NBA Pre-Draft Camp, Day Two

NBA Pre-Draft Camp, Day Two
May 29, 2008, 08:10 am
The second day of the NBA pre-draft brought us some more respectable basketball action than the first, as the players seem to be coming to terms with the fact that their professional futures are on the line under the glaring eyes of former NBA superstars, and are resorting back to the things that got them here in the first place.

The day started off with two hours of drills from 9 to 11 AM, which we attended in full. The six teams rotated between four different stations-- 5-spot shooting drills--from mid-range, the college 3-point line and the NBA 3-point line, 1 on 1 play, 2 on 2 play, and loose scrimmaging on the main court of the gym. The players also conducted some 3 on 2 transition drills that evolved into 2 on 1's on made baskets.

Those that impressed in the drills ranged from the instinctive do-it all offensive sparkplug types like Lester Hudson (unstoppable in the 1 on 1 drills in particular) to superb athletes like Deron Washington (super active and aggressive on both days so far) and J.R. Giddens (not the most skilled with the ball, but capable as a spot-up shooter and constantly making plays offensively and especially defensively thanks to his trademark length and explosiveness). The heady, veteran winners who played under big-time coaches at big-time programs—see: Neitzel, Drew, and Padgett, David—did a good job standing out. Neitzel with his savvy decision making skills, his ability to take and knock down good shots, his crafty passing and the fact that he was not forcing in the least bit, and Padgett, a master of moving to the right spots on the court, utilizing up-fakes and crafty footwork, finishing with either hand around the basket and impressive with his vocal leadership skills around his teammates. Considering how much action was going on around us at all times, things can get a little overwhelming if you try to take everything in at once.

The actual games actually kicked off as well starting at 11 AM. The play was rough at times (check out the free throw totals of the first game to see just how nervous most guys still are), but there was a decent amount to take away from what we could see on the court.

In the first game we liked the way the extremely smooth George Hill conducted himself—his wingspan made him a presence defensively and he clearly has a high basketball IQ and excellent perimeter shooting ability. He's definitely not a true point guard just yet (he over-dribbled at times and ran down the shot-clock) and is just an average athlete at best, but he looks like a versatile player who does not look out of place in the least bit despite coming from IUPUI of the Summit League. Indiana Pacers scout Kevin Mackey (who knows him extremely well considering their proximity) told us back in January that “George could start for any team in college basketball,” and Hill has definitely backed him up.

[c]George Hill[/c]

In terms of the bigs, it was nice to see Joey Dorsey and Devon Hardin being active and getting after it. The two most sculpted players in the camp did a great job making their presence felt defensively and on the glass, which is exactly what NBA teams want to see from them. Hardin still needs to learn his limitations offensively (he's not skilled enough to attempt some of the complex moves he tried here), but he definitely didn't hurt himself here. Dorsey (surprisingly) made some nice passes and at times used his wide body to box out the entire opposing team, which allowed his teammates to feast on the offensive glass.

Possibly the player that helped himself the most in the first game was Ohio State's Othello Hunter. He went 6 for 7 from the field in 20 minutes—knocking down a mid-range jumper, showing slightly more skill in the paint than we'd seen in the past, and using his extremely impressive length and athleticism to run the floor and make his presence felt inside the paint. On the negative side, he only grabbed one rebound and had four fouls—a clear product of his lack of strength. Although he's undersized at 6-8 (but with a pterodactyl wingspan to compensate) and not all that skilled in general, we need to keep in mind that he's only 21 years old and has only been playing basketball for about six years—and thus still has upside to continue to improve. We'll see how he does over the next few days.

Also a very pleasant surprise was the play of D-League product Mike Taylor—a 6-2 combo guard in the Louis Williams mold with freakish athleticism and terrific scoring instincts. He got to the basket at will, made some nice plays pulling up from mid-range, finished with a nifty floater, and hit one of his three 3-pointers (something scouts will be scrutinizing closely here). On the downside, he seemed to force the issue excessively at times—turning the ball over a game-high 5 times in the process), struggled a bit with his rail-thin frame fighting through screens and barely saw any minutes at the point at all. He clearly looks like an undersized shooting guard, but might just have the physical tools, scoring ability and overall ability to overcome that. It will be very interesting to continue to follow him.

[c]Mike Taylor[/c]

Who hurt himself the worst? Most likely Davon Jefferson. He came here out of shape, and has barely been hustling at all for the past two days. Although he was able to use his freakish athleticism to make some plays on the glass and in transition, NBA types can't be crazy about what they are seeing here. He needs to realize the urgency of the situation quickly if he wants to avoid destroying what otherwise might be a very promising future. At this point it looks very obvious that the 21-year old freshman is not ready to be in this draft, and definitely made a hasty decision hiring an agent.

Also on the negative side of the spectrum we found Danny Green (forcing the issue way too much, especially from behind the arc [0-4], and looking clearly hobbled by his sprained left ankle) and Jeremy Pargo (showing concerning shot-selection and tunnel vision driving through the lane).

The second game was fairly weak as far as big time draft prospects were concerned. The most intriguing story might have been the incredibly poor play of North Carolina shooting guard Wayne Ellington—projected by some as a first round pick, but looking like anything but one from what we've seen in the first two days so far. Ellington was 1 of 8 from the field until the game was pretty much over with two minutes left and he managed to make his boxscore look somewhat respectable with two garbage-time baskets. He forced a number of shots badly, dribbled the ball off his foot on his way to 6 painful turnovers, played poor defense and did not grab even a single rebound in 27 minutes. He finished the game with 8 points, and is looking like he'll be on the first plane back to Chapel Hill to kick off his junior season once this camp is over unless he can turn things around in a major way.

Joe Crawford had a very strong game with 19 points on 6-11 shooting, thanks to an extremely hot and aggressive start that kept his team in the game. He took the ball to the rack extremely well, showing smoothing body control, solid ball-handling skills and impressive overall scoring instincts, and also knocked down a number of shots from outside. He needed to play some defacto point guard minutes because of the injury to Jamar Butler. Defensively he was nothing special, and his size and physical tools probably don't put him at the top tier of this draft, but he does have a very specific NBA skill—and that's scoring. He helped himself for sure today.

On the other side of the ball, Gary Forbes was clearly the best player on the winning team. He looked extremely instinctive putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the rack, getting to the free throw line repeatedly and finishing impressively around the cup. He also made some excellent passes, showed nifty ball-handling skills, and generally left a very strong first impression. He's not overly athletic, but he's extremely smart and crafty, and he just continued to add on what was an excellent performance last month at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. We'll be watching him in the drills tomorrow to see how he shoots the ball from the perimeter.

[c]Gary Forbes[/c]

Shan Foster was a big disappointment once again, continuing the same trend we saw in the morning and the day before. He looks completely out of his element mentally, forcing bad shots and even air-balling one 3-pointer by about five feet, which is completely uncharacteristic of the player widely considered the top shooter in this draft class. He got chased off the 3-point line way too easily, getting caught into the trap of being forced to use his ball-handling skills, which he is much less effective at than just spotting up from behind the arc. He looks like he's putting way too much pressure on himself, and will need to settle down a bit and remember what got him here. He unfortunately doesn't bring enough else to the table besides his shooting to be able to be as cold as he's been thus far.

Richard Hendrix had a solid outing with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes. He was extremely unselfish and did a great job crashing the glass, showing a good feel for the game but also struggling a bit defensively on the perimeter and not being very effective finishing around the rim in traffic.

Patrick Ewing had a quietly effective game with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, impressively hitting an NBA 3-pointer, getting on the offensive glass, and playing well in transition. Robert Vaden took some questionable shots but also made quite a few tough ones, going 6-11 for 13 points. James Gist scored 16 points and had 5 rebounds on 5-8 shooting, mostly by running the floor and finishing around the hoop. Kentrell Gransberry got his hand on seemingly every ball around him, scrapping together 10 rebounds (6 offensive) in 20 minutes, to go along with 8 points.

The third and last game of the day was probably the best of the night, both from a talent perspective as well as the overall pace.

Ty Lawson was a cut above everyone else on the floor here, showing incredible quickness taking an outlet pass and getting his team out in transition, and fantastic court vision finding open teammates on the move. He made the game very simple for all of his teammates, as all they had to do was run with him and make sure their hands were ready for the pass. He got to the rim and finished only semi-well (his size hurts him here), converting 4 of 10 shots for 10 points and 4 assists, and also played terrific defense on Lester Hudson. He slowed down in his second stint of playing time in the second half, but the strong impression he needed to make was already felt. We'll be watching him in the drills tomorrow to see how he shoots the ball, something that is very important for him. He had not stood out prior to this game at all.

Malik Hairston's stat-line might not have been that impressive on paper (8 points, 4 assists, 3-4 FG), but he did a very nice job finding teammates within the flow of the offense and playing with and off of Pat Calathes, who he seems to have nice chemistry with. His athleticism looked better than advertised getting off the floor and elevating for dunks. A very nice start for the Oregon senior, who we may have been underrating this season, at his then heftier proportions.

Pat Calathes only got to play 15 minutes (sitting an extensive amount of time between stints), but really made the most of his time out on the floor, scoring 10 points and dishing off 5 assists (compared to just one turnover), many of the spectacular variety. His ball-handling skills, vision and all-around creativity were on full display throughout, looking aggressive and intelligent while not forcing the issue in the least bit. He would have had even more assists playing with some more skilled big man. He seems like a lock to get drafted at this point, and may be able to work himself considerably up the board if he continues to play like this in the next two days.

Brian Roberts was solid offensively, hitting 4-9 shots for 11 points and looking good pushing the ball up the floor in transition. He did struggle defensively trying to stay in front of the very strong and aggressive Stanley Burrell, who got to the rim whenever he wanted and absolutely man-handled anyone standing in his way. Reggie Williams gave maybe the best effort of anyone in this game, playing fantastic defense and picking his spots nicely offensively.

On the other team, J.R. Giddens forced the issue with his weak ball-handling skills a little too much at times, but still flashed great potential with some of the moves he made at times. His talent is undeniable, he just needs to polish up his skill-set. Jiri Hubalek continued to make a living off his perimeter jumper, much the same way he did at Portsmouth back in April.

DeMarcus Nelson was intense and aggressive, but looked a bit out of control at times too with some of his drives. Trent Plaisted had some flashes with his ridiculous athleticism, but was a bit too quiet in stretches, not making his presence felt enough. Lester Hudson showed mostly a mixed bag on both ends of the floor, struggling defensively trying to contain Ty Lawson, while showing nice creativity and vision with some occasional passes but also looking too lackadaisical making sloppy scoops that led to turnovers. There is no question that the guy can play, but he remains fairly unpolished at this point.

Drills tomorrow once again kick off at 9 AM, followed by three games at 11, 5 and 6:30. There will be a media session in-between games with some of the top prospects in the draft, which we will attend, as well as the Priority Sports Veteran Camp, featuring guys like Dahntay Jones, Luke Jackson, blogger extraordinare Jared Reiner, Justin Reed, Eddie Gill and many others.

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