Saturday April 18th, 2015

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Over the next two months, team executives and scouts will spend hours analyzing the top prospects in the 2015 draft class. Some prospects from the next class are already generating significant NBA buzz thanks, in part, to their play in high school all-star games this spring. The last major event, the Jordan Brand Classic, took place at the Barclays Center on Friday night, following two practices at Terminal 23 in midtown Manhattan.

The West team beat the East team, 118-116, in a game that predictably featured a greater emphasis on highlight plays than defense and, for a short spell, morphed into a glorified one-on-one session. Below are NBA-focused breakdowns of four players who participated in the event

Isaiah Briscoe

Briscoe, who attends Roselle Catholic High in Roselle, N.J., brought the Barclays Center crowd to its feet with a series of clear-outs late in the second half. He waved off his teammates, sized up his defender and attacked off the dribble, looking either to score at the basket or hit a jump shot. The peak of Briscoe’s one-man-vs-all stretch came with around 3:30 remaining in the game. Briscoe approached West Team guard Antonio Blakeney on the perimeter and tried to shake him off balance by repeatedly dribbling the ball low to the ground. Blakeney bit on one move, and Briscoe spun around him and glided in for a layup.

[Hover to play; ESPN]

The sequence highlighted a second half in which Briscoe converted six of his 12 shot attempts and scored 22 points. College defenders will have an extremely hard time dealing with Briscoe’s combination of strength, balance and ability to create space in tight quarters. At Kentucky next season, it’s possible he will need to adapt his game to accommodate that of another traditional point guard, Tyler Ulis, one of the lone holdovers from the national finalist that could have more than five players selected in this year’s draft. A slight scaling back of playmaking duties won’t prevent Briscoe from contributing primarily as a scorer.

Malik Newman

It’s not difficult to see why Newman is considered one of the top recruits in the country (Rivals.com rates him the No. 3 player in the class of 2015). He’s adept at beating defenders off the bounce, attacking the rim and using shrewd dribbles and body feints to create separation. Newman is an elite offensive talent who, almost certainly, will score lots of points for whichever program he chooses. Yet he may need to tweak his style to ease his transition to the NBA. Newman’s borderline tunnel-vision scoring mentality should be relaxed in favor of an approach that features a great willingness to distribute to others in better scoring positions.

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While Newman occasionally dishes to teammates in half-court situations or on the break, he far too often jumps at the first opportunity to fire his own shot. This strategy is not always to his team’s detriment; Newman shot 40 percent from three-point range and averaged 29.7 points per game as a high school senior. But it’s clear Newman could benefit from curbing, or eliminating outright, some of his tendencies—the contested long-range jumpers, reckless forays into the paint and transition threes launched seemingly without consideration for alternatives. In any case, Newman’s scoring instincts and shot-creating ability bode well for his college career and potential as a scoring guard in the NBA.

Cheick Diallo

Diallo made the most of his 20 minutes of playing time on Friday night. He converted 12 of his 16 field-goal attempts for 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots and was named Most Valuable Player (he also earned the MVP award at the McDonald’s All-American game earlier this month). The 6-9, 218-pound forward has long garnered attention for his work rate, and that trait is easier to appreciate amid the laid-back style of an all-star game. Diallo seemingly never stops moving. He catches and finishes effectively around the basket, hunts putback opportunities and, on rare occasions, will pull off a post move that hints at his capacity for offensive growth.

[Hover to play; ESPN]

About five minutes into the first half, for example, he used a spin move to lose his defender, UNLV center commit Stephen Zimmerman, in the lane before tossing in a layup. While Diallo could refine his offensive skills over one or more seasons in college before entering the NBA, he’s productive with his current arsenal and could excel in a similar capacity going forward. However, he may possess even more potential as a defender. Diallo runs back to snuff out transition opportunities, and excels at blocking shots thanks to his leaping ability, timing and length (his wing span recently was measured at 7’4’’). Diallo also can roam away from the lane and check more mobile frontcourt players.

Skal Labissiere

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After drawing positive reviews with his play at the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this month, Labissiere continued to show why he profiles as a candidate to be selected at the top of the 2016 draft. At 6-11 and 216 pounds, Labissiere is a long, fluid athlete with remarkable leaping ability. Offensively, he can outmaneuver defenders to convert from the interior but is also capable of moving away from the blocks and doing damage from the perimeter. His ability to knock down jump shots, attack from the mid range and finish over post defenders translates to the NBA and will cause serious matchup problems in college.

This week Labissiere excelled on the other end of the floor, too. A rare combination of length and athleticism allows Labissiere, whose wingspan was measured at 7’1.5,’’ to contest shots, help on several different positions and provide cover out to the perimeter. Labissiere’s ability to impact the game on both ends should keep him in the No. 1 pick discussion over the next year. Even if he doesn’t earn that distinction, Labissiere will almost certainly join DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel and (likely) Karl Anthony-Towns in the line of recent Kentucky-groomed, one-and-done big men to be selected in the lottery. 

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