Pre-Draft Winds of Change
Posted Jun 10 2006 1:54PM
2006 NBA Pre-Draft Camp
ORLANDO, Fla., June 10 -- Somewhere in Westwood, the Wizard was smiling.
UCLA’s Jordan Farmar had just completed his final game at this year’s NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, leading Team Six to a 105-86 victory over Team One.
Curious as to the number of assists he’d registered in this particular game, Farmar snuck up to the scorer’s table and snatched a box score off the printer. Surprised to learn he’d only recording five assists, Farmar playfully joke with the stat crew that he’d been shorted at least five assists.
He quickly changed his tone to one of joy and gratitude.
"I really had a lot of fun here this week," said Farmar. "That’s really what it’s all about, right?"
Much of the talk in Orlando this week centered on the future of the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, and whether the camp could survive in today’s climate, which has player agents discouraging borderline first-round prospects from participating in the camp.
Ironically enough, Farmar was seen as a first-round pick regardless of whether he showed up in Orlando this week. His UCLA teammates Arron Afflalo and Ryan Hollins, who sit squarely on the second round bubble, turned down invitations to play.
Hollins actually took part in a workout in the area, causing many in attendance this week to simply scratch their heads.
Something will eventually have to give, according to an informal poll of general managers, scouts, camp officials and media members. One possible solution being tossed around is the creation of an NBA combine, much like what the NFL has. Under such a system, all private workouts would be eliminated, creating more of a one-stop shop for talent evaluation.
As for the here and now for this year’s players, all were hoping to make a lasting impression during Friday’s final session. Some succeeded more than others.
Several of Farmar’s clever assists this week went to South Florida’s Solomon Jones and Marquette’s Steve Novak. Jones created buzz this week, with his incredible length, leaping ability and end-to-end speed for a player his size (6-10). As one NBA personnel guy put it, Jones is a case where you have to imagine what he’ll be a few years down the row with added strength. Given the room for improvement in his body and skill-set, it would be a major surprise if Jones wasn’t drafted in a few weeks.
As for Novak, he doesn’t carry the same upside potential as some of the better players in camp this week. What he does have is a clearly defined skill, which should lead to a role in the NBA. Novak can flat-out shoot the ball. He’s fairly adept at getting himself open, and doesn’t need much time to get rid of the ball. Outside of Farmar landing in the first-round, should he decide to stay in the draft, a team using a second-round pick on Novak is probably the closest thing to a sure-thing emerging from this year’s camp.
Boise State’s Coby Karl, son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, led Team Six with 15 points, five assists and five rebounds. Karl recently underwent a second round of chemotherapy to treat thyroid cancer, but decided to still participate in the camp and gather information as to where his NBA stock sits. The general feeling is that Karl should return to college for his senior season and continue to improve his game.
Team Two 95, Team Three 67
During Thursday’s action, Popeye Jones and Nick Anderson, both serving as assistant coaches this week, couldn’t help but notice Renaldo Balkman’s striking resemblance to Humpty, lead singer of The Digital Underground.
Anderson took a more conventional approach with respect to Connecticut’s Denham Brown, who finished with 20 points, four assists and two steals.
"That kid really reminds me of Aaron McKie," said Anderson, who matched up with McKie many times during his NBA career.
It’s a fitting comparison. Though not overly proficient in one area, Brown is a decent athlete who does a little bit of everything. In addition to great experience at Connecticut, Brown has played for the Canadian National Team. He’s shaping up to be a very solid second-round pick for somebody.
Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman and Washington’s Bobby Jones each had 11 points for Team Two. After a rather listless performance at Portsmouth, Bowman played with much better energy here this week, taking the ball strong to the basket and making the defense work. Bowman is a potential second-rounder at this point.
Jones has a better chance to hear his name on draft night. Though his perimeter game needs work, Jones is an NBA-caliber athlete, who plays stifling defense in the mold of Bruce Bowen. He has the chance to make the NBA as a defensive stopper.
Wyoming’s Justin Williams led Team Three with 14, a surprising offensive showing for a player known solely for his defense at this stage of his career. In his game on Thursday, Williams had eight blocks. He registered four on Friday, though it seemed like more, given the fact that he tries to contest every shot.
Not quite 6-10, and in need of additional weight, there’s no denying Williams’ ability to block shots. He reminds some of Alonzo Mourning, in that he never goes for a head fake. He just waits for the offensive player to release the ball, then goes up and swats it. Williams stands a good chance of being drafted.
Team Four 85, Team Five 70
At the start of the week, South Carolina’s Renaldo Balkman was somewhat of an unknown commodity. Those days are over.
Balkman was all over the place this week. He finished this particular game with nine points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. There’s no real way to define his game. He’s an athlete, who simply goes out and makes plays. Though he could probably use another season in college to work on a few things and maybe push his stock into the first round, there’s no doubt someone will take him in the second rounder.
Balkman’s teammate at South Carolina, Tarance Kinsey, finished up a solid week with 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Like Balkman, Kinsey doesn’t have a clearly defined skill. He just makes things happen. He drew some comparisons to the L.A. Clippers’ Quinton Ross. He has a similar body type, and really gets after it defensively, much like Ross, who’s carved a nice in the NBA as a defensive pest.
George Washington’s J.R. Pinnock led all scorers with 18 points. Another junior who’s said publicly he’ll likely keep his name in the draft, Pinnock had a solid week for a player who wasn’t on everybody’s radar at the end of the college season.
Pinnock is clearly an athletic specimen, with a great body and exceptional leaping ability. He projects as a shooting guard in the pros, but could stand to improve his offensive skills and overall feel for the game. He’s the type of player you maybe take a chance on late in the second round and hope he continues to develop.