Today kicks off the official start of Draft Season with the opening round games of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Virginia. Consisting of seniors whose draft status is, for the most part, uncertain, the PIT gives players an opportunity to showcase their skills in a unique atmosphere with the hopes of getting an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine in May. While the must-show allure of the PIT is no longer what it was, it is a good opportunity for players to make a statement for why they belong, though again, the style of game played here is not usually conducive to showcasing most players’ skills. Over the next 2 days, I will take a look at 15 players who have the opportunity to solidify their status one way or the other, along with a look at the invitees who have withdrawn and see what effect, if any, will come from this. Here is the second group of players (Part 1 can be found here) to keep in mind:
Rick Jackson, Syracuse, Forward, 6’9, 240
There are very few players who have shown as much improvement over a 4-year college career as Jackson, to the point where this season he became a legitimate offensive option for the Orange. On the offensive end, he does a great job getting position on the blocks, but more important, he does a great job sealing off defenders to open up the court for his teammates. He sets very solid screens, and he has learned how to be effective off of the pick and roll. While his offensive move-set is limited to dunks and a mini hook shot, he is very efficient and doesn’t take many bad shots. He is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the floors, and there are not many who can get around him when he puts a body on you. He could improve his footwork defending on the blocks, but he uses his body well to force his man away from the rim.
What impresses me most about Jackson is the work he has put in to not only developing his game, but to get into a lot better shape than he was his first 2 seasons. While commitment won’t trump skills, they will enhance your game in places where you are lacking. I think Jackson has shown enough to hear his name called near the middle to end of the draft, and with his rebounding ability and toughness, I think he has a good chance of making an opening day roster.
What he needs to show in Portsmouth: The ability to defend outside of a zone defense, as well as showing an improved face-up game on offense.
Adrian Oliver, San Jose State, Guard, 6’4, 210
Over the last 2 seasons, Oliver, a former Washington Husky, has put up terrific numbers in near obscurity at San Jose State. With a solid mid-range jumper, the ability to get into the lane and finish, and an improving long-range shot, Oliver has shown that he can score in a variety of ways. Not that there aren’t issues – shot selection being the main culprit. Oliver, while being strong and quick enough to get to the rim and finish, loves to shoot the jumper – often when it is not a good look. He is a very good rebounder for his size, and finds way to get in among the bigs and get the ball away. Defensively, he can be tough, though the effort is inconsistent, and he will often rely on help defenders to bail him out. He runs the floor well and can push the ball in transition and he is very good finishing off the wings.
Oliver is certainly going to get his looks from the NBA come draft time, mainly off of his scoring ability. If he can show that he play better defense, and show a better understanding of working off the ball, he can find his way into the early-mid second round.
What he needs to show in Portsmouth: Solid defensive effort, plus the ability to see the court well.
Durrell Summers, Michigan State, Guard, 6’5, 205
Coming off of what may be seen as one of the more disappointing seasons of anyone participating here, Summers is looking to regain the form that had many raving about him this time last year. A fantastic athlete, who had developed a reliable jumper over the last few years, started to depend on that jumper way too much for his, and his team’s, good this season. Summers is at his best when he uses his ability to get to the rim to set up the defender for the mid-range shot, occasionally throwing in an open long-range jumper. Defensively, he is very good, playing solid defense on and off the ball, with the ability to outjump and hustle others for rebounds. He is also very good in the open court, especially running the wings on the break.
He may have had a down year, but NBA guys have not forgotten why they liked Summers to begin with. If he can show the ability to shake off this past year, and start to show the form of the last season, he is a very solid mid-late second round pick.
What he needs to show in Portsmouth: The ability to get to the rim we know he has, coupled with consistent effort.
Gilbert Brown, Pittsburgh, Forward, 6’6, 210
Gary McGhee, Pittsburgh, Center, 6’10, 250
Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh, Guard, 6’4, 210
Yes, this is actually 3 players, but all coming from Coach Jamie Dixon, you will notice a lot of similar traits, especially on the defensive end. After a disappointing end to this year’s NCAA Tournament, all three will be out to show what they are made of, and guaranteed, they will be three of the hardest working players here.
Wanamker and Brown are both solid considerations in the mid-late second round, while McGhee, because of his size will get plenty of opportunities to show he belongs in the NBA.
What they need to show in Portsmouth: The tenacity and defense they showed all season.
Part 3 tomorrow will look at the final 5 players to keep an eye on, as well as the continuation of the scouting reports. Email me any questions/comments at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog.