Private Workout: Cedric Simmons, Thabo Sefolosha, Lowry, O'Bryant

Private Workout: Cedric Simmons, Thabo Sefolosha, Lowry, O'Bryant
Jun 07, 2006, 02:08 am
Our second visit to IMG Academy on the morning before the NBA pre-draft camp started gave us a chance to watch two likely lottery prospects and two other likely first round picks. Big men Cedric Simmons and Patrick O’Bryant trained on one end of the floor while guards Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Lowry worked out on the other.

The hour long workout was run by Mike Moreau and Joe Abunassar of Abunassar Impact Sports and served as a bit of a warmup for a huge private workout in front of all 30 NBA teams today at the Orlando pre-draft camp. It was a light workout that gave us a chance to look at the individual skill-sets of the prospects in question, including plenty of perimeter shooting, ball-handling and one on one moves.

After a short full-court warm-up, a large chunk of the workout was spent on spot-shooting from many different spots on the floor. Mid-range jumpers from 14 feet off the glass, 17 footers, ball-fakes with one dribble pull-ups, baseline jumpers, college 3-pointers, NBA 3-pointers, pull-ups from the free throw line, step-ins and step-backs; all four players shot from virtually every spot on the floor over a 25 minute period. This allowed the four DraftExpress scouts in attendance to chart the players and get a fairly accurate gauge of how they might shoot the ball in a private NBA workout.

Mini-plays simulating game action and sets players will see over the next weeks followed, with the guards coming off picks set by the bigs and moving off the ball for a spot-up jumper while another ball was thrown into the post for the big men to finish in a variety of ways. After that the players did an interesting drill showcasing their ball-handing skills in a half-court set, weaving in and past an imaginary defender before turning around at mid-court and exploding towards the basket for an athletic finish.

The workout was run in an extremely efficient manner with absolutely no dead time in between drills. The players were not given the opportunity to rest in between sets and got a huge amount of work done in a very long one hour.

Player Evaluations

Cedric Simmons, 6-10, Sophomore, PF/C, NC State

Eric Weiss

Simmons’ physical gifts are well documented and seeing them close up really drives home just how impressive they are. Simmons has an incredibly long frame. His standing reach is clearly over 9 feet and he uses this length to great effect. Simmons showed great agility and was very fluid in his court movement. Speed and explosiveness were evident throughout the drill work and Simmons showed tight body control while in motion which indicates that his core has been developed well.

Skills wise, Simmons showed some things that we hadn’t seen much of before. In the shooting drills, Simmons showed eye-opening accuracy from all spots on the court. Left elbow, right elbow, baseline to baseline, step-ins, jump-backs, lateral motion shots, and all the way out to college 3-point territory, Simmons was hitting everything. Simmons hit 88 out of 123 shots he took in the drills we charted, or 72 percent. His form and shot motion was consistent and as close to flawless as a big man can be. He showed tremendous consistency of motion, using his enormous frame to full effect by shooting effortless jumpers above his head while maintaining minimal arm movement other than his wrist. His shot has substantial arc to it and his shots snap through the net with the silence that only that type of trajectory can bring.

As far as weaknesses go, the only substantial thing that stood out in this regard was his post moves, which were somewhat mechanical. His body motion was quick, but his release was awkward on his hook shots and for a player with hands of that size it was surprising to not see him simply cup the ball and drop it in after making his move and getting into position for the finish. Simmons was releasing the ball before coming all the way around into position. Simmons told us himself that he does not favor interior play because of what he perceives to be a lack of adequate size for legit post play. Simmons said that he’d like to add an additional 15 pounds to get up to 240, which he could add without losing any of his agility. Simmons says that he favors the face-up game and it is no surprise as his perimeter shooting was outstanding and exceptionally stronger than his post work. But, Simmons’ length, touch, and quickness should allow him to be an effective post scorer against bulkier defenders because he won’t have to back down an opponent to get off a clean shot. Especially when you consider how touch and physical he is down low on tape.

Overall, Simmons has outstanding upside on the NBA level as both a 4 and a 5. Simmons’ perimeter skills and mobility will allow him to defend most NBA power forwards with pure foot speed, while his length will enable him to play effectively against the “tweener” forwards because he’ll be able to play a step further off and still challenge the shot. With a bit more size and strength, Simmons should also be able to adequately defend the center position much like Samuel Dalembert does for Philadelphia, by using timing and superior speed to challenge slower players inside. If Simmons develops a repertoire of interior moves to complement his face-up perimeter game, he’ll be a terror offensively. A 19 year old possessing the grounded demeanor and diligent approach to his craft should have a bright future. Everything he displayed spoke of an internal drive coupled with a humble and focused nature. Couple this with the tenacity and defensive mindedness he showed at NC State, and all the elements are there for him to develop into a complete player sooner rather than later.

Thabo Sefolosha, 6-7, SG/SF, 1984 International, Biella

Mike Schmidt

Sefolosha arrived in the United States just a few days ago, but has been impressing everyone that has been out to see him so far. From the start of the workout, he showed off his mid-range shooting, where he elevates very nicely off the ground, and with consistent shooting mechanics throughout.

Compared with all the other players we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it was immediately evident that we are for the first time dealing with a professional player who approaches the game from a different perspective than most college players do. His new trainer Joe Abunassar explained to us just how impressed he was with the way Sefolosha has been “mentally locked in” since he arrived here, taking every drill and workout thrown at him with the professionalism you’d expect from a player who has been practicing twice a day and playing for a salary for the past 5 years.

In the mid-range shooting drills, Thabo’s footwork was very polished, and his release was nice and high. From the baseline, he was able to knock down all nine of his shots without missing once. Overall, Thabo shot 61% total in all of the shooting drills. It was a different story from the NBA 3-point line, however, where he’s only been shooting from for a few days now. Sefolosha’s release point changed a bit on his three point shot, and he struggled to get his body around square off of cuts, which lead to a lot of misses on the left side of the rim. Though his release point was different, Thabo’s form was still the same every time, and his elevation was more than acceptable. With his consistent form, it is easy to pinpoint the problem with his shot, which should make it a lot easy to fix. Thabo ended up making 50% of his shots from the NBA 3 point line, which is not terrible by any stretch for a player who is considered excellent in almost every facet of the game except for his perimeter shooting.

Sefolosha has more than enough athleticism to play at the NBA level. During the pick and roll drills and the cuts he made to the hoop, Thabo displayed his explosive ability to rise above the rim and throw the ball down with authority, not only quickly, but also from nice distances away from the hoop. His high level of athleticism and superb length will likely allow him to translate his already terrific defense from the European level to the NBA. He also looked very agile in making cuts to the hoop, and made quick movements with and without the ball. In terms of ball-handling, Thabo blew everybody in the gym away with his control over the ball. In one particular drill, the players were asked to dribble the ball like they were being pressured up the court. Here, Thabo used his superb length and feel to cross the ball over swiftly from side to side with one hand from just a few inches off the ground, often tapping it twice quickly in the same spot for good measure to further confuse his imaginary defender. Not only was it fancy dribbling, this is the type of useful move that will be very hard for defenders to stop, since it’s just not something you are used to seeing a 6-7 player execute, especially when talking about a player with his quickness and footwork. He dropped some glimpses of his passing skills as well in simple drills where he was asked to whip a 15 foot bounce pass to the left side of the low post while drifting right from behind the 3-point line, doing so crisply and accurately with the greatest of ease.

Overall, it was a very impressive workout for Thabo Sefolosha. Some of the other players in the workout seemed to be going through the motions at times, but Thabo was intense and consistent throughout. He looks a legitimate 6’7”, and has a monster wingspan along with a frame that should be able to carry enough weight. Watching him on tape is impressive enough from what you might have read on DraftExpress over the past two years, but he’s even more unique to see in person when you look at the unique way in which he approaches and plays the game. If he can improve his 3-point shooting, Sefolosha will be a very complete player in the NBA. He already has a number of workouts scheduled, with teams like Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland, and Utah, amongst others. The only question for him will be how closely have GMs and Coaches been following the tremendous progress he’s made over the past few years, and whether they’ll be able to sneak a peak at him in the next few weeks.

Kyle Lowry, 6-0, Sophomore, Point Guard, Villanova

Jonathan Watters

With no competitive or full-court drills, this wasn’t the ideal setting to learn a lot about Kyle Lowry. Nonetheless, there were a few interesting bits and pieces to see, mostly focusing around his shooting form.

Long considered one of his major weaknesses, Lowry’s shooting form was on full display today. Technically, not a lot has changed since we last saw him at Villanova. He gets very little elevation and appears to be most comfortable shooting almost flat-footed when he gets the chance. His release is also too low, with the ball leaving his hands at approximately eye-level. Nonetheless, Lowry was able to hit a variety of outside shots at a decent clip. He even got better as he moved outside, hitting 27 of 47 from NBA 3-point range – a respectable 57%.

While Lowry was able to keep up with Sefalosha in terms of shooting percentage, his overall mechanics and concentration level weren’t on par with the much more polished European. Given the fact that he is already well undersized for an NBA point guard, the low and not particularly speedy release is particularly worrisome. On one hand, Lowry’s explosiveness off the dribble will earn him a bit of shooting space in most situations. On the other, it is hard to see a point guard as short as Lowry keeping defenses honest with his current form.

In other observations, the typical Lowry stereotypes held true. In the few situations where he was able to show off his athleticism, it was on full display. He was a blur in the ball-handling drills, and he repeatedly threw down powerful dunks with ease. This was particularly impressive considering that his listed height of 6’1 appears to be somewhat generous.

In the end, the decision to draft or pass on Kyle Lowry is unlikely to be made after observing him in this type of setting. 5 on 5 competitive settings is where point guards like Lowry always have and always will make their name.

Patrick O'Bryant, 7-0, Sophomore, Center, Bradley

Jonathan Givony

O'Bryant is a player we watched a few weeks ago in person for the first time and came away extremely impressed from. Since then, his conditioning has clearly improved, as has his frame which has already absorbed a few pounds of extra weight in his upper body. O'Bryant ran a very impressive 25 full-court sprints in the 3 minute Celtic Run last week in Boston, emphasizing just how hard the 7-footer has been working here over the past few weeks since we last saw him.

His feet are still extremely quick and he’s surprisingly agile moving around in the post. While no one would describe his skill-set as being “polished,” there isn’t anything in terms of raw skills that you don’t see out of this 19 year old center. In the post, he shows great touch around the basket and has become very adept at using the glass from either side of the basket with both his hook shot and baby jumper.

In the shooting drills, you could tell that the mechanics on his jump-shot looked fairly poor, releasing the ball from in front of his chest a la Shawn Marion and getting little to no consistency on his footwork or release point. He does get it off fairly quickly, though, and it was pretty tough to argue with the overall results when he was actually making an effort to shoot it correctly.

Shooting the ball from mid-range, from approximately 14 feet and off the glass, O'Bryant hit 18 of his 20 shots from the left side, and 16/20 from the right. From 17 feet out he was 14/20 and then 12/20 on two separate occasions. Stepping in on his jumper from the right side about 16 feet out, he knocked down 13/20 from the right side and then 15/20 from the left. Pulling up off the dribble from the free throw line, he shot 6/10. In other shooting drills he didn’t seem to be taking things too seriously and just tried to throw it in off-balance rather than gather himself first. This led to results like 3/14 from the elbow on one set or 2/11 on another. He seemed to get bored with all the shooting drills fairly quickly once he started missing, losing his focus a bit and not really putting in too much effort until he was given the opportunity to do things that he likes, like dunks or hook shots.

In all fairness, this was a pretty informal workout that was intended to keep the players loose in anticipation of their big workout the next day, and no player no matter how big or small likes to be forced to do something (in this case, shoot long-range jumpers) that they clearly aren’t very good at and might not ever have to become anything more than average in. When it was time do more fun things like show off his ball-handling skills in the half-court, O’Bryant didn’t look half bad doing so. All in all, O’Bryant showed off his terrific potential once again with the way he moved with his impressive 7-foot frame and incredibly long arms, his raw fundamentals in the post and the soft touch he gets once he’s there.

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