By Alex West
The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is over, but some of the 64 seniors who came out to play made a big impression on NBA and international scouts over the four days.
Most NBA people I talked to said that this was the most talented field they had ever seen in Portsmouth, which is quite a feat considering six players from last year’s tournament were selected in the 2017 NBA Draft. Naturally, the success of last year’s field was an encouraging sign for many players who were hoping to snag an invite to the Combine next month. So it stands to reason, if this the best field, more of these players would play in the NBA than in any previous tournament.
But who will make NBA rosters next season? Here are seven players who have the skills and the resumes to do just that:
Jaylen Barford, Guard, Arkansas
Jaylen Barford was a revelation for me. I had seen the Arkansas Razorback senior play a few times during the season and his physicality had always stuck with me, but seeing him in person took that to another level. Barford is built like a halfback and uses his athleticism and strength to get to the rim, even through contact. He is a great shooter who can knock down NBA-range threes, even off the dribble. Most teams are no doubt aware of what the 6’3 202-pound point guard will bring to the table, but after averaging 19.3 points per game and bringing home the tournament MVP, he is likely getting a second evaluation from many teams who need a strong, high-energy scoring guard to bolster their bench.
Kendrick Nunn, Guard, Oakland
Kendrick Nunn had one goal in mind for the PIT, show scouts he was a scorer who lived up to his reputation. And after averaging a tournament-high 20.7 points per game, he seems to have done just that. Nunn’s performance had everyone in Portsmouth buzzing and a few scouts I talked to even said Nunn might be worthy of a mid- to late-second round selection, and would 100% be on a Summer League roster this July. One of the big weaknesses in his game was his defensive effort (which could be downright lackadaisical at times during his senior season in Oakland), but he was locked in and showed some nice perimeter defense, even creating a few steals. He will likely receive a Combine invite, which will only strengthen his stock heading into the draft.
Kenrich Williams, Wing, TCU
Prior to coming to Portsmouth, Kenrich Williams was already making appearances as a second-round selection on a lot of mock draft boards. After a bit of a slow start in his first game, he played well averaging seven points and eight rebounds, although he was probably a lock to attend the combine no matter what his showing was at the PIT. He is a tweener who can guard two to four (he registered two steals per game during the tournament) and will be a potent rebounder and three-point shooter, as well as a threat in transition.With a strong combine showing, it is entirely possible that he can play his way into the early second round.
Jeffrey Carroll, Wing, Oklahoma St.
Jeffrey Carroll knows how to play basketball; he has a high IQ and always puts himself in good position on both sides of the ball. This knack for being in the right place at the right time was really on display this week as Carroll proved himself to be a potent transition scorer, filling the lanes and knocking down threes for his team. He is a solid team defender with an NBA ready body who has shown he can play well as a part of a system and is a reliable shooter who moves well without the basketball. Seniors like Damyean Dotson and Josh Hart earned their playing time for similar reasons and there is no major hurdle for Carrol to clear to find himself in the same successful situation.
Gary Clark, Forward, Cincinnati
Gary Clark is in a similar boat to Kenrich Williams in that he has already shown up in a number of mock drafts. While his PIT showing wasn’t spectacular, the former Cincinnati Bearcat forward and AAC Player of the Year has a substantial resume as a quality player, leading the NCAA in Box Plus/Minus and Win Shares per 40 minutes. He is a proven shot blocker, although his length may prove to be a weakness in the NBA and a hard-nosed rebounder who can serve as a rim protector and small ball defensive workhorse.
Justin Tillman, Forward, VCU
Justin Tillman is a throwback center who LOVES to show his toughness around the basket, both as a scorer and rebounder, averaging 18.3 points and 13 rebounds per game at the PIT. He showed a nice touch with both hands (particularly a very nice righty baby hook, which was his go-to move) as well as an advanced understanding of using his frame to create space. He isn’t an overwhelming athlete and at only 6’7 he might struggle to function as a fulltime five, making it hard to nail down where he will fit best. But his high motor and general grittiness will be hard to overlook for teams who are looking for a forward who can play in the low post.
Kyle Washington, Forward, Cincinnati
Like his Cincinnati teammate Gary Clark, Kyle Washington is a quality defender who is a threat to block shots all over the court. While he picked up a few early fouls in games this past week, he was still was effective in getting a hand on several attempts as well as altering several more. He also showed an impressive offensive game, averaging 16.7 points per game and knocking down three triples to go along with his 10.7 rebound per game, making him an enticing combo forward who can protect the rim in small lineups. But Washington is EXTREMELY left-hand-dominant and will need to develop even a rudimentary ability to score with his right or opponents will force him away from his dominant hand.