Monday, April 13, 2009
Updated: April 22, 5:10 PM ET
Buzz from the Nike Hoop Summit
By Chad Ford
A number of NBA scouts and executives came out for the Nike Hoop Summit and the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament this past week. The Hoop Summit has quickly surpassed the PIT as the draft scouting event in April.
The PIT hasn't produced a great NBA player in the last decade. The Hoop Summit, on the other hand, has seen a number of terrific prospects over the past few years, both international (Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, Yi Jianlian, Nicolas Batum, Alexis Ajinca) and American (Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo).
At this year's Hoop Summit, there was strong talent from both sides of the Atlantic, and a few things went down that could have a big impact on the 2009 NBA draft.
I spoke with a number of NBA scouts and executives, along with ESPN.com's John Hollinger, who were at the game. Here's their take on who looked intriguing.
John Wall, PG, uncommitted
Pegged as a Derrick Rose clone and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Wall was terrific against the World Team. He showed off his amazing speed, toughness and ridiculous leaping ability on his way to 13 points and 11 assists. While it's clear he needs to work on his jump shot and decision-making in the half-court game, he did about everything he could to get GMs drooling.
After the game a few scouts mentioned to me that they believe Wall is hesitating to commit to a school because he believes he could be eligible for this year's draft. They might be on to something.
Wall is technically in his fifth year of high school -- he had four years of eligibility at a regular high school and played at the Word of God prep school in North Carolina this year. The McDonald's All-American game ruled him ineligible to play because he was a fifth-year senior.
The NBA collective bargaining agreement says an American player is eligible for the draft if:
"The player is or will be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held, and with respect to a player who is not an international player, at least one NBA Season has elapsed since the player's graduation from high school (or, if the player did not graduate from high school, since the graduation of the class with which the player would have graduated had he graduated from high school)" -- Article X, Section 1(b)(i).
Wall will turn 19 in September, so he's clear there. The question is: When did Wall's class graduate? If he's truly a fifth-year senior, then it was last year, making him eligible for the 2009 draft.
Since this is a gray area in the NBA CBA, I asked for a comment from the league on Wall's eligibility. The NBA's Tim Frank responded with this:
"Don't have an opinion yet
if he applies, we will then do our due diligence to determine his eligibility."
I spoke with a number of NBA executives who believe, given the facts, that Wall would be eligible for the draft. However, several others disagree.
It will be interesting to see whether Wall applies and forces the NBA's hand. If he is eligible, scouts say he would likely be a high lottery pick, probably somewhere in the 3 to 5 range. And if he goes to college, he has a great chance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.
(UPDATE: Wall told reporters on Wednesday that he won't be declaring for the 2009 NBA Draft. While several league sources on Wednesday thought he might still take a shot at the draft, Wall was pretty adamant that he's going to be playing in college next season.)
Donatas Motiejunas, F, Lithuania
Motiejunas was the other big-time prospect at the Hoop Summit whom NBA scouts were dying to get a look at. He has had a terrific season in Lithuania and made the all-star team this year by averaging 18 ppg -- that's pretty impressive for an 18-year-old.
Big and athletic, he can take his man off the dribble and has a variety of moves around the basket. His jump shot is solid, too, but he's not a great shooter yet. The key for him is his motor -- he's very aggressive putting the ball on the floor.
Tabbed the next Toni Kukoc or Dirk Nowitzki, Motiejunas had scouts leaning much more heavily toward the Kukoc comparison after they watched him for several days in practice and in the game. After a rocky start to the game, he turned it on in the second half, showing great court awareness.
The buzz after the game was that Motiejunas was leaning toward declaring for the 2009 draft. Although he needs to get stronger and keep working on his jumper, he is a legit prospect. One NBA GM I spoke with said he thought Motiejunas would be a top-12 pick in this year's draft. Two other international scouts who have seen much more of him think his range is 15 to 25. All of them felt that with another year in Lithuania under his belt, he would be a surefire lottery pick in 2010.
Xavier Henry, G/F, uncommitted
Still deciding on a school (likely either Kansas or Kentucky), Henry shot the lights out for Team USA -- 6-for-11 from 3 -- and ended the game with 22 points. He has all the physical tools you want in a swingman -- he's strong, long and athletic. Plus, he has NBA range on his jumper and is a terrific finisher around the basket.
While he needs to improve his ball-handling and defensive intensity, Henry has a chance to be a special college and NBA player someday. Scouts and executives I spoke with think he's got the talent to be a top-10 pick in 2010.
Tomislav Zubcic, F, Croatia
Zubcic didn't come into the Nike Hoop Summit with a lot of buzz, and several NBA scouts weren't blown away by him in practices, either. However, once he got in the game, the 6-foot-11 forward was terrific -- he finished with 17 points in just 19 minutes of play.
He was the team's primary ball-handler, showing the quickness to take much smaller guards off the dribble and proving he has 3-point range on his jumper. He could be a serious first-round prospect to watch in 2010.
Avery Bradley, G, Texas
Bradley may be a bit undersized as a combo guard, but he was terrific both in the McDonald's All-American game and at the Nike Hoop Summit. Against the World Team, he finished with 21 points on 14 shots and showed off a lethal combination of quickness and athleticism, and a defensive intensity that most players his age don't have.
While he clearly needs to work on his 3-point shooting, he could be a big-time prospect at Texas next season. Right now scouts have him pegged as a mid-first-rounder in 2010, but given his talent he could rise.
Milan Macvan, PF, Serbia
Macvan may not look the part of an NBA player, but he absolutely dominated a number of young prospects who are expected to be lottery picks someday. Widely considered to be one of the best young players in Europe, it's easy to see why: He finished the game with 23 points and 14 boards (9 on the offensive end), and hit a 3-pointer late in the game that sealed a rare victory for the World Team. He's kind of like Serbia's version of Kevin Love.
Macvan's lack of height, length and explosiveness puts a pretty low ceiling on what type of NBA player he can be, but expect him to be considered in the second round when he declares for the draft.
John Henson, F, North Carolina
The most intriguing forward in his class, Henson is blessed with great size, length and athleticism. He also has a terrific motor and a great nose for the ball.
He had a strong game for Team USA, scoring 10 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. However, he was pushed around in the paint by the World Team's forwards. He's a top-5 pick in the 2010 NBA draft based on talent, but he must get stronger if he's going to excel in the NBA.
Kevin Seraphin, F, France
Seraphin had an impressive showing and looks like he could be a player down the road. His 8 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks may not jump off the stat sheet, but he had a big impact on the game on both ends of the floor.
He has the right combination of size, strength and athleticism that NBA scouts look for. If he can get more familiar with the game and improve his offense, he could be a sleeper late first-round pick in 2010 or 2011.
Edwin Jackson, SG, France
Heading into the Nike Hoop Summit, Jackson had quite a bit of buzz. He had drawn comparisons to Tony Parker with his combination of quickness and athleticism. However, Jackson is more of a scorer and doesn't have the playmaking skills or the creativity of Parker.
Against Team USA's elite guards, he looked overmatched. He might have some potential as a second-round pick down the road, but he needs more seasoning in France first.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.