CHICAGO -- This week’s college workouts at the Deron Williams and Amar'e Stoudemire skills academies were intense and competitive. Here’s my take on a few players among the many who stood out:
Tony Mitchell, North Texas
New UNT head coach Tony Benford has a stud power forward in Mitchell. He has a pro body with elite athletic ability, explosiveness and the ability to finish everything around the rim with power.
Mitchell was also impressive on the defensive end of the floor as he worked to push the offensive player out of his sweet spot, gapped the live dribble in order to not get beat with a quick spin and doing a great job holding his position to make the offense shoot over him. His blocked shots often resemble a volleyball spike and he has the ability to defend both forward positions.
Mitchell must continue to build his offensive skill and feel, but he has tremendous upside. One NBA scout told me today "if he can improve offensively, he will be able to make a lot of money."
It also helps that he’s already gained a trust with his new coach.
“I am very comfortable with [Benford],” Mitchell said. “He is a hard worker and doing a great job.”
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Ohio State combo forward Deshaun Thomas proved to be a tough matchup in this setting. He has a short memory and his offensive confidence is off the charts.
Thomas gives defenders nightmares and when he gets on a roll, he can rattle off points from all three areas of the floor.
He can post up and elevate over defenders with his smooth lefty turn shot or score with his midrange, rhythm dribble pull-ups and 3s off the catch or dribble. He can also pick and pop or come off a variety of screens.
Thomas has not met a shot he didn't like and I like his chances of making them as long as he is on balance, within the offense or if he is taking advantage of a defensive breakdown.
Overall, this Buckeye flat-out gets buckets and is fun to watch when he gets hot.
"I have always had a scoring mentality,” Thomas said, “and when I see a matchup I like, my eyes light up.”
Trey Burke, Michigan
At 6-foot and 185 pounds, Burke has continued to improve. He has a great command of the ball and is a terrific open court passer.
He can also knock down open jumpers on the break or when reading the defense as he comes off ball screens, can nail ball-reversal spot up 3s and make a play when the offense breaks down. Burke has worked to become a complete point guard and his improvement is easy to see, along with his improved strength.
"I had to learn how to read the way teams were guarding me and then adjust to score and get my teammates involved,” he said. “I had to get in the film room and learn all the reads off pick-and-rolls and it has really paid off for me.”
Doug McDermott, Creighton
At 6-foot-8 and 223 pounds, McDermott is a skilled combination forward who has drawn comparisons from some scouts and coaches here in Chicago to former NBA player and Miami (Ohio) great Wally Szczerbiak.
McDermott runs the floor and showed his smooth, sweet stroke in the post and from behind the arc. He is a coach’s dream when it comes to pick-and-pop action because he reads the defense and has deep range and a quick trigger.
"I get a lot off the pick-and-pop action,” McDermott said. “I have learned to get to the spot I want to on the floor before the defense can react. I am working on making a play off the dribble when the defense pressures me.”
McDermott's skill is a thing of beauty and his production is consistent. He is also one of those players who can stretch the defense and can create driving lanes and one-on-one post up situations for teammates because his defender stays attached to him whether he has the ball or not.