NBA scouts and executives were out in force this week attending the Nike Hoop Summit, the draft scouting event in April. A number of terrific prospects, both American and international, have played at the Hoop Summit over the past few years.
Once again, the talent was strong on both sides of the Atlantic.
I spoke with a number of NBA scouts and executives who attended practices and were at the game. Here's a take on a number of interesting future prospects followed by a few for the 2012 NBA draft:
2011 NBA draft prospects
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo
Top 100 Rank: 11
Many of the scouts and GMs who came to Portland, Ore., made the trip just to get a good look at Biyombo. Over the course of the last month or so he's become one of the hottest names in the NBA draft, but only a handful of scouts and GMs had a good handle on who he was. Seeing him playing against future NBA lottery picks certainly helped.
And they weren't disappointed. Biyombo wowed all week with his toughness, athleticism, shot-blocking abilities, leadership and motor. He was a defensive powerhouse with a Ben Wallace-esque body and a crazy 7-foot-7 wingspan.
In Saturday's game Biyombo dominated on the defensive end, recording a crazy 12-point, 11-rebound, 10-block game against Team USA in 28 minutes. He was simply dominant in the paint. Offensively, he's much more of a mixed bag. He can clearly finish around the basket -- but short of dunks, there isn't much to fall in love with right now.
That, however, hasn't deterred scouts, who, in a draft like this, would take a Ben Wallace type of player. The question for NBA teams is: Is Biyombo more Saer Sene (who once blocked nine shots in a Hoop Summit game and ended up as a top-10 pick) or is he Serge Ibaka? Given the evidence both in Portland and in Spain, where he's been playing significant minutes in the best pro league in Europe (the ACB), they're leaning strongly toward Ibaka.
Biyombo has declared for the draft. If he stays in, he's likely a late lottery to mid-first-round pick.
Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
Top 100 Rank: 33
Nogueira was on the radar screen before Biyombo. His dominant performance against Team USA in the under-18s this summer drew rave reviews from scouts. But since then, he's been toiling away on a low-level Spanish team. Could Nogueira repeat the magic that saw him post 22 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks against Team USA this summer?
Not so much. Nogueira played just 13 minutes, scored four points, grabbed six boards and blocked a shot. He also has a crazy wingspan and excellent athleticism, but unlike Biyombo, he desperately needs to add weight and polish to his game.
While scouts say he'd likely get drafted in the first round if he declared for the draft, another year in Europe filling out that body and polishing his game could make him a lottery pick in 2012.
2012 NBA draft prospects
Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky
2012 Big Board Rank: 1
Two weeks ago, we anointed Davis as the heir apparent to the No. 1 pick in 2012 after scouts spent time at the McDonald's game breaking down his game. At the Nike Hoop Summit, Davis looked the part. He was terrific running the floor, grabbing boards and showing remarkable agility for a player his size. He ended the game with 16 points, 12 boards and two blocks in 23 minutes. His handle, feel for the game and athleticism are all remarkable for a 6-foot-10 forward.
Yes, he needs to add strength. But given his aggressive play, skill level and size, he looks like a potential elite NBA player down the road in the mold of Garnett.