EA Sports Maui Invitational: Top Prospects
This year's EA Sports Maui Invitational had some highly competitive contests highlighted by a dramatic last second game winning three by Butler's Rotnei Clark to defeat Marquette and a shocking Butler win over UNC, in which they held a 30 point lead at one point. While it was disappointing for NBA scouts as few unheralded prospects surfaced, and the talent level was down from past years, it was an exciting event nonetheless. Here is a look at the top 5 prospects from my viewpoint after watching the event first hand and speaking with scouts.
1. James McAdoo 6-9 235 SF/PF UNC So. -- For this year's draft, McAdoo was clearly the top prospect and the only legitimate lottery guy. On the positive side, McAdoo looked every bit 6-foot-9 in person and has definitely worked hard on his body. His arms look chiseled and at times he just athletically outclasses opponents for easy baskets. He's showing an improved stroke, having knocking down a number of mid-range shots. Unfortunately, he left most of the scouts wanting more as he displayed numerous mental lapses with bad passes and a general lack of focus. One scout made the comment, "He's going to go extremely high in this year's draft because he's such an elite athlete, but he scares the heck out of me". McAdoo developed a reputation in high school as a supremely talented player who didn't always maximize his abilities. And that remains the knock on him. It's important to keep in mind he's just 5 games into his sophomore season, in which he's being asked to be UNC's top dog. So he deserves some time to settle into that role. But he definitely has a ways to go in the focus and intensity departments to convince scouts that he has what it takes to be a standout at the NBA level.
2. Joel James 6-10 260 PF/C North Carolina Fr. -- James is a bona fide specimen. He averaged just 2.7 ppg, 4.7 rebs in 15.7 min per game, but that didn't stop him from being the biggest breakout prospect at the event, from a scout's perspective. He's got a tremendous basketball body with huge shoulders, long arms, strong legs, plus he's light on his feet. His effort level is excellent, as is his shooting stroke. He doesn't get many looks as the team rarely looks to get him the ball at this point. He's got terrific agility for a player his size showing great ability to block shots and get off his feet quickly and run the floor despite carrying a great deal of weight. He appears to love contact, has a great attitude and really gets after it on the glass. James came in as roughly a top 60 recruit and never got the hype that Texas bigman Cameron Ridley received in high school, but scouts like James' potential far better. Despite being a long ways from a finished product, one scout told me he liked James as the top overall prospect in the event, and that was including McAdoo.
3. DeWayne Dedmon 7-0 255 C USC Jr. -- Yes, Dedmon is older than nearly all of the 2012 NBA draft picks, but he's late to the game and for a bigman that also means less cumulative wear and tear on his body. While still extremely raw at 23 years of age, the fact that he started playing late gives him some added intrigue. He still struggles to play to his ability and it's easy to criticize him as an underachiever. But the fact that Dedmon barely played high school ball and is still catching up, plus he shows a decent feel for the game, should make scouts think twice about his evaluation. He really struggled with his fade away jumpshot, as he missed it numerous times. And it's apparent he could take a few years before making a contribution. But there is definitely a lot of intrigue with him. He battled under the basket and appears to have good ability to carry weight. His free throw motion looks like he can improve on his numbers considerably over time. The biggest thing that surprised scouts was how well he's moving. He's a legit 250 lbs and can run like a deer. He looks much more athletic this year than last, presumably he's finally healthy. If he can stay that way, he will have a good shot of snagging an early 2nd round pick due to his above average NBA athleticism for a bigman. And in a bad draft, who knows, late first round is not even out of the question.
4. PJ Hairston 6-4 220 SG North Carolina So. -- On a team with tons of talent but questionable toughness, Hairston appears to be the guy the team can look to when it needs an emotional spark. While losing handily to Butler early in the second half, it was Hairston who showed a willingness to fight, challenging Andrew Smith after an And-1 and carrying UNC back into the contest when they appeared all but dead. He's a bigtime scorer with excellent range and an above average athlete capable of highlight finishes. But his size is a major concern as he's only about 6'4, and therefore may ultimately be a 2nd rounder.
5. Brandon Paul 6-4 200 SG Illinois Sr. -- Paul led the Illini to the Maui title and was sensational. He showed added composure that had been missing from his game the past few seasons. He's been a prolific scorer for some time, having shown that last year with a 40 point effort. He seems to have matured as he's not always looking to make spectacular plays and instead taking what the defense gives him. He took home well deserved MVP honors, as Illinois' unmistakable leader. While he'll never be confused for a PG and likely won't even be considered a combo, his long arms and above average athleticism helps to counter his lack of ideal size at 6'4. Scouts mentioned Paul as a guy that could make for an intriguing second round pick if he demonstrates the ability to defend NBA level 2 guards.
Cameron Ridley, Texas Fr. -- Ridley has nice touch and excellent length, but he is a plodder whose intensity level appears to be stuck in cruise control. His one strong performance (8 pts, 12 rebs, 5 blks) came against a Mississippi State team with just 6 scholarship players. Which prompted one scout to say, "He played great against Mississippi State, which shows you the level he's at right now".
Reggie Bullock North Carolina Jr. -- Has prototypical size and shooting ability for an NBA 2-guard. He shot well at times but he lacks toughness and an all around game.
Brice Johnson North Carolina Fr. -- Still very thin and a few year's from being a draftable prospect, but his length and skills give him good potential for the future.
Vander Blue Marquette, Jr. -- Had a solid showing despite a rough opening game against Butler. He suffered an unfortunate leg injury on the final day.
Jamil Wilson -- The Oregon transfer has thus far struggled to realize his expectations. After struggling on day one, he raised some eyebrows with his performance on the final day against USC knocking down 3/4 from 3 with 19 pts, while displaying above average athleticism.
Bullock lacks an overall game?? He's the best all around player on UNC. He's the best wing defender, best shooter, best wing ball-handler and best passer on the team.
Bullock and Hairston are the best shooters on the team. Bullock and Strickland are the best perimeter defenders, but both Hairston and Strickland are far better ball-handlers than Bullock. He rarely gets to the rim unlike the others who can take their men off the dribble from time to time.
How often does Hairston get to the rim when over 70% of his shots are 3's? He might be more explosive in terms of first step, but he's not exactly proficient at getting to the rim either. As far as 2ndary ball-handling, decision-maker and who I'd rather have helping breaking pressure, I'd rather have Bullock in that role.
List of top prospects not college players, Bullock is better now but Hairston isn't far behind in any category and is better in some others. Hairston's handle is good but his finishing ability isn't so he kicks out on many of his drives and then goes and spots up. Bulluck has an uphill battle at getting to the nba in my opinion while Hairston already has a defined role of two way player who speads the court.
If Hairston's a 2 way player then what is Bullock? He's the better shooter and better defender.
Hairston doesn't get to the rim frequently although he has the ability to do so regardless if he can finish or not. Personally, I'd say Strickland has the best handles on the wing seeing how he is also the backup point guard. Strickland has always been a slasher since he got to Carolina (he's never been a perimeter shooter and he shouldn't be taking those shots, but that argument's for another day). To pick between Hairston and Bullock as to who the better shooter is would be splitting hairs, they're both excellent. Since Bullock has logged major minutes, I can't remember any times where he has looked to get to the rim excluding fast breaks or dribble out of pressure. He usually is camped in the corner or on the wing waiting to jack up a three, and that's part of the offense, I get that. The point is Bullock rarely leaves the perimeter if ever on offense, unlike any of the other guards including McDonald. On the other side of the ball, Bullock did a great job filling in for Strickland after the injury. As for the NBA, I'm not denying Bullock can't get there, he's just still developing an all-around game.
Joel James being #2 shows you how weak the field was this year and also how NBA people drool over size combined with athleticism and length despite being very raw all day long!