Saturday, April 28, 2012

Roster Preview: 2012-13 Forwards

The Forward spot has been a place where the Rebels had limited depth, and now still have limited depth. Looking at 2011-12, the primary forwards were obviously Chace Stanback and Mike Moser. With Stanback graduating and Moser thankfully returning for what will likely be his final UNLV season (barring injury), the question is who will run alongside Moser? Several of the 'forwards' have previosly been penciled into the center spot by virtue of someone is needed there (Carlos Lopez, Quintrell Thomas and possibly Khem Birch) and have been previewed several weeks ago - but who is left to be the next Chace Stanback? Who will give some relief so that the guard heavy roster isn't outmatched by taller more physical forwards? Let's take a peek.

Mike Moser
Mike Moser
Mike is a wildly talented and driven player who had much more ups than downs last year, but the teams success and demise rose and fell with his performance, by and large. Was there a game that was lost when Mike Moser played very well? Yes - that aborition at TCU where we lost 102-97 (Moser had 22 pts, 8 rebs) but by and large in the vast majority of the losses Moser was underperforming, as was the rest of the team. 

In his first season with the Rebels, he had to deal with sudden extreme expectations having been named as a Naismith Player of  the Year Candidate very early on, having to deal with injuries, and then having his shot fall off as the season progressed. This is a lot for anyone to deal with, especially someone who is new to the system, and playing for a coach who wasn't the one who recruited you. All in all, Mike Moser's Junior year should be one of high expectations - as he's all but a lock to play in the NBA provided he shores up a few shortcomings, and the Rebels perform well. 

What Moser does well - He is tall, athletic, and hard to guard. He has an interesting set of tools in his toolbox, being that he can block shots, he can easily dunk or catch the lob for the ally opp. He can also steal and defend as well as anyone - and of course, we have the rebounding. As a solid double digit scorer as well as rebounder, he is the heart and soul of the Rebels. Coach Rice had said that the Runnin' offense is successful when there's high pressure defense, and rebounding so that a fast break can take place off of a missed shot. That's Moser's bread and butter. Ken Pomeroy made an interesting observation mid-season, stating essentially that Moser was a statistical anomaly given his offensive rebounding prowess and three point shooting percentage. Link This could be chalked up as a good thing or bad thing. As a good - to make an easy, popular reference, Dirk Nowitski is 6'11", is often the tallest guy on the court, yet he can shoot the three like a guard. For the same reason that Nowitski is a rare player, a guy like Moser who can pull down boards like nobody's business isn't presumed to normally have the ability to shoot a three pointer with much consistancy. Why? Because great rebounders are normally taller players, and taller players (like Dirk) don't normally shoot the three well (or free throws for that matter). Moser is a great player, and what's great about the Rebels is even though Moser is this, that and the other kind of awesome - you don't expect him to be the Rebels leading scorer that frequently. That's because our roster is still stockplied with great players, even more so than last year. 

What Moser doesn't do well - he's still not as bulky as other dominant power forwards who project well to rebound well in the NBA. Easy example - Drew Gordon (UNM) has the body necessary to occupy space, and not give ground to other forwards. Mike Moser has upper body muscle, but he lacks bulk in the hips and legs especially that may have contributed to his fatigue later in the season. Getting back to the statistical anomoly that Ken Pomeroy pointed out, the bad side of that is it shows that Moser may have been too comfortable shooting the three pointer. No secret, UNLV over Coach Krueger's tenure has been a team in love with the long ball, and the 'streak' has been somewhat of a constant reminder of the importance of shooting the three - but the team's leading rebounder should maybe shoot a whole lot more layups and short range higher percentage jumpers. Example, Mike Moser's three point percentage was 33%, he made 44 of 133 attempts. Total field goal percentage was 45% he made 184 of 409 attempts. Subtract out his three point shooting, and we get a 2 point percentage of nearly 51% . His three point attempts accounted for 32.5% of his shot selection. Clearly, three pointers are worth more than two pointers, but making only 1 of 3  from deep versus 1 of 2 from within the line potentially means he could have been a more effective player - less reliant on the three. My evaluation of what Mike needs to do to get better and become more complete, is to hit the weight room and build more lower body muscle, still maintain his quickness, and build on his short to mid range game. If Mike does improve like he's capable of, he is a lottery pick. 

Demetris Morant
The Bishop Gorman incoming freshman has a daunting decision ahead of him - burn a redshirt year or try to crack the rotation. The general evaluation of Morant is that he is a hyper athletic player who has tons of above-the-rim ability, is a one man block party, but who's offensive game is under developed. This carries slight risk for the Rebels, as improving under the tutelage of Dave Rice means building an offensive repertoire. Weighing heavily on whether to take a red shirt year depends largely on minutes available now, and whether dipping his toe in the water right away and potentially not being as successful as possible could mess with his confidence. Time and circumstance will tell on that point. The other similarly tall players who he may compete for minutes with, are the aforementioned Mike Moser, Quintrell Thomas, Khem Birch, Carlos Lopez, and Bryce Jones - who is a tallish tweener guard at 6'5" (Michael Jordan was also a guard, and 6'5"). The other big question is whether he'll be playing the 4 or 5? Throughout his stay at Bishop Gorman Morant was put in the center position. As a center, he's undersized - but UNLV has a history of success with undersized centers (Lou Amundson, Joel Anthony). My gut reaction is that he will take the redshirt, and then breakthrough better when Quintrell Thomas has graduated and Mike Moser has left for the NBA. 

Bryce Jones
Bryce Dejean-Jones
Mr. Competetive, but also Mr. Misunderstood - he's the USC transfer who has waited out his redshirt year and is poised to make a big spash on the court this year. I'm mentioning him in the 'forwards' category because my take on the rotation (guard heavy) would likely having him match-up with a forward, and at his height he would be capable of guarding a forward up to perhaps 6'8". The line on Bryce is that he sometimes has been the best player on the court in many practices last year - no small feat given how good the team was through the majority of last year. The same complement was paid to a man by the name of Mike Moser - and look how good that turned out. Bryce Jones left USC because of playing time, and an altercation with another teammate. With some temperance on his live or die playing attitude, he will either push others to succeed, or be toxic to the chemistry of  the team. My thoughts are that the coaching staff assembled have enough experience and knowledge to be able to gauge his + or - , and will adjust based on that. Yes, we have a history of transfers, but we also kick malcontents to the curb - see Emmanuel Adeife. 

For Bryce to be a successful player, everyone needs to wipe the slate clean, recognize who he is, what he's been through, and what occurred and brings him to the Rebels. Then, purely evaluate him based on what occurs while he wears the Scarlet and Gray. Bryce Jones has the ability to be a special player, a scoring powerhouse, and a confident give-it-all-you got baller, a complete player. He just needs to have the maturity to work within Coach Rice's offense, be unselfish when someone has a better shot than he does, and to celebrate his teammates as much as he can. The offensive load left by Chace Stanback must be picked up by someone - and Bryce and Khem Birch are the most likely candidates to handle the task. 

(Want to know where Carlos Lopez, Quintell Thomas, and Khem Birch were discussed? Click here)

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