NBA Draft

2020 Portsmouth Invitational: 5 Would-Have-Been Standouts

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The end of April through early May traditionally marks the evaluation of the first post collegiate season scouting event– the Portsmouth Invitation Tournament (PIT), played in Portsmouth, VA. The all-senior, invite-only tournament serves as a crucial event for projected second round and undrafted players to boost their stock ahead of the NBA combine. The event has hosted talented alumni such as Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway, Dennis Rodman and Jimmy Butler.

Last year, there were five participants drafted: Justin James (40th-SAC), Terrance Mann (48th-LAC), Quinndary Weatherspoon (49th-SAS), Jarrell Brantley (50th-IND) and Marial Shayok (54th-PHI). With the tragic COVID-19 pandemic forcing its cancellation, let’s take a look at five would-have-been 2020 PIT standouts:

(Note: I expected top seniors such as Grant Riller, Markus Howard, Payton Pritchard and Myles Powell to turn down invites due their standing in scouting circles and near-lock NBA combine invites)

1. PG/SG Sam Merrill (Utah State) 6’5, 205lbs

’19-20 Stats: 35 mpg, 19.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 46% FG (62% true shooting), 89% FT, 41% 3PT on 6.8 attempts

Merrill closed the year as strong as anybody in the country, averaging 27.6 PPG over three games in the Mountain West Conference tournament en route to being named tournament MVP. He buried shot after shot including timely buckets, but none more timely than this tough game-winning shot against San Diego State in the championship game.

The immediate draws are Merrill’s lethal three-point shooting and live dribble scoring. He’s a career 42% three-point shooter on 5.8 attempts and ranks in the 90th percentile on dribble jumpers (144 attempts). Additionally, Merrill is terrific on spot-ups (93rd percentile) and catch-and-shoots (92nd percentile), while operating as a pick-and-roll threat (91st percentile) that opposing teams must deal with as a shooter, passer, and capable decision maker.

The biggest knock on Merrill are his underwhelming physical tools. He isn’t the explosive, long and maturely built perimeter player that’s desired. However, he understands how to get to his scoring and playmaking spots with a combination of deceptive quickness, IQ, size, change of pace and a respectable creative handle. Defensively, he has the size and competitiveness to stay on the floor as long as he is impacting the game offensively.

Merrill is an easy fit as three-point specialist who can add further value as a secondary ball handler and playmaker. He would bring tremendous value as a mid-to-late second-round pick, but should be a priority call as an undrafted free agent and/or a two-way contract candidate.

 

2. G/F Desmond Bane (TCU) 6’6, 215lbs

’19-20 Stats: 36 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 45% fg (57% true shooting), 78% ft, 44% 3pt on 6.5 attempts

Although Bane’s mechanics aren’t textbook, they are comfortable, repeatable, and he is without a doubt one of the elite shooters in the class. He is the type of sharpshooting guard teams covet with his ability to stretch floor in different ways at a high level (spot-ups, off-the- dribble, catch-and-shoot, relocations, around screens, etc.). The production speaks for itself: 43% career three-point shooter (575 attempts), 89th percentile on jump-shots, 91st percentile on spot-ups, 92nd percentile on dribble jump shots and a career 61% true-shooting mark.

Shooting is Bane’s main appeal, but he brings versatility as a scoring threat, secondary playmaker and 3-and-D fit. An improved handle has added more creativity to his shot creation while allowing him to get to his spots easier, especially in pick-and-rolls, where he utilizes his size, pace and feel to score and find teammates. Additionally, Bane does a terrific job of using his chiseled upper body to finish through contact at the rim, compensating for a lack-of-ideal explosive leaping ability.

Bane’s less-than-stellar quickness and negative wingspan (6’4) don’t scream physical tools capable of fulfilling the defensive half of a projected 3-and-D role. However, his strength, IQ, desire and activity are all tools that will allow Bane to defend two positions (SG and SF) with enough resistance and success to fulfill the projection.

In Bane, a team is getting an instant impact 3-and-D player with the ability to do more because of his upside as a playmaker and pick-and-roll player. Bane is a late first rounder and would make any team happy, especially a playoff team in need of bench production.

 

 

3. PF/C Mamadi Diakite (Virginia) 6’9, 224lbs

’19-20 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.3 bpg, 0.8 spg, 47% fg (55% true shooting), 75% ft,  36% 3pt on 1.8 attempts

With gradual role increases each year, Diakite responded with consistent growth and glimpses of his NBA-caliber tools and skills. The former national champion expectedly turned out his best year as a senior, leading the team in scoring while finishing second in rebounds and blocks as UVA closed the year winning 11 of their last 12 games.

Diakite immediately impacts the game on both ends with his 7’3.5-inch wingspan, fluidity, quick-twitch athleticism and energy. Defensively, he provides switch-ability, secondary rim protection, activity in passing lanes and overall plus defense. Offensively, Diakite will get his points as a finisher, lob, and put-back threat while building off his upside as a stretch big (33% career three-point shooter on 83 attempts; 42% on midrange jumpers on 26 attempts this year) and post-shot creator. Diakite shows attractive glimpses of a threatening fluid and skilled post, mid-post and turn-and-face scorer.

All signs point to Diakite being an easy two-way fit with tangible offensive upside. Teams should consider him early in the second round. The more teams believe in his jumper, the higher his stock will rise.

 

 

4. C Omer Yurtseven (Georgetown) 7’0, 264lbs

’19-20 Stats: 15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.5 bpg, 53% fg (57% true shooting), 75% ft

In his lone year at Georgetown, the former five-star prospect and NC State transfer delivered as a skilled post scorer with fluid footwork and a soft touch around the basket with both hands. Yurtseven is a capable rim-runner and utilized his combination of size and mobility to create second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass (3.8 offensive rebounds per game). Georgetown had early NCAA tournament birth potential until their off-court issues and injuries hit both leading scorers, Yurtseven and Mac McClung.

With 49.6 percent of his possessions coming in the post, Yurtseven heavily relies upon post-ups to be effective and doesn’t have the elite post game to justify similar touches on the NBA level, raising questions about his ability to be effective and adjust to the modern game. However, there is real potential for Yurtseven as a floor stretcher or at least floor spacer.

He’s a confident stationary jump shooter, shooting a positionally-respectable 38.3 percent (18-47 FGA) on jump shots this year and is a 42 percent career three-point shooter (26-61 3PA). Georgetown’s offense didn’t afford Yurtseven the opportunity to shoot many threes (3-14 3PA; 21%) compared to NC State, where he was able to show more of his modern big appeal (22-44 3PA; 50%). Further fueling optimism is his 41.2 shooting percentage in pick-and-pops on 17 attempts.

Yurtseven’s lack of athleticism and explosiveness are major concerns that will hinder him on both ends of the floor. He can struggle to finish against NBA size and athleticism and although he is mobile, he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to be a reliable pick-and-roll defender.

For a team to draft Yurtseven, they must believe in his ability as a true inside outside threat that can compensate for his below-average athleticism with his combination of size, coordination and feel. He ideally plays alongside of an athletic, rangy forward that can either provide rim protection or defensive versatility.

 

5. C Nathan Knight (William & Mary) 6’10, 253lbs 

’19-20 Stats: 29.6 mpg, 20.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 52% fg (61% true shooting), 77% ft, 30% 3pt on 3 attempts

Knight completed a dominant collegiate career by being named Mid Major Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons and winning both the CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. As a junior, Knight became the first player since Tim Duncan to average at least 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a season.

The late-blooming big man is fluid, skilled and possesses developing modern big tools. Knight began his high school sophomore season as a 6-foot guard, but is now a 6’11, true center with matchup advantage ball skills. He’s able to attack opposing 5s off the bounce on direct lines or with some creativity to either finish at the rim with his combination of size and touch or find an open teammate. Knight is very effective using his skillset in the post areas, especially when turning and facing and in pick-and-roll actions.

Knight’s true swing factor will be his developing three-point stroke. His display of a comfortable shooting stroke, shooting 30 percent on a career-high 95 attempts this year and a career 73 percent free-throw mark, are all encouraging signs of Knight becoming a reliable three-point shooter. Critics rightfully point to the fact he simply hasn’t proven to be a good three-point shooter and only shot 28.4 percent on jump shots this year (116 attempts). Knight becoming at least an NBA-caliber shooting threat from three and/or midrange will open up his ability to attack off the bounce and space the floor.

He isn’t the most nimble defending pick-and-rolls nor is he truly explosive vertically, limiting him defensively and as a rim finisher respectively. Knight will attempt to compensate for his below-average NBA athleticism by adding value as a secondary rim protector, utilizing solid timing and a 7’1 wingspan (career 1.8 bpg).

With the tools and budding skillset of a modern 5 — and potentially more to unlock — Knight should receive mid-to-late second round consideration and is an intriguing G-league development prospect who could be ready to contribute on the NBA level in the next few years.

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