Nets’ Potential Draftees Play In Portsmouth Invitational


Although the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament isn’t as acclaimed as NBA Summer League, potential future NBA talents get the chance to showcase their skills to NBA coaches and front office personnel.  In my visit down to Churchland High School in Virginia to see these young up-and-coming athletes, a few impressed, others played as expected, and some let down. The Nets are a team always always on the lookout for the opportunity to buy late second round picks and some of these young prospects could be on their radar.

Shot To Trot

D.J. Newbill (Penn State University): Newbill was arguably the most impressive player on the court every time he stepped onto it. With the ball in his hands, he controlled the pace of the game and even when opposing defenses knew he was going to take the shot, he was able to get off a clean look.  He showed an innate instinct to drive into the paint and create contact or contort his body to avoid it.  He had the ball-handling skills and solid mid-range jump-shot to play either guard position, although he didn’t get much lift when shooting. He did have his issues from long-range and it was sometimes cringe-worthy to see him shoot from distance when he was wide open. Take away those misses and he had a Tournament MVP type of run.

Traveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth University): Graham was the MVP for a reason and he put on a show for the hometown Virginia crowd.  He was aggressive in attacking the paint, but didn’t force the issue just to pad the stat sheet. He hit seven from long distance, which tied him for second most in the Tournament. More noticeably, however, was his success in the half-court. He attacked the basket at will and used his strength to overpower smaller forwards. His versatility gave him an advantage in the Tournament as he was quicker or stronger than his opposing defenders.

They Are Who We Thought They Were

D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s University): Harrison was a go-to scorer in Portsmouth, with the ability to catch and shoot, shoot from distance, and pull-up with a hand in his face.  He was excellent in pick and roll situations which allowed him to get some space for his shot.  The issue with Harrison is and has always been his shot selection and ability to go left.  He has the vision to get off a better shot or find a teammate, but at times chose to take a long range off balance jumper, which was to the detriment of his team.

Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State University): Nash has been trying to live up to his All-American status since coming out of high school and has yet to show the promise.  His athleticism is undeniable and he displayed that anytime he had the chance to convert an opportunity at the rim.  With excellent explosiveness and the ability to finish strong in transition, the tools are there for Nash.  Yet the negatives were evident.  Defensively, he had multiple mental lapses and he took multiple plays off. Most noticeably was that he displayed poor body language whenever he missed a shot or made a mistake. He’s talented, but showed in Portsmouth that he has a lot of maturing to do.

Expected More, Received Less

Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame University): A lot was expected from Connaughton after an Elite Eight run by Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament as he was one of the few prospects in Portsmouth from a “big name” school. His reputation and history as a terrific shooter had many thinking that each time he took a shot, the sound of the net would be the only thing they’d hear.  Yet, he shot under 42 percent from the field and looked hesitant coming off of picks.  He did show aggressiveness on the glass against bigger players, but his calling card is his scoring.  He did shoot 42.9 percent from long-range, but more was expected from the prospect, considering the fact that his team had no unquestionable “go-to scorers”.

Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa University): Tuttle was one of the best players in college basketball this season and much was expected in the way of scoring around the basket and in the low post.  Instead, he performed possibly as worse as could be expected, going 0-13 from the field, including 0-5 from long-distance.  His rebounding wasn’t much better as he was boxed out repeatedly in his first game in Portsmouth.  He did show excellent footwork around the basket, but even when he got past his defender, he couldn’t convert. He’ll have to hope that scouts focus more on his seasonal accomplishments and view his performance in Virginia as an anomaly.

Although Brooklyn no longer has a D-League team, they will undoubtedly have some of the Portsmouth invites on speed dial should they need to fill out their roster with some young athletic players at the end of the bench.