Is Andre Drummond Really So High Risk? And is MKG Worth a High Lottery Pick?

The consensus among NBA draft pundits seems to be that Connecticut Center Andre Drummond is one of the highest risk (and highest reward) players in the draft. However, I would posit that Drummond's physical profile actually gives him one of the higher floors in this draft.

By all accounts, Drummond is pretty much a once in every 3 or 4 years prospect athletically. He has an enormous 7'6" wingspan, excellent jumping ability for a center, a sturdy 280 lbs frame, and most impressively a lateral agility that bested many of the guards at the camp. Watching him, he's one of the few players with true rise when he dunks; when he throws it down it looks like he's still going up as the ball flies through the hoop. As I thought more about Drummond, I tried to remember a player with his athletic ability who was a huge bust at the center position. I couldn't think of any, but to test my theory I reviewed the last 30 years of NBA centers and big power forwards in an effort to find those who (to my subjective eye) possessed anywhere near Drummond's combination of size, strength, leaping abilty, and quickness. The resulting list, in reverse chronological order*:


Derrick Favors
Greg Oden
Dwight Howard
Shaquille O'Neal
Patrick Ewing
Darryl Dawkins

DeAndre Jordan

This is quite a list. Probably the worst player on this list is DeAndre Jordan, and he had two teams deem him worthy of a 4 year/$43 million contract just last summer. Oden was famously felled by ill-health, but when healthy he showed that he would have been an extremely effective player and likely an All-NBA center given a normal development curve.  Even the famously flighty Dawkins put together several effective league-average seasons offensively, though I don't recall him having a particularly good defensive reputation. There is a very good argument that these players represent Drummond's floor, and Ewing, Howard, and O'Neal his ceiling.

*Some might quibble with my selections here, and I would certainly welcome any thoughts on players I might have missed. The most obvious example one might accuse me of leaving out is Kwame Brown. But it's forgotten that Brown was a power forward prospect coming out of high school and was not really projected as a back to the basket player. I also don't think he has the strength or jumping ability of these other players. But if you want to include Kwame Brown, feel free. If so, however, you might also include the next two players I left out as not being bulky enough: David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Michael Olowokandi is another possible example, but I left him out based on lack of quickness and jumping ability. Plus, he was 23 when drafted. Andrew Bynum is another potential, but he doesn't qualify on the leaping ability and quickness traits. Finally, you might also argue that Favors isn't quite bulky enough, but I think he's on his way there with how much weight he's put on in the 3 years since high school.

Certainly this totally subjective analysis has some flaws. One is the relatively small sample size of physically comparable players; it's hard to say that just because they largely succeeded that Drummond is likely to succeed. Another is the fact that I'm pretty much just eyeballing the comparable players instead of using real data. Nevertheless, the brevity of this list shows just how rare Drummond's physical gifts really are. It is difficult to imagine how Drummond could be worse than Jordan, who in many ways had a similar freshman season to Drummond at Texas A&M. But Drummond is a much better prospect than Jordan at the same age, especially on defense. He jumps higher, weighs more, and has much better lateral agility. (Curiously though, Drummond's standing reach is 4 inches shorter than Jordan's despite having the same wingspan and height. Either Drummond has a really wide chest or a really long neck compared to Jordan.) Drummond's block rate was almost double Jordan's. Most importantly, Jordan was a year older than Drummond when he was drafted despite the fact they were both freshmen.

At UConn, Drummond exhibited good if not excellent shot blocking at 2.7 per game in 27 minutes and solid offensive rebounding. While his defensive rebounding was very disappointing, this seemed more the product of a lack of boxout technique that can be relatively easily remedied. His solid effort on the offensive glass would indicate that effort was not the problem with his rebounding. In Drummond, I think a team is getting a player who will at the very least be an above-average defensive center who can finish hard around the rim and be a threat on the offensive glass. And athletic bigs who can defend the pick and roll and also protect the basket have taken on an ever increasing importance in recent years. Combined with this high defensive floor, I think Drummond's upside should make him the #2 pick in a draft that lacks another clear-cut star aside from Anthony Davis.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist May Be a Reach.

Count me among those who thinks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a reach in the top 5. It's hard to imagine Gilchrist ever scoring more than 15 ppg in the league unless he significantly improves his scoring ability, a development most scouts do not necessarily think will be in the offing. I've heard Gilchrist thought of as a better version to Gerald Wallace, but Gilchrist lacks Wallace's nuclear athleticism. The Scottie Pippen comparison Chad Ford put out also raised my eyebrows. It's difficult to imagine MKG ever operating as a point forward. Instead, all of the "intangibles" arguments in favor of MKG remind me of those made in favor of another player from a winning program who was reached for in the top 10: Corey Brewer. Don't get me wrong, as I think MKG is a much better prospect than Brewer due to his strength, finishing ability, and youth. But it's really difficult to justify spending a top 5 pick on a wing who is not an elite scorer, shooter, or passer. Having a wing who cannot shoot in today's zone-friendly NBA can make life very difficult on the offense, especially because a team would have to surround MKG with a dynamic scorer at either the 1 or 2. In MKG, a team is basically getting a wing who will defend and play hard. While those skills are valuable, they are not rare enough to merit a top 5 pick regardless of how much MKG can change the team's culture. Moreover, his ability to change the team's culture is debatable if he is not going to be one of the best players on the team. I think MKG would be a reach at anything before Toronto with the 8th pick.

Adidas Eurocamp Day 3: Gobertgasm

In the Day 1 recap I noted that the camp defied European stereotypes with the physicality and defensive intensity the campers exhibited.  However, this year's participants also defied stereotypes in a less desirable way: None of them could shoot.  In the 15 team games played by the campers (18 games total were played but 3 games were against AIS and the French and Russian U-20 teams), they managed to make a third of their 3s precisely once.  While the camp used the NBA 3 point line* this was still a remarkably poor shooting performance for the group.

* But not the NBA defensive 3 seconds rule.

The lack of good shooters among the top prospects was confirmed in the standstill shooting drills, in which players were asked to take 25 17-footers and 25 NBA 3s from 5 spots around the horn.  I watched the relatively loaded Team 4 shoot and counted shots for a few of the prospects.

Tornike Shengelia:  11/25 17 footers, 8/25 3s
Artem Klimenko:  11/25; 4/25.  Klimenko was offered the chance to just shoot 17 footers for his second round, but inexplicably wanted to try the 3s.
Olek Czyz:  10/25 3s.
Paul Lacombe: 12/25 3 (led team).

From what I heard, the results were little better for the other teams.  In an unguarded, stationary drill like this, guys who should actually be shooting 3s for an NBA team need to be making 60-65%.  Awesome shooters like Ben Gordon or Ray Allen make at least 80%.

As promised, here is my analysis of the best NBA prospects I'd yet to mention.

Rudy Gobert:  Gobert's (pronounced "Go-Bear") outstanding performance has been more than adequately covered elsewhere, and he impressed enough to be elevated to the Top 5 of DraftExpress' 2013 Mock Draft.

I posed the question yesterday of whether Gobert's dominating performance was the result of playing against the undersized Russian U-20 team.  So, I and the gaggle of NBA scouts watched with great interest as he matched up with 7'1" Artem Klimenko and camp beast Darko Planinic in the last game of Day 3.  Gobert more than held his own against those two players.  His best defensive play of the day was against a Planinic postup from the left block.  Planinic lowered his left shoulder and knocked Gobert back, but not as far as you'd expect given his slight frame.  Gobert had the strength to absorb the bump and recover to block Planinic's previously unstoppable lefty hook in the air, a play few others in the world could have made.  Other highlights included blocking Klimenko's elbow jumper and a tip dunk in which he mistimed his leap and still managed to bang it home with aplomb.

Gobert also impressed offensively, even eliciting a collective gasp from the scouts when he swished a lefty hook from the baseline.  A few minutes later, Gobert nearly tested the scouts' refractory period with a jumper from the elbow that sadly rimmed out.  If Gobert can refine his hook shots, they should be unblockable.  Despite the elbow jumper he uncorked, it's hard to imagine this becoming a significant part of his game.  He shoots with his left elbow far out to the side and it takes him an hour to get his shot off.  Fortunately for Gobert, it's hard to imagine why a team would want him spotting up anyway.  He would, however, be well-served to develop a Yao Ming/Rasheed Wallace high release turnaround jumper in the post in addition to his hook shots.  With his ridiculously long arms, this shot would be nigh unblockable as well.

I concur with those rating Gobert so highly; while I haven't seen a lot of the 2013 players yet he certainly looked the part of a Top 5 pick. Here is a solid highlight package of his work at the Eurocamp.

Artem Kliemenko:  Outside of Gobert, I thought the 7'1" Kliemenko was the best long-term prospect at the camp.  The 1994-born Russian's best attributes are his lateral quickness for his size and his soft touch with hooks and floaters out to about 10 feet, even when being bumped or catching on the move.  However, the soft touch is also his greatest weakness at this point, as he did not display a great ability to finish strong in the paint and often settled for little flip shots in the lane.  While a lot went in, he got a few of these shots blocked.  Kliemnko also exhibited a nice turn and face jumper at the elbow at one point.  His jumper looks smooth enough that it's easy to imagine it becoming an efficient weapon in time.

On defense, Kliemenko showed good shot-blocking instincts and lateral quickness guarding pick and rolls.  He was the camp's best help defender (Gobert excepted), although he was vulnerable to post-ups and offensive rebounds in strength matchups.  Still, he was a reasonable choice as the camp's outstanding defensive player (an award for which Gobert was ineligible).  The centerless Russian U-20 team certainly could have used him.

Kliemenko was very active on the offensive glass, and was the camper who best took advantage of the international rule allowing him to tip in balls within the cylinder.  His defensive rebounding needs work though, as he exhibited some of the worst box out technique I've ever seen.  This consisted of turning his body 90 degrees from the rim and reaching out toward the offensive player with one forearm and trying to ward him off.  It resulted in his being unable to either block out his man or go after the ball.  Kliemenko is currently playing in the 3rd division in Russia, and while the playing time he's gotten has shown in the relative comfort of his offensive game, his lack of technique finishing and rebounding are cause for concern.

Kliemenko has a good frame with very low body fat, which bodes well for the 18 year old's potential to develop an NBA body in time.  However, his current club situation may not bode well for his receiving the proper strength training and nutrition to make that happen.  Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing for a player who had been a relative unknown coming into the camp.

Nikola Ivanovic:  The 1994-born Ivanovic was almost exactly as advertised.  He was one of the steadiest point guards in the camp, especially on the manic Day 1.  He also exhibits solid strength for his age and excellent feel for running the pick and roll.  He did well to wait for the screener and almost always made the right decision, including pulling up for a 16 foot jumper rather than blindly rushing into traffic.  At this stage, that jumper was more acceptable than good.  Ivanovic hit a few NBA spot up 3s, but like the rest of the campers did not prove it was a shot you wanted him taking consistently.  (Again, an NBA 3 is a tall order for a 17 year old.)  His release looked solid, though he brings the ball up too far in front of his body.

Part of the reason Ivanovic was loathe to penetrate to the rim was that he really lacks the ability to finish there at 6'2" with a 28" max vert that appeared little better off one foot.  His number one project should be developing a floater and Steve Nash type running hooks that can provide a credible threat to the help defense and open up passing lanes.

On a more general level, without knowing his age there was nothing about Ivanovic that made him particularly stand out.  While the ability to hold his own was impressive in this setting, the lack of any "wow" plays would seem to limit the Montenegran's ceiling.

Metacan Birsen:  I immediately gravitated towards Birsen after seeing his 1995 birthdate, which made the 6'8.75" forward the youngest player in the camp.  He continued the theme of young players exhibiting basketball IQs beyond their years, especially with the calm he displayed on the frenetic first day.  He looked solid taking the ball to the lane (if not the basket) off the dribble on kickouts, made good decisions, and drained an NBA 3.  On Days 2 and 3 he took more of a backseat to his older teammates, though he did deliver the best pass of the camp--a sweet no look off a Eurostep to a cutting big man that he created out of thin air.

Unsurprisingly for a 17 year old, Birsen's weakness is his physical profile.  While he can add strength, his very below-average lateral quickness and leaping ability will need to improve immensely before he can think about playing the 3 (his natural position) in the NBA.  He was dominated in his matchup with Daniel Diez on Day 3.  Even with some improvement, he will likely always have below average NBA athleticism and will need to become an excellent shooter to set up his drives and passing.  Since he is in the system of perennial Euroleague team Fenerbache, he should continue to develop nicely.

Daniel Diez was listed as a power forward on the camp roster, but at 6'8" in shoes and only 204 lbs he's fairly clearly a small forward at even the European level.  However, he showed that he has a small forward's game.  While he didn't show off any advanced dribble moves, he was able to fly in from the wing or in transition for dunks or explosive lay-ins off one foot.  He also showed off one of the more effective and better-looking shooting strokes in the camp, hitting 3s and quick release 17 footers on the move off out of bounds plays.  Diez also displayed solid rebounding and energy.  His style evokes a slightly skinnier Omri Casspi with better shooting form.  As a 1993-born player in the Real Madrid system, Diez offers some hope of becoming an NBA prospect at the 3 if he can continue to refine his shooting stroke and add muscle

Ilkan Karaman was perhaps the only player at the camp with a true NBA body at this stage.  He has more than adequate size at 6'9.5" in shoes, 7'0.5" wingspan, and a sculpted 236 lbs frame.  He showed off his excellent leaping ability with 3 emphatic blocks in the first half of his game on Day 3, and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes with a running clock on Day 2.  But while he had previously shown off a reasonable touch out to the NBA 3 point line he badly missed all the jumpers he took on Day 3.  Still, it appears that the 1992-born Turk has the ability to develop a consistent shooting stroke in time.  Karaman's biggest weakness right now is his complete lack of a right hand.  He's the type of lefty who drives left but has to pull up on the rare occasions he goes right because he can't finish going that way.  He always plays with his left side forward at this stage.  As a draft-eligible player this year, he might be worth a late-second round flier based on his physical ability, shot-blocking at the 4, and the potential for developing his jump shot.

Oleksandr Lpovvy was named tournament MVP, but frankly not a ton about his play jumped out at me.  The 6'7" combo guard played point much of the time for the loaded Team 4, which went undefeated.  He had a couple of nice drives to the basket and ran the team well, but he was another player who did not display much shooting ability in the drills or games.  I thought he was the third-best player on his own team behind Shengelia and Czyz, and is not particularly young either (1991).  He does not appear to be an NBA prospect to these eyes.

I wrote at length about Tornike Shengelia on Day 2, and he continued to dominate on Day 3.  Given his skill set, Shengelia played as well as he possibly could have in the competitive portion of the event.  He even inspired Kelvin Sampson to run a couple of hero ball isolations for him at the top of the key toward the end of the All-Star game against Team France, though these met with predictable results.

However, Shengelia's 11/25 shooting on 17 footers in the drills and 8/25 shooting on 3s proved that his competent 3 point shooting in the competitive games was likely a mirage.  He shoots a very flat shot and tilts slightly to the left as he releases, which calls into question his ability to improve the aspect of his game that will be absolutely vital to his NBA success.  Still, Shengelia showed enough heart, toughness, and moves attacking the basket to merit a mid to late second round wager on whether his skills will develop.

It must also be mentioned that the Georgian carries the stigma of potentially being older than his listed December 1991 birthdate.  Although there's nothing other than his nationality and physical maturity to suggest this, the farce of his countryman Zaza Pachulia entering the league at "19" a few years ago has focused skepticism on the age of Georgian prospects going forward.

Olek Czyz was not considered an NBA prospect coming in, and he likely still is not due to the fact he is not really an NBA 4 at 6'8" in shoes.  Still, like Tornike he played as well as he possibly could at this camp, even making a couple of NBA 3s.  His greatest attribute is his ability to penetrate in short bursts after receiving the ball in the midrange area.  He regularly used his strength to widen a slight initial advantage on his defender off the bounce, and excelled at powering up off a 2 foot jump stop  to draw the foul or finish over the less athletic big men in the camp.  I would compare his style (if not his quality) to an early career Andres Nocioni.  If Czyz proves he has the lateral quickness to guard 3s and improves his 3 point shot, he could conceivably evolve into an NBA player in a few years. But in his current iteration as a small 4, Europe is where he belongs.

Overall, the Eurocamp was great fun and a great opportunity for the European players to showcase themselves rather than being buried on the bench for their club teams.  I will definitely be back next year.

Adidas Eurocamp Day 2-- Polish and Potential

The quality of play on Day 2 of the Eurocamp markedly improved.  While the effort and team play the first day were commendable, it spawned games marred by turnovers and overpassing.  Not so today, particularly the first game of the day between Team 3 (Evan Fournier, Darko Planinic) and Team 4 (Artem Klimenko, Tornike Shengelia, Olek Czyz).  While Team 4 led 29-12 at one point, Fournier and Planinic led a rousing comeback that could not be completed due to the running clock, resulting in a low 48-44 final.

Shengelia and Czyz (pronounced "Chiz") also impressed in the transition drills before the games began, although I only saw half of the players since the rest were in the other gym.  For the drill, each team of 10 was split in half.  The drill was a 5 on 4, with the fifth defensive player sprinting onto the court once the ball crossed halfcourt.  The semi-transition situation allowed the players to be more aggressive and loosen up.  After a make or miss, the defensive team became the offensive team going the other way, where the 5 other players from the original offensive team were waiting.  The teams played two games to 50, with score kept by the coaches.

Evan Fournier made his debut today and immediately established himself as the not only the best prospect on the floor, but the best player as well.  (There is a difference.)  The smoothness and confidence in his game were without peer at the camp.  I heard that his team, Poitiers, runs everything through him, and his experience running the pick and roll was obvious.  He spent most of the game at the point, although this was no challenge for him defensively with the dearth of quick guards in this setting.  Unlike most guards at the camp, he drove hard to the basket and was generally able to finish despite the fact that the refs were calling absolutely nothing.  (I speculated that they might have been under orders to call things a little more loosely given the setting, since nobody wants to see these prospects shooting free throws.  Team 3 was only granted 4 free throws the entire game.)

Fournier's outside shooting mirrored the results from his workout yesterday.  When his man went under the screen on the pick and roll, he was able to drill one set-shot NBA three, while nailing another on a quick release spot-up from the corner after an offensive rebound.  He shot 2-4 on 3s overall against Team 4; like in his workout his 2 misses came when he was unable to get his feet set beforehand.  Overall the Frenchman finished with 13 points on 9 shooting possessions, 4 assists (the rest of the team had 3 combined) and a +13 in a game his team lost by 4.  I missed most of Fournier's second game of the day for the U-20 French National team, although he displayed similar efficiency against the overmatched Russians.

Donatas Montejunas (2011 draftee--rights owned by Houston Rockets).  Montejunas' workout with the Rockets' coaching staff was the reason I missed most of the French U-20 game.  Rockets' assistant Kelvin Sampson ran the workout, although coach Kevin McHale stepped in at various points to offer his unique expertise to the 7 footer as Rockets GM Daryl Morey looked on.

Montejunas looked cut and appeared in solid shape during the hour-long workout.  I'd estimate he's about 230 lbs now, up from the 215 listed on his DraftExpress profile.  The lefty showed off an advanced skill level with left and right-handed jump hooks out to about 9 feet.  Occasionally he'd change up with a coy sweeping right-handed hook.  After some early foibles, he was nearly automatic with these shots against slightly more than token arm-bar post defense.   The Lithuanian also looked extremely coachable, quickly learning the series of advanced spin moves he was taught within one or two repetitions and taking McHale's advice to explode hard on all his moves despite his fatigue as the workout dragged on.  He displayed quickness far above-average for a 7-footer, and has the tools to be an effective pick and roll defender.  I think that his quickness could allow him to be effective taking other bigs off the dribble from the mid-post area once his jumper is enough of a weapon

Montejunas displayed above-average jumping ability compared to the bigs in the Eurocamp, but he's not going to be dunking on people at the NBA level.  I would likewise wager he isn't going to be much of a shot blocker or an especially effective offensive rebounder.  His shooting also has a ways to go, as he hit only 35-40% of his unguarded NBA 3s in the workout.  This isn't really a high enough percentage that he should be taking them in the games just yet.  He did hit his free throws, even while tired.  (When he was exhausted, he was told to shoot free throws until he recovered.)  Also, his hands are pretty small, as he lost the ball a number of times going up for one-handed dunks.  Finally, all of the praise for his moves comes with the huge asterisk that he wasn't facing real defense.  While having the skills to execute the moves in a workout is nice, it means nothing without the ability to react to the defense and make the move without being knocked off balance by a physical defender.

Overall though, I was impressed by the potential his workout showed.  He should be playable for the Rockets next year if he can hold his own on the boards.

Two other players stood out today as well.  Although neither draft-eligible player looks to be a real NBA prospect, they both appear to have long Euroleague careers ahead of them.  Although Darko Planinic has a first and last name combination that might trigger PTSD for Joe Dumars and Rod Thorn, he showed much more heart than either of his namesakes.  I would describe Planinic's game as a poor-man's Non...err, Nikola Pekovic.  Every time down he would race the floor and slam his ass into whoever was guarding him, pushing his defender right under the basket.  On straight postups from the block, he showed an excellent ability to spin into jump hooks with either hand, using his off arm and shoulder to block off the defender.  Going middle, he was often able to use his strength to seal his defender and finish with a layin on the other side of the rim.  Once he received the ball in the post today, it was a near-automatic bucket or foul. He was especially dominant in leading Team 3's comeback from a 17 point deficit in the first game of the day.

Planinic isn't an NBA prospect because he lacks explosiveness (27/24 step/no-step vertical in the camp athletic testing), doesn't provide much defensive value, and is old for the camp with a 1990 birthday. Also, from what I saw he is not the rebounder Pekovic is, although few are.  Nonetheless, the Croatian's toughness should allow him to carve out a solid European career.

Tornike Shenglia, a December 1991-born player with Belgium's Charleroi in the Euroleague, also played well today.  The Georgian forward was originally listed at 6'10" by the camp, and had me thinking he might be an NBA prospect yesterday and the early part of today when he was playing power forward for Team 4. (He later shifted to the 3.)  He was excellent taking bigger players off the dribble with his favored baseline spin moves and taking the ball hard to the basket in transition. He also displayed a decent 3 point shot, although he was 0-4 from the foul line with all 4 misses short.  Unfortunately, as the day went on it became clearer that he would have trouble making it as an NBA power forward defensively or finishing inside.  The biggest problem is that Shenglia is almost exclusively a 1 foot player.  He is effective driving to the basket and can get up for some solid dunks with a head of steam, but proved unable to explode off two feet when receiving the ball under the basket.  He also did not particularly impress as a rebounder, although his Euroleague numbers were solid in that regard.  He provides no shot-blocking and carries a poor defensive reputation.  His vitals testing confirmed that he isn't really an NBA power forward prospect, as he measured at 6'8" in socks and recorded 28.5/23.5 verticals.  While he's been compared to Andres Nocioni, he doesn't have the Argentinian's two-foot explosiveness.  I'll be watching his rebounding closely tomorrow though, because what I saw the first two days did not jive with his solid rebounding statistics.  But my current impression is that he is not a solid NBA prospect unless he can improve his shooting to Matt Bonner levels.

Negueba Samake.  Imagine you are an NBA scout whose job depends on the quality of the recommendations you make to your GM.  You walk into a gym seeing a player you know literally nothing about.  He has the body of Dwight Howard except 2 inches taller with longer arms.  As the workout unfolds, tidbits of information begin to spread among the assembled scouts:  He plays in the French Division B, and only played 10 minutes the whole season.  You aren't sure how old he is.  But watching him dunk is ridiculous, especially one-handed.   His standing reach is at least 9'6".  Of course, his game is completely unpolished and his coordination rather lacking.  Watching him robotically execute post moves, it's clear nobody will ever call a postup for him.  He doesn't even know the proper way to roll to the basket.  He simply doesn't move with the type of grace a natural basketball player possesses.

Watching the scouts shake their heads, it's clear that players like Samake are the bane of their existence.  If you recommend the team take him, odds are it won't work out and it's a black mark on your resume.  If you recommend the team pass and he becomes a solid NBA contributor, the GM will want to know how everyone missed him.  By the time his workout was over, most scouts had left the gym shaking their heads in frustration.*

*It didn't help that Danilo Gallinari was working out at the same time on the other end of the court, providing a ridiculous contrast.

Were it my call, I would take a late second-round flier on him, but only if there were nobody else the team liked.  For the record, I think it's very unlikely Samake will ever play in the NBA, much less be an impact player.  He is 22, and if he's that age and getting no tick in the French 2nd Division there's probably a reason.  His relatively advanced age also does not augur well for his development.  Most disconcerting though was a very simple drill in which he was asked to slide lane line to lane line.  His slides, like everything else aside from his dunking, were awkward and robotic.  Any value Samake will provide is on defense; if he can't really move laterally and get in position to block shots he will have no use at all.

However, his length, strength, and leaping ability give him a 5% chance of becoming a game-changing defensive presence.  There is always the possibility that he just hasn't received any good coaching, and that he could blossom in the right environment.  That's worth a late second round pick.

Finally, a shoutout to center Izzet Turkyilmaz, who has a name worthy of a Yunkish (mild spoiler alert) lord from George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.  (Don't worry Game of Thrones viewers, you'll know what I'm talking about by Season 5.)

Tomorrow:  The Eurocamp wraps up with the U-20 French team against another Eurocamp All-Star team.  7'0" Rudy Gobert (an Alexis Ajinca lookalike physically) impressed against the far smaller U-20 Russians, going 7-8 with 5 dunks.  It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up against a team with real big men.  Also tomorrow, full reports on my impressions of the camp's youngest (and theoretically highest ceiling) players.

Adidas Eurocamp Day One

The consensus has been that this year's draft featured the least exciting crop of international players in some time.  Among those automatically eligible and those who have declared, the consensus is that there is only one potential first-round pick.  That player, 1992-born Frenchman Evan Fournier, didn't play today, although scuttlebutt is he'll play tomorrow.  With the dearth of draft-eligible prospects this year, the hope was that one of the younger players would emerge to whet scouts' appetites for the future.  Sadly though, nobody who played in the competitive games today jumped out as a surefire NBA prospect.

Jonas Bergstedt:  Bergstedt was considered one of the more intriguing prospects at the camp due to his relative lack of exposure playing for Torrelodones in the Spanish Fourth Division, the fact that he picked up basketball at a relatively late age, and his listed height of 6'11".*

*Not that anyone has said this, but I would bet many people expected him to be pretty athletic because he's of mixed race.

Jonas Bergstedt was considered a potential sleeper coming into the Adidas Eurocamp.

However, today made clear that the Dane is not an NBA prospect.  While one might wonder how such a snap judgment could be reached after only a day of action, his physical limitations made it obvious that he would have difficulty succeeding as an inside player in the NBA.   While he was listed on the camp roster at 6'11", I would be very surprised if he measured out that tall in the official testing done today.  Bergstedt exhibited above-average activity and quick feet, which would have made him an excellent pick and roll defender were he actually his listed height.

His leaping ability is what really holds him back from being a prospect.  It was only above-average for this setting, equating to average at best at the NBA level.  His explosion finishing inside and contesting shots was not particularly noteworthy, and he got pushed around a bit by some of the larger bigs.  Bergstedt might be able to survive in the NBA at his size and athleticism if he had the skills to play as a stretch 4, but that does not appear to be in the offing anytime soon.  His jumper didn't go in very often in the drills and warmups, and he looked uncomfortable shooting it in the game.  The one time he tried to put the ball on the floor he showed a decent first step, but couldn't put together two left-handed dribbles before losing the ball, regaining control, and bricking a jump hook by 4 feet.  His final line for the first game: 23 Minutes (with a running clock), 2/6 FG, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and a -3 in a game his team won by 9 points.

Bergstedt looked better in his second game against the Russian U-20 team, but that performance comes with a huge asterisk.  As a soon to be 21 year old, he was miles ahead of the physically undeveloped Russian bigs in quickness, leaping ability, and even strength (not an advantage for him against the other camp bigs).  Even so, his performance against the Russians was more "good" and "active" rather than dominating.  He does not have the sort of outstanding length or athleticism of previous Eurocamp sleepers like Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, or even busts like Mouhamed Saer Sene.

I'll have more notes on some other, younger prospects like Nikola Ivanovic, Metacan Birsen (the camp's youngest player born in 1995), Artem Klimenko (a 7'0" Russian born in 1994) later in the week when I've gotten a little more of a sample-size on their skill-set.

News and Notes:

  • The camp started with a speech by Timberwolves assistant Bill Bayno, in which he implored players to move the ball and play unselfishly.  The first thing he told the players was that nobody was keeping stats, and the talent evaluators were looking for guys who could play within the team concept.  The first thing waiting for me outside the gym when the first game was over:  A stat sheet.
  • That said, almost all the players took Bayno's advice to move the ball and stay within their skill set.  At times the players were too unselfish, although it was hard to know whether it was the players listening to him or the general European basketball ethos.  It would have been nice to see guys try to go one on one at times to see whether they could do it or not.  And even off the staple pick and roll, guys had an advantage as they drove but instead tried to kick the ball to shooters who weren't especially open.
  • Those who have only heard the old "soft" stereotypes about European basketball would have been shocked by the games at the camp.  The defense was extremely intense (Bayno remarked in one of his speeches that the defense was ahead of the offense) and the games very physical.  The refs called very little, even on the ball.  Meanwhile, the teams in the first two games combined to shoot 9/40 on 3s, while almost none of the 4s and 5s stepped outside for 3s or looked like particularly skilled shooters.
  • Nobody stood out as an above-average NBA athlete for their height, with one notable exception.  Watching France's Abdoulaye Loum in the layup line, it was clear the forward (listed at 6'11" but probably more like 6'9") had "nuclear" jumping ability.  Unfortunately, he was also a notable exception when it came to following Bayno's advice to stay within his skill set.  Loum took approximately 10 jumpers warming up and missed them all.  Buoyed by this performance, all of his shots in the game were contested jumpers from 20 feet or further.  Even his one make was an abomination, as it was the product of four barely controlled dribbled as he first tried to penetrate, lost control, regained, and shot a 3.   Loum's shot selection was so bad that he had a group of prominent NBA personnel laughing over it at lunch.    He was limited to only 4 shots because his teammates soon learned never to give him the ball.  It was a shame because if he focused on shot blocking, rebounding, and dunking everything in sight he might have impressed some people.
  • I caught the second half of Evan Fournier's individual workout, conducted by Knicks assistant Kenny Atkinson.  The part I saw consisted mostly of shooting on the move coming off screens and off the dribble.  At this Fournier appeared average at best, hitting around 50% on long 2s and 3s.  Fournier certainly has the smoothness of an NBA prospect though, and he displayed average NBA jumping ability when finishing off one foot.  It's been reported elsewhere that Fournier hit 5 straight 3s from well beyond the NBA line at the end.  He did look great shooting these, and made about 8 out of 10 overall.  But it must be said that these were set shots, with multiple attempts in a row from the same location.  On the move or off the dribble, his accuracy deteriorated.
  • Fournier also looked pretty gassed by the end of the workout.  While the intensity may have been higher in the beginning, the part I saw was not conducted at what seemed like a particularly fast tempo by NBA standards.
  • Fournier was lightly guarded in various drills by Atkinson, and used a trash can as his screener.  Way more effective than the Yi Jianlian chair.
  • A welcome addition to NBA media rooms: Enormous wheel of parmesan cheese at the buffet.  Being in Italy does have its perks.
Stay tuned tomorrow for coverage of Day 2.