That's what happens when a big-time recruit chooses to stay close to home and play for a completely under the radar school that doesn't play on national TV more often. I'm convinced that the biggest reason Bobby Portis and Jarrell Martin were late first-round picks is because they played for Arkansas and LSU instead of Kentucky and UNC. Newman was recruited hard by John Calipari but he choose to play for Ben Howland and he's paying the price for that a bit now.
Take a look at his season numbers in comparison to Jamal Murray. The only difference is that one guy takes more shots because he plays for a coach with a more wide-open offensive system:
Newman - 13.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists (on 2.0 turnovers) on 41.3% shooting, 38.4% from 3
Murray - 17.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assist (on 3.1 turnovers) on 42.7% shooting, 38.5% from 3
The numbers really go away when you equalize them over 40 minutes, as Howland has much more of a quick trigger than Calipari, who tends to play a shorter bench and let his best players play through their mistakes:
Newman - 18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists (on 2.8 turnovers)
Murray - 20.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists (on 3.6 turnovers)
Mississippi State's game against Kentucky on Tuesday, which they lost 80-74, was as good a chance as any to catch up on Newman and see how he's doing.
Newman could get around Murray and Isaiah Briscoe pretty easily
Murray (No. 9 in the DX mock) and Briscoe (No. 31) are both rated higher than Newman but they had trouble staying in front of him on the dribble. At 6'3 190 with a 6'5 wingspan, Newman has good size and speed for a combo guard and he knows how to get around defenders who press up on him. At this point, the ability to beat Murray off the dribble doesn't mean all that much:
Briscoe is more athletic than Murray and is a much better perimeter defender and he had trouble with Newman too. He picks him up 35+ feet from the basket and Newman lets him know that isn't going to work:
Newman is a good passer who mostly plays under control
As a high school legend in Mississippi, Newman was comped a lot to Monta Ellis on the AAU circuit so I was expecting to see a wild guard who relied on his athleticism to overwhelm people. That really isn't the case. Maybe it's Howland forcing him to play a more disciplined style of basketball but either way Newman does a good job of looking for his teammates on the drive and he's playing like more of a passer than Murray, despite having less talented teammates around him.
Here he is in transition, with a nice lead pass over the top of the defense to find his big man running to the rim:
He knows how to use his body and he has a good feel for the game. This is an NBA-type play he pulls on Briscoe in transition, turning nothing into something and generating contact to get to the free-throw line:
One of the concerns coming into college about his game was his ability to knock down perimeter shots but that has not been an issue for him at all. He's shooting 38.4% on 6.1 3PA's a game, although the below average FT% numbers are a concern (69.6% on 3.3 FTA's). He can knock down 3's in catch-and-shoot situations:
And he can dribble into them. This 3 at the end of the first half had John Calipari yelling at his big man for letting Murray walk into the shot:
Newman is not an elite athlete by NBA standards
He's more athletic than Briscoe and Murray but that really isn't saying much. Where Newman gets in trouble is when he decides to put his head down and drive into traffic because he can't just finish over the top of NBA-caliber big men. That's another area where the Monta comparison falls short:
What he really needs to develop is the off-the-dribble floater because that would make him nearly unstoppable. He will be much better off if he can pull up from 5-10+ feet and take the easy shot rather than forcing the issue by going all the way to the front of the rim.
Newman has a lot of work to do on D
Like with a lot of young scorers, the biggest issue for Newman right now is on the defensive end of the floor. It was kind of hard to tell on Tuesday because Mississippi State spent most of the game playing in a real lazy 2-3 zone. Even in that, though, I would hesitate to say that Newman was very aggressive in closing out shooters or trying to put much pressure on the Kentucky ball-handlers. This effort in transition defense kind of summed up his night in that department:
Eventually they had no choice but to go into man defense in an effort to get back in the game. While the Kentucky guards didn't attack Newman too much 1-on-1, he did put in a Monta-like effort off the ball. He's got to do a better job of running through screens than he does here and he was quickly pulled from the game. Say what you want about him as a coach - Ben Howland does not suffer fools lightly.
I would take Newman over Murray and Briscoe right now
I'm not going to stand on a table and say this guy should be a Top 15 pick but I think he has a better all-around package of skills than either of the Kentucky combo guards rated ahead of him. He's got Briscoe's ability to drive and Murray's ability to shoot and he's a better athlete than either of them. That said, there's a lot he needs to work on his game and he might be better off coming back to school and being able to run point full-time following the graduation of Craig Sword.
Newman has the passing ability to where I'd like to see if he could play as a full-time point, which would make it a lot easier to project him to the NBA defensively. He just needs to learn lock in on that side of the floor and refine his offensive game somewhat. I think his floor is as a do-it-all combo guard off the bench and he's probably only going to be able to start at the next level if he can run point full time. Combo guards off the bench are a dime-a-dozen so it's not a guarantee he has a long NBA career but I think he has a better chance than Murray (who can't guard) or Briscoe (who can't shoot). Newman doesn't have any glaring holes in his game and that would be more obvious if he was playing with more talent around him than he is at Mississippi State.
If he went to Kentucky, I'm almost positive he'd be rated higher than either of their two one-and-done guards. As it is now, who knows. There's a reason guys line-up to play for Calipari.