Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen took their first steps toward a professional basketball career this weekend when both participated in the Portsmouth Invitational last Thursday through Saturday. Neither, though, was able to wow the 172 scouts from the NBA — and countless folks from foreign leagues — that filled the Churchland High Gym for the only pre-draft function that allows college seniors a chance to perform in a 5-on-5 format.
But Delaney’s appearance was certainly more productive than Allen’s. Coming off his most productive college season, Allen was only able to play a half of basketball before missing his final two games of the weekend with a groin injury.
Delaney’s team lost all three of its games, and he averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and two turnovers per game. But Delaney did shoot close to 42 percent (5-12) from three-point range and had his best game on the tournament’s final day (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists).
If there is some good news from the weekend, it’s that both Delaney and Allen seem realistic about their futures. Both want to be on an NBA roster next year, but they’re also willing to explore their options overseas, if necessary.
“I’ve got to make money for a living. That’s my job, so I’m not gonna wait on the NBA this year and end up not making it. I’m gonna take whatever, whether it’s NBA or overseas,” said Delaney, who has been working out in Atlanta since the Hokies lost to Wichita State in the NIT last month. “I know all my options. That’s pretty much why I’m here.”
In my story on the number of fringe prospects who decided to skip Portsmouth that appeared in Saturday’s paper, I wasn’t able to fit in an interesting development that will have a huge impact on players like Delaney and Allen.
Many of the NBA front office types I spoke with in Portsmouth are working under the assumption that there will be a lockout next season, meaning there will likely not be an NBA summer league. That’s a big reason why the record number of players (21) that pulled out of Portsmouth last-minute made very little sense, since for many it was likely their only opportunity to impress foreign scouts.
Allen said he hasn’t spoken much with his agent about the possibility of a lockout, but he seems well aware that he may be forced to leave the country in order to make a living playing basketball.
“If push comes to shove and there is a lockout, I have no problem going overseas,” said Allen, who has been in the Washington area working to improve his quickness and outside shooting this offseason. “It’s still basketball; it’s just in a different area.”
Since neither was able to shine at Portsmouth, it’s going to be tough for either to collect an NBA paycheck without the ability to prove themselves more on a summer league team. Ultimately, each are tweeners at the NBA level.
Delaney is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who has yet to prove definitively that he can play point guard. Allen, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-7 power forward who did most of his damage on the interior during his collegiate career.
But if there’s one thing to cull from Portsmouth, it’s what Ryan Blake, the NBA’s assistant director of scouting, reminded me of when I asked him whether Delaney and Allen had a real chance at making an NBA roster next year.
“You have to have an NBA skill set. There’s no definitive size anymore, there’s no such thing as a 6-foot-11 center anymore,” Blake said. “We’ve got two-guard lineups and three-guard lineups that you never used to see before. And it only takes one team to like you and give you that opportunity, and you have to maxmize that.”