At this year’s Portsmouth Invitational, several players stood out above all of the rest due to their potential to succeed at the next level. While many prospects competed at a high level, the following were the tournament’s biggest winners from an NBA draft perspective.
JaMychal Green, Alabama: While Green got poked in the eye in his last game and was forced to head to the locker room, he really demonstrated his great upside. Not only was he aggressive on the glass, but he also was able to showcase his decent skillset. Particularly in the later games, Green was able to step out and connect from the mid range, evincing picture-perfect lift and form on his perimeter jumper. Green proved to be valuable as a screener, as he set a high ball screen and then faded out on the perimeter for open looks. But, while he did connect on several consecutive outside shots, Green mostly looked to assert himself inside. In his first contest at Portsmouth, he finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds on 14-18 shooting. He properly executed some pick-and-roll sets with fellow standout Jordan Theodore, finishing with several thunderous dunks and leaving most of the crowd in awe of his explosive run-jump athleticism. Despite measuring out at 6’7.5, Green appears to have the length and motor to defend at the next level as well, although this is an area where he can stand to improve. In all likelihood, Green will become an NBA rotation player within the next few seasons due to his excellent athleticism and improving jumper. I personally believe that he was the most impressive prospect at Portsmouth and should rise on draft boards if teams can put aside their character concerns.
Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State: O’Quinn took home the Portsmouth MVP honors despite his team’s loss in the final game. This big man was exceptional on both ends of the floor and really picked up right where he left off after leading his Norfolk St. team in their upset bid over Missouri in the NCAA tournament. With an entirely new set of teammates, O’Quinn was able to bring a similar presence to the table and assert himself as one of the best draft prospects in attendance. He was physical and efficient on the offensive end, backing his man down and scoring over his opponents. With that said, his footwork is fairly raw at this stage of the game and he must improve on his go-to moves in the post and develop an effective counter. At times, he was simply able to overpower his opponents on both ends, and this should earn him a spot on some team’s roster next season. O’Quinn did a nice job sealing his man and boxing out throughout the tournament, finishing among the top rebounders. Despite his effectiveness on the offensive end, O’Quinn was most impactful defensively. He does an excellent job of weeding his man out in the post and forcing a catch high on the block. O’Quinn is very well conditioned and appears to have solid lower body strength. Further, he utilized his wiry length to block shots and disrupt players going to the basket. He will likely retain his ability to do this at the next level and must thereby be considered one of the top risers in the draft. He entered the NCAA tournament as a relative unknown and likely left as a draft pick. At Portsmouth, he reasserted himself and likely jockeyed for position in the second round.
Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech: Murphy was arguably the most talked about name amongst NBA personnel at Portsmouth. He instantly made his impact felt in his first game at Portsmouth, finishing with 27 points on 11-14 shooting and 2-2 from 3 point range. After having one of the most dominant efforts of the entire PIT, Murphy finished his last two games without really taking over these contests. With that said, he did a good job of not forcing the action in those final games and was able to handle to ball for his team on multiple occasions, proving to be a reliable option. Murphy projects as a good option at shooting guard at the next level. He has a very nice stroke and is able to get it off in a hurry. His handle is better than most anticipated and he has room to add girth with an NBA strength training regiment. Defensively, he is still a work in progress and must learn to rotate and communicate more effectively with his teammates. He will be given the opportunity to learn this aspect of the game, and possesses the physical attributes to develop into an effective option on this end of the floor. Murphy certainly was more unselfish here than he was at the NABC Classic, and that likely boasted his stock. With that said, he is going to need to continue to impress in head-to-head matchups at NBA workout facilities before he can really climb up the draft boards.
Kim English, Missouri: English did a decent job of handling the ball at Portsmouth, despite having been on the receiving end of Phil Pressey’s (and their other guards’) passes for much of his collegiate career. While he is undersized to play the two at the next level, English has the strength and quickness to compensate for his lack of ideal size. In his performances at Portsmouth, English was very aggressive attacking the basket and on the defensive end. He gets in a very low stance and has good anticipatory instincts. English projects as a ball hawk that will likely see some minutes as a spot up shooter off the bench at some point in the future. When attacking the hoop, he was able to find open teammates in his last contest, feeding Weems and others for open baskets. All in all, English has a definitive role off the ball at the next level and the quickness to fill in as a bench player. He should end up in the league at some point, but may have to go to Europe for a few years so that he can further develop his ability to play spot minutes as a point guard.
Gus Gilchrist, South Florida: Gilchrist was far and away the best rebounder in attendance and was able to secure loose balls despite playing alongside an enormous frontline. (His squad featured two former forwards who rebounded very well in college and dynamic big man Mitchell Watt) Even with them on his squad, he managed to lead the tournament in rebounds and finished with a 21 rebound effort, 10 of which came on the offensive glass. Gilchrist controlled the paint throughout the tournament and played well on the defensive end, swatting the ball away on several occasions and playing decent positional defense on others. In the last game, he was able to challenge several of the opposition’s players when they attacked the rim. However, Jet Chang, in particular, had his best outing, despite the well rounded play of Gilchrist. Overall, the extremely physical brand of basketball played at Portsmouth seemed to lend itself to players like Gilchrist, who were accustomed to the rigors of the Big East. And, his USF team was one of the most physically imposing defensive teams in that conference this past season. Gilchrist’s play at Portsmouth suggested that he can come in and provide an instant rebounding presence off the bench in the NBA. Still, most of his points were off of clean up baskets, and he must look to improve his long range shot before he can obtain minutes off an NBA bench. In all likelihood, he will end up in the D League, but have a realistic chance of latching onto a squad full time once his offensive repertoire has improved.
Kyle Weems, Missouri State: Weems was one of the most underrated performers at the event. While he will never likely land a role as a forward in the NBA, he could potentially see some spot minutes as a shooting guard. Not only did he shoot over 40% from the three point line in college, but he displayed an excellent mid range jumper at Portsmouth as well. Weems does not have a prototypical NBA body at this stage and thus is fairly underrated as a prospect because it is unlikely that he can get out and successfully defend NBA two guards with his added girth. Further, while he does not have elite athleticism and is more of a high-IQ player, he did give scouts something to think about when he was able to effectively attack the basket at the PIT. Weems demonstrated that he is deceptively quick and capable of scoring in a variety of ways. He attacked in transition and was able to consistently knock down midrange jumpers. Further, Weems rebounded the ball well for his position, and played solid perimeter defense. Not only that, but Weems was also very vocal with his teammates, calling out picks and making sure they were aware of defensive rotations. He immediately assumed a role of leadership by example, and this mental aspect of the game is an underappreciated measure of projecting success at the professional level. Despite his lack of an ideal NBA position, Weems is a capable player who should be able to enjoy some professional success down the road.
Other Players of Note:
Henry Sims, Georgetown: Sims was aggressive on the defensive end and showed that he can play in a more up tempo system. This and his excellent passing ability bode well for his long run potential. He will likely be drafted in the second round.
Julian Mavunga, Miami (Oh.): He was fundamentally sound as a big man, and displayed good ability to put the ball on the floor. Mavunga was tough inside for the entire camp and will earn a big contract somewhere due to his high motor and skill level.
LaRon Dendy, Middle Tennessee St.: Despite being way older than most in his class, Dendy was very impactful at Portsmouth and was able to utilize his size and athleticism to be a factor. Much like O’Quinn, he was tough inside and willing to finish strong.
Xavier Gibson, Florida State: Gibson has ideal size for an NBA big man and may be drafted due to his potential to fill in spot minutes. He was fairly effective on both ends of the floor, finishing strong near the basket and utilizing his length to block shots on defense. After an underwhelming college career, Gibson may retain a role in the NBA much like Ryan Hollins did out of UCLA.
Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall: While he is not much of an NBA prospect due to size concerns, Theodore was effective at the PIT. He demonstrated an ability to play pick-and-roll basketball and was very aggressive on both ends of the floor. Theodore nearly had a triple double in his final game, but was forced to sit out with a calf injury.