2011 Nike Global Challenge: Prospect Reviews
Last weekend I got to check out some of the top scholastic talent in the world at the Nike Global Challenge in the Portland area. Eight teams (Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Germany, Puerto Rico, USA East, USA Midwest & USA West) played one game a day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
North America dominated this tourney with Canada and the three USA teams easily advancing to the semifinals. Lots of points were scored over the weekend while the defense was often porous. USA Midwest prevailed over Canada, 99-94, in a well-played final, while USA East beat USA West, 122-114, in the 3rd-place game.
We'll focus on the Canadian and American players who stood out over the weekend. In my estimation, the prospects with the most NBA potential were Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker.
(Year of high school graduation in parentheses)
Andrew Wiggins ('14) 6-7 SF: The son of former NBAer Mitchell Wiggins was one of the most impressive prospects in the tourney. And he's still only heading into his sophomore year (though technically should be a junior). Serious lottery potential. Was one of the top scorers in the tourney. Scored at least 18 pts in each game and averaged 21 ppg. Elite athlete who covers a lot of ground--he literally seems to move in leaps and bounds, so swift laterally. Used his length well on defense to disrupt. Can get loose balls or rebounds way out of his area--bounds to the ball. Had success knocking down his perimeter looks--7-for-17 on 3PA--even though his mechanics weren't ideal. Doesn't really hold his follow-thru--recoils his arms quickly. Tough to contain off the dribble--drove the ball easily to the rim. Liked his use of spin moves. Won't be surprised if he's a Top-3 pick in 2015.
Sim Bhullar ('12) 7-5 C: Naturally intriguing player just because of his sheer size. He looked all of his listed 7-5, 300 lbs. Wouldn't doubt he's heavier--mammoth legs. Is a factor simply because of his size. A deterrent defensively and made some big blocks in the final. Put up 16 pts & 11 rebs in the semis and 16 pts, 12 rebs & 3 blks in the final. Shot 64% for the weekend.
I'll have to say, the big fella was better than I anticipated. Saw some film of him beforehand and just thought he was another lumbering stiff. What makes him serviceable is his nice hands and being surprisingly more coordinated than you would expect. He can catch the ball on the move and finish in one motion. Converted an impressive alley-oop lay-in.
Obviously needs to work on his conditioning. It only took 2-3 minutes into his shifts for him to get winded. A few times he failed to make it into the frontcourt. Right now he can only be effective in five-minute stretches. Changes direction at a glacial pace. When a shot goes up, he's slow to react and his man can easily chase down off. rebounds.
Needs to be stronger with the ball--had the ball stripped too often. Poor lift got his shot blocked/changed a few times. Didn't shoot very often, but from what I saw, his shot needs plenty of tweaking--very flat. Didn't attempt too many post moves, but did show a decent drop-step move. No way he'll be a starter in NBA, but there's possibility he could be a reserve center if he can work on his body.
Tyler Ennis ('12) 6-3 PG: Tremendous knack for adjusting shots at rim when defenders bear down on him. Finishes well with both hands. Made multiple sneaky drives to the rim. Didn't attempt too many long jumpers, so it's hard to gauge his jumper. Liked his demeanor--played with savvy beyond his years. Made some impressive passes off the bounce. Didn't appear to be overly-athletic, but effective because of his shiftiness off the dribble--changed speed well.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes ('14) 6-4 PG/SG: Best pure shooter for Canada. Good elevation and balance on jumper. Made some great passes over the weekend in the half-court and in transition. Liked how he looked comfortable using ball-screens. Like his backcourt partner Ennis, he showed advanced understanding of the game. Was a key factor in Canada's semi win, but forced some bad shots in the final. Not quite sure how he projects to the pro level. He appears to be a shooting guard at heart, but he's undersized and didn't seem to be a great athlete. On a positive note, he will only be a soph, and has plenty of time to refine his PG skills.
Anthony Bennett ('12) 6-8 PF: Loved the way he played this weekend and rightly earned an International All-Star selection. Mature body with long arms. Played with great energy and threw his body around on both ends. Put up double-figure points in each game and hit the offensive glass hard. Had two impressive put-back dunks in transition where he flew in out of nowhere. Also, whipped some nice passes--had a sweet drive-n-dish to Bhullar. His shot mechanics are not ideal but he was making jumpers this weekend. Not sure about his NBA prospects since he's only 6-7/6-8. Maybe can carve out a career as an energy PF off the bench.
USA (players from USA East, Midwest & West):
Julius Randle ('13) 6-9 SF/PF: Averaged 14 ppg on 60% shooting, 7.7 rpg & 3.3 apg. The 16-year-old could be mistaken for a man 10 years older--240 lbs. of solid muscle. Great handle for his size and made some beautiful dishes off the bounce. Was often used in a point-forward role. Did a great job leading the break--would sometime grab the def. rebound and start the break himself. Would sometimes force his dribble into traffic. Also would waste time dribbling in place, looking more concerned about showing off his dribbling ability and embarrasing his defender than making the right play. Don't remember him taking any perimeter jumpers but his touch on close-in shots was not smooth. Spent most of his time on the perimeter, though he did not mind physical contact and was very active fighting for offensive boards. Maybe should have looked for his shot a little more. Similar to Lamar Odom, though Randle is already stronger than Odom. Probably needs to improve his touch, but still a lottery talent anyways.
Jabari Parker ('13) 6-8 SF: Was named the MVP of the USA teams. Has all the tools to be a successful SF in the NBA and have to assume he will be one of the top picks in the 2014 draft. Showed off a nice stroke and got good elevation on his jumpers. Knocked down five 3-pts. in semifinals, including drilling some deep bombs. Showed an advanced ability to hit jumpers on isolation plays. Looked comfortable facing up his defender on the perimeter and showed off a tight handle. Can drive the ball going either way. Already has a pretty good frame that doesn't much more filling out.
Aaron Gordon ('13) 6-8 SF/PF: Another intriguing prospect born in '95. Averaged 21.3 ppg & 6.6 rpg on 64% shooting. Seemed to be confident in his abilities--maybe a bit overconfident. Definitely forced a few plays. A very labored release on his jumper led to accuracy issues. His shoddy release was apparent at the FT line, where he only shot 9-for-18 for the weekend. Showed a quality handle for his size and even threw in some step-back moves. Likes to iso-up his defender. Major hops and finished off some impressive plays above the rim. Looks to be an above-average rebounder for a SF. If he can refine his shot, he can be a scary talent.
Omar Calhoun ('12) 6-6 SG: Omar led the tourney in scoring with 21.7 ppg. Doesn't lack for confidence--was not shy getting his shot up. Was the requisite chucker of the tourney. Only shot 40.7% overall and 1-for-11 from behind the arc. Made a living at the foul line--28 FTs overall. Got the benefit of some dubious calls. Omar was getting star treatment from the refs all weekend. Give him some credit, he was aggressive attacking off the dribble. Barely gets any rotation on his jumper and this leads to wild variation. Did a lot of ball-handling for USA East and he looked comfortable using his left hand. But would sometimes force his dribble into traffic. Not sure about his NBA prospects--he seems like a garden-variety volume scorer. Really needs to work on his shooting if he wants to be more than an average NBA 2-guard.
Archie Goodwin ('12) 6-5 SG: Helped propel USA Midwest to the title with some big buckets in the 2nd half of the final. Threw up 23 pts in both the semis and the finals. Understands how to put the ball in basket--a dangerous scoring threat. Very smooth athlete who found his way to rim easily in the half-court or transition. Showed off a solid jumper and mixed in a few runners/floaters. Like him better than Calhoun as a SG prospect.
Jarnell Stokes ('12) 6-8 PF: A rock-solid 255 lbs with massive legs. He could physically manhandle most college players right now. Got plenty of rebounds simply by bogarting his way to the rim. Simply had bodies bouncing off him. At times looked very tentative on offense when he received the ball, usually at high post. But became more assertive in the 2nd half of the finals and was key in the USA Midwest overtaking Canada. Not sure about his NBA prospects because he's only about 6-7 or 6-8 and he doesn't seem particularly skilled. If he can't make the NBA, NFL GMs should be hot on his trail.
Tony Parker ('12) 6-10 C: Listed at 6-10, 280--not sure he was quite that big, but certainly was one of the stronger guys in the tourney. Teamed with Stokes to give USA Midwest a physically-imposing starting frontline. Like Stokes, he bulled his way to rebounds, particularly on the offensive end--a total of 16 off. boards. Averaged 11.3 ppg & 10.3 rpg. Showcased a nice touch on his baby hook a few times. His footwork seemed solid. Moves his thick frame fairly well. His combo of size and nimble feet should keep NBA GMs interested.
Cameron Biedschied ('12) 6-6 SF: Smooth. That is the first word to come to mind when watching Cameron. Fluid athlete with a soft stroke. Likes to work in the mid-range area and on the baseline. Needs to work on extending his range--shot seems to break down when he gets past 17 feet. Kind of reminds me of Rip Hamilton. Painfully thin SF who has a frame that might not handle much weight.
Other USA players of interest:
Let's mention PGs Dominic Artis ('12) and Braxton Ogbueze ('12) together because of their similar games and similar appearance. Both guys were around 6-0 and had simliar well-built frames.
Both PGs drilled shots from deep. Both get good elevation on their jumpers and were able to hit shot off of quick dribbles.
Artis averaged 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.7 apg and was 8-for-13 behind the arc. Ogbueze was a little less consistent in his overall play but he did bury 7-of-14 behind the arc. Both diminutive PGs were able to dart into the lane to keep the defense on its toes.
Chris Obekpa ('12) and Daniel Ochefu ('12) are bigs with nice physical tools but (what looked to be) limited offensive skills. Both athletic bigs were relentless staying after the ball on the offensive glass and active changing shots defensively.
6-10 Ochefu had a total of 12 off. rebs for the weekend and was highly efficient in his floor time--averaged nearly 10 ppg on 72%, 6.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg in 17 mins/game.
6-9 Obekpa has a good body with wide shoulders and long arms but is very raw on the offensive end. Obekpa had two great blocks in transition. Both guys could carve out a niche in the NBA as active bigs who rebound and defend.
6-11 Nerlens Noel ('13), a highly-touted prospect with fluid athleticism and length, didn't overwhelm this weekend but was active on the glass and defensively. He seems to get off the floor very quickly and has terrific second-jump ability; human pogo stick. He did very little offensively and didn't show much in the way of refined skills besides glimpses of nifty passing skills. Like Ochefu and Obekpa, Noel could find his way to the NBA thanks to his active style. However, Noel's slight frame and skinny legs give you pause.
6-2 PG Marcus Paige ('12) was kind of the American version of Canada's Tyler Ennis. Paige is a shifty PG who would find ways to snake his way to rim either in the half-court or transition. Great finishing in traffic. 6-10 PF Brice Johnson ('12) didn't get many plays called for him but he does show a soft touch on short jumpers. The long, lithe Johnson loved to finish plays off with dunks.