NBA pre-Draft camp review: day one
Though there aren’t any lottery picks in attendance , the Pre-Draft Camp always provides some intrigue, and this year features a handful of potential late first-rounder picks battling for position. The first day is always very laid-back, but once the players were acclimated with the setting, they got the opportunity to get up and down in a 5-on-5 setting for a few ten-minute periods. While today’s performance won’t make or break the whole week for any, a couple of players gained some valuable momentum moving forward.
The first day of the NBA Pre-Draft Camp never offers onlookers much insight into the talents of the players in attendance. It consists primarily of the players breaking into their teams and then performing drills acquainting them with the offensive sets that they’ll be running throughout the week. Despite the practice-like feel of the evening session, the players also got the opportunity to participate in scrimmages run by the coaches as a tool to improve the offensive flow for the rest of the week.
Whether it was their nerves, the atmosphere of the games, or the fact that the teams have absolutely no experience working with one another, the play on the first evening is always sloppy at best. With the coaches refereeing the action more as teachers than officials, players were able to get away with numerous fouls, slowing the action and accentuating how hard some players were forcing the issue.
Those are common characteristic of games in this setting, but today seemed to be especially lackluster since this is one of the best Pre-Draft Camp rosters in a while. Few of the shooters were shooting, no one has handling the ball well, and only a couple of players managed to stand out at all. While it is easy to expect more talented players to show better, the play today showed just how hard this setting is to perform well in.
Though there aren’t a lot of concrete observations that can be taken away from day one, there were a handful of players that left and impression. Physically, there were a number of standouts who appear to have shed quite a bit of weight. At the top of that list is Shaun Pruitt who appears to have dropped a significant amount of weight to the point that he almost resembles Devon Hardin physically. Malik Hairston was probably the bigger surprise amongst guards, looking especially lean considering how much weight he carried during his time at Oregon. James Gist seems to have lost some weight, and looks like he is trying to slim down in an effort to transition to the perimeter. In contrast, Richard Hendrix looks incredibly strong, perhaps trying to compensating for his lack of size with a very muscular physique.
While many players use the time before the Pre-Draft Camp to prepare their bodies, others can’t help but have their physical shortcoming exposed in this setting. John Reik didn’t participate in most of the session’s activities, and moves very awkwardly. Vladamir Golubovic looked big and heavy, seeming out of place amongst the quick, agile bigmen in attendance. Both Joe Crawford and DeMarcus Nelson showed during the scrimmages that their height may be an issue, having a hard time converting once in the paint. However, they were likely getting fouled, and will have a chance to show that they can effectively score despite their size.
In terms of lackluster performances today, there are quite a few to choose from. Wayne Ellington was struggling mightily from the perimeter, something that will hurt his stock in a big way if he doesn’t turn things around. Shan Foster suffered from the same issues, and just seemed to be nervous. He had a very tough time handling pressure as a ball-handler, dribbling into trouble on a couple of occasions. It seemed like every shooter was having issues. Maarty Leunen didn’t seem to be in rhythm, while Jamar Butler and Drew Nietzel didn’t even seem to be looking for their offense. Pat Calathes seemed unusually quiet as well.
On the positive side, Joey Dorsey and Deron Washington used their athleticism to make an impact on both ends. Washington had an especially good day, finishing two monster dunks and making an impact running the floor on a handful of occasions. Dorsey on the other hand was simply too strong and fast to overlook. He and Hardin should provide an interesting storyline as each vies for a spot late in the first-round. Patrick Ewing Jr. showed very nice athleticism, but needs to hit his jump shots to propel his stock. Brian Roberts showed some nice things on both ends, staying aggressive defensively and being one of the few sharp players on the offensive end. J.R. Giddens came out firing, knocking down a three and getting to the rim, but then started to force things when his he began seeing the ball much less frequently. Lester Hudson was quiet for most of the session, but turned things around late, knocking down a buzzer-beater and a floater to close play on day one.
Considering the setting, it wouldn’t be fair to evaluate any of these players on just one day of work. However, it is important to note who gained momentum moving forward. With major NBA decision-makers in attendance, including nearly every General Manager around the League, momentum is key in such a short, hard to predict setting.
Matthew Kamalsky is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
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