- Joined Feb 7, 2008
[h3]Barnes, Kanter shine at Nike Hoop Summit [/h3]
NBA scouts and executives were out in force last week attending twodraft events, the Nike Hoop Summit and the Portsmouth InvitationalTournament.
Of the two, the Hoop Summit has surpassed the PIT as thedraft scouting event in April. The PIT hasn't produced a great NBAplayer in the last decade. However, a number of terrific prospects,both American high school players and international stars, have playedat the Hoop Summit over the past few years.
On the international side, future NBA first-round picks Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, Yi Jianlian and Nicolas Batum have all played in the Hoop Summit. On the American side, they've had everyone from Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and John Wall play there.
Once again, the talent was strong on both sides of the Atlantic.
Iattended Friday's practice and the game Saturday and spoke with anumber of NBA scouts and executives who were at the game. Here's a takeon a number of interesting future prospects.
Harrison Barnes, G/F, North Carolina Tar Heels
Barnes came into the matchup with an enormous amount of hype. Not onlyis he ranked as the No. 1 player on ESPNU's top 100 list, I have himprojected as the top prospect in the 2011 NBA draft, and scouts havecompared him to Kobe Bryant.
Barnes,for the most part, lived up to the advance billing in the game, scoring27 points in 29 minutes and hitting a crucial 3-pointer in the fourthquarter to put Team USA back up on top.
Barnes is one ofthe smoothest players you'll ever come across. He glides up and downthe floor, makes terrific decisions and never seems to be pressing. Hiscalm, cool demeanor is always evident, even with the game on the line.While scouts say Barnes needs to improve his defense, aggressivenessand ball handling, there's little else he can't do.
Heshould be a star at North Carolina next year. While he'll have someserious competition for the No. 1 overall pick, there's little questionhe'll be in the mix.
Enes Kanter, F/C, Kentucky Wildcats
The Swiss native put on the best performance of the night. His 34points and 13 rebounds broke Nowitzki's all-time scoring record at theHoop Summit. It was a terrific all-around performance.
Kanterwas a beast in the paint, muscling his way in for position andregularly clawing his way through a pair of Team USA's high-profilebigs for a whopping eight offensive boards.
NBA scoutslove Kanter's toughness and his offensive versatility. Not only was hea bear around the basket, but he also showed off his ability to put theball on the floor and hit the outside J. On Saturday night, Kanterlooked like a future lottery pick.
Still, a few questionsremain. While Kanter is a terrific low-post player and isn't afraid ofcontact, he's not particularly quick or explosive. He measured a decent6-foot-10.5 in shoes with a 7-1 wingspan. So that will help. But he'sfar from the elite athlete NBA teams look for high in the lottery. He'smore like an aggressive Greg Monroe.
Theother issue concerns Kanter's college eligibility. Kanter playedprofessional ball in Turkey before leaving for the U.S. While he claimshe wasn't paid (an assertion some have called into question) he didplay with professional athletes, a rule that has, in the past, hurt aplayer's eligibility. But the NCAA is in the process of changing therule, and there are reports that Kanter has already been cleared toplay for Kentucky next season. If he plays, and puts on similarperformances next year, he'll be a top-10 pick.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke Blue Devils
Irving got off to a slow start, but once the fourth quarter hit, hetook over the game. Whether he was slashing to the basket or playinglockdown defense on the perimeter, you had to be impressed with how hestepped up his game when it mattered.
Hisfocus is extraordinary and not just in the waning moments of the game.Before the game, while many of his teammates were goofing around inshootaround with trick shots, Irving was locked in, working on someball handling moves and his jump shot. He was taking this thingseriously.
Irving has the makings of a terrific NBAprospect. He's the most well rounded point guard in the class. He'squick, can shoot with range and has no problem getting to the basket.He should be a beast at Duke next year.
Scouts have him pegged as a top-10 pick in 2011.
Terrence Jones, F, uncommitted
I thought Jones was one of the most intriguing prospects, both inpractice and in the game. The 6-8 lefty forward from Portland is veryversatile. He's long, athletic, has a NBA body, can handle, is anexcellent passer, attacks the basket and can even shoot with range.
Joneswas a key player down the stretch for Team USA. They used him to guardmultiple players on the floor and he showed some real toughness. I'veheard scouts compare him to Lamar Odom.
He'sdeciding between Oregon and Washington (along with a few others,including Kentucky and UCLA) for next season. He may not be aone-and-done player along the lines of Barnes, Kanter and Irving, butI'm pretty sure we'll see him in the NBA in 2011 or 2012.
Brandon Knight, G, uncommitted
Knight came in pegged as the next Wall but didn't really live up toWall's stellar performance last year. Knight never really gotaggressive looking for his shot, though he made some nice passes andset up Barnes and Jared Sullinger well in the fourth quarter. He also showed that he can be terrific on the defensive end.
Knightis a bit of a mixed bag as far as NBA prospects go. Some NBA scouts seehim as a lottery pick next season -- especially if he ends up runningthe point for John Calipari at Kentucky. Others feel he doesn't quitehave the skill level (some see him as a 2-guard with a streaky shot andthe inability to go left) or extreme athleticism of Wall and Rose, andit might take him a bit longer.
Nikola Mirotic, F, Montenegro
Mirotic was the second-best player for the World Team on Friday. Theversatile forward from Montenegro looked like the classic skilledEuropean small forward. He shot the ball with range, put it on thefloor and drove to the basket and made a number of great passes.
Whilehe's not the quickest or most athletic kid, he's good enough. Hisrights are owned by Real Madrid at the moment. He spent this season onloan to a second-division Spanish team. He wasn't a standout, butscouts who have watched him over the years believe he could be apotential first-round pick in a few years.
We'll be keeping our eye on him.
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State Buckeyes
Sullinger is a load. His legs are like tree trunks and he's a powerfulplayer in the post. He battled all game with Kanter and, while Kantergot the best of him, he wasn't too shabby. He ended with 22 points andeight rebounds, six of them on the offensive end.
Sullingerhas the makings of a dominant college big man. Few bigs will be able tomatch his strength or keep him off the boards. He also has a rarecombination of brains and brawn. He can do just about anything on thefloor but still likes to bang with the best of them.
Hisfate as an NBA prospect, however, leaves a bit to be desired. He's abit undersized at the 4 and isn't an explosive athlete. He also hasstruggled with weight and conditioning issues throughout high school.If he sheds some pounds and gets a little quicker because of it, hecould be a Kevin Love or Paul Milsap type of player. But I doubt he's one and done.
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas Longhorns
The Canadian big man didn't dominate the way many scouts thought hewould. He ended up with a respectable 14 points but grabbed just tworebounds for the World Team. In crunch time, Kanter grabbed many of hisminutes. Still, he impressed scouts in practice Friday with his ballhandling ability, motor and versatility.
Thompsonhad to be a little disappointed with his measurements, however. He camein at just over 6-8 in shoes. That's not ideal for a 4. However, it'soffset by an impressive 7-2 wingspan and good athletic ability.
I'm not sure if he's a one-and-done, but he does look like an NBA player down the road.
Dejan Musli, C, Serbia
Musli was the only player at the Hoop Summit who is in the 2010 NBAdraft. Musli is a true center. He measured 7-foot-1/2 in shoes and hada 7-3 1/2 wingspan. He's not the quickest or most athletic guy, but hegets things done around the basket. He has a soft touch and some nicemoves in the paint. Musli outplayed Kanter in practice Friday, but inthe game, it was Kanter who shined and Musli who came up a bit short.
Muslistruggled against the more athletic Team USA players and ended with 11points and six rebounds. He's a potential second-round pick this yearbut needs more experience. He plays a pretty small role on FMP Zelznikin the Adriatic league. He'll likely return to Serbia for anotherseason and try again next year.
The Midrange Game
•UPDATE: I just received a copy of the official measurements for TeamUSA in the Nike Hoop Summit. This gives us our first real look at howbig the players for the 2011 draft class actually are. Barnes measured6-7 1/4 in shoes with a 6-11 wingspan. Irving measured 6-2 1/2 in shoesand had a 6-3 3/4 wingspan. Knight measured 6-3 1/2 with a 6-6wingspan. Jones measured 6-8 1/4 in shoes with a whopping 7-2 1/2wingspan. Sullinger measured 6-8 1/2 in shoes with a 7-1 1/2 wingspan.He also weighed a whopping 282 pounds. Patric Young measured 6-9 1/2with a 7-1 1/4 wingspan.
• Ten years ago, the PortsmouthInvitational was packed with virtually every GM and scout in the NBA.Regularly, a few players there would sneak into the first round andmany others would be taken in the second.
Over the pastfive years, however, the tournament has been in serious decline. Thesenior-only tournament is seen as a last-ditch effort to get noticed byagents, and virtually all of the top seniors skip it. Lately, NBApersonnel have done the same. DraftExpress reported just 11 GMsattended the event this year, and most of them left halfway through toget out to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit.
The best player to play there last year was Wesley Matthews.Matthews is having an excellent rookie season for the Jazz, but hewasn't even drafted. Not sure if that's a bigger indictment on the campor the NBA scouts who attended.
This year, there weren'tmany standouts according to several scouts who attended the event.However, a few players got multiple mentions from scouts.Louisiana-Lafayette's Tyren Johnson was discussed in virtually everyconversation. The Sun Belt conference player of the year is the type ofathletic, versatile forward that more and more NBA coaches pine for.
Tulsa's Ben Uzoh, Alabama's Mikhail Torrence and Cal's Jerome Randle were other standouts.
•With Portsmouth in decline and the Chicago pre-draft camp turned intomore of an athletic combine, NBA GMs have banded together to createlarge group workouts of their own. This year there are two to keep aneye on. The first is May 24-27 in Minnesota. It's followed by anotherbig workout June 11-13 in New Jersey. Typically 30 to 40 players attendthose events. Virtually every player not projected in the lotteryparticipates in the workouts.
• One last anecdote onHarrison Barnes: Barnes has the reputation as a very polite kid whoputs academics high on his priority list.
When I spokewith him after Friday's practice, Barnes did two things I've never seenfrom an NBA prospect. First, when I prefaced a question with the fact Ihad him ranked No. 1 on my big board for 2011, he stopped the interviewmomentarily, leaned into me, stuck out his hand and said in a serioustone, "Thank you very much Mr. Ford. I really appreciate it. " Then heshook my hand.
The second story was equally unique. Barnestold me he liked to read in his spare time. When I quizzed him on whathe's actually reading, his response took me by surprise. He was readingthe latest book by Warren Buffett. Barnes will major in finance atNorth Carolina and is getting a head start on learning from the best.