adidas Nations Basketball Experience Notebook (Day 3+4), Part One

adidas Nations Basketball Experience Notebook (Day 3+4), Part One
Aug 08, 2007, 02:24 am
Adidas Nations Basketball Experience, Day 1+2

-From our vantage point, the Adidas Nations Basketball Experience ended up being a successful affair. There was a very pleasant atmosphere inside the gym in all the days we attended, the high school/international players seemed to have enjoyed themselves, the counselors (the NCAA players discussed here) got a great work out in, and we personally got a lot out of seeing so many prospects from different age groups right in our backyard.

-Even though we personally aren’t complaining about having been able to scout such a diverse group of players in one place, it doesn’t seem like the NBA felt the same way…While somewhere around 10 teams were represented on the second day of the event, that number dwindled down to 5 on the last evening, from what we could tell. The Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls were the only teams (again, from what we could tell in the very small gyms) who took in the very important displays put on by otherwise hard to reach prospects such as Serge Ibaka, Seidou N'joya, Miguel Lorenzo, Aboubakar Zaki and others. Regardless, it seemed strange to say the least to note the apathy of the highest level NBA decision makers (re: the GMs) who will have tough choices to make in a year or two regarding whether to draft some of the players in attendance here—but were not present to evaluate them. Since NBA people are banned from watching high school players except for a few select events like these, there’s a case to be made that they might have been well served to check the progress on top-level prospects such as Jrue Holiday, B.J. Mullens, Lance Stephenson and others as well. And we're ignoring the fact that as many as 6-7 lottery picks (besides Ibaka) are playing here as college counselors. But who are we to criticize?

-We talked about his briefly in our first article, but it’s worth harping on how interesting the group of NCAA players adidas managed to assemble here in New Orleans. Even though there were some injuries (the very underrated Ben McCauley, Antonio Anderson, Tyler Smith) and unexplained absences (Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, Robert Dozier, Quincy Pondexter, Tasmin Mitchell), which dwindled down to the number of players to 13 or 14 by the last game, we still got a great opportunity to see so many high level players going at it right in front of our eyes at least a half-dozen times in a very competitive setting.

This felt like more than just your average pick-up game, as the players passed the ball unselfishly amongst themselves, took (and made) good shots for the most part, played aggressive defense, cheered each other on, and generally took the task at hand very seriously. You could really tell that these are not only quality players, but also quality people off the court from the way they conducted themselves. Considering their “job” here at the camp was to be counselors to the younger kids and serve as examples for how to act and play, they really did a good job.

The biggest story to emerge from the counselor games of the last two days was the play of Louisville swingman Terrence Williams, who is going into his junior season. Williams seems to have made some serious progress in his game over the past summer, and has surely convinced us that he’s more than deserving of a spot in he first round of our 2008 mock draft.

He played aggressive, but under control basketball, making good decisions in transition and half-court sets and taking full advantage of any opportunity he had to show off his explosive athleticism. Williams is built like an NBA player and is beginning to show the all-around game of one too, creating his own shot consistently from the perimeter and mixing in a steady offering of pull-up jumpers with strong takes to the basket.

One of the criticisms we had of Williams in the past was his tendency to settle too often for contested 3-pointers rather than using his excellent physical tools to make things happen via his slashing game. He only shot 37% from the field last year and 26% from behind the arc. Although we shouldn’t draw too many long term conclusions because of the nature of this setting, Williams seems to be making nice strides in this area. His handle looks better (although still improvable) and he’s clearly more committed to getting inside the paint and finishing. The shots he did take from the perimeter were mostly of the under control catch and shoot variety from behind the arc (which he hit at a good rate), while his mid-range game looks quite a bit more polished than we remember it being last season. Playing the pick and roll, Williams punished the defense on a number of occasions with a smooth jumper when they dared cheat and go underneath the screen in order to try to contain his dribble.

Defensively, Williams used his strength and lateral quickness nicely, even coming up with a couple of excellent blocks either on his man or rotating over from the weakside. Sasha Kaun was the victim of one of these rotations, as he was rejected viciously by the soaring Williams right at the rim.

The NBA scouts we talked to were just as impressed with Terrence Williams for what he showed over the course of the adidas nations basketball experience here in New Orleans. He seems to have helped his draft stock quite a bit amongst those in attendance. The comparison to Tony Allen was brought up, although it was noted that Williams has much better size and is already ahead of him at the same stage in terms of his perimeter shooting. Williams has the chance to really soar up the draft boards if he has the type of season we think he can under the careful guidance of Rick Pitino.

-Other notable performances (besides the ones we mentioned in our first article) included the play of Mario Chalmers and DJ Augustin.
Chalmers really stood out with the phenomenal on and off-ball defense he played throughout the camp, smothering with his excellent combination of lateral quickness, tenacity and length, constantly getting in the passing lanes, finishing craftily in transition with a layup or emphatic dunk, showing a great attitude throughout, and also coming up with some excellent passes in on the fast break and in half-court sets. He has NBA potential for sure, it’s just a matter of polishing his skills and decision making and becoming a viable defensive oriented combo guard who can shoot and handle the ball well enough to make himself useful as a pro. He’s not a prototypical NBA point guard prospect, but he does have some very appealing attributes that should make him a solid draft pick either this year or next.

Fellow Big 12 guard DJ Augustin also had a pretty nice showing, and it must be noted that most of the NBA scouts we spoke to prefer him over Darren Collison as an NBA prospect at this point, although they did admit that it’s clearly a matter of taste. Augustin is a no-nonsense type scoring point guard who makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands and has no hesitation putting the ball on the floor and using his deceptive quickness to get to the rack. He has excellent ball-handling skills and really knows how to change gears to get to where he needs on the floor. He’s the type of player who always knows where he is on the floor and therefore does a very good job finding teammates off the dribble, particularly in transition. He didn’t finish particularly well around the basket (his lack of height hurts him here), but that might be an aberration based off what we’ve seen in the past. He’s also probably a better shooter than he was able to show here. At times he’s a bit wild with the ball, but another year of playing the point full time for Texas should give him a great deal of experience going into next year’s draft.

-The impression we got from Eric Gordon or Derrick Rose didn’t improve much from what we saw after writing our first article. Gordon hit some phenomenal shots from NBA range and beyond, but played by himself too often and made bad decisions with the ball in his hands. Rose seemed to fade more and more as the camp went on, to the point that he was barely noticed towards the end except for one or two times where he showed breathtaking quickness pushing the ball up the floor.

-Check back tomorrow for our thoughts on the many high school and international players seen in New Orleans.

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