With their college careers now finished and their sights set on a professional basketball career Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov took their talents to Virginia to take part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, an invite-only showcase for college graduates that hosts scouts from the NBA, G-League, and top leagues from Europe. This wasn’t the first time in recent history that some Gators have been present at the event as Canyon Barry’s strong performance earned him an NBA Summer League invitational last year and Dorian Finney-Smith’s dominance in the tournament two summers ago was a major part in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks giving him a contract. Let’s take a look at how Chiozza and Koulechov fared and how it could impact their pro prospects.
Game By Game Stat Lines:
PTS: 6 (2-10 FG, 2-7 3FG)
PTS: 7 (2-10 FG, 1-5 3FG)
PTS: 16 (7-12 FG, 2-5 3FG)
Playing on a team that I felt was the least talented squad in the tournament Koulechov was given ample minutes and opportunity to showcase himself, often getting plays ran for him to run off screens for catch and shoot shots. Unfortunately for Egor he never heated up and finished a fairly pedestrian 5-17 from the land beyond on the tournament. It also should be noted that they played the NBA three-point line and this was likely the first time Koulevhoc has shot from that range in an organized game. With his threes not falling at a high clip he also struggled to get buckets inside and his undersized frame and average athleticism made it difficult to finish around the caliber of athletes present at the event. Defense was sometimes a struggle for Koulechov as he was forced to constantly guard elite perimeter players in space, difficult matchups that he didn’t get dominated by but ones that he definitely didn’t win. The one thing he did well, and this will be no surprise to Gators fans, was rebound. Just as he did all season for the Gators Koulechov used his sense of anticipation to read the ball off the rim on misses and chased down a good amount of rebounds against bigger, stronger players and that made him a fan favorite amongst attendees.
To really impress scouts Koulechov needed to bury the three at a high rate and unfortunately he didn’t do it and that is really going to hurt his stock. Without plus size, athleticism, or skill with the ball in his hands his best skill needs to be the jump shot and it looks like it didn’t translate to the further arc in this, albeit small sample size, tournament. Hopefully some NBA Summer League teams take a chance on him and he can see if his jumper will fall there.
Things To Work On
Getting his feet set on jumpers. His ability to hit threes off balance by just aiming the ball with his right hand often worked in college but with the deeper NBA three-point line that shot becomes a lot more difficult. He’ll need to be a shooter who gets his feet underneath him and shoots balanced, rhythm shots and not a shooter who relies solely on touch. He’ll also need to find a way to get offense somewhere other than the three-point line for the times his shot isn’t falling while also working on his lateral quickness to be able to defense ball handlers on the perimeter.
Game By Game Stat Lines:
PTS: 3 (1-6 FG, 1-5 3FG)
PTS: 8 (4-6 FG, 0-1 3FG)
PTS: 7 (3-7 FG, 1-4 3FG)
Chiozza was the trusted primary ball handler for his team and used his leadership and passing abilities to dish out a neat 22 assists in 3 games while only committing a manageable 7 turnovers. While many players were using this tournament as an opportunity to showcase their dribble moves and one-on-one ability, Chiozza slowed the game down and made sure his team got into sets every time down the floor, noticeable differentiating him from many of the score-first guards that were present in Portsmouth. Playing on a court with the NBA three-point line meant the floor was spaced even more than it is in college and I think that really helped Chiozza’s game as he was able to run pick and rolls without the paint being overly clogged and throw skip passes on the money that wouldn’t be there in the college game. However, the long three-point line didn’t do anything to help Chiozza’s jumper and he was clearly heaving the ball a bit more to get the required distance and he had to sacrifice accuracy to do it. His on-ball defense was solid, but I think he overplayed a little bit more than he had too. Playing at Florida, Chiozza could really get into the grill of ball handlers knowing he would have gap support if the player got a step on him. Playing against higher quality athletes and an NBA-spaced floor he didn’t have that same help defensively and it allowed some penetration. He’ll have to learn to defend guys with more of a cushion but that should be an easy adjustment for him to make.
The way Chiozza was able to run his team means he will be sought after by a lot of NBA personnel for their Summer League squads. The Summer League has notoriously become an isolation-heavy playground game at times and NBA General Managers are always looking for point guards like Chiozza who will settle the game down and ensure the proper offense is ran. If Chiozza can get a Summer League invitation and prove he can continue to distribute the ball at a high level and defend at an above-average rate I could see him being invited to an NBA camp. Chiozza’s play at this event reminded me a lot of former Arizona Wildcat and current Philadelphia 76er TJ McConnell, a similar undersized guard who used his passing ability and on-ball defense to earn himself a regular role on a great NBA team. Watch for Chiozza to try and accomplish the same thing.
Things To Work On
Finishing at the rim. Right now, Chiozza has been able to get a defender on his hip, wait for help to come, than hit the open man. However, when teams have actually forced him to try to take contact and finish at the hoop he has struggled. He’ll need to prove he can finish at the tin to force help side defenders to guard him because if they don’t than his passing ability, his best skill, will be neutralized. He’ll also have to work on his jumper, particularly off the dribble. He is a great passer out of the pick and roll but at the next level teams will take away the pass and force him to shoot and he’ll have to be able to punish them to put up points and open up the pass again.
Though neither Chiozza or Koulechov dominated at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament they both played good basketball and we will continue to watch them all spring and summer long as they look to make it to the highest level of basketball.