Before the bright lights of the postseason flicker on for the Trail Blazers, the Moda Center will host the burgeoning stars of tomorrow’s NBA in the 2019 Nike Hoop Summit. Friday’s competition pits a loaded Team USA roster against an equally talented World Team squad. In the lead up to the big event, each team has practiced under the watchful eyes of NBA executives from around the league.
Friday’s contest provides an excellent opportunity for the players involved to showcase their skills against top-level talent. Here are three storylines to follow as Friday’s action unfolds.
The World Team features two future Arizona Wildcats in Nico Mannion and Josh Green. I covered both prospects earlier this week, but they deserve to be mentioned again due to their fast-forming partnership. Mannion, a red-haired point guard representing Italy, was the most vocal player in World Team practices. After working through a rough shooting day to start the week, you can see why the Wildcats are excited about their new lead guard. Mannion displays excellent court vision and delivers passes with pro-ready velocity. When he isn’t facilitating, he has an excellent first step that serves as a catalyst for creating favorable shot opportunities.
Not to be outdone by Mannion, Green’s excellent athleticism was on full display this week. Green stands at 6’6” and his 6’10” wingspan will allow him to guard multiple positions at the next level. If he gets a chance to run in the open court on Friday, the crowd at the Moda Center is in for a treat. He is an explosive finisher with serious hops.
Mannion and Green have the skills to get everyone involved and put on a show themselves.
Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object
The NBA is trending away from traditional big men, but don’t tell that to Kofi Cockburn (World) and James Wiseman (USA). The latter was the prized recruit for Penny Hardaway’s revamped Memphis Tigers program. Unsurprisingly, Wiseman is a clear favorite to hear his name called early in the 2020 NBA Draft. Friday’s game won’t be a cake walk for the blue chipper, as Cockburn possesses an eye-popping physical profile. The soon-to-be Illinois freshman stands at 7’0” with shoes on, but his 302-pound frame sets him apart from the other big men in this competition.
Wiseman’s skills project favorably for today’s NBA, but Cockburn’s strength will garner interest from teams looking for an anchor on both ends of the court. Wiseman and Cockburn should face off against each other early and often.
High-Energy Face Off
Alongside the matchup between Wiseman and Cockburn, forwards Isaiah Stewart (USA) and Oscar Tshiebwe (World) are set to tussle. Tshiebwe is headed to West Virginia next season, and his relentless motor will be a perfect fit inside coach Bob Huggins’ system. Throughout the week, Tshiebwe’s rebounding instincts have dazzled in practice. He effortlessly slices through opponents attempting to block him out to secure the ball.
Stewart, who is headed to the Washington Huskies, possesses a similar set of skills. Armed with favorable size and quickness, he is a favorite to give Tshiebwe problems in the post. Tonight’s game features a litany of talented perimeter players, but the action inside is worthy of the spotlight.
The Nike Hoop Summit gets underway at 7:00 pm at the Moda Center.