Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Coverage of 2014 NBA D-League Tryout

Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside had a good writeup about the Top Standouts at Sunday's 2014 NBA D-League tryouts in New York City. Schlosser profiled six players at the tryout, but I am going to focus on going more in-depth about three of the players he wrote up about. A very good read, and a good introspective on the NBA D-League Tryout, which according to Schlosser, had over 200 players in attendance and many promising coaches as well.

Adam Kemp, 6-10 forward, Marist College

Here is what Schlosser said about Kemp at the tryout on Sunday:

"Despite having displayed a solid offensive game on the collegiate level as well, Kemp looked like a man amongst boys by stepping in as an intimating defensive presence. He could undoubtedly find a spot on the minor league level, because big bodies are always useful. Luckily for Kemp, he comes with a capable skill-set as well."

Kemp has just recently graduated from Marist, a team that went 12-19 and finished in the middle of the pack of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this past season. As a player, Kemp bloomed a bit late, as he was pretty below average his first season with the Red Foxes, putting up an offensive rating of 89.4. He improved his rating though each year, and finished his senior campaign with a 103.4 offensive rating, helped by 13.1 percent offensive rebounding rate, which was 62nd best in the nation. In terms of his average stats, Kemp averaged 10.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg his senior season.

Defensively, Kemp also adds some value as a shot blocker, as his 7.8 percent block rate was rated in the top 100 in the nation according to Ken Pom. Marist was in the lower end of the conference when it came to block percentage (they ranked 9th in conference play), so Kemp did not have a lot of help defensively in the post. (Which also makes sense when you look at their effective height rating, which was below average according to Ken Pom at -0.4)

When you watch Kemp on tape, he's strong and shows good footwork and athleticism in the post. The assumption when you first look at him may be that he's kind of just a banger, but he shows a strong ability to block shots without fouling, and he has the saavy and footwork to get easy dunks and buckets when he's in traffic around the rim. That being said, his game is mostly centered around the paint, as I have not seen him test his game much with the mid-range or 3-point shot.

Overall, Kemp might have a career in the D-League as a Mason Plumlee-like player, though he certainly doesn't have Plumlee's size or physicality. But it's entirely possible to see Kemp be a second or third post option for a D-League team, and a seventh-eighth man type that can give a lot of stability to a team. While he has steadily improved as a player in college, I don't know if he'll progress much at the professional level, but he certainly has the skills to make a D-League team, and his stats look better when you consider that the MAAC was a much better mid-major conference than people would like to think (ranked 13th best in the nation last year according to Ken Pom, better than Conference USA, MAC and CAA).

Justin Simmons, 6-3 guard, Nebraska-Omaha

Simmons may have been the most interesting player to attend the camp, according to Schlosser. Here is what he said about the recently graduated guard in his writeup:

"Just weeks removed from completing his collegiate career, it's safe to say Simmons could have the most potential out anyone in the entire group. A naturally gifted high-flying guard, the young gun has eye-popping athleticism. He runs the floor well, can handle the ball even better, and knows how to finish at the hole. He's not afraid of taking it inside against taller defenders."

If you watch the highlight video above, it's easy to see why one can get excited about Simmons. Physically, he can jump, dunk with authority and his athleticism for his size is quite evident. Whether it was him dunking solo or in-game, its obvious that that Simmons brings a lot of potential to D-League and professional scouts.

But this year was a step back for the D-League prospect. A JuCo transfer from Butler Community College, where he averaged 16.8 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field in his lone season at at BCC, Simmons was a second-team All-Summit player his junior year, when he averaged 16.7 points per game, shot 40.2 percent from the field, and started 30 games for the Mavericks. But as a senior year, his playing time fluctuated, and his ppg average dropped to 10.2 ppg, and he only shot 36.9 percent from the field. It seemed like injury problems did him in during his senior campaign, as he only started 17 games because of injuries (though he did appear in 30). That being said, Simmons finished his career strong, as he scored 14 points in their final CIT game against Murray State, and he finished second in the State Farm Dark Horse Dunker contest.

In terms of efficiency, Simmons seems to be below average on the offensive end. His 90.5 offensive rating according to Ken Pom was a vast regressions from his 99.3 rating a year ago (though that junior year rating is still below average). He also struggled from beyond the 3-point arc his senior season, as he took roughly the same amount of shots beyond the arc, but made far less (dropped from 40.2 to 25.2 percent). If Simmons is going to have a professional career, he has to find a medium in between with his shooting and it'll be interesting to see how he progresses. Was last year just an outlier caused by injury (46.3 percent TS)? Or was his junior year a peak for his shooting ability (55.7 TS percentage junior year). It'll be interesting to see, but with his athleticism, it is possible that Simmons may be given a shot at the D-league level to prove that his injuries are behind him and that he can play back to his junior year form.

Naofall Folahan, 6-11 center, Wagner

Folahan probably has the best shot to make an NBA Summer League team this summer thanks to his size, length and athleticism. Schlosser echoed a lot of these things in his writeup about the big man from Benin:

"Folahan's incredible athleticism on both ends of the floor is second to none. He has natural ability, quite similar to the professional athletes already gracing D-League and even some NBA stages...Such capabilities should help Folahan emerge as a shoe-in for selection come D-League Draft time, but his beautiful potential could also be enough to garner consideration from an NBA team or two heading into Summer League."

From all the guys Schlosser wrote about, Folahan is the one I will most eagerly keeping an eye on this summer. When you watch him on tape, he really has a lot of potential, and he is strong defensively, which could carry him at the professional level as somewhat of a poor man's Desagna Diop. He was a stout defensive presence for Wagner last year, as his 14.2 block percentage was 6th best in the nation. Furthermore, he shows good instincts and presence in the post, as he doesn't always go for blocked shots, and is able to force defenders to make tough shots around him, which leads to defensive rebounds and change of possessions. It was obvious that he was a project when he first came to Wagner, but he has developed a lot as a player, and his ability and skills on defense are what jumps out to you immediately.

But, his offensive game is very unrefined, and raw. He was not much of a presence at all in his time at Wagner on the offensive end, as his usage rate was low last year at 11.4 percent. While his offensive rating at 104.9 in his senior year was a step up from his junior campaign (96.9), it still paled in comparison to his sophomore rating of 116.5. Granted, he did achieve his 104.9 rating with more minutes, but Folahan just struggles to put the ball in the hoop consistently. After putting up a true shooting percentage of 61.6 his sophomore year, it dipped dramatically to 52.6 percent his senior year, alarming considering his usage rate was higher his sophomore season (13.1 percent). Folahan remains mostly a block kind of player, as his game rarely ranges outside the paint. It is similar to what you would see from Samuel Dalembert, raw and unrefined, and mostly scoring thanks to the creation made by his teammates (i.e. dump passes off the drive) or himself (off of offensive boards). But unlike Dalembert, he isn't as proficient on the offensive glass for a man his size (9.7 percent) and he isn't quite a strong either.

It is obvious that Folahan will be a project for any D-League team that picks him up. And after being in college for four years, some teams may not be as patient with him due to his age and stage of development. That being said, his size, defensive ability and potential could be worthwhile for any team and organization that is willing to be patient with him. He could break out in a couple of years for any D-League or professional squad if he makes any progress on the offensive end.

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