Avery Bradley is who we thought he was. And that is an exceptional basketball player, perhaps even faster and more exceptional than expected. On a court filled with the best players in the country, Bradley looked like he was moving at a different speed, with a top gear that no one else seeme to match, either with the ball or without. When combined with his ability to lower his shoulder and get under the defender, Bradley looks close to unstoppable in the open court -- like Derrick Rose fast, scoring 15 points on 6-9 shooting,
As a low-volume three-point shooter in high school, his ability to knock down shots in the game was a major question mark. Bradley did not disappoint, hitting two of three free throws and one of three three pointers, not including another jump shot on the line. He still doesn't have a lot of arc on his shot, but it isn't as noticeable as Damion James. With his form and elevation, Bradley will be a solid to excellent long-range shooter in college. An All-Star game isn't a place for a lot of mid-range jumpers and Bradley didn't show off that part of his game, except for one forced shot that wasn't close -- his only shot of the game. The high school numbers for Bradley indicate a high level of efficiency and Bradley displayed that same understanding of his game in relation to the game as a whole, a rarity in All-Star games.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of his game was that he didn't handle the ball a lot in the half court, particularly when former high school teammate Abdul Gaddy was in the game, instead running the baseline and moving without the basketball. It didn't result in any easy baskets in this game, as Gaddy tried to force a couple of passes, but it is a sill that Bradley will show at the next level. When he did handle the ball in the half court, he showed a nice ability in the pick and roll, one time setting up his defender and not using the screen, getting into the lane and another time reading the roll after the pick and hitting his open teammate, a pass that lead to another pass and a dunk.
Part of Bradley's efficiency stemmed from his willingness to hit open teammates, on one play giving up an easy layup or dunk to try to find future OU star Keith Gallon and turning the ball over. Unselfish to a fault on that play. While the Gaddy to Bradley connection didn't show up as anticipated, Bradley did connect with Gaddy for a dunk in transition, perhaps returning the favor for all the dimes Gaddy dropped him in past years. There is some point guard in Bradley, though I'm not convinced that he is the primary ball handler in the half court. More like an option to start the transition game with his incredible speed and another ball handling option in the half court.
The McDonald's game isn't known for defense, but then Avery Bradley isn't your typical high school superstar. Perhaps taking a cue from Kevin Durant's competitive play in the Rookie-Sophomore game this year, Bradley played solid defense throughout the night, showing off his lateral quickness, ability to contest shots as a weakside shot blocker (think Justin Mason), and, on one play, the ability to play through a screen aggressively, then anticipate the pass he forced, steal the ball and show his unselfishness by giving up a basket to drop a dime to future rival Tommy Mason-Griffin.
Overall, Bradley probably played the most complete game of any player at the event, looking just as impressive as ESPN no. 1 Xavier Henry. Bradley's athleticism, as shown through his slam dunk championship and some impressive plays on Wednesday night, is greater than I originally thought -- a pleasant revelation. Not that there was any doubt before, but there is absolutely not a sliver now that Avery Bradley will be the next star at Texas and a future lottery pick. Throw those horns up, AB!
Gallon is one-of-a-kind. There aren't many players even in the NBA at 6-9 (Keith Gallon's listed height, he looks more like 6-8) who are just as comfortable stepping away from the basket to knock down a three or handling the ball in the open court or running the floor as they are banging down on the block. Gallon demonstrated all three of those abilities in an impressive McDonald's game performance, as well as the ability to face up opponents to get into his back-to-the-basket moves.
He has a great touch and ability to handle the basketball, though he isn't a plus athlete, despite recent gains in conditioning. That lack of athleticism shows up notably on the defensive end in a lackluster performance, showing little ability to elevate (think Dexter Pittman when he's gassed) to block shots or move his feet laterally. It could have simply been an effort issue given the nature of the game, but there's no excuse for giving up the go-ahead points with 40 seconds left on a lob when he lost Derrick Favors, a tough player to lose considering his combination of size and talent.
OU got themselves a good one offensively, but the defensive end could be a problem. It also remains to be seen if Jeff Capel's potential move to Arizona impacts Gallon's commitment to become a Sooner.
TMG has a rough night. The other OU commit in the game was Texas native Tommy Mason-Griffin, a short and stocky point guard with a quick crossover and equally quick trigger finger. While TMG's crossover and ability to change direction with that slight hesitation that gets defenders off balance are impressive and elite, he had an extremely tough night shooting the basketball, continually pulling up off the dribble with quick shots, missing six or seven, while only making one. Doesn't seem to be much of a conscience on that one. The stroke is there, but they didn't fall tonight and he kept forcing it.
The poor shooting performance culminated in another forced shot that ended the West's chances in the game -- as TMG handled the ball at the top of the key as the clock ticked down to 15 seconds left in the game down by one point, Griffin launched an ill-advised pull-up three that wasn't close, instead of penetrating to create a shot for himself or a teammate. Combined with Gallon's defensive lapse, the two OU players probably cost the West the game.
The junkyard dog. Florida State commit Michael Snaer didn't exactly come in as an underrated player, ranked at no. 11 by Rivals, but his under-the-radar performance was impressive. Seemingly always around the ball, Snaer finished in transition, on second-chance points, and on penetration, displaying a tenacity that will serve him well in college. Snaer played like a good defensive back -- always around the ball, even displaying some solid effort on the defensive end. The negative for Snaer is that he has a strange hitch in his shot that may keep him from being a knock down, or even consistent, outside shooter in college.
- Xavier Henry - The ESPN no. 1 got his in the game, though his jumpshot looks inconsistent, with a strange release. Where Henry does impress is with his ability to slash towards the basket, aided by his left-handedness, which is always difficult to defend because most defenders don't face many lefties. In many ways, he looked like a left-handed Tyreke Evans. Most impressive, however, is Henry's physique -- he was the most physically developed player in the game, with wide shoulders and obvious strength. Not quite a physical freak like LeBron James, but impressive nonetheless. There will be a serious battle for his services when he decides to de-commit from Memphis, which is a virtual certainty.
- Abdul Gaddy - Another player with a less-than-stellar shooting stroke, Gaddy confirmed his reputation as a pass-first point guard, if simply because he doesn't shoot particularly well. The biggest concern moving forward, besides his stroke, is his frame. Gaddy has relatively narrow shoulders that don't have a lot of room for growth, as well as quickness that falls short of being explosive -- he struggled in turning the corner against the athletic players he faced in the game. It is't likely that he becomes a bust at Washington, but he looked like one of the weaker players in the game.
Renardo Sidney - The easiset comparison for Sidney is Z-Bo, former Michigan State star Zach Randolph, known for being perpetually out-of-shape and settling for jump shots. Sidney is certainly talented like Randolph and has impressive feet for a player of his size, but his conditioning causes him to settle for too many jump shots. The talent is there, but it's questionable whether Sidney will ever understand shot selection well enough to maximize his talent.