Midseason Report Card

Given that Stanford Men's Basketball is just over halfway through the season, and just under halfway through league play, what better time than now for midseason evaluations? Daniel Novinson has seen every game the Cardinal have played in the 2006-07 season and offers up his report card.

I have given out the grades for the eight players below.  Everyone else has an incomplete for now – this teacher has not seen enough of them to judge.

Freshman center Robin Lopez

The Numbers:  10 points, team-high 6.5 rebounds, 26 minutes per game.  .537 shooting, team-low .544 free-throw shooting, team-high 111 rebounds, team-high 41 blocks.

The Plusses:  Individual post defense.  Not enough can be said about this – not just his visible blocks, but also the countless times his mere influence spooks an opponent into altering and missing a shot.  This native Detroiter calls it Ben Wallace-type influence… as a freshman.  Stamina, ability to bail out teammates and beat off-penetration. On offense, he has nice moves and a nice fadeaway arsenal.

The Minuses:  Needs to finish on offense with the same aggression as on defense.  Needs to improve team defense/positioning – Ivory Clark got wide open twice late to tie it up for Washington State at Maples.  Free throw shooting.  Propensity to foul.  Needs to keep his composure (Trent Johnson has pulled him out of close games for frustration reasons).

The Skinny:  Team MVP to date.  His post defense, as a freshman, is better than any I've seen in the Pac-10 over the past few years.  If he begins to reach his potential on offense, watch out.

Freshman power forward/center Brook Lopez

The Numbers:  8 points, 4 rebounds, 18 minutes per game.  .495 shooting, .611 free throw shooting, nine assists, 20 turnovers, 13 blocks.

The Plusses:  Shows flashes of great offensive potential, with silky smooth jump hooks.  His outside shot, while modest for a guard, puts him in the top five percent of seven-footers.  Has the potential to become the best post defender in the conference not named Robin Lopez, and he has the flashy blocks to show for it.

The Minuses:  Consistency, consistency, consistency.  On defense, he fouls too frequently, severely limiting his minutes.  On offense, his hands need to strengthen – many an entry pass or rebound bounce through them.  Conditioning is another concern after sitting for months due to back surgery.  Like his brother, could use more tenacity on offense.

The Skinny:  His brother has a head start of several months, but Brook has shown every indication that he can catch up, especially offensively.  The outside shot is an absolutely scary prospect for opposing defenses.

Sophomore small/power forward Lawrence Hill

The Numbers:  15.5 points, 6 rebounds, 29.5 minutes per game.  .535 shooting, team-high .392 three-point shooting, .683 free-throw shooting, 15 steals, 13 blocks.

The Plusses:  Team's leading scorer, which is doubly important considering how pressed for offense the squad can be at times.  Also the team's most consistent scorer – shoots the same if he is 0-of-7 or 6-of-7.  Clutch under pressure.  No fear taking the big shots, as evidenced by the winner at Virginia and play over the past several games.  Wingspan and length create block opportunities defensively.

The Minuses:  Inability to dribble-penetrate is striking for a small forward.  Defense, though better than last year, is still a liability as he often finds himself a step behind or improperly positioned against drives, and too late closing out on three-pointers.  Could be a better free throw shooter considering his percentages from the field.

The Skinny:  If you want to know whether Stanford won or lost the game, just look to Hill's shooting line.  He is the squad's most versatile offensive player in terms of his ability to light it up from anywhere on the court.  His defense, while not All Pac-10, is dramatically improved from last year.  The guy is playing at an All Pac-10 Honorable Mention level.

Junior power/small forward Taj Finger

The Numbers:  4 points, 3 rebounds, 14 minutes per game.  .459 shooting, .720 free-throw shooting, 10 assists, 24 turnovers.

The Plusses:  Effort, effort, effort.  Picks his team up with his desire and can jumpstart the squad out of a lull.  Best interior defender against players with too much mobility for the Lopez twins – put this guy on an opponent's primary 'four'.  Drastically improved free throw shooting.

The Minuses:  Quiet offensively, though he has developed a shot to keep defenses honest.  Smaller than Stanford's other options at the post.  More turnovers than in years past.  Limited quickness and strength.

The Skinny:  Gives everything he has.  Unfortunately, younger teammates have offered more this year, and his numbers have dwindled accordingly.  But he's one of those "glue guys" that will need to contribute at key times if Stanford is to make a run come March.

Senior small forward Fred Washington

The Numbers:  7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 28.5 minutes per game.  Team-high .544 shooting, .577 free-throw shooting (team-high 71 attempts), team-high 65 assists, team-high 39 turnovers, team-high 52 fouls.

The Plusses:  Only player on the team who can penetrate with regularity.  Once in the lane, great ability to either lean into contact and draw a foul or kick it out to an open teammate.  Leads team in assists accordingly.  Most physically talented player on the team.  Leaping ability, quickness and first step are unmatched.  Physical gifts translate to defense – would love to see him guard opponent's top slasher more often.

The Minuses:  Shooting accuracy team-worst for any non-layup, free throws included.  Has been turning it over far too frequently recently.  Entry passes to the Lopez twins have far too much air under them and end up in opponents' hands as frequently as the twins'.

The Skinny:  Athleticism unmatched on this squad, and direly needed to keep Stanford from being outrun by quicker Pac-10 opponents.  Needs to cut down on mental errors and emerge as a senior leader on this young team, if Stanford is going to go anywhere.

Sophomore point/shooting guard Anthony Goods

The Numbers: 13 points, 3 rebounds, team-high 33 minutes per game.  .374 shooting, .359 three-point shooting, team-high .796 free-throw shooting, 39 assists, team-high 39 turnovers.

The Plusses:  When he's hot, he can shoot with anyone, especially at Maples.  Team's leading outside shooter, keeping opposing defenses honest and off the twins' backs.  Penetration ability is emerging, though still far from ideal for a guard.  Draws opponents' top perimeter defender.  Easily the best free throw shooter on the team.  Ability to shift over to point guard has been a necessary sacrifice for team's success.  Good ballhandling for a new point guard.  Best outside shooter, displaying impressive NBA-plus range.

The Minuses:  Streaky shooter – has too many 3-of-11 nights to match his 6-of-9 performances.  Gets beaten off the dribble frequently.  When those 28-footers don't drop, shot selection is also a question.  Inability to find the twins on entry passes often brings Mitch Johnson off the bench.

The Skinny:  Fan favorite for late-game heroics and outside shooting.  If he continues to improve at the little things and can get hot for the key games, Stanford could ride his back a long ways.

Freshman small forward/shooting guard Landry Fields

The Numbers:  4 points, 2 rebounds, 14.6 minutes per game.  .329 shooting, .244 three-pointers, .545 free throws.

The Plusses:  Great progress throughout the season to-date and impressive stamina to earn so many minutes as a freshman.  Rebounds exceptionally well for a guard.

The Minuses:  Shooting at a percentage far lower than his ability would dictate.  Nervousness and freshman-year adjustments must play a role.  Often out of position on defense, though understandable for a freshman.  Often a non-factor outside of his shooting – would like to see him force more turnovers, mix it up more defensively and develop a nose for the ball.

The Skinny:  Needs to start shooting as well as he should with consistency to lighten the defensive burden Anthony Goods faces.

Sophomore point guard Mitch Johnson

The Numbers:  4.5 points, 2 rebounds, 24.2 minutes per game.  .367 shooting, .276 three-point shooting, .833 free-throw shooting.  Team-high 17 steals, team-best 60-to-35 assist to turnover ratio

The Plusses:  Team captain and team's best ballhandler.  Team's best passer and only player able to feed the Lopez twins with regularity.  Superb assist-to-turnover ratio.  Aware of shooting limitations and, accordingly, not shooting all that much – just one attempt in each of last two games.

The Minuses:  Slow first step – beaten horrifically off the dribble by quicker guards.  Dribble-drive is non-existent.  Shooting, though improved, is the worst among any Pac-10 guard that sees minutes.  Unorthodox release increases probability of blocks.  Offensive shortcomings have cost him playing time and his starting position.

The Skinny:  The Lopez twins' finishing ability has drastically increased his value to the team, for his unique ability to get the ball in their hands.  Add that to his poise when faced with the press, and he is a far more viable option for minutes than last year.

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