Jared Dudley, 6-7, Senior, Small Forward, Boston College
While most ACC player of the year award winners wouldnt come anywhere this event if not for the physical only portion of the camp, Dudley was here showing NBA executives how he can be of service to them next year. He certainly has his limitationsshot-creating ability, a lack of explosiveness around the rim, lateral quicknessbut to his credit, he is very much aware of them and wants to be drafted by a team where he can minimize them in an effort to compliment other players and win games. He clearly has the basketball IQ to do so, already having figured out how to get the most of his skills. Now that hes figured out that he needs to abandon the college mentality of outmuscling the competition to outquicking them (hes already lost over 12 pounds), hes already improving his physical attributes, with even more room to go. His teammate Craig Smith at Boston College was underappreciated by draft gurus (DraftExpress included) similarly exactly one year ago, and went onto be one of the best rookies in the NBA this past season. We learned our lesson not to dismiss the non-prototypes even if they dont physically look exactly like most NBA superstars will NBA GMs do the same?
Taurean Green, 6-1, Junior, Point Guard, Florida
Immediately as the camp kicked off it became evident that Taurean Green has played on much bigger stages than this. His college team won back to back national championships, and Green didnt lose a game in this setting either. He looked poised and confident in his abilities as a point guard, not being ashamed in the least bit to pull up off the dribble for a long 3-pointer or take the ball strong all the way to the basket in traffic despite his limited size. They say that believing in yourself is half the battle, and Green clearly has that part down pat.
Besides Demetris Nichols, no other player in Orlando will have an easier transition to the NBA 3-point line than Taurean Green. His shooting mechanics arent picture perfect, but his release is extremely quick and consistent, and you certainly cant argue with the results. To back that up, he hit the second most NBA 3-pointers at the camp, and did so at a 57% clip. He can hit shots with his feet set or in motion pulling up off the dribble, which is an added bonus.
As a point guard, Green does a solid job at running an offense and finding the open man, particularly in transitioneven if he is naturally more of a scorer than a distributor. With the direction the NBA is headed these days, though, that doesnt seem to be such a bad thing. Green is a smart player who knows how to facilitate He can create his own shot and has multiple gears he can go to to keep his man off balance and get into the lane. And while he isnt the biggest guy in the world, he has plenty of toughness and ample upper body strength, which helps him tremendously in terms of getting to the free throw line and finishing around the hoop. If there is just too much traffic around the paint, he can either finish with a beautiful floater or pull-up from 12-15 feet for a mid-range jumper.
The biggest drawback standing in the way of Greens chances of NBA success is his very related combination of average size and defensive ability. NBA coaches are biased against smaller guards and Green doesnt do them many favors with the awareness he shows on this end of the floor. He could also still improve his ball-handling skills and the overall way he values the ball, as evidenced by a few unforced turnovers he had here
With that said, there is no reason why Green cant develop into a solid backup point guard at the very least. He has a great combination of shooting, slashing and playmaking ability, combined with more high-level experience playing winning basketball than any other guard in this draft.
Demetris Nichols, 6-8, Senior, Small Forward, Syracuse
Nichols is extremely confident with his outside shooting, and its interesting how in all the times weve seen Nichols in drills, both here at Orlando and at a private workout we viewed last week, hes probably just as good a shooter in the real games, coming off screens, with a hand in his face, as he is taking place in the simulated drills. Other spot-up shooting forwards have come through this camp in recent years, with Steve Novak first coming to mind. Nichols did a good job in separating himself from these other players, in that its evident that he doesnt consistently need players run for him and that he really makes the most of his possessions, finding open space on the floor and getting off a good shot attempt most times he touches the ball.
Nichols didnt really impact the game in many other ways when he was on the floor, not filling up the stat sheet in any way other than scoring, but he played pretty good perimeter defense for the most part, showing he can play outside of Syracuses zone. Nichols didnt do much to dispel the concerns about his ball-handling abilities, but he did make a few moves off one or two dribbles and got to the basket when there were open lanes, and he shows that he has the potential to improve his ball-handling over time.
The things that Nichols does excel at should definitely translate to the NBA, so theres a very good chance he can make a contribution in his first year, coming off the bench and providing a scoring punch, as he doesnt need much space to get off a high-percentage shot attempt from long range. Nichols will likely be an early second round pick in the draft, and its not tough to envision him having a Jason Kapono type season not too far down the road.
Aaron Gray, 7-1, Center Pittsburgh, Senior
Most of Grays points came from within 8 feet of the basket in Orlando, and this trend will likely follow him to the next level. The former Pittsburgh center displayed good mobility in the low block this week, and used a combination of hook shots and lay-ups mixed in with the occasional turn-around jumper to score all of his points. Though Gray was able to get these shots on nearly anybody, he struggled with his touch inside at times, sometimes just throwing the ball near the basket with the hope that it would find its way in.
In the drills, though, Gray showed off a pretty nice shooting touch all the way out to the NBA 3-point line. This didnt translate to the actual games, at one point even passing up a wide open look from 18 feet out that he clearly should have taken.
The physical limitations of Gray were also displayed this week in Orlando, and were especially apparent on the defensive end of the floor. The 7-footer lacks the speed to get up and down the floor quickly, and will be much better off in a half-court oriented system in the NBA. Gray lacks the reaction time to be an active defensive player, and at times will stand flat-footed on the ground as a rebound sails by him in his area. He isnt afraid to use his body against players down on the block, but this can only take you so far in the NBA.
Aaron Gray displayed a good skill-level this week in Orlando while showing that he will likely be a fixture in the NBA for the next 8-10 years. He could find himself in the late first round, and a team looking for a future rotation guy could find great value if Gray remains on the board in the second round.
Zabian Dowdell, 6-3, Senior, Point Guard, Virginia Tech
Dowdell possesses all the characteristics one looks for in a backup point guard and/or an NBA role player, and his strong build and wingspan will allow him to play well alongside undersized shooting guards, something many teams have coming off the bench playing major minutes. Dowdells long arms and excellent defensive fundamentals will allow him to defend most NBA shooting guards adequately, especially back-ups, who he shouldnt have any problem with. The only thing there really is to dislike about Dowdell is that he isnt the kind of player who is going to take over a game, and hes probably never going to be a great scorer or a great distributor, just doing everything adequately well on the offensive end, while providing great defense on the other end of the floor.
Dowdell will likely go somewhere in the second round in the draft, very possibly in the 30s if a team really likes him and is in need of a back-up point guard. He should be able to make an impact almost immediately, and most teams should be pretty comfortable with him running their second unit.
DraftExpress All Second-Team
Jared Jordan, 6-1, Senior, Point Guard, Marist
But the ability to run a team is certainly developed above the shoulders, and tends to translate over better than other tools. Jordan might be undersized and a step slow, but this week he proved once and for all just what a special point guard he was at Marist and will be as a professional. The first two games were run almost to perfection Jordan handled more athletic defenders with relative ease, created basket after basket with crisp full court passing and dazzling looks from within offensive sets.
While Jordans shooting percentages werent ideal at the NCAA level, that could have had a lot to do with his leading role. In this setting, he did a phenomenal job of picking his spots to look for his own. He didnt light it up from the outside, but showed off improved form on his jumper and was deadly in the midrange. Almost never did he force the action, but was able to burn defenses that dared him to score quite easily. At the end of the day, he was as impressive as any point guard in the camp.
So does this camp get Jordan drafted, or a guaranteed contract next fall? It is hard to say for sure. He probably doesnt have the physical attributes to be more than a backup, but this kind of court vision can make up for a lot. It isnt a lock by any means (no projected 2nd rounder ever is), but we wouldnt be surprised at all to hear Jared Jordans name on draft night.
Ramon Sessions, 6-1, Junior, Point Guard, Nevada
Sessions clearly has that natural knack for running a team, something he first displayed as a freshman. After injuries derailed his sophomore year, Sessions got back on track this season, showing major improvement as a scorer. His mark was all over this camp, and he does it with solid decision making, and a patient, probing way of making a defense commit to stopping him or stopping the pass. At this point Sessions would probably rather pull defenses toward him and use his excellent court vision to find teammates, but he is improving with the pull-up jumper and a creative array of floaters and other finishing moves if he makes his way into the lane.
In short, Sessions did exactly what the camp is intended to do for underclassmen. He had nothing to lose by coming, and now GMs have an extended, first-hand impression of his game. Now Sessions needs to go back to school, and work on shoring up a few weak points that will keep him out of the first round in 2007. Sessions has the stature and patient, yet dangerous play style of a young Tony Parker, but Parker was always on a different level in terms of quickness and strength. Sessions needs to spend the rests of the summer in the weight room, continue to polish up his shooting and scoring game, and put in a solid senior season at Nevada. If he puts in the work this summer, Sessions will have significantly benefited from his decision to attend the camp.
Jermareo Davidson, 6-10, Power Forward/Center, Senior, Alabama
Offensively, Davidson prefers to shoot jumpers and fade away from the basket with his moves inside rather than using his body to draw contact after using one of his many moves in the paint. It is possible that added weight would help in this aspect, but the soft mentality also hurts in this area. In terms of offensive skills, Davidson can hit the jumper from 15 feet and has the footwork to create a nice series of hook shots and up and under type moves from the low block. At different times this week, he made some absolutely outstanding moves going to the basket after facing up from 12 feet as well. The natural tools are there for Davidson to become a threat from either the power forward or center positions at the NBA level.
Defensively, his lack of toughness hurts him here as well, though he does use his combination of length and good instincts to be competent in this area. To improve, he will need to play with a much better focus on defense and rebounding. There were times during the week where Davidson used his body well to box out before using his leaping ability and big hands to rebound over other big men. On other occasions, he lacked the effort to get easy rebounds that nearly fell right into his hands.
Despite the lack of effort at times, Davidson helped his stock overall at the camp here in Orlando. His skill-set on the offensive end in combination with good defensive potential make him a good value for any team picking in the early part of the second round. It is important to remember that Davidson also dealt with a great personal tragedy this season, which almost certainly affected his focus on the basketball court.
Antanas Kavaliauskas, 6-10, Senior, PF/C, Texas A&M
A Lithuanian born player through and through, Kavaliauskas combines a nice shooting touch with the rugged tough-nosed mentality his countrymates are known for to make his presence felt on the basketball floor despite not being the most naturally talented player on the floor. He kicks, fights and scraps his way to plenty of rebounds (6 per game in 23 minutes per) and loose balls, throwing his body around and not being afraid of a cheap shot or two to gain the slight advantage he needs to get what he wants.
Playing alongside two excellent point guards in Jared Jordan and Taurean Green, Kavaliauskas took full advantage, playing the pick and roll or pick and pop nicely to finish efficiently around the basket or step outside to the elbow and knock down a shot.
His efforts here probably wont get him drafted, but he at the very least will get some serious summer league love and a couple of six-figure offers from Europe thanks to his Bosman status.
Ali Traore, 6-9, 1985 International, Power Forward, Le Havre (France)
There are some other concerns about Traore as well, most notably that he averaged just 3.3 rebounds per game in his three games here. For a player of his size and strength, thats extremely concerning, and something he will definitely need to work on to be an NBA player. Maybe it was just an aberration, but Traore has the potential to do a lot more in that aspect of the game. Traore did knock down a few spot-up shots from the 10-15 foot range, showing he can contribute more than just interior scoring, but he still could use some improvement in the other areas of his game, including defense and passing. Traore made just one assist as opposed to eight turnovers here.
Theres a pretty good chance a team takes Traore in the late second round, as he has some nice potential with a good groundwork of NBA skills, and because he can be stashed overseas while not taking up a roster spot, letting him develop there and get back into game shape without costing anything. Its really tough to say just how different a player Traore is when hes in better shape, as we dont have much to go off, but Id be pretty certain that NBA teams with late second round picks will be looking into his play pre-injury, as Traore could turn out to be a real steal somewhere down the road.
DraftExpress All Third-Team
Daequan Cook, 6-5, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Ohio State
In terms of things Cook brings to the table other than scoring, hes not really going to wow you in any other area just yet. He shows some nice vision and passing ability at times, but he doesnt have the making of being a point guard or even a combo guard unless he makes some drastic changes, though he should be a pretty good passer for a two-guard at the next level. Cook did a solid job on the defensive end, but at 64, hell be at a bit of a disadvantage at the next level, even with his good physical tools. The area Cook needs to work on the most would definitely be his ball-handling, as being able to create for himself would definitely take his game to the next level, and its something many teams would want an undersized scoring guard to possess. He can do some nice things off one or two dribbles, sometimes more, but doesnt look very comfortable when handling the ball for much more than that, and he may have trouble with that at the next level.
Cook projects as a late first or early second rounder if he remains in the draft this year, as all indications say he will. Some teams may shy away from him because he still has things to develop and because of how the final half of his freshman season turned out at Ohio State. But for whatever team that does take him now, before he has the chance to fully develop and rise up the draft charts, something hed likely have done had he gone back to school, they will have pretty good value to look forward to a few years down the road, if Cook doesnt make contributions sooner. Its tough to see Cook falling very far into the second round, if he even does, just because its not easy to leave as dynamic a player on the board for long.
Trey Johnson, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Jackson State, Senior
The majority of Johnsons points came on mid-range jumpers off the dribble, many of which were created when he was given the ball on the pick and roll. He shows good elevation in shooting the mid-range jumper while getting the shot off very quickly. Despite good accuracy from out to about 20 feet, Johnson didnt show range out to the NBA three point line, even as a set shooter, going 0-5. While the senior guard received a number of nice looks off the pick and roll, he rarely decided to turn the corner and penetrate to the basket. On the few occasions Johnson went to the hoop, he seemed to lack the creativity or explosiveness near the rim to be an effective slashing threat right now. At Jackson State, some of his points came from the low post, but he lacks the size and strength to translate this to the NBA.
Johnsons shot selection at times seemed fairly questionable, even if he was able to create good shots for himself from mid-range thanks to his excellent array of jabs steps and hesitation moves. He is both smart and extremely strong, meaning he has considerable potential here.
Defense will need to be an area of focus for Johnson, whose lack of length and lateral quickness puts him at an immediate disadvantage. To become an adequate defender, better positioning and use of his body will be necessary. Focus was also a problem from Johnson at times on defense. Despite the limitations, he could become a passable defender with better effort in this area, especially when it comes to team defensive rotations.
Johnson was among the leaders in scoring throughout the NCAA season, but he will be a role player at the NBA level. For this reason, the guard from Jackson State made need to become more selective with the type of shots he takes on the court. NBA teams rarely run plays for guys like Johnson, but he has the tools to make the adjustment to the NBA game. On draft night, Trey Johnson will likely hear his name in the second round, but his combination of feel, natural scoring ability and strength will give him a good chance to carve out a career in the NBA.
Aaron Brooks, 5-11, Senior, Point Guard, Oregon
The first thing to come away with from his play here is just how impressive Brooks is on the defensive end. He has always been jet-quick, but this really showed on the defensive end in Orlando. Brooks knocked down Dominic James a couple of pegs in day one, easily staying in front of him every time James tried to take the ball to the basket and shockingly looking a step quicker. Brooks is by no means thick, but had enough muscle to really bother most of the point guards in this camp in their attempts to initiate the offense.
Brooks own scoring was a bit of a mixed bag. He was able to get to the basket occasionally, but his lack of size showed when attempting to finish at the rim. He didnt really make much of an impact as an outside shooter, either. But for all the limitations we saw from Brooks during the regular season, he actually ran his teams offense pretty well here. It is hard to say how much interest there will be in a 511 (thats being generous) combo guard, but Brooks certainly helped himself here. He certainly has a handful of NBA-caliber tools that could allow him to stick in the right situation, as long as his attitude holds up.
D.J. Strawberry, 6-4, PG/SG, Maryland
That changed in game three. Strawberry had been showing off better form on his outside jumper during the drills all week, and finally started draining shots in the final official contest. These werent 3-pointers, but we have never seen Strawberry look so comfortable putting the ball in the basket. He scored a decent amount at Maryland, but would tend to go through long cold stretches and rarely showed much of an instinct for scoring of any type. But in this game he was hitting contested midrange jumpers, pulling up off the dribble, and slashing all the way to the basket.
The offensive success seemed to spur further intensity on the defensive end, where he actually turned it up a notch, wreaking havoc all over the court. This could have been the most complete and impactful performance of the camp, if more than a handful of scouts had actually seen it. So it will be interesting to find out if Strawberry was able to help his stock here, because he didnt show anything we hadnt already seen in the first two games.
But in case youre a GM and you missed it, Strawberry has the potential to bring a lot to the table as a roleplayer in the NBA. He isnt a natural point guard, and has struggled whenever he was asked to run the show at Maryland. That didnt change here, but he does have some appeal as a secondary ball-handler off the bench. He has the athleticism and court sense to push the tempo in the open court, and only starts to struggle when forced to slow down and make team-running decisions. And on the other end, he most certainly can defend point guards. At a solidly built 64, Strawberry has what it takes to be a pest. His shooting and all-around scoring has always been the knock, so if Strawberry can repeat his game three showing in a workout or two, he might end up hearing his name called on draft night.
Coby Karl, 6-4, Senior, PG/SG, Boise State
Karl surprisingly played the point guard position for most of his time on the floor, looking quite natural doing so. He has excellent ball-handling skills and the imagination and flair needed to make some highlight reel caliber passes. Karl clearly has spent some time watching footage of his fathers team, the Nuggets, showing no shame whatsoever in throwing an unexpected alleyoop lob or behind the back feed to complete a pick and roll play. A Denver scout told us after one particular game with a grin that Karl Sr. threatened to fine his son $500 for one careless turnover caused by his over-enthusiasm. Regardless of the turnover, Karl was responsible for some excellent assists, particularly in the first game where he had 6 compared to just one turnover.
In the drills, Karl looked a bit overmatched in the one on one portions, where his average quickness and first step really showed. In the actual games, though, this didnt seem to be nearly as much of a problem, as he utilized screens beautifully and showed little hesitation making strong moves to the paint instantly right as the ball was swung to him. He drew a fantastic 7 fouls per game on average in just 20 minutes per game, some of which were converted together with the and-1.
As a shooter, Karl excels, thanks to a quick, but unorthodox release. He shows little hesitation getting his shot off, and already has NBA range as indicated by the 3-5 he shot from behind the arc at this camp.
Even though he played extremely well here, it would be surprising to see Karl getting drafted. His combination of size and athleticism is just average for a player who isnt quite a point guard at 6-4. On the defensive end is where hed probably struggle the most, but it wouldnt shock to see him get a solid look in summer league, if the Nuggets dont just snatch him up. Although most people would raise eyebrows at Coach Karl signing his son to a free agent deal (how exactly would they be able to cut him is anyones guess ), he does actually fill somewhat of a need with his passing and perimeter shooting skills. If all else fails, there is likely an excellent paycheck waiting for him overseas.