Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day Two

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day Two
Apr 10, 2009, 02:38 pm
One of the best parts about the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is the amount of people in the basketball industry that congregate here, making it a real clearinghouse for information. Here are a couple of the things people around the PIT were talking about.

-Brandon Jennings has signed with Bill Duffy of BDA Sports, Rade Filipovich of the same agency told us. Filipovich also mentioned that Jennings will likely compete at the Reebok EuroCamp in Treviso, making him the second top ‘international’ prospect to be confirmed this week after Ricky Rubio. Filipovich also told us that his French client Ludovic Vaty will enter his name in this year’s draft.

Update: Ilana Nunn, Senior Director Public Relations and Marketing at BDA Sports Management requested that we post the following:

"Brandon Jennings has not signed with BDA Sports, although we are optimistic about our meeting with the athlete."

-Louisville senior Terrence Williams has signed with agent Aaron Goodwin.

-LSU senior Marcus Thornton has signed with agent Brian Elfus of Elfus & Siegel Management.

-Quite a bit of talk here revolved around the many changes made to the NBA pre-draft process, including new rules regarding workouts and the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago in late May. According to executives we spoke with, the NBA has decided to change the rules regarding joint workouts conducted between multiple NBA teams. This year, in addition to only being allowed to bring in players for no more than two separate workouts, teams must invite all 30 franchises to every joint workout conducted, as well as provide the league with two weeks notice. Also, if a team has any representative participate in the conducting of the workout, it will count as one of their two workouts, however it doesn’t count for teams simply in attendance.

Teams have mentioned that they’re finding the quality of their private workouts deteriorating because of how fatigued players become later in the process, and thus would rather see the players compete against each other earlier in a larger setting, which provides them with a better platform to evaluate them. This is especially true for west coast teams, as many players choose to work from east to west on their team visits. Last season, Portland and five other teams conducted a joint workout (featuring 21 players who were drafted, including 8 first rounders) in this manner in the Bay Area, and plan to do so again in spite of the rule changes. According to reports, Minnesota, Memphis and Houston were also planning on joining forces in order to draw a wider and more versatile range of prospects, but the new changes may make them reconsider.

-That leads us to the scuttlebutt about the upcoming NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago, which most executives we spoke with don’t seem to be all that excited about. “How much are we going to learn off how well a guy executes the three man weave?” one said. “What is Stephen Curry making 3-pointers in a gym by himself going to tell you?” wondered another. From what we can gather, it seems like more changes will be in store considering how dissatisfied teams still are with the draft process.

-There was quite a bit of talk about the three Syracuse players that entered their name in the draft this week--Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris. Of the three, only Devendorf is planning on hiring an agent for now. According to sources close to the situation, he is graduating soon and is “ready to go pro.” He will try and make the NBA, but if that doesn’t work out, he is prepared to go to Europe.

According to the same source, Jonny Flynn will pull his name out of the draft if he’s not firmly in the lottery by the time the deadline rolls around a week before the draft. If he’s “16, 17, 18, he’s definitely coming back to school.” Regarding why he initially wavered on that decision based on his comments during the NCAA tournament, Flynn reportedly didn’t realize that he was projected to be taken as high as he currently is, with most mock drafts having him between 20-30 at the time of the Big East tournament. Since he’s “hearing he could be a top-10 pick,” his situation has changed in turn. Despite rumors here in Portsmouth that he’s already selected his agent, he is apparently still only testing the waters.

Paul Harris “may return to Syracuse” based on the information he receives over the next month or so. If he’s not projected as a solid second rounder, he “will probably come back,” we’re told.

-Luke Harangody will reportedly be announcing soon that he’s entering his name in the draft, and if he gets a solid indication that he will play in the NBA next year, he likely will not return to Notre Dame, even if that means being selected in the second round.

Jon Brockman, 6’7, Power Forward, Washington
24 points, 21 rebounds (13 offensive), 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 10-21 FG, 4-4 FT

Jon Brockman had one of the more dominant performances we’ve seen thus far at Portsmouth, showing off his outstanding rebounding abilities to pull in an amazing 21 rebounds in 30 minutes. Brockman threw his body around all game, showing no hesitation to bang with Ahmad Nivins and Russell Hicks. Brockman’s combination of excellent timing, hands, and mobility to pursue in combination with his ridiculously high motor played a big role in his performance.

Other than rebounding, Brockman was a force scoring in the paint as well, often on putbacks, but also on catch-and-finishes and a few occasional post moves. He shows good touch in the post and a solid base of moves, but he struggled getting separation from his opponent on his moves, not having much range. While Brockman occasionally shows good vertical explosiveness when he has time to gather himself or gets momentum going on the run, he isn’t able to power up from other positions, not being a very good overall athlete, something that will hold him back if he doesn’t improve.

Jermaine Taylor, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Central Florida
30 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 11-24 FG, 1-4 3P, 7-9 FT

Jonathan Givony

Although his final stat-line might not have been quite as jaw-dropping as Jon Brockman’s, there wasn’t a player who helped their NBA draft stock in day two more than Jermaine Taylor. He displayed an NBA-level ability to create offense for himself, showing that his status as the #1 scorer in college basketball wasn’t just a product of the level of competition he played at, and that he has no problem putting the ball in the basket against some of the best wing players in the NCAA—for example Marquette’s Wes Matthews in this particular game. Physically, he passes the eye test and then some, showing a NBA caliber body and better athleticism than almost any wing player in attendance here.

Taylor looked like nothing less than a scoring machine in this game, showing a complete offensive arsenal by scoring in a variety of ways. He showed an advanced ability to operate in the mid-range area, making a number of very smooth pull-up jumpers, showing excellent mechanics and creating separation from his defender in impressive fashion. Even though he only made 1 of his 4 attempts from beyond the arc, it’s pretty obvious from looking at him that he can really stroke the ball. He also showed the ability to move off the ball, utilizing screens nicely and then taking the ball to the basket with excellent body control. His ability to create his own shot looked much more impressive in person than we had given him credit for from watching him on film, as he has a quick, powerful first step, long strides, terrific footwork, and even some shifty hesitation moves. His strength and aggressiveness got him to the free throw line at will in this game, and he converted 7 of his 9 attempts from the charity stripe.

Showing that same type of hunger to put the ball in the basket that all great scorers have, Taylor was an absolute jet leaking out in transition, creating numerous easy scoring opportunities in the process. We can now see why college football coaches were so interested in him at the wide receiver position, as his ability to get from one end of the court to another was absolutely outstanding, even if he might have been cherry-picking just a little on a possession or two.

That same hunger to score translated to the offensive glass as well, where he picked up no less than 4 extra possessions for his team. It also may have caused him to look a little too much for his own offense at times, as he did get up 24 field goal attempts in just 32 minutes without recording a single assist. Some teams we talked to felt like he may have played a bit selfishly at times, but it’s a little bit hard to fault him for that too much considering what’s at stake here and how well he started off (with 18 points in the first half).

Although you don’t want to take away too much from a single game in a setting like this, it was hard not to come away extremely impressed with what Taylor showed here in his first game. Judging by the reaction of a couple of scouts we spoke with, we weren’t the only ones who felt that way. He reminds us quite a bit of Kelenna Azubuike, both in his build, athleticism, scoring instincts, and overall game. We’re curious to see how he manages to follow this game up. Players like him are what makes the PIT great, as he’s really using this setting to separate himself from many of the wing players in this class.

Garret Siler, 7-0, Center, Augusta State
15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6-8 FG, 3-3 FT

Jonathan Givony

The 7-foot, 300 pound plus behemoth from Augusta State of Division II managed to translate his record-breaking 79% shooting percentage to a higher level of competition today, making 6 of his 8 attempts from the field on his way to a 15 point, 12 rebound effort. Siler’s conditioning is fairly poor, as you could see by the way he was huffing and puffing about two minutes into his first game yesterday, but he manages to be pretty effective in the paint regardless thanks to his incredibly huge body and superb length.

Siler is incredibly strong, has great hands, and establishes position in the paint against players of this caliber with the greatest of ease, barely needing to jump in order to dunk the ball because of how long his arms are. Combine those things together, and it becomes pretty obvious why he shoots such a high percentage from the field. He doesn’t have great footwork or fundamentals in the paint if forced to execute any type of advanced moves, but he manages to get to the free throw line a fair amount regardless, where he shoots a decent 66% despite his awkward mechanics.

Siler is an average rebounder and a poor defender because of his obvious physical limitations—he doesn’t move very well and can barely get off the ground. He’ll grab rebounds in his area thanks to his length and hands, but won’t go get many loose balls himself. No one is going to post him up inside the paint, but he’s completely unable to step out and guard players on the perimeter, rendering him effectively useless defending the pick and roll.

The NBA doesn’t look like a very realistic option for Siler, but he was still more than interesting enough to bring to a setting like this for us to see with our own eyes, which is what makes Portsmouth a great place to watch players. He’ll likely make a good living on a half-court team in Europe or in the increasingly lucrative leagues of China or Korea.

Tony Gaffney, 6’8, Power Forward, Massachusetts
4 Points, 4 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 2-6 FG, 2 Blocks, 1 Steal

Matt Williams

Though Gaffney didn’t put up a terribly productive stat line today, he displayed some very interesting tools. Mostly known in college for his tremendous defensive presence and effort level, Gaffney wasn’t asked to do much scoring for UMass, making the most of the touches he earned coming from his hustle and ability to run the floor. While he has played well defensively in both of the games he’s played in, he showed some offensive promise that his collegiate role didn’t give him the opportunity to showcase. Looking beyond the box score, we came away intrigued with what we saw today.

A very athletic forward with a slender frame, Gaffney exploited his excellent quickness on a couple of occasions today, beating his defender off the dribble on three memorable occasions. Not usually prone to putting the ball on the floor, his ability to get to the rim was quite impressive. Once in the lane, Gaffney used quick fakes to get his man off balance before spinning over his left shoulder for hook shots. Considering his length and quickness, it is safe to say that Gaffney has a lot of potential if he continues to diversify his offensive game.

On the defensive end, Gaffney has shown great versatility, looking capable when defending the post and the perimeter. Though he will need to continue to add weight to his frame to be a better interior defender moving forward, he shows the timing, awareness, and effort level to be very effective in this setting. He may not be an NBA player, but he’s clearly helped himself here.

Quick Hitters:

-Micah Downs had another solid game today, making a couple athletic plays all over the floor, and playing aggressively on both ends. His ball handling ability still leaves a lot to be desired, but he stood out today with his physical tools and activity level, despite only tallying 8 points and 5 rebounds. Considering his size and athleticism for a wing, he may have the most potential of any player here in Portsmouth, which has helped him create a nice little buzz amongst teams we’ve talked to.

-Marcus Cousin was a force on both ends in this game. He showcased his athleticism with a couple of impressive tip dunks today, but also knocked down a couple of midrange jumpers. We criticized him in our last write-up for settling too much for perimeter jumpers, but he definitely showed that he can comfortably hit that shot, which makes him a little more intriguing. The touches that he got with his back to the basket today indicate that he needs more polish with his footwork and is more comfortable facing up, but his blend of size, length, and athleticism makes him an interesting player. Defensively he really lacks fundamentals, particularly guarding the pick and roll, but all in all he’s been one of the camp’s standouts thus far as far as big men are concerned, and has clearly helped his stock.

-Wesley Matthews showed some very nice flashes in his first day, showing a bit more advanced ball-handling than we’re used to, including a very nice crossover drive, but he wasn’t able to put it together for a complete performance, going for 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting. On the other hand, Matthews showed a lot of the little things he’s become known for, reading the floor well, making good cuts, finishing strong at the rim, and making opportune passes. We expect a better overall performance from Matthews in the next two days.

-Weyinmi Efejuku also had some good flashes, showing off his athletic abilities and shot-creating abilities, both pulling up and attacking the rim, but he struggled to put together an efficient performance, scoring 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting along with 3 turnovers. Picking his spots a little better and moving more off the ball to get the ball in prime scoring position should be among his priorities, although he did show nice potential.

-B.J. Raymond had an excellent first outing here, knocking down a number of deep three-pointers to finish with 19 points and 7 rebounds. He also played very strong defense, coming up with 3 steals and doing a good job containing his man. His physical build is impressive—like seemingly all Xavier players—but his below average athleticism really stands out.

-Connor Atchley looked good on both ends today. After struggling with his range all season and during the beginning of this game, he knocked down a catch and shoot jumper from the wing and seemed to have regained his confidence. He proceeded to pull down a couple rebounds in traffic, one of which he proceeded to dunk right through the hands of a defender. On the defensive end, he had one great block in transition where he showed his nice physical tools to swat a breakaway layup off the glass and racked up another block rotating over from the weak side. All in all, this was a very good start for the Texas big man.

-Tyrese Rice knocked down four of the seven three pointers he attempted en route to 14 points, but he also dished out seven assists. Clearly, Rice is being asked to do more distributing, and he had a pretty efficient game in doing so. He could have even finished with more than the 7 assists he was credited for, as some nice passes he made were dropped by his teammates. He looked under control and could have probably easily dropped another 15 points or so if he felt the urge to, but right now he looks focused on showing off his playmaking skills, which probably isn’t a bad idea.

-Ryan Toolson had a nice little game for himself, showing the same perimeter stroke that he’s commonly known for—hitting all three of his three-point attempts—but also displaying excellent fundamentals and a strong basketball IQ. It’s pretty clear that the Utah Valley University alum could have played in any high major conference, as he really knows how to play, despite his obvious physical limitations.

Gary Wilkinson had another strong performance here, further increasing his stock for, at the very least, the many European league executives that came to scout this event. He hit a number of mid-range jumpers thanks to his superb touch, even showing range out to the three-point line, and also showed some crafty footwork in the paint, which led to some mixed results. He’s one of the biggest hustlers you’ll find at this tournament, grabbing 15 rebounds in 32 minutes today. Wilkinson draws some comparisons to Brian Scalabrine due to their obvious similarities in their build, hair color (fiery red) and comparable games, but at age 26, he is probably a long shot for the NBA.

Jimmy Baron- Had a very strong second half en route to a 13 point performance. He made shots from all over the floor but also showed a strong basketball IQ with some excellent passes and plenty of unselfishness. His physical limitations are obvious, and he’s clearly not a point guard, but this coach’s son will surely make a team happy overseas.

-Korvortney Barber was exceptionally active today, especially on the offensive glass where he pulled down a number of rebounds in traffic. He finished with 12 points and tallied 11 rebounds, 6 of which came on the offensive end. He doesn’t look particularly skilled considering that he has the build of an NBA small forward, but should be able to make a nice living in Europe as a hustling, athletic power forward.

-Al Fisher had a productive game, finishing with 12 points in only 16 minutes. The Kent State product looked comfortable knocking down catch and shoot jumpers from the outside, going 2-3 from three-point range, and was doing a lot of damage offensively until he tweaked his ankle.

-Ahmad Nivins had a tough time playing against the likes of Chris Johnson and Jon Brockman, scoring just 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting while pulling in a respectable 7 rebounds. Nivins’ lack of vertical explosiveness is clearly holding him back, with him being very much an under-the-rim player.

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