Nike Hoop Summit: How Good is Harrison Barnes?
For the third straight year, The Painted Area was on hand at the Rose Garden in Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit, a premier showcase for emerging basketball talent, which matches up a team of ten top U.S. high-school players against ten intriguing international players under 20 years old.
The 2006-2009 editions featured what could turn out to be four straight NBA Rookies of the Year (Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, respectively). The 2010 game seems like a good bet to keep that streak alive, what with eight of the top 13 high-school seniors (according to ESPN/RISE) in action in Portland, including Harrison Barnes, generally considered to be the no. 1 player in the class of 2010, and currently listed as the no. 1 pick in the Draft Express 2011 Mock Draft.
Because it is traditionally more competitive than other all-star games like the McDonald's All-American Game, the Hoop Summit has proven to be an excellent stage for scouting purposes, and Saturday's game - hard-fought to the finish - delivered in that regard once again.
Trailing the USA team 50-41 at the half, the World Select Team opened up a 74-62 lead after blitzing the U.S. with a 33-12 third-quarter edge, powered by 13 points from Enes Kanter in the quarter. But Team USA fought back, as the lineup of Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones and Jared Sullinger extended the D and sparked a 101-97 comeback with a 39-23 edge in the fourth.
While competitive, the 2010 Hoop Summit had nothing approaching the religious basketball experience of the 2009 game, which featured the epiphany of John Wall, who had not played in the McDonald's All-American Game due to eligibility issues, and struck the basketball scene like a bolt of lightning with a transcendent performance.
This year's game was decidedly low on highlight-reel plays compared to 2009 or 2008 (which had guys like DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka flying around), which speaks to our sense that the class of 2010 seems to be solid and fundamentally sound, but not spectacular overall.
Certainly, there were several NBA prospects in action. Before we get into our scouting reports, one more general note on the game: I thought it was somewhat ridiculous that World coach Rob Beveridge had his team playing a 2-3 zone defense for the entire game. Yes, it probably helped keep the World team in the game and thus made things more exciting at the end, but that's not the point of this game. The Hoop Summit is meant to be a stage to display players' talents, and a zone defense serves as a deterrent to that goal. Apparently, Mr. Beveridge felt compelled to try to burnish his Hoop Summit W-L record.
Harrison Barnes (6-8 SF, North Carolina) was clearly the best player on the floor in terms of pro potential. Watching Barnes reminded me of the old Michael Wilbon line that Grant Hill's game was so smooth that he played as if he was wearing a tuxedo. I had the same sense about Barnes, who has a polished and fundamentally sound game, and is widely reported to be a high-character kid.
Barnes had 27 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in 29 minutes in the Hoop Summit. He hit 9-17 FG, including 4-8 on threes, and 5-6 FT. Barnes displayed an explosive first step which made him difficult to stop on the drive (always to the right) and shooting range which went out to NBA distance on a clutch three in the fourth quarter.
Following on an outstanding co-MVP performance in the McDonald's game (17-5 on 7-10 FG), Barnes is a clear leader in the class of 2010 field, and I don't think it's premature to suggest that we may well be looking at the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year.
That said, the question "How good is Harrison Barnes?" is an open one in my mind. I am not convinced that Barnes has the ceiling of an NBA superstar. I see a guy who should be able to score in the 20s, and be a mid- to lower-tier All-Star. But I haven't seen much in the way of creating for others. He's certainly not a selfish kid; I just don't feel like court vision is a strength in his game. And while Barnes is a very good athlete, he doesn't strike me as a guy with off-the-charts physical gifts.
I certainly foresee Harrison Barnes being an valuable asset on the NBA level. I just see him as closer to a 20 ppg guy than someone entering the Durant-Carmelo-type stratosphere as a 30 ppg player. As a potential no. 1 pick, I just don't think he's a true game-changer.
One of the more intriguing battles was a below-the-rim duel between the USA's Jared Sullinger (6-9/262 PF/C, Ohio State), who had 22 points and 8 rebounds on 10-14 FG, and the World's Enes Kanter (6-10/255 PF/C, Turkey/Undecided), who was a beast with 34 points and 13 rebounds on 13-21 FG in just 24 minutes.
Because Sullinger appears overweight with less-than-adequate athleticism for an NBA prospect, I was initially skeptical about him, but he's slowly won me over with his sheer production. First, I saw an ESPN game in which Sullinger went for 32 points and 21 rebounds to lead his Columbus Northland H.S. team to a 53-52 over Findlay Prep - a very impressive win for a local team to beat a national all-star team such as Findlay, which went 32-2 and was ranked no. 2 in the final USA Today Super 25 poll.
Then, I watched Sullinger put up 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals on 7-11 FG, including 2-3 on 3-pointers, to deservedly share the McDonald's MVP with Barnes. Follow that up with seeing his Hoop Summit production in person, and I think I'm sold.
Sullinger has a very high level of skill, strength and basketball IQ for his age, and a history of winning - he won three straight AAU championships, as well as an Ohio state championship his junior year. He showed off a variety of spin moves and was ambidextrous inside. I see Sullinger as a player in the mold of Kevin Love, whose game is so skillful and team-oriented that he should be able to overcome below-average NBA athleticism as long as he can keep the weight off.
Kanter is in some ways analogous to Sullinger. Given his status as a potential lottery pick, I was expecting Kanter to be more athletic. But like Sully, Kanter's game was more one of skill and ox-like strength.
Kanter's 34 points broke Dirk Nowitzki's Hoop Summit record of 33, and the young Turk did it with a variety of moves of his own. He showed off spin moves, good hands and a nice shooting touch, as he hit on a pick-and-pop in addition to doing damage inside.
I'm more concerned about Kanter's lack of athleticism than Sullinger's - I'm not sure that Enes as many tools to compensate at the NBA level. But I'd imagine that such overwhelming production is hard to ignore, and I'd think Enes Kanter helped secure his spot as a lottery pick with his performance at the Hoop Summit.
Kanter is expected to play for Kentucky if deemed eligible. However, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reported Saturday that he'd heard Kanter had been paid as much as $600k to play in Turkey.
Kyrie Irving (6-2 PG, Duke) and Brandon Knight (6-3 PG, Undecided) are two point guards who are both ranked as consensus Top 5 players in the class of 2010, but I would have to say I've found Irving to be a much more impressive player.
Irving had 15 points, 5 assists and 0 TOs in the Hoop Summit, and delivered some of the game's prettiest moves at key moments late in the game. He has a smooth handle/crossover - Irving had a gorgeous move late which consisted of a hesitation & crossover to get by his defender, culminating in a sweet lefty and-1 finish at the rim.
He plays smart, with good court vision - all in all, Kyrie Irving plays like a good-old New York City point guard. However, those players are bred in Jersey these days. Irving hails from St. Patrick's H.S. in Elizabeth, NJ, and appears to have received some good coaching there.
I've had trouble shaking my first experience viewing Brandon Knight, as he scored 48 points on 15-36 FG shooting in one of the more unrepentant displays of gunning I've seen in awhile, in an ESPN game earlier this year.
After watching Knight at McDonald's and live at Hoop Summit, I'm still largely unmoved. He's quick and creative with the ball and displays glimpses of court vision, but his game is still plagued by poor shot selection and bad decisions with the ball. Knight had 5 points, 4 assists, 4 TOs on Saturday, and I don't think he's in the same league as Irving in terms of knowing how to run a team.
Knight is a very good student, and has shown strong competitive instincts as well. He nailed the game-winner at McDonald's after a poor shooting day, and he and Irving really picked up the defensive pressure to help spark the U.S. comeback in Portland.
Brandon Knight has good size at 6-3 and plenty of tools, but needs to learn how to run a team to reach his potential.
The more that I watch Terrence Jones (6-9 PF, Undecided), the more I like him. The hometown kid's versatility played a big role in the USA comeback on Saturday. Jones did a little bit of everything - 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, made a three - both inside and outside, on offense and defense, in half-court and in transition on a coast-to-coast drive one time, impressive for a player his size.
The crafty lefty has now been one of the best players on the floor at both the Hoop Summit and the McDonald's All-American Game. Jones is such a unique player in so many ways. I marvel at how he plays effectively on more of a horizontal plane - he maneuvers his extremely long arms at multiple angles to elude defenders - than a vertical one, as he's not a truly explosive athlete.
Two bigs from the Balkans - Nikola Mirotic (6-10 F, Montenegro) and Dejan Musli (7-0 C, Serbia) - may have helped their draft stocks as much as any players at the Hoop Summit, considering that they seemed to be off the radar heading into the week.
Mirotic had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 25 minutes, and flashed some excellent perimeter skills for a player his size. He knocked down 2-4 three-pointers, hit a runner, made an assist on the pick-and-roll, and made a very strong drive going to his left into the lane for a bucket that put the World up 92-91. I'd have to think the 19-year-old definitely put himself on the draft radar last week.
Musli had 11 points, 6 rebounds and a block in 23 minutes. While he is more of an interior player, Musli definitely proved to be multi-skilled as well. In addition to hitting on a hook shot and a nice move vs. Sullinger, Musli also displayed the ability to pass and catch inside. While hardly an imposing athlete, Musli at least shows some decent mobility to get around a little bit on both offense and defense.
Canadians Cory Joseph (6-3 PG,
Joseph has the ability to create off the dribble and shows good poise, but has not really done a lot to wow me in three viewings now. He was a combined 4-13 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT with 4 assists and 4 TOs in 36 minutes in the McDonald's game/Hoop Summit.
Thompson is a good athlete who displayed varied skills in delivering 14 points on 5-6 FT, a steal and a block in 24 minutes. He showed the ability to finish the pick-and-roll, and the ability to finish with dunks, and was generally quite mobile. Thompson also made a nice crossover move and showed some good basketball IQ in his passing game. There are some nice tools here, but he still needs an overall polish to the game.
North Carolina should be in good hands with Kendall Marshall (6-4 PG, UNC) and Reggie Bullock (6-6 SG, UNC) joining Barnes in Chapel Hill next year. Marshall played with good court vision and basketball IQ, dishing out 5 assists in 14 minutes after doing the same in the McDonald's game. Bullock has the rep of a big-time shooter - while he has a nice stroke and hit one deep three, he was only 1-5 behind the arc on the night. Both players look like they should be solid college ballplayers for Roy Williams; I'll need to see a little more before gauging if they can be contributing pros.
Patric Young (6-10 PF, Florida) was the most impressive natural athlete at the Hoop Summit. Young has something of an Amar'e Stoudemire body, though let's be clear that his overall game is nowhere near comparable to STAT's at this point. He makes more of an impact on defense, where he had 2 blocks in 20 minutes, than offense, where he had just 4 points.
Meyers Leonard (7-0 C, Illinois), a late addition to the roster and not a highly-touted prospect, did have an athletic block and a nice catch-and-finish in his 8 minutes of play. It was more than I was expecting from the last man on the bench.
Will Barton (6-6 G, Memphis) did not do much of anything, going 0-3 from the field (0-2 on threes) for a goose egg in 13 minutes.
Sui Ran (6-4 G, China) was not heralded as a prospect to watch heading into the game or based on reports from practice sessions, but give the kid his due, he played well in the game. In 20 minutes, Ran had 6 points on 2-2 FG (both made threes), three assists and a steal. He exhibited good speed and quickness in a solid frame listed as 6-4/204.