You aren't going to see a lot of 6-1 guards having their names called next June in the NBA Draft. But there should be at least one.
Murray State's Isaiah Canaan showed Thursday night why he was a preseason All-American pick, and should get a nice long look from NBA scouts. The senior guard led the Racers with 26 points in a 79-59 win over Auburn, and spent a good portion of the second half resting on the bench as his teammates finished off the Tigers.
But he put on enough of a show in the first half, as he scored 20 points to the Tigers' 19. It was simply no contest from the opening tip.
What did we see from Canaan that made him special? At least a couple of things.
For one, Canaan is stronger than last season, which could be hard to believe. You could already tell that Canaan spends a lot of time off the court working on his strength. But he looks even bigger and stronger this season, able to take the ball in traffic and still finish despite getting fouled from bigger players.
His roster sheet weight lists him at 193 pounds. It could actually tip 200, but that is a solid muscle 200 on a small frame. He is basically a bowling ball coming at you.
That added weight hasn't affected his ability to move with the ball though. About midway through the first half, Canaan held the ball out on the wing and was dribbling against a Tiger defender. He acted as if to drive toward the basket, making a hard two-step cut around the outside.
But then he hit the brakes hard, reversed back the same two steps and dropped an open 3-pointer straight through the net. The defender had no chance. Canaan looked like he had committed hard to driving through to the rim. Any player on any level would have bit on that.
He had the body control though to absolutely stop that freight train momentum. And then he had enough control to set up for the shot. That is NBA skill.
The big knock is still going to be his size because at 6-1, he isn't going to be playing as a shooting guard at the next level. That should be fine for Canaan who already drives the Murray State offense, and added six assists to his scoring line Thursday.
His passing skill might be tested a little more at the next level, when he isn't the focal point of an offense, and won't be drawing defenders at the rate he currently does. That isn't to say he can't see the court well enough to overcome that. Canaan got at least two of those assists as a defender closed on him, narrowing the angle to the open man that he found to finish.
And his willingness to pass and find the open man in the offense will be important as he moves on from Murray State.
Bottom Line: Nothing Isaiah Canaan did against Auburn should take away from his draft stock. He re-established himself as one of the top point guards available, albeit one that is a bit smaller than would normally draw attention.
But it is hard to ignore everything that Canaan can do, from scoring, to passing, to establishing his own space and shot within the offense. The talent is there no matter the level of competition, and that should pay dividends come June.