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- Measurables: 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, senior center from Missouri
- Key Stats: 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks per game, 69 percent shooting
- Projected: Second round to undrafted
- Hickory High Similarity Score
Why I like this guy
I have to admit a bias for Ricardo Ratliffe up front: he’s a JUCO player, and I’m a huge fan of JUCO basketball after covering it for a few years. It’s full of great stories, insane athletes and, most entertainingly, sometimes just insane people in general. I’ve never had more fun watching college basketball than I had watching JUCO teams go at each other in Michigan (seriously … great, cheap entertainment and Michigan has one of the best JUCO scenes anywhere — Mott CC, Oakland CC, Henry Ford CC, Lansing CC, Schoolcraft, Grand Rapids CC … all teams with successful track records worth supporting and following if you’re close by any of those places.
Anyway, onto Ratliffe. He’s part of one of the most exciting programs to watch in the country in Missouri. He’s the third leading scorer and leading rebounder on a team that plays basically four guards and Ratliffe as the big man. As such, he’s pretty vital to Missouri’s success:
“We don’t have success if we don’t have Ricardo’s play,” (Missouri coach Frank) Haith said. “We need his production.”
Pros for the Pistons
The key stat for Ratliffe sticks out pretty conspicuously: his shooting percentage. Ratliffe finished the season at nearly 70 percent. At one point this season, his FG% was nearly 80 percent and he spent much of the season threatening Steve Johnson’s single season record of 74.6 percent, which was set 31 years ago.
Playing with four guards has its advantages — that’s four guys to set up Ratliffe with finishing opportunities around the rim, but he has to hold up his end of the bargain by catching those passes and finishing strong. Ratliffe is very good at both of those things.
Last season, Chris Wilcox, an active big man whose best skills were catching and finishing around the basket, was a big beneficiary of receiving Greg Monroe‘s passes. Ratliffe is already doing the exact same sort of thing, staying active without the ball and snaring passes, for Missouri. Should be an easy transition for him playing next to Monroe.
Ratliffe is also great at running the floor, and I have to credit his JUCO routes for that. The JUCO game is an open-court, guard’s game. Few talented big men go the JUCO route, so the most successful big guys at that level are the ones who can run like guards. Ratliffe was not only successful at that level, he was the top JUCO recruit in the country when he transferred to Missouri.
Every once in a while, teams hit a home run in the second round and find a complete or near complete player capable of starting. More often though, the best second round picks are guys who have one or two above average skills who can simply help a team in the right role. Ratliffe’s motor and finishing ability would both be nice additions to a Pistons frontcourt that is a little lacking in those areas at times. Ratliffe just never stops moving on the court, makes decisions quickly and plays hard. Those things all fit with the culture the Pistons want to build.
Cons for the Pistons
At 6-foot-8, Ratliffe isn’t the huge, bruising center Pistons fans covet. That’s OK, but if the Pistons don’t fill their true need for another starting caliber big man earlier in the draft, Ratliffe probably isn’t the answer as an immediate starter either.
At 23, he’s also a bit older than most of the big man prospects in the draft (although, to be fair, that’s still two years younger than Vernon Macklin was when the Pistons took him in the second round last year) and he doesn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Best case scenario for Ratliffe seems to be as an energy guy off the bench. Those guys always have some value, but the Pistons already have a guy kind of like that in Jonas Jerebko (Jerebko is not as talented around the basket, Ratliffe doesn’t have the face-up game Jerebko has), so it might be harder for Ratliffe to crack the rotation since that ‘energy guy’ role is already spoken for.
What others are saying
When Ratliffe gets the ball around the rim, he rarely, if ever, misses. Ratliffe doesn’t do it with superior explosion or length. He just has a super-quick release, has quick feet, is a tireless worker and has a nose for the rim.
Against the NBA length of Baylor’s defense, Ratliffe had 27 points, 8 rebounds and shot 11-for-14 from the field.
“When you break him down in Synergy,” one scout said, referring to a popular scouting software, “the first thing you notice is that the ball doesn’t stay in his hands for very long. He touches it and then it’s on its way home to the net.”
Slightly undersized for a center at 6-8, Ratliffe possesses an extremely long wingspan and a chiseled frame that he’s learned to use to his advantage. While not an exceptional athlete in terms of raw explosiveness, his combination of strength, length and aggressiveness renders him extremely effective at this level.
The lone post presence on a guard-laden Mizzou team. His 13.8 points and 7.5 rebounds will be crucial in the tournament.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Ratliffe of the recruiting attention. “I worked hard in the gym and the weight room and I feel that I am the No. 1 player in the nation in junior college. I played against the best big men in junior college and I feel that I did better than all of them.”
Ratliffe has an effective hook shot that he can score with in post-up situations, but back-to-the-basket scoring hasn’t been his primary contribution to Missouri’s torrid 18-1 start. Instead he capitalizes on the driving and dishing ability of Missouri’s unselfish guards, scoring most of his points cutting to the rim, via pick and rolls or crashing the weakside glass to put back an offensive rebound.
What is the best thing Ricardo Ratliffe does for his team?
Ricardo Ratliffe might have the best pair of hands in the country. Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel asked Ratliffe to try out for tight end next year because he loved his hands so much. (Ratliffe, I assume, declined because of that whole “pursuing pro basketball” thing). He has served as Phil Pressey’s pick-and-roll muse all season; all Pressey has to do is penetrate and flip a pass anywhere close to Ratliffe, and not only will Ratliffe field the pass, but he will also have a shot up before the defender realizes he has the ball. Ratliffe has been fairly labeled as a “below the rim” player, and it might hold him back in the NBA; his post moves are fine but less than elite, and even when he has the opportunity to dunk, he doesn’t necessarily take advantage of it. But his jumper is solid, and he has strong pick-and-roll potential, and with those hands he should continue to be both a decent offensive rebounder and a candidate for success with a strong penetrating point guard.
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