Here at RU we're all about finding the next big thing. And no, that's not a Jasper Johnson joke or a dig at Sun Yue. We really do strive to find those players who will shine in the upcoming season, and possibly make a strong push for 10-day contracts or an extended stay with an NBA team. The first place one might look for such up and coming talents would be the pool of undrafted NCAA players who may be more apt to stick with the D-League in hopes of getting a second look (or in some cases third and fourth look) from NBA scouts.
Now think back faithful reader to a time when you ate strictly Ramen Noodles and Microwavable Beddar Cheddar Brats, yes that far back. That's right, you had just graduated from college (or left home, whichever the case may be). You were on your own for the first time, and trying to make your way in the world. Now let's pretend that you had valuable athletic abilities and basketball skills; how much different would your life have been? Very. You certainly wouldn't have spent that six months living on a commune in Iowa if you'd had sick hops coming out of school.
We were all 22 years old at some point - here's to you cheddar brat!
So for the talented young men who didn't get snapped up by the NBA the first time around, let me help you on your path to basketball success with a little advice: play in the D-League. First, the D is the perfect place to build your professional resume; NBA scouts will be watching, and having D-League experience pretty much trumps all minor leagues in terms of competition and talent level. As NBA and D-League agent Bill Neff put it in an interview earlier this month, "The D League is the best formula for preparing a player for the NBA. Very few American players come from Europe to the NBA. If it is your dream, stay here and play..." Nuff said Bill.
Unfortunately, a lot of young men have already either signed overseas, or made enough waves in Summer League to get an NBA camp invite. So for now we'll primarily be focusing on those players who are currently still available. This list may change drastically as we start to see who else signs with international teams and gets NBA training camp invites, but for now lets see who we got.
Hit the J-U-M-P for a list of Undrafted Rookies
Jerel McNeal - Listed as a 6'3" SG from Marquette, he formed a part of the successful backcourt with PG Dominic James over a last few seasons. McNeal played with the Sacramento Kings at the Vegas Summer League averaging an unspectacular 4 points. I like to think of McNeal as a less good version of Ben Gordon, undersized for the SG in the NBA, I suspect he'll need to work on his ball handling and point guard skills.
Dominic James - The other half of the Marquette backcourt, James is a speedy and athletically gifted player who would often exploit his quickness in the college game to get past his opponents and to the rim. Two notable gaps in his game are his shooting and overall efficiency with the ball; which are both essential if you want to stick in the NBA as an under 6 foot PG. James was considered on of the better PGs in the NCAA throughout his four years at Marquette, but slipped considerably in the draft boards after breaking his foot in February of his senior season. Let's hope he considers the D-league to recapture his mojo.
Josh Heytvelt - If you had asked any NBA scout two years ago, they would have told you Josh was a borderline 1st round talent who could be somebody's rebounding/intangibles guy off the bench. But then he took a bit of a tailspin; got arrested for shrooms (I mean c'mon it's Washington state!), injured his foot and was suspended from Gonzaga for a season. Now Josh is healthy, he spent his senior year trying to resurrect his basketball resume from the trip gone bad.
Paul Delaney - Another physically gifted Point Guard out of UAB, Delaney made the first-team at the Portsmouth invitational with his physical play and explosive offensive game. Delaney's main weakness is his shooting, he only made22 3-pointers in 33 games during his senior season and has an ugly looking shot with poor mechanics. His size (6'2" 200lbs) will be an asset, but he's not the only physical yet unrefined 6'2" guard looking to stick in the NBA (Oh, hello DeMarcus Nelson).
Paul Harris - I remember when Harris came out of High school, he was a pure Manchild. Physically gifted and an absolute specimen, Harris was touted by some as the next Carmelo Anthony for Syracuse. Well, let's just say that Harris never quite blossomed to that extent. His skill level and decision making are still considerably raw, given the amount of time he's spent at the college level. Paul's jumpshot is improved from where it was coming in to college, but he still has a long way to go in that area. Paul seems like the perfect candidate for the D-League, he's an absolutely amazing talent that simply needs some developing.
Eric Devendorf - Another 'Cuse guy, Devendorf has had some problems with the law, which has faded his star to some extent. Devendorf is not an overwhelmingly physical gifted player, rather having a nicely polished offensive game that includes a pretty jumpshot. His shooting totals from college are pretty impressive, boasting nearly 40% from behind the arc and shooting nearly 50% from inside the 3-point line. His mention on this list is pretty moot though, as he announced before the draft that he was much more interested in Europe than the D-League.
Curtis Jerrells - Jerrells is yet another point guard looking to make the big show. He played at Baylor for three years before deciding to enter the draft. The story on Curtis' game is that he is an all around solid floor general and ball handler, but can be a bit of a ball hog. His offensive game at Baylor revolved around running the pick-and-roll, with most of his point being scored off of contested jumpshots. Jerrells did help himself a little in the Vegas Summer League with the Mavs, he averages just over 5 points in 5 minutes a game, playing more under control than at Baylor.
Dar Tucker - Having played two seasons at DePaul, monster athlete Dar Tucker decided to try his hand at the NBA. Unfortunately for him, unpolished, athletic two guards come in droves to test the NBA waters. Tucker's game was fairly up and down at DePaul, primarily because of the talent level on that team. Tucker often tried to do too much while at DePaul, relying on a poor jumpshot and limited ball handling ability (read: he has no left hand). He would certainly be a good D-League prospect.
Luke Nevill - Dude is big. 7'1" and 250 lbs big. Luke Nevill is the big center from Australia, by way of Utah. He actually reminds me a little bit of Scott Schroeder's favorite Aussie of all-time: Luke Schenscher. Nevill is very tall, has soft hands and good length, but remains on the slow, unathletic, and seemingly immobile side. He got a look-see from New Orleans at the Vegas Summer League and did fairly well in the one game where he saw more than just a few minutes of action. In 22 minutes against the Timberwolves SL team he posted 12 points, 4 boards, and three blocks.
Man, this is a long post......time for some mid-post intermission
Antonio Anderson - After spending four years on a Memphis team that saw tremendous ups and downs, Anderson has worn many hats within the offensive sets of coach Calipari. The beginning of his career saw him as a hustle and transition player, while in his junior and senior seasons he blossomed into a defensive stopper and, oddly enough, an assists guy out of the two spot. Anderson's best chance at making the NBA will definitely be his defensive abilities. He's never been an explosive scorer, but he has the physical profile (6'6" 215lbs and a long wingspan) to be a solid perimeter defender.
Alade Aminu - Being the older brother of a phenom is hard, just ask Taylor Griffin. Alade's younger brother Al-Farouq Aminu has been the one garnering love from the NBA scouts, but Alade, like Taylor, is no slouch in his own right. The issue Alade has had mainly stem from his unpolished offensive game. Despite playing four years of ACC ball, it appears that he was never really utilized or developed well at Georgia Tech, as he failed to make an impact on even their worst teams. Alade possesses great physical attributes; he's 6-10, 7'3" wingspan and can run the floor with ease. I think some strength training and offensive development might slide him a little further out of his younger brother's shadow.
Wes Matthews - Yeah I know what you're thinking, "But Wes Matthews was already drafted in 1981!" It's not that Wes Matthews. This Wes Matthews is yet another four year player from Marquette (Marquette must be hurting for veteran players by now), who has the size to play Shooting Guard in the NBA, but not really the skill set. He is listed as a college SF, but would need to hone his outside shooting and his ball handling in order to play in the big leagues. During his senior season, he took on much more of the scoring and defensive assignments, pushing his stock farther along the NBA path. Despite this, his glaring weakness is that he has no weakness. Wes does a lot of things well, but nothing great. That coupled with his average athleticism should place him as a solid role player in the NBA should he get the chance.
Luke Zeller - What say you? Shall we find another unheralded older brother? Oh hey Luke Zeller! Zeller attended four years at Notre Dame and is so unappreciated that he didn't even garner a Draft Express page. Poor guy. The general consensus on him is that his lack of explosive athleticism and thin frame are a major setback for him. Unless he can really fill out his body and develop a more consistent jumper, Zeller is not a likely candidate for the NBA. Just in case you didn't know, his younger brother is Tyler Zeller of UNC fame, and he does have a Draft Express page.
Garrett Temple - This LSU product has a lot going for him in terms of height and playmaking ability, but where most NBA scouts get nervous is his lack of true bulk. At nearly 6'6" and 176lbs, Temple is badly in need of a few of those Cheddar Brats I mentioned earlier. He played for the Houston Rockets in the Vegas Summer League, and like most of the other guys on here, didn't do anything too spectacular, averaging around 5 points and little else in 12 minutes of playing time. While he was at LSU, Temple was noted to run the fast break very well and ran the point very efficiently, with nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio. Though a major knock on Temple is his lack of scoring ability and his general passiveness in the halfcourt offense.
Connor Atchley - As of late, every big man with some hops and an unrefined post game has been claiming that they are the next "Birdman" aka Chris Andersen. Usually it's all smoke and mirrors because they aren't very good. In Connor Atchley's case, I think the comparison kind of works. He's 6'10" and 230lbs, and has really nice defensive ability. At Texas he was able to block and alter a lot of shots, but stayed relatively foul free while also battling down low with some of the better big men in the Big-12. Atchley is also known for his smooth jumper, which extends out to at least the college 3-point line. In terms of post moves, they are nonexistent. I'm hoping he'll consider the D-League, which would be a great training ground for the next Birdman.
Diamon Simpson - I don't know what it is about St. Mary's, but they have seemed to produce solid players who I just seem to fall in love with. Add Diamon Simpson to that list. Simpson is what you would call the undersized NBA banger. He measures approximately 6'8" with a wingspan of 7'1", weighing 230lbs. His career at St. Mary's essentially boiled down to him doing a couple things well: Defending, rebounding, and hustle. His offensive game is not great, but he does have decent footwork. He was slotted to play with the Wizards at the Vegas Summer League but sadly got no burn. The things that will get Simpson a second look from the NBA will be his hustle and defensive abilities.
Alonzo Gee - To me, Alabama product Alonzo Gee reminds me of an even more unpolished Paul Harris. He is a physically gifted player who doesn't really know how to play the game. His decision making, shooting, and defensive abilities are not particularly strong, though Gee has been known to show flashes of slashing ability and defensive awareness at times. Also, he only shoots 62% from the foul line, ouch. On the bright side, Gee is a team player, often passing well and feeding teammates for open looks. I'm hopeful that Gee will land in the D-League this season, as SEC players are just drawn to us. Oh and he has a wobbler apparently.
Hang around for Part 2 later this week! More prospects to come!