With that in mind, we asked our national panel this question for our weekly Roundtable:
In your view, what are the best and worst settings to evaluate prospects?
Evan Daniels: I think this is a tough, but interesting question. I do think it's important to see players in a variety of settings, especially in both high school and AAU. Depending on the player and where they are from, there isn't a guarantee that they regularly play against good competition. For the elite players especially, seeing them in AAU is key for the competition factor.
In general, camp settings are the worst places to evaluate players. It's been well discussed at Scout that camp settings are where we have made the biggest mistakes from an evaluation standpoint. You can judge body types, athleticism and a few other things at camps, but usually camp ball severely lacks defense and is in general a very selfish setting. There is one exception: USA Basketball. In fact, USA Basketball is as good of a setting as there is to evaluate prospects in high school basketball. Why? Because the kids are put in competitive situations and are fighting to make a team. For the most part, they play the right way and go up against the best in their age group.
Rob Harrington: If you asked me to choose one setting to watch one player, I’d pick the high school playoffs. That’s where you see a player’s competitiveness truly rise to the forefront and can learn about his habits when the stakes are very high. For example, Harry Giles (pictured above) brought maximum intensity at last season’s playoffs and, while we already knew he was an elite prospect, his weekend helped solidify his place at No. 1 in the class. There’s a reason that Duke, Kentucky, and so many others have made him a top priority.
To illustrate the point, I shot these clips over one and a half games:
But to fully answer the question, you have to take into account the quantity of talent. It simply isn’t realistic to cover the national scene on the basis of high school playoffs, so inevitably we spend most of our time at travel team events and camps. That said, I think the travel team events are valuable and have become increasingly so due to the structure now afforded them by the respective apparel companies.
Camps are the most challenging for me. Players lack familiarity with their teammates and sometimes have competing agendas, which makes evaluations difficult. Some camps are better than others, of course, and sometimes chemistry develops and sometimes it doesn’t. You just have to do the best you can.
Josh Gershon: I hate to put all camps under the same umbrella because some focus on defense much more than the others, but at the same time, the clear answer here for worst setting is camps. The bottom line is a ton of evaluating mistakes happen when judging almost solely in transition due to the lack of defense, and players make plays off the dribble that they aren't nearly as capable of when there is any semblance of ball pressure and help defense.
Camps have their role for getting a general feel on players' physical tools, but trying to come up with in depth evaluations after that are bound to lead to mistakes. USA Basketball is by far the best evaluation setting due to the fact that everyone is giving maximum effort on both ends of the court. If they don't, they won't make the team. The more situations that can come close to emulating that in high school basketball, the better.
Brian Snow: To me, camps are clearly the worst settings because a ton of unnatural factors come into play. First and foremost you are playing with teammates you aren't used to playing with. That creates a misunderstanding of roles within the team and a general lack of identity for individuals playing within a team concept. Typically, that leads to sloppy play and a bad setting to see what a player is truly like.
For me the best setting is high level AAU. With what Nike, Under Armour and Adidas have all done, in general high level teams are playing other high level teams almost every game. That gives us a reasonable facsimile of what players will look like in a college setting. High school might be a bit more structured, but the reality is where I live there is no shot clock, and many times an elite player is being guarded by a guy who simply has no chance to defend him, and it doesn't show a good example of how elite kids will react when things get tough.
Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gerson and Rob Harrington contributed to this article