Nike Academy Scouting Reports: College Power Forward/Center Prospects

Nike Academy Scouting Reports: College Power Forward/Center Prospects
Jul 06, 2015, 04:48 pm
Scouting reports on six of the most intriguing college power forward and center prospects seen at the Nike Academy in Santa Monica this past weekend, including Ben Simmons, Jakob Poeltl, Kyle Wiltjer, and Shawn Long.
More Nike Academy Content:
-High School Prospect Scouting Reports
-College Point Guard Scouting Reports
-College Shooting Guard Scouting Reports
Ben Simmons, Power Forward/Small Forward, 6' 9.5”, 6' 11” wingspan, 229 lbs

Mike Schmitz

The LSU-bound freshman proved himself as the best NBA prospect at Nike Academy, further justifying his #2 spot on the DraftExpress 2016 Mock Draft.

Simmons is an extremely unique talent with an outstanding feel for the game and an ability to handle, pass, make plays with either hand, defend multiple positions and play above the rim in transition at 6' 9.5” 229 pounds.

Simmons made plays all over the floor and was far away the most talented passer in the gym day in and day out. With the ability to grab a rebound and run the break in transition, Simmons is nearly impossible to stop in the open court. His combination of strength and speed at that size makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing power forwards.

Simmons' success wasn't only limited to transition, however. He thrived as a point forward of sorts, handling the ball in pick and roll sets and dissecting the defense out of post isolations. He has elite court vision and uses different angles to deliver the ball on the money with either hand.

While he's best as a distributor, Simmons also does an outstanding job getting low to the ground on his perimeter drives as his combination of strength and a quick first step allows him to get all the way to the rim, where he's comfortable finishing with either hand.

Simmons can be prone to throwing up wild attempts at the rim and avoiding contact inside, however. While his passing instincts are tremendous, he does go for the home run play a bit too often at times.

The main area where Simmons still has quite a bit of room for growth is as a shooter. Although he does get solid rotation on the ball and has some natural touch, Simmons' shooting mechanics aren't ideal, as he sports a fairly slow windup and involved his ring and pinky finger too much on his release. The Aussie did knock down a couple of mid-rage jumpers and banked in a three, but his jumper still remains his biggest question mark moving forward.

Given his inconsistencies as a shooter at this stage of his development, Simmons is best as a playmaking power forward who would thrive in a system where he's able to handle the ball and create for his teammates.

Defensively, Simmons showed outstanding versatility, staying in front of quick perimeter players with relative ease. He's very mobile for his size and has the strength to battle on the interior as well. It's Simmons offensive talent that often has scouts and media members buzzing, but he really has a chance to be an excellent defender and two-way player. Simmons isn't overly tough and doesn't quite have elite length for a power forward, making him best defending the perimeter at this stage, but he certainly has the size and frame to develop into a better interior defender in time. Although he still has room to improve as a shooter, Simmons was by far the most intriguing talent at Nike Academy and will most certainly make a strong case for becoming the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Domantas Sabonis, Power Forward/Center, 6' 10”, 6' 10.5” wingspan, 238 lbs

Mike Schmitz

Sabonis doesn't have the flashiest or most exciting game, but he did enough at Nike Academy to help solidify his status as a potential first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Sabonis appeared to have added some more bulk to his frame while still maintaining his excellent mobility that allows him to get up and down in transition, defend the perimeter, and dive hard to the rim out of pick and roll sets.

Sabonis proved more than capable of staying in front of opposing power forwards (and even wings at times) at the camp, which is very important for him as his lack of length and vertical explosiveness limits his ability to spend too many minutes at the center position from a NBA standpoint.

While his mobility was on display defensively, Sabonis kept plays alive on the offensive glass and even led the break in transition at times. Sabonis also had a pair of nice pick and roll finishes where he used his strength to set a bruising screen, rolled hard to the rim and finished with a dunk.

Sabonis was rock solid during the course of the camp, but he still has his warts that limit his upside to an extent from an NBA perspective. Sabonis struggled finishing versus length on several occasions and still plays 15 feet and in for the most part. Although he does have the mobility to attack from the perimeter in a straight line,

Sabonis' lack of shooting touch handcuffs him a bit offensively. He had issues reacting to the defense in short roll situations as his lack of confidence as a shooter and sometimes below average decision making reared its ugly head a on a couple of possessions. His struggles as a shooter combined with his limited potential as a finisher versus length, making it hard to imagine him being a huge scoring threat in the half court outside of put backs and occasional drop offs.

There's a lot to like about Sabonis – strength, mobility, toughness, rebounding ability just to name a few – but he'll have to show he can be more of an offensive threat in the half court to project as anything more than a role player at the NBA level.

Kyle Wiltjer, Power Forward, 6' 10”, 6' 11.5” wingspan, 236 lbs

Mike Schmitz

Kyle Wiltjer torched the Nike Academy nets in a variety of ways and was without a doubt the best scoring big man in the group. Wiltjer drilled catch and shoot after catch and shoot three, and also showed the ability to attack an occasional closeout into a step back jumper or floater in the lane.

The Gonzaga sniper was the best shooter at the camp and he consistently made opposing bigs pay for giving him any time or space to get off his jumper. Wiltjer didn't just operate as a spot-up shooter, however. He's very skilled from mid-post spots, as a he displays solid footwork, a few nifty up fakes, turnaround jumpers, and very good touch on his right handed jump hook.

Wiltjer was also very effective in short roll situations as he did a nice job either stopping and popping in mid-range spots, making the right read or using up fakes to get defenders in the air. He's not a big-time athlete or overly long or strong, but the Canadian sharpshooter has a chance to be the best offensive player in the NCAA next year as a senior.

Defensively, however, Wiltjer is still a bit of a liability. While he did appear to add some weight to his frame, Wiltjer doesn't play with great toughness on the defensive end, as he struggles defending the post versus stronger bigs. He's not very involved on the defensive glass either, making him a focal point for opposing bigs to attack on the interior. Wiltjer could probably slide by somewhat on the defensive end if he was able to contain the ball in the pick and roll and stay in front of face-up power forwards in the half court, but his lateral quickness leaves much to be desired. He's actually fairly mobile on the offensive end, but his fairly wide hips and struggles consistently getting down into a stance and sliding really hurt him as a perimeter defender.

Wiltjer will most likely never be a prolific defender given his physical profile, but his stellar offensive package could make him a strong second round pick option next year when he becomes automatically eligible for the draft.

Shawn Long, Power Forward/Center, 6' 10.5”, 7' 1” wingspan, 248 lbs

Mike Schmitz

The Louisiana-Lafayette big man did exactly what he's done over the course of his three-year college career – show glimpses of offensive brilliance only to leave you wanting more in terms of defensive effort and his body/conditioning.

Long has the physical profile and offensive skill set of a potential first round pick. He has the size, strength, and length to play either big position in a pinch, and the shooting range and interior scoring to play inside or outside.

But as has been the case during his three years with the Rajun Cajuns, Long has never improved his body (fairly thin limbs with a heavy midsection), defensive effort or feel for the game.

Long didn't take over any of the scrimmages or dominate by any stretch, but his offensive talent was clear. He has nice touch from the perimeter, is very capable of dropping in jump hooks on the interior, can put it on the deck a little in a straight line, and is a load on the offensive glass, showcasing a fairly quick second jump despite not being a freak athlete from a vertical explosiveness perspective.

Long does have a tendency to be a bit wild when on the move or versus pressure, but he did a fairly nice job playing within himself over the course of the camp. On the defensive end, however, Long's usual bouts of inconsistency were clear. The Morgan City, LA native will have one or two possessions where he shows good effort, plays with toughness and finishes with a defensive rebound.

But for every solid defensive possession he has, Long gives you a lazy pick and roll hedge/plug or lackadaisical closeout, making you wonder if he'll ever have the fire and tenacity to take advantage of his solid physical tools on the defensive end.

Long also didn't provide much rim protection when he was at the five, an area where he took a step back last season. Long has put together back to back 28 PER seasons and is a versatile talent, but at age 22 with an inconsistent motor and minimal improvement during his college career, he'll really have to have a big senior campaign to hear his name called on draft night come June, 2016.

Jakob Poeltl, Center, 7' 1”, 7' 1” wingspan, 242 lbs

Mike Schmitz

Poeltl didn't make any drastic improvements since his freshman year at Utah, but his sheer size and defensive presence jumped out to NBA scouts and media members alike at Nike Academy.

Poeltl continues to fill out his very solid 7' 1” frame and proved himself as one of the best defensive big men in the 2016 NBA Draft. Not only does Poeltl show excellent timing and instincts as a shot blocker despite measuring only a 7 1” wingspan, he's developed into a tremendous post defender who plays with toughness and grit on the interior.

The Austrian big man pushes opposing bigs on the block and very rarely allows a deep seal in the paint. Poeltl can be a bit foul prone, but he's doing a better job staying down on fakes and using his size to alter shots inside. Poeltl also stood out as a pick and roll defender, keeping the ball contained and recovering to his man quickly while also switching occasional ball screens and staying with the ball valiantly.

On one play in particular athletic Indiana wing Troy Williams forced the pick and roll switch and backed the ball out, preparing to isolate Poeltl and either get to the rim or pull up for a jumper. Poeltl stayed step for step with the quicker Williams, and eventually swatted his layup attempt off the glass. Poeltl still has some room to improve as a defensive rebounder but overall he was fantastic on the defensive end.

Offensively, Poeltl was more or less the same player we saw at Utah last year. Everything was 10 feet and in, with the majority of his buckets coming on rim runs, offensive rebounds and pick and roll finishes. Poeltl made one jump hook and did have a couple of deep catches and finishes versus mismatches, but he hasn't appeared to have made any major strides as a jump shooter or interior scorer. It will be interesting to see how effective Poeltl can be on the offensive end without Delon Wright, who played a big part in the 7-footer's offensive success last year by feeding him pick and roll pocket passes and drop offs around the rim game in and game out.

Still only 19 years old without a great deal of experience, Poeltl has time to develop his offensive game, and the fact that he already brings so much value on the defensive end makes him a very intriguing option in the lottery of the 2016 NBA Draft.

Damian Jones, Center, 7' 0”, 7' 2” wingspan, 245 lbs

Mike Schmitz

Jones is far from a finished product as a player, but he showed glimpses of why he could very well develop into the best center to play at the 2015 Nike Academy. First and foremost, Jones helped himself by measuring 7' 0” with a 7' 2” wingspan. Jones has always been somewhat caught between the four and the five, but measuring a legitimate 7' 0” in shoes with a solid wingspan and an outstanding frame will allow him to easily play the five at the NBA level.

The Vandy big man is strong, mobile and very explosive vertically. He's not quite as quick off the floor as you would think, but he's very capable of playing above the rim with ease, as he showed with a handful of vicious dunks.

While he's still very raw offensively both in terms of skill set and overall feel, Jones did do some things offensively that he struggled to do with any consistency during his first two years at Vanderbilt. The Baton Rouge, LA native knocked down a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder, stepped into a mid-range jumper, dropped in a right handed jump hook and converted a tough left handed finish over length.

On the flip side, Jones still looked like an athlete transitioning into a basketball player at times. His natural basketball instincts aren't great, and he had issues creating on the block consistently and making the right play versus pressure. Jones commits more unforced errors than you would like, and still has very rigid footwork on the interior.

Jones' basketball IQ limitations showed on the defensive end as well. While his physical tools allowed him to come up with several impressive steals and blocks over the course of the camp, he also got lost off the ball from time to time and still has to prove himself as a legitimate rim protector. Jones also isn't all that aggressive or tough on the defensive glass, as he has a tendency to stand and watch rather than attack the defensive glass and rebound outside of his own area.

Jones is still a project and he'll most certainly have to improve his feel for the game and basketball instincts on both ends, but his 7-foot status, physical profile and glimpses of scoring ability certainly helped his stock as he enters a very important junior season at Vanderbilt.

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