2008 Las Vegas AAUs: Day 3
By Nick Prevenas
Wall or Favors?
That was the question everyone was asking heading into Day 3 of Las Vegas’ AAU hoops gathering. Who is the top player in the class of 2009?
John Wall is leading D-One Sports through the Reebok Summer Championships, while Favors headlines the Atlanta Celtics in the adidas Super 64, so we won’t see them battle it out the old fashioned way. In addition, Xavier Henry -- another player with a legitimate claim as the top rising senior -- isn’t here at all.
Instead, we have to compare levels of dominance.
Wall entered the Reebok event as a man possessed, staking an early claim to the pole position. But Wall struggled a bit on Thursday, while Favors made his statement.
Meanwhile, Day 3 featured a stronger overall slate of games than Wednesday’s sub-par offerings. Some prospects (like Anthony Wroten) excelled, others (like Tristan Thompson) held steady, and a select few (like Lance Stephenson) fell flat on their faces.
In Wednesday’s loss to the Pump and Run All-Stars, Favors exhibited flashes of brilliance (as his eight blocked shots will show), but he never truly dominated the contest on the offensive end. He was steady, but not jaw-dropping.
[img_assist|nid=1587|title=Derrick Favors|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=456]Thursday was a different story.
Favors took advantage of the Texas squad’s short front line and racked up 27 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and countless shot alterations. The 6-foot-9 forward out of South Atlanta High School hit 9-15 shot attempts and provided an interior defensive presence that kept the D1 Ambassadors from venturing into the lane.
Favors also cleared space for Noel Johnson and Trae Golden -- two of Atlanta’s better prospects -- to contribute to the Atlanta Celtics’ 99-80 first-round win. It was an impressive performance that cemented Favors’ status among his class’ elite.
Is Favors a perfect prospect? Not yet. He needs to tighten up his handle (Texas players ripped his dribble twice) and develop more of a mean streak. Texas didn’t have the big bodies to bang with Favors inside, so he basically did as he pleased. Against more physical players, Favors has a tendency to get out-muscled. In addition, if Favors is forced to guard a quicker forward on the perimeter, his lateral quickness suffers a bit.
Favors drew an embarrassing technical foul (throwing the ball behind his head and catching the corner of the backboard) that came out of frustration and fatigue, as the Texas squad had closed to within three midway through the second half. Those moments will hopefully vanish as he matures.
Favors’ physical gifts, however, are unmistakable. Early in the game, he caught a length-of-the-floor outlet pass that was thrown three feet behind him, came down with it, and took it strong off the glass in one motion. You can’t teach that kind of fluidity. He is also a fundamentally sound defender, displaying strong help-and-retreat instincts along with his natural shot-altering skills. He possesses a nice shooting touch, even burying a couple of turnaround 15-footers. As his ball-handling skills improve, he can take advantage of a surprisingly quick first step.
Is Favors the second coming? Well, he’s not nearly as tenacious as Michael Beasley or as athletic as former Atlanta Celtic Josh Smith -- two players to whom he is frequently compared -- but he is darn good. Look for Favors -- currently neck-and-neck with John Wall atop the NBADraft.net class of 2009 rankings -- to emerge as a strong college hoops star and a potential lottery pick if/when he declares for the NBA draft.
Could the lanky Canadian southpaw equal his impressive Tuesday showing in today’s game against Arizona Pump and Run?
Well, yes and no. Mostly yes.
The 6-foot-8 Thompson tallied 16 points (6-8 shooting) and 13 boards in a blowout first-round win at the adidas Super 64 tourney. He added three steals and three blocked shots.
A rising junior out of St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey, he displayed the same smooth game and open-court speed that opened our eyes yesterday. The game seems to come easy for him, and we expect him to improve significantly by the time he wraps up his prep career.
On the downside, Thompson struggled to assert himself when Arizona Pump and Run shifted into a 2-3 zone. With defenders collapsing on the post, Thompson couldn’t isolate himself on the block and utilize his patented “back down, fake right, shoot a short lefty jumper” move.
He picked up most of his points in the flow of the game off put-back dunks. Point guard Junior Cadougan remains the focal point of this team’s offense.
In addition, his birthday (March 13, 1991) makes him slightly older than some of the other top-flight 2010 prospects. This isn’t a big negative, but it does mean he’s further in his physical development than a handful of his counterparts.
But there is no denying that Thompson is one of this event’s most explosive and intriguing front-court prospects. We don’t have him ranked in our top-five yet, but don’t expect that to last long.
By Borko Popic
[img_assist|nid=1588|title=Tony Wroten|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=319]The auxiliary gym became a major attraction all of sudden when the talented Seattle Rotary team took the court. They have two very promising players in senior Peyton Siva, a heady playmaker who has nice range and a very steady game, and junior Joshua Smith, a 6'10 big man who has great strength and moves extremely well for a player his size.
However, the best of the bunch is the rising sophomore Tony Wroten, a smooth 6'5 lefty capable of playing either backcourt position. His handles are very smooth and he is a terrific passer, seeing plays ahead of time and delivering pinpoint passes. Even though he has all these PG skills, he is too talented of a scorer to be restricted as a playmaker.
He may not have a lightning-quick first step, but he is very shifty/crafty and he knows how to get the defender off balance before slithering into the lane. He changes direction and angles extremely well, allowing him to split defenses; once he gets to the hoop he has impressive athleticism and good length, allowing him to finish in a variety of ways.
For a player born in 1993, he is extremely mature, shows great composure and, most importantly, plays hard on both ends of the floor, all the time. His defensive intensity was a breath of fresh air in a tournament that has been heavily lacking it.
Not surprisingly, he is a bit skinny, but his frame has the potential to grow and develop nicely. His jumpshot is a bit inconsistent -- he has good balance and gets nice elevation -- but he tends to pull back on his release quickly leaving his shots short. All in all, these are things that are easily corrected, and there is no doubt that he is a player that will be the center of attention for many years to come.
There was much buzz surrounding Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson's talent and skill set. Unfortunately, what we saw today was...mildly put...disappointing. Seeing him for the first time, he immediately looks very awkward and his body is not that of a basketball player. He is somewhat bowlegged and tends to move around on his toes too much, making him look as if he is strutting rather than running.
He has a very well-defined body and some nice length, but his quickness and explosiveness are marginal. Both he and his team were badly outplayed by a squad that put on an offensive clinic, running backdoors and getting shooters open coming of numerous screens.
Stephenson forced the issue early on, putting up shots and trying to attack the basket even when numerous defenders ran at him. His handles are decent, but when it takes 8-10 dribbles to get anywhere, it defeats the purpose of putting the ball on the deck in the first place. His shooting stroke is nice, but he rushes it almost every time and he likes to fade on shots that don't require it.
He got into foul trouble in the second half, and that is when his team actually made a push and got the game close. Once he returned, he killed all the rhythm his team had going. Surprisingly, his motor and intensity level was highly suspect, not running back on defense, and even taking possessions of on offense as his teammates were fighting to score. One has to wonder if he has bought into all the hype and stopped working hard at his game.
There was no official boxscore available for the game, but Stephenson did not score more than six points. His team lost, meaning they're out of the tournament. Based on what we saw today, Stephenson struggled to look like a high-major college player, much less a player worthy of getting drafted.
By Aran Smith
[img_assist|nid=1589|title=John Wall|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=347]Despite a bit of an off day, Wall continues to be one of, if not the most impressive prospect in Las Vegas. Today, playing against an inferior Triple Double Elite West squad, Wall played down to the level of his competition to a degree.
After averaging 26.3 in his first three games, Wall scored just 12, while committing at least 7 turnovers. He got ripped at mid-court on one occasion and forced a few passes. But when his game was on, it was sensational.
He made one jaw-dropping play off a baseline in bound in which he skied way over the rim for the ally-oop flush. He also made a number of breathtaking drive-and-dishes where he knifed through the defense showing his unreal speed, threading the needle to teammates for easy baskets.
Without question, Wall is a premiere talent with size, speed and legitimate point-guard skills, but today the holes to his game were evident.
He needs to concentrate on protecting the basketball and improving his shooting range, but considering that he led D-One past the Breakdown duo of Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight on Wednesday, his off game should be taken with a grain of salt.
While he lacks great fluidity running the floor, 6'10 senior bigman Kelly has a very nice offensive skill set around the basket. He's got nice footwork and uses drop steps and hooks effectively.
Kelly made a couple surprising runners from the top of the key to the basket s well as finishing an ally oop dunk from Wall.
Kelly should make an excellent college center but will need to either grow some or grow into his body better as he currently has more of a center's game in the body of a power forward.
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