The Nike Hoop Summit is a showcase of the top young talent around the world and an important event where NBA scouts and coaches flock to watch intense practices where those young talents perform against one another. The game often turns into an up-and-down affair; usually the games aren’t as close.
This year, the World Team, led by Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere, squeaked out a 103-101 victory. It was the closest such contest in the Hoop Summit since 2000. That being said, it was an entertaining game between two very talented teams with many hopefuls for the NBA. It begs the question: who were the best NBA prospects of the bunch?
Honorable mention: Luke Kennard SG (Duke), Cheick Diallo PF/C (Undecided), Thon Maker PF/C (Undecided), Zhou Qi C (China), Malik Newman SG (Undecided), Steven Zimmerman C (Undecided), Ivan Rabb PF/C (California)
5) Jamal Murray
6-5, 200, PG/SG, Undecided
Murray was arguably the most pro-ready guard in attendance, and he said he’s “90 percent” sure he will stay in the class of 2016 after he considered changing to the 2015 class. The 6-foot-5, 200 pound Murray has enough size and length (6-8 wingspan) to play either guard spot at the next level. He was the best player on the court during the game scoring 30 points and five assists.
Murray showcased his all-around ability: knocking down NBA three-pointers, slashing to the rim with a great handle while finishing over length and changing speeds to keep defenders off-balanced. While not the best athlete, Murray definitely showed enough to be adequate for an NBA guard. He’s strong enough to absorb contact, and definitely has the frame to add some more weight, which will be needed down the line. Look for Murray to be a top 10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
4) Jaylen Brown
6-7, 220, SF, Undecided
Brown wasn’t one of the five best players in the game, but he was one of the top five NBA prospects on the floor. He didn’t play his best game, only finishing with eight points on 2-9 shooting, but showcased his high-flying ability when he had the chance. Brown was injured during the week of practices with a sore hip, so that might have been a reason why he looked a step slow.
At his best, Brown is an explosive physical specimen in the mold of Stanley Johnson from last year’s class. He isn’t as polished from the perimeter as Johnson and needs to improve his jump shot to fulfill his immense potential. At 6-7 with a near 7-0 wingspan, Brown has all the physical tools you look for in a wing at the next level. Brown still has to decide where he’s going to school next season, and Cal-bound Ivan Rabb is recruiting him to join him. It’s crucial that Brown picks a school that allows him to develop from the perimeter. If so, Brown is a likely top 10 pick in the 2016 draft.
3) Ben Simmons
6-10, 240, SF/PF, LSU
Simmons was the most NBA-ready frontcourt player playing in the Nike Hoop Summit. He has great size for the wing and is a mismatch nightmare playing power forward. Simmons finished with 13 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, just short of a triple-double. He shows tremendous versatility in his skillset, constantly making winning plays when it mattered most. He can push the ball himself off rebounds and make plays in the open court.
He showed tremendous poise bringing the ball up for the World team, acting as a pseudo-point guard when Federico Mussini came into the game. Simmons is a very crafty passer while attacking the basket; he threw some next-level passes to Skal Labissiere, which were awfully impressive.
Some concerns about Simmons are that he has decent athleticism, but nothing that will stand out in the NBA. His frame is pretty filled out, so I don’t know how much stronger he’ll get. As a power forward, his 6-11 wingspan is mediocre, so he’s much more likely to play on the wing in the NBA. In order to play at small forward, he’ll need to improve on his outside jump shot.
Overall, Simmons is a tremendous prospect with intriguing versatility. With LSU’s Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey declaring for the NBA Draft, Simmons should step right into the starting lineup and contribute immediately. He’ll be a top-five pick in the 2016 Draft.
2) Brandon Ingram
6-10, 200, SF/PF, Undecided
Ingram arguably had the most NBA-upside of anybody on either roster. His physical tools for a wing are unmatched with anybody in college basketball. At 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan, Ingram played a lot of power forward against the World team, which was a nice matchup for him due to the bigger frontline. He finished 5-6 for 12 points, knocking in mid-range jumpers and slashing to the rim.
He is still very much in the development stage of his career, having not quite grown into his body. But he has a smoothness to his game and is quick enough with long strides to be a matchup nightmare at either forward position. The most important thing for Ingram is to put on significant weight so he can finish at the rim easier and be a stronger defender. It will also help his athletic ability and rebounding, too, both crucial if he ends up playing power forward down the line. He needs to decide on a school where he can be developed, as he has some of the most natural ability in this year’s class. Ingram could be a top-three pick in either of the next two drafts.
1) Skal Labissiere
7-0, 216, PF/C, Kentucky
Labissiere is my number one prospect at the Hoop Summit because was the best two-way player participating. He finished with 21 points on 9-15 shooting, with six rebounds and six blocks. He showed off a variety of skills for a 7-footer, knocking down mid-range jumpers and showing a nice, soft touch on hook shots. He shows great anticipation and timing when blocking shots. Labissiere’s length (7-1.5 wingspan) also played a major factor disrupting the rhythm of Team USA.
Labissiere is far from a finished product, though. He needs to add weight, which will help him on the low block when he reaches the NBA. He needs to continue to expand his offensive skillset. Labissiere is a rare prospect as he shows enough athleticism to stay with power forwards, but he has the size of a center. He has a great motor, constantly attacking the offensive glass for put-backs and dunks. Kentucky lost its top-seven scorers to the NBA, so look for Labissiere to step right in and contribute. His fluidity, versatility and two-way game put him in contention for the top overall pick in the 2016 draft.