It was cold and gloomy in Chicago today. The rain just wouldn't let up, and it seemed to ruin a lot of people's mood, as all I heard from the scouts today was a whole lot of complaining about how this is the weakest Chicago camp they've ever seen.
The day started off with some drills, and at 11 a.m., the first game (once again the best of the day) kicked off between Team 1 and Team 4.
The star of the game, and probably of the entire camp thus far, was the 6-4 Slovenian PG, Beno Udrih. He was absolutely spectacular with the ball in his hands, controlling the tempo of the game wonderfully and always upping the pace of his offense and pushing the ball foward. The fact that his team scored 106 points in 40 minutes had a lot to do with that.
Udrih got into the lane pretty much whenever he pleased, no matter who was guarding him. It wasn't just because of his above average speed, but more because of the excellent body fakes, nifty ballhandling and the sharp cuts and direction changes he throws at his matchup. Once he got to the hoop, he was able to either kick it out and find the open man or finish the play strongly himself (sometimes with the foul too). He hit all 11 of his foul shots, finishing with 15 points to accompany his 7 assists. He was also robbed of at least another 5 assists because of his teammates missing easy and/or wide open shots. His confidence, poise and superb decision make him the MVP of the tournament so far and a legit sleeper candidate to slip into the end of the first round. The gym was buzzing about him almost all day today, it's a pretty safe bet to say that whoever drafts him is going to get a really nice backup PG.
On the other team (the losing squad), the best player on the floor was once again the 6-4 1/2 combo guard Ricky Minard. He played both guard spots equally well today, along with displaying some nice, tough defense while taking a charge and blocking two shots, and he did a great job defending Romain Sato, who started off the day hot but cooled down with Minard guarding him.
Alot of people are going to be discussing Drago Pasalic after his 21 point and 13 rebound performance... but it was nothing. Much of his baskets were noneventful and can easily be described as "garbage points." While he did have a solid performance he didn't do much to seperate himself from teammates who may not have had better stats but did show off more skills.
Minard did a great job displaying his athleticism today, especially his explosiveness and nice vertical leap. Andre Barrett also had a decent game today, playing like a true floor general and scoring a little bit as well. The fact that he measured out at 5-10 helps him a bit, but I wouldn't hold my breath on him being drafted. Misan Nikagbatse had a good day shooting the ball, but barely got a chance to show off his point guard skills, which is pretty much the only thing that seperates him from the other 6-5 shooting guards here. Chris Garnett looked OK in the paint, he has a good NBA body which he used agressively along with his strength to score some points and cause some damage inside.
Private Workout at Hoops
There was a three and a half hour lunch break between the games and I decided to head over to Hoops the gym again to investigate an interesting conversation I had yesterday at Moody Bible.
I was told that Devin Harris had a workout yesterday at Hoops where he was matched up with a 6-2 guard from Northwestern by the name of Jitim Young. I had never heard of him before, but rumors had it that he gave Harris an awfully tough time, to say the very least. Harris supposedly could not get his shot to fall because of Young's tough, physical defense and had a pretty awful workout in front of the Golden State Warriors. My first reaction was: "I don't believe that for a second, that sounds like one of those agent-type stories." Regardless, I decided to get in touch with Jitim's agent to see what the story was. It was just my luck that he was scheduled to go up against Harris once again today at Hoops, and they were more then happy to invite me over to see how it unfolded this time.
I got there pretty early and took another look at Erazem Lorbek, Roko-Leni Ukic, Aleksander Vujacic and another SFX client, Armands Skele, who is from Latvia. I don't have much new to report, Ukic's shot looked a little streakier than the day before, Vujacic looked a little better (good quickness, superb shooting) and Erazem Lorbek looked fantastic to me. He is probably going to pull out this year, as his chances of being drafted in the 1st round aren't very high, but I think he's got a great shot at being a 1st rounder next year. He's a lot quicker then people give him credit for, he's in fantastic shape and he's got one of the nicest face up games I've seen out of a power forward all week. He put the ball on the floor nicely with some great perimeter moves and he shot the ball extremely well. I like him a lot more now that I've seen him up close two days in a row. The kid has some serious talent and heart. Armands Skele, listed at 6-7, looks shorter than Roko-Leni Ukic for some reason. He has good quickness, he is a pretty good athlete, he is not as polished as the other players involved, but he is definitely the most muscular out of the four.
I waited patiently for about 45 minutes in between workouts, and got to take a little peek at Shaun Livingston as he did a little shoot around. I don't have much to say about that, he still looks kind of skinny to me, although I'd never seen him in person before. He shot the ball OK.
When Harris and Jitim Young finally showed up, I was pretty pumped to see how things would go. They both warmed up as the scouts were filing in (Sixers and Heat amongst others) and I was then told by Devin Harris' agent (Henry Thomas) that I would have to leave. He looked pretty stressed out, and when I asked him why he didn't want me to see how his lottery pick client (who I'm actually very high on if you look at his scouting report) looked against an NCAA scrub, he said that he doesn't know what I'm going to write (I didn't either at that point obviously) and that I would have to leave. I had no problem with that, but the whole situation just seemed very, very odd to me. Later on I found out that Chad Ford had been at that workout the day before and he basically confirmed what I was told about how the first Harris-Young showdown went.
I wish Devin Harris the best of luck, he's a really fun guy to watch, one of my favorite NCAA players this year, and it's too bad that I didn't get to see him show his stuff.
Team 2 vs Team 5
In the second game of the day, Team 2 took on Team 5 and Andre Emmet proved to be the most impressive player on the floor. Emmet displayed his quickness and athleticism very nicely, attacking the basket relentlessly. He is the complete package on both sides of the floor, except for the fact that he is not a good perimeter shooter. He did a lot of small things for his team and he took them on his back when they needed him the most. Emmet was robbed of the game winning layup when a blatant foul was not whistled and the stiff rim showed even less generosity.
Also on Team 2, Trevor Ariza pulled some nice athletic moves out on the perimeter and rebounded the ball very well. Scouts I spoke with, though, were still not convinced that Ariza did the smart thing when he hired an agent. He needs a good showing on day three, as his status is still up in the air.
Rickey Paulding of Team 5 started the game very nicely, looking very agressive and scoring some nice midrange and outside baskets. People in the gym were basically thinking, "He is back to his old self, the good Ricky Paulding." After the hot start, he cooled off significantly in the second half, forcing some terrible perimeter shots that he missed badly and refusing to take the ball strong to the basket. Paulding is still in real danger of going undrafted if he doesn't show the scouts something tomorrow.Also on Team 5, Nate Robinson did not impress as much as his last game. He did, however, play more like a true point guard, moving the ball well and showing off his incredible athleticism. Even if the box score doesn't back it up, he still looked like a big time player today.
Someone that caught our eye today with a solid performance throughout the camp so far was David Simon from Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne. He is a wonderfully built 6-10 center who is quick, explosive, very crafty, and seems to have a good feel for the game to compliment his NBA ready body and fantastic hands. He is only a junior and will most likely return for another year of college, which will help him polish his game tremendously. This is definitely a player to look out for next year.
Team 3 vs Team 6
By this point in the day, people were tired, anxious, and gloomy as a result of the weather outside and Game 3 did nothing to cheer anyone up. It was a physical, defensive game.
Desmon Farmer was again impressive on both sides of the floor. I personally thought his stock would be rising by now but the scouts in the gym seem to be afraid of the "crazy" tag he had been pegged with out of USC. With the weakness of this year's Chicago crop, teams may be making a mistake by writing him off so soon.
Jackson Vroman again had a strong showing and is strongly in the running for MVP of the camp so far, along with Andre Emmet and Beno Udrih. He was all over the floor as usual, playing nice defense, making good heads up passes and just showing that he could end up becoming a valuable role player on the right team.
Lawrence Roberts looked good today after measuring in at a solid 6-9, despite being listed by some at 6-8 througout the year. He hit a nice three point shot and played pretty agressively around the basket. I'm not quite sure that that will be enough to get him into the first round or convince him to hire an agent, but in such a weak field of players, he stands out quite well with his size and skills.
Chris Duhon had another forgettable performance to add to a very forgettable pre-draft camp. He just could not get anything going at all. He shot poorly and couldn't help his team fight back from the big hole that they dug for themselves. Herve Lamizana came in for thirty seconds, after sitting out the entire camp with an ankle sprain. He was clearly injured from the moment he walked out on to the court and he was taken out almost immediately. He probably wanted to show that he is at least trying to fight through the injury and he is not the kind of player who will make any excuses for not being able to play. Tony Allen played a little bit better today. He shot the ball poorly but did everything else pretty well.
Chicago Bulls Workout
The Bulls held an interesting workout today when they brought in lotto-bound Andris Biedrins of Latvia, Serbian high school player Robert Rothbart, Russian small forward Viktor Khryapa, Justin Reed of Ole Miss and Western Carolina's Kevin Martin.
The workout was somewhat akward, as there were five players invited, but only four were allowed on the floor at the same time. It didn't give the players a very good chance to show off their individual skills and nobody really stood out all that much.
Andris Biedrins showed soft hands, a great nose for the ball, excellent footwork, nice passing skills, and a real fighting attitude. He reminds scouts of somewhat of a taller, more defensive David Lee with a much better motor. Like Lee, he is left handed and very nimble, but can't shoot outside of five feet. He looks like a ripped high school player. You hope that he will look to polish his all around game but there is a chance that he won't. If fouls were recorded for the duration of the workout, he probably would have fouled out fifteen times over. You love his agressiveness but he really needs to learn how to use it better. The great thing about him is that he is somewhat of an anti-European power forward based on the fact that he wants to be a post player and he is willing to take and dish out the contact that comes with the role.
Khryapa showed a solid all around game, seemed to know his role, and looked like a nice, reliable, 2nd round back up player for the right team. He lacks quickness, vertical leap and strength and really needs to work on his outside shooting and also getting his shot off quicker in the NBA. His defense is pretty good due to his length, but it's hard to tell how that will translate in the league.
Kevin Martin didn't get to display his impressive athletic ability too much but showed his overall smoothness, size and skill, which is really an interesting combination for a player at his position. We have written enough about this prospect over the past month so you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of player he is by now.
Justin Reed is a 6-7 power forward in a small forward's body. He is extremely agressive, hardworking, and has clearly been well-coached but his outside shooting is downright terrible for a small forward. Like Biedrins, Reed was guilty of far too many fouls today. He is just a borderline second rounder.
Robert Rothbart is an intriguing player because of his size, 7-1, and his perimeter skills. He is an excellent shooter and a good ball handler, but he is almost the complete exact opposite of Biedrins, which made for an inconclusive workout. If Biedrins can be described as a tiger, Rothbart is definitely a kitten. He is a long way away from even being able to spark an NBA team's interest. He needs at least two years of college to develop his body and learn how to use his size.
We are talking about a very interesting mix of players but no conclusions were really arrived at following this workout.