Lack of stars puts spotlight on lesser prospects
Of all the players at the NBA predraft camp in Orlando, Fla., last week, only Jordan Farmar came in with a legitimate chance of being selected in the first round of the NBA draft on June 28 (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).
While no player dominated in a camp full of second-tier prospects, some did manage to boost their draft stock, either solidifying second-round slots or cementing spots in European leagues.
Here's a breakdown of some players who helped themselves (heights listed are official measurements, without shoes):
Kenny Adeleke | PF | 6-foot-7¾ | Hartford
Though undersized for a power forward, Adeleke did a great job of demonstrating his power and playing physically throughout the camp. Though unorthodox and unpolished, the lefty did yeoman's work on the boards and played within himself, not forcing on offense. Adeleke has a very flawed shooting form once he steps away from the basket and struggles from the line, but he does his best work when making moves around the basket. He has a great motor, and he never took possessions or drills off during the camp. Adeleke may have worked himself into the late first-round mix for the NBA draft. He definitely will have a spot in Round 2.
Morris Almond | SG/SF | 6-6 | Rice (Jr.)
Almond displayed good athleticism and shooting touch in some games during the camp. He has a decent body for an NBA swingman, but he needs to continue to develop his game off the dribble and his shot from long range. He has nice shooting form on his jump shot and is capable of shooting the NBA 3. Almond allowed the game to come to him, getting his points in the flow of the offense as opposed to trying to force the issue. He has to decide whether to remain in the draft or return to Rice for his senior season. With the current buzz, Almond probably should go back to school and improve his stock for next year.
Louis Amundson | PF | 6-7¼ | UNLV
Amundson has a great deal of athleticism and good springs. He runs the court very well and plays above the rim. He also plays hard, crashing the boards on the offensive end just as actively as he rebounds on the defensive end. However, he rates as an undersized power forward who needs to add more tools to his arsenal. He really needs to improve his shooting, as he struggles from the 10- to 15-foot range. His form needs work, as well. He sometimes puts the ball almost behind his head as he shoots. Amundson plays very aggressively, displaying a warrior's mentality. He probably gained a spot in the second round.
Renaldo Balkman | SF/PF | 6-6½ | South Carolina (Jr.)
Balkman, as much as any other player in the camp, made a name for himself through his spirited play. Balkman does a number of small things that do not show up in the box score. The wiry forward displayed a never-ending motor, outhustling everyone on the court almost all the time. On a number of occasions, Balkman grabbed a rebound or stole a pass on the defensive end, then sprinted down the court and scored off an offensive rebound on the other end. Balkman compares favorably to Bo Outlaw, though Balkman has a more reliable offensive game. This guy never seems to tire or give up on a possession. Though wiry, Balkman has more strength than his body would indicate. He battles in the post with bigger, stronger players consistently. He does great work controlling the boards and sometimes starting the break himself by dribbling up the court to find an open player in transition. He seems to handle the ball very well in the open court on the break. He needs to work more on his mid-range jump shot for the next level. Balkman has decent form, but it looks like he needs to speed up the release on his jumper. He has the build of a small forward, so he really needs to develop those types of skills to enhance his game. Balkman has to decide if he will remain in the draft, but he should strongly consider returning to school and improving his stock for next year.
Denham Brown | SG/SF | 6-4 | UConn
There were some moments in Orlando when Brown looked like the best player in the camp. Early on, Brown attempted to place his imprint on this camp. However, he did not sustain that level throughout. Similar to his career at UConn, lack of consistency plagued Brown's play at the camp. At times he demonstrated a devastating mid-range game, looking very effortless shooting the jump shot in the 15- to 20-foot range. He even made some of those shots against good defensive pressure. Brown also showed the same intensity and effort on the defensive end that he played with in college. Brown does not possess the explosion or athleticism that most people look for in NBA wing players. He also needs to continue to work on his ballhandling and long-range shot for the NBA. Brown played himself securely into the second round of the draft, with an outside shot at the end of the first round.
Keydren Clark | PG | 5-9 | St. Peter's
Clark came into camp with a reputation as a shooting guard in a point guard's body. He did little to shed that reputation throughout the week, though he did make an attempt at involving his teammates on the offensive end. Clark shot the ball pretty well throughout the camp, showing the ability to hit the long-range shot when open and the mid-range shot off the dribble. Due to his shooting ability, he did a good job of executing the NBA staple, the pick-and-roll. He also does a good job of utilizing his quickness to get in the lane. Clark did not look as interested on the defensive end and did not show an abundance of true playmaking ability. Clark probably will play professionally in Europe.
Taquan Dean | SG/PG | 6-2 | Louisville
Dean also arrived at camp known more as a shooting guard, though he has the height of a point guard. Though Dean did most of his work offensively when he played off the ball as a shooting guard, he did show he can log some minutes as a point guard when needed. Dean has a good body that absorbs contact when he goes to the basket. He also can shoot from NBA 3-point range with ease. He needs to continue to develop his mid-range game and his skills off the dribble. He needs more work in the playmaking area, as well. Dean may have earned a place in the second round, but he has definitely secured a spot in a European league.
Taj Gray | PF | 6-7¼ | Oklahoma
If Gray measured two or three inches taller, he would rank as a lottery pick and would not have played at the camp. But as an undersized power forward, he needs to prove himself. Gray displayed good offensive skills throughout the camp, scoring in the post with relative ease. He gets off the ground deceptively well and uses his leaping ability to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive boards. He made some spectacular plays during the week, finishing off plays with emphatic dunks. He also did a good job of contesting shots. He needs to add a real go-to move in the post (like a jump hook) and to keep working on his body. He also could use a jump shot out to about 15 feet. Gray fits comfortably in the second round now, with a chance to make the first round.
Bobby Jones | SF/SG | 6-5¾ | Washington
Jones plays an all-around solid game. While he may not do anything that will excite you, he will play solidly in a number of areas. Jones runs the court, providing maximum energy. He shot the ball better than expected, but he still needs work in that area. He also needs to work on his range, as he did not shoot very well from the NBA 3-point line. Though improving, Jones needs to continue to work on his ballhandling, as he will spend his time on the wing in the NBA. Jones has made a name for himself as an exceptional defender, and he did not disappoint in Orlando. He solidified his status in the second round and has a chance at sneaking into the late first round with more impressive workouts for teams.
Brad Newley | SG | 6-5 | Australia
Some scouts compared Newley to Manu Ginobili before the predraft camp began. Though he has a long way to go before he approaches Ginobili's status, Newley does have some of the same tools that make Ginobili effective. He plays the game very unselfishly, sometimes to a fault, passing up open shots to pass to teammates. Though he plays shooting guard, he has the playmaking skills of a point guard. He locates teammates in traffic very well. He has very good form on his jump shot, with a quick release and no unnecessary motion. Newley needs to keep working on his off-the-dribble skills and to develop a pull-up jumper. He has a shot at sneaking into the first round.
David Noel | SF/SG | 6-4½ | North Carolina
Noel shot the ball a lot better than many people thought he would. He looked comfortable shooting from NBA 3-point range, though this part of his game still needs work. He also needs to work on his mid-range game and ballhandling in order to play on the perimeter in the NBA. Noel did show some ability to get to the basket and some fluidity, as well. He possesses great athletic ability and strength, with good jumping ability that will allow him to play some small forward. Noel may have gained a spot in the second round.
J.R. Pinnock | SG | 6-2¾ | George Washington (Jr.)
Pinnock is a shooting guard with the dimensions of a point guard by NBA standards. He does all of his work from the shooting guard position, with no playmaking skills on display during the week in Orlando. However, Pinnock has explosive athleticism and leaping ability. He did a good job getting to the basket and finishing, using his strength. He has a decent stroke, but his ballhandling could use some work. Pinnock needs to improve his ballhandling and shooting, especially off the dribble and from NBA 3-point range. He probably will play in Europe next season.
Darius Washington | PG | 5-11½ | Memphis (Soph.)
Washington came into camp with the idea that he had to prove to scouts and NBA personnel that he can run a team and not look for his own offense first. He might have played more consistently than any point guard in camp. He did a good job of finding teammates and sacrificing his offense. When he was open to shoot, he did a good job of knocking down shots, even out to NBA 3-point range. He also did a good job taking care of the ball, keeping the turnovers down. He used his body effectively against smaller guards, getting into the lane with relative ease. He also encouraged his teammates often, which you look for in a point guard. He did not impress on the defensive end, and he needs to trim down a little, as well. Washington has to keep improving his playmaking skills and work on his jump shot more. He needs to add a pull-up jumper and a floater to his repertoire. Washington placed himself firmly in the second round, and while he has not signed an agent, most people don't expect him to return to Memphis next season.
Justin Williams | C/PF | 6-7¼ | Wyoming
Though Williams measured significantly shorter than the 6-10 he was listed at in college, he had some dominant performances on the glass and blocked plenty of shots during the camp. He will do his work on the next level as an energy guy, making a difference on the boards and on defense in short spurts of playing time. He has great quickness for a guy his size and gets off the floor very quickly, and his 7-1½ wingspan helps make up for his size. He blocks shots on the ball and coming from the weak side. Though he displayed great intensity on the defensive end, Williams does not have a go-to, reliable offensive move. He really needs to add a jump hook and a jumper out to 10 to 15 feet. Williams has some upside and should sneak into the second round.
Antonio Williams is an NBA scout with Marty Blake and Associates and a regular contributor to ESPN's Scouts Inc.
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