The HQ revisits a post from around this time last year which examined a certain under-performing lottery pick, and the reciprocal, a second-round pick that's slowly carving out a niche for himself in the league.
Yesterday marked perhaps the first official draft event of this off-season.
The New Jersey Nets, in conjunction with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, held a two-day workout of potential draft prospects, and you can bet every team in the league had a rep or two there to take in the event.
Now the names of attendees aren't earth-shattering, most are probably second-round options at best, but there are some interesting options if the Toronto Raptors can manage to somehow snag a second-round pick.
Here's the full deal of who's supposed to be involved:
SATURDAY, MAY 7
|Olu Ashaolu||F||6'7"||220||Louisiana Tech|
|Deangelo Casto||F||6'8"||231||Washington State|
|Diante Garrett||G||6'4"||190||Iowa State|
|Troy Gillenwater||F||6'7"||225||New Mexico State|
|Reggie Jackson||G||6'3"||208||Boston College|
|Orlando Johnson||G||6'5"||205||UC Santa Barbara|
|Carleton Scott||F||6'8"||218||Notre Dame|
SUNDAY MAY 8
|Jeff Allen||F||6'7"||258||Virginia Tech|
|Jon Diebler||G||6'6"||200||Ohio State|
|Gary Flowers||F||6'8"||214||Southern Mississippi|
|Andrew Goudelock||G||6'2"||200||College of Charleston|
|Delroy James||F||6'8"||220||Rhode Island|
|Ravern Johnson||F||6'7"||205||Mississippi State|
|Kevin Jones||F||6'8"||248||West Virginia|
|Ralph Sampson III||C||6'11"||241||Minnesota|
|Xavier Silas||G||6'5"||200||Northern Illinois|
|Greg Smith||F/C||6'10"||250||Fresno State|
|Malcolm Thomas||F||6'8"||220||San Diego State|
The standouts to me that I'd love to see Toronto take a closer look at are inside-outside threat Scotty Hopson, slept on point guard Reggie Jackson, who could very well see a Russell Westbrook-esque lottery jump once solo workouts begin, Canadian combo guard Cory Joseph, Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler and mini floor general supreme, Isaiah Thomas.
Will any of the above players be impact pros when all is said and done?
It's hard to say.
Every year there are a few second rounders who stand out after the fact, causing fans and GM's alike to plant the palms of their hands into their faces.
But on the other side, there are often lottery picks that end up being busts.
On this Sunday I thought I'd give an example of both, sharing an interview I did with lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet, and second-rounder Bill Walker.
As you know, Thabeet is now a member of the Houston Rockets, barely hanging onto a spot in the league, watching as the team that drafted him makes an amazing playoff run.
On the other hand, Bill Walker hasn't turned into a superstar, but he's carved out a niche for himself off the bench with the Knicks.
Here's the chats with both and as you can see, sometimes there's not much difference between a lottery pick and a second-round prospect.
RHQ: Talk a little about your transition from the college game to the NBA game. You were thinking of coming out the year before this, are you happy with the decision you made considering your lack of playing time?
HT: Yeah, I mean, I'm a rookie and sometimes you need to adapt. I'm not going to say it's been easy, but I'm happy with my decision.
RHQ: So how do you feel your play has been so far this year?
HT: I think good you know. This has been my first year so yeah, I think it's gone well even if some don't agree.
RHQ: How do you respond to folks who say you've been a bust as such a high pick?
HT: I don't think you can really judge me based on this one season, especially because I haven't played a ton. It takes a while to start to get up to speed with this league.
RHQ: Is it frustrating to go from being such a heralded player in college to someone who's spent time a lot of time on the bench?
HT: A bit, but you can't get down about it, you need to keep improving and working hard.
RHQ: Talk a little about the mindset though and how that changed from the previous draft to this past one that you did enter.
HT: It was definitely a crazy experience. I kept telling myself that if I had come out the year before I would have been in an even tougher position and less prepared. But I took this on as a challenge to myself; I'm going to go out there and work harder and keep improving. It has been tough though you know, coming from being a starter to not knowing when I'll be playing, but I don't mind as long as the team keeps winning. And the guys in front of me, you know, they've been starters for a while most of them and have more experience than me. So it's a learning process for sure but I'm taking in everything I can from Mike (Conley), Z-Bo (Zach Randolph), all the guys...Jamal (Tinsley) helped me and worked with me, really it's a good group.
RHQ: Would Jamal be your biggest mentor then on the team? Who's really taken you under their wing?
HT: All the guys really. They talk to me all the game. Sometimes I'll be down and not doing what I want to do out there, and they'll all come and talk to me. So you know, I'm in good hands and really looking forward to improving.
RHQ: How big of an adjustment was it to make the jump from college to the league?
HT: It was very big. I don't think people realize just how much faster, stronger and more athletic these guys are.
RHQ: What would you say the biggest adjustment has been?
HT: I don't know...just the the size of players, the types of plays, those things I mentioned; all were very big. You really have to be ready all the time but I think I'm doing a good job so far.
RHQ: Would you say there's any one element to the game that's come more naturally?
HT: I don't know, I don't think you can take anything for granted.
RHQ: What about shot-blocking or rebounding? Those were areas you always excelled in at UCONN.
HT: It's not easy man, all the guys are good so even those things that maybe came a bit easy to you before, now there are so many guys that can do those things too. I'm still working hard to get where I want to be but I know I have a lot of work to do.
RHQ: I guess what I'm wondering is if from your experience, there are things that players do well in college that they can do at this level too.
HT: Oh for sure. I think good rebounders or defenders certainly. I don't know about scoring though - this is just a different level of competition.
RHQ: Do you think your former teammate Jeff Adrien is an example of this? He was a dominant college and high school player but isn't in the NBA right now.
HT: Yeah, it's tough because I think some guys get labeled as too short or slow or whatever, but a lot of them find roles in the league and work hard to make it.
RHQ: If you're a GM, do you take a chance on a proven college player from a big name school like UCONN over an unknown kid who maybe went to a much smaller school?
HT: I think that depends on the situation.
RHQ: But would you say playing in a system like that of Coach Calhoun's does more for your draft stock than say playing at a school in the MAC?
HT: I think it might help at first because of the recognition...but once you get into the draft process and all of that, then they see who can do what no matter what school you went to.
RHQ: So what about your draft process, did you feel it left you suitably prepared?
HT: Definitely. I had great people around me for support and advice and I thought I they knew how to emphasize my strengths and improve on my weaknesses.
RHQ: Last question then, what advice would you give big men getting ready for the draft based on what you went through?
HT: (Laughs.) It's tough. You block shots in college, you rebound in college, you score baskets in college, but it's just different up here and you have to be ready to work even harder than before. So I'd say that, you put in the work and then you get the results of your work - you can't just assume things will be easy.
One of the more interesting things from this chat for me, was just how often Thabeet reiterated how much work is involved at the "next level." All the size, athleticism and skills in the world won't do you much good in the long run if you don't work on your game...just ask Derrick Coleman.
Onto Mr. Walker
After a late Raps vs Knicks game the season before last, I had a chance to talk to the former Wildcat regarding his "fall from grace" so to speak, and subsequent re-emergence on the NBA scene, something that not many players do in their careers:
RHQ: Talk to us a bit about your decision to leave Kansas State along with Michael Beasley, despite injury concerns (he re-injured his ACL in a work-out with Golden State during the draft process.)
Bill Walker: I looked at it a couple ways; yes, my stock maybe wasn't where it could have been, but I knew I'd get picked and really, I could risk being really injured in college the next season and never realize my dream, or just go ahead and make the best out of my situation and go to the NBA. It's been a dream of mine, I wanted to go ahead and do it, and I felt I could play on an elite level, and that's what I based my decision off of. But it's different for every player, some decisions aren't the best (laughs, as do I), but, I mean, it's all about what you as a player want to do. If you feel you can make it on this level and are willing to put the work in, go for it. But you have to be real with yourself you know, this is a grown man's league, so you have to be ready for that.
RHQ: Now did you work with your coaches through the process? How involved do they get in a decision like the one you made?
BW: They do, but ultimately the decision comes down to you like I said. Coach (Frank) Martin had experience in stuff like this so yes, I talked to him at times but also relied on my own judgement.
RHQ: What about Michael (Beasley), he was being drafted that year as well, did you seek his advice?
BW: Oh yeah, we'd talk back and forth for sure but our situations were quite different, many thought he'd be the number one pick overall.
RHQ: Going back in time here, would you have done the exact same thing considering you ended up being a second round pick?
BW: Yeah, I don't look back and do things like that so I can't even answer that question really...but yes, it could have turned out completely different. Maybe I would have gone back though and had a bad season and then not even been drafted...you never know.
RHQ: Do you think it was the injury concerns that mainly dropped you out of the first round?
BW: I think there was a good deal of that for sure and I get that. I mean, NBA coaches and GM's, their jobs are on the line too so they want to make the best decision and a lot of the time, that's a risk-free one you know. I also think people didn't know what to make of me in terms of a position at the next level. I mean, if I couldn't jump like I did in high-school, could I be a factor in the league.
RHQ: Do you think teams focus too much on athleticism come draft time? There always seems to be this premium on things like "explosiveness."
BW: Again, I think teams look to play it safe for the most part so an injured guy is a big question mark.
RHQ: Was that frustrating considering what you did at K-State? You scored in a variety of ways there, you even played power forward a lot and did a good chunk of your damage by posting-up and even from beyond the arc.
BW: Naaah, it just made me more hungry to show folks when I got to this level, what I could do. Even if I hadn't gotten drafted, I still would have put in the work and made it to this level, I know it. I just knew I could hang with these guys and this type of talent, so it was all about just getting a chance to show what I could do. Luckily that chance came in the second round as opposed to going through Summer League or Free Agency you know?
RHQ: What about on draft day, did you have an idea of where you were going to go? Did you think you'd end up being a second-round pick as opposed to a first-round one?
BW: Naaah, not really. I just watched the draft like I do every year. I got picked 47th, got traded to Boston, and I'm here now (laughs.)
RHQ: Can you contrast your time in Boston, obviously you were behind a lot of veterans that had their end goals, an NBA Title, in mind, and now you're thriving in this system in New York.
BW: It's a different system, but really, it's all about having an opportunity to play; to go out there and be able to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes I make. Teams like Boston, you know, they don't have room for mistakes so it's hard to put young guys out there and play mistake free - it's hard for anybody looking over their shoulder. That's just the situation I was in.
RHQ: What's it like playing for Mike D'Antoni?
BW: It's fun...
RHQ: ...compared to your college coach who everyone assumes is so intense...
BW: ...aaah, that's a big misconception.
RHQ: Is it?
BW: Yeah, a big misconception. Frank is just one of those guys who you can tell just wants to get out on the court, and be out there playing. It's good that he's like that, so in tune with the game. I mean, he's a fiery guy and wants to win, but he's not maniac (laughs.) Coach D'Antoni though is the complete opposite of that, you know, get out there, move the ball, have fun type thing, so it's two different approaches.
RHQ: Last question, if you were to give advice to a player going through the draft process, someone who like might not end up being a first-round pick, what would be the one thing you'd tell them?
BW: Man...I'd say never let anyone tell you what you can't do...that would be my biggest thing. Because at the end of the day, the decision's still yours, it's still your life, and don't let anyone make that decision for you. The work ahead of you is going to be hard enough as it is, so you have to be 100% comfortable with your own decision, so do it for you.