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Forecasting NBA Most Improved Player Race

Jabari Davis forecasts the 2016-17 Most Improved Player race, which is always a tough award to predict.

Jabari Davis

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With the 2016-17 NBA regular season less than a week from starting, Basketball Insiders has been look at the race for each of the league’s annual awards. We’ve analyzed the race for Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year thus far.

Today, let’s forecast the NBA’s 2016-17 Most Improved Player race. This particular award is always fun to monitor (and the hardest the predict) since it generally revolves around players taking the next step in their development or surprising everyone with a breakout season that few saw coming.

Last year’s well-deserved winner C.J. McCollum saw his playing time more than double from 2014-15 (15.7 MPG) to 2015-16 (34.8 MPG), and he clearly made the most of his increased role as he posted career-highs in just about every statistical (and advanced) category. As a result, the Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard ran away with the award. Guards and swingmen have dominated the award over the past 15 years, winning 10 of the last 15 years (even if you count Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love exclusively as big men) due to the shift to more perimeter-oriented play.

With so many players changing teams or walking away from the game altogether in the offseason, there are plenty of minutes and touches up for grabs entering this season. The players who can make the most of their expanded opportunity will certainly be in the mix for this award.

It is important to note this list isn’t necessarily ranking the players in a best-to-worst order, but rather by the likelihood of them winning the award. Here is a look at some of the names to keep an eye on throughout the regular season (which tips off on Oct. 25):

  1. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns – 13.8 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 42.3%/34.3%/84% shooting in 2015-16

After impressing as a rookie, the sky is the limit with Booker moving forward. He’s already one of Phoenix’s best players even though he’s still just 19 years old, and there are more and more people around the NBA who feel that Booker could continue to develop into a potential star at this level. It will be interesting to see if the front office ultimately looks to move last year’s starter, Brandon Knight, in order to open even more playing time for Booker (who played 27.7 minutes per game as a rookie). Either way, it’s clear that Booker is going to be a major part of the Suns’ present and future plans. This preseason, Booker has played very well, averaging 21.5 points (on 50 percent shooting from field), four assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 25.3 minutes per game. Keep an eye on the core of Booker, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Alex Len (among others) over the next several years.

  1. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers – 13.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 41%/35.1%/73.7% shooting in 2015-16

Not only is an increased opportunity there for the taking, Russell also seems to be jelling with the new coaching staff. That’s a great sign, and it appears Luke Walton’s system is a much better fit for what Russell brings to the table, at least offensively. The key for Russell will be consistency, as is the case for any young guard. This not only goes for his offensive production, but on the defensive end as well. His overall effort has been much better throughout the preseason and, by all accounts, he’s continuing to improve as a young leader. The Lakers may not win a ton of games this year, but they should be far more exciting to watch and Russell’s potential emergence as a cornerstone is definitely something for fans to look forward to this season.

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – 16.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 50.6%/25.7%/72.4% shooting in 2015-16

Why is the “Greek Freak” still on a list like this, you ask? The craziest thing about him and his potential is that he’s still just 21 years old. Khris Middleton’s injury was a huge disappointment and it may limit how much damage the Bucks can do in the Eastern Conference, but there’s still plenty to be intrigued about in Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo will be at the center of the action. Regardless of where head coach Jason Kidd plays Antetokounmpo, he’s going to exciting to watch and fill the stat sheet. The more you watch Antetokounmpo, the more you’ll appreciate his unique game because he is going to amaze you with some of the freakishly athletic stuff he can do on the court. If he’s able to add a three-point shot to his arsenal (as he reportedly wants to do, despite shooting just 28 percent from long distance for his career), the rest of the league needs to watch out. General managers across the league recently voted him the NBA’s top international player and it is hard to disagree if you’ve taken the time to watch him play. With another season of experience under his belt, it’s not hard to imagine Antetokounmpo being increasingly comfortable this season and putting up even better numbers. In 28 games after last year’s All-Star break, he averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 steals while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. If he can produce at (or near) that level for the entire season, he will certainly be in the mix for this award.

  1. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers – 10.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 49.8%/72.7% shooting in 2015-16

Turner’s 2015-16 numbers may not have jumped off the page if you didn’t pay much attention to him as a rookie, but we can assure you the former Texas big man was truly impressive in his 22.8 minutes of action per game. Now, locked in as the team’s starting center from the beginning of the season, we love that Indiana also brought veteran Al Jefferson in to back him up and mentor him. Turner worked really hard to expand his game this summer and told my colleague Alex Kennedy that he expects to have a breakout 2016-17 campaign. “I’m looking forward to making a big jump forward next year,” Turner said. “I know I did some good things last year, and I want to build off of that.” In that same interview, he also predicted that he’ll be “a very dominant player in this league” in the near future. Turner certainly doesn’t lack confidence, and it seems that the next step in his development is extending his range. He has attempted a three-pointer in all four preseason games thus far (shooting just 1-4, but it’s a very small sample size), and it will be interesting to see if he takes more as we get into the season. Either way, he’s someone who will be playing more minutes this year and could post some monster numbers if he continues to progress as expected.

  1. Jusef Nurkic, Denver Nuggets – 8.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 41.7%/61.6% shooting in 2015-16

We could have easily thrown another two or three Nuggets players onto this list, but Nurkic, in particular, has looked really solid in the preseason. Through six games, the 22-year-old big man is averaging 13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, two assists and 1.2 steals in just 24.5 minutes per contest. He seems to be developing good chemistry with second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and he actually works well alongside fellow big man Nikola Jokic, providing twin towers for head coach Mike Malone. Not that preseason statistics and productivity should be taken as any sort of basketball gospel, but Nurkic looks like even more of a load in the post, has displayed a soft touch by the basket and has proven to be a willing and able passer from the center position. Big men may not get as much love as they once did, but keep an eye on year three from Nurkic in Denver.

  1. Dennis Schröder, Atlanta Hawks – 11 PPG, 4.4 APG, 2.6 RPG, 42.1%/32.2%/79.1% shooting in 2015-16

After three years as a backup, Schröder now finds himself running Atlanta’s offense as the starting floor general following the departure of two longtime pillars (Jeff Teague and Al Horford) this offseason. Schröder averaged just 20.3 minutes per game last year and that was actually his career-high, so this will be the first time he’s playing such a big role. The 23-year-old did enough in his relatively limited minutes to prove to Mike Budenholzer, the team’s head coach and president of basketball operations, that he could handle running things on a permanent basis. Now, Schröder will play a crucial role in getting Dwight Howard acclimated; Atlanta needs the point guard and center to develop chemistry in order for the team to play to its full potential. Major tests could come if the Hawks get off to a slow start, but there should still be enough talent on the roster for the team to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference and potentially keep their nine-year postseason streak. Schröder’s numbers and production should increase with his added playing time and responsibilities, but he could really help his case for this award if he can also lead the Hawks to another high seed in the East.

  1. Clint Capela, Houston Rockets – 7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 58.2%/37.9% shooting in 2015-16

Capela is another one of those players who should benefit from a drastic increase in playing time. With Dwight Howard moving on to Atlanta and Donatas Motiejunas’ status (and future with the team) remaining an uncertainty, all eyes will be on Capela. The 22-year-old was strong in a reserve role last season, but he’s actually a better fit for what the Rockets are trying to do this year and is a slightly more versatile defender than Howard at this stage in his career. Plus, you don’t have to worry about keeping Capela happy with post touches and you won’t hear him complain about primarily being used as the “roll” man in any two-man action. The Rockets should show improvement under new head coach Mike D’Antoni, at least offensively, but Capela should really make his greatest impact on the defensive end and on the glass. Couple his increased minutes with his internal development, and it seems inevitable that Capela’s numbers and efficiency will improve this year.

  1. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks – 11.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 46.6%/38.3%/76.1% shooting in 2015-16

Not to pile on, but if anyone still had questions about whether Barnes can be the No. 1 option (or even No. 2 option) for a team on a consistent basis, let’s just say the preseason hasn’t exactly eliminated all doubts. So far, Barnes is shooting just 12-51 (23.5 percent) from the field and 3-16 (18.8 percent) from three-point range. Not to mention, he has just three assists and 20 boards in 120 minutes of action. But that isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s time for Dallas to panic. The Mavericks essentially made a four-year, $94 million bet that Barnes can settle in and be a viable offensive option alongside veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Wes Matthews among others. Again, this is just the preseason and a transition period is always expected after a player changes scenery and has to adjust to a new system, team, coaching staff and role. It’s not all that surprising that Barnes has gotten off to a slow start with this in mind. The contract will make more sense as he grows increasingly comfortable in head coach Rick Carlisle’s system and gains chemistry with his new teammates. It would be nice to see Barnes ultimately flourish with the new opportunity. Dallas sure seems to be counting on it.

  1. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic – 9.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 47.3%/29.6%/66.8% shooting in 2015-16

As is always the case with Gordon, he’s in phenomenal shape. Sore ankles have slowed him a bit this preseason, but expectations are high for him as he adjusts to playing at the small forward position with head coach Frank Vogel now running the show in Orlando. Gordon has mainly played power forward since being drafted by the Magic, but with Serge Ibaka taking over the power forward spot, Vogel appears comfortable with the idea of Gordon moving to the three and working from the perimeter when not attacking or slashing off-ball. He shot just 29.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, but the floor would absolutely open up for him (and his teammates) if he were able to consistently hit the corner three this year. He has been working on his three-point shot and told Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy over the summer that he’s ready to have a breakout year by doing a little bit of everything (which is what Coach Vogel has asked of him).

  1. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat – 6.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 42.2%/27.6%/68.4% shooting in 2015-16

With Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng departing and Chris Bosh’s stint with Miami coming to an unfortunate end due to his health issues, there will be plenty of room for Winslow to take a step forward and embrace new responsibilities. Winslow showed glimpses last season, but struggled to consistently produce on the offensive end. But with that said, he wasn’t very high on the list of guys being asked to assert themselves on that end. He won’t necessarily be propelled into the “go-to” player role just yet (that may be Hassan Whiteside, who inked a max deal in July), but there will certainly be more opportunities for Winslow and touches seem largely up for grabs at this stage. Don’t be surprised if head coach Erik Spoelstra leans on Winslow as a multi-purpose or hybrid player this season. If that happens, Winslow’s numbers could see a significant spike.

Honorable Mentions: Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks), Zach LaVine (Minnesota Timberwolves), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Tyler Johnson (Miami Heat), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Detroit Pistons)

Again, these are just some of the players to keep an eye on this season, and you can always count on one or two surprise contenders for this award emerging once the regular season gets underway. If you think we left anyone off who has a legitimate chance at competing for the award, leave a comment below!

 

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Will The Pacers’ Change In Style Pay Off?

With deals and changes abound, the Indiana Pacers’ wild rebuild marks them as a franchise on the rise.

Ariel Pacheco

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After coming off four consecutive first-round exits under head coach Nate McMillan, the Indiana Pacers decided it was time to make a change. Instead of dismantling or retooling a core that had been acquired mostly by opportunistic deals, general manager Kevin Pritchard went in a different direction and, early into the season, it seems like it has paid off. 

Under Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers have dramatically transformed their style of play. Many of the mid-range jumpers they took last season have turned into shots at the rim or three-pointers instead. There are a lot more dribble hand-offs, staggered screens and an overall sense of purpose in every action on offense. The offense has operated like a well-oiled machine, largely with Domantas Sabonis acting as the main engine. 

This has led to Sabonis’ play and potential being unlocked. Ultimately, Sabonis is well on his way to another All-Star appearance, averaging career highs in points (21.7 PPG), rebounds (12.8 RPG) and assists (5.8 APG). While his usage is similar to last season’s, the way he’s being utilized is very different. With McMillan, Sabonis was mostly used as a post-up big who also scored a lot as a roll-man. Bjorkgren is giving him those same touches but he has also a lot more free reign to operate and make decisions.

Sabonis is now attacking teams in semi-transition after defensive rebounds. Basically, all the offensive actions are run through him, which have accentuated his passing ability. His range has also improved, and he’s turned his 20-foot jumpers into three-point attempts. Moreover, it’s a huge part of the reason why the Pacers rank 11th in offensive rating (111.3). Sabonis is a walking mismatch who can play almost any role in an offense and Bjorkgren has let him roam free.

Better, Malcolm Brogdon is also playing at an All-Star level. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game along with 7.5 assists per game, both career highs. Brogdon’s shooting 43.3 percent from three and is another player who’s benefitted from Bjorkgren’s offense. Brogdon’s ability to shoot threes while dribbling off screens and the ability to attack out of dribble hand-offs has allowed for the Pacers’ offense to be far less predictable than in the past. 

Myles Turner is probably in the lead for Defensive Player of the Year so far. He’s averaging an insane 4.2 blocks per game, practically shutting down the paint for opposing offenses. Turner has been relegated to a mostly spot-up role in the offense, but those mid-range jumpers from last season have become three-pointers to this point. While he has struggled to hit three’s so far, his shot quality is considerably better. However, his value comes on the defensive end, where he is anchoring the 9th best team in defensive rating at 107.8. Opponents are shooting just 54.4 percent in the restricted area when Turner is in. Although his recent hand fracture will surely complicate proceedings there and the Pacers will miss him sorely.

The Indiana bench has also provided some good minutes. Doug McDermott is effective not only with his jumper but with his underrated cutting ability. Justin Holiday has been solid and is shooting 43.1 percent from three. His brother, Aaron Holiday, has had his ups and downs but built himself into a solid rotation player. Naturally, TJ McConnell has been his usual pesky-self. 

There’s still plenty of room for upside as the Pacers have dealt with injuries to some key guys. TJ Warren, last season’s bubble breakout star, is out indefinitely after having foot surgery. Jeremy Lamb tore his ACL last season, is close to returning but hasn’t played a single minute this season. The Pacers’ newest addition, Caris LeVert, will be out indefinitely after a small mass was found on his kidney. All three are proven guys who can really help Indiana take the next step.

Sadly, it gets more difficult with Turner’s injury too.

Interestingly enough, many of the players have seemingly gone out of their way to not only express their appreciation for Bjorkgren’s coaching – while also knowing the difference compared to years past. Brogdon, Sabonis and McDermott have all seemingly made it clear that this style of play is preferable to last year under McMillan. 

“In seasons past, the offense didn’t call for me to do those certain things,” Turner said “But coach has a lot of confidence in me… I’ve just had the chance to show it this season.” 

Questions about the Turner-Sabonis pairing now seem to have gone away. It’s no secret that Turner oft mentioned in trade rumors the entire offseason in large part due to his perceived fit with Sabonis. Bjorkgren has found a way to maximize both player’s skillsets while also keeping them happy with their roles. Bigger, Pacers’ lineups with Sabonis and Turner have a 2.5 net rating. 

The improved play of the Indiana stars is something that can be attributed to Bjorkgren’s shift in their style of play. It’s what Pritchard was hoping for when he made the coaching change. The Pacers made a calculated gamble when they fired a proven coach with this roster in Nate McMillan and now the Pacers are 8-5 with room to grow. If Sabonis and Brogdon can continue this level of play as guys come back healthy, the Pacers will be a team no one wants to face come playoff time.

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Myles Turner Making A Difference With Defense

The Indiana Pacers have always been a good defensive team, but Myles Turner is on a mission this season to take them to an elite level. Chad Smith takes a closer look at the impact Turner has had as the anchor of Indiana’s defense.

Chad Smith

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This week has been a roller coaster ride for the Indiana Pacers, who are returning home after splitting a four-game West Coast trip. It was supposed to be five games but their matchup with the Phoenix Suns was postponed due to contract tracing within the Suns organization. On their day off between games, Indiana traded away All-Star guard Victor Oladipo as part of a four-team blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

What they got in return seemed too good to be true, until it was. Acquiring a young and talented player like Caris LeVert, whom they originally drafted and subsequently traded to Brooklyn, took many people by surprise. With Oladipo not planning to return next season, it was a brilliant move by Indiana, especially when you consider LeVert’s upside and his team-friendly contract. On top of that, the Pacers also received a 2024 second-round pick (via Cleveland), a 2023 second-round pick (via Houston) and $2.6 million from the Nets.

Unfortunately, the Pacers’ medical staff discovered what the team described as “a small mass” on LeVert’s left kidney while undergoing a routine physical. The good news for LeVert is that this was found and he can begin whatever treatment is necessary for him to return to playing basketball at some point. For now, though, the Pacers will employ the “next man up” philosophy. The team has already lost TJ Warren indefinitely and have been without Jeremy Lamb all season. Now Myles Turner may soon join them on the sidelines.

Myles missed his first game of the season on Sunday due to an injury on his right hand. He met with team doctors on Monday and early reports are that he has a slight fracture in his right hand and will be re-evaluated in the coming days.

In that game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the absence of Turner was glaring. Even without Serge Ibaka and Lou Williams, the Clippers shot 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from behind the arc. Nearly half of their 129 points came in the paint as they destroyed the Pacers by 33 points, in a game that wasn’t even that close. Indiana had just two blocks in the game and even those came in garbage time.

When Nate Bjorkgren was named the Pacers’ new head coach back in October, many around the league wondered what that meant for Turner. Would the experiment next to Domantas Sabonis come to an end? Were his days as a Pacer now numbered? A rumored sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics for Gordon Hayward never came to fruition, but that ended up working out well for both Myles and the Pacers organization.

When the Pacers selected Turner with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the opinions on him were split. While many saw the raw, unlocked potential that he possessed, others were skeptical of his lack of lateral movement and, of all things, the way that he ran up and down the court.

Draft evaluators were concerned that his awkward running style would lead to long-term effects on his knees. In a breakdown by Draft Express, they noted that “His awkward running style might not change anytime soon. He noticeably lumbers getting up and down the floor, and only made five field goals all season in transition situations.” That was in reference to his Freshman season at Texas, where Turner averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.

Fast forward to 2021, where Turner is having arguably the best season of his career. While he is scoring at the same level, he has improved several other facets of his game. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, attacking the basket more off the dribble and even hitting the offensive glass. While his three-point shooting is down largely due to more attempts, his work in the paint has him shooting a career-high 63 percent from inside the arc.

Obviously, the blocks are what really pops out, as he leads the league at 4.2 per game. That is staggering when you consider the next best is Rudy Gobert at 2.7 per game, while Chris Boucher is the only other player averaging at least two per game. By comparison, when Turner led the league in blocks during the 2018-19 season his average was 2.7 per game. Entering Sunday’s slate of games, Turner was actually averaging more blocks per game than six teams.

Following a game earlier this season, Turner elaborated on his goals for the year: “It’s definitely been a goal for myself to start the season off strong on the defensive end. I’ve gotten the respect as a shot-blocker in this league. I know it’s something that I do. But I’m trying to take that to the next step.”

“I’ve already proven that you can lead the league in blocks and not make an All-Defensive team or not be Defensive Player of the Year. So it’s time to do more and assert myself more on that end.”

Turner has had four games this season with at least five blocks, including two games where he stuffed the opponent eight times. His defensive prowess is much more than just blocking shots though; he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 steals per game so far and has had seven games in which he recorded at least two steals.

Indiana’s offense will continue to run through Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, who are both playing at an All-Star level this season. But, as much attention as those two have gotten, it’s the defense that has really shaped this Pacers team.

The loss of assistant coach and defensive guru Dan Burke was a concern before the season began. The truth is the Pacers are much more aggressive on defense now, playing further up on the perimeter. This is the same scheme that Bjorkgren and Nick Nurse incorporated with the Toronto Raptors. Ibaka played that role last year and this season it’s been Boucher, who currently ranks third in the league in blocks behind Turner and Gobert.

With Sabonis often guarding the opponent’s biggest/strongest player, Turner is left to defend more on the perimeter. This is a real challenge given his disadvantage against smaller, quicker wing players. To his credit though, Turner has stayed in front of them. And that is what makes his shot-blocking even more impressive; every game and on multiple possessions, Turner is essentially guarding two players by himself for seconds at a time.

Since Turner’s rookie season, only three players have blocked more shots than he has. He ranks 15th in the league in deflections and is top-five in terms of defensive field goal percentage at the rim. Indiana’s defensive rating is a 107.7 when he is on the court and a 111.3 when he is on the bench. These are the signs of a truly elite defensive player.

And, with Turner as their defensive anchor, the Pacers have a scary three-headed monster that could ultimately be a nightmare for the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

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2021 NBA Draft Evaluation: What Are We Missing?

With limited in-person opportunities to NBA franchises, will the 2021 draft be the toughest to scout?

Jonathon Gryniewicz

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There were loads of talks last offseason about how the 2020 NBA draft would be the hardest to scout in recent memory. The draft started in 1947 and – without knowing what it was like to try and scout a country full of potential players sans a large scouting department, over 100 games a week on national television, and even more via other streaming sites – it’s hard to believe that statement holds much water.

But it did have its challenges though. With the season ending as conference tournaments were getting underway, NBA teams lost out on several crucial scouting opportunities both in and out of season. Despite having college basketball back, the scouting landscape is still not the same. It has not been determined if NBA personnel will be allowed to attend the NCAA Tournament or what postseason events will look like.  In this piece, we go through some of the challenges organizations are facing while preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft.

THE CANCELLATION OF THE NIKE HOOP SUMMIT AND MCDONALDS ALL-AMERICAN GAME

The kickoff to scouting a new crop of freshman players actually happens before they ever step on campus. The Nike Hoop Summit and McDonald’s All-American game are the first two events in which NBA scouts can watch the next incoming freshman class in person. While they may have seen some of the players at Youth FIBA events, they can get early evaluations of players that will most likely make up a majority of the lottery in the next draft class.

Getting an early evaluation of these players allows you to track progress. They’ve all been dominant at the high school level playing against their peers. But watching them allows you to evaluate where they are at, and gives you a baseline for what they can bring to the table. When you see them several months later playing at the college level, you are able to have an idea of what skills translate, which do not, and how a player has improved both physically and with their skills since leaving high school.  Getting the early evaluation on a player allows you to track whether a player progresses in college or whether they are the same player they were in high school.

The games themselves are not unimportant, but they do not have as much of an impact as a lot of people think, at least for the American prospects. The practices are what the organizations are really interested in seeing. This gives scouts the opportunity to see how these young athletes compete, handle coaching from someone they are not used to coaching them and conduct themselves on the court when there are no TV cameras or spotlight.  The Nike Hoop Summit, which pits 12 American prospects against a team of 12 international prospects, has proven to be a launching pad for international players looking to get drafted. Dennis Schroder and Bismack Biyombo are two examples of international players who turned a good performance at the Hoop Summit into an early-round draft selection.

Not being able to watch these players in person before entering their freshman season has put organizations behind in terms of getting a full, proper evaluation of them. While players like Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State don’t need events like this to boost their stock, other stand-out freshmen could have elevated their early projection.

THE ABILITY TO ATTEND COLLEGE GAMES AND PRACTICES IN PERSON

College basketball games have never been more accessible than they are now. Not only are there 100 games on TV every week, but for the games that are not, colleges upload them to Synergy Sports Tech, a film sharing website that every team uses and that NBA teams can access. Within one hour of the end of every game, teams will have the ability to download and watch full games.

The issue is not that teams cannot watch prospects, but seeing the game is only part of what scouts do when seeing players on college campuses.  Scouts often get to the games 2-3 hours ahead of time to watch warmups. They want to see how players approach the game.  Does he warm up hard?  What is his intensity like as the game approaches?  While you can get an idea for someone’s height, length, strength and wingspan over film it is much easier to get a gauge on it when seeing someone in person.  Warm-ups are also a chance to watch a player take over 100 jump shots and assess his form. During the game, they will pay attention to how he interacts on the court with his teammates, coaches and refs. When things go wrong during the game, they will want to see how he responds.

Practice is similar. Scouts want to see how early they get in the gym, do they stay after to get up shots and how do they respond during practice when the coach pushes them. While some states are allowing fans to attend games, scouts are not on the road like they normally would be at this time. Not only are most schools not allowing them to attend practices and games, but a lot of organizations are not sending their scouts out on the road for fear of them contracting COVID-19 and the quarantine restrictions they’d eventually face.

POSTSEASON SCOUTING EVENTS

It is still too early to see what post season scouting events will look like.  Last season, the Portsmouth Invitational, NBA Combine and individual team workouts at NBA facilities were canceled –  and these events are important for multiple reasons. First, it gives teams the chance to watch athletes in a different setting outside of their schools. While the top prospects won’t play at the combine, many athletes will and there is always someone who plays well and elevates their stock. Seeing players outside of the constraints of their college system helps teams get a better picture of how they could translate to the NBA.

Another benefit of having these postseason events is getting proper medical information. During Portsmouth and the Combine, you’re able to get proper measurables on the players and at your team facility, your medical staff can evaluate the players more thoroughly for physical injuries and potential lingering problems.

There is still a lot of time to determine what the scouting landscape will look like before the 2021 NBA draft. Given how things are going though, and depending on how things go moving forward, this could very well be one of the harder drafts to scout due to the limited in-person opportunities available to NBA teams. Not only will there be a smaller sample size of the incoming freshman class, but a year-and-a-half of in-person scouting information on the players who returned to college will be missing too.

Again, while this won’t make a huge difference for the class’ biggest prospects, it will simply change proceedings in every other aspect – but the NBA always finds a way.

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