This workout was held at St. Mary's University and was run by their trainer, former San Antonio Spurs head Coach Bob Hill. It was by far the most intense, physical and competitive workout I have been to thus far, NBA run or not. It started off with ball-handling drills, mostly dribbling two balls at the same time and going from one end of the court to another and then through cones. After that, the players moved on to show off their mid-range game, using sharp cuts and shooting while moving off the dribble. There were some game simulated drills done through curls coming off screens. This was pretty standard stuff up until this point. After that was a one on one game played strictly inside the paint, where ball was thrown inside for a quick one on one matchup and the three then rotated offense/defense depending on whether they managed to stop or score on their man.
After that was a very interesting two on two full court matchup (first team to five wins), designed to show off ball-handling skills, man to man defense and one on one skills. That followed with another two on two matchup, this time in a half-court setting, starting with a player rotating over to stop an open man on the perimeter. Some drills designed to show off the Graham twins' phenomenal athletic ability were conducted after that, and the workout ended with a drill where the players had to knock down as many NBA threes as they could from straight on in 90 seconds. Free throw shots were done in between most drills, which is when the players rested a bit.
All three players are being trained every single day by a former NBA head coach, which gives them a huge advantage over their competition in the draft as he not only knows what NBA teams do and look for in workouts, but he also knows exactly what these guys need in order to succeed in the NBA. As noted already, this was an extremely competitive workout, with the players' strengths and weaknesses on full display for all to see through the very intense one and one and two on two drills, which is very rare for an agent run workout.
Player Observations from the Workout
Joey Graham, 6-7, 6-9 wingspan
Joey is probably the player who has seen his stock rise the most since workouts started about 3 weeks ago. All the feedback I've received from teams he's worked out for, players he's gone up against and other people in the know has been incredibly positive, to the point that he is now virtually guaranteed to be a top 20 pick, highly likely to go in the lottery and potentially even a top 10 selection on draft night if he keeps working out the way he did here in San Antonio, especially if players ranked above him continue to fall, which has clearly been the case lately. These workouts are tailor made to Joey's strengths, as he is ridiculously athletic and strong, can handle the ball, shoot it, and has that type of toughness that is extremely impressive to watch in person. Graham appears to be the type of player who takes great pleasure in dishing out pain, while having no problem taking it himself. NBA teams absolutely love that, and the buzz around his name as soon as workouts started has indeed been very strong as of late.
Joey is a player that I thought I knew fairly well coming into this workout, as I watched him play at least a dozen times this past year for Oklahoma State and about half a dozen times last year. There was actually a lot to be learned from this workout setting, though, about his skills as a player and things that were perceived to be weaknesses of his that look a lot better in person than they did on tape.
The biggest reason for that has to be the highly structured environment he played in at OSU. Not only was he played out of position for the last two years at the 4 spot, but he was also given very little freedom to be creative and show off his perimeter skills extensively the way NBA players do in OSU's rugged half-court setting. I was constantly comparing the skills he was showing with what I had seen over the season, which was firmly engraved in my mind as I had already prepared myself beforehand by doing my homework. It was indeed very hard not to come away with the feeling that Joey was somewhat pigeon-holed into what OSU needed him to be, instead of letting his play to his many strengths. He is a much more fluid player than I initially gave him credit for, and that aspect of his game which I was previously unaware of adds a completely new dimension to his game.
The workout started with some challenging ball-handling drills, and this was a great test for Joey since this is considered possibly his #1 weakness. Not only does he have all these drills mastered, he does them fluidly and with the greatest of ease, not really looking like he could have performed them any better to be honest, just flat out acing them. When asked about this the next day (we were on the same plane to Orlando, with me connecting to South Florida and Joey staying for a workout the next day with Danny Granger [who eventually did not make it], Antoine Wright and Kennedy Winston) he had this to say: that was something that I always knew I needed to improve on, because of the role I played for my team over the past two seasons. In high school I was played at the 1, 2 and the 3 spots, but because of my size and athletic ability and the fact that we were undersized I was played mostly in the post at OSU. I had no problem making that sacrifice for my team, because it made me more versatile as I can now play and guard the 4 spot too if needed. Since the day the season ended, though, I've been working non-stop on my ball-handling skills. You weren't the only one lately that came away a little bit surprised. Joey talks a lot like he plays: calm, but extremely confident. A no-nonsense, all business type guy. He knows he's good, but he doesn't flaunt it or force the issue to prove that he's something he's not.
The mid-range drills were a piece of cake for Joey, as this is easily the best part of his game. He must have taken at least 150 mid-range shots in this entire workout, and I would be shocked if he missed more than 10 of them. He is simply automatic from 16-18 feet out, not just from around the key but also from the sides, corners and everywhere in between, even with the glass. His footwork is outstanding and this combined with his incredible strength and athletic ability make him a potent threat to use his quickness to make sharp cuts to catch the ball from his comfort zone and elevate smoothly and confidently for a jumpshot, which is almost always going to be money in the bank. The only flaw you can really find here is the fact that he releases the ball from his chest, not unlike a player that he very much reminds of, Shawn Marion. He doesn't flip or heave the ball at the basket nearly as violently though. That's just the way he shoots it, and it works for him so there appears to be no reason to mess with it as he releases it quick enough for it not to be a major problem.
The one on one and two on two drills gave Joey another opportunity to show off his highly improved ball-handling skills and perimeter defense, another part of his game which I always considered a weaknesses of his. OSU's system was structured around their team defense, which was not something that could be measured in a workout like this. In the man to man defensive drills that were done here, though, he was very impressive for the most part. Because he is such an excellent athlete, he is obviously going to have a big advantage in the lateral quickness department. His footwork helps him out here, as does his strength, toughness, wingspan and humongous hands. All this combined made it very hard for the player he was guarding to get around him, forcing them into taking jump shots instead. There is probably going to be a transition period he will need to go through initially in the NBA to adapt to guarding players like Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison, but he's got a ton of potential in this area.
The only opportunity I had to evaluate his long range shooting was a little bit in the informal games and one drill where the players were asked to hit as many NBA threes as they could from straight on in 90 seconds. In the games, Joey was stroking NCAA threes from different parts of the court and looked very good doing so. In the 90 second drill, he hit 25 NBA three pointers in that span, which is an excellent number for him and helps him a lot. NBA teams usually do more shooting drills than this in their private workouts (but sometimes they don't), and this is something I would love to see more of as I never considered him much of a shooter at OSU, despite his excellent shooting percentage, because of the fact that he was played at the PF position and just did not attempt all that many threes this past season. Considering what an outstanding mid-range shooter he is, though, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he's managed to expand his game through all the work he's put in since the season ended.
In terms of creating his own shot, he is way ahead of where I thought he would be, mainly because of his improved ball-handling skills and the fact that he appears to be more fluid and natural looking outside of OSU's highly structured grind it out half-court offense. The fact that his strides are so powerful really help him get to the basket, and he obviously has the athletic ability and strength to elevate and finish strong when he gets to the hoop. There are still some rough edges that need to be smoothed out, things like pulling up and knocking down shots off the dribble and just gaining experience through playing on the wing, but he's got all the tools, the attitude and a big upside to continue to improve. That's probably not going to be his role in the league anyway unless they try to convert him to the 2 eventually. He surely has the athletic ability to do that; he'll just have to continue to really polish his ball-handling skills and outside shooting in the league in his first season or two first. He already plays and guards two positions effectively, adding a third would put him in an elite class in terms of versatility.
Graham is in the draft in just the right year, as the NBA, just like every other professional league, is a copycat league that looks at successful teams and tries to emulate what they are doing in order to succeed. This year's team to emulate is the Phoenix Suns, who play in a unique fashion because they have a 6-7 guy in Shawn Marion who plays both the 3 and the 4 for them. The fact that guys like Graham and Danny Granger have that experience playing both forward spots in this years draft no longer makes them a tweener as it would in the past, it makes them and their future team that much more flexible in the style of play that they can utilize. If his team wants to go small and run, Graham is most certainly capable of playing that utility power spot that is going to be in style next season.
One team that I heard is going to try to structure their team around playing that way is Golden State. They have all the horses to do that, except for their combo forward. Graham had a phenomenal workout just last week. An NBA executive who was at this particular workout said off the record that he personally thinks that Graham will get snatched up at #8 by the Knicks, though. Besides the Magic last Tuesday who are picking #11, the Raptors (#7, 16) brought him in later in the week as well before workouts shut down in preparation for the Chicago pre-draft camp. That indeed appears to be his range at the moment, from 7-16. With so many teams looking for wing players in that range (and you can probably lump New Orleans, Charlotte and Utah in that bunch too at 4-6), and so few players to fill them, Graham's stock moves up almost automatically because of the fact that it's a seller's market we have here.
Stevie Graham, 6-6, 6-7 wingspan
If I considered Joey Graham a really intriguing guy to watch in a private setting after seeing the way he was played in college, then his twin brother Stevie was downright fascinating because of the fact that he just wasn't played at all in college, averaging just under 18 minutes per game at Oklahoma State, partially due to injuries.
After watching him work out, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that that was a huge mistake on OSU's part, despite their depth. Like his brother Joey, he is a phenomenal athlete and built like a tank, but beyond that he is a pretty different player in terms of his skill set and where he is at as a player.
His ball-handling didn't look as good as his brother's did in the drills, but once he got out on the court in the two on two games and had the ball in his hands you could see that he handles it just fine. Combine that with an extremely strong 1st, 2nd and 3rd step and terrific leaping skills (he is very quick off his feet) and you have a guy who is already a very intriguing slashing threat. He was making crisp passes and seeing the floor very well, not disappointing at all in terms of his advance billing as a player who played the point for his entire career until he transferred to Oklahoma State. This guy is strong as an ox, physical and he absolutely loves contact.
The biggest revelation from this workout was the fact that he can actually shoot the ball pretty well. In the 90 second drill described above he hit 28 threes in that span, 3 more than his brother and 11 more than he hit in his entire career at Oklahoma State. During the games he started off a little streaky at first, but kept getting better as the workout went along and finished the games by drilling a couple of great threes from behind the NCAA line.
His defense is still a little hit or miss, at times he looked great with his lateral quickness, while in others he had problems staying in front of and containing his matchup. The worst thing you could say about Stevie from this workout is the fact that he just doesn't seem to be sure about how good of a player he actually is. He looks a bit tentative at times, making the extra pass even when it's unnecessary, being too unselfish and making some questionable decisions at times, mostly due to the inexperience that stems from just not playing that much and being on a very short leash when he did.
Unlike his brother Joey, who is a stud, knows it and plays like one, Stevie seems like he is just now starting to figure things out. He showed some awesome sparks at times with the things he was doing on the court, but then didn't follow it up with another great play, resorting back to role player status and continuing to tease. He's still a bit unpolished, but has all the raw skills and physical attributes you look for in a guard to continue to improve if someone will show some confidence to continue to develop him as a player. The resemblance to Damien Wilkens and the way he played last year at the Chicago pre-draft camp was eerily similar. Graham doesn't have a father and uncle who played in the NBA to give him that push he needed into the pre-draft camp so he could do the rest, but you have to wonder what would have happened if he did. It's obviously going to take time to build up his confidence until he can really show what he's able to do, but if he gets it there is no reason why he can't be as good or maybe even better than his brother Joey.
To be completely honest, Stevie left me intrigued, but not 100% sold. Like many NBA teams who have seen him lately in private workouts, he really leaves a funny taste in your mouth asking for more. He's the type of guy that is really hard to write off. For what it's worth, an NBA executive we spoke to at this workout said he is certain that this Graham will get drafted.
Winsome Frazier, 6-4
Living in SEC country, Frazier is actually the player who I've seen the most of both in person and on tape over the past four years of the players here. Any SEC fan will tell you that he was without a doubt the glue that kept Mississippi State together over the past two seasons. His excellent perimeter defense and timely three point shooting was the perfect compliment to Lawrence Roberts' game. When Frazier broke his foot in early January (an injury which he's still recovering from it looks like athletically) Mississippi State's offense and defense completely fell apart until they slid out of the top 25 and contention for the SEC West title, before making it back into the hunt for the NCAA tournament after Frazier's miraculous recovery (he sat out only 5 weeks after being proclaimed done for the season). After the workout, he admitted that he was only about 60% when he decided to hit the court again and help his team fight its way into the tournament, basically playing himself into shape and peaking in March just when his team needed him. In the opening round of the NCAA tournament, Frazier went 6-8 from behind the arc to finish with 20 points in 24 minutes as his team ran all over Stanford. In the 2nd round versus Duke, Frazier did as good of a job defensively on J.J Redick as any player did all season, holding him to 5-17 shooting and 2-9 from behind the arc. He makes up for his lack of size with his toughness, deceptive strength and excellent wingspan.
Here in San Antonio, Frazier had a decent workout, but clearly appears to be more of a five on five type player. He was at his best when he was asked to show off his defensive skills, fighting and clawing and hustling and basically not cutting the Grahams any slack despite his obvious disadvantage size wise. It was especially impressive to see the way he refused to back down to Joey in the one on one matchups which were based strictly in the paint, banging him and pestering him as much as humanly possible to try and bother him as much as possible. He's an extremely intelligent defender, being able to anticipate things well and coming up with plenty of steals thanks to his excellent hands.
In the shooting drills he was on and off, hitting 23 three NBA threes in the 90 second drill while showing some nice mechanics and getting excellent lift on his jump shot. It wasn't his best day from behind the arc, but I've seen more than enough to know that they guy can stroke it when it matters most. He's more reliable from static positions, though, reliable on the catch and shoot, rather than being a rhythm shooter who likes to take tough shots off the dribble.
In terms of the NBA, he probably is lacking about an inch or two and a more solid in-between game, but at worst he is going to make a really nice prospect in Europe for a good team that can use his toughness, excellent perimeter defense and outside shooting. He's a hard worker and will get chances to improve and show off his stuff in summer leagues if he can't make it this upcoming season.
For the sake of privacy and as not to interfere with their work, the names of the teams and staff members in attendence along with pictures which may have revealed their identity have been withheld from this article.
Have a workout for us that you'd like us to come and evaluate? If it will be in Chicago, we'll have three staff members in town all next week and would be glad to attend. Please email us below if that's the case.