NBA teams finally got the opportunity the see potential draftees up close in personal this week with the kick off of draft work out season. The NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago and workouts earlier in the week in Vegas offered early insight into where players’ stocks are headed.
Chicago serves as the “official weigh-in” for the draft as players are measured without shoes and tested for their vertical leap, sprint speed and agility. In addition, the camp features some light full and half court skill drills as well as small-sided competition (3-on-3 and smaller).
It’s hard to impress a team that never sees you play, so the absence of players like Quincy Pondexter and Daniel Orton was a bit perplexing. However plenty of players showed up, and a few surprised attending scouts and GMs.
Here are five players who have already improved their draft status by virtue of their excellent performances in Chicago and Vegas.
5. Gordon Hayward
The only questions about Hayward going into the draft concern his athleticism. After a strong showing in Chicago, Gordon’s camp has to be feeling pretty good about how he measured up. While he still needs to gain strength, he showed some nice agility and explosiveness.
If Hayward can continue to show teams that he has the athleticism requisite for a good NBA career (after watching him rebound in the tournament it’s hard to think otherwise), he really is the total package. He understands team offense and defense, passes well, has a good handle for his size, shoots from three, and attacks the glass on both ends.
We know the Boston Celtics would have loved to snag him at 19, but look for him to move up to the Clippers-Indiana (8-10) range.
4. Lance Stephenson
New York’s all time leading scorer was ranked by many as the top two guard in the 2009 freshman class, so maybe it’s not that surprising that his stock is steadily rising. He has size and strength that projects well defensively, though he doesn’t have great foot speed.
He isn’t quite as quick, but he likes to bully his way to the rim and finish in a fashion similar to Tyreke Evans. In the NBA, Stephenson will make his money in the midrange game. In Chicago, where he looked fitter than in his time at Cincinnati, this part of his game was clicking as he scored at will in the competitions.
Once projected to go in the second round, don’t be surprised if Lance goes in the mid to late first round.
3. Avery Bradley
Bradley’s stock has been steadily rising as GMs and scouts have gotten the opportunity to see his superb athleticism in person. As agile and explosive as anyone in the draft, Bradley has also showed off a jump shot with NBA range in recent workouts.
Bradley has drawn favorable comparisons to dynamic guards like Russel Westbrook and Jrue Holiday in the last week. Like the two Bruins mentioned here, Avery did not have a stellar season and was not featured as a point guard in college. His combination of speed, length, and cage match defense make him an attractive pick.
In many analyst’s first mock drafts, Avery was in the late first round. At this point, it seems unlikely he will fall past 18, and he’ll probably be a lottery pick.
2. Paul George
George looked really good at the Chicago camp. He is a full 6’8’’ and is definitely skilled enough to play shooting guard in the NBA. GMs and scouts were impressed by his effortless and smooth offensive game, and no player made more shots during the shooting drills.
It’s looking increasingly unlikely that George will fall to the Timberwolves at 16. His skill set projects better at the pro level where he will receive more spot up looks and less defensive attention. He has the pure shooting ability that Memphis (12) covets, and has the potential to be a deadly scorer in the League.
1. Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe’s play at the Chicago pre-draft camp has elevated the possibility of all five Kentucky Wildcats being drafted in the lottery. Finally escaping John Wall’s shadow, Bledsoe looked like he might be the second best point guard in the draft.
His separation from his college teammate has allowed his athleticism to stand out more, and his fiery attitude propelled him to an excellent work out. If he continues to knock down shots like he did in Chicago, there is an excellent possibility of him going as early as the Minnesota Timberwolves at four. Just kidding. Kind of.
What looks certain is that Bledsoe is lottery bound (Indiana?). Not bad for a player who many projected to be a late first round pick.
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