|PG||Long Beach State
The point guard out of Long Beach State, Casper Ware is by far the most decorated guard prospect in this year's draft. Not only did Ware finish his college career as the reigning two-time Big West Player of the Year, but he was named MVP of the Drew League this past summer. This is no small feat, as the LA-based summer pro-am routinely features hoards of NBA participants; Ware averaged 30 ppg there playing amongst the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, to name a few. In fact, King James was so impressed by Ware's game that he invited him to help coach at his own summer camp. Over the past 18 months, the buzz around Casper's game has steadily grown louder and louder approaching this June's draft.
The most obvious asset Ware would hope to provide an NBA team is his scoring ability. He displays unlimited range and good form on his shot, whether pulling up off the dribble, or as a spot-up shooter. In the rare case when he's off the ball, he's very good coming off screens, quickly getting himself squared up, and his quick release makes his jumper hard to contest despite his size; not one to stand around and wait for the ball, Ware has a knack for cutting baseline and finishing at the rim with great leaping ability. Elite quickness enables him to split defenders with ease in the pick n roll, and he has nice touch on a running floater that he uses very well. Naysayers of his scoring chops would point to the fact that Ware simply put up good numbers in a relatively unknown mid-major conference, but Casper lit up the opposing point guards of high-profile programs when the schedule allowed it. In a November road game against then 9th-ranked Pitt, Ware put up 28 on Ashton Gibbs; weeks later, he bested that performance with 29 against Kendall Marshall and the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Though his team lost both games, there's little doubt that Ware can get buckets against any level of competition. But at the next level, Ware isn't going to be asked to fill a scoring role. While his creativity and quickness off the dribble allow him plentiful opportunities to create his own offense, he didn't show much ability to make his teammates better, and his 1.41 assist-to-turnover ratio illustrates a lack of true point guard instincts.
Overlooked amidst the hype surrounding his scoring ability is the fact that Ware is an astute, lockdown defender. Casper truly plays an old school game on D, using his feet instead of his hands to effectively wall off opposing point guards from daylight. His diminutive size predictably makes him very screenable, but he shows a good ability to recover and still challenge shots when trailing his man. In 2011, Ware became the first player ever to win both Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Big West as a junior.
As the draft quickly approaches, it would behoove Casper Ware to concentrate on the need to prove himself as a facilitator, as not many NBA coaches are fond of running plays for their 5'10'' point guard. There's little doubt he could be a Vinnie Johnson-like "microwave" scorer off the bench for any team, while providing valuable in-your-shirt, pressure defense on smaller point guards like Ty Lawson. It wouldn't be a shock to see the Lakers take him with the last pick in the draft.
Rank 99th Overall (18th PG)
Strengths Scoring ability
Very good shooter
Weaknesses Small frame
Point guard skills