Pre-draft festivities have begun and scouts and GMs alike are watching players slide up and down their draft boards daily. This last week and a half the NBA has hosted group draft workouts, the Reebok Eurocamp and the player combine.
The Phoenix Suns are doing everything in their power to be well-prepared for the June 25 NBA Draft, including having Steve Kerr travel to Italy to scout prospects at the NBA’s Reebok Eurocamp.
As most players at the camp are less coveted international athletes, Suns senior VP of basketball operations David Griffin has meanwhile been taking a closer look at some more highly-regarded prospects in Oakland, Calif. The Suns were one of 21 NBA teams watching 24 prospects showcase their draft value.
The players were divided into four different groups, with each group working out at a different time.
Griffin shared his thoughts with Suns.com on how some potential No. 14 picks looked:
- Louisville forward Terrence Williams – “Athletically, physically dominant. … He’s a tremendous passer.”
- Arizona forward Chase Budinger – “Chase continues to improve upon every viewing. He is learning how to apply his athleticism to the game.”
- Gonzaga forward Austin Daye – “He shot the ball very well. He obviously struggles with the physical strength. … His length and shooting, his ability to handle the ball and get where he wants to go continues to impress us.”
- Ohio State center B.J. Mullens – “He’s 265 lbs. and runs the floor like a small forward. He’s extremely quick off the floor. He’s going to be a bit of an investment in terms of his overall maturity and development … his talent level is really impressive.”
People in the Suns’ front office are continually impressed by guys like Daye, Williams, Budinger, and Mullens, which begs the question, are one of these four the name Suns fans will hear David Stern announce come June 25? It is becoming more and more evident that Kerr and Griffin are very high on Williams, Budinger, etc., but will they even be available at 14?
In addition to the group workouts, the Suns have been able to analyze players via the late May NBA combine in Chicago. Forty-eight draft prospects came out to Chicago to test their verticals, lane agility, quickness and strength. These players also had their official measurements taken: height, weight, wingspan, standing reach, and body fat.
A lot of noteworthy and surprising statistics came from the combine, causing draft prospects to shoot up and down draft boards. While some players are reaping the benefits of a good combine, some find themselves slipping out of the top 10.
Jonny Flynn – PG Syracuse
Flynn has catapulted himself into the top 10 of this year’s draft. Flynn posted the highest vertical at the combine of 40 inches. His vertical alone is impressive, but when it comes from a 6-0 point guard people begin to take note. Flynn also posted a 10.86 (seconds) lane agility score, with Maynor at 10.78 and Lawson 10.98.
The Syracuse product has leapfrogged Maynor and Lawson, and is now being considered the second-best point guard in the draft behind Ricky Rubio. The New York native has his sights set on New York at eight, saying in an ESPN article, “That’s my dream … to help my hometown team. I know how Steve Nash flourished (under D’Antoni). So have little guys like Nate Robinson and Leandro Barbosa. … You have to have heart to succeed in New York. I’ve got a big one.”
Chase Budinger – SG/SF Arizona
Chase Budinger is a name I have seen on mock drafts anywhere from 11-24. His toughness and consistency have been in question; however he seemed to answer those questions this past week. Budinger’s physical tools are impressive: 6-7 with a 38.5 inch vertical, third in the combine, but Chase addressed those critical of his toughness when he played through an ankle injury during his late-May workout with the Suns.
Budinger is doing his best to shed his soft label as he told the Arizona Daily Star, “I feel every one of my workouts this year has been better than last year. … It (ticks) me off to hear that (soft label). I feel I have been getting tougher each and every year.”
DeJuan Blair – PF Pittsburgh
Blair did not need to pick up a basketball to see his draft stock rise. The biggest question with Blair was not his toughness or ability, but rather his height and length. Blair did come in at an expected 6-6.5, but he has turned heads as he has shed almost 40 pounds in the last four weeks, weighing in at 276 lbs.
Along with his weight loss, what has Blair flying up draft boards is his 7-2 wingspan and 12 percent body fat. Critics considered Blair undersized to play power forward in the NBA, but Blair’s newfound muscle tone and enormous wingspan are slowly putting naysayers to bed. A determined Blair worked himself into terrific shape and into the lottery.
In his mission to prove himself, Blair told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I hope to be in the lottery and do something people told me I couldn’t do.”
Austin Daye – SF/PF Gonzaga
Like Kevin Durant in 2007, the NBA combine is not fit to showcase the talent of Daye. He is rail thin (190 pounds) and lacks athleticism, both things that the combine exploits. Daye’s measurements were impressive: 6-10.75 tall, 7-2.25 wingspan, and a 9-2 standing reach, but his athleticism certainly is no better than mediocre.
Daye posted the lowest vertical in the combine at 28 inches, the slowest ¾ sprint time at 3.55 seconds, and a whopping zero reps on the bench. Daye showed some post moves and shot the ball extremely well, but it may not be enough to be a lottery pick. As it was appearing that Daye and his versatility and shooting stroke were rising into the lottery, the combine results have him on his way back down the draft board.
Earl Clark – SF/PF Louisville
Clark is still looking like a lottery pick, but his stock has fallen out of top 10 status. Clark has continued to show his versatility, and posted an impressive 7-2 wingspan at the combine. However, the question remains, is Clark strong enough to play the four or athletic enough to play the three?
The Louisville product’s vertical was nothing to write home about, 33 inches, and he posted a weak five reps on the bench press. Clark’s talent is certainly not in question, but he is beginning to look a little bit like a “tweener,” something teams tend to shy away from. He is most likely still a lottery pick, hopefully the 14th, but he is no longer considered a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
Ty Lawson – PG North Carolina
Lawson came out of the National Championship game looking like a sure-fire top 10 pick. Lawson has slowly dropped down mock drafts over the past week. While Lawson recorded an impressive 36.5-inch vertical at the combine, he finished sixth in the ¾ court sprint and put up a very average lane agility score, 10.98 seconds. Lawson has been reported as looking out of shape and a step or two slow. Lawson’s injury-prone label does not help his draft stock, either. The former top-10 prospect can now be found rounding out the top 20.
With pick No. 14, the Suns continue to evaluate the talent pool via draft workouts and combine statistics. Guys are moving around quite a bit, and the lottery is nowhere near set in stone.
With guys like Jonny Flynn gaining steam and Austin Daye falling out, it becomes that much harder to put a finger on who will be available at 14.
While we will not actually know who the new members of Planet Orange will be until draft day, workouts and combine statistics will help GMs like Steve Kerr evaluate talent in hopes of a productive 2009 draft.