Monday, October 7, 2013
Biancardi's Breakdown: Cliff Alexander
By Paul Biancardi
Cliff Alexander is the No. 3 prospect in the ESPN 100 and the No. 1 power forward. When this active and intense forward steps on the floor, you notice him as soon as he gets involved in the game action. In a class with elite big men at the top, what makes him special?
Let’s break down his game:
Cliff Alexander is the No. 3 overall prospect and No. 1 power forward in the ESPN 100.
Power in the paint Alexander rebounds and protects the rim, and he has powerful moves which allow him to finish plays near and at the rim. Inside the painted area, some guys produce better than others, but Alexander is the king when it comes to dominating opponents. Blessed with a great physique and explosive athletic ability, Alexander is one of the better frontcourt players in the country. In his class, that’s a huge compliment. He scores almost exclusively in the paint and is especially unstoppable finishing a drop-off pass and on offensive rebounding put backs. He may be the best lob catcher in his class with his vertical jump and vision, which helps him rise up in traffic and throw down a dunk.
As Alexander moves up, he will need to expand his offensive game, but as of right now, he is too much to handle for most players his age. When you think of this type of power and explosion, he is a cross between Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.
Rebounder and shot blocker Alexander blocks shots with his great length, timing and a lot of intimidation. His wing span is enormous, and he uses it to swat at attempts, often times causing an opponent to miss. When it looks as though he is not involved in the play, Alexander can come from the help side and block a shot in no time. His rebounding is the strength and consistency in his game. In a class with a few elite rebounders like Angel Delgado and Abdul-Malik Abu, Alexander is in their select company. His rebounding on a per minute basis this summer was exceptional. He averaged 11 rebounds per game in 25 minutes per game in the prestigious Nike EYBL. His pursuit for the ball is second to none on both ends of the floor. Without scoring, he can change the momentum in a game with his motor, rebounding and shot-blocking abilities. Alexander is unique in the respect that if the ball doesn’t come to him, he will manage to find it.
Energy, effort and high motor Plenty of players talk about playing hard for the entire game or competing with high intensity. Many prospects think that they give their best, but only a few actually do it. Alexander has started to dominate with his ability to complete and play with a high motor throughout an entire game. He changes ends of the floor quickly and efficiently with his speed, he looks to gain possession of every rebound, and when the ball is in his hands, he is attacking the rim or throwing it out. You notice this big man on every play. Alexander might not always play well, but you can count on him to play hard. It s what separates him from many others in the class. He has won us over with his approach and effort each time he steps out on the floor.
Growth Alexander scores best with someone who is creating an opportunity for him in the paint, which is the case for most big men. To advance his game, Alexander must learn to make a move with a defender on his back one-on-one in the post. He has a soft touch in close range and is developing a jump hook over his left shoulder and a short jumper when facing the defense. He is scratching the surface on how to use his long, athletic frame, as he does seal his man for an occasional hi/low post feed from the top. He can be an even better inside post threat with his hands and solid footwork. He has also made the occasional 3-point shot this past spring and summer so that touch can be developed, but right now it’s not his game. Alexander is currently shooting around 60 percent from the free-throw line, which is way too low. With his style of aggressiveness, he will be at the line often. There is major room for growth in Alexander's body and in his game for the future.