2014 LeBron James Skills Academy: Top NCAA Prospects
By Rick Fois
Kelly Oubre 6'7 199 SG/SF Kansas Fr. (7' foot 1 1/2 wingspan): The long, athletic wing continued right where he left off in Portland at the Hoop Summit. Everything seems to come very easy for him. He has a natural talent that allows him to do pretty much anything on the floor. He has a nice touch from 3 point and a quick release and the size that allows him to shoot over defenders effortlessly. He possesses the ability to explode vertically off of one or two feet as he showed during the camp with some empathic dunks. He reminds of a young Vince Carter with his supreme athleticism, body type and his ability to do many things extremely well and impact the game in different situations. His wingspan also really helps him defensively in close outs and to obscure the vision of opponents. But during the LeBron Skills Academy he was some how inconsistent. In the first day he looked like a top 3 pick in the next draft, but during the rest of the camp he only showed flashes. He didn't show aggressiveness on consistent basis, sometimes disappearing from games. Of course he is just 18 years old and at that age it is difficult to expect maximum effort at all times, but developing a better mentality at Kansas could make the difference from him being a very good player to an All-Star.
Stanley Johnson 6'7 1/2 235 SF Arizona Fr. (6' foot 10 1/2 wingspan): A player that never lacks aggressiveness and energy is Stanley Johnson. The future Arizona Wildcat was very good throughout the whole camp playing strong defense and attacking the rim with no fear. The comparison with Ron Artest seems to be more and more accurate. Stanley took Lebron 1 on 1 in the scrimmage and after scoring a 3 pointers in his face stole the ball on the other end. At that point LeBron went “game 7 of the Finals berzerker mode and start to deny Johnson Stanley the ball as well as playing him physical from 20 feet away from the basket. When the young SF finally received the ball he took a shot in Lebron’s face but missed it badly. LeBron then took over and showed everybody why he is the best player in the World. Nevertheless, his willingness to challenge LeBron was extremely impressive. Stanley is not far off of LeBron from a strength perspective, which is amazing considering his age. Stanley's strong body and ability to finish around the rim with both hands allows him to attack the basket despite his lack of verticality, particularly off two feet. Perhaps his most impressive skill is the natural magnetic pull he has on the ball on rebounds, offensively and defensively the ball was always falling into his hands. He goes hard on the boards and uses his big body to create space and dominate the ball. The two biggest concerns I have with him at this point and aspects that if he improved upon could make his draft stock rise are stopping gambling on defense and the form on his shot. He is a good defender, but sometimes he gambles for the steal too much, instead of just being solid. I'm Sure Coach Miller will work with him on it in Tucson. His shot being his other glaring weakness, surprisingly he makes a good amount of outside shots despite his release being low and in front of his face and very flat. His shot has already come a long way, but adding better form will be crucial in his ability to extend his range.
Sam Dekker 6'9 229 SF Wisconsin Jr. (6 foot 10 wingpsan): Outside of the rigid Wisconsin offensive system, Dekker looked very comfortable with his added freedom to show all of his skills leaving scouts very impressed with him. Not many 6'9 players his age have Dekker's skill set and athletic abilities. His shooting lacks perfect mechanics, but he is definitely a streaky shooter as he showed in the Friday morning session with a series of (4) three pointers in a row while playing 5 on 5. Dekker is a sneaky athlete who can take people off the dribble going to the basket or pulling up for a jumper. He was impressive in how easily he created shots for himself, something that is hard for him to display at Wisconsin. Offensively he is definitely a first rounder, where the doubts arise is on the defensive side. Having to play the 3, his feet aren't quick enough to stay in front of explosive 3's and if he has to move to the PF position in a small ball lineup he will struggle to battle in the post. Overall Dekker used his 4 days in camp in the best possible way, leaving all the scouts impressed. It' obvious he has a lot of fun playing the game and is a fun kid to be around, he showed a positive and energetic attitude and likely has a ticket booked for the first round of next year's draft.
Bobby Portis 6'10 1/2 235 PF Arkansas (7 foot 1 1/2 wingspan): The Arkansas PF gave scouts a taste of all the things he can do and why he should ultimately have value in the league. For a player with such a strong body, he runs the court very well looking for the long pass or immediate post touches. He has a great NBA body, ideal for a PF in the league, though right now his skill set is more of a 5. He struggles to finish against people stronger than him and how he misses so many uncontested dunks is a mystery. He also has an hard time maintaining position in the post, even against 6'8 Niang he got shoved around catching the ball out of position and too far from the basket. So overall body strength needs to be a focus. Second, when he does catch the ball in the post, he doesn't seem to have a good balance. On the flip side, his jump shot has developed some real consistency and it's obvious he has gained confidence in his mid-range. He's also showing some face up game as well. He had a couple impressive first steps to beat his defender and get to the basket. Defensively he doesn't have good lateral speed and feels comfortable against centers more then quicker PFs. He uses his long arms to contest shots and grab rebounds. His explosiveness and ability to get off the ground quickly is absolutely outstanding. Portis has come a long way from last year, with a very good season and a lot of improvements. If he can continue with this growth during the next year, he has lottery potential.
Isaiah Taylor 6'3 168 PG Texas So. (6 foot 3 1/2 wingspan): Speedy Isaiah Taylor had a very solid showing after missing the first day. He is fast, by far the fastest player in camp and his floater is a thing of a beauty, quite possibly the best in the country. I don't know who taught it to him, but whoever it was should go around and teach it to every PG in the nation. Isaiah does need to learn how to control his speed and how to control the pace of the game, right now he still goes 100% all the time, making bad decisions, particularly in transition. The shooting is much better than expected and he can make open threes with good percentages, though he tends to attack the basket more. Needs to improve his P&R game and the reads out of it. He had the defense anticipate and steal the ball from him due to rushing his play a few times. Overall he left a strong impression and was the top PG of the event, putting on a lot of pressure defensively, Taylor could definitely set himself apart next year by emerging as one of the best PGs in the country.
Perry Ellis 6'8 222 PF Kansas Jr. (6 foot 10 wingspan): A lot of progress from last year for the Kansas forward. He was very solid defensively, rarely makes a mistake or gambles for the ball. He gets rebounds, shot it well from three point and 2. He is solid at everything, but not great in anything. I can't think anything negative to say about him other than he may have "blended" a bit too much, but that is his main problem. For instance at Kansas last year, he rarely took over games. He is always solid but there was never a day where I thought Perry Ellis was a beast, I simply thought he was good. One thing I really like and stood out was a couple of put back dunk he had because he was the only one hustling and running behind the ball in transition. He can't create for himself at the NBA level, but in the right system he definitely can bring something to the table.
RJ Hunter 6'5 180 SG Georgia St. Jr. (6 foot 9 1/2 wingspan): The shooter from Georgia State was the surprise of the camp. I had never seen him live before and he was better than advertised. If you leave him one inch to shoot, you can put 3 points on the scoreboard. In the first two days he probably shot 60% from 3 points, showing his entire repertoire: coming off screens, playing P&R, playing 1-on-1 from the dribble and hitting wide open shots. His midrange isn't bad as well. He's still too weak to get to the basket but he knows his strengths and plays on those without trying to do too much. He has good ball handling which allows him to attack long close outs. His body needs to get stronger, to improve defensively as he will have to guard SGs at the NBA level and right now they would push him round bit. He is considered one dimensional and he is, but when someone has games going 12/19 from three points like his one vs. UTSA last year, I think it's because Hunter has more skills than people think and he really knows how to utilize them to create his own shots.
Rondae Hollis Jefferson 6'7 219 SF Arizona So. (7 foot 0 1/2 wingspan): He was one of the bigger names at the LeBron Skills Academy, because of his nice freshman season and the thought that without Aaron Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson can break out and show all of his talent. The former McDonalds all-American struggled to live up to the hype. He was very bad in the first days, looking heavy and not explosive like he was during the whole season. In addition he didn't have a good body language at all. Finally the last day he showed some flashes of what he is capable of, attacking the basket, making plays for his teammates and with great energy to lead his team until he got injured. Overall he still has a ways to go from a skills perspective. It looks like he has added considerable strength but at the expense of his foot speed. His shot is also inconsistent. While it's obvious he is a real talent, at this point he's a questionable first rounder until he takes his game to the next step.
Ron Baker: A player who received an inordinate amount of hype as a possible first round pick during his sophomore year, Baker is without a doubt an interesting player. It's hard not to like him because of the toughness and unselfishness that he plays with, and he is well liked for his potential as a role player. Shooting and IQ are two of his main attributes. In a league where people sometimes forget how important those two things are, Ron Baker is the exception to the rule. I have never been a big fan of him s far as an NBA career is concerned, and I still believe he is too slow and unathletic to guard NBA 2s or 1s But nonetheless he did show at the camp that when left open, he rarely misses and he always plays with a high basketball IQ in both offense and defense, to overcome his physical limitations. He had a pass during the first day on a long rebound outside the three points line and immediately passed it back to a teammate for an open three without touching the ground. He had located his teammate before he even got the ball, and displayed his creativity and intelligence. Those are things you cannot teach. Ron Baker had a solid camp, very good in ball handling, he uses his strong upper body to absorb contacts. The problem is that he is too slow to play the PGs and has a SG people will shoot over him, tough the 6'8 wingspan can help on close outs. Baker is an amazing college player but I doubt he could ever be more than a rotational player in the NBA (and don’t get me wrong, nothing bad about that).
Terry Rozier 6'2 189 PG Louisville So. (6 foot 6 1/2 wingspan): the Lousiville guard might have a break out season now that Russ Smith is no longer there to dominate the ball for the Cardinals. He showed great speed and ability to breakdown defenders, in addition to a good shooting form. I would bet on him; watch him closely during the year. He was one of the more surprising players in camp and could have a breakout season.
Delon Wright 6'5 179 PG/SG Utah Sr. (6 foot 6 1/2 wingspan): The senior from Utah played really well attacking the basket in transition and finishing in many ways. He is an athlete who has talent to score. Not the best defender in the world, but plays really hard, really aggressive and 6'5 players like him who can score are intriguing options for the NBA level.
Marcus Foster 6'2 213 SG Kansas St. (6 foot 5 wingpsan): Foster is an impressive scorer and a bigtime athlete converting some jams way above the rim. The big mystery is whether he can really set teammates up and play the PG position. He dd not prove that ability in camp.
Vincent Hunter 6'8 200 PF UTEP So. (6 foot 10 wingpsan): He had moments of brilliance and sheer stupidity. His behind the back transition pass straight out of bounds was probably the worst pass of the camp. However he had some great moves in the post going around the defenders for some great dunks. If he eliminates his mental mistakes, adds to his skillset and finds a way to be more consistent with his effort, he could be a surprise next year.