Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day One

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day One
Apr 09, 2009, 12:28 pm
We’re back once again at the annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a prestigious camp with great tradition allowing NBA teams to study a large number of NCAA seniors in one convenient setting. This year’s tournament is particularly interesting since the NBA decided to eliminate the five on five portion of the pre-draft camp, making this the only real setting for prospects to give their draft stock a boost, beyond the extremely limiting confines of private workouts.

As is always the case, the first day of the camp revolves more around who didn’t show up, rather than who did. Quite a few players decided to pull out once again this year, which is very surprising considering that they won’t have any other place to be seen now. There are definitely still a good bunch of NBA prospects here, but you have to wonder a bit about the decision making skills of some of the players that rejected the opportunity to improve their chances of making the NBA, especially in a year like this.

Players who were on the initial roster that have since been replaced include Sam Young, A.J. Price, Jeff Adrien, Jeff Pendergraph, Dominic James, Kevin Rogers, Curtis Jerrells, Robert Dozier, Levance Fields and Goran Suton. NBA scouts, executives and GMs we spoke to all had similar opinions on this matter.

“I’m disappointed in those guys,” one Western Conference Director of Player Personnel stated. “For most players this is their last chance to make an impact on their draft stock, and they decided to pass on it. Real players play, and now these guys are risking being lapped by other prospects who will emerge here.”

Some went even further. “These kids are crazy!” an assistant GM said. “For players on the bubble to not be seen is suicide for some. Who is giving these kids advice?”

Levance Fields was the one who drew the biggest groans. “He wouldn’t be drafted if the NBA went back to being eight rounds,” one scouted opined.

A younger General Manager had a slightly different perspective. “People need to stop looking at this camp as a place where they’ll come to find three or four first round picks. It’s never going to be that way. This is a place to come see a large number of players compete in a convenient setting, and that’s it. It is what it is, and there is still value in that.”

From our perspective, this is not the end of the world, since at the end of the day, it’s really just one group of marginal NBA prospects being replaced by another group of marginal NBA prospects (we’ve looked back and found out that very few of the players who pull out year after year end up making the NBA anyway).

We’ve seen all of the players who pulled out dozens of times over the past four years, but for the sake of the level of competition and the perception of the tournament, it would be nice to have as strong a group as possible assembled here.

If players are going to pull out, though, they should do it as early as possible so as not to waste everyone’s time and plenty of money. Goran Suton decided to pull out on the day of the camp at 3:30 in the afternoon, citing “fatigue.” Beyond the fact that he’s anything but a lock to be drafted and would probably benefit from the exposure of the dozens of European teams here in attendance more than anyone thanks to his Croatian passport—he could have handled this situation a lot better. The same goes for Sam Young—what was he even thinking accepting his invite in the first place?

The ironic thing is—the NBA executives are actually out in full force. Some of the more hawk-eyed agents here mentioned seeing between 15-20 general managers on day one alone, and from what we hear, even more are on their way. They would know, since it’s their job to. The only team that is reportedly not sending a single representative are the Los Angeles Clippers apparently, which is odd considering that they could probably use as much help as anyone, to say the least.

Just a few of the people we saw from the stands in the first evening include:

Mitch Kuphack and Ronnie Lester- Los Angeles Lakers
Daryl Morey, Sam Hinkie and Gerson Rosas- Houston Rockets
Sam Presti and Rob Hennigan- Oklahoma City Thunder
Chris Wallace- Memphis Grizzlies
Danny Ainge- Boston Celtics
Kevin O’Connor and Walt Perrin- Utah Jazz
Rod Thorn- New Jersey Nets
Mark Warkentein- Denver Nuggets
Donnie Nelson- Dallas Mavericks
Fred Hoiberg and Rob Babcock- Minnesota Timberwolves
David Griffin- Phoenix Suns
Misho Ostarcevic- New York Knicks
Bob Ferry- Cleveland Cavaliers
Brian Hagen- New Orleans Hornets
Dennis Lindsey and Dell Demps- San Antonio Spurs
Buzz Peterson- Charlotte Bobcats
Dave Twardzik- Orlando Magic
Jeff Weltman and Dave Babcock- Milwaukee Bucks

Day One Player Evaluations

Courtney Fells, 6’5, Shooting Guard, North Carolina State
22 Points, 4-5 3FG, 8-13 FG, 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 4 Fouls

Courtney Fells had an extremely productive outting in the opening game of this season’s Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, having easily the best showing of any player in attendance. Though he did a lot of good for his stock, he also made his limitations very clear. Fells drained a number of catch and shoot jumpers coming off of screens from three point range, putting his excellent perimeter shooting stroke on full display. He also knocked down two one-dribble jumpers from the outside, seeming unfazed by the fact that he was very well defended on both occasions.

Despite his proficiency from the perimeter, Fells had very little success putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket, showing very underdeveloped ball handling ability and looking very shaky going left. That weakness, coupled with his only average first-step, rendered Fells unable to create separation on a number of his touches today. Moving forward, Fells needs to recognize his limitations off the dribble and make a concerted effort not to force the issue, which was likely an issue during the season at N.C. State as well, judging by his negative assist to turnover ratio.

Fells’s lack of standout athleticism didn’t plague him at the defensive end today, as he was working hard to keep his man out of the lane on most possessions. If he can maintain his defensive intensity and continue to shoot the ball well, Fells should turn heads all week—maybe making a case for himself as a Keith Bogans type rotation wing player. Though he still has a ton of work to do to hear his name called on draft day, Fells was the standout performer of day one.

Diamon Simpson, 6'7, Power Forward, St. Mary's
15 points, 15 rebounds (9 offensive), 4 steals, 1 block

The most active player on the floor for the first two games here in Portsmouth, Diamon Simpson is holding nothing back in showing NBA teams why he thinks he belongs. The undersized power forward filled up the hustle categories yesterday, pulling in an outstanding 15 rebounds while picking up 4 steals and a handful more deflections. Simpson was a menace on the defensive end, playing pressure defense both on his man and off the ball, defending past the three-point line on most possessions. Showing very good mobility and reflexes, Simpson gave the opposition plenty of problems getting into their sets, and really impressed with his non-stop effort, especially seeing he played a game-high 35 minutes.

On the glass, Simpson was equally menacing, getting his hands on every ball he could, showing good timing and pursuit abilities. On the offensive glass, Simpson showed some trouble powering up to finish once he got the ball, not being the most explosive athlete. His persistence paid off here, but he'll need to work on either his finesse or power-finishing to translate this ability. Working on his touch around the rim, his lower body strength and leaping ability should be among his priorities.

Other than his hustle plays, Simpson didn't show much else here, not being a great shooter or having much ball-handling ability, which is not a surprise considering his role player status. A number of NBA executives we spoke with mentioned how impressed they were with his play, and one went as far as to compare him to another Portsmouth alumni—Chuck Hayes.

Paul Delaney III, 6-2, Point Guard, UAB
20 points, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 7-15 FG, 0-1 3P, 6-10 FT

Jonathan Givony

UAB’s Paul Delaney had one of the more impressive showings of day one, especially considering how far off the radar screen he was coming into this tournament. Delaney was one of the more aggressive players seen here early on, getting into the lane time after time and finishing strong, sometimes emphatically with a violent jam. He may have forced the issue a bit at times, clearly trying to make a strong impression, but he did show some solid unselfishness whipping the ball around the floor and finding teammates with creative passes.

He was extremely active as well, crashing the offensive glass, getting in the passing lanes, and generally doing what players need to in order to stand out in this setting. A few potential weaknesses that seemed to stand out were his limited perimeter shooting ability, so-so playmaking skills, and struggles driving left, although we’ll have to look a little bit closer at these in the coming games.

Quick Hitters

-A.D Vassallo had a strong statistical performance, putting in 21 points on 17 shots in his team’s losing effort, showing the versatile scoring ability he’s known for, hitting from behind the arc as well as with some mid-range shots on the move. Despite scoring impressively, Vassallo didn’t alleviate any concerns about the rest of his game, however, as he is a below average athlete and defender and shows very questionable shot-selection at times.

-Alonzo Gee tried to take advantage of his athletic tools on some baseline drives and mid-post moves, having some success with 9 points on 7 shot attempts, however his lack of creativity with the ball due to his undeveloped advanced ball-handling held him back at times. He did manage to dish out 4 assists on the game, however, showing some nice unselfishness.

-K.C. Rivers had one of the more unimpressive performances in the first day, relative to his draft stock coming into the event, hitting just 1-for-9 from the field while missing all of his three-point attempts. Rivers created some impressive lay-up attempts in the lane with his creativity, but wasn’t able to finish consistently, and his outside shot just wasn’t falling, in part because he was taking some higher difficulty attempts. Rivers is probably not the type of player who will stand out in a setting like this, as he’s a system guy who needs a clearly defined role to bring out his biggest strengths.

-Kyle McAlarney was a real non-factor in his game, as he wasn’t converting the spot-up shots he normally does. Just 1-for-9 from the field on the day (1-for-6 from three), McAlarney wasn’t able to do much else, as his game mostly boils down to being a spot-up shooter and opportunistic passer.

-Aaron Jackson didn’t play great in his first game, showing a few impressive flashes, but not putting it all together just yet. While Jackson’s excellent body control and creativity on his drives were on full display, he didn’t have a consistently strong impact, in part due to his sometimes shaky ball-handling. On the bright side, he showed some good court vision and played his typical baseline-to-baseline defense, pressuring the ball hard and putting his athleticism on display.

-We liked the way Michael Bramos played in his first game—highly unselfish, always looking to make the extra pass (which may have hurt him at times), but still showing his excellent athleticism and strong perimeter shooting ability.

-Josh Carter had an efficient day in limited minutes (14), knocking down one nice jump shot and having one very smooth drive to the basket where he weaved through traffic for the easy finish on the way to 8 points on 4-6 shooting. It will be interesting to see if Carter takes more possessions next game considering his resume and how inefficiently his teammates performed. He did show some versatility to his game—which is a big plus for him—crashing the offensive glass and coming up with a nice block.

-Marcus Cousin was a pleasant surprise today. A late addition to the event, the 6'9 center showcased his ability to use his size by playing physical defense in the post and throwing down a few ferocious slams. The former Houston Cougar wasn't terribly productive in college, being “underutilized” according to one scout we spoke with, but looked good today. He needs to avoid settling for mid-range jumpers like he did at times in this game.

-Josh Akognon displayed the same aggressive scoring mentality that he did throughout his career at Cal State Fullerton, finishing with 16 points on 4-5 from three-point range. Though he forced a couple of tough shots from the perimeter, he did a solid job running his team, and needs to continue to distribute the ball effectively moving forward.

-DeMarre Carroll was extremely active today, and finished the game with 18 points on 8-11 from the field due in large part to how hard he played. He had no trouble performing well in this up-tempo contest, but didn’t show a great deal of skill with the ball.

-Micah Downs showed better defensive intensity today than we're used to seeing from him, looking very good defending the perimeter and blocking four shots. He also knocked down a couple of three pointers as well, and had a very athletic dunk in transition. He likely helped himself with the way he played.

-Alex Ruoff didn't have a good day shooting the ball, going 6-17 from the field and 1-7 from three, but showed good court vision and was a vocal leader for his team. He was very aggressive defensively, coming up with a number of loose balls and tallying four steals in total. Considering that he made 2.7 3-pointers per game at West Virginia on 37% shooting, his struggles from beyond the arc probably aren’t the end of the world.

-Gary Wilkinson only played 19 minutes today, but he finished the game with 11 points and 9 rebounds. His work ethic, fundamentals in the post, mid-range jumper and high basketball IQ allowed him to take advantage of his opportunities today.

-Scott VanderMeer had a nice first game, with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. He’s clearly a limited player offensively, particularly with his post moves and off hand, but did show some decent touch on his mid-range jumper, even if he may have forced it a bit. His size, length and timing allowed him to be a solid presence defensively in the post, and considering the lack of big men here, he did a nice job standing out.

-Stefon Jackson had a very tough first game, as his mid-range pull-up jumper just wasn’t falling at all, finishing 1-9 from the field. You would never guess that Jackson was one of the nation’s leaders in free throw attempts based on this contest—he needs to get back to this part of his game rather than settling for fadeaways.

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