-Official Portsmouth Invitational Tournament Website
Though some of the best invitees pulled out before the tournament even started, a strong contingent of NBA teams and European scouts are in attendance.
For instance, Virginia Commonwealth forward Jamie Skeen was one of the last players to withdraw from this year's PIT. While NBA scouts certainly would have enjoyed seeming more of Skeen after he led his team to an improbable Final Four run, he made the decision to stand by his NCAA Tournament performance.
LaceDarius Dunn, Jeremy Hazell, and Chris Wright (Georgetown) also elected not to show up at the last minute.
Dunn declined his initial invite a few months ago, but then asked to be put back on the roster as an alternate. Despite being added back on to the roster after another player pulled out, he eventually he made a last minute decision not to attend. For a player who had such a troubled senior year, on and off the court, these types of moves make very little sense in the eyes of NBA scouts.
Anthony Gurley of Massachusetts replaced Dunn, UAB's Jamarr Sanders replaced Hazell, and Morehead State's Demonte Harper replaced Wright.
With every team represented in some way in an almost packed house last night, it was tough to take a good inventory of which NBA executives were in attendance, but we'll try to come up with one later this week.
Unlike last season, both of the first day's games were competitive, with Jimmy Butler and Casey Mitchell leading their teams to victory in front of a huge contingent of basketball industry members ranging from NCAA coaches here to watch their former players compete to seemingly every agent and runner in the business.
Day One Evaluations
Jimmy Butler, 6'7, Small Forward, Marquette
19 Points, 6/11 FG, 1-1 3P, 6-6 FT, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 1 Turnovers
One of the more intriguing players here in Portsmouth, Marquette forward Jimmy Butler started his week with a terrific performance. With the recent success of Marquette players in the NBA, Butler is a prospect scouts will be watching intently this week.
Putting his basketball IQ on full display, Butler showed the ability to score in a variety of ways. He knocked down a number of pull up jump shots off of one and even two dribbles along with a spot-up three pointer. He didn't force anything, either, usually taking what the defense gave him. He blended into the flow of his team's offense and made his mark on the offensive end without playing selfishly.
Butler may not have a great first step, but he is savvy enough to get separation at this level by using his defender's momentum against them, something NBA teams will look into in more detail when evaluating his future prospects.
Around the basket, he was able to get to the line using a crafty up and under move that allowed him to draw a defender into the air on more than one occasion. Not known as an elite athlete in his time playing for Buzz Williams, Butler had an impressive dunk in transition, and while he didn't stand out with his physical tools, he didn't seem at all out of place here.
Ultimately, Butler separated himself from the pack on Day One by working exceptionally hard on both ends. He showed terrific defensive intensity, as well, and he did a nice job defending the perimeter and playing tough in the lane. While Butler is not a flashy prospect by any stretch, he's an especially smart and well coached player with great intangibles and an understanding of his role.
No player stood out on day one like Ryan Thompson did last season, but Butler once again played the same highly-efficiency basketball that helped him lead Marquette to the NCAA Tournament.
-Rick Jackson started slowly with a passive first half, but finished the game with 13 points on 6-12 FG and five rebounds. Even though he is still a very raw offensive player, Jackson scored on an array of basic post-moves and did a good job of throwing his weight around against smaller players. Though his teammate, fellow bruiser Frank Hassell, grabbed most available rebounds, Jackson must be more aggressive on the boards. After all, despite an impressive start to his senior season, he averaged just 7.5 rebounds per game over his last 10 games. Jackson is currently projected in the second round of the 2011 Mock Draft and he can maintain his stock with a string of good performances and improved defense.
-Brad Wanamaker didn't have a stand-out performance in his first game here, and probably won't all week if he continues playing the same role for his team. On a roster with point guards Kevin Anderson and Demontez Stitt, Wanamaker is playing almost exclusively off the ball, with few opportunities to show his excellent passing ability.
Wanamaker's shot (known to be streaky) wasn't falling either, as he scored just nine points on 3-for-8 shooting, though he did find ways to contribute regardless, pulling in a surprising team-high 11 boards. He also played solid team and positional defense throughout the game, though he looked overmatched at times in isolation with his lack of quickness.
NBA teams likely realize that this probably isn't the best setting for Wanamaker to excel, being a very unselfish, team-oriented, system player, but continuing to play hard and accumulate hustle stats won't hurt his stock considering everything he's accomplished over the last four years.
Coming into this week, Bryan-Amaning's potential NBA stock mostly hinges on his inconsistency as a rebounder/defender, so continuing to perform in this fashion will be beneficial. He also did a good job scoring with his back-to-the-basket game, out-quicking most opponents and never hesitating to attack with the ball in good position, perhaps even forcing the issue a bit too much at times.
One of the best athletes in attendance with a few very intriguing qualities, Bryan-Amaning is definitely someone to keep an eye on even if he doesn't have a clear-cut NBA niche.