Photo source: The Kitsap Sun
Ballhandling drills. Shuttle runs. Trillions of elbow jumpers.
Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday have been working hard on their craft every summer since they can remember. This off-season, however, the stakes are a bit higher.
All three are working out for pro scouts and coaches this month in hopes of selection in the NBA Draft on June 23rd. They will have to impress, as none are surefire NBA prospects.
Thomas’ three-year college career was one of the best in Husky history, but there are widespread concerns that his size (7’7½ standing reach, identical to former Husky Nate Robinson’s) will preclude the success of the moves he’s been using since his Curtis days. He’s neither as quick as Robinson nor as consistent an outside shooter, both of which will hamper his ability to attack the basket. Few believe he can continue to use his plus strength to create space around the bucket against bigger defenders; even if he can, he needs to improve either his finishing skills or his free-throw shooting to have success as a slasher.
Though he plays like a combo guard, IT projects strictly at the point guard position because he lacks the size to defend any position other than point guard. He’s a good passer in that he consistently makes the right decisions with the ball; he does not, however, have NBA-caliber vision that allows players like Nash and LeBron to see what has yet to develop. Except for this one, oh my goodness.
The appeal here is that IT is the hardest worker you’ll find and he’ll make all of his teammates work harder too. His long-range jumper is almost guaranteed to dramatically improve within a couple of years when NBA coaching is added to his work ethic. He could go as early as the late first round or miss the draft board by a wide margin and join the NBDL ranks. Here’s hoping Isaiah can silence the critics and #RTR at the next level for years to come.
Bryan-Amaning is a work in progress on both ends. He plays with passion and grit at times and is creative around the bucket, though his finishing skills, shall we say, lack polish. He was a three-year headache for Husky fans until he partially shed his passive back-to-the-basket demeanor and started emphatically putting the ball through the cylinder—to that point, the game didn’t seem to come naturally to him. His post game is developing, but he found a real strength last year in rolling off picks and finishing Thomas’ feeds. He developed decent range to 17 feet last summer but did not use it last season. He’s been working tirelessly at his jumper this spring in hopes of piquing scouts’ pick-and-fade imaginations.
Defensively, Bryan-Amaning is immature and too stiff for someone so laterally quick. He tended to lose focus on defense at UW but was earnest to prove his desire at the Portsmouth Invitational in April—he hustled endlessly on both ends on his way to one of the tournament’s best four-day performances. He has a 7’4 wingspan and leaps like a geyser in transition (read: HE WILL RISE ON YOU), but don’t count on him Bill Russelling his blocked shots: he’ll knock ‘em as far as he can, possession be damned. If he can harness his boundless athleticism very quickly, MBA may be in business. Otherwise, the big Brit is destined for a very, very good European career.
Holiday’s NBA potential is as a niche perimeter defender. He has proven himself able to stop any college player but must add at least 15 pounds to contain NBA wings. He has NBA bloodlines and a dramatically improved jumper to 21 feet but is raw off the dribble and did not show confidence on offense even during early-season scoring spurts. Holiday is not likely to be drafted but could very well finish with the longest NBA career of these three players—playoff teams are always looking for defensive stoppers.
Where do you see these three ending up? Special prize if you can write in longer, more cumbersome sentences than your boy.