Jordan Brand Classic Scrimmage (Day Two)

Jordan Brand Classic Scrimmage (Day Two)
Apr 19, 2008, 09:36 am
We had a chance to evaluate the two teams in action in a semi-competitive 40 minute scrimmage with a running clock. The players played somewhat (but definitely not extremely) hard for the most part, and it gave us a good opportunity to take another look at their physical tools and basic skill-level. Kevin Durant was sitting on one of the benches, Worldwide Wes was just a few feet away in the bleachers, and a few agents and Nike marketing people made up the very sparse crowd.

Jonathan Givony

For the Blue team, the center of attention as always revolved around the flamboyant presence of their point guard Brandon Jennings. He dominated the ball for every minute that he was on the floor, pounding it excessively during certain stretches and making phenomenal plays in others, showcasing his outstanding athleticism and talent level, but also making some of the people in attendance grumble about his somewhat selfish style of play.

Quick shots early in possessions, a little mano a mano with the pesky Kemba Walker (who went right at him), and some incredible flurries of imagination all typified the high-usage, high-octane play of Jennings. He was awesome splitting the defense and finding cutters with his lightning quick bounce passes, incredibly flashy with his ball-handling skills, and also played absolutely zero defense on the other end of the floor.

The problem with Jennings is that he seems more concerned with looking good than playing winning basketball. This is not something that we came up with from watching him in the all-star game setting, but also very much evident when we went out to watch him play with Oak Hill back in December. He only seems interested in passing the ball if he will definitely get an assist, which causes a lot of standing around from his teammates and probably doesn’t make him the most fun guy to play with. It’s way too early to make any definitive conclusions about how he will turn out, but Lute Olsen and Arizona will most certainly have work to do regarding the way he runs a team, because it’s just not a style that is conducive to winning games, despite the incredible amount of talent that Jennings possesses.

Amongst the wing players, possibly the most impressive of the bunch today was Malcolm Lee, a super-long armed athlete who brings tons of versatility to the table as well with his defense, unselfishness, playmaking skills and transition play. He got in the passing lanes on a few occasions and didn’t have a problem giving the ball up, while also knocking down a couple of not-so-pretty looking spot-up 3-pointers. He looks to us like a shorter version of Corey Brewer, lanky frame and all.

Wesley Witherspoon did much of the same, playing strong defense, taking the ball coast to coast nicely on another occasion, looking smart and athletic and probably much better than the recruiting services are giving him credit for. He is ranked as the 56th best prospect in his class by both Scout and Rivals, and #72 by ESPN, but has a bigger upside than a lot of guys slotted ahead of him. The main thing he needs to work on from what we could tell is his jump-shot—he shoots the ball on the way down and generally has questionable mechanics. He was getting the full-court press from Worldwide Wes (probably recruiting for Memphis) at the end of the game, and also mentioned to us yesterday that recent Memphis signee Tyreke Evans has also had some words of advice for him.

For the second straight day, there was very little to see out of Demar DeRozan, which is disappointing considering how well he played at the Nike Hoop Summit. He hit one 3-pointer and had another finish in transition, but besides that did very little in the half-court, looking fairly passive throughout.

Greg Monroe again dropped some awesome glimpses of potential from the perimeter, knocking down two 3-pointers and making an incredible pivot move from the high post where and drained a spinning and extremely fluid turnaround jumper from the elbow. There are very few 6-10 players in college basketball right who can execute such an advanced move. Defensively and on the glass he offered very little, getting outhustled inside and showing very little intensity.

Joseph Treutlein

On the Red/White Team, Tyreke Evans was the story once again, as he continues to show just how talented and versatile a player he is, and how his game is absolutely tailor made for the Memphis system. He ran the point for his team once again when he was on the floor, driving and dishing, setting up teammates, and showing his ability to penetrate to the basket, change directions, and move the ball from one hand to another while in mid air, making him an exceptional finish at the rim. He also hit one pull-up three-pointer, with his strange but effective mechanics, though he didn’t hit on his other attempts from deep.

Kemba Walker is one player we noticed the previous day but didn’t receive a write-up, as he just never really got going with his own offense, playing more of a facilitator role in the intrasquad scrimmage. That was not the case at all in the intersquad scrimmage, as he was probably the game’s leading scorer, doing it in a very flash-free, efficient manner. He hit an incredible 5-for-5 on his three-pointers, including one straight pull-up and two pull-ups off crossover dribbles. He set up open shooters on his team, showed some nice misdirection abilities on passes, and made good decisions overall, running his team’s offense. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in UConn’s point guard rotation, but he looks like someone who could make an impact immediately if given the opportunity.

After missing the first day of practice, Samardo Samuels arrived today, and it was hard not to notice, given how assertive he was on the floor, calling for the ball on every possession and showing no hesitancy to dribble the ball excessively when he got it. His dribble doesn’t look that great, and it’ll be interesting to see how his face-up game translates to the college setting where real defense is played, but it worked here, as he had some nice drives finishing with right-handed lay-ups. In the post, he established dominant position frequently and often dropstepped for easy buckets or got to the free-throw line, though his not so great explosiveness and athleticism in general stood out on occasion, with him getting his shot blocked twice, once by a wing rotating over. With his dominant strength and assertiveness, he is someone who could also make an impact fairly quickly in the college game.

Al-Farouq Aminu also showed up for his first action today, though wasn’t nearly as impactful as Samuels, not really getting into a rhythm, something that can be hard for bigs in this setting If they don’t really demand the ball, as we saw many of them generally blend into the background in this game on both teams (Michael Dunigan, JaMychal Green, B.J. Mullens). That said, Aminu did show some nice flashes with a pumk-fake and 1 finish at the basket and a nice drive with his left hand where he showed very good body control to adjust and finish with his right hand.

Iman Shumpert continued to play his relatively quiet, but efficient style of basketball, never forcing the issue, but doing well when he picked his spots, finishing at the rim with a nice left-handed lay-up, showing some nice passing ability hitting a cutter off a crossover dribble, hitting a three-pointer with his nice mechanics, which are among the better here, and showing off his athleticism on an alley-oop dunk in the last minute the game when the scrimmage boiled down to a glorified dunk contest.

Devin Ebanks played a much more controlled game here today, not relying too much on his developing ball-handling and generally taking high efficiency shots, helping his team in multiple ways, slashing to the basket, finishing with both hands, getting out in transition, and hitting two very nice three-pointers, both pull-ups, with one coming on a stepback. His shot looks a lot smoother when he has the operating room and isn’t pulling up off a fancy, unnecessary crossover, and it was nice to see him make that adjustment here today. He wasn’t as noticeable over the course of the game, not being his team’s center of attention, but he still had at least 14 points, near tops in the game, while not forcing the issue at all, possibly not even missing a shot by our charting. Wherever he decides to go, he should have an immediate impact, and in a very good way if he plays the way he did here.

Lastly, Tony Woods again showed some very nice flashes of ability, and is starting to look like one of the more intriguing players in this class, with his size, athleticism, and developing coordination along with post-up and face-up skills. His moves aren’t always especially fast at this point, and his reflexes aren’t great, but he occasionally gets into a zone where his instincts kick in, and he pulls off an incredible dropstep spin move with an athletic extension on the other side of the rim for a finish. He also showed some nice shot fakes in the post, and got out in transition to finish on some explosive dunks.

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