Orlando Day 3: From Idaho With Game
Posted May 30 2008 9:56AM
Mike Taylor's own private Idaho is all of a sudden becoming very public. And he has only himself to blame.
That's what happens when you blow up in front of an audience filled with NBA general managers and scouts in Orlando. One day you're the skinny kid who was dismissed from Iowa State, before signing with the NBA Development League and helping lead the Idaho Stampede to a championship.
The next, you're a pioneer with a chance to become the first player from the D-League drafted into the NBA.
For the sake of clarification, Taylor is eligible for this year's draft based on a rule which states, when you leave school early without submitting your name into the draft, and subsequently sign a professional contract, you automatically become eligible for the next draft.
Taylor averaged 14.5 points as a rookie in the D-League. He could very well become an NBA rookie on June 26.
In Thursday's nightcap, Taylor was nearly flawless, finishing with 24 points (17 in the first half) on 8-for-12 shooting, as Team Six defeated Team Three 99-78. He scored on drives. He scored on pull-ups. He knocked down two three pointers. He made all six of his free throw attempts. He also used his quickness to be a disruption on the defensive end.
It was without question the top individual performance of the camp thus far, and planted Taylor squarely on draft boards throughout the league. Though not a pure point guard, Taylor has the requisite speed, quickness and playmaking ability to stick in the NBA.
Virginia's Sean Singletary tallied 15 points and eight assists for Team Six, while Nevada's Marcelus Kemp added 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting.
After struggling here last year as a junior testing the waters, Singletary has played much better this time around, finding a better balance between scoring and distributing. He still lacks a true point guard mentality, but he has the physical tools to earn a long look from NBA teams.
Kemp is another returnee to Orlando, and the results have been a bit mixed. He doesn't appear to be in terrific shape, and his perimeter shooting has been a little inconsistent. He's probably on the outside looking in, in terms of being drafted, but he'll certainly earn a living playing somewhere next season.
Duke's DeMarcus Nelson led all scorers with 22 points. Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson added 13 points, while Oregon's Maarty Leunen tallied 11 points and nine rebounds.
It was a tale of two halves for Hudson. He looked lethargic in the first half, and was clearly bothered by the speed and quickness of Taylor and Singletary. Then he eventually settled in and had his best half of the week so far. Though he hasn't stood out the way many felt he would here, he's shown enough to keep teams interested.
Leunen was all over the place, setting screens, grabbing rebounds and knocking down open shots. He's the perfect player for this type of camp, in that he doesn't need plays called for him in order to be effective. It's definitely not a stretch to see him get a chance to make the league as a role player.
Team Four 77, Team One 74
An injury to North Carolina's Ty Lawson (hip pointer), which mysteriously came after his strong showing in Wednesday's opening game, created an interesting scenario for Team Four. With Dayton's Brian Roberts and Pat Calathes of St. Joseph's both starting the game, the second unit was left without a point guard.
Not surprisingly, the team finished with only six assists, as Oregon's Malik Hairston and Sonny Weems of Arkansas did their best to man the point guard position. Hairston finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Weems added 11 points and four rebounds.
Both players raised eyebrows when they decided to skip Portsmouth. Most felt each player had a lot to prove before draft day. Credit Hairston for coming to Orlando in the best shape of his life, having shed 15 pounds from his playing weight this season. He has a noticeable bounce in his step, which makes his ability to handle and slash all the more effective.
Weems doesn't carry an ounce of excess baggage on his body and is clearly one of the better athletes in the field. His overall game still needs polish, but he has the makings of an NBA player.
North Carolina's Wayne Ellington led Team One with 17 points, while Kentucky's Joe Crawford added 15.
It was a bounce-back performance for Ellington, who struggled to find a rhythm in his first game. He hit his first few shots Thursday, which seemed to make all the difference in his confidence level. It remains to be seen whether Ellington will keep his name in the draft. Undersized for the shooting guard position and not having exceptional ball skills, Ellington might be better served returning to school, adding strength and improving his overall game.
It was another so-so performance for Vanderbilt's Shan Foster, who's had his struggles throughout the week. He finished with nine points on 4-for-10 shooting, but failed to register an assist, only grabbed one rebound and didn't get to the free throw line. The lack of versatility in his game means if his shot is not falling, which it hasn't at a high clip this week, he's a pretty limited player. In fairness to Foster, he shot a blistering 47 percent from three-point range this season. But the holes in his game are pretty glaring.
Team Five 101, Team Two 93
Nine of 10 players scored at least eight points for Team Five, led by 20 from Xavier's Josh Duncan. Another graduate from Portsmouth, Duncan has more than acquitted himself, knocking down open shots, getting to the free throw line, and just playing pretty solid basketball. He never tries to do what he can't do, which is an attractive quality for a GM looking to fill out a roster.
Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo had his best game so far, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Blessed with decent speed and terrific strength, Pargo is at his best when he's on the drive, and he was able to finish several plays in this game. He should probably return to school to work on his point guard skills, having played both guard positions the last few seasons.
Cal's DeVon Hardin and Ohio State's Othello Hunter were both very active once again, running the floor, blocking shots and snatching rebounds. Oregon's Bryce Taylor got into the act Thursday, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting.
Another player who inexplicably skipped Portsmouth, Taylor has been a little up and down in Orlando. Like Ellington, he's essentially a 6-3 shooting guard with so-so ball-handling skills. His future has to be as a spot-up shooter in the NBA, but the question is does he make enough shots to fill that role?
UMass' Gary Forbes led Team Two with a tournament-high 30 points. There isn't much more to be said about Forbes. When he's on the attack and not settling for jumpshots, he's extremely effective, as evidence by his 15-for-16 performance at the free throw line. As said before, if the draft featured the 60 most deserving players, Forbes would be a lock to be picked somewhere in the second round. But, the second round has gotten funny over the years, with teams taking fliers on international players and unproven domestic players.
Michigan State's Drew Neitzel had a solid performance, finishing with 11 points and four assists. Neitzel is a little quicker than advertised and has some point skills, after playing mostly off the ball at Michigan State this past season. His chances rest on his ability to make perimeter shots, something he can do when he's open. For Neitzel, whether he makes the NBA is going to be all about fit.
Alabama's Richard Hendrix had another solid game, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Hendrix has six steals in two games, thanks in part to the best pair of hands arguably of any prospect in the draft. He's not the most agile big guy and he's pretty glued to the floor, but his long arms and terrific hands really serve him well.
Hendrix has an interesting decision to make regarding his future. How much will he benefit by returning to school for his senior season? A few years back, Ronny Turiaf thought about entering the draft as a junior, and though a lot of teams liked him and knew he'd play in the NBA, he still went 37th.