Cole Aldrich - (Photo, right) - Given his lofty national reputation heading into the event, there really weren't many outside of the Midwest who had seen him play. It didn't take long for Aldrich to prove that he was worthy of the advance buildup and that he can compete with any big man out there. A true throwback guy, the 6-11 C is at his best planted on the low block with his back to the basket.
You have to love his ability to spin to either his right or left shoulder and finish with his right or left hand and the way he clears space with his backside. He's got a great frame to work with but does need to hit the weight room, tone up his upper body, and work on his endurance. Defensively, Aldrich is a solid positional player who doesn't gamble and understands that his mere presence is going to disrupt things.
Darrell Arthur - Easily one of the most intriguing guys in the class of 2006 because nobody out there seems to know a bunch about him. A quiet and humble kid who usually goes about his business in silent fashion, Arthur showed an emotional side of his game at NBPA that not many had seen before. An elite level athlete, Arthur has often been content to pick his spots and has thus relied too much on his athleticism.
While he still used his athleticism to his advantage, the most impressive thing Arthur did was demand the ball and impose his will at times. For whatever reason, he wasn't the recipient of many passes so he took it upon himself to get the ball and make things happen. You won't find many guys with his size and strength who are as natural shooting the ball from outside as Arthur. His baseline fadeaway is money, and he flicks home 22 footers with relative ease on his pretty looking jumper. The key for Arthur will be to find a good balance between his inside and outside game and to remember that he can be a dominant rebounder.
Duke Crews - While most guys who stand 6-6 go out of their way to prove that they can play on the perimeter, Crews is the rare individual who understands his strength lies in low post play. A tenacious competitor in the paint, Crews relies on his superior quickness, footwork, long arms and ferocity around the hoop to get things done. Of course, the fact that he is one of the most explosive leapers in the country doesn't hurt him either.
On the defensive end Crews will struggle from time to time with guys who have two or more inches on him as the size difference becomes too great. That being said, watch him and you see that he makes his opponent work very hard to score and that desire to protect his own goal can't be underestimated. The bottom line with Crews is that he is basically a dunker and a rebounder and it isn't easy to predict how his game translates to the next level. He's going to force high major programs to take a long look at the positives and negatives of his game and would do wonders by adding a consistent 12-foot jumper to his arsenal.
Wayne Ellington - (Photo, right) - It isn't any secret that the Tar Heel nation is excited about Mr. Elington's commitment and quite frankly they should be. The 6-4 combo guard is a complete product on the offensive end and does a lot of little things that he usually doesn't get credit for. Formerly at his best driving to the basket and pulling up in the lane for assorted floaters, scoops and short jumpers, Ellington has found the right mix between driving and making defenders pay from deep with his three point marksmanship.
Noticeably bigger and stronger than he was last winter, Ellington also showed more explosiveness off the floor than he has in the past. His bread and butter will always be the ease and efficiency of his offensive game, but don't make the mistake of labeling him an offense only type. He's stepped up things on the defensive end and uses quick hands to cause troubles for opposing ball handlers. As it stands, there may not be a more complete guard prospect in the class of 2006.
Tyreke Evans - Despite the fact that he's only a rising sophomore and won't graduate until the spring of 2008, this 6-4 combo guard has already received his fair share of hype. For the most part Evans lived up to his advance billing by putting up numbers, handling the ball and looking very comfortable against older players.
His biggest asset at this point in his development is his advanced ball handling ability. The release on his jumper is actually a little slow, but Evans creates so much space with his crossovers, step backs and hesitation dribbles that it isn't an issue for now. Not surprisingly he's got a tendency to overdribble and it took him a little while to realize that there were four other players on the court with him. He's lost on the defensive end right now but that is understandable given his young age. For now he's the top dog in the class of 2008 but he's going to have to keep working in order to keep that spot. It could certainly be argued that he was outperformed at NBPA by another 2008 product, 5-10 PG Brandon Jennings.
Gary Johnson - (Photo, right) - How can you not like watching Johnson play given his no-nonsense approach to the game? The 6-7 forward from Houston loves going to work on the low block and gets the job done. Because of his length and quickness on the blocks, Johnson plays bigger than his size and fears no man in the painted area.
There were plenty of outstanding performances to choose from at camp, but Johnson's complete dismantling of Ray Hall one evening may have been the most impressive of the week. To his credit, Johnson lets his play do his talking for him and now that he's added a reliable mid-range jumper he's a much more dangerous player. If he continues to develop, Johnson has a chance to be a Joey Graham type player on the college level.
Taylor King - Now that he has backed off of his very early commitment to UCLA, college coaches, scouts and recruitniks are all busy familiarizing themselves with the 6-7 forward's game. It isn't that he hasn't been out there to be seen, it is just that the attention level given to somebody who is committed is a bit different than it is for somebody who is still open. For the most part, King was impressive at NBPA.
His ability to shoot with comfort and ease out to 25 feet is something that few others have but people need to be careful because King is much more than a shooter. Not particularly athletic, King kills defenders with his smarts and creativity. He's a super passer, above average low post scorer and has improved his ball-handling. In terms of skill level, there won't be many in 2007 who can match him but that doesn't mean there isn't some work to be done. He needs to work on becoming a little quicker and more confident off of the dribble and getting stronger but has proven to be a hard worker so there is no reason to think those areas won't be addressed.
Check back Tuesday for Part II of the scouting reports ...