-DraftExpress Portsmouth Recap, Day One
Point guards Jerome Randle and Mikhail Torrance were the day's standouts, helping their NBA hopes considerably with very productive, yet very different outings. A half a foot or more separates the two in stature, but each made strong cases for roster spots in front of a host of NBA decision makers.
No less than 11 NBA General Managers have been seen scouting the event thus far, giving the prospects in attendance plenty to play for and proving once again that this tournament is still a relevant place to find NBA caliber players.
NBA GMs in attendance thus far:
Rick Sund (Atlanta Hawks)
Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics)
Donnie Nelson (Dallas Mavericks)
Mark Warkentein (Denver Nuggets)
Daryl Morey (Houston Rockets)
Neil Olshey (Los Angeles Clippers)
Mitch Kuphack (Los Angeles Lakers)
John Hammond (Milwaukee Bucks)
Bryan Colangelo (Toronto Raptors)
Kevin OConnor (Utah Jazz)
Ernie Grunfeld (Washington Wizards)
Plenty of chatter revolved around the ever-swelling number of underclassmen prospects entering this draft on a daily basis and how that might affect this senior class. Most agreed that there will only be a handful of players, at best, drafted from this camp, but that there is still plenty of value in keeping tabs on the progress of the most interesting players here over the next few years.
With the way undrafted Portsmouth veterans such as Wesley Matthews, Reggie Williams, Anthony Tolliver, Jose Juan Barea, Chuck Hayes, Anthony Morrow, and many others are performing in the NBA right now, the benefits of scouting this camp might not reaped for a few years.
Nevertheless, it was intriguing to see players from under the radar conferences such as the Sun Belt (Tyren Johnson of Louisiana Lafayette and Western Kentuckys A.J. Slaughter), Ivy League (Harvards Jeremy Lin, Jeff Foote and Ryan Wittman of Cornell) and the America East (Vermonts Marqus Blakely) have absolutely no problem whatsoever holding their own with their BCS conference counterparts and reinforce the notion that they could have played at any level of college basketballjust like this years NCAA tournament proved.
Even the Division II players (particularly Kutztowns Stephen Dennis and LeMoynes Laurence Ekperigin have had strong showings thus far, showing just how deep and talented the pool of American basketball players has become these days, even if the severely limited amount of open NBA roster spots will not be able to accommodate even a fraction of them. If the justification for the existence of the NBA Development League hasnt been made loud and clear with the sheer amount of callups made this season and the way theyve subsequently performed in the NBA, that case has only become stronger here in Portsmouth.
Day Two Evaluations
Jerome Randle, 510, Point Guard, California
18 points, 7/13 FG, 2/5 3FG, 5 Rebounds, 10 Assists, 4 Turnovers, 4 steals
His stellar three point shooting stroke is well documented at this point, as he shot 42.1% on more than 500 attempts over his last three years at California. His release looks very quick and he has infinite range. While his shot selection was questionable at points during the game, his skill as a shooter is undeniable and as he gets stronger, he should only continue to improve.
He also thrived in mid-range opportunities, using his lighting quick first step and ability to stop on a dime to knock down numerous pull up jump shots. He did struggle finishing around the basket initially, which largely was due to his lack of explosiveness and strength. His instincts, body control, and creativity around the rim allowed him to finish effectively by the end of the game.
Randle is clearly one of quickest players in attendance both with and without the ball in his hands. Going up against Ishmael Smith (considered by many to be the fastest player in college basketball) Randle looked almost every bit his equal, showing the ability to change into an extra gear and blow by defenders in impressive fashion, but unlike Smith, being able to do so in an under control manner that makes him that much more difficult to contend with. He showed excellent instincts off of the dribble as the game wore on, deferring to his teammates and pulling up for jump shots smoothly and confidently. His court vision is outstanding and he always managed to get his teammates the ball in favorable scoring positions.
At just 510, Randle struggled somewhat in the first half seeing and making passes over traps in the half court offense. By the second half, however, it was no longer a problem and he had completely adjusted. His lack of size is seen by many to be a hindrance at the next level, and while having an excellent game against 60 Ishmael Smith is fine, we will be watching to see how he fares in this setting against a better team and bigger guards. He will be going up against 6-5 Mikhail Torrance in tonights semi-finals, a matchup that will be studied closely by NBA teams on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, he struggled sometimes due to his lack of size and strength, as defenders either muscled by him or simply saw over him. His tenacity on this end of the floor, however, is encouraging. He has active hands and is a relentless pest in one-on-one situations. He forced many of Ishmael Smiths 10 turnovers and did a solid job of staying in front of the quick guard.
Overall, Randle probably has helped his stock the most of any prospect here and continued to improve upon what was already an impressive season. We will be closely watching how he looks in the next two games, and are definitely coming around on his NBA chances.
Mikhail Torrance, 6-5, Point Guard, Alabama
14 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 6-9 FG, 2-3 FT
Standing out from the opening tip due to the sheer size (6-5) he brings to the table at the point guard position, Torrance showed terrific physical tools and potential and likely established himself as a legitimate draft prospect in the process.
With his excellent first step and aggressive slashing mentality, Torrance got into the lane all game long against the much smaller Devan Downey, both in transition and off the pick and roll. Wisely looking more concerned with showing off his playmaking ability in order to prove his mettle as a point guard prospect (for which hes far more interesting for the NBA than at the 2) than scoring, Torrance made some extremely creative passes all game long, both with flashy bounce passes off the pick and roll and with drive and dish plays finding open teammates right underneath the rim.
While Torrances conversion to the point guard position is clearly not a finished processas evidenced by the 7 turnovers he committedhe showed enough potential in this area to show that hes more than just another 2-guard masquerading at the 1. Hes a willing distributor with solid court vision and nice creativity, even if he needs to do a better job of cutting down on unforced errors and possibly taking as many risks.
While Torrance played an excellent first game, there are still a couple of areas we want to continue to study over the course of the next two games. One would be his defense, an area that he clearly has potential in thanks to his size and athleticism, but seems to struggle in at times to his seemingly average fundamentals. Another is his shooting stroke, which looked a bit streaky in this game.
While obviously not a finished product, Torrance is exactly the type of prospect an NBA team might be willing to spend time and energy developing because of the benefits they could reap down the road. Torrances ability to defend either guard position could give a coach a lot more versatility to play alongside a smaller combo guard without great playmaking skills. Torrances SEC counterpart Garrett Temple could be a good example to look at. Even if Torrance doesnt make the NBA on the first go-around, hes someone teams might want to continue to keep tabs on to see how he progresses down the road.
He looks uncomfortable playing off the ball, on one possession passing up a spot-up three to make a pass, only to get the ball back and instantly go into a pull-up three off a crossover with a hand in his face. It's clear it will be a long process for Coleman to adjust to a more team-oriented game, and his efforts to adjust in this game are encouraging, but he may be turning some people off with his continued poor shot selection.
On the bright side, like yesterday, Coleman did a pretty good job contributing in other areas, making plays on defense and hustling off the ball.
Still, his performance at Portsmouth came as a surprise. Tyren Johnson is a player wed like to take a closer look at over the next two games after his extremely impressive debut. The 6-8 combo forward has outstanding physical tools (size, length, athleticism and a great frame) to go along with an intriguing skill-set for his position. He knocked down three 3-pointers, hit an off the dribble jumper, made some outstanding passes, came up with a number of blocks and steals, crashed the glass hard and just showed a lot of toughness and versatility. Players in his mold are very much en vogue in todays basketball (both in the NBA and Europe) so it will be interesting to see how he follows up this performance.