NBA Pre-Draft Camp, Day Four

NBA Pre-Draft Camp, Day Four
May 31, 2008, 03:18 am
Fatigue began to set in for many of the prospects and scouts in attendance here in day four, causing much of the attention to turn to the 15 physical-only players, who were here to participate in the combine and conduct light drills and skills-based workouts that drew quite a crowd of high-level NBA executives.

Darrell Arthur, Joe Alexander, O.J. Mayo, Derrick Rose, Donte Greene, Anthony Randolph, JaVale McGee, D.J. Augustin, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, and Brook Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, and DeAndre Jordan were the players the NBA types had an opportunity to drool over. This was an interesting setting, since the lottery candidates joined in on all six of the pre-draft camp teams here, giving us an unique comparison gauge to evaluate their physical tools and skill-sets alongside second round and mostly undrafted prospects. With a good number of NBA GMs on hand to take in the action, there were many interesting draft-related conversations going on at all times in the stands, some of which we got to take part in.

Opinions on how much we were able to learn from the workouts here were very mixed. Some were very happy to be able to see all these players in action in person and take a look at what type of shape they are in, while others called it “a complete waste of time” due to the absolute lack of competitive play. The drills consisted mostly of ball-handling skills for guards going through cones, post-ups for bigs, mid-range and long-range spot-up and pull-up jumpers, and some very basic transition play. The sample size of shots the players took was limited, so keep that in mind.

Clearly the most impressive workout of any of the 15 players belonged to Derrick Rose. Not so much for what he showed, but mostly just for what he is. He got up and down the floor fluidly and smoothly, covering tons of ground with each and every stride, and looked excellent changing speeds and operating skillfully with both hands in the ball-handling drills. His athleticism is nothing short of stunning, starting with his phenomenal first step, his ability to change gears, and his incredible explosiveness finishing around the basket. He came out with a business-like approach, and left no doubt about just how unique his talent-level and physical tools are. A nice bonus was the way he shot the ball, hitting more than one NBA 3-pointer and looking solid from mid-range as well.

Also catching our eye was Russell Westbrook, who came out very seriously and didn’t seem to be taking anything for granted. He was fantastic in the transition drills, flying up and down the court with his terrific athleticism, and also shot the ball fairly well after starting off slowly. His ball-handling skills are just OK at this point.

D.J. Augustin brought both a high skill level in the drills and excellent quickness, making him a pretty impressive workout player to take in in a setting like this. It really seems like his size is the only thing that can hold him back. He also had an unbelievably fast run in the ¾ court sprint.

Donte Greene looked big and very smooth, making an effort to dunk every ball he could as hard as possible, while also shooting the ball well from the perimeter. He still has work to do on toning up his body, though, and is clearly just an average ball-handler.

O.J. Mayo was very smooth and very confident in everything he did, barely missing in the perimeter shooting drills. He’s clearly not on the same level athletically as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook for example, but already has the looks of an NBA player with the way his body looks and how he conducts himself out on the floor.

Michael Beasley looked super fluid and athletic getting up and down the court, finishing with either hand and looking to be in pretty good shape. He attacked the drills with a lot of competitive fire, but most definitely was clowning around way too much throughout the day right underneath the noses of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. There were a few people that expressed concern with some of his antics over the past few days. He shot the ball just decently.

Darrell Arthur looks like someone who is going to impress mightily in workouts based off what we saw here. He passes the eye test and then some on first glance, and then showed really nice athleticism to go along with a fairly high skill level in the drills, although oddly attempting to bank every 3-pointer he took. He struggled a little bit remembering what to do in some of the drills, though.

It was interesting to see DeAndre Jordan working out alongside DeVon Hardin, as the two look shockingly similar in terms of their physical tools and all-around skill-level, but are projected around 20 spots apart on most mock drafts. Considering that only two years separates them age-wise, you have to wonder whether Jordan would still be considered a better prospect than Hardin if we fast-forwarded things two years ahead, as there is really not that much separating them at this point. Jordan showed questionable ball-handling skills and shooting ability and didn’t seem to get out of the third gear for much of his workout, leaving a fairly lukewarm impression. Still, you can’t ignore the physical tools and upside he brings to the table.

Speaking of lukewarm impressions, Brook Lopez didn’t do a whole lot to ease the concerns NBA people have about him, not moving all that well up and down the floor and showing a very average skill-level in most of the drills. The same can be said about Anthony Randolph, who showed up with a long undershirt intended to hide just how incredibly skinny he still is at the moment. He looked great dunking the ball in the transition drills and handling the ball fluidly in the open floor, but was completely unable to hit a mid-range or long-range jumper in any of the drills, not even coming up close on many of his attempts.

If a player was able to hurt himself here (a pretty questionable concept considering the setting), it probably would have been JaVale McGee for what he showed. He came out looking like a deer in the headlights, air-balling shots from the perimeter, blowing wide open layups and being stuffed repeatedly by the rim, appearing extremely unconfident and getting down on himself very quickly. This wouldn’t be that much of a concern if these things weren’t already a very big concern considering the way he projects long-term, although you always have to go back to his age, immaturity and overall rawness to begin to explain things. He seems to have added weight to his frame and is incredibly impressive with just how long he is, looking good finishing around the basket when he was able to convert his moves.

The day started at 9:15 AM with a game between Team three and Team two, giving us another chance to take a look at camp standout Gary Forbes. The UMass senior was not quite as impressive as he was in the first two outings, but still ended up having a solid game with 17 points and 4 rebounds on 4-11 shooting in 24 minutes. Forbes put more emphasis on showing off his long-range game today, which he did quite successfully by knocking down both of his 3-point attempts. He again made smart decisions with the ball and showed a very advanced ability to create his own shot from the perimeter, looking aggressive as usual taking the ball to the basket, and getting to the free throw line at a great clip once again (this time 10 times). Defensively, he again looked below average at best thanks to his underwhelming lateral quickness. Regardless, he’s clearly the MVP of the pre-draft camp by a fairly large margin, and has helped his stock considerably from being projected as a late second round pick on our board. You would think that he’d have a chance to maybe get some looks in the late first based off what we’ve seen here at the pre-draft camp in years past, but most NBA people we spoke with did not agree with that. We will have to wait and see…

James Mays had another solid, but unspectacular game doing the dirty work for his team, finishing with 10 points and 6 rebounds and 21 minutes. His strength, length and athleticism were on full display once again, as were his toughness and activity level inside. He did a good job facing up and attacking his man off the dribble, looking fairly aggressive and finishing well at the rim.

Robert Vaden finished off the camp with another fairly solid performance, scoring 11 points in 21 minutes to go along with 3 assists and no turnovers. He’s really impressed with his ability to move off the ball, read screens and find open shots for himself, elevating sharply and creating separation from his defender and throwing the ball in the basket with machine like efficiency, despite his violent leg kicks. He’s really strong and has clearly worked on his body since the season ended, and did a much better job playing within the offense and setting up teammates than he did earlier in this camp. On the negative side, he’s not the most athletic or creative player you’ll find in terms of his ball-handling skills, favoring his right hand strongly and struggling to finish that at times around the rim. It appears that he’ll be returning to school, and it will be interesting to see what kind of year he has next season.

David Padgett put on a passing clinic, rebounding from two underwhelming performances to show NBA executives in attendance just what he can bring to the table as an extremely heady high-post center who makes everyone around him better. He finally played a bit more aggressively looking for ways to make his presence felt offensively, not just looking to pass the ball unselfishly on every possession like he did previously. He showed nice footwork in the post to go along with his crafty head-fakes and ability to finish with either hand. He often lacks the athleticism to finish many of the moves he creates for himself, but hopefully he will be able to improve on that as his body gets healthier. He’s a really interesting player who would be well served to develop a deadly jump-shot teams need to respect from 16 to 18 feet.

Two more games followed after that, of which we watched only sporadically due to the workouts being conducted on the other side of the gym with the top prospects in this draft (the physical-only players).

Some of the more interesting things we saw in the last two games was the fantastic play of Malik Hairston (who we’ve spoken at lengths about)—with 20 points on 9-14 shooting in 26 minutes. Sonny Weems also had the breakout game he needed (16 points, 6-13) after showing more offensive aggression than we had previously seen. A player with great tools who could surely get drafted, Weems needs to continue to improve his skill level with the ball and his perimeter defense to keep teams interested in him over the next few years. Reggie Williams capped off what has been a terrific camp by dropping in another 15 points in 20 minutes. Although not the most impressive prospect you’ll find here on paper, he’s just a super-crafty guy with an excellent feel for the game.

Brian Roberts might have had the best single game of anyone in day three, scoring 13 points to go along with 13 assists and no turnovers. He pushed the ball extremely well in transition, found open teammates spotting up and cutting the basket all game long, and shot the ball beautifully from mid-range and behind the arc. He’s emerged at this camp as a player that teams need to seriously consider on their draft boards.

Othello Hunter again put his impressive physical tools in display, to the tune of 11 points and 14 rebounds (7 offensive) in 25 minutes. His length and athleticism allow him to make plays that other big men here aren’t capable of, and he’s made a strong case for himself to be drafted or get a long look in summer league/training camp. He still has a lot of upside to continue to improve.

Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 20 points (7-16 FG, 5-7 FT) to go along with 4 assists. Unfortunately, he also had 6 turnovers and missed three of his four 3-pointers. He pushed the ball up the floor extremely well, showed terrific explosiveness getting by his man and giving himself options in the half-court, and also flashed some glimpses of solid court-vision, but his poor decision making led to way too many turnovers, which has typically been his problem. Going back to school and improving his decision making skills looks like a very good option at this point.

Bryce Taylor may not have shot the ball all that well (just 4-16 on the day), but in his case, it’s nice to see him continuing to show that aggressiveness that he so sorely lacked in college. He’s a versatile player who can shoot, pass, defend and play smart basketball, and at the end of the day it wouldn’t be a shock to see a team pick him up when it’s all said and done.

Mike Taylor had a very poor performance with just 1 point and 6 turnovers on 0-6 shooting in 20 minutes, but luckily for him, very few people were watching. His tendency to force the issue was extremely evident, and the opinions about him here at this camp are clearly mixed. Some people like him, and a lot of people don’t. It will be interesting to see what ends up happening with him.

George Hill showed why so many scouts have been saying positive things about him throughout the course of this camp, scoring 15 points to go along with 6 assists and a lone turnover in 24 minutes of action. He ran his offense smoothly and effectively, looking comfortable executing his team’s sets and finding the open man confidently. He shot the ball very well from behind the arc (3-7) as well.

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