PORTSMOUTH, Virginia -- Like tournament alumn Jimmy Butler, 60 of the NCAA's top senior prospects had the opportunity to step outside of their college systems and showcase their talents over the course of the four-day Portsmouth Invitational. The NBA draft combine in Chicago also holds five spots for the top PIT participants, which teams select by casting a league-wide vote. Last year’s PIT produced six draft picks and 14 players who competed in at least one NBA game this season.
The 2018 crop didn’t feature a sure first-round pick, but there were still a handful of prospects that will have a chance to get drafted. After evaluating all 60 prospects, interviewing a handful of players and gathering intel from NBA personnel, there were four prospects who stood out above the rest and should earn invites to the mid-May combine.
Devon Hall | High-intangible utility guard | Virginia | Age: 22.7
If there’s one player from this group to bet on carving out a long NBA career and continuing to improve his stock throughout the pre-draft process, it’s Virginia utility guard Devon Hall.
Slow-motion look at Devon Hall's shooting mechanics. Virginia's senior leader is shooting a career-best 45% from 3 this year. He plays an efficient game. 6-5, strong, tough with a great feel. Professional approach. pic.twitter.com/wJhSYz4odS
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 2, 2018
He fits the profile NBA teams are looking for as a tough-minded guard with a winning pedigree, elite intangibles and a role-player mentality. Coaches both at Virginia and The Skills Factory in Atlanta, where Hall is doing his pre-draft, rave about his uber-professional approach to the game and focus, which shows in his incremental improvement every season in the ACC.
He plays with tremendous intensity, confidence and maturity while standing out as a vocal leader on both ends of the floor. It’s Hall’s impact on the locker room and likelihood of maximizing his long-term potential that make him most attractive to NBA teams, but he’s also a refined two-way player who fits this pass-dribble-shoot era of basketball.
Standing 6-foot-5 with a 6-9 wingspan and a strong 211-pound frame, Hall has a similar physical profile to Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield. While there’s a resemblance in terms of tools and athletic profile, Hall plays a completely different game than the shot-making Hield, taking a more cerebral approach and adding value as a defender of point guards and shooting guards.
Offensively he’s at his best as a spot-up shooter, where he has improved considerably after shooting 45.5 percent from the free throw line as a freshman. Displaying great balance and compact mechanics. Hall made 60.0 percent of his triples at the PIT, building on a senior season in which he ranked in the 95th percentile on catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to Synergy Sports.
Devon Hall fades to the corner for an 3-pointer off a feed from Kyle Guy.
Operating mostly out of spot ups and pindowns in college, it was useful to see Hall in more of a combo guard role in Portsmouth. While he’s an average athlete who lacks a degree of shiftiness, the former Cavalier is sure-handed with the ball and can make most basic ball-screen reads necessary to moonlight at point guard for stretches in the second unit. With a 3.06 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, Hall has vision and willingness to make the extra pass that allows him to slide into any system quite seamlessly.
Where Hall really struggles is as a finisher in the paint, which showed in Portsmouth as he shot 36.3 percent inside the arc in three games. He has average length on his stride to the rim, isn’t an explosive leaper and doesn’t get great extension in the paint, regularly short-arming finishes and lacking a knack for drawing fouls. Hall also isn’t the most dynamic shot-maker off the bounce, which somewhat limits his ability to serve as a pick-and-roll scoring threat.
It’s easy to nitpick Hall as he’s not loaded elite athleticism, but a smart team drafting in the early second-round or even end of the first should give him a legitimate look, as he’s poised to outplay his draft slot and turn in a long NBA career.
George King | Defensive combo forward | Colorado | Age: 24.2
One of the oldest players to take the floor in Portsmouth, King impressed with his outstanding physical profile, defensive versatility and steadily improving shooting stroke. From a physical perspective, King is the one PIT prospect easiest to project to the NBA game at 6-6 with high shoulders, a 7-0 wingspan and a shredded 212-pound frame, resembling a longer Joey Graham or K.J. McDaniels.
King’s NBA value comes on the defensive end, as he can defend up to four positions in the modern game, starting on wings, sliding up to small-ball 4s and switching ball screens comfortably. He’s an active rebounder with a strong compete level and plus athleticism, and the fact that he made 7-of-11 3s bodes well for his draft stock and future, helping to answer questions about the validity of his 39.5 percent clip last year at Colorado.
Despite his scoring average at the PIT, the elderly King, who tested the NBA draft waters last offseason, isn’t the most refined offensive player with a rigid handle, below average feel for the game, a flat, straight-legged jumper and sometimes-shaky touch in the paint. With around three times as many career turnovers as assists, King doesn’t read the game at a high level and certainly benefited from a helter-skelter style and his physical maturity in Portsmouth. His defensive instincts leave something to be desired, as he averaged only 1.2 combined steals and blocks per 40 minutes over the course of his career.
With that said, players with his physical profile, activity and defensive versatility aren’t easy to find, and he can continue to solidify a potential second-round selection or undrafted signee status by shooting the ball well and answering questions about his feel in the pre-draft process.
Gary Clark | Utility forward | Cincinnati | Age: 23.4
Interviewing with 22 of 30 teams while in Portsmouth, Clark is a player that organizations are certainly doing their homework on to assess whether or not he’s worthy of a second-round selection and capable of turning in an NBA career as a utility 4.
Clark's steady improvement over the course of his four years at Cincinnati speaks to his resolve, and the fact that he knocked down 6 of 13 3-pointers with sound mechanics was encouraging for his future as an active floor-spacer who can switch every screen, slide up to defend some wings, rebound and fit into most schemes given his solid basketball IQ. Although he doesn’t always shoot it with confidence and took only 1.4 3-pointers per 40 minutes over the course of his NCAA career, he gets good rotation and knocked down a career-best 43.5 percent of his triples as a senior.
His game didn’t completely pop at the PIT, as he’s not a physical freak or loaded with offensive talent. Standing 6-6 with a 6-10 wingspan and 219-pound frame, he has the tools of a combo forward but the game of a modern 4/5. Clark blended in at times on the floor, looking a bit passive, even defensively, which came as a bit of a surprise given the quite usual activity he played with at Cincinnati. That isn’t uncommon in a guard-oriented event, though.
With that said, Clark, who won 2016 American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has instincts (2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes), very good feet and the selflessness to add value as a plus defender and rebounder in the NBA. A key cog in Mick Cronin’s stout defense, Clark led the NCAA in defensive win shares, defensive rating and win shares per 40 minutes while ranking 11th in player efficiency rating. He knows who he is as a player and checks a few different boxes offensively as he can make a spot jumper, punish a switch in the post, straight-line drive from the perimeter and find the open man in the half-court, while bringing positivity and professionalism to the locker room.
Teams will likely want to get another look at Clark at the combine in May, and he's a potential second-round pick in June.
Kenrich Williams | Instinctual combo forward | TCU | Age: 23.3
Williams was originally committed to a Division II program before landing at New Mexico Community College for a season and eventually turning in a productive three-year career at TCU. Scouts are split on the 23-year-old, with some viewing him as a second-round sleeper due to his instincts and versatility at the coveted combo forward spot, and others questioning what he does at the NBA level given his basic skill set and average physical profile at 6-7 with a 6-8 wingspan and 205-pound frame.
Williams did impress with his competitiveness on the glass, ability to guard multiple positions with intensity and his instincts off the ball defensively. He has good feet and a solid upper body despite weighing only 205 pounds (skinny legs) and checked point guards, power forwards and everything in between for stretches. He’s a smart cutter who plays within the flow of the offense and isn’t going to hurt the team when he’s out on the floor.
His lack of offensive firepower showed, as he’s not the most talented scorer you’ll find. He shot 2-of-9 from 3 over the course of three games and scored only 21 points in 74 minutes, looking quite ordinary athletically and skill wise. He’s not a dynamic ball handler, finisher or shooter, and he’ll need to speed up his release and become a bit more reliable when set to warrant playing heavy minutes at the NBA level. While competitive with instincts, he doesn’t have elite positional length or strength either.
Williams is a jack of all trades who lacks an elite NBA skill, but his instincts and ability to impact the game without needing volume makes him an attractive option either in the late second-round or as an undrafted free agent/two-way option. Should he earn a combine invite as expected, Williams continuing to defend while making open shots and having a little more offensive impact figures to help his draft stock as June approaches.
Candidates for the fifth combine invite
There was a clear gap between the top four prospects and the rest of the field, but here are five potential candidates for the fifth combine spot based on both PIT production and overall body of work coming in.
Candidates: Angel Delgado (6-9 energetic rebounder), Elijah Stewart (3-and-D wing), Kendrick Nunn (shotmaking guard), Jeff Roberson (combo forward), Yante Maten (small-ball center).