||05-15-2012 08:16 PM
Fran Fraschilla - Making a case for Lamb over Beal
from the insider
NBA Draft - Making the case for Jeremy Lamb over Bradley Beal - ESPN
In the next six weeks, NBA personnel offices, especially those of teams in need of scoring help, will be deciding on drafting Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb or Florida's Bradley Beal. Each shooting guard has his own set of attributes and some flaws. But each is coming off a very good, if not spectacular, college season, and both are expected to contribute early in their NBA careers.
The general consensus is that Beal will be drafted in the first five selections, while Lamb's stock has slipped. Beal's Gators finished the season strong, coming within a game of the Final Four, and he played some of his best basketball of the season then. Lamb, on the other hand, played on a dysfunctional Huskies team that was bounced early from the NCAA tournament.
So which direction do teams go?
The good news for NBA teams is that both Lamb and Beal are in the early stages of their basketball development. In fact, Beal won't turn 19 until the night of the NBA draft June 28. Lamb is a college sophomore with a national championship to his name but who did not start for his high school team until his senior year.
Lamb has prototypical shooting guard size at 6-foot-5, as well as a 7-foot wingspan. Beal is slightly undersized for the position at 6-3, but he is a sturdily built 207 pounds.
Ironically, although both Lamb and Beal are thought to be lights-out perimeter shooters, both shot just 34 percent from behind the 3-point line this season. Beal especially went to college with a reputation as a great outside shooter, and there's really nothing major in his shooting technique that tells you he shouldn't and can't be.
He played this season in a spread screen-and-roll offense with three and sometimes four guards, and was the product of more open shots than Lamb because of Florida's great dribble penetration game. Yet Beal surprisingly struggled with his consistency behind the arc. In fact, in 21 of the Gators' 37 games, Beal made only one or no 3-point field goals.
In Lamb's case, his mediocre shooting percentage was a product, I believe, of UConn's poor execution of its half-court offense. While Lamb moves very well without the ball, often he wasn't screened for well or he did not read the direction in which his defender moved. That led to Lamb shooting more contested shots than he needed to, and his perimeter game, especially behind the arc, suffered for it.
His offensive game will be compared to those of a couple of Huskies shooting guards before him, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton. Both mastered the catch-and-shoot game at UConn, especially in the midrange off curl screens. Interestingly, although just 180 pounds, Lamb shot 60 percent inside the arc, which I believe bodes well for his NBA future as he adds weight and increases his strength.
While Allen shot 47 percent behind the arc in his final season at UConn and has been a Hall of Fame shooter in his NBA career, Hamilton has shot a more pedestrian 35 percent behind the arc in the NBA. Lamb has the ability to surpass that percentage as an NBA player, I believe. And his 81 percent free throw mark will be put to good use as he attacks the rim more.
Beal should have no such issues with strength. He has been compared to the Hornets' Eric Gordon, in part because of their linebacker-like body types. However, Gordon was not only a dominant scorer in his one season at Indiana, but he shot 277 free throws, 100 more than Beal. He was an explosive athlete who could play at rim level or above, and it has translated well early in his NBA career.
Beal did a good job attacking the rim this season but needs to learn to finish with both hands around the rim against bigger, longer defenders. In addition, his straight-line ballhanding and speed were excellent in transition, but he was not as effective driving in the half court. He utilized ball screens to open up driving opportunities for himself but he is not yet a great creator in one-on-one or isolation situations.
Beal will never be a point guard but he needs to improve in order to become a secondary ballhandler for his NBA team. It is an area on which he has spent a lot of time since the end of Florida's season.
Defensively, both Lamb and Beal will have typical rookie adjustments to the league. Lamb will be bounced off screens while chasing NBA shooting guards but his length will serve him well as he gets stronger. Beal will have some size and foot speed issues at times as well.
An intangible benefit both Lamb and Beal had in college is that they were what I call "hard coached." UConn's Jim Calhoun is a Hall of Fame coach, and the Gators' Billy Donovan is headed there someday. Both players were held to a high standard in practice every day, and hard work will not be a foreign language when they arrive at training camp in the fall.
Because Beal was often matched against bigger, slower forwards, he made a living on the board, averaging almost seven a game. While that number might not necessarily translate to the next level, it is indicative of his toughness.
Teams that have an interest in drafting a shooting guard are scrutinizing Lamb and Beal very closely. From what I can tell, many are split on who will be better. Private workouts and individual interviews with each player will likely tip the balance. Either way teams go on Beal and Lamb, it will be a challenging and not necessarily obvious decision.
Personally, I'm leaning toward Lamb because of his size, length and effectiveness in an NBA offense's "sweet spot," the 15- to 18-foot range. And I'm willing to overlook the Huskies' dysfunctional season with Lamb as their centerpiece because I can't ignore the poise he played with as a freshman. And he did go for 23 or more points eight times this past season, despite the team's poor chemistry.