It's fitting that the Nike Hoop Summit has found a home in Portland, because in many ways it's the perfect event for basketball hipsters. When the likes of John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy start touting Anthony Davis' dominant defense, Hoop Summit attendees can say they knew Davis back before his unibrow was a marketing ploy. When Bismack Biyombo becomes a top-10 pick, the fans and media in presence can look back at his breakout performance in Portland like an early live show by a band that makes it big.
This year's crop of talents took that to a new extreme. You see, none of the 21 players who took the court Saturday at the Rose Garden are likely to be in this year's NBA Draft. In fact, one of the best prospects on display--Canadian swingman Andrew Wiggins--is just a sophomore in high school. Wiggins told SBNation.com's Benjamin Golliver that he's considering reclassifying to the prep class of 2013, but he's still at minimum two years from the NBA. When and if Wiggins does make it, he can point to the Hoop Summit as the time his stock skyrocketed with a strong showing in front of NBA scouts, and those of us who were there can say we knew him before he went mainstream.
For now, let's take a look at what to expect from the 10 members of the U.S. squad and Canadian forward Anthony Bennett who are headed to college campuses next fall.
F/G Shabazz Muhammad (uncommitted)
C Nerlens Noel (uncommitted)
The nation's top two prospects, both of whom played in the Hoop Summit, are scheduled to announce their choices on ESPNU Wednesday evening. Expect these kinds of late decisions to become increasingly commonplace for five-star seniors. The NCAA's new deadline for players to withdraw from the NBA Draft (which falls today) is designed to push most decisions to before the beginning of the late signing period, which starts tomorrow. That benefits both coaches, who know how many scholarships they have available, and recruits that get a better sense of how much playing time they can expect.
If this sounds like a win-win, keep in mind that the missing piece is current college players, who no longer have an opportunity to "test the waters" and gauge their draft stock by working out for teams. Now, potential early entrants must make their decisions largely based on feedback from the Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which has a difficult time offering definitive assessments because the draft is still more than two months away. In practice, players really have until April 29 to make their choice, because they do not have to choose to enter the NBA Draft until then, but the timing still complicates one of the most important decisions of their life and makes it more likely players listen to whoever is telling them what they want to hear.
As for Muhammad and Noel, my sense is that the former will be the superior college player but the latter has more long-term potential. Muhammad is incredibly polished and plays hard at both ends, which will help him make an immediate impact during his first and likely only season on campus. The best pithy take on Muhammad I heard all weekend compared him to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with a jumper. Muhammad isn't as well-rounded, but he has a similar motor and contributes on the glass from the wing. He's far more of a go-to scorer, to the point where he occasionally got tunnel vision with the basketball during the second half.
It's hard to argue with Muhammad's production. At one point during the first half, I noted that his numbers were likely to be better than his performance looked because he goes about his business so quietly and consistently. Lo and behold, we looked up to see that Muhammad was already sitting on 22 points before halftime. He finished with 35, breaking Enes Kanter's Hoop Summit record, on 12-of-27 shooting. If he lands at Kentucky, Muhammad will immediately take over as the centerpiece of the defending champs. Muhammad going to UCLA, his other likely destination, would be a game-changer for the Bruins next season.
Temper my skepticism about Noel's college potential with the knowledge that I said something similar about Anthony Davis this time a year ago. If possible, Noel might be slightly more athletic than Davis. He is capable of handling the basketball in the open court and has terrific body control. However, Noel is less polished offensively and largely stayed out of the way on that end of the floor, attempting just two shots in 24 minutes. (Noel did arrive late and got in just two practices with his teammates before the game.) At the other end, Noel is nearly in Davis' class as a shot blocker, an assessment backed up by his impressive statistical performance in the EYBL. Noel could step right into the Davis role if he chooses Kentucky over his other two finalists, Georgetown and Syracuse.
F/G Kyle Anderson, UCLA
After Muhammad, Anderson was the next most productive member of the U.S. squad, finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. I can't say I've ever seen a player quite like Anderson, who is 6-8 with long arms but prefers to facilitate the offense. He spent his weekend swinging back and forth between point guard and power forward. Anderson will have to clean up his high dribble against quicker defenders and he has a tendency to palm the basketball on his trademark slow-motion crossover, but he has a knack for getting where he wants at his own pace and sees the floor well. Assuming the Bruins don't land Muhammad, expect Anderson to start with holdover wings Norman Powell and Tyler Lamb. He'll defend small forwards and help out the Wears on the glass but also run the point.
C Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Tarczewski is generally considered a top-five recruit, but he did not really stand out over the weekend. During the game, he recorded an eight trillion (eight minutes, no other stats save a personal foul), and I don't believe he saw the court after halftime. Tarczewski is a legit 7-footer who moves well for his size and has skills, but the level of athleticism seemed to be a bit much for him.
PF Anthony Bennett, uncommitted
Bennett, who doesn't plan to make a decision on his school until May, is another possible Kentucky commit. He also has Florida, Oregon, UNLV and Washington in his final five. Bennett is a tad on the short side for an NCAA power forward and prefers playing on the perimeter on offense. The Canadian ended up delivering the knockout blow for the World team by hitting a fadeaway three-pointer to beat the shot clock and extend the lead to two possessions in the final minute. Bennett is best on the glass, where he can use his strength to clear space.
SG Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
At the moment, Goodwin is the only player from the game committed to John Calipari. He's a pure scorer with range on his jumpshot who can step in for Doron Lamb as the designated floor spacer in the Kentucky attack. Goodwin might be slightly superior when it comes to scoring off the bounce.
SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
During the USA's fourth-quarter comeback, Harris flashed a well-rounded game, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and three assists. He has good shooting form, though like many of the U.S. players Harris struggled with the longer international three-point line, missing all four of his attempts from long distance.
SG Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Subjectively, Sulaimon left a better impression than his final stat line--three points on 1-of-10 shooting--indicated. In practice, he showed an accurate stroke from beyond the arc, and he was part of the pressure defense that caused problems for the World team after halftime. Sulaimon has a chance to step in for Hoop Summit alum Austin Rivers next season.
F/C Tony Parker, uncommitted
As Jonathan Givony of Draft Express noted on Twitter, the new, much bigger Tony Parker was on a mission all week to prove he can play away from the basket. As it turns out, he can't at this point. He struggled to connect from midrange and missed all three shots he took during the game. Parker will be better off focusing on using his girth in the paint. However, he doesn't seem as athletic as other similar players like UCLA's Joshua Smith and Miami's Reggie Johnson.
F/C Mitch McGary, Michigan
Like the other bigs on the U.S. bench, McGary was barely used after halftime. He's got legit size for a college big man and was once ranked as high as No. 2 in this class before slipping. I can see McGary struggling to contribute right away as he deals with foul trouble his first season, but Evan Smotrycz's decision to transfer clears up immediate playing time.
PG James Robinson, Pittsburgh
The USA called in Robinson to give them a true point guard on the roster after North Carolina-bound Marcus Paige was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot after the McDonald's All-America Game. At this level of competition, Robinson looked out of place, and the lack of playmaking at the point caused problems for the U.S. offense. Expect Robinson to apprentice for a year under Tray Woodall before taking over for Jamie Dixon.
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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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