Overview: Murray State Senior Point Guard Isaiah Canaan was recently named to his second consecutive Wooden Award Watch List. In his four years at Murray State, Canaan has been asked to do just about carry the team night in and night out offensively. Canaan is a short but strong point guard who runs the show for the Racers. Offensively, Canaan's best trait is his shot making ability. He is an excellent three point shooter who does some of his best work pulling up right off of the dribble. He entered this week hitting a three pointer in 31 consecutive games. Due to his pullup ability, Murray State runs lots of pick and rolls with Canaan where he is very successful. Canaan has a tremendous crossover dribble from his left hand to his right hand He stays low to the ground offensively which allows him to beat defenders who are more athletic than he is. Canaan does a great job of drawing fouls and converting from the free throw line. Murray State tries to take advantage of his shot making by playing him off the ball a bit to run him off screens because he can quickly square and release a quality shot but the offense seems lost and without direction when he doesn't handle the ball. He is a great bounce passer especially when entering the ball into the post. He also has a knack for hitting an open man in the corner after penetrating into the lane, drawing help defenders and firing a left-handed one arm pass.
Defensively, Canaan leaves a bit to be desired. Physically, Canaan is undersized at the guard position. He also doesn't have overly impressive quickness, length, or lateral agility which makes it tougher for him to recover once if he is initially beat. His strength relative to other point guards helps keep his men out of the lane even if they are quicker than him. He has a tendency to leave his man on defense or get lost when he is defending off the ball. His defense would certainly be a concern at the next level.
Overall, Canaan has proven that he is willing to be "the man" on a nightly basis. While he doesn't get a chance to compete against elite talent every night during conference play, he assumes the superstar role willingly. He lets the game come to him and doesn't force the issue by taking bad shots when his shots aren't falling or when he's getting double teamed. He has proven he can run a team offensively as his control of the game and its pace have improved. Defensively, he has some physical limits but those can be partially masked with some improved fundamentals and positioning. He will want to continue to work on his court vision and passing abilities in order to become a bit more of a complete point guard at the next level, where his teams likely won't ask him to shoot as often. Canaan is a competitor and should have a place in the league with his given skill set.
· Canaan is a great shot maker. In the pick and roll he forces the defense to hedge above the screen, which helps his big man get open. If the defense goes under the screen, he will punish them with a pullup jumper.
· Canaan is an underrated passer. His jump shots get all of the attention, but he does a great job of distributing the basketball, especially when he's getting significant defensive attention this year.
· Canaan controls the pace of the Murray State offense extremely well. Canaan keeps the Racers playing at their pace and has no issue with pulling the ball out to the top of the key and resetting the offense. He doesn't allow the team to play too quickly for their talent.
· Canaan has a tremendous left to right crossover. While he doesn't have the quickest first step, on offense he stays very low to the ground which allows him to get by his defender initially. Canaan uses his frame effectively to seal his defender off and get into the lane. Canaan is equally strong with both his right and left handed ball handling.
· He's been a four year contributor on a mid-major powerhouse. Canaan has been the team leader for much of his time on campus and does a great job of keeping his team afloat even if his shot isn't falling. Canaan loves to take the big shots at the end of games.
· Canaan does a good job of getting himself open when running off of screens. When he catches the ball, he can square and shoot extremely quickly.
Areas to Improve:
· Defensively, Canaan needs work. He is limited by his length and athleticism so his positioning and discipline need to be spot on. Canaan's strength helps him contain some offensive players but his off ball defense leaves a lot to be desired as well.
· Canaan has a relatively low assist rate for a point guard. His assist to turnover ratio isn't great by any stretch but he does have passer playmaking abilities and the low assist total is likely more a function of the role Murray State asks him to play.
· Scouts will question Canaan's ability to play against top talent because he doesn't play in a power conference and get exposure to elite talent on a nightly basis but he has led the Racers to a couple of NCAA Tournament wins including an upset of 4th seed Vanderbilt his freshman year.
· With his lack of vertical explosiveness, there will be questions about whether or not he'll be able to consistently get his shot off against tougher NBA defenders.