Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Day Three)

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Day Three)
Apr 12, 2008, 02:53 am
The level of play picked up nicely here at Portsmouth today, just as a number of new NBA General Managers (including Jeff Bower [New Orleans], Mitch Kupchak [LA Lakers], Mark Warkentein [Denver Nuggets], Sam Presti [Seattle], Danny Ferry [Cleveland], and Donnie Nelson [Dallas]) arrived to take in the action, and we had some very exciting games that went down the buzzer, showing off the clutch ability of some of the high-level college players here in attendance. In the first game of the afternoon, we saw Chris Lofton hit a pull-up three pointer coming around a screen with four seconds to go to give his team the lead and the win, as his teammate at Tennessee, Jajuan Smith, now his opponent, couldn’t sink a 40-footer to match Lofton’s dagger. Lofton had a much better game here today than he did yesterday, showing off the highly difficult shots he’s capable of hitting, and doing it to the tune of 23 points, while also dishing out 4 assists. It’s tough to swallow Lofton, who doesn’t think anything across the half court line is a bad shot, but when he’s nailing step-back, contested 25 footers, it’s hard to complain.

On the other team, Patrick Ewing Jr. got off to an outstanding start in the game, showing off his outstanding basketball IQ on both ends of the court, playing excellent man and help defense, picking off passes, fronting the post, getting deflections, and turning his steals into fast break opportunities by pushing the ball himself, even with a shaky handle. On the offensive end, he made an incredible pass from the high post to a cutter for an assist, and also attacked the boards, pulling down rebounds in a crowd. Unfortunately, Ewing went down with an injury to his right ankle 12 minutes into the game, and was in the trainer’s room on the trainer’s table with his ankle wrapped up until midway through the second half, where he returned to the bench in sweats with a noticeable limp. There’s no telling how serious the injury is, but it’d be unfortunate if Ewing can’t play tomorrow, as he really started to show some intriguing things here. Teams we talked to here are quietly starting to look at him as a legit NBA prospect, as they like his size, athleticism, hustle, work ethic and feel for the game. He looks like a lock to get invited to Orlando at this point.

Brian Butch had another nice showing today, recording 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, while doing the bulk of his work in the first half. The former Wisconsin Badger looks very comfortable out on the perimeter, and while he is no threat to create his own shot, he did well as a catch and shoot man today, connecting on a pair of shots from beyond the arc. He also has been showing a good basketball IQ out here, as several times today he made the extra pass that resulted in better shot opportunities for his team.

The mid-range game is where Butch looks like he will be able to create some shots for himself. He was able to face up and knock down shots a couple of times, while also incorporating a good looking fall away jumper when posting up inside. As a big man with good basketball sense, a soft touch and range on his shot, Butch is looking more and more like a player who could find himself invited to a summer league if he goes undrafted. He may have a chance to work himself into a Michael Doleac type role in the pros.

Anthony Morrow showed some nice flashes today while scoring 16 points in 18 minutes. Morrow did the bulk of his scoring from the outside and mid-range where he showed a very fluid pull up jumper. At 6’5” he is already taller than a lot of the guards at Portsmouth and his strong vertical made it even easier for him to get shots against defenders on the perimeter. On the occasions that he did attack the basket there were mixed results, as a couple of times he forced up tough shots, while on others he showed a great body control and touch when finishing in traffic. He’s mostly known as a perimeter shooter, and he indeed did not disappoint in this area, knocking down 2 of his 4 attempts from beyond the arc.

Bryant Dunston had a very strong showing in the second game, scoring 17 points on 8-for-8 shooting, pulling in 12 rebounds, blocking 3 shots, and making 2 steals. He exerted his will strongly on both ends of the court, using his well built frame and massive wingspan to power through the opposition, establishing good post position, pulling down rebounds in a crowd, and finishing strong at the basket. He also showed some excellent timing on his shot blocks, and while he isn’t the most athletic player in the world, he definitely makes a lot of impact plays, especially with his brute strength.

Pat Calathes wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in the first day, but he still had a very strong all-around performance with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers, on 6-14 shooting. He was his typical versatile self, impressive with his passing especially, and very aggressive looking for his own shot. He used any opportunity possible to put the ball down on the floor going left in particular, and came up with a very memorable play at the end of the first half taking the ball to the basket and finishing with a thunderous two-handed dunk right in front of the few dozen scouts in attendance. There are very few 6-10 players out there who can handle the ball the way he can, let alone have the audacity to finish in traffic like that. He showed great court vision (enjoying a huge advantage seeing the floor from the perimeter at his height) with his outlet passes and zipping bullet passes from the perimeter into the paint, and again was not afraid to take a rebound and bring the ball up the floor to get his team into their offense. He did everything with the utmost confidence, never hesitating for a second with his decision making, and usually ending up making something positive happen with his terrific activity level.

Defensively, he struggled at times trying to match up with the very offensive minded Gary Forbes, showing questionable lateral quickness getting beat on the perimeter, and not attacking the pick and roll aggressively enough in other instances. This is really the main concern people have about him—his ability to defend his position at the next level, especially considering his lack of strength. His jumper wasn’t falling for him quite as well as it has in the past (he has a tendency to rush himself at times), hitting only 1-4 from beyond the arc, but when his team needed a bucket down two points with under a minute left, he stepped up big in the clutch (as he has so many times this season for St. Joe’s) by draining a huge 3-pointer that ended up playing a huge part in his team staying undefeated and making tomorrow’s finals. Every NBA person we spoke with seems to have pegged him as the most impressive prospect here in Portsmouth (by a wide margin), and most people seem to think that he’s set himself up nicely to get drafted in June. A good showing tomorrow should lock up MVP honors for him.

In the same game, but on the loser’s side, Gary Forbes has probably established himself as the second best prospect in attendance, again putting up an all-around stat-line of 18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 turnovers on 7-19 shooting, and playing an instrumental role in everything his team did. He started off the game very unselfishly—something that was a question mark we had about him going into this camp—showing great court vision threading the needle in transition or finding the open man on the drive and dish. A good athlete at this level (although not a freak for the NBA), he is extremely shifty with his hesitation moves and spins, able to go left or right equally effectively and getting to the rim repeatedly thanks to his strength, sharp crossover and aggressive slashing mentality. He is very advanced operating out of the triple-threat, and did a good job finding the open man on the pick and roll as well.

Not known as a particularly efficient player in college (41% from the field, 29% beyond the arc), Forbes again needed a lot of shots to be effective, something that he might not be able to do at the next level. He’s not terribly explosive vertically, which makes it a bit tough for him to finish around the paint when drawing a crowd. He hesitated to shoot at times when left open, preferring instead to drive the ball wildly into traffic, and turning the ball over in the process. To really have a chance to stick at the next level, he must improve on his perimeter shot, as he just isn’t athletic enough to rely so heavily on his slashing game, especially without showing much of a mid-range game pulling up off the dribble, which he has yet to do here. There are also some questions about whether he’s quick enough laterally to defend the shooting guard position in the NBA, or whether he’s better suited playing the 3. He may be able to help himself by shedding some weight from his thick frame. He does show a very nice activity level and solid toughness getting after rebounds.

Forbes has done a good job convincing people that he may be able to carve out a niche for himself in the NBA down the road with his prolific scoring ability, particularly at his size. He should be considered a lock to be invited to Orlando now, and could end up being drafted if he plays well there.

We’ve been hearing from some NBA scouts that they like some of what they’ve been seeing from Xavier’s Josh Duncan. His 14-point 7-rebound performance today exemplified some of the features of his game that has been drawing him attention. Duncan used his rock solid frame to his advantage today, converting on several strong moves inside. His post game isn’t very refined as we’ve been seeing, but his strength helps him compensate for that. He continued to look comfortable on the perimeter today, although his shot wasn’t falling consistently, only dropping in once or twice from the outside.

Duncan did struggle with his handles today, turning the ball over a game high 5 times, mainly when he tried to do too much when attacking the basket. He did however show some promise defensively, guarding the pick-and-roll well out on the perimeter, as well as matching up well when he was forced to cover smaller, quicker players.

Frank Elegar is an intriguing player, standing a little over 6’9 with the largest wingspan in the camp, while being near the top in athleticism as well. He shows flashes of face-up and post-up moves, making some very impressive plays on occasion, but is still fairly raw as far as skills go. He had some great blocks in the post and on the perimeter today, showed good quickness and timing in pulling down rebounds, and had some very explosive finishes as well.

Jamar Butler also had a nice game today, looking much more comfortable than he did yesterday, finally getting his perimeter stroke going, hitting a variety of spot-up and pull-up shots. He also attacked the basket more than we’re accustomed to seeing, using screens and taking advantage when his defender didn’t have his feet set. He showed a nice right-to-left crossover in the lane on one occasion, and finished at the rim and with runners. He looks like a sure-fire Orlando invite at this point.

Mark Tyndale didn’t have quite the outstanding impact he had yesterday, but he flashed some other nice assets, showing outstanding athleticism, good ball-handling skills and the ability to operate as a bit of a point forward, dishing out 5 assists after his 8 yesterday. He showed nice crossovers, hesitation dribbles, and footwork on his drives, and also got out in transition for some nice dunks, though his jumper and shot-selection did not look very good, as has been a problem with him at Temple.

Rob McKiver had a good game here today, scoring 19 points and dishing out 7 assists, showing off a versatile scoring game along with some drive-and-dish ability. He over dribbles the ball at times, though he had an efficient game here, and his team won the game convincingly. He has a very nice stroke on his outside shot, and can hit pull-up shots with a hand in his face, but he forces many tough shots, something he had to do at Houston.

Kyle Hines continued his solid play and had one of the better, albeit quieter, performances of the day. The power forward recorded an extremely efficient double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds on 10-12 shooting from the field and 5-7 shooting at the foul line. The majority of his baskets came on hustle plays around the basket, as he was often able to finish inside with contact. Hines showed his explosiveness on several occasions with powerful two-handed jams when he was given the space to elevate. Our opinion of his ball handling skills hasn’t changed since he was stripped on several occasions when attacking the basket, but he did knock down his only attempt from outside the paint, an uncontested 18-footer in the second half.

Defense continues to be where Hines is raising the most eyebrows. He recorded 3 blocks and 3 steals today and was responsible for disrupting several other shots that were taken in his area. He is quick off his feet and as was mentioned yesterday, benefits tremendously here from his freakish length.

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