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Thursday, March 31, 2011

McDonald All-American Game Thoughts

With the Hoop Summit, Jordan Classic, and National High School Invitation all still waiting to be played, along with a full year of college to evaluate these players, I want to avoid doing scouting reports or making any knee-jerk reactions. Here are just some of my thoughts after watching, reading, and hearing about the players.

PF Anthony Davis (Kentucky) - Wow. Anthony Davis really stole the show for the West team. While he didn't come away with MVP honors, he impressed me more than anyone else. It was great to see him in action against great competition after everything I've read. I was worried that he would be another Perry Jones and hang around the perimeter, but I was pleasantly surprised. He has some guard skills and can start the fastbreak himself, but he kept himself positioned inside and collected 14 points. He needs to get stronger to hold his own in the post and become more of a threat on the boards, but he was just 6'3'' a year and a half ago. He needs time to fill out his frame and also adjust to being a big man. Because of that, he has an incredible upside and it is very impressive how quickly he already has made tremendous strides adapting to his new body and position. His wingspan is also a huge asset and helped him block four shots. The most notable thing he did, though, was when he ended up in the stands going after a loose ball. The kid was everywhere.

PF Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) - Wiltjer started off his week right by winning the 3-pt contest. He was reportedly very serious in practice, taking advantage of the great opportunity offered from playing in this event. Working alongside Anthony Davis will provide huge mismatch problems for other teams and I can't wait to see how Coach Cal uses them together. Wiltjer has a great shooting touch and old school post moves - he hit a running hook shot in the game. He finished up with 11 points on 4-10 shooting from the field.

SG Bradley Beal (Florida) - Beal got off to a hot start and had a game-high 17 points (along with McAdoo). He has an excellent stroke from outside that scouts have compared to Ray Allen's. He is not just a shooter, though. He is a great competitor and went right at Austin Rivers who was at one point committed to go to Florida with him. He is a good athlete overall, with a strong frame. He can get into the lane and finish through contact and will be able to play the SG position in the NBA even though he is slightly undersized. Beal's biggest obstacle next year is getting consistent minutes - Florida also has Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario at the guard positions - none of which have a problem hoisting shots. Hopefully Beal gets a chance because I definitely believe he can be as productive as the other guards. Patric Young didn't get any favors this year as an All-American, so we will see how Donovan divvies out playing time.

SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) - Caldwell-Pope isn't one of the most notable names at the game, but he could be a great fit for the Bulldogs if Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins return for their senior years. Georgia's offense is designed for 3-pt shooters, and with Leslie, they haven't had a guard that can take advantage. If Caldwell-Pope gets to play next to Leslie, they can form a solid combination. Besides that though, Caldwell-Pope looks like he will be in college for a few years. He is more along the lines of a guy like Corey Stokes or Reggie Bullock who have great size and shooting, but need to work on the rest of their game.

SG Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse) - I think this guy has a chance to be really good. He won the skills competition and showed off some great ball-handling skills in the process. His scouting report reads similarly to Jeremy Lamb, but the difference is some would question whether Carter-Williams would have the patience to let Kemba do all the work. Carter-Williams has a rep for being selfish and demanding when his inferior teammates have the ball. If he adjusts at Syracuse and allows Jardine, Waiters, and Triche to do their thing, he could be a very dangerous player. If not, he might be on the bench for most of his freshman year.

F/C Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse) - Christmas is another player heading to Syracuse with some questions about his mental makeup. I have been one of his biggest detractors since I saw him play as a freshman. I don't like his body language and he is still very raw. He has gotten by on his elite athleticism and shot blocking skills, but still has no post game to speak of. He only averaged 11 points his senior year of high school and was non-existent in this all-star game. With Fab Melo and Baye Moussa-Keita already in place, he is going to have to earn his playing time. I'm not sure he makes much of an impact his freshman season. Hopefully he matures and uses playing time as motivation.

PG Quinn Cook (Duke) - Assuming Irving leaves, Cook is going to start at point guard next year alongside Austin Rivers. Cook is an undersized guard, but is a great competitor. I saw him play while he was still at DeMatha in his junior year and he had a scorer's mentality. Over the summer, though, he got a chance to lead USA's U17 team and scored 7.5 points to go along with 7.4 assists. I'd like to see more of the playmaking ability at Duke, as he will need to create for the shooters that surround him (Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins). While Cook is clearly not the best point guard prospect in terms of the NBA, he can have a very good college career and eventually land in the league.

SF Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky) - Taking home Co-MVP honors of the all-star game was Mike Gilchrist, who had 16 points, 12 boards, and four assists. His statline is a good representation of his game - Gilchrist does everything on the court to help his team win. He truly is a valuable player and will get a chance to show off his role playing abilities on a stacked Kentucky team. He is the perfect complementary player, being compared to Scottie Pippen, with his work on the glass and defensively. He also has some of the passing ability, but he isn't an elite level athlete. He has minimal downside and should be a lottery pick when he declares.

SG PJ Hairston (North Carolina) -  Hairston had an impressive week in Chicago. He competed in both the dunk and 3-pt contest, showing skill in both areas. In the actual game, he had 15 points including a few deep threes. He is going to be a great 3-pt shooter in college, with a high release. I like him better than Bullock because I see him as a smarter player with better athleticism. He has a stronger body and can finish with a lot of power. He's a sleeper of mine for the first round next year.

PF James McAdoo (North Carolina) - McAdoo made his presence known tonight, finishing with 17 points on 8-13 shooting. Like the box score suggests, he is an efficient player with a great feel for the game. He created opportunities for him self by playing the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. He handles the ball well for a power forward, complete with a solid post game. He needs to add strength so he can get better position, but as Dave Telep said, he is one of the few in this class that can carry a college team sooner rather than later.

C Johnny O'Bryant (LSU) - It was hard not to notice O'Bryant out there. He tried to show off his offensive game, but instead showed raw ability. Like DeMarcus Cousins when he was in high school, O'Bryant doesn't take advantage of his size enough. He focuses on spin moves and making plays off the dribble. While he does have a surprisingly quick first step, he is out of control and out of his element in that situation. I like his energy, but he has to learn to use his body to become a powerful force inside. Right now he uses it poorly and had his shot blocked at least once because of it. He needs to go up strong and finish with dunks - not fadeaways!

Stay tuned tomorrow for thoughts on Plumlee, Scott, Birch, Dawson, Kabongo, Nash, Rivers, Teague, and Zeller.

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