In this edition of Overrated Underrated, I’ll take a look at two of the participants in Saturday’s Nike Hoop Summit, an annual event that pits 10 of the top high school seniors in America against 10 similarly aged players from around the world. A lot of these players will be drafted in 2012 after completing their one-and-done obligation at the college level.
Bismack Biyombo (Congo)
The long-armed Biyombo practically came out of nowhere and entered the consciousness of scouts everywhere in just the last couple of months. Even in a super weak draft like this summer’s, the Congolese PF/C was considered a mid-late first rounder at best simply due to his athletic potential, with NBADraft.net projecting him to go 50th overall as late as April 7 (just two days before the Hoop Summit). His profile on that site had no skill grades, a YouTube highlight reel, and a note that there is controversy around his age (supposedly he’s 18) – that’s it. If you search message board comments from before Saturday, you’ll find plenty of people labeling him overrated and nothing but a shot blocker with no offensive game whatsoever.
So how’d he even end up in the game? He was called up to DKV Joventut in Spain’s ACB league, the best in the world behind the NBA, in January and has gone on to lead the league with 2.3 blocks per game in only 17 minutes per. He’s shooting 56% on little more than huge dunks, and sports a decent 5.1 rpg. His European coach said that if Biyombo left the country to attend the Summit, he would no longer have a place on the team. As it turns out, the coach probably didn’t want the NBA to see just how good the big man is so he could use his services for a few more years. For starters, his official measurements at the Summit turned a lot of heads. In addition to being 6-feet-9, 243 pounds, and possessing only 4.8% body fat (nothing noteworthy so far), he had a 7-feet-7 wing span and a 9-feet-3 standing reach. These are freakishly huge. To put them in perspective, only four players in the 20-year history of NBA Draft measurement history had longer wing spans, and only about 20 had longer standing reaches (many of whom were raw giants who never made it to the league). Scouts were talking about his measurements during the week, plus he started to show a lot of interior dominance in Summit practices.
Then came Saturday’s game against the USA Junior National Select team. America’s inside was held down by Kentucky-bound Anthony Davis and UNC-bound James McAdoo, both of whom are projected to be top-5 picks in 2012. It made no difference, Biyombo was without question the story of the contest, blocking a game record 10 shots to go along with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting (could have been much better: hit only 2-of-8 free throws) and 11 rebounds (7 offensive!) for the contest’s first ever triple-double. His defense in the paint became comically efficient with his blocks accounting for 38% of all of USA’s missed two-pointers (10 of the 26), including blocking one shot with his elbow. He showed that he can easily hold his own on the low block for position, he’ll go all out for every single rebound, and he certainly loves to dunk in traffic and over waiting defenders. Not only that, he was the leader of his team, leading them in pre-game stretches and consistently being the biggest cheerleader while on the bench. Although most fans don’t know Biyambo and won’t know what to think if their team takes him in the lottery this June, you can bank on this big man becoming a defensive force in the NBA, even if his only field goals are put back dunks.
Marquis Teague (USA)
Teague was the starting PG for America and has a good basketball pedigree, with older brother Jeff playing on the Atlanta Hawks. He is an amazing athlete with a tremendous first step that allows him to get into the lane nearly at will. His highlight reel needs to be seen, and he’s probably the fastest player end-to-end with the ball in high school. Even with #1 recruit Austin Rivers starting beside him on Saturday, Teague was clearly the man controlling the ball (Rivers is not a PG by any stretch of the imagination, by the way). Teague is currently expected to be a first-round pick in 2012 after a year at Kentucky, and some draft sites have listed Teague as the top PG in next summer’s class.
All that being said, I read plenty of comments about his questionable decision making before watching the Hoop Summit. Not only that, there’s more than a few things written about his bad body language and low coachability. He started the contest off with the game’s first turnover, and it didn’t get much better from there. Teague hit only 3-of-10 shots (0-for-1 from deep) for 6 points. Considering he was the PG on a loaded squad, you’d think he wouldn’t have had the third-most shots on the team. Not only that, in 22 minutes, he ended up with only 3 assists to go with 2 turnovers. Add in 3 fouls and 0-for-2 shooting from the free throw line (?), and it’s safe to say he didn’t have the best game. And don’t forget the World Select Team had very little athleticism at the guard position, so you can imagine what those stats would look like against quicker, more capable defenders.
Backup PG Quinn Cook, who’s headed to Duke this fall, looked much more in command when playing in the game, scoring 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and dishing out 3 assists against 1 turnover (it’s called “not forcing the action”). Teague reminded me a lot of another super fast, short (listed at 6-feet-2, which he obviously isn’t) PG who didn’t exactly have the best shot or make the best decisions with the ball in his hands: Avery Bradley. That’s not how you spend a first-round draft pick, but at least Teague has a year or two to hopefully stop shooting so much and figure out how to not dribble himself into trouble.