For three days adidas Nations, the annual showcase of college, high school and international prospects took place in Garden Grove. With one huge headliner in Dennis Smith and a number of first round hopefuls, the 37 college prospects that participated gave NBA scouts a glimpse of what to expect going into next season. The 2017 draft has been built up as a very strong one, and while the incoming freshman class certainly has a handful of elite talent, the depth of this draft may not be nearly as strong as advertised. Regardless, here is a look at how the top prospects performed:
Dennis Smith 6-2 190 PG NC State Fr.
Smith’s extraordinary talent had scouts fixated on his every move. Smith tore his ACL at the same event last year but appears to be close to fully back, at least physically. His conditioning is the one thing that still has to get back and should be back completely by November when the season begins. After missing his entire senior year, having graduated early and attended NC State in order to rehab, he is quickly shaking off the rust. He showed off his elite explosiveness on numerous occasions going well above the rim to finish off dunks on the break, as well as alley-oops. He also utilized his electric first step to get by opponents as well and almost appears to slow down and take time to assess things just before releasing the ball. That ability to slow the game down and see all of his possibilities within the flow of the game is the mark of a great point guard.
He played on the first and last days, and without any type of sleeve or protection for his knee, a great sign. Smith’s talent was on full display as he had a very solid 17 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 6 steals in 30 minutes the first day. He also created a good look from 3 for a potential game winner but was off to the right. He skipped day two and then came back to register a 10 point, 4 assist in 11 minute game in the morning of day 3. He went for 8 points, 10 assists (3-12 shooting) and 4 boards in the night cap. Overall he shot 16-34 from the floor. Smith is a natural leader at the lead guard position. He is equally effective setting up the offense from the half court and making decisions on the break. Sort of a blend of Chris Paul with Derrick Rose hops, Smith has a rare combination of skills. Interesting, these two greats happen to be the players that he most closely emulates. He is also a ball hawk extraordinaire, intercepting numerous passes in the open floor with his great anticipation and speed. The one aspect of his game that does need polish is his jumpshot, and while he did knock down a 3 point shot, becoming more proficient from the perimeter will make him even more difficult to defend. The form is not bad, he just needs repetition to gain confidence and consistency. Smith has firmly jumped to the forefront to be the number one pick of the 2017 NBA draft.
DJ Hogg 6-8 220 SF Texas A&M So.
Hogg is a knockdown shooter with range out to 3 point. He hit 4-of-5 from 3 in one game and was over 50% for the event connecting on 9-of-17. He also has really toned his body. While his body must continue to get stronger in order for him to become a more efficient defender, he does show a lot of competitiveness. At one point he threw down a nasty dunk in traffic on the break, something that most observers at the event weren’t expecting he could do. He finished with 41 points in 4 games at Nations connecting on 15 of 28 shots. Hogg didn’t put up big numbers as a freshman at Texas A&M, just 6.2 ppg and 33% from 3. While it wasn’t general consensus among scouts, Hogg appeared to be the second best long term prospect at Nations, by our estimation. He’s a strong candidate to be a break out player in college basketball next season.
Jaron Blossomgame 6-8 220 SF Clemson Sr.
After being one of the most steady and consistent performers at the Nike Skills Academy for the three days leading up to Nations, with a one day lay off, Blossomgame stood out once again as one of the top prospects. He had some excellent games, including one in which he shot 6-6 at one point to finish 7-9 overall. He’s an above the rim athlete who plays with a high level of intensity. He doesn’t possess much of a floor game and struggles when asked to create offense for himself off the dribble. But if he can improve in this area this season, he is sure to have numerous suitors in the first round on draft night.
Frank Jackson 6-3 215 PG Duke Fr.
Jackson was clearly one of the top talents at the event. Athough he only played on Day 2 as he apparently was nursing an injury. He showed off his scoring ability by knocking down shots from the top of the key, as well as using his great speed and ball skills to create off the dribble. The area that he must improve upon is his ability to facilitate and create shots for others. Right now, he’s much more of a scoring guard and struggles in the role of a point guard. So it figures that 2-3 years at Duke would be in his best interest as he develops those skills in college. but then again this is shaping up to be one of the weaker late first rounds in a few years. He averaged 14 ppg, good for first among participants, but in just two games, and shot just 11/28 overall.
Justin Jackson 6-8 205 SF North Carolina Jr.
Jackson is hitting do or die time in his college career and he played like it at Nations. He showed a real sense of urgency that was missing from a number of the other players. He shot it pretty well, particularly the final day, and made solid decisions for the most part all weekend. He came into college as one of the higher ranked kids in his class and has been thought of as a first rounder entering each of the last two seasons, but has struggled to become a star thus far at North Carolina. While a solid, though unspectacular athlete, if he can show more competitiveness this season, he could put himself back into first round discussions.
Deng Adel 6-7 200 SF Louisville So.
Adel was one of the bright spots of the camp. He was both highly productive and efficient as well. He flashed his excellent run jump athleticism at one point with a high flying dunk on the break. He also showed a solid ability to create space and make baskets in the mid range. He’s got a bit of a thin frame, so adding good weight will be important. Adel was extremely active, showing assertiveness on both ends of the floor. Despite being a wing, he was among the overall top performers in both scoring and rebounding, with an event leading 59 points to go with 32 boards (2nd overall). He also hit 24-40 shots from the floor.
Thomas Bryant 6-10 255 C Indiana So.
Bryant appears to have trimmed his body some and certainly plays with passion and emotion. In fact, he can let his emotions get the best of him at times, as he seems to get derailed if calls go against him. He isn’t the most fluid athlete as he sort of shuffles his legs when he runs, and would be accurately described as a "plodder". Today’s NBA has moved away from slow methodical centers like Bryant, but that’s not to say he won’t be able to find a place in the league. His massive wingspan gives him good size for a center, despite being just 6-10. Bryant had a fairly modest weekend, with one big outburst on the morning of day three in which he had 22 points. Scouts feel he’ll have a chance to compete for a late first round spot this year. The early top 5 projections that some put on him following the 2016 draft were clearly extremely optimistic.
Carlton Bragg 6-9 240 PF Kansas So.
It’s easy to see the appeal with Bragg. He’s a mobile PF playing on one of the nation’s highest profile teams and can knock down shots. The biggest concern with Bragg is that he doesn’t always show great desire and intensity. It is the summer, but he appears to have put on 20 lbs and much of that doesn’t appear to be muscle. Some scouts mentioned he could be a guy that battles weight down the road if he’s not careful. Bragg had some nice plays including a dunk on the break where he showcased his speed and athleticism. But he seems to have sloppy footwork and a motor that runs hot and cold. He had a 0 point game in 19 minutes, and finished with 32 points in five games on 50% shooting. Overall it was an underwhelming performance for a guy some have projected in the mid-first round.
Kobi Simmons 6-5 170 PG Arizona Fr.
We’ve long been high on Simmons due to his alluring speed, athleticism and size at the lead guard position. But his lack of progress in game management and decision making is starting to become apparent. He struggled at Nations shooting just 14 of 35 (40%) for 33 points overall. He appears to be a legitimate 6-foot-5, and he’s got the type of speed and quickness that you cannot teach, giving him obvious intrigue as a pro. The challenge for him will be harnassing that talent at Arizona and not trying to rush his jump to the league. At this point he appears to be a guy that’s 2-3 years away from truly being NBA ready.
Rawle Alkins 6-4 225 SG Arizona Fr.
Alkins is an interesting player. He displays solid ball skills and his sheer strength and power creates problems as he uses it to bull his way to the rim. He’s also an explosive player, who shows the ability to score off the dribble. His 56 was good for 3rd overall in points scored. His 22/47 from the floor was also solid. The big problem for him is size as he is just 6-foot-4 and lacks great foot speed. While this didn’t cause him problems at the high school level, there’s a good chance his bully ball style will run into problems at the college and particularly NBA levels. He’s sort of a more disciplined Lance Stephenson, but he’s missing the size and length to probably be as effective.
Cam Oliver 6-8 235 PF Nevada So.
Oliver was one of the clear breakout performers of the event. His athletic dunks were a bit of a revelation for the scouts that hadn’t seen much of him before. He gets way over the rim, and really seems to excel off two feet when he gets an angle to the basket. He also is not bashful about shooting as he took quite a few outside jump shots. For a 6-foot-8 four, he’s got good ball handling ability and obviously has worked on pulling up off the dribble as he appears proficient at it. While he certainly believes in his outside shot, as the event went on it became apparent that he still has a ways to go with it. But if he can improve upon it this season, he could overcome being a little undersized at the power forward position and make a run at being a late first rounder. His intensity and court awareness are obvious areas of improvement as well.
Evan Payne 6-1 195 PG Long Beach St. Jr.
Payne came in as one of the lesser known prospects but made a solid impression with his size and athleticism. He’s older so that takes away from his intrigue to some degree, having missed a few seasons due to injury, another concern. He was able to match Dennis Smith’s athleticism at times, which wasn’t the case for many of the guards at Nations. He’s an aggressive scorer and though not a pass first point guard, he showed a solid feel for the game and made good decisions. He’ll need to play extremely well to overcome the age and injury issues, but proved he’s worthy of tracking at LBSU.
Devonte Graham 6-2 195 PG Kansas Jr.
Graham was the one guy who got the best of Buddy Hield last season. He played alongside his college backcourt mate Frank Mason and improved as the event went along. He had one 0-3 performance in a loss, but bounced back by leading the team in scoring in back to back games with 14 and 19, also showing solid proficiency from 3 point land. Graham is a little bit of a combo guard but if he can develop his point guard skills, he’ll have a chance to get drafted over the next two seasons.
Donovan Mitchell 6-3 215 SG Louisville So.
Mitchell is well liked for his energy and athleticism. He doesn’t really fit an NBA position as he’s sort of a 6-3 small forward, but he has a good combination of length and speed and plays with a high motor. His skill level and feel for the game is also intriguing. He finds ways to gets shots and plays solid defense. Mitchell is a steady playmaker who makes good decisions and values the ball. He also seems to find ways to contribute even when his shot isn’t falling. He had one 11 rebound game, and finished with 37 points in five games.
Chase Jeter 6-10 235 C Duke So.
Along with Deng Adel, Jeter was quite possibly the biggest surprise of the event. He was one of the steadiest and most dominant bigs that participated. After a disappointing first season at Duke after coming in as a 5-star recruit, Jeter’s excellent showing is great news for Duke supporters as he should add solid depth to the banner freshmen front court Duke has coming in. Jeter still needs to develop better confidence and play with more aggressiveness, but he had a number of athletic plays and showed good consistency through the week. Jeter was among the leaders of the event in both points and rebounds at 11 and 6 per game. Jeter’s 34 boards lead all participants.
Chimezie Metu 6-10 220 PF/C USC So.
Metu is a physical specimen with very good strength and leaping ability. Unfortunately at this point he generally struggles to play to his ability. He shows flashes with some ability to make some plays offensively both facing up and with his back to the basket, but fundamentals are still a work in progress. He plays a little sleepy, and doesn’t always make great decisions. If he dedicates himself to improving as an offensive player, he will have a shot to be a first rounder in the next few seasons. Metu has a lot of untapped talent, but his focus and desire must improve along with his skill level. Metu’s 8/27 fgs are not indicative of his talent level, but instead his skill level at this point.
Justin Tuoyo 6-9 230 PF/C Chattanooga Sr.
Tuoyo was the biggest breakout guys among the prospects that most scouts hadn’t heard of coming into the event. He’s a solid run/jump athlete, but not a scorer and lacks great touch on his shot, however his mechanics aren’t broken. He’s best suited in the role of blue collar, energy guy who provides rebounding, length, defense and toughness. Tuoyo played in 3 of his team’s 5 games and they won 2 of the 3 in which he played, going 0-for-2 in the ones he missed. He also registered 4 blocks in one game, utilizing his solid length. Tuoyo had 28 pts in three games.
Frank Mason 6-0 190 PG Kansas Sr.
Mason played alongside his backcourt mate Graham, and was solid averaging just under 10 ppg., 49 points in five games. He knocked down 19 of 34 shots showing excellent efficiency and did a good job of getting past his man and into the paint where he connected on floaters or found teammates. Mason plays with very good confidence and has the strength and quickness to hold his own defensively. Size remains an issue for him, but his toughness and scoring ability will give him a chance at the next level.
Davon Reed 6-5 220 SG/SF Miami Sr.
The Miami product had an up and down weekend. He averaged just under 7 ppg, but shows solid competitiveness. He is a good teammate who shows a team first attitude and positive personality. His size is adequate, however his speed and athleticism are a little below standard for the next level.
Dedric Lawson 6-8 235 SF/PF Memphis So.
Lawson was among the bigger disappointments at Nations. After declaring himself early for the draft and participating in Chicago at the combine, and then pulling out, the Memphis sophomore is well known among the scouts. It’s apparent Lawson really struggles against speed and athleticism. He shot just 8-23 overall for just 21 points over in 5 games. Lawson has very good size and shows some face up ability, but he needs to learn to play with more of a sense of urgency if he’s to improve enough to make it at the next level.
Kuran Iverson 6-9 210 SF Rhode Island Sr.
Iverson is a blast from the past as he was a highly rated prospect in high school that has been lost in the shuffle in college due to injuries and transfer. He’s a senior and was one of the more active and athletic forwards at the event. While the Rhode Island senior still struggles to hit outside shots, his length and fluidity allows him to get into the paint and he had a number of impressive dunks and plays at the rim to score. He’s older and still somewhat limited with his offensive game, but showed enough at Nations to merit being tracked this season. Iverson averaged over 10 ppg with 51 points overall, knocking down 22/51 shots.
OG Anunoby 6-8 235 SF Indiana So.
Anunoby did not play in games due to an injured wrist, but impressed scouts in the mornings with his outside shooting form. He’s proven himself as a solid defender with a rumored 7’2.5 wingspan with strong lateral quickness. If he can become an efficient scorer, it will really enhance his draft profile.