Draft Notebook: NBA workouts beginning to take toll on prospects
LAS VEGAS -- If Jordan Williams could pull off a Dirk Nowitzki-esque performance right about now, it would provide a much-needed boost to his draft stock.
As he sat courtside at the Impact Academy in Las Vegas on Thursday discussing the newfound rigors that come with this welcome experience, Williams began to resemble the sickly version of the Dallas star that was on display in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
He coughed repeatedly, wiped his nose with a towel, and spoke with a husky and weary voice. Somewhere between Cleveland, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, Indianapolis, New York or perhaps the other locales he'd recently visited but couldn't seem to recall, the team workouts that are so key to a young player's prospects began to wear him out.
"I'm good," insisted the big man out of Maryland who is expected to be taken in the second round. "I'm just a little overtired, a little run down. I've got to rest up and I'll be good. I've been with eight or nine different teams ... It's tough."
And it's even harder for the players who have so much more to prove.
There is typically a direct correlation between where a player is projected and how many workouts he'll take part in. While the lottery types can set their own schedules and be selective about which teams they will work out for, others like Williams and former Tennessee teammates Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris don't have the same luxury.
They need to do as many hoops job interviews as possible, giving the cliche 110 percent at every stop while hoping to find the one team that falls in love with their talents. But the drastic change in lifestyle is nothing to sneeze at for the players themselves.
Giving in to the fatigue factor could spell disaster for a player's value, as the talent evaluators aren't grading on a curve no matter how many workouts a prospect has endured. Players like Harris and Williams have an even greater challenge, as they're both big-bodied young men who need a regimented diet to stay in playing shape. Life on the road, of course, doesn't make that very easy.
"You learn to take care of your body, watch what you eat, eat the right foods and really prepare yourself for each workout going in, have the right mindset, have the right focus," said Harris, the 18-year-old, 6-foot-8 forward who trimmed down from 238 pounds to 223 this season after an ankle injury led to an increase in weight. "The main thing with me is eating enough food and continuing to eat once you're traveling and getting tired, staying hydrated."
Williams, who is listed at 6-9 and 250 pounds, is struggling to keep his weight down while on the road.
"I can look at food and gain weight," Williams said of his metabolism. "I gained ... three or four pounds traveling on the road. It's been tough, because here [while working in Las Vegas] I was in a routine every day, eating the same things every day, same habits every day.
"To go from that to being on the road, where you're always picking up something quick -- you can't ever make a meal like you can out here. It's definitely tough. Really, really tough."
Hopson -- who has had workouts in Minnesota, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, and has Boston, Miami and Sacramento coming up next -- is embracing the experience.
"I enjoy it," said the likely second-rounder. "I always loved traveling. There's a little fatigue, but if you set your mind to it, get your rest, eat right, and do the proper things necessary as a pro, you'll be fine."
For Mark Payne, it's the uncertainty that is so unnerving. The 6-7 point guard who played five seasons at UC Davis would be ecstatic if he is selected in the second round, and he'll get his chance to make that happen in upcoming workouts with Cleveland (54th pick) and Sacramento (60th).
And while his travel schedule isn't nearly as hectic as most of his counterparts, this month has been a major adjustment nonetheless.
"It's a little stressful some times, just because for the last five years I knew my routine," said Payne, who has been training at the Impact Academy for the last seven weeks but was scheduled to travel to Davis on Friday for his college graduation. "Now it's just like I could be anywhere. I could [play] in a different country [next season], could be in Cleveland. I just kind of want to know where I'm going to end up."
Kawhi Leonard continues his impressive rise up the draft board ranks, and his workout in Washington on Tuesday continued his ascent.
The 6-7 small forward out of San Diego State had a strong performance with the Wizards at the expense of Texas small forward Jordan Hamilton, this after playing well in his first workout in Charlotte on Sunday. He has scheduled workouts in Cleveland on Monday, Toronto (No. 5) on Wednesday, Sacramento on June 17 and Utah (No. 3 and No. 12) on June 19.
When Leonard was still undecided on his future during the Aztecs' run to the Sweet 16 in March, he was considered a mid- to late-first-round pick. His consistent shooting, ball handling and offensive awareness have helped his case, but it's his ability to defend multiple positions and rebound at a high level that has NBA executives deeming him one of the few prospects who could contribute immediately on most teams.
As if the lottery landscape wasn't unpredictable already, Brandon Knight might be muddying these waters even more than before.
While it remains likely that Cleveland will take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving at the top spot and (insert team name here, since Minnesota continues to spread the word that it would like to move down) will take Arizona's Derrick Williams at No. 2, sources say the Kentucky point guard could be risking his chance to go third overall to Utah by refusing to work out against competition. Knight has an open invitation to join Connecticut's Kemba Walker, BYU's Jimmer Fredette and UCLA's Malcolm Lee in a June 15 workout with the Jazz, but sources close to both sides said he has yet to decide whether to take part.
What's more, there are rumblings that Utah is less than thrilled at the notion that Knight would even consider dictating the terms with the No. 3 pick (although Turkish center Enes Kanter already did just that in his Jazz workout in Chicago in which Toronto also took part). It's unclear whether the Jazz would take a hard-line stance and refuse to take Knight unless he worked out against other top-line competitors, but that appears to be a possibility.
I attended Knight's workout in Sacramento on June 2 and walked away convinced that Knight saw the Kings as his so-called first-round floor at No. 7. The problem there, predictably, is that the one-on-none approach wasn't well received by the Kings' brass either. As if separating the talent in this crop wasn't tough enough, Knight's tactic appears to have thrown a subtle wildcard into the process.
Alec Burks is ready to get past Shoulder-Gate.
The dynamic 6-6 scoring guard from Colorado is showing no ill effects from a left shoulder injury suffered during a workout with Milwaukee (No. 10 pick) on Saturday, as evidenced by the smooth offensive game on display Thursday during his workout in Las Vegas with trainer Joe Abunassar. Despite reports that the likely lottery selection had dislocated his shoulder when he was on the wrong end of a hard screen, an MRI was negative and he returned to action in a workout in Detroit (No. 8) on Wednesday after missing a workout in Charlotte (No. 9).
"People made it seem like it was way worse than it was, but my shoulder is good," Burks said. "I came off a pick in my Milwaukee workout, ran into the pick and guess I got hit in the right spot. But I finished the workout. My agent [Andy Miller] told me I should sit out one and make sure everything is good. I worked out for Detroit, and it was great."
Burks, who averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in his sophomore season, also worked out with Washington (No. 6 pick) and will head to Cleveland (No. 1 and No. 4) on Monday, then Toronto, Charlotte, Golden State (No. 11), Sacramento (No. 7) and Phoenix (No. 13).
The shoulder won't inspire Burks to change his game, either. Despite questions about whether he can score from the perimeter consistently (not to mention the possible punishment he could take if the much-talked-about shoulder is still sensitive), he is going with his go-to move in workouts.
"The first thing is I'm getting to the rack," he said of his workout approach. "That's what everybody knows I can do. I'm showing [the shot] too, but I'm going to keep doing what got me here. I'm going to show what got me to this workout, show you what I did in college that got me to this point. I just feel like, if I didn't do what I did in college they wouldn't want me here. That's what I'm going to keep doing.
"I feel like I'm a top 10 player. I know that. I feel like that's where I [should be] selected at. I'm just proving that every day."
The Jimmer Tour resumed in Sacramento on Thursday, and I'm told he didn't disappoint.
His shooting was as good as expected, and his passing, dribbling ability and underrated athleticism gained notice as well as he faced off against UTEP guard Randy Culpepper. As for the question on everyone's minds: It sounds like Fredette did just fine on the defensive end as well.
I'm not entirely convinced he's a real possibility at the No. 7 spot unless the likes of Leonard, Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, Walker and Knight are all gone, but it's undeniable that the Kings like Fredette and he's at least somewhat in play there.
• The focus of the draft shifts overseas starting Saturday, as the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, begins and NBA talent evaluators will get their much-needed look at some top international prospects.
Czech Republic big man Jan Vesely, Congolese center Bismack Biyombo, Latvian forward Davis Bertans, Lithuanian center Donatas Motiejunas and Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira will draw the most eyeballs as projected first-rounders. The event runs through Monday.
• Don't be surprised if one or more of the following teams move up in the draft: Golden State (No. 11), Houston (14), New York (17), and Charlotte (which a source says is considering packaging its Nos. 9 and 19 picks to move up).