Sitting near the back-end of our senior rankings, Courtney Fells came into Portsmouth with everything to gain. After seeing his productivity improve only marginally during his last three seasons at North Carolina State, the offensive minded guard needed a string of big performances to get his name back on the map. He came out extremely strong on day one, and while he had a very poor game to close the tournament, very few NBA decision-makers were in attendance to see it. Though hes not much of an NBA prospect, Fells had a nice week and may have made himself some money overseas by standing out on the first day.
The biggest factor playing against Fells from an NBA perspective is his lack of elite athleticism. Though he has a strong, lanky, build highlighted by good upper body strength, he doesnt have great speed, quickness, or leaping ability. In projecting his game to the next level, it becomes obvious that his lack of athletic ability doesnt fit well with what NBA teams look for. While his limitations would be apparent in some settings, he looked entirely comfortable at the PIT, and shouldnt have much trouble in the European game either.
Fellss best asset is his sweet outside shooting stroke. A gifted catch and shoot player with good range and a smooth release, Fells shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter almost all week. Though he went 0-5 in a blowout on the final day of the Invitational, he went 5-7 in the first two contests, looking very comfortable hitting shots moving to his left and showing good footwork. His 1-14 performance in that last game wasnt a great representation of the week he had, as he was making an obvious effort to get going by forcing some looks. Throughout his career in Raleigh, Fells had his share of ups and downs, and this week was another reminder of what can happen when he is trying too hard to get involved.
Fells did shoot the three well for a stretch this week, but the problems hes had inside the arc have plagued him since he left high school. An extremely questionable ball-handler, Fells seemed to dribble into trouble nearly every time he put the ball on the floor. This was especially obvious in the last game, where he repeatedly looked to get to the rim, but failed to create any good looks for himself. Considering hes not blessed with great quickness, his weak handle is holding back the rest of his game rather significantly at this point since he cant create separation when well defended. Fells did knock down a couple of shots off the dribble, seeming rather comfortable pulling up when he had time and space to operate a sign that improved ball-handling could make his midrange game a weapon down the road.
That weakness could be viewed as a biggest problem when one considers that Fells isnt a great passer or rebounder. Though he showed good court vision in the first contest of the week, Fells is simply not a playmaker. He did make an impact defensively, compensating for his lack of lateral quickness with consistent intensity. Not a prolific defender statistically, he didnt take many risks this week and could be a very solid defensive presence in the right system.
If Fells had sustained his performance for the duration of the week, he very easily could have earned himself some buzz, but the fact that he was less and less effective as the week went on highlighted his weaknesses. Considering the fact that Fells could improve his ball-handling significantly over time, he certainly qualifies as a name to keep tabs on, but hes not going to factor into the draft conversation this summer.