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2018 NBA Draft: Portsmouth Invitational Tournament players to know

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament serves as platform for under-the-radar NBA Draft prospects

Butler v Arkansas
Jaylen Barford, talented Arkansas Razorback guard
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2018 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) just wrapped up last weekend.

The PIT is an annual event where 64 NCAA basketball graduating seniors play tournament-style games to hopefully impress NBA powers-that-be into drafting them in the second round of the NBA Draft (or if anything, receiving a summer league invite). This tournament is precisely a spot for teams to find under-the-radar talent, as only occasionally does a Portsmouth participant go on to be selected in the first round (in the 2017 draft there was only one: Derrick White, Spurs). There were five players from the 2017 PIT drafted in the second round in 2017.

We all know the drill about NBA Draft prospects: it’s that seniors are kind of old and must be not that good, while freshmen are so very young and are already really good, or have potential and could turn out to be really good.

It is what it is.

Slightly bad news

For fans of who is generally the most well-regarded seniors, such as, Kansas Jayhawk guard Devonte’ Graham, you won’t likely be reading about their performance at the PIT since, well, they simply won’t be there. In recent years many of the best seniors in NCAA hoops don’t participate, instead they wait for the more competitive and glamorous pre-draft combine in May to showcase their skills.

Long ago, potential first-round picks stopped coming here for fear of hurting their draft stock, instead waiting for an invitation to the NBA’s pre-draft combine in Chicago. But now, even players most project as fringe prospects are choosing to skip the 64-player, four-day postseason tournament that pits top college seniors against one another in five-on-five games in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams.

In the past, players such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Tim Hardaway and Ben Wallace have proven themselves in Portsmouth.

So, that’s somewhat of a bummer. I mean, where are college hoops junkies and NBA scouts and such supposed to go in April to get their sick fix?

Along with the aforementioned Devonte’ Graham, this year, top seniors such as Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen, Chandler Hutchison and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk didn’t partake in the PIT. That’s too bad, but it presented opportunities for even more under-the-radar seniors to show out.

There’s still legitimate hope to find something

There’s still hope in grabbing at least rotational NBA talent from the PIT ranks, especially if your organization has its share of quality talent evaluators.

Here are some of the players who participated in the PIT: Jimmy Butler, Kent Bazemore, JJ Barea, Robert Covington, DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Lin and Wesley Matthews. And also Ish Smith, Anthony Tolliver, James Ennis III, Langston Galloway and old buddy Aron Baynes, too.

Players with PIT experience who are a bit newer to the league: Pat Connaughton, Royce O’Neale (R), Bryn Forbes, Richaun Holmes, Dorian Finney-Smith, just to name a few. For the exhaustive list of PIT alumni on 2017 Opening Day rosters, check here.

Point is — there’s talent to be had at the PIT!

The Pistons will have the 42nd pick in the upcoming draft this June, and can certainly grab a goodie there. Maybe that goodie will have played in the PIT. At any rate, I’ll highlight some of the more intriguing PIT players so that you can hold your own during any deep dive draft talk at the water cooler or neighborhood bar.

6-foot-4 Kendrick Nunn (Oakland)

The local star played at Illinois for three years prior to his lone year at Oakland. Nunn plead guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge in the spring of 2016. After his dismissal from Illinois, he transferred to Oakland. You know how people really like to throw around he word “smooth” when talking about certain ball players, well, I’m going to do that with Nunn. He’s a smooth player, and a scorer first, second and third. He scored 25.9 a game as a senior, (39 percent from deep in 11 attempts per game), second in Division 1 scoring only to Trae Young.

NBA player I’d compare Nunn to: Jamal Crawford/Ian Clark

Here’s a few plays from Nunn from last weekend at the PIT. He was named to the All-Tournament team.

6-foot-3 Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)

Not going to pretend I know much about Arkansas hoops, but I believe Barford is a guy that needs to be on our radar. He took home the 2018 PIT MVP award and has impressed with his 3-ball improvement from his junior to senior campaign, raising his percentage from 27 to 43. The well-built and shifty combo guard doesn’t have any problem scoring from all over the floor, but at his size NBA teams might want him to run the point. From what I’ve read, (here’s the rub) Barford doesn’t quite have a point guard mindset.

NBA player I’d compare Barford to: A smaller, more perimeter-oriented Lance Stephenson.

6-foot-3 Marcus Foster (Creighton)

Robin to fellow Creighton guard Khyri Thomas, Foster is a scoring machine from nearly anywhere. He averaged double-digits in scoring each of his four years in school (two at Kansas State and two at Creighton). He shot 41 percent from deep during senior season, after two straight seasons stuck below 35 percent. He’s a super athletic player (loves to drive and dunk), but doesn’t have a point guard’s mentality, nor does he have the size to be an NBA shooting guard. Though, he’s a scorer, and there’s always room for those on NBA rosters. Here’s a couple clips of Foster’s offensive ability:

NBA player I’d compare Barford to: Physically, Shelvin Mack — but for in terms of overall floor game, handle and shot making ability, Foster reminds me of Trey Burke.

Other PIT participants to know

Devon Hall (Virginia)

Can do a bit of everything. At 6-foot-5, his ceiling is likely as a rotational 3-and-D guy with an ability to handle the ball.

Andrew Rowsey (Marquette)

Under 6-feet tall, though is a knock-down shooter and heady playmaker. He’s been overlooked his entire basketball career.

Thomas Wilder (Western Michigan)

True point guard, 6-foot-3 size with athleticism and good defensive reputation. Inconsistent shooter, but the potential is there.

Kelan Martin (Butler)

No flash in his game but the fundamentals are plenty. Always impressed me with his shot selection and overall patience to his game. His size at 6-foot-6 with his ball handling and scoring skills leads me to believe he could be a weapon off the bench.

Gary Clark, 6-foot-7 (Cincinnati)

Deserves a post of his own.

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For those college basketball nuts reading, any thoughts? Any seniors (no matter if they played in the PIT or not) you really like? Please let us know all about it!