And now, we shall endeavor to extricate you from those tenterhooks you've been on since Tuesday, with our incisive commentary on the class of 2014.
- Theo Pinson ( Duke/UNC) - In as odd a recruiting story as you will hear, apparently Theo has had an offer from Duke since last year...he just didn't know it. I'm not sure where those wires got crossed, but Duke nation's angst around why this talented forward (who has been vocal about liking the Duke program) had not received an offer was quelled after Jeff Capel made things officially official at the Peach Jam ( a day or two after Mr. Pinson got his offer from the Tar Heels). It's easy to see why this guy is so highly thought of. In build ( and to a certain extent looks) he reminds me of a shorter ( 6'5"), less gangly Julius Hodge. And, to be frank, that comparison holds no small amount of water when it comes to his actual game. Nothing Julius did on the basketball court had any right to be as effective as it was given how awkward it looked, and the fact was that he did everything well : pass, shoot, rebound, drive, pull-up, defend...all of it. Now, no one would describe Theo's game as "awkward" in the Hodgian sense, but it is not, by any means, smooth. This is in large part because ( and this is the thing you will hear most often about him) his motor runs at 5,000 RPM all.game.long. ( another trait he shares with Julius). The guy just plays too hard to be smooth.Which is, of course, a great quality until it isn't, and I imagine that is probably going to be the steep part of his learning curve as he matures. Learning when and how to pull back will be important in general but also in refining a few of those skills so that they become great instead of merely good. But in the interim, Theo has every tool in the basketball chest at his disposal, and while he does nothing spectacularly well, there aren't any glaring weaknesses either. He's one of those guys that's always in the right place at the right time and is an absolute emotional leader on the floor. Combine this well rounded game with a considerable amount of athleticism and the high motor, and you've got a player Duke or UNC ( or anyone) would be well pleased to have on their team. Strengths : overall game, intensity Weaknesses : lack of a clearly defined offensive game, strength
- Tyus Jones ( Duke/UNC) - The best player not named Andrew Wiggins at the Peach Jam ( with all apologies to Aaron Gordon, who we didn't see much of, and is easily 2b). If this kid were draft eligible next year ( his JUNIOR year in high school, mind you) he would probably be the first PG taken in the draft. He is a slightly shorter, slightly less athletic Kyrie Irving. Save me the trouble of writing here and just close your eyes and imagine everything that Kyrie did well and you'll have it : get his own shot, shoot the 3, split defenders, handle the ball, get to the rim and score or get fouled, hit FT's and, best of all, find the open guy. In the 3 games we saw him play he shot over 60% from the field ( including 9 of 10 from three) had 22 assists and committed only 8 turnovers. And all of this in spite of being the exclusive focus of opposing defenses ( his team was not particularly good), who tried their best to beat him into submission. He did not exhibit much interest or skill on defense, himself, though is team's reliance on the zone made this a little hard to accurately assess. Regardless, whoever gets him becomes an immediate title contender. For one year. Strengths : everything you want a point guard to do Weaknesses : overall strength, defense
- Jahlil Okafor ( Duke/UNC) - Jahlil is kind of the anti - Julius Randle. A quiet, giant of a kid, he plays with his back to the basket, has soft hands and, well, is just kind of soft in a lot of senses. There is a general tendency in college bball to overestimate height, usually to the tune of an inch or so, but in AAU ball, that generosity often extends upwards of 2-3 inches, so the program they sell ( for more than it costs to get in) is not really a reliable source of information in this regard. Oddly, with Jahlil, the estimate of 6'8" 260 seemed wildly conservative to the eyeball test ( I was thinking more like 6'10" 280). The point here is that Jahlil ( who is only 16, mind you) gets pushed around under the basket startlingly easily for someone of his dimensions. If he had Randle's aggression everyone would run screaming from the gym. Now, that being said, this kid isn't ranked number 1 in his class for nothing. He, as mentioned, has great hands (and footwork) for a guy his size, is ( not surprisingly) strong as an ox and plays the center positition like an old-school center. Unfortunately, the greater part of his skill set wasn't on display because his AAU coach hadn't the foggiest idea ( or didn't care) how to use it. He was SO uninvolved that we ended up leaving at the half of both of his games, and didn't bother going to the game where he, of course, dominated Randle with 22 points 13 reb ( 6 offensive) and fouled him out of the game. So, the guy doesn't lack for talent. Word on the street is that he, Theo, and Tyus are tight and have talked about playing in college together. If that happens at Duke or UNC ( and that's like, the world's biggest 'if') the other team's fans should just turn off the television from October 2014 - April 2015. Strengths : hugeness, strength, low post skills, rebounding Weaknesses : aggressiveness, quickness, gets moved on the interior despite his size, face-up game.
- Andrew Wiggins ( Duke) - He was the best player at this thing by a mile. He would be the number one pick in next year's NBA draft without a doubt. This guy is the powerful, supercharged, athletic version of Harrison Barnes (and I say that knowing full well the athlete that HB is) who looks to his outstanding mid-range game first ( a seemingly lost art, I might add) but can just as easily step out for a three, or , as Alex put it , can employ his exceptional "short -range game" to devastating effect. His second and third bounces are higher than most people's first and he is an exceptional defender to boot. There is little point in my continuing to wax rhapsodic, since you will be sick of hearing about this guy by the time he matriculates ( BTW, there is a rumor about him possibly reclassifying to 2013), at which point he is a virtual lock to attend either FSU ( where his dad went) or Kentucky ( God help us all). Strengths : playing basketball Weaknesses : strength. If i have to pick something.
- Justise Winslow ( Duke) - A left handed Gerald Henderson with better ball handling skills, this guy is smooth and powerful.( He actually ran the point for his Houston Hoops team) He handles and passes the ball well enough to play the 1 ( at least at this level), has developed enough of an outside shot to play the 2, and is powerful enough to play the 3. The best part of his game is attacking the rim, and he provided us with the best dunks we saw on 2 spectacular alley-oops. Justise has a great basketball IQ and a quiet, but strong floor presence. His jump shot and mid-range game still need work to be a consistent scorer. Strengths : athleticism, ball handling, court awareness Weaknesses : Jump shooting
- Justin Jackson ( Duke/UNC) - The most oddly built player I've seen since Tayshaun Prince, to whose game Justin's game could also be fairly compared. He's a round-shouldered, Go-Go Gadget armed, stick-limbed chap, who's listed at 6'7" but might very well be 6'9" if he stood up straight and is probably 160 pounds soaking wet and holding a 10 pound weight. And you would underestimate him at your peril. He's got a pretty jump shot,, is shockingly quick off the dribble and his incredible extend-o arms allow him to rebound the ball well even in heavy traffic. He desperately needs to hit the weight room, but has all the makings of a pretty darn good point-forward type. Strengths : ball handling, shooting Weaknesses : jumping ability, physique, scoring from 6 feet in, not especially quick on defense
- Jaquel Richmond ( Duke) - This very quick PG prospect doesn't shoot from outside very well, but can get to the rim or inside the paint with regularity and has a nice little 10 foot pull-up. He plays with his head up, is unhesitant and handles defensive pressure exceptionally well. He's solidly built and knows how to run a team i.e. is a smart passer not a great passer. A classic blue-collar Duke - type point. Strengths : ball handling, quickness, sturdy build Weaknesses : shooting