Kanter passes first few tests but team workouts will be key
CHICAGO -- There was plenty to talk about in the lobby at this year's NBA predraft combine.
That's always the case, of course, with team executives, agents and even players themselves filling the foyer of the downtown Westin every year to discuss which prospects are rising and which ones are falling as D-day (June 23) nears. But the buzz was even louder than normal this time around, in part because of the weak nature of the draft class and the first-round fluidity that it creates, and also because of the heavy dose of international players has added to the mystery.
The next step has already begun, as more than 20 prospects are in Minnesota on Monday and Tuesday to showcase their skills. Teams have begun holding workouts as well, but it's the Windy City gathering where first impressions are made and the unofficial stock price is set even if there aren't actual games being played.
As such, we take a look back at the players not previously discussed to help paint a clearer picture of this year's draft pool.
The 19-year-old Turkish center is as big a mystery man as there is in this class. Literally.
The player who was stuck on the sidelines at Kentucky last season because he was ruled ineligible, measured out quite well, standing 6-foot-11 ¼ in shoes and weighing in at 259 pounds while proving to be incredibly well-conditioned. His body fat was just 5.9 percent, or a little more than half of expected No. 1 pick and former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving (10.2).
And according to his agent, Max Ergul, Kanter -- who is projected as a top-five pick despite the fact that teams haven't seen him play since last year's Nike Hoop Summit in Portland -- convinced NBA executives that he has the stamina to play heavy minutes right away.
He lasted approximately 21 minutes on a brutal treadmill test that includes steep inclines, declines and sprints, putting himself atop the big man class when it comes to being dedicated about his body.
"He went 21-plus minutes on the treadmill test, and only five guys -- plus Enes -- [did that] and four of them were guards," Ergul told SI.com. "[NBA officials] said that was the first time in the draft in modern history that had happened, that no 6-11-plus guys ever finished 21-minutes-plus on the treadmill test ... People don't realize how prepared this kid is, how dedicated he is."
Yet the talk surrounding Kanter in Chicago had much more to do with the fact that he didn't sit down for interviews with Utah (No. 3, No. 12 picks), Toronto (No. 5) and Milwaukee (No. 10). Those non-meetings raised questions about whether Kanter's camp was avoiding certain teams, but Ergul said that wasn't entirely the case. They were only avoiding the Bucks.
"The only one I really didn't care for him [to go to] is Milwaukee," Ergul said. "I'll be honest ... it came out all wrong. [Utah general manager] Kevin [O'Connor] knew about it ... We called them, and it was because in next two weeks I had a feeling we were going to see each other extensively, so there's no reason for that [interview].
"Kevin told me he's really impressed with the kid and he wants to have him in Utah and he'll also come to Chicago ... I apologized to him five times for it coming out wrong, even though I didn't do anything wrong. He knew we were going to see them."
Ergul also answered the questions about why Kanter sat down with teams that have picks much lower than Kanter is expected to be taken.
On a meeting with New Jersey (No. 27): "New owners [Russian Mikhail Prokhorov] have European ties, and they're moving to Brooklyn -- which has the No. 1 Turkish population -- so I wanted them to get to know Enes a little bit."
On a meeting with San Antonio (No. 29): "I think coach [Gregg] Popovich has an opinion that really matters. If [Detroit president of basketball operations] Joe Dumars or Pop calls me or [Lakers general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and asks for an interview, I'm not going to deny that. They may or may not get him, but I will give them their seniority. They are the guys who earned it. It's the same thing with Kevin O'Connor."
There is another lottery team that did not meet with Kanter, though, as he did not sit down with Sacramento (No. 7 pick). Kanter, who has been working with famed trainer Tim Grover in Chicago for the past six weeks, plans on holding most of his workouts in Chicago and being selective about where he travels.
"Utah is coming here to Chicago, and we're going to go to Minnesota in the second half of June," Ergul said. "Toronto is coming here. Cleveland (Nos. 1 and 4 picks), we're trying to discussing logistics of dates and stuff."
As was reported here on Thursday, Houston (14th, 23rd picks) is interested in moving up in the draft. The source with knowledge of the Rockets' desires said they are hoping to do so to either nab Kanter or perhaps San Diego State small forward, Kawhi Leonard.
Because teams have only seen Kanter in person when he scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 2010 Nike Summit, his workouts will be key.
"I can now say that I've never seen him play
Teams appear to have put their red flags away when it comes to Washington State junior guard Klay Thompson, and he isn't likely to slip past the mid-first round.
The Cougars' leading scorer and son of longtime NBA forward Mychal Thompson was arrested in early March for possession of marijuana and suspended for his team's regular-season finale against UCLA. After putting on a shooting performance that drew rave reviews in the gym, Thompson impressed in his interviews and in how he handled the topic of his arrest.
"It was bad judgment on my part, and I've grown up a lot," Thompson said Thursday. "Teams will be concerned, but I'll just be honest with them and tell them I made a mistake and own up to it. I just learned a lot from it. I've grown up a lot from it, and they respect that I've owned up to it and I'm just honest with them."
Thompson, who said he would welcome a shooting contest with famed BYU gunner Jimmer Fredette "because I think I can hang with him," has modeled parts of his game after Boston's Ray Allen and Houston's Kevin Martin.
"They're great shooters and they're also really complete guards," he said. "Kevin Martin is so good with the ball in his hands, with his first step and his hesitation moves, and he's got that funky release but he knows how to put the ball in. I try to patent my game after him. I've been watching him on the Kings [until he left he was traded in Feb. 2010] since I was a kid."
Jeremy Tyler is still a long ways from being the lottery pick he envisioned himself as, but the soon-to-be-20-year-old big man who skipped his final year at San Diego High School to play overseas is looking like a first-round pick. "Looking" being the operative word there.
Tyler did well on the eyeball test, measuring 6-10 ½ with shoes with a 7-5 wingspan and 9-2 ½ reach. While his time spent playing in Israel and Japan was widely seen as a disaster, it changes nothing of the fact that he still has serious upside.
"He clearly got really bad advice," one executive said of Tyler's decision to leave high school early. "But he came across well in the interview."
Said another executive: "He's big. He's got great size. He looks the part when he walks in. He looks like a stud."
Concerns remain about Tyler's ability to play within the flow on a team, though, meaning his workouts will be key for him, too. He was headed for Louisville until deciding to play in Israel, but playing time was at a minimum and Tyler's work ethic and maturity were constantly in question. He quit the Israeli team with two months remaining in the season and headed home. He played last season in Japan, where his role was significantly bigger but he remained off the scouting radar of NBA personnel types.
"That first year was nothing but a developmental year, and everything that happened, I'm glad it happened," Tyler said. "I learned from it, and it didn't happen the next year. And it's not going to happen in my future because it's something I've been through already.
"When situations like that come up again, I know how to handle myself ... This has always been a dream of mine, and it's up to me to make the dream come true. Work hard every day, be humble, be respectful and be hungry."
• A few other first-round fringe players who helped their cases by leaving good impressions in Chicago: Georgia Tech junior guard Iman Shumpert, Michigan sophomore point guard Darius Morris, Duke senior point guard Nolan Smith, USC junior center Nikola Vucevic, UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee, and Providence senior guard Marshon Brooks.
• While it's widely known that Minnesota is open to discussing trades involving it's No. 2 pick, a source said the Timberwolves' No. 20 pick is even more available.
• While some teams have Fredette being ranked in the latter part of the first round, a source said there is a strong chance of him being taken with Utah's No. 12 pick. The prospect's business value is being considered along with his basketball abilities, as the losses of coach Jerry Sloan and point guard Deron Williams have left the Jazz in need of a player who can help re-energize the fan base. That would be quite the challenge for soon-to-be-second-year coach Tyrone Corbin, who would surely draw the ire of the Fredette fanatics if he didn't give him ample playing time.
• In predraft camps of years past, it wouldn't be abnormal for the expected No. 1 pick to be told by the team doing the picking that he was their man. Yet Irving made it clear in Chicago that he has been given no such assurances by Cleveland.
Irving's recent medical history could be playing a part, as he missed three months with a right toe injury and still wears a "protective shank" in his shoes because of it. Assuming the Cavs eventually see him moving like himself and pain-free during a workout, he is widely expected to remain in the No. 1 spot.