Portsmouth Invitational Tournament: Day One
The Rumor Mill:
-The strong presence of international scouts, agents and GMs means that there was always plenty to be learned about the happenings of draft prospects past and present for anyone that bothered to ask. Spurs fans are probably sick of hearing about this, but Luis Scola will have yet another chance to come to the NBA if there is mutual interest on both his part and the San Antonio front office. Scola has a 3 million dollar buyout sum that can be split up into three manageable payments of one million per year if thats what he chooses to do.
-Every NBA person we spoke with has already written off the possibility of seeing Tiago Splitters name on the early-entry list because of his comments to the Spanish media about wanting to stay in Spain as well as the long-prevailing belief that he has no buyout sum in his contract. Tau Vitorias front office has been emphatic in stating that there will be no discussions whatsoever about Splitter leaving the team, but sources in Spain now claim that a fixed sim is in place for the Brazilian to buy out his contract if thats what he chooses. The figure is for a very reasonable 2 million dollars. This means if hes drafted 10th for example, hed make around $400,000 his rookie season after paying off his buyout when taking into consideration the $500,000 NBA teams are allowed to contribute.
-NBA sources in Portsmouth confirmed to DraftExpress that Josh McRoberts and his camp have set up appointments with three of the heaviest hitting NBA agents in the business over the next week or so. Although hes still in the information gathering process, it appears to be only a matter of time now until McRoberts makes his final decision known.
Norfolk Sports Club 86 Sales System LTD. 80
Sean Dockery, 62, PG, Duke
16 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 4-10 FG, 7-8 FT, 1-1 3P
Sean Dockery picked up right where he left off yesterday, continuing in his quest to prove that he can play point guard while revealing just how much talent hes had hiding in Dukes system. Now that he finally has the chains off of him, so to speak, hes really showing what hes capable of doing. The names Chris Duhon and Daniel Ewing came up in dozens of conversations we overheard between NBA scouts, and many now expect Dockery to get drafted in a similar spot.
Dockery has seemingly been improving with each minute hes spent on the floor. As hes grown more acclimated to the tendencies and skills of his teammates, hes grown more comfortable running the offense, showing it through his outstanding court vision and passing. Yesterday, Dockery was really thriving on the break, but today he was looking great in both the half and fullcourt, making threading needles look easy. He has a knack for finding seams in the defense and jetting quick passes through them to an open teammate down low. Dockery also showed some great timing on his passes, frequently getting them in just the right place at the right time. He also did a good job feeding the post, getting the ball down low to his big men in good position for a score.
Using his highly advanced dribbling abilities and quick first step, Dockery would easily get past his man and initiate a drive and dish with a teammate. He changes speeds especially well, using this ability to fake out his defender and get past him. Dockery incorporates advanced dribbling moves like crossovers and behind-the-back dribbles into his game very well, using both to easily get past his man. He also gets fancy with his passing at times, making a very nice behind-the-back past on one occasion running the break today.
Defensively, Dockery looked especially impressive today in the passing lanes, showing off his excellent anticipation and court awareness to pick off a pair of passes and get his hands on a few others. In terms of man defense, he did a good job overall, but was matched up with marginal players like Bryants John Williams and Sienas Antoine Jordan most of the night. Unfortunately, we didnt get to see much of what wouldve been a marquee matchup against Michigans Daniel Horton, as the two rarely matched up with one another in the game. On one play where Dockery switched defenders and was matched with Horton, though, he let Horton get by him for an easy lay-up. Hopefully we will get to see more of Dockery against legitimate point guard prospects in the next game or later in the Orlando pre-draft camp.
Daniel Horton, 63, PG, Michigan
18 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 5 turnovers, 7-16 FG, 4-9 3P
Horton had another impressive performance with a marginal statline, continuing to show his total package at the point guard position. Horton used his quick first step and savvy in the lane to frequently drive and dish to his open teammates both in the post and on the perimeter. His first step was even able to get past Dukes Sean Dockery on one occasion, a highly touted defensive player. Using his court vision in combination with crossovers and other dribbling techniques, Horton would get separation from his man and proceed to pick apart seams in the defense, quickly breaking down the defense with his passes. Horton was also able to get to the basket himself a few times, showing a very nice touch off the glass on one of his lay-ups.
Horton was able to get in a better groove today with his three-point shooting, knocking down four three pointers both spotting and pulling up. In one sequence, he hit three three pointers on three consecutive possessions, showing what he can do when he gets hot. Some of his threes come out of the offenses rhythm, early in the shot clock, but for the most part hes taking balanced, uncontested three-pointers with a high percentage of going in.
Horton had five turnovers on the night, one of which was the result of miscommunication (which is common when youre playing with guys for first time), the other on a post feed where his teammate didnt come to the ball, and the other three from various passing and dribbling situations. One turnover came at a very significant time in the game, with 30 seconds remaining in regulation and his team up by two. He was getting fancy with his dribble, lost control, and then got it picked by someone who came up on the weakside to poke the ball away.
On the next play, with the score now tied, the coach called an isolation play for Horton and he just did nothing with it, instead dumping the ball off to a teammate with a few seconds to go and not much hope of getting a good shot off. In the ensuing overtime period, Horton continued his downward spiral, missing a spot-up three and not doing anything to help his team avoid the loss.
Defensively, Horton had a solid but unspectacular game, playing good man defense both on and off the ball. He keeps pressure on his man very well, is fundamentally sound, and doesnt give up much dribble penetration.
Hortons attitude concerns began to pop up in this game, as he whined to the refs for every call and non-call he got. It didnt get to the point where it was detrimental to his team or game, in that he always got his head in the game for the next play, but its still something to possibly be concerned about.
Torin Francis, 611, PF/C, Notre Dame
7 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3-7 FG, 1-2 FT
I didnt think it was possible for Torin to be any less aggressive than his first game, but I was wrong. Torin is exactly the type of player that drives a scout insane because he has all the physical tools to be a prototypical PF in the Antonio McDyess mode, but he is so traumatized by his back injury hes lost all aggressive tendencies.
A source at the invitational told me that Francis is 100% recovered from his back ailments and that medically he checks out fine. So, all of Francis problems are his own making.
Even with his tentative nature hes able to contribute both offensively and defensively just by the instincts and ability he seems to try and quell at every opportunity. You can actually see him hesitate in every situation where he has the opportunity to go for it. Hell rebound with his reach and timing while creating separation from his man by stepping away from him. Hell show a bunch of nice drop step moves and reverse pivots, but wont lean in for the dynamic finish, instead electing to stay in place and finish softly.
While talking about Francis with some scouts, we were debating whether or not Francis will be drafted, for surely anyone who drafts him will be doing so with the idea that he can be worked with. My feeling is that if hes put in a good situation with aggressive and active frontcourt teammates hell just naturally raise his level of play through osmosis.
The bottom line is that if Francis is to realize any of his former glory hell have to forget the past and think about his basketball future. Apparently, Francis has studied the nature of his injury quite thoroughly, so this shows tremendous intelligence. But, the level of attention hes paid to it also belays a fear that just cannot be if he is to find success in this game.
Greg Brunner, 66, Power Forward, Iowa
8 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnover, 4-9 FG, 25 minutes
Brunner wasnt as impressive in this game as he was last time around, but he showed essentially the same skill set. The only thing not on display was Brunners solid midrange game, which is something he really is going to want to show to the pro scouts if he wants to entertain any ideas of going to a summer league.
Brunner has pretty quick hands for his size and compliments them with an excellent sense of timing. He got his hands on a number of lazy passes in the lane and broke up quite a few inlet passes as well.
Brunner lacks any type of explosive quickness, and he has no legit first step, so hes a system guy all the way. But, he reads the game well and almost never makes plays to hurt the team. Brunner came up with a number of solid swing passes that led to assists for teammates and he was vocal and helped get his team organized defensively.
The best thing that can be said about Brunner is that he never takes a play off on either end of the court and really cares about winning. He should become a very good NBDL player right off the bat, if he chooses that route, and could earn himself a 10 day contract or two down the road. If he continues to outwork his opposition you never know what could happen. It would be better for him to star in Europe somewhere than chase a lunch pail job in the NBA though.
Cameron Bennermen, 64, Shooting Guard, NC State
19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 8-14 FG, 2-2 FT
Bennerman deserves to get some press because of his excellent individual play down the stretch of his game, which influenced the outcome of the game. Bennerman stole the ball from Daniel Horton and ran down court for the tying score with only 18 seconds to go, which got the team to overtime. During the overtime period Bennerman displayed some unbelievable raw athleticism when he took off from the left baseline side of the rim, got hit on the initial attempt, and still had the hang time to push in a soft reverse lay in.
What Bennerman failed to show was a comprehensive team game. His 19pts all came off individual brilliance with very little respect for game situation. Hed shoot from outside early in the clock, or drive through traffic and challenge the double team, ignoring the open post player.
Defensively, there was nothing he did that was particularly exciting, but he wasnt abused either, so with his athleticism there is room to grow into a defensive presence if hes willing to do it.
Jai Lewis, 67, Power Forward, George Mason
14 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steals, 2 turnovers,6-7FG,1-2 3P 1-3FT
Theres not much more to say about Lewis. He has great touch for a big man, displaying a killer hook and a nice smooth release on his jumper all the way out to 3pt land. He is both physical and effective in the paint offensively and defensively and displays quick hands and a low center of gravity for a frontcourt player.
The problem with Lewis, in terms of his professional potential, is that he really isnt that big. While extremely wide and strong, Lewis doesnt have the natural reach to be an effective defender on the NBA level because his bulk isnt enough to keep superior pro power forwards from backing him down or shooting over him. Lewis also doesnt have the lift to really get his hook over the top often enough to be a scorer when NBA defenders could simply take the hit and react to Lewis average release speed.
So Lewis is caught in a tough spot. If he gets in better shape, loses some bulk and increases his quickness, hell lose the advantage he has as a strong physical presence. If he stays large he will not be able to get his moves off effectively when under heavy duress. It would be difficult to turn all of that heft into muscle and maintain his touch and agility, so where he goes from here remains to be seen.
Portsmouth Sports Club 74 Naval Shipyard 71
Christian Maraker, 69, PF, Pacific
15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 5-12 FG, 4-4 FT, 1-1 3P
After a very lackluster first game that came as a clear disappointment to the many NBA and European scouts who were excited to get an up close look at him, Maraker came back and showed off his entire arsenal of versatile offensive skills, looking very impressive in the process. He hit a couple of very smooth looking mid-range jumpers from the baseline, complete with his very nice mechanics that make his jump-shot very hard to block when taking his height into consideration. Maraker again went into the post and displayed beautiful footwork, getting his man in the air on a terrific shot-fake and then stepping through for the hook shot. When being defended too closely on the perimeter, Maraker made his man pay by taking him right off the dribble and getting to the free throw line. When given too much space, he was more than happy stepping back to smoothly knock down the open three.
Possibly most important for his chances was the fact that he did at least a semi-adequate job in the areas of playing defense and rebounding, being pretty active in this area, coming up with one put-back on the offensive end and not letting the opposing teams admittedly weak big men back him down in the post. He doesnt have much lift getting off the ground to challenge shots or grab rebounds, but he does his best to make up for what he lacks with his very high basketball IQ. One example of this was a very heady block on Carl Krauser in transition with 13 seconds left that maintained a one point lead for his team and helped them win the game. If Maraker makes it in the league, it will be an Austin Croshere type role off the bench. He didnt get almost any looks in the 2nd half when Keydren Clark was doing his best Dajuan Wagner impersonation hogging the ball, but what he did manage to show when he did get touches left a pretty strong impression.
Terrell Everett, 64, PG/SG, Oklahoma
12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 6-10 FG, 0-1 3P
Despite again coming off the bench and again having to play second fiddle to Keydren Clark for the right to show off point guard skills, Everett still managed to drop many glimpses of his intriguing offensive package. Only getting a handful of opportunities to touch the ball, Everett had to make the most of every opportunity he had, which he did. On his first touch, Everett showed excellent ball-handling skills to get into the lane and finish soft off the glass. He went right and should have used his right hand to finish the play, but instead used his left and still managed to get the two points. On a fast break Everett felt the pressure to show the scouts directly in front of him something nice, and lost his footing trying to do too much. Despite stumbling and looking like he was about to either travel or turn it over, Everett showed good presence of mind by keeping his dribble alive and finding the open man while falling down, the 2nd time he did this in Portsmouth. Just a minute later, again in transition, Everett was at his best and did everything right this time, showing no hesitation throwing a deadly crossover at his man and then zipping a perfect cross court no-look pass to a wide open Jeff Horner behind the arc. Everett didnt try to force his fairly ugly looking jump-shot from behind the arc-- which is good, but he did drop some glimpses of effectiveness from mid-range. He also did a nice job showing off his athleticism, finishing on a couple of occasions with excellent body control in transition with either a layup or the slam dunk.
Solomon Jones, 610, Center, South Florida
12 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block,1 steal, 2 turnovers, 5-7 FG, 2-2 FT
Jones once again didnt have an incredibly productive game, looking pretty raw overall for the most part, but he did continue to show flashes of his terrific potential mostly thanks to his excellent length and athleticism.
Jones started the game by putting the ball on the floor and pulling up from the free throw line for a short mid-range jumper. Throughout the season hes shown terrific touch from the free throw line and at times from mid-range, complete with a very high release point, so its nice to see him translate this to the Portsmouth setting.
Just by putting his two incredibly long arms in the air he managed to alter numerous shots around the rim, and he used his wingspan well to block shots or come up with a very nice put-back jam as well. His work on the offensive glass was particularly impressive, showing plenty of bounce on both his first and second jump, and Jones ended up finishing the game with a very solid 13 total rebounds.
His offensive game is as raw as you can get because of his lack of bulk and non-existent footwork, but the point guard battle that was going on between the 4 ball-handlers on his team didnt really give him much of a chance to show anything here.
All in all Jones has helped his cause here with the natural tools hes managed to show.
Jeff Horner, 63, PG, Iowa
4 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 1-8 FG, 1-2 FT, 1-5 3P
After a very disappointing first game, Horner still wasnt able to improve his performance much here today. In the first game, Horner spent the majority of his time off the ball, but here, he finally got a chance to show what he can do running the offense. When Horner was playing point guard, which was for about half of his 31 minutes, he did well to run the offense and find the open man with an easy scoring opportunity. He showed off his outstanding court vision with a few drive and dishes, as well as some passes from the perimeter. On all of his drives, though, he had to first get separation by coming around a screen, as hes very weak with his first step. Horner didnt have much success for himself in the lane, though, missing a pair of floaters, as well as a drive where he took a lot of contact and switched hands in mid air. Horners perimeter shooting has yet to come around, either, hitting only 2 of 10 three pointers in his two games here at Portsmouth. It should be noted, though, that hes moved very well without the ball, gotten open for all 10 of those shots, and has maintained good, consistent form throughout his shooting drought.
Defensively, Horner got beat by his man a few times, but hasnt been exploited for his below average athleticism much. Hes played solid man defense using his head and also gotten his hands on a few balls in the passing lanes. Horner also was noticeably crashing the boards tonight, fighting, and occasionally winning against, players considerably bigger than him.
Overall, Horner has not thrived here at Portsmouth. A systems point guard, Horner is not suited for the style of play here at Portsmouth and wont be able to show what he is fully capable of. With his shot also not falling, hes just not turning many heads here. He should get chances in summer leagues to prove his worth to NBA teams, though.
Keydren Clark, 59, PG/SG, St. Peters
20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 5-15 FG, 7-9 FT, 3-6 3P
Keydren Clark put a lot of points on the board, but still hasnt proven he can do much else. Playing most of the game on the ball as a point guard, Clark often failed to look for his teammates, instead forcing the issue with his own shots and drives. Theres no doubt that he can score in many different ways, but at 511, he needs to show that he has some point guard abilities, which hes yet to do. Despite looking pretty horrible while running the offense, hes been handling the duties more than any of the three legitimate point guards on his team. On one possession he actually stole an inbounds pass that was directed at teammate Terrell Everett, who was going to get a well-deserved chance to run the teams offense.
Also, his defense has been very bad, not having the strength to match up with anyone and pretty much letting whoever goes at him blow by. Despite scoring a ton, Clark isnt looking like much of an NBA prospect. He may be able to find a niche for himself in a high octane offense like the Phoenix Suns where he could come off the bench and quickly put up points, not having to do much else. But otherwise, Clark just doesnt have the mentality or ability to play point guard in the NBA.
Carl Krauser, 61, Point Guard, Pittsburgh
14 points, 5assist, 1 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 4-8FG, 4-6FT
Krauser was much quiter in his 2nd game than in his first. While still able to penetrate the lane on a few occasions, his lack of an effective mid range shot allowed the defense to lag off of him and once that happened he was effectively neutralized.
Defensively, Krauser was proactive and stayed close to him man. He has enough recognition and instinctual reaction to keep in front of his man most of the time. Krauser will get steals and can funnel his opponent in the direction he desires when he approaches the situation with purpose.
If Krauser wants to make the NBA hell absolutely have to hit the mid range jumper or his penetration will be nullified. As a drive and dish PG, it is a must to draw the defense toward himself before he can effectively set up his teammates. Still he makes quick decisions and doesnt over commit too often, so he definitely has some tools to work with.
CJ Watsons Lonely Heart Club Band 82- MD Designs 78
CJ Watson, 62, Point Guard, Tennessee
15 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 4-5 FG, 3-3 3P 4-8FT
But, Watson is a plus NBA shooter from long range, that much is for sure. His release, follow through, and body position is the stuff that instructional videos are made about. He may have the 2nd best form next to Steve Novak of all the players in this tournament.
Defensively, Watson shows poise and awareness while on the ball. As a help defender, Watson is effective at hedging into the lane enough to make the ball handler hesitate for fear of Watson getting a deflection. He is not a ball-hawk by any means, but solid is the word to describe both his fundamental approach and overall effect.
In order to show better pro potential, though, Watson will need to show much better penetration and change of speed ability as well as the vision to capitalize on it. Thus far, Watson has simply been content to make the sound play and hit the shots that present themselves from the perimeter. Theres a lot of talk from European teams about Watson, and this could be a very good route for him to improve his overall skill set to the point of NBA effectiveness.
But it should be noted that Watson got perhaps the least talented team in this invitational into the final game, much as he and Chris Lofton single handedly got Tennessee a 2nd seed in the tournament just weeks before with nothing but a great coach (and Dane Bradshaw) at the helm besides them. If Watsons presence can somehow inspire great play such as this, his future may be brighter than anticipated as long as he puts in the work to improve the lesser areas of his game.
Steve Novak, 610, Small Forward, Marquette
12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnover, 1 block, 5-15 FG, 1-5 3P, 1-1FT
Whats odd is that Novak was actually extremely aggressive looking for his own shot, moving off the ball extremely well, using the few screens his team did set for him and finding himself time after time in a situation to put points on the board. His stroke looked just as beautiful as ever, pulling up on a dime with a super quick release which he only knocked down on occasion.
Beyond the shooting Novak was as usual hit or miss. He got outmuscled in the post on a few occasions and got get nothing going putting the ball on the floor. When he did try he was either stopped in his tracks, had the ball stolen from him or passed the ball to an imaginary teammate out of bounds.
Novak has one last chance to redeem himself tomorrow in the 5:30 game. He didnt hurt himself all that much here when its all said and done considering what his role is going to be in the NBA and how unlikely it was going to be for him to show that in this type of setting. Portsmouth, with its almost exclusively mediocre point guard play and complete lack of coherent structure in half court sets is not really built for a player like Novak to succeed, but it would be nice to see him get his percentages from behind the arc even remotely close to where they were in college.