CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The 2014 edition of the NBPA Top 100 Camp came to a strong conclusion on Saturday. Cheick Diallo, Derryck Thornton and Malik Monk were just of three many players who stepped up to the lead the Knicks to a very deserved camp championship.
Knicks earn championship
The way the Knicks were playing on Saturday, it become clear pretty quickly that they were gunning for a camp title. They finished the job off in impressive fashion as pretty much everybody on their deep roster stepped up and played their best basketball.
From top to bottom, there wasn't a better team in camp and their top two performers all week and Saturday were 2015 five-star Cheick Diallo and soon to be 2016 five-star Derryck Thornton. Both Diallo and Thornton cemented themselves on Rivals.com's five man All-NBPA camp team -- more on that later -- and helped make sure their team finished the job.
While the majority of the big men were running out of energy, Diallo seemed to be finding more. He continued to outrun opponents and showed some real emotion on the floor. Thornton seemingly made the right decision all week long and in the playoff run. He is finding the balance between his offensive game and getting others involved, and that makes him really tough to handle.
Pretty much just as good as Diallo and Thornton on Saturday were Derrick Jones, Kobi Simmons and Malik Monk. Jones played some stretches as a small four man, but was all over the rim, finishing in transition and playing with a great activity level. Like Thornton, Simmons is a safe bet to ascend to five-star status in the class of 2016. He is a tall floor general with outstanding quickness who can also slide off the ball and become a playmaking scorer. Monk looks to have found a perfect balance between his jump shooting and using his athleticism to attack off the dribble.
Also playing well on Saturday for the Knicks were recent Washington commit DeJounte Murray, 2016 big man Jarrett Allen and Tres Tinkle. Murray played his best basketball of the grassroots season at NBPA while Allen really solidified himself as a high major prospect and Tinkle made timely shots and made things happen in the flow of the game.
Rounding out the Rivals.com All-Camp team
So, we know Diallo and Thornton made Rivals.com's five-man All-NBPA team. The question is who else joins them?
First up on the list is the player that was the Most Outstanding Player of the camp, Ben Simmons. The LSU commit stepped his game up and consistently performed better than anybody he went up against. He was tough near the rim when he needed to be, hit the glass, showed that he can facilitate some offense out of the high post and generally showed off the highest skill level of the big men in camp. The way it is looking, Simmons has made a pretty convincing case for the No. 1 spot in the 2015 Rivals150 when it gets updated in the very near future.
At the small forward position, we are going with Las Vegas wing Ray Smith. The confidence that he is playing with right now is at a high level and he is showing something new each time he hits the floor. His slashing and transition finishing are still his calling card, but his pull-up jump shooting and overall floor game are rounding into form quickly.
It would be fair to say Antonio Blakeney could improve his shot selection a little. But, it wouldn't be prudent to put too many restrictions on him. One of the best pure scorers in the class of 2015, Blakeney has pop in his legs, gets to his spots quickly and is a very confident shot maker. He just missed making the USA Basketaball 18U team in Colorado Springs last week but bounced back in impressive fashion in Charlottesville.
Saturday notes and observations
Class of 2016 five-star point guard Seventh Woods played his best basketball of camp. The South Carolina native is a gifted athlete who at times is too passive in his play. Part of it is transitioning into being a full-time decision-maker and initiator of the offense, but a big part of it seems to be lack of aggression. During the playoffs, Woods had an attack mentality that had been missing much of camp. He had some confidence with his jumper and did a nice job of making plays and scoring.
Making his way onto the camper-voted All-Camp team was Noah Dickerson. We wrote on Friday that the future Georgetown Hoya was playing at a high level and that continued on Saturday. Strong rebounder, smart scorer who gets good position and he's going to be physically ready for high major basketball.
Quietly but surely, Michigan State commit Deyonta Davis finished off a strong camp. He seems to be coming out of his shell and gets a little more aggressive each time out. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to fully tap into his potential on the college level. Once he does, look out Big Ten.
Class of 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher had his best outing of camp on Saturday morning. He never quite found his jumper during camp, but on Saturday he focused on using his speed to attack off the dribble and make plays for others. He got to the free throw line a little to get some easy points and seemed to get energized by his teammates knocking down some looks off his passes.
Class of 2015 power forward Samir Sehic made a pretty strong argument for inclusion in the rankings with his play at NBPA. His game is all about using his strength to get position and then using his skill to score on defenders. He never gets too high or too low and just keeps producing. That consistent production is awfully tough to dismiss.
P.J. Dozier seems to be closing in on 100 percent physically and looks to have shaken off most of the rust caused by missing his junior season due to a knee injury. He has grown to around 6-foot-6 and projects as a wing that can make plays with his passing and scoring. He is patient, mature and has a great game to build on. His overall showing at camp was a very good one.
For the second day in a row, Carlton Bragg was a highlight reel. Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisville, Arizona and Ohio State are in the mix and he will likely cut his list within a month or so of the summer's end. He said that he's planning to visit UK in the fall and the feel is that both Kansas and Illinois are quite strong as well.