Isaiah Canaan had himself a stellar four-year career at Murray State, and will now be looking to secure a spot in Round 1 of the 2013 NBA draft.
He led the Racers to the NCAA tournament as a junior and finished No. 6 in the country in scoring as a senior. Canaan is a personal favorite, and a prospect I believe will last a long time in the pros whether he's picked in the first round or the second.
Though just 6'0'' (5'11'' in socks), Canaan makes up for an inch or two of size with a strong frame, powerful legs and fluid athleticism. He's got the look of an NBA point guard, regardless of how tall he stands.
At 188 pounds, he weighed in almost 20 pounds heavier (stronger) than 5'11'' Shane Larkin, who many project as a mid-first rounder.
He's also lightning quick off the bounce and got up for a 40.5'' max vertical at the combine. Canaan's athleticism was put on full display with this steal and dunk:
Breakdown Ability, Dribble Creativity
Canaan uses his quickness and tight handle to break down defenses and create scoring opportunities.
As a playmaker, Canaan is capable of consistently beating his man off the dribble, getting into the lane and triggering the collapse. His ability to penetrate opens up shooters and scoring chances for big men.
Here's a simple yet effective drive-and-dish that shows Canaan's ability to split the defense, draw the help, open up a shooter and find him in rhythm:
As a scorer, Canaan is slippery off the dribble and can separate in the mid-range. He puts defenders on ice skates, keeping them off balance while he's able to create space and enough room to rise and fire.
Check out Canaan hit his defender with the step-back jumper:
Canaan has the best jump shot among point guards in this year's field.
Canaan combined to shoot 112-of-256 (43.8 percent) from downtown as a freshman and sophomore, before making 98-of-215 (45.6 percent) three-point attempts as a junior, a ridiculous number that illustrates remarkable consistency for a volume shooter.
Canaan's accuracy fell off as a senior, though he still knocked down three triples a game for a total of 94 makes. He's got beautiful mechanics, getting excellent elevation and balance while rising and firing at the rim.
He's an excellent shooter off the dribble, which is really going to make him a threat at the next level. Canaan makes defenders pay for sliding under ball screens thanks to his deep, NBA range and quick, confident trigger.
Canaan is able to pull up from just about every spot on the floor, and only needs an inch of room to let it go:
Canaan oozes confidence, which allows him to take over late in games. He's a guy teammates and coaches trust with the ball in his hands down the stretch.
Canaan has come up big for the Racers in dozens of tight games. Here, Murray State is tied with Belmont in the closing minute. Watch him go to work as the lead guard:
Canaan is going to have to convince NBA coaches that he's capable of running an offense in a pass-first role. He doesn't have to convince me—Canaan needed to score at Murray State and that's exactly what he did.
But the perception out there is that Canaan is a scorer who must transition into a point guard. He averaged 4.3 assists to 3.2 turnovers, not the sexiest ratio you'll ever see.
With better scorers and finishers around him, there's no reason Canaan can't be a pick-and-roll machine at the next level.
His biggest challenge offensively will be finishing at the rim. He's not an above-the-rim guard, so he'll need to continue working on his runners and floaters on the move.
My big concern is defense. He didn't face many tough guards in the Ohio Valley Conference. He could have trouble against bigger, longer and more explosive NBA guards.
Draft Outlook and NBA Breakdown
Canaan is in the mix with a number of other point guards all fighting for a spot at the end of Round 1.
He's got the leadership qualities and character you want in a floor general, whether he's coming off the bench or running the first unit's offense. Given his ability to shoot, handle the ball and create, he's a safe enough option even if you're just looking for some offensive firepower.
Canaan had a recent workout for the Knicks, who could be an option at No. 24 as a likely best-case scenario.