Portsmouth Invitational Tournament Recap, All-First Team

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament Recap, All-First Team
Apr 13, 2010, 03:35 am
Recapping the top players seen at the 2010 Portsmouth Invitational tournament, starting with our all-first team, consisting of Jerome Randle, Mikhail Torrance, A.J. Slaughter, Tyren Johnson and Hamady N'Diaye.

Jerome Randle, 5’10, PG, California
13.7 points, 46.0% FG, 35.7% 3FG, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 4.0 turnovers, 2.0 steals

Kyle Nelson

Jerome Randle’s last day at Portsmouth was not as expected, but factoring in fatigue and a bout of food poisoning, he was still the most impressive player in attendance. Considered a marginal prospect throughout his career at California, Randle emerged as the Portsmouth player most likely to be on an NBA roster in the fall.

His most significant weakness is obvious his lack of size. Measuring 5-9 ½ with a slight frame and without great length, Randle will have ample size and strength issues at the next level. He does have very good quickness and agility, however. Outside of the fact that he is just an average leaper for his size, he is a terrific overall athlete.

Watching him play reveals that, while his size is a weakness, he has excellent instincts to, adjusting well to almost every defender he saw at Portsmouth, from Mikhail Torrance, a 6’5 athlete, to the fastest player in college basketball, Ish Smith. He is a very smart player and is able to exploit and anticipate his opponents’ weaknesses in order to compensate for his lack of ideal size, something that should help him tremendously at the NBA level.

As a point guard, Randle displayed unparalleled vision and never lost sight of his teammates on the floor. He also knew how to deliver his teammates the ball in optimal scoring positions relative to their respective skill sets. Outside of a few wild passes, which were very much the norm in this setting, he played under control and with impressive maturity, dictating the tempo whenever he was on the floor. He had no trouble adjusting to traps, simply passing over or around bigger or more athletic defenders. He also ran the pick and roll successfully. His ball handling and passing skills are both top notch and he looks as though he can play a variety of roles as a back-up or third string point guard at the next level.

Randle was also one of the most complete offensive players in attendance, continuing to show his incredible perimeter stroke and NBA range. His form is incredibly consistent with a lightning quick release and solid elevation. He had no problem shooting off of the dribble or with his feet set, separating him further from the slew of undersized point guards we see coming out of the college ranks each and every year.

He also showed a solid mid-range game, doing a very solid job of creating space for himself against bigger and longer defenders. He hardly ever had difficulty getting his shot off and showed solid shot selection throughout the tournament.

As a slasher, Randle will certainly struggle in the NBA, but he did as much as he could at Portsmouth to alleviate fears that he will be ineffective in this area. He has an excellent first step, which coupled with his quickness, agility, ability to change speeds and body control, allows him to get into the lane and create opportunities for himself around the rim. As was clear at Portsmouth, however, getting stronger should help him finish better with contact and navigate the lane with more physical NBA defenders.

On the defensive end, his lack of size and strength did him few favors and will also be a problem at the next level. Outside of these concerns, he is has fairly good fundamentals and had a solid defensive performance at Portsmouth. He was active, always in his man’s face, utilizing his excellent lateral quickness and aggressiveness to his advantage. While he struggled getting through screens initially, and will likely struggle in this area in the NBA, he displayed solid anticipation and adjusted somewhat throughout. It was clear after Portsmouth that while Jerome Randle will not be a great NBA defender, he should not be as much of a liability as his size would suggest.

Finally, Jerome Randle is, by all indications and reports, a very high character individual who has overcome obstacles on and off of the basketball court throughout his whole life. He has been a leader on the court throughout his career at California and possesses tremendous intangibles that were evident at Portsmouth and that should carry over to the next level.

Most scouts we spoke to are very high on Randle and the consensus was that he put himself firmly in the draft discussion through his performance at Portsmouth. While he played well and helped himself more than any player here, Randle will have to continue performing well against bigger and more athletic point guards in private workouts if he wants to maintain his draft stock.

Mikhail Torrance, 6-5, Point Guard, Alabama
17.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4.7 turnovers, 53% FG, 18-19 FT

Perhaps the player with the best long-term upside of any prospect seen in Portsmouth, and clearly the one who made the biggest jump in draft stock comparing where he started and ended the camp, Mikhail Torrance had an excellent week any way you slice it.

Torrance has great physical tools for either guard position, standing 6-5, with a nice frame, long arms and excellent athleticism. He did a great job putting pressure on the defense all week long, getting to the basket time after time with his powerful long strides and showing terrific creativity running the pick and roll and finding the open man off the dribble. The fairly wide open nature of this setting benefited him greatly, as he looked very comfortable showing off his passing skills and terrific court vision and was able to make some very impressive plays in every game he played.

The aggressive slashing mentality Torrance shows—rarely will he hesitate to take the ball to the basket with a full head of steam—combined with his size and quickness make him very intriguing prospect in today’s NBA. He collected a large number of assists and got to the free throw line at a great rate, helping negate the fact that he’s not a great finisher around the basket.

He dishes the ball in a variety of ways, be it with fancy bounce passes, creative lobs, bullets through the teeth of the defense, or simple, fundamental kickouts. A willing distributor, it’s fairly rare to see a converted wing player embrace the point guard position so thoroughly, as the talent he shows passing the ball is clearly innate.

Fairly turnover prone, Torrance coughs the ball up a lot more than you’d hope, at times stretching the limit of his creativity and at times simply making unforced errors that hint at his inexperience running the position.

A very unorthodox player, Torrance drives left almost exclusively (77% of his drives go in this direction according to Synergy Sports Technology) despite the fact that he’s right-handed. He looks highly uncomfortable finishing with his right hand around the basket, often switching awkwardly to his left even when the play doesn’t call for it. With that said, he shoots jumpers and free throws with his right hand, and when asked which one he prefers, jokingly says that it “depends on what day it is.”

As a shooter, Torrance is improvable, particularly in catch and shoot situations, where he’s not particularly consistent. He has excellent shooting mechanics, getting very nice elevation on his jump-shot and being able to create separation nicely from his defender in the mid-range area in particular, but can still improve his consistency, which would benefit him greatly. At his size, he’ll likely be asked to spend some time playing off the ball as well, so it would benefit him to show that he can be relied upon as a spot-up threat.

Defensively, Torrance has excellent potential thanks to his size, length and lateral quickness, but his average fundamentals render him not as effective as he could be in this area. He often looks too upright in his stance and gets beat off the dribble more than you’d like, swiping at the ball and gambling in the passing lanes more than you’d like him to. Better coaching and more experience could make him an excellent defender in time if he’s willing to put his mind to it, and considering his likely role-player status, could be the difference between being a rotation player and not sticking in the NBA at all.

All in all, Torrance is an intriguing prospect that came out of this camp with quite a bit of buzz thanks to his excellent performance. He went through quite a bit of turmoil in his four years at Alabama, with coaching changes, a rotating door of players and especially point guards coming in and out of the program, and very little to show for it in terms of his win-loss record in turn. With that said, players with his size, athleticism and versatility can add a lot of versatility to an NBA team’s backcourt, especially those with undersized combo guard types at the 2, and while he’s clearly not a finished product, he seems to have a good amount of potential to continue to improve down the road.

A.J. Slaughter, 6'3, PG/SG, Western Kentucky
16 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 1.67 steals, 50% FG, 43% 3P

Joseph Treutlein

Despite struggling a bit with his role in his final game here, A.J. Slaughter had a very strong week overall, showing an intriguing skill set and feel for the game. Standing 6'3 with good length and athleticism, Slaughter is a quick but not especially explosive athlete, probably best suited as a combo guard if he ever makes it to the NBA, with point guard not being out of the question at all with some development.

On the offensive end, Slaughter has a versatile set of skills, being a very good outside shooter both spotting up and pulling up off the dribble, having range to the NBA three-point line. He's very smooth pulling up with the ball in space, doing so frequently out of pick-and-roll situations, while he does a good job of keeping his balance and maintaining good form in these instances. Slaughter does show some problems when he has a hand in his face, however, and is likewise prone to forcing the issue, settling for some ill-advised shots at times.

Going to the basket, Slaughter is a decent finisher around the rim, having the size to go to the basket and the touch to put up a nice floater in the lane, however his lack of strength and vertical explosiveness limits his potential here, as despite doing very well against the Sun Belt conference, there are some problems projecting this to fully translate against NBA athletes.

In terms of point guard skills, Slaughter is at his best running the pick-and-roll, being able to punish the defense in a variety of ways, be it pulling up, taking it to the basket, hitting his man for the pass, or finding another teammate if the defense collapses on the play. He does a good job moving the ball on the offensive end in general, getting a good deal of assists on simple ball movement plays. His ability to operate at different speeds and maintain an excellent pace in picking and choosing his spot is a highly impressive attribute, and should benefit him greatly down the road.

Where Slaughter runs into trouble sometimes is while running the show as a full time point guard, not really having the mentality and instincts to seamlessly manage creating shots for others and himself. He is prone to putting his head down and over-penetrating with the ball, though he did a decent job of bailing himself out of these situations against the weak competition he faced. It's clear he's still developing as a playmaker, as he goes from stretches of very controlled, impressive play to a string of questionable decisions with the ball, not yet being fully comfortable in this role.

Defensively, Slaughter has good overall tools, with good length and pretty good lateral quickness, but there are some questions about what position he'll defend, as he's undersized for a 2 and probably not quick enough to stay in front of some point guards.

Fundamentally, he has a very good stance and opens up most plays by aggressively getting into his man, however he's prone to losing focus on plays and letting up out of his stance early, leading to some blow-bys. He's good defending the pick-and-roll, though, showing good strength to get through screens and doing a good job of sticking to his man. He also shows great hands and anticipation on the weakside, being a strong threat in the passing lanes.

Looking forward, Slaughter clearly has both NBA physical tools and NBA skills, but right now it's a matter of fully developing his feel for the game and being able to find himself a niche he is fully comfortable in, as what position he'd play is still a bit up in the air. Unlikely to be drafted (though not out of the question), Slaughter would be best served developing his game in Europe or the D-League for a year or two, where it's possible we'll see him as a late season call-up in the NBA, especially if he goes to a team with good player development, such as Tulsa, Rio Grande Valley, or Austin.

Tyren Johnson, 6-8, SF/PF, Louisiana Lafayette
9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.3 steals, 2 blocks, 44% FG

Jonathan Givony

Coming into this camp with little to no buzz after a solid yet not overwhelmingly impressive season on a bad team in the Sun Belt conference, few prospects helped themselves as much this week as Louisiana Lafayette’s Tyren Johnson.

A combo forward with nice physical attributes, including decent size (around 6-8), a nice frame, long arms and good athleticism, Johnson is a versatile player who does a little bit of everything.

Offensively, he likes to face the basket, where he shows the ability to make shots with range out to the 3-point line, albeit inconsistently. He has the ability to shoot off the dribble as well, but is streaky here as well, not always really knowing his limitations at this point. Just an average ball-handler, Johnson does a good job operating in transition, but is not particularly effective in the half-court, at times showing poor shot-selection and overall decision making, and in turn being extremely turnover prone. He’s not a particularly experienced player, despite his senior status, being somewhat of a late bloomer who only really started producing consistently at the collegiate level in his final season.

Perhaps the place where he impresses the most is with his passing ability, as he not only averaged a very good number of assists this season, but also showed excellent court vision throughout this camp, whipping some very creative passes to teammates diving to the rim. While he might be a raw player, this part of his game hints at some intriguing potential that could very well still be in store for him down the road.

Defensively, Johnson is interesting, as he showed the ability to guard either forward position at this camp, and contributes to his team by coming up with extra possessions in the form of blocks, steals and rebounds. His awareness isn’t always great and he seems to lose his focus from time to time, but there is plenty of potential to work with here thanks to his hustle and excellent physical tools, and his ability to defend multiple positions (especially against the pick and roll) makes him fairly intriguing.

Players like Johnson are very much en vogue these days, as he’s essentially the prototype for what teams look for in a Josh Smith style face the basket power forward. Still raw around the edges and clearly not a finished product, Johnson will probably get some looks from teams in private workouts and will be someone to keep tabs on in Europe or the D-League over the next few years to see how he progresses.

Hamady N'Diaye, 7’0, C, Rutgers
13.0 points, 57.1% FG, 70% FT, 7.0 rebounds, 0 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 2.7 blocks

Kyle Nelson

Rutgers center Hamady N'Diaye had one of the better camps of any of the big men in attendance here, establishing himself as a player teams in need of a backup big men should look at considering his rare physical tools and terrific activity level. N'Diaye is a raw, 23-year-old center with average hands and conditioning who is known primarily as a shot blocking specialist, but may be able to find himself a spot on the end of a team’s bench as an energy guy and defensive presence.

N'Diaye has good athleticism relative to his excellent size, an impressive frame, and a developing skill set. He showed a consistent hook shot on the offensive end, but did look comfortable with anything else on this end of the floor. His hands are not very good and his footwork is a work in progress, but he appears to be a hard worker and should continue to improve in time.

On the defensive end, he has solid lateral quickness and timing, which coupled with his explosiveness and aggressiveness, allows him to be a good shot blocker and a solid overall defender at this level.

As with most shot blockers, however, he finds himself out of position when he attempts to block a shot and gives up easy shots around the rim. He also is not much of a rebounder, on account of his hands rather than because of a lack of effort.

N'Diaye has the ability to be a solid presence as a team defender thanks to his mobility hedging screens on the perimeter and his ability to rotate from the weak-side, things that are in short supply these days when considering the crop of 6-11 players available on the free agent market.

N'Diaye seems to have very good intangibles, as he is a good teammate with a steady learning curve, a penchant for hustling and working hard, a positive attitude, and, a reputation for being coachable. Coupled with his size, athleticism, and potential, he could emerge as an intriguing prospect this summer or especially down the road if he continues to improve.

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