By Jon Pastuszek
When Gordon Hayward’s last second heave skipped off the front rim on Monday in Indianapolis, a stunning, five-star 2010 NCAA Tournament had come to its end. Capped off by CBS’ annual cheesed out montage, “One Shining Moment,” another year is in the books, the Duke Blue Devils’ name etched in the season’s final chapter as national champs.
But, all ends bring new beginnings. Though the season is over, the NBA Draft process is starting this week in Portsmouth, Virginia, home to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
Running in its 58th year, the PIT hosts the top 64 seniors in the nation, dividing them up into eight teams, each sponsored by a local business. Held annually immediately following the Final Four, the tournament features twelve games over three days, with brackets for the both the winners and losers to ensure everyone is getting equal game time in front of scouts.
Though the PIT usually lacks huge star power, the value of the event cannot be overlooked. Talking to people familiar with the Draft process, the consensus is that this year is especially lacking in talent. But, like in years past, there are bound to be at least a couple of diamond in the roughs waiting to be uncovered by the right team nonetheless. Case in point: Marquette’s Wes Matthews, who had a solid showing last year at the PIT, yet went undrafted before being picked up by Utah, where he now starts on a championship contending team. Several other current NBA players have carried positive momentum from good showings in Portsmouth into first-round or high/mid second-round selections in recent years, including DeMarre Carrol, Jon Brockman, Jermaine Taylor, Carl Landry, Jose Juan Barea and Chris Quinn. So while the names on the rosters may not stand out right now, at least a couple will surely make an impact on the next level down the line.
Recognizing this fact, every NBA team was represented in some fashion on Wednesday, including appearances from GMs Danny Ainge, Mitch Kupchak, Byran Colangelo and Daryl Morey among many other NBA front office and scouting types. North Carolina’s Roy Williams was the most high profile college coach in attendance, and stayed to watch both games, which featured two UNC seniors, Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson. Several overseas teams were on hand as well, getting first-hand looks at the best American prospects who will fill out many of Europe’s top clubs.
The night’s first game saw Norfolk Sports Club vs. Tidewater Sealants….
By Borko Popic
Portsmouth Invitational Day 1
Norfolk Sports Club 114 vs. Tidewater Sealants 82
Ryan Thompson (37 pts, 4 ast, 4 stl, 4/5 3FG)
Thompson came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 20 points in the first half and then adding another 17 to finish with a game high 37. Sacramento Kings Jason Thompson’s younger brother played very aggressively looking to get into the lane and finish at the hoop. His size on the wing poses problems and his ability to attack off the dribble and absorb contact makes him even more difficult to defend. He showed his outside touch by knocking down 4 for 5 from beyond the arc, showing great confidence and a consistent stroke (although not very smooth). He was also able to make some midrange shots, getting good elevation on his pullups and making a high percentage. He had everything going offensively today and he will need to prove that he can somewhat sustain it, and maybe more importantly to show that he can do more than just score. The 4 assists are certainly a good start, although in a blowout game where open shots came easily, it does not mean all that much.
A.J. Slaughter (28 pts, 5 ast, 4 rebs, 10/12 FG, 4/5 3FG)
Putting in what is likely the most impressive performance of the day, Slaughter was able to get anywhere that he wanted on the court, and get a good look every time he pulled the trigger. Playing more off the ball, he was able to spread the court with his outside shooting or attack for finishes in the paint. His jumper is extremely smooth and he is able to shoot with good rhythm and balance with a hand in his face and from beyond the arc. He has nice quickness and is a crafty operator off the dribble, allowing him to get into the middle of the defense where he showed a nice teardrop overtop of the helpside. Flashing his underrated athleticism, he was able to explode to the basket on one occasion and finish strong with a flush in semi traffic. Slaughter came in under the radar, but his performance today definitely put him on the map. Showing the he can have a repeat performance against a more formidable opponents will go a long way for his future.
Aubrey Coleman (19 pts, 7 rebs, 3 ast, 9/23 FG)
In a losing cause, Coleman was able to show his terrific scoring touch as well as his ability to create off the dribble. The combination of strength, quickness and athleticism make him a very difficult matchup as he is hard to stay in front of on the perimeter. His trademark high arching shot was on full display and he made a couple very difficult ones from mid to long range. The biggest concern with Coleman (as he also showed during his collegiate career) is his unwillingness to play a team game. He loves to play with the ball at the top off the key, running down the shotclock and forcing up tough shots without looking to get teammates involved. He gets rid of the ball only as the last resort and he constantly puts teammates in a tough spot where they need to make plays with very little time on the clock. He has proven that he can score and rebound, but he needs to show that he is not a ball stopper offensively and that he can contribute in other areas (other than scoring).
Others: Jeremy Lin played a solid game, finishing with 8 points and 6 assists; he did not force the issue but looked to get his points within flow of the game. He is a very good athlete and is a crafty finisher around the basket, using a bit of finesse and some leaping ability to complete plays. He sees the floor extremely well and is able to make good reads and precise passes. Rodrick Flemmings had 13 points and 4 rebounds, getting most of his looks around the basket where he was able to convert with his athleticism. He has a good feel for the ball and is able to find himself in the right spots on a consistent basis. The main concern with his game is an extremely poor jumpshot. He doesn’t have much confidence pulling the trigger and the root of the problem seems to be in his flawed shooting form and bad mechanics. Hamady Ndiaye had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, showing that his size, length and athleticism are factors inside. Hometown favorite Gerald Lee finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds, displaying a reliable midrange jumpshot as well as good patience in the low post.
K&D Rounds Landscaping 90 vs Portsmouth Sports Club 56
This game was a blowout from the early going and it turned into a layup drill for K&D and a forced/missed shot marathon for Portsmouth SC. Since it was such a poorly played game it is very difficult to make any sort of sound and in depth observations about either team’s players. Having said that, here are some quick thoughts…
Rodney Green (16 pts, 4 rebs, 4 ast) showed his ability to attack off the dribble and get to the basket for strong finishes. He has a well built body and he knows how to use it. The main knock on his game is his poor outside shot and he did nothing to dispel that notion today. Deon Thompson finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, using his strength to create space inside, he also showed his soft touch on a couple turnaround jumpers from the mid post. Marqus Blakely was able to use his athleticism on both ends of the floor for some spectacular plays, but he was not able to show that he is anything more than an athletic 6-5 powerforward with limited range. A very big disappointment was Marquez Haynes who finished with 5 points (1 for 7 from the field) and 5 turnovers. He is very undersized on the wing and he looked extremely uncomfortable on the floor. His shot was off and he was not able to get into any sort of rhythm offensively. He and his team need to turn things around quickly … lucky for them; they will get a chance in tomorrow’s first game.
Day 2 starts on Thursday with the first consolation game between yesterday’s losers at 3:30, and continues with games at 7 and 9. Be sure to check back in with NBADraft.net as we continue to provide detailed coverage of the 2010 Portsmouth Invitational.
PIT Official website: Portsmouth Invitational.com