Dancing With Noah

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Tag Archives: scouting

May 2021: Allen Iverson Classic, a player-centric Review

Over the course of a few days in May, a collection of top-ranked high school basketball players descended on Memphis for the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, an NBA-sanctioned event (meaning NBA personnel could attend to whet their appetites for future employees) hosted by one-time Memphis Grizzly, Allen Iverson.

This time of year is typically the season for post-season all-star/All-American games with the McDonald’s game, Jordan Brand Classic, and probably some others that aren’t coming to mind. In this second year of global Covid disruptions, most events are on hiatus, but not the Iverson Classic which stood alone as the sole national event this year. Spread across three days, there were (allegedly) competitive scrimmages withheld from the masses, dunk and three-point contests, a one-on-one tournament, and finally, the main event, an all-star game on Saturday night (May 8th) 28 of the top high school players in the country (27 boys and one girl). The game was streamed through SUVtv for a not unreasonable $9.99 and is available on-demand. Before I get into the players, notes on the stream and game:

  • SUV, as usual, provides competent and mostly knowledgeable announcers.
  • For viewers who enjoy rewind/fast forward hot key features (think five-second forward/back), SUV’s video player does not include these features. This is inexplicable.
  • The white jerseys have light-colored (light gold? White?) numbers making it difficult at times to determine who’s who. Similar to the video player, this is a small nuisance likely only impacting a handful of viewers, but even the announcers were tripped up at times.
  • The rosters (and all players are included below) are accurate
  • The head coaches of each team were Stephen Jackson and Rasheed Wallace. Both were engaged and vocal. From my lens, the gravitas of these former players contributed to sustained energy and competitiveness from the players. All-star games have long been the domain of coasting, but imagine your 18-year-old self defying Sheed or SJax.

Black Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):

  • #1 Paolo Banchero: Seattle kid with 11/12/02 (18.5 years old) b-day, somewhere between 6-9 and 6-11 (he’s not 6-11 despite what ESPN has listed) depending on source, 5* Duke commit, mocked #2 in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-3 high-school rank:
    • All we heard all week was how him and Chet Holmgren competed hard against each other all week and, for me, they’re the most tantalizing players and prospects.
    • Banchero settled for a lot of jumpers in the game, both off-the-catch and off-the-bounce, but I’m not too concerned as he has sound mechanics and some of the shots felt like they in search of rhythm.
    • Banchero’s combination of size, movement and ball skills are somewhat mesmerizing. So many bigs his age are rail thin, still growing into their bodies and creating uncertainty as long-term prospect, but Banchero already has a solid frame complimented by a clean handle, tight cross and effective hesitation. Combined with strong body mechanics and mobility, the aggregate is extraordinary.
    • Given his general focus/engagement and build, I was surprised to see him pummeled on the o-glass by Holmgren who’s length, timing, and underestimated strength caused Banchero problems all day. Holmgren had at least four o-rebs that were a direct result of out-working Banchero.
    • Banchero’s defense doesn’t worry me because he’s a smart player who has a solid motor, but I don’t necessarily see him as a high-impact defender long-term; particularly with him going to Duke where Coach K seems to have given up on teaching defense to big men.

A crossover dribble move executed by Paolo Banchero of Seattle
  • #21 AJ Griffin: son of former NBA player and current assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, 8/25/03 (17.7) b-day (2nd youngest player in game), 6-7 or 6-8, listed at 200 pounds but there’s no way he’s that light, 5* Duke commit, mocked #6 in 2022 ESPN mock, no consensus on HS rank due to not having played in over a year, but pre-hiatus, was consistently top-10 in national ranks and top-3 in Draft Twitter circles:
    • Griffin looks like he spent the past year locked in the weight room alternating between shoulder presses and lat pulldowns. He’s fucking huge and gives off some Kawhi Leonard vibes as a power wing – although he’s nowhere near weaponizing that power right now.
    • The handle is slick and he hit someone with a nasty inside out that I should’ve clipped, but didn’t. My bad.
    • Range extends beyond NBA three line without effort.
    • In love with pull-ups and it’s a pretty shot with a variety of dribble moves to set it up, but lot of settling.
    • Could see the rust from long time off, but both the current ability and long-term potential outstrip any lack of rhythm.
  • #2 JD Davison: Alabama native with 10/3/02 (18.6) b-day, 6-2 or 6-3 (I’d lean to 6-2), with a solid 180-poundsd, 5* Alabama commit, not included in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-13 in class:
    • Got a coveted Givony tweet about his play
    • Showed some flair for passing/reading floor that hadn’t popped as well in other viewings.
    • Power guard who used his strength/athleticism well a couple times including shrugging off Jaden Akins on a dribble drive and recovering on a Nolan Hickman ball fake to get the block on second jump.
    • Not sure if he shot a jumper.
  • #26 Johnathan Lawson: member of Memphis basketballing Lawson family, 10/7/02 (18.6) b-day, listed at 6-6 170 but looks taller, 4*Memphis commit (de-committed from Oregon), mostly a top-100 rank:
    • Jersey number was strangely a different color from teammates
    • Didn’t focus too closely on him, but lack of physical development seems to be holding back better body control
  •  #11 Tyrese Hunter: Wisconsin kid with 8/11/03 (17.8) b-day, listed at 6-1 175, high 4* Iowa State commit, consensus top-40:
    • My first viewing of Hunter
    • Able to breakdown primary defender with handle/quickness; handle is tight, improvisational
    • Good speed, fluid movement
    • Good feel, able to read/react to defense both on/off ball à low-key, probably the secret ingredient to his effectiveness
    • In part because I hadn’t seen him before, but walked away really being impressed by him
  • #15 TyTy Washington: big time rankings riser with 11/15/01 (19.5) b-day, 6-3 or 6-4, 5* de-commit from Creighton with crystal balls pointing to Kentucky, #13 on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between #12 and 21 depending on source:
    • Able to create for self and others as lead guard – can beat the primary defender and make plus-decisions at second and third levels à drive-and-kick game solid, floater game solid
    • Totally in-flow here, comfortable as primary or off-ball; plays well with others which was important to see after seeing him force things a bit at Geico
    • Good range and shoots an easy ball
    • Showed some defensive awareness with early rotation/anticipation
    • In general, a joy
  • #5 Peyton Watson: Cali kid with 9/11/02 (18.7) b-day, listed 6-8 but could be taller, 5* UCLA commit, #6 on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-10 in class:
    • Am generally a big-time Watson fan, but he was quiet in this one – some of which could be attributed to normally being a ball-dominant offensive player and needing to find place alongside three high-level guards (TyTy, Hunter, Davison).
    • Lanky kid with long strides
    • Showed good body control/concentration with off-hand finish against Chet Holmgren contest
    • Not a player I typically think of as big-time athlete, but pulled out an impressive windmill on breakaway
  • #5 Hunter Sallis: from Omaha with 3/26/03 (18.1) b-day, listed at 6-5 but could be taller, 5* Gonzaga commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between 7 and 14:
    • Like Tyrese Hunter, this was my first time seeing Sallis, but like Watson, seemed like struggled a bit to get into an off-ball role.
    • I don’t know what I was expecting, but Sallis’s athleticism exceeded my expectations; he gets up well off two feet, had an electric windmill in transition, and showed some impressive speed/burst getting out in a sprint.
    • I’m intrigued, but not wowed.
  • #23 Bryce McGowens: out of South Carolina with 11/8/02 (18.5) b-day, listed at 6-6, high 4* or low 5* depending on who you ask committed to Nebraska after de-committing from FSU, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock:
    • McGowens is a slender wing who’s still growing into his body. In this game, similarly to Sallis and Watson, he played more off-the-ball than he’s accustomed to, but unlike the other two, it felt like a more natural fit.
    • Had couple of read/reacts and improvisations on a help side steal and drive into Chet’s chest for free throws that were good to see as in-the-flow, unforced impact. (This idea of in-rhythm, organic impact versus forced impact is something that I’ll return to throughout. In an all-star setting like this where you have 28 players who are accustomed to being focal points, getting a feeling for how players assimilate into team construct in unfamiliar capacities isn’t a panacea for scouting or projection, but it is helpful to get a feel for how a player will adapt in different situations.)
    • His shot and mechanics are fluid and polished, but I often find myself wanting more with the overall output.
  • #0 Benny Williams: DMV kid born on 4/30/02 (19), listed at 6-8 (was 5-9 as a frosh in HS), high 4*/low 5*, committed to Syracuse, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-35:
    • I believe Williams was the last guy off the bench and in my imperfect notes and memory, he had a comparable role; forced to nibble around the edges and get shots/make plays as opportunity presented itself.
    • His jumper has always been a strength at his size and while I didn’t see him make one, the mechanics still look good.
    • Flashed some plus-awareness/BBIQ with a quick dump-off on an offensive rebound à it’s a small thing, but making heady plays in limited opportunity is about all you can ask.  
  • #35 Matthew Cleveland: Atlanta native born 9/15/02 (18.7), listed at 6-7, high 4*/low 5* FSU commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-30, much higher in draft Twitter communities:
    • Big, strong, athletic, engaged, Cleveland has long been a draft Twitter darling that I’ve been closer to mainstream on (15-20ish) than draft Twitter and a lot of my reservation is revealing of my own limitation in focusing on his HS/AAU role as an on-ball, high-usage player where, in my viewings, he’s been over-aggressive with questionable decision making and shot selection.
    • If Watson and Sallis struggled towards total all-star integration, Cleveland was impressively in his element repeatedly making plays (backcutting an over-laying defender, combining awareness and athleticism on an emphatic help side block, making quick reads with the pass) and making a positive impact.
    • Showed impressive touch/concentration finishing through/over contests at rim.
    • Seems like a Florida State guy.
  • #4 Terquavion Smith: North Carolina kid with 12/31/02 (18.4) b-day, listed at 6-3, 4* NC State commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-100 player with top-rank of #73:
    • First experience with Smith and regrettably don’t have much to offer. He hit a nice floater, showed some touch, and defended well on-ball.
  • #33 Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: 8/6/03 b-day (17.8), listed at 6-9 230 but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s heavier, 5* Tennessee commit, not included on ESPN 2022 mock, anywhere from #5 to #20 in class:
    • Big, thick forward without a ton of explosiveness
    • Deep love for jab steps to setup sidestep and step-back threes – competent shooter; opened this game with back-to-back threes; shot 39% on 43 attempts in 2019 UAA season. 61% from FT on 23 attempts in same UAA sample.
    • Not a quick decision maker, ball tends to stick to his hands while he jabs/surveys.
    • Big body, but not particularly effective utilizing it; not a banger, was out-worked/out-physicaled by Michael Foster.

White Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):

  • #34 Chet Holmgren: Minnesotan with 5/1/02 (19) b-day, listed at 7-0, 195 pounds, 5* Gonzaga commit, #2 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus #1 player in class:
    • Offensively, spent much more time in post/around paint than he did with his Minnehaha team. Unsurprisingly effective around basket with length and soft touch.
    • Coordination/handle continue to impress given size/build/age and reveal ability to create off bounce which he showed with drive-and-dish.
    • Despite frame, appears to be stronger than he looks as he was able to dislodge heavier/thicker Paolo on more than one occasion.
    • Combination of strength, length, and positioning made him a nightmare on offensive glass – much of which was at Paolo’s expense.
  • #11 Michael Foster: Milwaukee native played high school ball in Phoenix at Hillcrest, 1/16/03 (18.3) b-day, listed 6-9 233, 5* G-League Ignite signee, #32 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-20 in class ranging from #7 to #17:
    • Burly and physical with elite production (32-points and 18-rebounds-per-game as a senior), the biggest knock on Foster is that he doesn’t know how to play and makes dumb decisions and while it was an all-star exhibition, early on Foster helped off of Huntley-Hatfield when he didn’t need to and gave up a wide open three.
    • Additionally, he struggled with his handle forcing dribble drives and getting stripped for TOs.
    • The burly physicality was evident though as he was a bully on the offensive glass, repeatedly pummeling Huntley-Hatfield under the hoop for putbacks.
    • Flashed nice passing/awareness with a cross-court hook pass with a ton of velocity and accuracy to wide open shooter.
    • Unable to contain or deter Paolo in space.
  • #4 Kowacie Reeves: 1/31/03 (18.3) b-day, listed at 6-6 170, 4* Florida commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #27 and #69 in class:
    • First time seeing Reeves, a long, bouncy wing out of Georgia
    • Jumper didn’t fall and didn’t see enough or close enough to get a feel for mechanics
    • Could see his well-regarded athleticism attacking the closeout for an and-1 dunk
  • #0 Jaden Akins: Michigan native with 2/25/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 160 though assume that’s an outdated weight, 4* Spartan commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-55 recruit:
    • Fluid, smooth athlete; movement in general is pleasant and balanced
    • Maybe overly reliant on jumpers and if it’s not falling, struggles to impact game especially in this setting
    • By my unofficial and incomplete tracking, was 0-4 from field with a pair of missed pull-ups, a missed catch-and-shoot, and a blown lob.
  • #8 Josh Minnot: Florida kid with 11/25/02 (18.5) birthday, listed 6-8 but lot of indications he’s 6-9 or 6-10, 4* Memphis commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #35 and #68:
    • First time seeing Minnot; he’s slim, long, tall; saw he has a 7-2 wingspan but not convinced from eyeballs
    • Showed good body control and functional usage of aforementioned length with balance on change of direction and scoop finish around AJ Griffin
    • Aggressive in attack though occasionally forced the issue on rim attacks that resulted in off-balance attempts
    • Not prettiest form/release, hips seems slightly turned inwards, release on the abrupt side, but was able to at least a pair of threes
  • #2 Nolan Hickman: Seattle native with 5/7/03 (18) b-day, listed 6-1 180, high 4*/low 5* former Kentucky commit who’s currently undecided, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, roughly in 20-40 range in class:
    • Recently decommitted from Kentucky and building on a strong performance at the Geico Nationals
    • Decently put together with solid athleticism, high-level awareness, quick processing/decision making, and oodles of skill. Awareness and processing allow him to anticipate and react in ways that frequently put him in the right place at the right time – these aren’t accidents are evidence in clip below.
    • I’m not much for superlatives, but am mildly confident that Hickman was the best passer in this event though JD Davison was at least flashier on this day.
    • Mostly average shooter with a floater and maybe a bit better off catch at present

  • #32 Daimion Collins: hailing from the Lone Star State, born 1/23/02 (19.3), listed 6-9 210, 5* Kentucky commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, generally accepted as a 10-15 recruit:
    • Collins is a lanky, bouncy 4/5 with defensive upside for days and a bit of a jump shot who maybe thinks it’s an excellent jumper.
    • He’s a good case study for my particularly haphazard scouting technique as an example of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. To wit, last summer I witnessed the lithe Collins thoroughly outplayed and out-toughed by 2022 Vincent Iwuchukwu, a near-seven-foot big in a much more traditional back-to-the-basket model. Collins had his moments, but they were few and far between and he was generally mauled. Unfortunately, this left an indelible mark on me as a character defining defeat, not dissimilar to a thumping Scottie Lewis once put on Jaden McDaniels which upturned my whole idea of McDaniels or, from what I’ve heard of others, the merciless roasting Jaden Springer put on Jalen Suggs and his soft handle a couple summers ago. For my process, I have to consciously guard against the Iwuchukwu battle being a character-defining moment for Collins.
    • Contextual baggage aside, Collins was active and engaged in this game where he strung together deflections, hit ahead passes, and length-revealing dunks. The ill-advised jumpers (contested pull-up straddling the three-line) were still there, but largely overshadowed by his athleticism, length, and effort.

Extending put back dunk shot from Daimion Collins, basketball player
  • #10 Kendall Brown: another elite Minnesota native, born 5/11/03 (18), listed 6-8 205, 5* Baylor commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-15 in class:
    • Strong forward, with well-built frame, elite leaper, two-way playmaker who gives me Shawn Marion vibes.
    • Didn’t show a ton of new this game, but that’s not a bad thing either: caught a pair of lobs, knocked down a pull-up from 16-feet, was a tad wild (spinning jumper and errant no-look pass) at times, remains a favorite of mine.
  • #24 Trey Alexander: Oklahoma native listed at 6-4 185, 4* recently decommitted from Auburn because the program allegedly “didn’t keep their word,” N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked between #55 and #83:
    • Bit of a ball-dominant combo guard, mostly smooth with handle and pull-up game, good, not great as athlete
    • Alexander was put in a bit of a weird spot as the opponent matched him up with Raven Johnson, the only female player in the game. Johnson is a 5-9/5-10 5* committed to South Carolina. Alexander attacked the matchup with vim and vigor, attacking the smaller opponent on both sides of the ball, coming up with steals and beating her off the bounce multiple times.
    • It’s hard to take much away from this type of scenario except that Alexander played hard and his 55-83 slot feels accurate.
  • #23 Jordan Longino: Pennsylvanian listed at 6-5 195, 4* Villanova commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked as high as #39 and low as #81:
    • My first experience with Longino, a thickly-built off-guard/small wing – his build could be somewhat confused based on an undershirt that possibly made him look bulkier than he actually is.
    • Showed plus-awareness and ability to quickly process/react to openings/opportunities with quick pass/reads; played a step ahead of the game.
    • Plays at measured pace, under control
    • Jay Wright had to be pleased see him make an early rotation and force a TO
    • Good body control with step-thru in transition.
    • Didn’t note him shooting any jumpers and I don’t have any shooting %s for him.
    • Walked away a fan, but patience is always the virtue with Villanova kids.
  • #12 Ahamad Bynum (Black Cat): Chicago kid with 2/21/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 175, 4* committed to DePaul (since 2019), N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-100:
    • Nicknamed “Black Cat,” my first time seeing him
    • Have seen him listed at both 6-3 and 6-1 but felt more in the 6-1/6-2 range
    • Aggressive instincts were there, but struggled to find any rhythm
  • #1 Daeshun Ruffin: Mississippi native listed at 5-10 160, 4* committed to Ole Miss, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, generally a top-55 recruit:
    • Surprisingly my first time seeing Ruffin as he’s been on the scene for several years.
    • Smaller lead guard, not just height, but build as well. Plays point, but loads of aggressiveness and scoring/attack instincts.
    • Good quickness with a low handle and electric spin move; showed some ++touch with a high-banker off the glass on the move
    • Able to hit threes off catch and bounce
    • Targeted in post by TyTy and beaten handily
  • #26 Bryce Hopkins: Illinois kid with 9/7/02 (18.7) b-day, listed at 6-7 220 but looks thicker than 220 and not in a bad way, 4* Kentucky commit after a Louisville decommit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-30 recruit who got that coveted Givony love:
    • Thick-bodied, highly skilled forward with great feet and feel
    • Like Kendall Brown, didn’t see a lot of new stuff from Hopkins à he’s skilled/polished with a clean handle, a willingness to pass, and ability to grab-and-go off the board
    • Able to create space off-the-bounce with a tight cross and get to pull-up or rim
    • Don’t have stats on him and don’t have a good feel for his jumper. In other settings, he’s struggled to hit off the catch, but I haven’t noted any wonky mechanics.
    • I like Kentucky as a landing spot
  • #5 Trevor Keels: DMV kid with 8/26/03 b-day (17.7 – youngest player in game), listed at 6-5 210, 5* committed to Duke, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-20 recruit:
    • Just second time seeing Keels as a senior after seeing several games of his previous years
    • Has outgrown some of baby fat and looks strong/thick; not an explosive athlete, but a good one with burst off the catch.
    • Was slow to get going in this game, but found confidence in second half with variety of drives and threes of catch and bounce.
    • Showed some creation with a drive-and-dump dime
    • Bit of a ball stopper with a penchant for pounding the ball in search of openings at the expense of decisively moving/attacking
Trevor Keels engages evasive maneuvers

A final note, despite being physically overmatched and somewhat targeted, the previously mentioned Raven Johnson was sound in effort and execution with quality passing/reads. She struggled to finish/hit shots, but was game as a competitor.

Scouting Dump: Week of November 19th

Welcome to the second scouting/prospect dump of this 2019-20 prospect season. (I almost titled this “Scouting Dump #2” but opted against for what should be obvious reasons.) (I added the “prospect” descriptor because these are not exclusively scouting reports though there are layers of scouting, from Chicago deep dish thick to buttermilk biscuit flake thin, accompanying each player and rank.) I write these completely in arears and have seen several of the players included here play in Thanksgiving tournaments and those games will no doubt influence these rankings and commentary.

The purpose of these rankings is multifold: to sort through my own reactions and thoughts, to compare and contrast prospects, to rank and re-rank as we move through the season and player traits and skills solidify or dissolve. There’s a point, even in a 35-game season, where a player establishes himself as the present version of himself. Last year, I didn’t need to watch much Zion Williamson to understand who or what he was. This year, in the short span of a month, RJ Hampton went from spindly-legged athletic point guard in New Zealand to broad-shouldered, symmetrical-man-athlete. This can happen when we’re watching teenagers grow up before our eyes and it makes a weekly (or bi-weekly or whatever) exercise valuable and insightful.

As always, rankings are fluid and entirely possible to be inconsistent from week-to-week. 45 total players pulled from the following games:

  • 11/19/19: Pepperdine @ USC
  • 11/21/19: South Dakota State @ Arizona
  • 11/21/19: Ohio vs Baylor – snippet
  • 11/21/19: Texas vs Georgetown – 2k Classic
  • 11/22/19: Mississippi State vs Villanova
  • 11/22/19: Duke vs Georgetown – 2k Classic
  • 11/24/19: Florida vs Xavier

 

  1. Nico Mannion, Arizona, trending up:

Mannion deserves his own piece and at some point during this draft season, perhaps I’ll sit down to it. For now, I’ll content myself with a snippet of a profile: he’s listed at 6-foot-3 although he looks shorter to me with a negative .5” wingspan per 2019 Nike Hoop Summit. While possessing what appear to be Chase Budinger hops (can elevate with a runway, but also goateed white basket-athlete), he’s not going to sky over bigger players for rebounds or roast defenders with quickness. His physical and athletic profiles have not proven a hindrance to his ability to produce at the high school, AAU, or college levels. Through a brief nine-game sample, he’s scoring 15-points on 52-43-78 shooting splits while flirting with a 3:1 assist:turnover ratio in just 29 minutes/game. He drives a high impact on offense by dictating game flow as a multi-threat player with optimal decision-making ability. He can score off quick-release pull-up jumpers from well-beyond the college three-line, attack defenders either direction with a low, tight handle, has a mature runner off one-foot that appears to be master class already (CLIP), and can pass with the type of improvisational imaginative functionality that expresses the poetry of basketball (CLIP). He is exquisite, technically functional without being robotic. Defensively, his impact is significantly lower, but he is a plus as a team defender, able to recognize rotations and anticipate ball movement and positioning. In a game against Wake Forest on December 1st, I saw what appear to be vestiges of a John Stockton/Kyle Lowry-styled defensive nastiness that borders on dirty when Mannion was switched onto a big and instead of passively accepting his fate as barbeque chicken, he pushed, kneed, and thighed his way into better position. He is, and continues to be, a joy to behold.

  1. Onyeka Okongwu, USC, trending up: Very little to add since what I wrote a week ago. I’d still have him behind Wiseman, but like Bone Thugs in 199-whatever, he’s creepin on ah come up.
  2. Josh Green, Arizona, no change: Like Mannion, the 6-6 with 6’10”+ wingspan Green deserves his own piece. I’ve been high on him for a couple of years so I’m not surprised to still be high on him, but rather to be high on him for his role which, as is so often the case, makes perfect sense in the hindsight of present reality. Against Wake, Green didn’t score his first bucket until a few minutes into the second half and yet was arguably one of AZ’s most impactful players through rebounding, offensive facilitation, two-way effort, and individual and team defense. Watching him grab-and-go off the defensive glass, seeing his quick hands create problems for Wake players, and his plus-instincts as a passer (in both full and half court), I suddenly believed he could be an Andre Iguodala-type super role-player. This isn’t to say he’s the second coming of Iguodala, so please put away your tar and feathers. Rather, the similarities I see are elite athleticism (positional strength, vertical and horizontal explosiveness, and quick reactions) coupled with plus-IQ and effort, and facilitator instincts. That he’s currently shooting 38% on 29 threes with 81% on 32 free throws only add to his well-roundedness.
  3. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova, no change: The 6-9, 235-pound Robinson-Earl is the son of former Kansas and LSU dunk maestro, Lester Earl and where his pops was a bundle of unrefined athleticism with two legs, two arms and whatnot, Robinson-Earl is basketball refinement manifested and requisite parts included. He projects as an NBA four with stretch-five potential (41% on 17 3s at Villanova), has excellent size, average length, and a sturdy build. For a freshman, he shows a high basketball IQ as he frequently flashes into space, plays the game at a measured, unrushed pace, quickly diagnoses and reacts to defensive assignments and rotations, and generally exhibits an ability to rapidly process the game. Even when JRE makes the occasional misread defensively (failing to drop on a pick-and-roll cover or getting beaten on an overplay denial), he recognizes the mistake and it’s easy to understand what he was going for. He has plus-footwork inside, knows how to use his wide body as a screener/box out man, and consistently runs the floor hard. He doesn’t strike me as ever reaching All-NBA levels, but his high-floor game replete with effort, intelligence, and fundamentals, should translate well to the NBA. Reminds me a bit of David West but without the wingspan or reputation.
  4. Scottie Lewis, Florida, trending up: Lewis is a 6-5 defensive menace with a wingspan sniffing 7-feet. He’s older for a freshman, turning 20 in March, but he’s just a damn dog on the defensive side of the ball where he channels a best-in -class intensity into constant harassment and impact. Through eight games, he’s averaging 4.4 stocks/game, many of which are the highlight variety. I see shades of Matisse Thybulle in his dropdown blocks: the DNA of a hunter stalking in silence and pouncing (CLIP). The way he moves his hips, mirrors opponent movements, crouches and slides call to mind a defensive back – but at 6-5 and with a huge vertical. His defense is what will get him to the NBA. His offense? He’s shooting 74% from the line with a 46% FTr and with his speed and stride length can be effective as a straight-line driver. Beyond those two attributes, he’s been limited at Florida. He can make the right read and pass, but isn’t expected and probably not capable of doing much more at present. From October of 2018, Draft Express had him as a 33% career three-point shooter, but he’s just 4-17 (23%) at Florida. In my viewing, his threes have primarily been catch-and-shoot. The shooting mechanics don’t appear to be broken, but one gets the sense that the same intensity that makes him so dangerous defensively has an adverse impact on his offense and shot.
  5. Zeke Nnaji, Arizona, no change: listed at 6-11, 240-pounds, Nnaji somehow plays bigger than his size. On the interior, he establishes position with a deep, wide, almost crustacean or arachnid-like base. He’s proficient around the basket, shooting nearly 80% at the rim per Barttorvik and tied with Obi Toppin for the most close twos made, but equally impressive has been an uber-confident and decisive mid-range game which extends to the elbows. Outside the rim, he’s shooting 68% on 28 attempts. With a 79% rate on over five free throws/game, he shows some potential as a floor spacer although it’s not being utilized beyond the mid-range at all. Plays with intensity and focus on both ends, covers lot of ground with long strides and in defensive slides. Arizona frequently uses him to help trap ball handlers on the perimeter and he’s shown ability to be a disruptive there while also capable of recovering to his own man. While not statistically foul prone (four fouls/40), he’s gotten in foul trouble in multiple games I’ve seen. He has upside and probably projects better as a team defender than a rim protector (1.5 blocks/40) which, unless he can extend his range, limits his overall potential impact.
  6. Saddiq Bey, Villanova, trending up: The 6-8 Bey is a 21-year-old sophomore shooting 54-47-78 through the first quarter of the season. His three-ball, in my viewing, has been primarily off catch-and-shoots. He’s a bit of a do-everything power wing who can handle with both hands, create for himself or others off the bounce, defend multiple positions, and overall contribute positively to winning basketball. While his minutes are largely unchanged from his freshman season, his usage has leapt up from 14.4% to 22.2%, a change that’s been accompanied by 57 to 65 jump in true shooting, nearly doubling his assist rate (from 8.6% to 15.3%) and a flat turnover rate (up 0.3%). He’s functionally strong, able to use his frame to create space on the glass or, as he is apt to do, back down opponents, draw in help, and kick to the open man like he does in the clip below though his shoulder fake to shift the defense away from the corner man is some next level shit. Like his teammate, Robinson-Earl, Bey processes the game quickly and is decisive in attack. For me, it’s easy to get lulled into the idea that Villanova players project as role players who contribute to winning in the pros. That may be Bey’s destiny, but depending on where his output and impact plateau, he could exceed that already-lofty designation.
  7. Vernon Carey Jr. Duke, no change: Carey is a super-sized, offensively skilled lefty big who’s listed at 6-10, 270-pounds. For a while, he was the top player in the 2019 high school class, before his defensive foibles (typically effort-based) ultimately caught up with him. Carey’s per-40 numbers are as impressive as they were predictable: 31-points and 15 rebounds with 4 blocks and 13 free throw attempts. There was never any doubt Carey, with his massive size, power, and skill, would struggle to deliver in college. In terms of scoring, he can do pretty much anything you’d ask of your collegiate big: go to either shoulder with his back to the basket (CLIP), finish with power or touch, shrug off contact like a hippo flicking away a Spud Webb, bulldoze the offensive glass, turn and face. He doesn’t have Kevin McHale’s footwork or post moves, but he has an effective and versatile arsenal. He has touch, but it’s struggling to carry over at the free throw line where he’s just below 60%. And despite over two blocks/game, defensively is where he struggles to maintain focus and where his few athletic shortcomings are evident. He lacks high-level bounce and is not particularly long which limits his rim protection ability. He has, and has had, the terrible habit of taking entire defensive possessions off, standing stiff-legged, and unfocused. This was hideously evident against Georgetown as he was soundly beaten off the dribble by basketball-player-in-training, Qudus Wahab. This type of play was the norm and not the exception during his high school days and if he’s unable to correct it, his NBA path could follow that of fellow Duke big man, Jahlil Okafor. My last note/thought on Carey is that I believe he has some potential as a shooter. He’s just 4-5 from three this season, but his mechanics are sound and he’s exhibited touch from other areas of the floor. He can produce, but it remains unclear how much he can help a team win.
  8. Isaiah Mobley, USC, no change: nothing to add from last week.
  9. Keyontae Johnson, Florida, no change: 6-5, 225 pounds with the neck of Marcus Smart or the neck of a boxer, your choice. Johnson isn’t the glass eating defender Smart is, but he goes hard and is a significantly superior vertical athlete (CLIP). As a flawed human myself, I think it makes sense to fall in love with flawed basketball players and maybe love is too strong a feeling to ascribe, but I do enjoy Keyontae. His greatest attributes are his strength, build, and athleticism; all of which are good enough at present to carry over to the NBA. On the skill side, things are a little less clear. He’s shooting 38% from deep on 79 career 3pas, is up to 71% from the line compared to 64% last year, and is just a hair under 63 TS. He has a one-dribble pull-up which he can hit at a decent clip and consistent, steady form on catch-and-shoot threes. On the inside, he has a little right-handed flip shot he’ll use with good touch. Where he gets in trouble offensively is his decision making. As a passer, he makes both bad reads and bad passes with the poor habit of trying to force the ball into post situations that aren’t available. His handle isn’t bad, but he occasionally tries to do much with it. Defensively, he’s not a great stocks guy (1.3/40) which seems to be based on average-to-slower-than-average reaction speed. He’s shown an awareness of how to use his size to gain advantage on offense, but I haven’t seen him consistently wall/chest up defensively. The NBA seems to be placing a higher emphasis on strength and mass and Johnson has all the natural tools coupled with adequate skill on which to build and ideally find a rotation/specialist role in the league.
  10. Colbey Ross, Pepperdine, trending up: At 6-1, 180, Ross isn’t much to look at, but against USC a few weeks back, he was a diminutive juggernaut, a small man lacking muscular definition attacking USC from all angles: changing directions, changing speeds, sweating confidence, crying competitiveness: busting asses. It so happens that I tuned in primarily to see his teammate Kessler Edwards, but it also happened that Edwards was relegated to wallflower status while Ross made mincemeat of USC’s guard rotation to finish with 38 on 13-20 shooting with an array of long bombs and cutting penetrations. He carries a gaudy workload on a not-so-great team and it shows in a 20% turnover rate alongside a usage rate just under 30%. I don’t believe he projects as a starting point in the NBA given his slighter stature, but given his shooting (42-40-92 on the season, 40% on 318 career 3pas), playmaking and competitiveness, it’s not hard to see him as a 2-way or UDFA guy who figures out how to assimilate his game into value for an NBA team.
  11. Wendell Moore Jr. Duke, no change: Moore is a strong, broad-shouldered 6-6 freshman wing for Duke who fancies himself a playmaker of sorts. This fancying may well be true, but it hasn’t translated with any sense of efficiency in his nine games at Duke where he’s shooting 42-33-63 and averaging 5 turnovers/40min. But for all the broken eggs Moore produces, the occasional delights show themselves as glimpses of an idealized, stabilized, maximized future. With his powerful build and burst, he’s great at getting past defenders with his shoulders low and capable of finishing on his own or with the drive-and-kick. He’s a bear in transition with plus-body control and speed. As a passer, he’s shown more vision than the ability to actually execute the pass. Too, there’s an improvisational element to his game (CLIP) that is largely unteachable. While these moments are outweighed by the larger story of his inefficient stats, they still exist as a notion of possibility and sometimes in this world of cloudy days, possibility is all we need (That would not be a good draft strategy.).
  12. Matthew Hurt, Duke, trending down: I kind of feel like going to Duke or Kentucky as a highly-touted recruit is like being Chris Bosh going to the Heat with Bron and Wade – but without the financial security or mental/emotional maturity. Last year we saw Cam Reddish struggle to integrate with better players and this year Hurt seems to be navigating a similarly bumpy transition. Statistically (10-points on 45-42-86 shooting), he’s around what you’d expect, but visually, he’s looked unimpressive for stretches. He bottomed out in the Georgetown game when he played just five minutes and struggled mightily on the defensive end with slow feet and an inability to sit low in his stance; guarding in space was always going a concern and, at times, it has shown itself as a weakness. In high school, Hurt excelled in and around the paint; he welcomed contact and used balance rather than power to navigate it, mixed in fakes, finished with either hand over either shoulder, and was efficient around the rim without being explosive. Per barttorvik, he’s shooting just below 54% at the rim. I’ve seen enough of Hurt to trust his skill-level, but trusting his ability to ratchet up the skill and adapt to a longer, more athletic opponent set while maintaining his confidence in a system where he’s getting less touches is something I’m less comfortable in. For what it’s worth, in three games since the G-Town debacle, he’s averaging 15-points on 51-50-80 shooting.
  13. Tre Mann, Florida, trending down: I loved Mann coming out of high school as an initiating off-guard with oodles of skill as a ball handler and shooter. What I overlooked was his lithe physical profile. At 6-4, 180 (Where are these pounds? I cannot see them.), Mann is close to scrawny. Guys wear weight different and his doesn’t appear to translate into much mass. It’s worth noting that we’re looking at a tiny sample already and that sample was interrupted by a few-game absence due to a concussion, but Mann’s best skills are shooting and scoring and he’s currently sitting on dismally abysmal 32-21-44 shooting splits. He appears to be adjusting to the speed and physicality of older, stronger, faster players, but I posit some of this is pure confidence and comfort. At moments, he’s been able to create his own looks off the bounce, but the frequency is such that it’s difficult to establish rhythm and confidence. One could make the case that Mann’s assessment should be N/A, but the physicals and the shooting, even in isolation, are enough for me to cock an eyebrow in concern. To be clear, I am not jumping ship on the young man, but patiently waiting for an injection of that insane Scottie Lewis confidence into Mann’s skinny arms and shooting fingers.
  14. Cassius Stanley, Duke, trending up: 20-year-old Duke freshman is better than I expected. Stanley has a compact, muscled 6-6, 193-pound frame topped with a small head and resting on thick legs. In high school, I saw him as this oldish (for his class) athlete dominating kids and falling in love with pull-up jumpers. There were flashes of playmaking and passing, but his reputation was that of a dunker. As I look back through my notes, there are hints of the player he’s been at Duke: scrappy, intense, active defensively. He’s likely out until January with a hamstring injury, but in his first eight college games, he’s shooting 47% from three, averaging 2.6 stocks, and getting two offensive boards/game. If Hurt has struggled somewhat to find a happy home on the court in Durham, Stanley has kicked in the door and announced his presence (CLIP) with an edge this particular Duke team needs. In terms of prospect, being 20 as a freshman lowers the ceiling somewhat, but with his physical tools and temperament, and if his shooting is anywhere near real, then he projects out as a rotational two in the league.
  15. Reggie Perry, Mississippi State, trending up: 6-9 or 6-10 big with plus-length and athleticism, broad shoulders and high motor. Good in pursuit of ball off glass. Shooting it well this season (7-18 from 3 for 39%, 79% at the rim) and showing touch around basket. More opportunities to show passing chops as key initiator and handler for Mississippi State and surprisingly thriving there (25% ast rate). Still waiting to see if the shooting is real; 54% from line isn’t reassuring. And while showing signs defensively, would like to see bit more impact on that end. Great signs of development at FIBA U19s this past summer. Have seen some shades of Kevon Looney in his game (not counting the handling/playmaking), but that could also be because they share similar builds.
  16. Jason Preston, Ohio, trending up: super small sample of this 6-4 Ohio point guard. Has +size for position, good pop on his passes, decisive with ball and crisp, accurate passing off live dribble (CLIP). Can handle with both hands, but maybe partial to right hand and not completely sold on handle in traffic. Crafty with look-aways and hesitations; makes up for less-than-elite quickness/burst. Probably carrying too heavy a load at 37 minutes/game, nearly nine assists, and over four turnovers. 51-33-79 shooting splits, 58 TS, no dunks thru nine games.
  17. Tre Jones, Duke, no change: The sturdy-bodied point has made some marked improvements from his freshman year. He’s improved his deep ball accuracy and volume: from 26% on three 3pas/game to 34% on four attempts. He’s still below average, but alongside a nearly 80% from the line, it shows growth and progress which old Lev Tolstoy would appreciate. Without the ball dominant RJ Barrett and uber-prospect Zion, Jones’s usage is up from 15% to nearly 24% and his FTr has spiked from a paltry 19% to 43% — possibly the biggest improvement in his game. With the increased usage, he’s more than doubled his turnovers, but still has a 2:1 assist:turnover rate. Seeing Jones this year, his most impressive attribute has been his passing. With increased opportunity has come better passes thrown with greater frequency. This makes me wonder how much better Duke could’ve been a year ago with the ball in Jones’s hands more than RJ’s. Is he just a younger version of his brother or is he willing to take the risks and push boundaries to exceed his brother’s metronomic reliability at the risk of soft failure? Nothing is permanent except death, I suppose.
  18. Naji Marshall, Xavier, no change: I initially had Marshall (6-7, 222, turns 22 in January) 13th, but given his age and lack of 3-point shooting (23% this season, 28% on 259 career 3pas), I had to drop him down. What he is/does: at 6-7, extremely crafty and decisive player, ball doesn’t stick in his hands, he catches and acts, ton of shiftiness, good size and length translates as strength to offense and defense, has touch on runner, attacks with both hands, mixes in lot of fakes, good, not great athlete with excellent body control and lateral mobility. What he isn’t/does do: shoot it well from deep; form and mechanics need lot of work, despite being strong initiator, his decision making (particularly on pull-up threes) sometimes leaves you asking questions. Like a lot of players, shooting is his swing skill. (Should be lower than #19 on this list.)

SPEED ROUND:

  1. Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State, trending up: Sophomore power wing with significantly improved shooting, less-than-desirable FTr, and lots of violent dunks.
  2. Cole Swider, Villanova, trending up: 6-9 sophomore shooter who appears to have a thick build though also wears a t-shirt under his jersey which makes it difficult to assess. Uses perceived bulk well defensively. Shooting splits: 57-49-100, 11-13 at the rim, zero dunks. 74 TS.
  3. Paul Scruggs, Xavier, no change: fun, creative, improvisational player who kind of reminds me of Detroit’s Bruce Brown. Low likelihood, but if he carves out an NBA role in his mid-20s, I wouldn’t be surprised.
  4. Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine, trending down: funny looking release on his jumper, but shooting 19-37 on the season (51%) after 37% as a freshman. Was miserable in game I saw him against USC: zero points on 0-7 shooting, zero free throw attempts, 32 minutes. An aberration, no doubt.
  5. Andrew Nembhard, Florida, trending down: one of best passers in college hoop as a 6-5 point, but bad shooting is somehow getting worse: 46 TS, 6-17 at the rim (35%) per barttorvik with some just awful missed layups.
  6. Jermaine Samuels, Villanova, no change: does it all except shoot well for Villanova as a versatile combo forward. Strong awareness and passing.
  7. Ethan Anderson, USC, no change: nothing to add from last week.
  8. Iverson Molinar, Mississippi State, trending up: 6-4 off guard, just found out he’s a 20-year-old freshman and that changes things. Solid college guard with potential to score at all three levels.
  9. Josh LeBlanc, formerly Georgetown, trending down: currently in transfer portal; facing legal issues, had seen significant decline in output as a sophomore.
  10. Jemarl Baker, Arizona, trending up: 6-4 reserve point with 26 assists to three turnovers and shooting 14-28 from three. Pushes it with pace, but control, luxury piece as a backup point. Shooting 36% on twos. Shoulder/neck length seems longer than normal.
  11. Tyson Carter, Mississippi State, trending up: Slender volume shooter (37% on seven 3pas); capable handler out of p&r, shoots off catch or bounce.
  12. Justin Moore, Villanova, no change: freshman shooter with decent build and BBIQ: very on-brand Villanova player.
  13. Kerry Blackshear, Florida, trending down: maybe it’s the knee braces, but mobility seems limited. Smart player liked more by GBPM than me.
  14. Nick Rakocevic, USC, trending down: nothing to add from last week.
  15. Omer Yurtseven, Georgetown, no change: wears a lot of accessories, 26 points and 15 rebounds per-40.
  16. Jamorko Pickett, Georgetown, no change: caught my attention with his length and defense against Duke.
  17. Omar Payne, Florida, trending up
  18. Qudus Wahab, Georgetown, trending up
  19. Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State, trending up: Des Moines, Iowa product from my alma mater. Highly aggressive in attack, likely averages a double double in 1970s NBA.
  20. Matt Coleman, Texas, no change: small (6-2 listing seems generous) shooter, 16-32 from three, 20-24 from line, better than 2:1 ast:TO.
  21. Mark Vital, Baylor, trending up: 4.4 stocks/40 for 6-5, 230-pound four man. Burly player who can jump out of the gym, but can’t really shoot for shit: 42-14-54 shooting splits.
  22. Mac McClung, Georgetown, no change
  23. Elijah Weaver, USC, no change
  24. Noah Locke, Florida, trending down
  25. Jericho Sims, Texas, trending down
  26. James Akinjo, formerly Georgetown, trending down

 

Players I noted, but didn’t see enough of to have strong opinions on: Max Agbonpolo, Devonaire Doutrive, Kai Jones, Gerald Liddell, Brandon Slater.

Summer League Scouting Grab Bag

young & smartMore so than the college game with its mini-three point line and suspect officiating, summer league offers a chance for a first look at some of the league’s best and youngest players playing what is mostly an NBA game – right down to the annoying cutaways to Secaucus for summer reviews. (Also, double OT is sudden death – to my knowledge, a wrinkle players will find nowhere else on the planet.)

After catching a couple games on a lazy post 4th of July afternoon, a handful of players stood out to me for various reasons and I wanted to share these first (and second) impressions for posterity:

Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia:

  • I don’t know who informed me (Twitter or NBA TV), but people are calling him “Jaws.” I give the nickname a C-.
  • The big man from Duke is as-advertised with terrific footwork and hands.
  • He doesn’t lumber or labor up and down the floor despite weighing 270lbs or more. That being said, my buddy Bug accurately compared his physique to Jared Sullinger and that’s not a good thing.
  • He ran the floor and hit the boards with effort.
  • His sense of space around the hoop is advanced for kid that’s just 19.
  • This is completely personal, but there’s something vacant in his eyes and missing in his body language. Is he interested? Is he entitled? Bored? Is summer league just another opportunity for him to bully opponents like he’s done his entire life? Is he just an even keel dude? I don’t know, but I’d like to.
  • The combination of size and skill is already good enough put up 15+ points-per-game against pros.
  • Okafor has an advanced handle for his size, but maybe that’s to his detriment as he instinctually put the ball on the floor and occasionally tried to dribble out of double teams which may work in summer league but could be a costly habit against NBA regulars.
  • Insists on taking his man one-on-one or creating his own looks.
  • I wasn’t paying attention to him too much on defense so I can’t speak to the deluge of criticisms there.
  • Free throws are an adventure.
  • His massive hands are a great asset for ball control and rebounding.
  • Post spin move already on par with the best post players in the league.
  • Like watching a great wave roll in.

TJ McConnell, Philadelphia:

  • McConell’s the Arizona point guard that kind of looks like Aaron Craft, but doesn’t play like him.
  • As the conductor of the Philly offense he fed Okfaor, kept him locked in, pushed when the opportunity was available, and finished well around the rim.
  • I have no idea if/how his game translates against the deepest position in the league, but after seeing him for a game and a half, I was surprised and impressed.
  • Struggled to stay in front of Terry Rozier.
  • Already reads and executes well on the pick and roll.
  • Poised.

Marcus Smart, Boston:

  • #36 is the second year point guard for Boston with an Earl Campbell-esque build. In summer league with guys that can’t legally drink, but can smoke all the cigarettes they want, this is even more pronounced.
  • Ridiculously physical for the position, nothing has changed here.
  • Owned Jazz defenders with his strength, but used change of pace and timing to penetrate and draw fouls over and over.
  • Still showing signs of lacking mental toughness. Got caught on a screen from beefy Jazz big man Jack Cooley and wound up with a flagrant foul. He’s feisty and irritable which is a dangerous combination for a guy with his strength.
  • Shot miserably from the field (2-10 from three), but made up for it with great shooting from the line (12-13).
  • He’s a man against boys in this league.
  • Sat out Boston’s second game on Tuesday.

RJ Hunter, Boston:

  • It’s one game, but watched him repeatedly bounce off bigger, stronger bodies.

Dante Exum, Utah:

  • What a feel for the game.
  • This is not the skinny kid I saw a handful of times last year.
  • He’s put on some much-needed pounds since last season and it shows in improved balance and body control, particularly when getting into the paint and getting his shot.
  • Used strength and feel to get 10 free throw attempts. Of note: I think it was @Ben_Dowsett who hipped me to this on Twitter, but Exum only shot 32 free throws in all 82 games last year. Wow.
  • Even more so than Smart, he stood out as the best player on the floor. The fluidity, the grace, my word.

Jack Cooley, Utah:

  • Who is this beefy Luke Harangody clone?
  • Well, @deehaze24 enlightened me:
  • Former Notre Dame player from Glenview, IL, played in the D-League last year and had a 29-rebound game.
  • On Monday against Boston, he repeatedly used a combination of his wide body, strength, and craftiness to suck in rebounds. He ended up with 13 boards in 16 minutes – seven of those were offensive.
  • On the flip side, he picked up six fouls in those 16 minutes. Not certain, but I’m guessing some were the result of Smart breaking down the defense.

Orlando, Orlando:

  • Get a real arena or find a way to deliver a higher vantage point for the camera. Frank Kaminsky on the camera-side of the court looked like a balletic Gheorghe Muresan.
  • Salt Lake City is the superior viewing experience.
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