pass. On the positive Gordon plays hard, never pouts, rebounds out of his zone, is an active defender and uses his length to make himself big defending the 3 or the 4. Gordon just went out and played, which can be difficult for young players when 26 NBA scouts are in attendance, but he never cleared out unless it was called from the bench, he just competed cleanly. His teammates like him, not just because of his talent, but because of his effort and personality.

On the other hand, despite being 6-8 and a perfect mismatch at the small forward spot in college, he never posted up and called for the ball against SDSU. It is almost as if he has heard the Blake Griffin comparisons and wants no part of them. Why not post smaller guards and face up big men? One reason is he doesnt really have a post game. He can, however, seal a man and get into a turnaround jumper with ease if he works on it. Additionally he is not fluid laterally on defense on the wing. He plays hard, is in a stance, but he is a little robotic when he tries to slide or turn and run on perimeter defense.

Gordon is a "can't miss" as an NBA prospect, but that does not mean he will be a star. Gordon has to continue to develop a middle game and post game on offense and try to improve his lateral defensive movement (which may not be fixable, but you can live with it). I would rate him a notch below Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker as he may not make others better the way they can, but he is the small forward equal to Julius Randle is as a power forward.

Brandon Ashley -- Ashley is a 6-9 power forward who has the tools to be an NBA all-star with continued improvement, but also has a reputation of having an average motor and being a little soft that he is trying to shake. Ashley plays mostly power forward, some center and is at ease off the dribble as a small forward, though I do not think that is his position in the pros.

Ashley fired up an ill-timed airball from the college three to start the game versus San Diego State, but it did not deter him much as he went into attack mode later in the game and eventually came back around to his jumper. Ashley has good hands and feet, and his lateral movement defending ball screens is excellent. Ashley is not a pouter, but also does not really demand the ball in the post. As far as motor goes, I think he plays a "never rushed" style that some may not like, but there is an ease with which the game comes to him. Ashley was going to take over the game before what I thought was a terrible call went against him and he was saddled with fouls the rest of the way. Ashley needs continued work on his jumper on pick and pop action, though in fairness, point guard T.J. McConnell's reluctance to shoot does not open up pick and pop opportunities for his teammates.

Brandon Ashley is a first-round pick and he could leave this year, but he needs to become a dominant big man instead of a prospect who occasionally shows you flashes of brilliance.
This may take another year of college ball, but more seasoning at that level would pay off for him at the next level, where he could get lost in the shuffle if he's too passive and not a weapon from day one.

Kaleb Tarczewski -- Tarczewski is listed at 7-0 (he is at least 6-10 and maybe a legit 6-11) and with his "Eric Montross" flat top, he is a throw back big man who has a little Marcin Gortat to his game. He is agile for his size and has nice post moves. When the ball is in the air he seeks the ball and his a terrific rebounder. "Zeus" is a more athletic version of former Dukie Brian Zoubek. He will be an NBA player, right now projecting as a backup, but he must learn to finish around the rim more consistently. Tarczewski runs the floor well, will pass out of double teams and defends well without lowering his hands, but he has no face-up jumper to speak of and isn't an above-the-rim guy despite being athletic and huge. That needs to be fixed.

 
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