Friday, May 22, 2015

The Jarred Vanderbilt File

Name: Jarred Vanderbilt
Height: 6’8”
Position: Power Forward
High School: Victory Academy (TX)
AAU: Houston Hoops
Grade: 2017

Vanderbilt was named an Honorable Mention All-Sophomore this year by Max Preps’s after completing his second season at Victory Prep in Houston, TX. In the fall Vanderbilt attended the USA Developmental Camp and he will compete for a spot on the USA U16 team in late May.

Vanderbilt was one of only a handful of freshmen to play in the 17U EYBL last year and he averaged a very respectable 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. This year, as one of the key cogs on a 9-3 team, Vanderbilt is averaging 15.4 points and 10. 2 rebounds per game. He exploded during the second live period averaging 17.8 points and 13.8 rebounds per game which included a double-double in each contest. Against Each 1 Teach 1, Vanderbilt went for 26 points and 12 boards in his top EYBL performance of the year so far.

At this point in time, Vanderbilt is an athletic, sinewy, forward that can defend multiple positions on the court. He has the quickness, coordination, and dribbling ability to play the wing on offense, but right now his shooting is still a work in progress as he is just 2-20 from three. He does most of his basket above the rim off of drives to the paint or offensive put-backs. He’s an extremely quick leaper and usually corrals several rebounds by using his elite second jump.

“I’m not leaning toward anyone yet, I haven’t narrowed anything down,” said Vanderbilt. “I’m just taking it slow. I’ve still got two years and just trying to build relationships. Kentucky, I’ve heard from Duke, Kansas State, Kansas, a lot of Big XII schools like Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and U of A.”

“The EYBL has been great. Really strong competition. When everyone is playing together we are real good and tough to beat.”

“It’s like a 1-2 punch. If you try to stop him (De’Aron Fox) then you got me, If you try to stop me, then we’ve got him going backdoor. You can’t stop both of us! Its good having a player like that so he can draw attention and leave me open or I can draw attention and it will leave him open. We feed off each other and that’s how we excel.”

“Yeah, I say I’m a point forward. I’m versatile and can switch different positions. I’m trying to be a more definite wing and I can cause miss-matches when I have a smaller defender on me and I can cause miss-matches. I’m rebounding, I’m blocking shots, defending everyone, making plays for my teammates. I want to be the defensive stopper. I’ve been working on it. On this team they want me to guard the best player. I can guard the 1 or I can guard the 5.”

“For one, I’ve gained some weight. I’ve got my frame a little bigger. I’ve put on about 13 pounds since my freshmen year. I do push-ups and sit-ups at home, but at the weight room I’m doing bench presses, squats, calf raises, stuff for my hips. I’ve worked on my ball-handling so that way I can play in and out. Just my outside shooting really, that way I can play all positions.”

“I kind of like LeBron and James Harden, really. That’s who I try to model my game after.”

The Kevin Huerter File

Name: Kevin Huerter
Height: 6’5”
Position: Shooting Guard
High School: Shenendehowa
AAU: Albany City Rocks
Grade: 2016

Huerter just wrapped up his junior season at Shenendehowa in up-state New York where he led “Shen” to their first state title since 1987. Along the way he averaged 17.3 points per game and knocked in 75 three’s on the season while being named second team all-State in class AA of New York. His father previously played at Sienna. photo

Huerter is averaging 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game for the 8-4 Albany City Rocks. He is also shooting 46% from the floor and is 29-69 (42%) from three. The 6’5” guard scored an EYBL high of 21 points against the Oakland Soldiers and has hit three or more three-pointers in seven out of 12 games.

Kevin Huerter has been one of the hottest names from the spring AAU period. He is currently rated a three-star by, but that is sure to increase shortly. During the second live period, Huerter noted the following, “I had in-home visits with Maryland and Marquette on Monday. Then I have Creighton, Villanova, and Michigan coming to my school and then I had Davidson for an in-home visit on Wednesday. Then I had Iowa and Penn State calling me.”

After playing in Lexingon Huerter was offered by Notre Dame, Clemson, and Vanderbilt. Syracuse also offered although they would want him to do a year of prep school in order to join their 2017 class. Other schools that have made phone calls include Gonzaga, Stanford, and UNC (per Chris Watson).

Huerter is a sneaky athletic guard that has a quick first step and can bring the ball up the court if necessary. He hunts his shot on the wings and fires them up with his quick release. Right now, Huerter needs to develop more in his upper body, but he uses his court awareness to get to specific spots on the court resulting in open shots or dishes to teammates.

“My strengths are that I can really shoot it. I can shoot it anywhere on the court. I think I see guys. I have good vision out there. I can find guys. I’m very unselfish.”

“My weaknesses are that I’m still just trying to get stronger. I just need to get stronger this summer. Get in the weight room, all the basketball drills I do. The heavy ball, ropes, that have all the resistance on them and just trying to get stronger.”

“I think it’s always been natural,” Huerter noted when talking about his speed. “When you look at a guy like me you wouldn’t think he’s quick, so it kind of takes people by surprise.”

“My personal goals are to get stronger, keep working on my ball-handling, and try to make another run at it next year. I want to get back in the gym with my high school team and try to make another run at the state championship.”

"When we made our state championship run, I had people calling my high school and AAU coach, but after Hampton that’s when I really blew up."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Trae Young File

Name: Trae Young
Height: 6’1”
Position: Point Guard
High School: Norman North (OK)
AAU: MoKan Elite
Grade: 2017

Trae Young is the son of Rayford Young, who played basketball at Texas Tech and is 10th all-time on the Red Raiders scoring list. The 6’1” point guard plays for Norman North in Oklahoma and recently averaged 23.4 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore. He played at the Nike Elite 100 camp last year which plays host to the top underclassmen in the country and this summer he has been invited to the Nike Basketball Skills Academy in Santa Monica.

Playing for MoKan Elite in the 17U Nike EYBL, Young’s team is currently in second place with a 9-3 record and Young is sixth in the league in scoring with 20.1 points per game. He excelled in the second EYBL session averaging a shade under 21 points per game while knocking down 16 three’s over four games. He upped his scoring in Houston averaging 25.3 points per game although his outside shooting percentage dropped to 30%.

Young will not intimidate anyone from a physical standpoint, but the rising junior has no problem getting his shot off or finding open teammates for good looks. The right-hander has a quick release and deep range on his outside shot. He sets his feet quickly coming off a pick and can pull-up off the dribble. He also excels at using his off-hand (left) to push the ball down the court. While not an above the rim finisher, Young utilizes nifty moves combined with subtle head fakes to keep defenders off balance. At times Young can fall in love with his outside shot at the expense of generating offense for his teammates, but so far he has created a deadly 1-2 punch with his friend and teammate Michael Porter Jr.

Young has offers from the majority of Big XII schools. He picked up an offer from Shaka Smart and Texas before the Lexington EYBL and after averaging 21 points per game he added offers from Kansas, Missouri, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and UCLA. UNC and Duke have also been in contact and UConn and Houston had extended offers prior to the AAU season.

“Well I do a little bit of everything. I try to be the leader of the team. I still need to work on every part of my game. I feel like I am good at pretty much everything, but I want to be great at every part of my game. I just need to keep working hard.”

“We’ve talked about it since the 7th grade when we were playing against each other, but this is the first year that we are actually playing with each other,” noted Young when asked about playing with Michael Porter, the No. 3 prospect in 2017. “We’ve talked about it a lot, it’s fun playing with him it’s really easy for me.”

“I’m trying to enjoy the process. Not a lot of people get to do it. If there is a place further from home, that I feel comfortable with and my family would feel comfortable with me being there that is something I would take. Right now I’m not worried about it. Just trying to get better each day so hopefully I’m relevant to them when it comes time to make that decision.”

Troy Brown: A Triple-Double Threat

The Las Vegas Prospects are one strong weekend away from making the Peach Jam in their first season as an EYBL participant. A big part of their success has been due to the play of Troy Brown, the 6’5” point guard that is currently ranked as the No. 2 player in the rising junior class (2017). So far in the Nike EYBL, the Las Vegas native is averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.

Last summer Brown turned heads including those of college coaches and NBA executives at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas. This year he is continuing his strong player in the 17U age group, despite being one of the younger members of his high school class.

“We came from the Under Armour circuit, so that’s a different adjustment,” noted Brown. “I think mainly playing the 17’s you have to get used to the physicality and the height adjustment, that’s really it. That’s the major adjustment, and also the speed. Sometimes I’ll make passes that I think are there but because of the speed they aren’t really there.”

At 6’5”, Brown tries to model his game after Penny Hardaway. He knows he doesn’t have the end to end speed like a John Wall or a Russell Westbrook, but he looks to use his height and skills to contribute in a variety of ways. Brown’s idol In Penny Hardaway coaches his namesake of Team Penny in the EYBL, but so far the two haven’t connected during the tournaments.

“No, I haven’t talked to Penny yet, but I see him and say “wow” when I realize we are in the same gymnasium.”

In 11 EYBL games, Brown has scored in double figures in all but one. His best game came against Boo Williams in Lexington, KY which also featured Matt Coleman, another standout point guard in the 2017 class. In this game Brown scored 21 points on 8-11 shooting and added 11 rebounds and seven assists. With the score tied and a minute remaining, Brown scored four straight points including a contested shot under the basket where he was battling with the big men from Boo Williams. He left no doubt as to who the top point guard was in the class.

In two weeks, Brown will head to Colorado Springs to try out for the 16U USA men’s basketball team. Based on his play in the developmental camp this fall, Brown should be considered the odds on favorite to land the starting point guard spot.

While Brown is a versatile player that has a size advantage on most defenders, his outside shooting is definitely a point of improvement which Brown is more than aware of. The current scouting report tells guards to go under the pick and roll while playing off to avoid getting beat off the dribble. Brown knows this and has been focused on becoming a complete player. 

“When it comes to shooting, it’s just my confidence,” said Brown. “I work on my shooting 24-7 and a lot of coaches tell me I need to work on my shooting so that I can be a true point guard and be a threat and get to the basket. So, I feel like when I get my confidence I’ll be good, but my technique is pretty good right now.”

While not a volume shooter, Brown has proven more than capable from behind the arc. So far he has made 12-32 from behind the arc, good enough for 37.5%.

Heading into his sophomore season, Brown noted that he wanted to average a triple-double and he also wanted to be part of the team that knocked off Bishop Gorman with their twin towers of Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter.  Unfortunately neither of those two events took place as Centennial was upset by Palo Verde one game before they would have squared off with Bishop Gorman.

“My sophomore year went pretty well,” said Brown. “I didn’t get my benchmark of averaging a triple-double, but I’m still shooting for it next year. We had a lot of surprise players so I tried to let them do their thing. Overall it was a pretty good season.”

As the No. 2 ranked player in the 2017 class and the No. 11 ranked player in’s Ultimate Top 100, it’s no surprise that plenty of big-time schools are interested in the 6’5” playmaker.

“Arizona, Louisville, UCLA, and schools on the west coast I’ve heard from a little more” said Brown when discussing the early stages of his recruitment. “Duke’s always at my games. Chase is out of Vegas, so when they were there to see Chase they would come see me as well so I have a good connection with them.”

So far this spring, Brown has lived up to his lofty reputation with stellar stats on a young and promising Prospects squad. With colleges quickly picking up their interest, Sin City will be a popular destination next season where Brown’s goal of averaging a triple-double might just come true. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Markus Howard: Torching The Nets

Point guard Markus Howard hasn’t even finished his sophomore year, but the Phoenix native is no stranger to high scoring barrages. After averaging 32.4 points per game this past season at Perry High in Arizona, the 5’11” Howard is fifth in the Nike EYBL in scoring at 20.1 points per game through three EYBL tournaments.

photo courtesy of USA Basketball
Despite coming off the bench for the Las Vegas Prospects, Howard has shined playing for the youngest team in the circuit and he is usually on the court when it counts in crunch time. After dominating the Arizona high school scene with a plethora of 40 point games, the question could have been asked whether Howard’s skill-set would transfer over to the highest level of AAU play. What he lacks in height and length, he makes up for in uncanny instincts and a quick release from behind the arc. Howard is adept at handling the ball with both hands and has a quick first step that gets defenders off balance. While he has trouble finishing amongst the taller defenders in the lane, he can find spots to knock in mid-range jump shots or floaters.

In late April, Howard averaged 18 points per game going 10-25 from deep in front of a host of college coaches in Lexington, KY during the second live period of the spring. Two weeks later in Houston, Howard stepped up his play and averaged 23.3 points per game while shooting 14-27 from three. His top game came in a close 88-84 win over the hometown Houston Hoops squad where the young guard scored a season high 31 points which included six three’s on the day.

With one EYBL tournament left this upcoming week in Minneapolis, the Las Vegas Prospects are tied for third in their division and they are in prime position to secure a Peach Jam bid for July. Once the EYBL regular season ends, Howard will turn his attention to competing for a spot on the 16U USA team that has tryouts starting May 28 in Colorado Springs.

“Oh man, I just want to play my hardest and get a spot on that team,” said Howard. “That would be a once in a life time experience.”

Howard got his first taste of the USA experience last October when he participated in the program’s developmental camp over the course of two days.

“It was good,” Howard noted about the USA camp. “I was really happy to get that opportunity and compete with USA on my chest. I’m looking forward to heading up there again.”

While Howard has an active few weeks coming up, he also made headlines in early spring. After losing to Desert Vista in the Arizona state tournament, Howard de-committed from Arizona State, the local school that he first committed to in August 2014. In addition to opening up his recruitment again, Howard also made the decision to leave Perry, where he was a two time All-Arizona selection to attend basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep.

“I head up in August,” said Howard. “I’m really excited. I think playing in the EYBL will prepare me for Findlay Prep. I’m really looking forward to it and just want to make a great impact on the team.”

As for schools, this time around Howard is planning to take the process slow in order to make sure he makes the correct decision for his future.

“When I de-committed, I realized I had made a decision a little too early,” said Howard. “Now I’m just going to take my time and really get to know the coaches. Both Texas Tech and UNLV offered me. I’ve been hearing from a lot of PAC-12 schools as well.”

As for Arizona State? When Howard de-committed Herb Sendek was still the coach. Now that the Sun Devils have hired Bobby Hurley from Buffalo, the lines of communication are back open between ASU and Howard.

“I talked to Coach Hurley last week and we had a good conversation,” noted Howard while he was in Lexington. “I really like him and he’s a good coach.”

He took the state of Arizona by storm his first two years in high school and now the talented point guard will look to make a national mark. Given his EYBL scoring exploits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Howard continues his scoring barrages at one of the top high school programs in the country.

NY2LA Invitational: Kobe King Takes Off

The NY2LA Invitational took place this past weekend in Mequon, WI featuring a plethora of talented teams from the Midwest. The viewings were brief on Sunday, but very meaningful as a handful of top prospects were in attendance.

Biggest Star: Kobe King, 6’3”, SG, 2017, Wisconsin Playground Warriors

In a semi-final win against the Milwaukee based Playground Elite, rising junior Kobe King went for 31 points. It was just recently that Wisconsin’s top player in the 2017 class started to break out nationally with a few high scoring games in the second live period of the spring and then again in the Spiece Run N’ Slam in Fort Wayne, IN. A smooth looking wing, King exudes a certain sense of calmness and grace on the court. He has a feathery touch from beyond the three point line which he showcased right off the bat in the first-half. He is also a good (not great) athlete which allows him to create his own shots off the dribble and in the paint. While he will need to improve his explosiveness and the lift he gets on his outside shot, there was no doubt that King’s stock is set to rise. He not only knocked in the game winning three in the semi-finals, but he was also named as the MVP of the 16U bracket. Right now, King holds mid-major offers plus one from Iowa State and has interest from several big time programs including Wisconsin and Virginia.

Other Notes:

Freshmen guard Jordan McCabe is well known up north for his fancy ball-handling and passing skills that have earned him the “White Chocolate” nickname. In a close semi-final win on Sunday, McCabe wasted no time showing off his cross-over and step-back skills. He hit his first three point attempt of the game and racked up several no-look passes that ended up as easy assists. Despite the flash to his game, McCabe struggled with the size of the taller defenders and while he possesses the hand speed to execute his fancy dribbling moves, he doesn’t necessarily have the foot speed or athleticism to blow by defenders and get deep into the lane. That being said so far, McCabe has already produced on the varsity level at Kaukana High (WI) and has interest from several Big 10 schools to go along with Xavier, Virginia, and Missouri.

Tre Jones, the brother of NCAA champion Tyus Jones suffered a defeat early in the morning with his 16U team but he just continued to play with the eventual champions in the 15U bracket. The Howard Pulley Panthers took home the championship in Wisconsin with a win over McCabe and the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. This past season the 6’1” freshman helped Apple Valley capture the Minnesota 4A Boys Championship as he began to step out of his older brother’s large shadow. While not as talented, the younger Jones certainly makes an impression with his lengthy wing-span and ability to attack off the pick and roll. Jones hounded defenders and got into the lane for lay-ups or short runners on a regular basis.

With McCabe and Jones playing on side by side courts in the semi-finals, it was natural for the eyes to focus on the two hot shot point guards. Despite their talent, it was 6’4” Wisconsin wing Keshawn Justice that stood out on Sunday afternoon. The lanky wing started off with a three from the right side of the court before taking over the second half of a close win. Always seeming one step ahead of his defender, Justice utilized quick cuts and ball screens to get to the basket and also hit the game winning shot of a tough drive down the left side of the basket.  He also added a three in the second half, one in which his tight, compact form was on display. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jayson Tatum Looks To Emulate Kobe

In a tightly contested affair, Jayson Tatum caught the ball at the top of the key. As he surveyed the landscape, the most skilled high school player in the class of 2016 had a variety of options. Jab step and drive right? Cross-over and go left? Or maybe a pull-up jump shot?

This time around the smooth and talented Tatum dribbled quickly to his right just above the free throw line. With his back towards the smaller defender he feigned once to his left, then back to the right, before finally spinning towards the middle of the court for an un-blockable fade-away jumper. The ball calmly swishes through the net as Tatum turns around to play defense. 

With the fade-away jumper and fancy footwork down pat, it wouldn’t be too hard to conjure up images of Kobe Bryant in your mind, especially the move he makes at the 20 second mark of this video. After the game, it comes as no surprise when Tatum mentions the one basketball player that he tries to emulate.

“Oh, Kobe. Kobe Bryant,” Tatum said. “That’s my favorite player. I watch him all the time. His highlights, how he trains, documentaries, YouTubes, everything. I just try to study all of the things he does.”

All of the studying has certainly paid off for the 6’8” point forward from St. Louis. Tatum was dominant in his first AAU tournament after his freshman year winning MVP honors in the 16U division and two years later he is even harder to guard. Last week while playing in the Lexington EYBL, Tatum averaged 19.8 points per game to go along with 7.8 rebounds. He also shot a remarkable 50% from the floor including one performance where he shot 11-17 from the field. 

Every time he steps on the court, Tatum is the focal point of the opposing team’s defensive plan but the un-selfish star always manages a way to create open looks for himself while keeping his teammates involved in the offensive flow of the game.

“Most people usually double me or put a pretty strong guy on me,” said Tatum. “I just need to use my mind to get around it.”

When the double teams come, Tatum uses his height and passing ability to find the open man and when he has a defender on him that is trying to muscle him up he can either shoot over or drive around the defender. While Tatum can score in a variety of ways, he does get critiqued on both his athleticism and strength when it comes to projecting him at the NBA level.

Jayson’s father, Justin Tatum, a former defensive standout at Saint Louis University noted that the two were working on Jayson’s explosiveness by doing plyometrics and other exercises designed to stimulate the fast twitch muscle-fibers.

“Yeah, I definitely feel more explosive,” noted Tatum upon completion of four games in three days. “I get a little more tired in the last day with all of these games but I just have to stay in shape and stay healthy. My game has grown. I’ve gotten taller, stronger, quicker, and a little bit more aggressive.”

Tatum’s increased explosiveness was certainly on display in his lone game on the last day of the tournament. With Kostas Antetokounmpo, the slithery 6’8” combo forward and also the younger brother of Milwaukee’s Greek Freak dribbling the ball at the top of the key Tatum deflected the ball after an attempted cross-over. As both players raced down towards the other end of the court, things did not end well for the little Greek Freak.

Prior to the first live period in early April, Tatum narrowed his list of college suitors down to four: Duke, Kentucky, Saint Louis, and UNC. Three head coaches in John Calipari, Jim Crews, and Roy Williams were all front and center for Tatum in Lexington, while assistants from all four schools tracked his every move over the three day live period. Tatum previously took an official visit to Duke in February and has been on the campuses of both Kentucky and Saint Louis. Needless to say that the UNC staff is trying hard to get him to visit Chapel Hill at some point as well.

“Yeah you know they want me to come visit,” said Tatum. “I wouldn’t mind either. Right now I’m just trying to figure things out.”

As Tatum continues to figure out his recruitment, he will also continue to befuddle defenders with his repertoire of Kobe like moves.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Jacob Hughes: Steady Improvement

It’s hard for Jacob Hughes to stand out in the EYBL playing on an extremely young, but talented Las Vegas Prospects team and that’s just fine with him. This past weekend Hughes scored just six points in three games in Lexington, but the 6’11’ sophomore center is just starting to find his way.

After a 68-63 victory over Boo Williams, Hughes noted “this week I feel, I’m still getting the hang of it. It’s a lot higher than I’ve ever played basketball ever in my life. I just started a few years ago and it’s really starting to pick up for me. My body is still growing. The game is slowing down for me. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m coming in just trying to make a name for myself. I just have to stick with it, stay the course and see what comes.”

Despite being pleased with great size, Hughes didn’t start playing basketball until 7th grade. Four years later he is banging bodies down low against older, more talented players in the most competitive AAU basketball environment.

In his second game of last week’s tournament against Boo Williams, Hughes went up against Dajour Dickens, a long and athletic 6’11” center. He only made one basket, but in a short amount of time Hughes managed to show good footwork down low in the post when he caught the ball and an aggressiveness on defense to bother the lighter Dickens. Right now, Hughes’ excels at establishing position and corralling in rebounds using his strength and footwork. While he isn’t going to outrun anyone or dunk over a fellow big man, he does have the ability to deliver hook shots over either shoulder and can step outside of the paint for short face-up jumpers.

“I think that’s my biggest thing,” said Hughes. “I know I’m not super athletic like a lot of the guys here are. I think just working hard in the weight room. I might not be the tallest guy or most athletic of guys but I want to be the strongest guy on the court. A lot of guys my size don’t like to be hit but I like to do that to other guys. If they do it to me, that’s fine so I just think that is an advantage for me.”

This past year, Hughes transferred to Anaheim Servite high school for his sophomore season. The Friars finished 16-14 with their season coming to an end against Esperanza in the California Southern Sectionals. During the season, Servite played a host of talented teams including Mater Dei, JSerra Catholic, and St. John Bosco with the high level of competition only serving to further advance Hughes’ game.

“I play at Servite high school in California,” noted Hughes. “I just want to put my team on the map and make a name for myself. We’re not known for being a basketball school, we’re known for being a football school. Nobody really talks about the basketball.”

Despite only playing 10 minutes a game in his first EYBL action and despite playing at a football school, coaches from the West Coast have shown certain levels of interest.

“Cal has probably been the biggest one right now” said Hughes. “Oregon State as well. There are a few, some California and PAC-12 schools. I’m not really worried about it right now. I’m just a sophomore and trying to get as good as I can and not worry about colleges right now.”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NBA Season Win Totals

The 2014-15 NBA regular season came to a thrilling end on Wednesday night. While there were numerous games with playoff and seeding implication, there were also games that were very important to gamblers betting on NBA season win totals as the Clippers and Raptors totals were all in play. The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks easily clinched the top seeds in their respective conferences and the two teams also happened to significantly exceed their projected season win total shown below.

*All lines based on the 10/10 Bovada line. 

TeamBovadaActualDiff.O / U
Atlanta Hawks41.56018.5O
Milwaukee Bucks244117O
Golden State Warriors51.56715.5O
Boston Celtics26.54013.5O
Utah Jazz24.53813.5O
Houston Rockets49.5566.5O
Memphis Grizzlies49556O
Indiana Pacers33385O
New Orleans Pelicans43452O
Portland Trail Blazers49512O
Philadelphia 76ers16.5181.5O
Los Angeles Clippers55.5560.5O
Toronto Raptors48.5490.5O
Sacramento Kings29.529-0.5U
Dallas Mavericks5049-1U
San Antonio Spurs5755-2U
Orlando Magic27.525-2.5U
Detroit Pistons35.532-3.5U
Brooklyn Nets41.538-3.5U
Washington Wizards49.546-3.5U
Chicago Bulls54.550-4.5U
Cleveland Cavaliers58.553-5.5U
Phoenix Suns44.539-5.5U
Miami Heat4437-7U
Minnesota T-Wolves26.516-10.5U
Denver Nuggets41.530-11.5U
Los Angeles Lakers32.521-11.5U
Charlotte Hornets4533-12U
Oklahoma City Thunder57.545-12.5U
New York Knicks4117-24U

The Overs: 

13 NBA teams hit the “over” and beat the line set by Vegas. While the Hawks crushed their total by 18.5 games, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who had the easiest time with their season win total. After winning just 15 games a year ago, the Bucks were only projected to win 24 games. They eclipsed that mark on January 31 with a win against Portland to go 25-22. The Celtics beat their total by 13.5 games mainly due to the superb coaching of Brad Stevens and even the Sixers toppled their 16.5 win projection with 18. Both the Clippers and Raptors were fairly highly touted in the pre-season, but it took until the last game of the season for both of these teams to pass their win total of 55.5 and 48.5 games, respectively. The Clippers won their last seven games all of which they needed to hit the over.

The Unders: 

A whopping 17 teams went “under” the Vegas line which is actually less than the prior season when 18 teams went under led by the Bucks who finished 13.5 games under their projected total. This year’s big winner or should I say loser is to no one’s surprise the New York Knicks. With Melo returning, the Knicks had their win total set at 41 games. They only won 17 on the season and finished just 24 games off the line. Other big losers included the Thunder who were bitten by the injury bug all year and the Hornets who never meshed with Lance Stephenson after a playoff run last year. The Nuggets went under the total by 10.5 games last year and this year wasn’t much different going under by 11.5. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavs were projected as the top regular season team in the NBA with 58.5 wins, but they fell short winning 53.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Nike Hoop Summit Recap

Jamal Murray
photo by Ken Waz / USA Basketball
The Nike Hoop Summit wrapped up Saturday afternoon with a thrilling 103-101 World victory. In a back and forth affair, the World team was able to hold on despite a last second opportunity from Allonzo Trier. Jamal Murray, a Hoop Summit veteran led the way with a game high 30 points and LSU bound Ben Simmons set a Hoop Summit record with nine assists. After a full week of practices there were several players from both the international and U.S. teams that established themselves in the eyes of NBA draft personnel.

Top Tier:

The No. 1 player in the class of 2015 will come down to Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere. Both players are SEC bound and should challenge for the top draft pick in 2016.

Over the past few weeks, Ben Simmons has hit all parts of the country with the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, the Dick’s National Championship in New York, and now the Hoop Summit event in Portland. When Simmons arrived he measured out at 6’10” which was taller than previously expected. In the Friday practice leading up to the game, Simmons turned up the volume and provided a glimpse of how he was going to play in the game on Saturday. In the actual game, Simmons played 30 minutes and finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists on 5-10 shooting. Even before entering college, Simmons already has size, strength, and speed to help him excel at the NBA level. The point forward is a strong ball-handler with either hand and always has his head up looking up to find open teammates. His top play came when he pushed the ball down the court out-racing the smaller U.S. defenders finishing with a two-hand dunk. Right now, the main weakness in his game is his outside shooting. Simmons went 0-1 in the game that was played with the international arc, but was comfortable launching shots from this range. He has good rotation on his shot and is already much improved from last year. The Australian native impacts all areas of the game and plays with an unselfish attitude.

While Simmons touched all areas of the scorebook, Skal Labissiere came off the bench and put his own stamp on the game with 21 points, six rebounds, and six blocks on 9-15 shooting in 27 minutes. Throughout the week, Labissiere was the talk of Hoop Summit with NBA GM’s salivating over the chance to draft him in just over a year. After a quiet first half where he scored just four points, Skal dominated the paint in the second half scoring 17 points with a variety of tip-in’s, dunks, and hook shots. The 7 foot Haitian has a smooth game and soft touch that will allow him to become an effective power forward at Kentucky and the next level. He started the game off with a 19 foot jump shot and will eventually excel in the pick and pop world of the NBA. He will need to continue to work on face-up moves out of the post and quick fade-away’s from the right or left block. Despite a tumultuous high school career that was spent changing schools and AAU programs, Skal has poise beyond his years and a game that is pleasing to the eye.

Stock Riser:

He almost didn’t even play in this game, but thanks to Henry Ellenson’s injury, Brandon Ingram was added to the U.S. roster. After erupting at the McDonald’s All-American game, Ingram continued his stellar play and actually led all players on the U.S. with 26 minutes played. He measured out earlier in the week with a 7’3” wing span which so far has offset his relatively thin frame on the defensive end. After a strong week of practice, Ingram started the game showcasing his almost automatic mid-range baseline jump-shot. After six first half points, Ingram got the start in the second half as the U.S. team looked to go smaller to increase the pace of the game. He finished the game with 12 points on 5-6 shooting and contributed three rebounds and a blocked shot. Ingram played the majority of the fourth quarter over Jaylen Brown, but despite being open for several open jumpers the ball never came his way with various ball dominating teammates controlling the action.

International Quick Hitters:

George de Paula (Brazil) – The No. 29 prospect in the DraftExpress rankings had an extremely quiet game despite getting the start at the point guard spot. The 6’6” de Paula is a powerful guard that excels at getting to the basket. Unfortunately in 13 minutes of action, de Paula only took two three pointers. He made his first one early on in the game, but fell extremely short on his other. De Paula also committed three turnovers and didn’t play to his strengths.

Jamal Murray (Canada) – Where will the 6’5” Murray end up next year? Wherever he does, whether it’s in college, Canada, or another destination, Murray will be lighting it up. Last year, Murray scored 10 points in the Hoop Summit game and this year he topped that off with a whopping 30. The best shooter in the game was not fazed by the deeper three point arc and went 3-7 from deep. He scored from all three levels throughout the course of the game and finished 12-23 with five assists. There has been a lot of talk about Murray ending up at Oregon and a backcourt of Murray and Tyler Dorsey would be one of the most explosive in the NCAA.

Cheick Diallo (Mali) – Another high energy performance for Diallo who finished with 12 points and six rebounds after a prior MVP performance at McDonald’s. Diallo chased the ball after misses scoring down low and blocking three shots. College coaches such as Bill Self and Fred Hoiberg are chasing Diallo for next year.

Thon Maker (Canada) – It was a rough Friday for Maker in the scrimmage and a rough game as well. In 14 minutes, Maker scored just two points on free throws and didn’t make a field goal throughout. On the brightside he did add 10 rebounds, five of which were offensive. Right now, Maker’s plans are in flux, but if this game proved anything it’s that he needs time in the weight room and on his offensive skills as he struggled with his shot and on drives to the basket.

Nedim Buza (Bosnia) – The Bosnian sharp-shooter knocked in both of his three point attempts and finished with six points in 13 minutes. Buza was lights out on Friday and if he gets his feet set the outside jumper is probably going in. Buza lacks the necessary foot speed to create his shot and this showed throughout the game.

Frederico Mussini (Italy) – The diminutive Italian guard scored nine points including three clutch free throws at the end. He went 2-5 from the three point line and added in three assists. Mussini is debating about whether to play in college next year, but he could turn into a more than adequate leader for a lucky college team.

Zhou Qi (China) – Qi scored two points and only got one shot attempt, but the intriguing 7’2” center from China showed his assets which include the ability to run the floor and his deficits which include his lack of strength and presence down low on the offensive end. Qi did record two blocks in limited minutes.

Tai Wynyard (New Zealand) – The future Kentucky Wildcat scored his first and only basket on a fundamental post move early on, but wasn’t much of a threat in the other 10 minutes of action. Wynyard could struggle to see the floor when he does land in Lexington given his below the rim style.

Stefan Peno (Serbia) – Peno hit a three in the second half, but usually struggled with the length and athleticism of the opposing players limiting his effectiveness.

U.S. Quick Hitters:

Jaylen Brown – It wasn’t the finest performance for the top rated small forward. Brown struggled with his shot going 2-9 from the floor and was planted on the bench in the deciding minutes. Brown got to the line for six attempts but also committed two turnovers.

Chase Jeter – Jeter got the start and was active around the basket, but finished just 1-5 from the floor. He played 17 minutes and added five rebounds but wasn’t able to utilize his right handed hook shot.

Ivan Rabb – After a strong week of practice, it was a disappointing game for Rabb who played just eight minutes. Rabb went 1-2 from the floor, but he also missed both of his free throws. Earlier in the week, Rabb was hitting jump hooks with both hands but the Oakland native spent the fourth quarter on the bench with Brown.

Malik Newman – Newman went 4-8 from the field and finished with 10 points which was an improvement from his McDonald’s performance, but not the type of game I’m sure he was looking for. Newman scored five points in a row at one stanza which included a three and nice floater. Newman is a streaky scorer and all one has to do is watch his body during a jump shot to determine if it’s going in or not.

Isaiah Briscoe – Nine points and nine assists for Briscoe off the bench, but he also had a costly turnover and missed free throws. Overall, it was an impressive week for the muscular Briscoe and he got to the basket during the course of the game.

Stephen Zimmerman – Zimmerman played up to his potential throughout the game scoring eight points on 4-6 shooting. He put the ball on the floor and finished at the rim and also converted a soft, high arcing deep jump shot. Zimm struggled a bit during the U.S. practices but he shined in his 17 minutes of game action.

Luke Kennard – In a surprising performance, Luke Kennard led the U.S. in scoring with 22 points and shot attempts with 18. Kennard hit 2-5 from three and was all over the court throughout the game scoring at the rim and with pull-up jump shots. He started to hunt for his shot a little bit too much at the end, but was also the most aggressive player on the U.S. team.

Caleb Swanigan – Swanigan received limited minutes and struggled with the length of the World team. The future Michigan State big man went 1-4, but added three rebounds.

Allonzo Trier – Trier provided one of the key highlights with an impressive two hand dunk in the first quarter and was tasked with the last shot for the U.S. team. Trier missed the last shot badly, but that shouldn’t sour the fact that his scoring abilities were on display all week along with his deep range.