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The 2023 Portsmouth Invitational Recap
The 2023 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is in the books! Maxwell breaks down the players NBA front offices should be monitoring coming out of the event!
The 2023 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is now in the books! It was a fun, exciting weekend, filled with great games, surprise performances, and a few players truly solidifying themselves in the 2023 NBA Draft mix. Before we get into the recap, I want to lay out today’s format and the criteria I will be using.
Eleven players from last year’s event ended up signing what I’ll call a “substantive NBA contract,” either a two-way contract or a ten-day NBA contract, at some point in the last year. Those players were Jamal Cain, Quenton Jackson, Stanley Umede, Jeenathan Williams Jr., Jared Rhoden, Trevor Hudgins, Jamaree Bouyee, Jacob Gilyard, Darius Days, Tyrese Martin, and Cole Swider. Today, I’ll be focusing primarily on 11 standouts from this year’s event, blending both their 2023 PIT performances and prior track records, that I would be keying in on as an NBA front office. At the end, I’ll throw out a few other players who warrant consideration. Last year, 16 other players went on to sign some sort of NBA deal, be it an Exhibit-10 or non-guaranteed deal, so many of the players that didn’t make my cut are still very much in the mix.
1. Toumani Camara, 6’6.75” barefoot, 7’.05” wingspan, Dayton
Size, skill, and defensive versatility are king. Toumani Camara has all three.
He was hyper-productive out of the gate, scoring 27 points on 17 shots in his opening game. The 6’8” power wing was clearly in a different class than his peers athletically. He’s strong, he covers ground well, runs fast in transition, and flies off the floor. Over the course of the three games, he averaged 20 PPG, took 5.3 FT a game and hit 93.8% of them, grabbed 11 RPG, and tallied 1.3 SPG and 1.3 BPG on defense. Simply put, he was all over the court and made his impact felt in every way imaginable. Though he was shaky from three (3-for-18 on the weekend), Camara aggressively hunted his shot and the mechanics looked more seamless than they had previously. I was also impressed by how well Camara handled himself as a decision-maker, averaging 2.7 APG to 1.3 TOV. His passing still showed flashes of creativity as it did this past college season, but there was less unnecessary risk-taking. Playing without a true lead guard and alongside a post-up big man for much of the year at Dayton, Camara looked excellent with reliable set-up men and a more open halfcourt. His game as a roller and cutter should look even better on an NBA floor.
There’s no way around it—he needs to continue to be a more efficient three-point shooter. That said, Camara’s NBA-ready frame and physical tools, paired with his feel and motor may allow him to put together a meaningful career even if he reaches a shade below league average. He’s a firm Top 60 guy for me at this stage.
2. D’Moi Hodge, 6’2.75” barefoot, 6’5.5” wingspan, Missouri
If you watched D’Moi Hodge at Missouri this past season, he basically did all of that same stuff at Portsmouth and then some. Hodge is an absolute pest on defense. Through three games, he nabbed 1.0 SPG and swatted 1.3 BPG. He’s a tenacious competitor on that side of the floor with the ability to stick to his man like glue and spring to meaningfully contest shots above what his measurements would suggest. His hands at the point of attack are dangerous, and he’ll poke the ball loose any time the opposing guard isn’t careful. Hodge is also a gifted scorer and he was letting it fly from three. He tallied 19.3 PPG and knocked down 14 of his 28 three-point attempts. Many were from far beyond NBA range, he showed comfort pulling off the dribble, and he’s able to move into his shot.
It gets a bit tricky with Hodge’s size and ball skills. His career averages of 1.5 APG to 1.2 TOV at the Division I level aren’t awe-inspiring. Over the weekend, he averaged 1.0 APG and didn’t show much new with his handle. Hodge is rock-solid as a ball mover and he has a solid interior passing game when he gets downhill. Still, he doesn’t create those opportunities too often and has run little pick-and-roll action that we’ve seen. His driving angles aren’t particularly good and he lacks counters.
In spite of that, and the fact that he’ll turn 25 in December, it’s hard to look past D’Moi Hodge. His defensive acumen and the genuine spacing he’ll bring to the floor are intriguing. He wasn’t the college player that Chris Duarte was, and he’s smaller than Chris Duarte. But a part of me feels like there may be a similar path for him as a guy who can give the right team some productive minutes out of the gate. Again, not to the same level as Duarte did during his first season, but there’s a chance Hodge could be an immediate “guy you can play” for the right organization. While “smaller Chris Duarte” isn’t sexy, it’s a good play on the margins.
3. Sir’Jabari Rice, 6’3.5” barefoot, 6’9” wingspan, Texas
The master of the pump-fake was on fire in Portsmouth. The tournament MVP posted averages of 16.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.0 APG to only 0.7 TOV. Rice also scored efficiently, finishing the week with shooting splits of 61.3/45.5/85.7. His shooting gravity and “barely keeping his toes down” fakes help get him into the paint, but he showed more than that, too. Rice played ball screens in different ways and leveraged pace to get inside. He’s got some wiggle to him, and he’ll throw in a pass-fake and use misdirection to get to his spots, too. He has heaps of creativity. His first step is solid, he can get up at the rim, and he won’t make a coach rip their hair out. The whole combo guard package is there on offense.
Rice has a lot to offer on the defensive end, too. He’s long, mobile, and doesn’t quit on plays. He’ll offer more ground coverage than your typical guard based on his work ethic, speed, and strides. When screened, he works to stay connected to his man. His stance isn’t perfect, but he’s got enough foot speed and length to stay in front or at least stay with his man.
Sir’Jabari Rice is going to turn 25 in December. Still, he looks like what most teams want in a combo guard—good size, craft with the ball in his hands, shooting, reliable decision-making, and the ability to hang with bigger players on the defensive end.
4. Pete Nance, 6’9.75” barefoot, 7’0.5” wingspan, North Carolina
There was a real duality to Pete Nance’s PIT performance. On the one hand, Nance played entirely within himself. He didn’t force bad shots or try to make the game about him in an obnoxious way that some players tend to do at these sorts of events. He stayed in the flow of the game, moving the ball, and making the right plays; he also stayed in front of his opponents on defense. His feel was palpable, and he clearly thinks the game at an NBA level. At any given time, he knows where every player on the floor is. Nance showed a good nose for the offensive glass in line-ups where he played at the five.
On the other hand, Nance was underwhelming. He scored 9.7 PPG on solid efficiency (47.8/33.3/80.0), which isn’t terrible or anything. But this is also a guy who was given serious draft consideration a year ago. If you’d heard at this time last year that Nance would play in Portsmouth and post 9.7 PPG, you’d be a little disappointed. It’s hard to point at any aspect of Nance’s game and say, “he’s better at that than he was a year ago.” To me, that raises serious questions about his upside. He’s not the longest or strongest. At times, he looks physically awkward when dealing with contact.
In today’s day and age, it feels both stupid and dangerous to bet against a 6’10” player who plays with a high-level understanding of basketball, especially when they’ve shown the ability to make threes (37.8% from distance over the past three seasons). Still, I left Portsmouth just like I left this past UNC season for Pete Nance—wanting more.
5. Justyn Mutts, 6’6” barefoot, 7’3” wingspan, Virginia Tech
Portsmouth was a mixed bag for Mutts. He averaged 3.7 TOV, and it seemed like he was less comfortable playing in a looser, freewheeling system offensively. There were times when he got a little too sped up and haphazard. His 9.7 PPG on 52.2/25/60 splits leaves a lot to be desired.
Ultimately, it’s hard to quit on Mutts, and there were some stellar flashes from him this past week. He can really sling the ball across the court, and despite his turnover woes, he still tallied 3.3 APG. Teammates clearly saw him and trusted him as someone who can set the table for others. While his threes didn’t fall, he was more aggressive in taking them and looked comfortable doing so. Despite his imposing frame, Mutts was light on his feet, guarding up and down the line-up. Plus, check out that wingspan! You love to see it! That gives him a real chance to play at the 4 in the NBA. He showed off his polished handle paired with a bit of wiggle to get downhill. Mutts was a persistent threat on the glass, too, grabbing 6.4 RPG and 1.7 OREB during his three games. You have to put a body on him, and even if you do, it’s not a done deal because of his strength, length, and soft hands.
At 24 years old, the clock is going to be ticking on Mutts to develop a jumper faster than many other draft-eligible prospects. But if he can scratch near-average or find a roster that suits his skillset, he could be a valuable rotation player. Either way, he’s tough to pass on with a low-risk contract, given the versatility he brings to both ends of the floor.
6. Javan Johnson, 6’5” barefoot, 7’1.5” wingspan, DePaul
Javan Johnson was letting it fly from three at the PIT. He took 5.3 triples per game and hit 43.7% of them. That’s not new for Johnson, either—he hit 41.2% of his threes during this past college season on 6.0 3PA per game. But what it did show is that Johnson can continue to hit threes against an increased level of opposition. His skill set and high release point scaled up seamlessly. He’ll run fast off of actions without the ball, and he had some soft makes on tough ones from long range. Even when his feet aren’t set or totally squared to the basket, he has good enough touch to make a shot. While he’s still not the most polished inside-the-arc scorer, he can play with some hesitation and wiggle going downhill.
He didn’t post big counting numbers on defense at PIT, but he blocked shots above his height at the college level (career 3.0 BLK%, 0.8 BPG). Part of it was his length, but another part of it was his 31” standing vertical leap. Johnson can spring off the floor with ease to contest and alter shots. His feet are good, too, so he’s able to keep just about anyone in front of him. When he got switched onto bigger players, he held his own there, too.
Javan Johnson snuck up on me, straight up. I didn’t watch a ton of DePaul games this year, and when I did, I was more focused on their opponents. But looking back at his body of work prior to Portsmouth, and looking at how he did at the event, he’s clearly one the better plug-and-play, 3-and-D type players in this tier. Add in that he sees the floor well and can move the ball quickly, and there’s a real two-way contract argument to be made here.
7. Jake Stephens, 6’10.75” barefoot, 7’9.75” wingspan, Chattanooga
As I preface every conversation about Jake Stephens, there are a few key things to take into account—he is very large (see measurements), and he can really shoot the ball. Though he took a bit to get going from deep this past week (30.8% over three games), Stephens made over 45% of his threes during his past college season. There are few better pick-and-pop and trail threats at his size. And while he was cold from three, he was still immensely valuable. He was 58.1% from the floor, scored 15 PPG, grabbed 9.6 RPG, and blocked 1.7 shots per game. His strength held up well inside and on the glass.
While his athletic testing wasn’t good, it wasn’t a complete disaster, which is a big victory for someone facing those sorts of questions. Stephens generally moved well, and at no point did it feel like he was significantly behind the curve against the rest of the pack. His length goes a long way here—his arms take up so much space and keep him afloat even when his feet get heavy. Stephens even poked the ball loose when opposing players failed to account for his length a few times. During the first two games, he managed to get in a stance and stay in it well while remaining long when guarding away from the basket. He looked the leanest he ever has, and he utilized his improved quickness to make this lovely rim rotation. During the third and final game, he had some rougher moments. His reaction time against quicker players and counter moves needs to come along, and he has to be ready to spring to the rim from the weakside with more urgency.
Still, I loved what I saw from Jake Stephens this weekend. He managed to play fantastic basketball despite his shot being worse than it typically is, and he didn’t get to showcase much of what he can do as a top-of-the-key orchestrator, which is a big selling point of his. He made the all-tournament team while not playing his best basketball and not getting to show off one of his signature skills. I understand the athleticism concerns, but Jake Stephens has more than earned a two-way contract in my book. Having played at VMI and Chattanooga, Stephens didn’t get to spend his college career with the most advanced strength and conditioning resources at his disposal. I would love to get him into an NBA program and see what he can look like in a year.
8. Kevin Obanor, 6’6.25” barefoot, 6’10” wingspan, Texas Tech
There are fair knocks of Kevin Obanor that can be made of Kevin Obanor—he’s basically an undersized four with bad measurements, his defensive impact in college was never that meaningful, and his assist rates have consistently been in the danger zone for an NBA prospect.
Still, the man can shoot the cover off the ball, his motor runs hot, and he plays with real toughness on the glass. KOB averaged 20.7 PPG, leading the pack at the PIT, while showing off exceptional range from three. His touch is downright absurd. He gets up his shots so quickly and easily off the pop. He moved really well, getting up for boards (7.7 RPG), and showed some stuff on defense (0.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG). Obanor also had a nice reverse dunk in the halfcourt, demonstrating some bounce. There were times when he genuinely looked fast for his size, and his 3/4 sprint time (3.325 seconds) beat a lot of the other forwards at the event. He can move, get open, fight to his spots, and score inside or out.
I wish Obanor were longer, and I wish he had more to offer as a creator. But he can finish plays at a high level, and he’s going to play hard.
9. Tevian Jones, 6’5.5” barefoot, 6’10” wingspan, Southern Utah
Tevion Jones is a walking bucket. He finished PIT scoring 18.7 PPG in 22.7 MPG on 62.5/50/100 splits. It’s hard to ask for a better scoring performance than that. With silky shooting mechanics and a high release, even the tough shots appear easy for Jones. He’s a good athlete who can get out in transition, he has real body control at the rim, and he can stroke it from deep. Jones can be tricky to read on drives, too, playing with some slither and mixing in healthy doses of hesitation.
Still, I’m not sure that Jones makes for the cleanest NBA fit. His shot selection can be rather erratic, and he’s too content to put it on the floor before getting his shot off after catching it. While the defensive tools are there, his metrics grade out poorly for an NBA prospect, and that’s especially discouraging given the opposition he faced in the WAC and Big Sky. When he guards the ball, he can be too overreactive and get happy feet. Jones also finished his career with a dreadful 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s lacking many of the role player/connector elements to his game that you hope to see in a back-end rotation player.
Ultimately, not a lot of dudes on earth can put the ball in the basket like Tevian Jones. Given his measurables, scoring prowess, and athleticism, he’s worth a flier. Plus, given that he turns 23 shortly after the draft, he was one of the younger competitors in the field. If he can round out his game and fit as a more complementary player, the rewards could be great.
10. Nathan Mensah, 6’9.75” barefoot, 7’5.5” wingspan
At 25 years old, Nathan Mensah really needed to stand out to make a mark this week. The good news for him is that he did, and he did so in just about every way you could imagine. Not only did Mensah measure well, but he fared well in the standing vertical leap (30”) and 3/4 court sprint athletic drills, boding well for him as a rim-running center. Yes, he’s older, but Mensah will come in on a cost-controlled contract with no ego and a willingness to do the little things. He showed more of a face-up game en route to averaging 13.7 PPG on 65.4 FG%, totaled 9.7 RPG, and blocked 6 shots in 3 games. No, he won’t space the floor. No, he doesn’t have flashy ball skills. But Mensah will do what is asked of him, and he’ll do it well. For a competitive team looking for an extra big man on a cheap deal, Nathan Mensah’s a real option.
11. Craig Porter Jr., 6’0.75” barefoot, 6’4” wingspan, Wichita State
This one may seem odd, but bear with me.
Porter’s on-court performance was bumpy, and he’s a small guard. He scored 9.0 PPG on 44.0/16.7/66.7 splits and turned the ball over 3.7 timers per game. Not great! However, Porter did everything else he possibly could. He nabbed 5.4 RPG, dished out 4.3 APG, and was all over the floor on defense. Porter finished the week averaging 3.3 SPG and 1.3 BPG. He really knows how to make plays off the ball and read passing lanes. CPJ is also both quick and sneaky with his hands while guarding at the point of attack. Lastly, he can really soar. He posted the highest standing vertical (34.5”) in the field and did well on the other athletic tests, too. So while Porter was shaky, he’s a real athlete and a defensive menace. Plus, he’s a late bloomer who just had his breakout Division-1 season. If there’s a player in the field with more juice left to squeeze from a potential standpoint, it’s Porter, the highlight reel athlete who is just starting to put it all together.
-Timmy Allen was wildly productive, with averages of 17 PPG, 8 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Still, his old-school, mid-range heavy game, poor outside shooting with some brutal misses sprinkled in, and shaky athletic testing make him a tough sell for a low-maintenance role in the modern NBA.
-Tanner Groves had a phenomenal week, scoring 17.7 PPG and 10 RPG. Ultimately, given his size and shaky athleticism, he still seems like more of an overseas name. But he’s in a much better position than he was a week ago.
-JT Shumate didn’t have a big, standout performance, but he was good in every single game. He was efficient from the floor (11.7 PPG on 58.3/36.4/75.0), he showed off some of his passing chops, and he looked good defensively. That type of consistency shouldn’t go overlooked, and he should be in the Exhibit-10 mix.
-Loads of smaller guards had their moments. Jordan “Jelly” Walker had an excellent final game and made some huge plays for his team down the stretch. Grant Sherfield, Darius McGhee, and Tyger Campbell were efficient and set the table well. Kendric Davis and Umoja Gibson were electric when things were cooking for them. Jarkel Joiner did a great job of balancing playmaking for himself and others.
-KJ Williams was someone I strongly considered for my Top 11. He was productive, scoring 15.3 PPG and averaging 10 RPG. Unfortunately, his measurables and athletic testing left a lot to be desired. Listed at 6’10”, Williams was never the best rim protector in college. He measured under 6’8” barefoot with a 7’0” wingspan and only posted a 25” standing vertical. Projecting him at the four, his lack of passing chops and iffy lateral agility complicate things. Perhaps I’m still underselling him—games aren’t played on tape measures, they’re played on a basketball court, and Williams produced. At the end of the day, it just feels like a lot needs to go right for him to carve out a real roster spot.
-A player who I think earned an Exhibit-10 was Trey Jemison. He had his fair share of struggles, turning the ball over a lot, often due to illegal screens that were a bit ticky-tacky in my book. In spite of that, Jemison performed well. He nearly averaged a double-double (13.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG), finishing inside and controlling the glass. Physically, he looked the most like an NBA big man out of this group. With a 7’2” wingspan and a strong performance during the athletic testing, Jemison looked the part of a “dunks and defense” big. He can protect the rim, he won’t get killed in space, and he’ll stick to what he does well.