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Isaiah Canaan, 5-foot-11 point guard, Murray State: Due to all of the annual early entries to the NBA Draft, four-year college players are frequently viewed as anathema by NBA executives, but Canaan is truly a pro-ready prospect. Despite coming from a mid-major school and lacking size, the Mississippi native's leadership, scoring acumen and perhaps most significantly, ability to operate in pick-and-roll scenarios, appeal to teams. While he's unlikely to duplicate his gaudy college numbers on the next level, Canaan will enter the league as a mature, developed talent, comparable to a Jameer Nelson type.
Career highlights: Canaan first popped up on the NBA's radar when he led Murray State to wins in the team's first 23 games and a national ranking as a junior. The floor general not only distributed the ball well and performed in wins over ranked foes like Memphis and St. Mary's, but shot a high percentage from both the field and 3-point range, best evidenced by an extremely efficient 36-point outing in a double-overtime victory over Southern Miss. Although he didn't get back to the NCAA Tournament following appearances as a freshman and junior, Canaan increased his scoring and assists as a senior, though he shot a lower percentage after losing some key teammates.
Strengths: As previously mentioned, Canaan's pick-and-roll proficiency is arguably his best on-court trait, followed by his deep shooting range and ability to knock down a variety of shots off the dribble. His small stature is somewhat mitigated by his strong build, which helps him on the defensive end of the court and as a finisher in the lane. Canaan's intangibles, including his winning background and court awareness, also stand out and won't be overlooked.
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Weaknesses: Canaan's size is obviously an issue, as he'll be tasked with defending bigger point guards on a regular basis. He's not a bad athlete, but not overwhelmingly explosive, such as a Nate Robinson, and with the size disadvantage he'll face, that matters. After having a shoot-first mentality in college, he'll also have to adjust to not being the focal point of an offense.
Draft projection: Regarded by most observers as a solid second-round pick, good workouts and interviews could push Canaan to become a late first-rounder, especially if his experience shines in comparison to younger, less stable prospects. Canaan considered entering the draft last year, on the heels of all the buzz he was receiving, but opted to return to school. While his draft position probably won't be affected much by the decision, his level of preparedness entering the league could result in him playing an important role as a rookie for a team with needs in the backcourt.