Wednesday Pre-Draft Workout Report

Kind of a media madhouse today as great white hope Tyler Hansbrough conjured just about every sportswriter and television station out of the summer woodwork.  Media availability was limited to jumpshooting drills only so apologies in advance for no lengthy first-person analysis.  That said, the six guys assembled today were a strong, competitive, NBA-ready group and would seem to fit the Blazers positional needs better than many of the players we saw in previous workouts.  

I'll go through each player in turn with thoughts from KP, Chad Buchanan, and Nate along with some brief analysis of my own.

But first, some general thoughts from Kevin Pritchard.

Kevin Pritchard

Koponen and Freeland

KP was asked about a topic mentioned here yesterday: rumors that the team was seriously considering renouncing Koponen and/or Freeland.  Asked whether he had made a decision on either of their futures with the team, Pritchard responded, "No. Right now we are so locked in to the draft and focusing on that. We'll have time for that later."  No surprise there.

Update: Even more on this issue from Brian Hendrickson.

"We have no plans on letting those guys go," Pritchard said after the Blazers' draft workout on Wednesday.

The thought process behind renouncing the rights to both players would be to extend the Blazers' salary cap flexibility. While Portland can retain their rights indefinitely, the down side is that both players count against Portland's salary cap with what is known as a "cap hold." The two players would have a combined cap hold of approximately $1.5 million this summer, Pritchard said.

Draft Focus

What Pritchard is looking for in this draft started to crystallize a little bit today, helped along by the presence of three 4 year college power forwards who reportedly engaged in a very competitive workout.  

"We had a great workout today and I think that the difference in today and what we've had in the past is when you're looking at lottery picks potentially it's all on potential. Today was legitimate NBA guys that could be put on the floor, maybe not have as high a ceiling as some of the others, but definitely an NBA calibre workout today."

Pritchard continued by laying out perhaps the clearest statement yet for what he's looking for in this year's draft.

"You want to add guys that are on a similar timeline of your success or potential success. 4 year guys, especially where we are drafting at 24, we've drafted for potential, we've kind of rolled the dice, asking does this guy have a high ceiling?  Right now we want guys that can play. Guys that can step out on the floor and really help us."

Draft Prospects

Without a doubt there were multiple guys in the gym today that I can easily envision in a Blazers uniform.  That's arguably the first time I have been able to write that this season.  Let's look at all six guys in turn.

Justin Dentmon (5'11" and 185, PG, Washington): Added to today's workout because another player cancelled. No way he is 5'11".  More like 5'8". No way is he drafted this year.

Derrick Brown (6'8" and 227, PF, Xavier): There were four guys with similar size today and we'll start with Brown, who seemed to draw the least interest of the four.  He is probably the most "combo" of the group and given KP's statements above I think that probably counts against him in terms of how successfully he would fill the needed physical backup power forward role. Brown steadily improved his stats through 3 years at Xavier and was able to guard multiple positions in college.  The interest level in Brown did not seem particularly high today; the comparison to Travis Outlaw felt like a death sentence.  

KP on Brown

"Derrick was really good today. He can shoot it, he spreads the floor, has a little bit of Travis Outlaw in him because he can put it down and create mismatches because of his size. He was terrific today."

Chad Buchanan on Brown

He's gotten stronger over his career at Xavier. He's definitely drafted. I'm not sure quite where yet.

Dante Cunningham (6'8" and 230, PF, Villanova): 

Cunningham was singled out by Pritchard on multiple occasions today for his good workout, his 4 year college career, his NBA readiness and his toughness. Had he not worked out with both Hansbrough and Pendergraph, he might have been a show stealer.  Like Brown, Cunningham showed steady statistical improvements throughout his college careeer and is known for his interior game, which seems like a big plus in the Blazers' eyes this year. He's slightly smaller than both Pendergraph and Hansbrough and given the reputation those guys carry with them I think he slots in below both of them.  Nevertheless, Cunningham is definitely a name to remember.  

KP on Cunningham

 I thought Cunningham was good. It was a battle of men out there it felt like. Sometimes we've had workouts where you're looking at potential and younger kids. A lot of these guys were 4 year guys ready to step on an NBA floor pretty quick."

Buchanan on Cunningham

Solid role guy. He's physical. He can shoot it a little. He's a tough kid, comes from a great coach, great program. Very solid player.

Jeff Pendergraph (6'9" and 240, PF, ASU): 

Pendergraph_medium

All Hansbrough hype aside, the chatter today was that Pendergraph might have been the most impressive player in the gym today.  He had the most impressive shoes for sure.  

Today's workout was described as a power forward battle royale and when it was all said and done Pendergraph carried himself like he had won it.  Check out this freaking awesome picture taken by Casey Holdahl.  Did someone say gun show?  How much are tickets? Can I purchase them in advance?

Pendergraph was affable and interacted with team staff very naturally.  No nerves whatsoever.  Totally confident. Totally cool.  

His bio notes that he graduated a semester early with a degree in economics. I realize that it's Arizona State but still I think we can agree he passes the intelligence test.  And honestly, the rest of his bio reads exactly how you would expect a Blazers 1st round pick's bio to read: "active and efficient around the basket... blue collar... plays with energy and toughness."  

We were able to see him step back and shoot the mid-range jumper a bit today and there was no question Hansbrough has a more consistent, clean stroke.  But do we really expect the Blazers' backup power forward to shoot 12 foot jumpers in the key? I don't think so.

KP on Pendergraph

"He shot the ball really well in the shooting drills. He's going to be a good defender in our league. He's a great runner. If you're going to run, he's going to really look good."

Chad Buchanan on Pendergraph 

He's got good size. He knows what he is as a player. He's not going to give you a ton of offense. He's going to play the right way. He's going to set screens. He's going to finish easy plays that more talented guys create for him. He's going to play good position defense. Really intelligent kid. Has been well-coached. He doesn't have star potential but I think you can put him on an NBA floor. If you look at Jeff and Dante and Tyler, those guys are physically ready to play in an NBA game. All 3 of those guys are all 4 year guys.
Darren Collison (6'0" and 160, PG, UCLA)

Collison_medium 

Darren Collison should give lessons on how to conduct pre-draft workout interviews to other prospects.  In terms of selling himself, understanding a team's needs, understanding his role within a team, conveying his desire to play for a specific team and overall "getting it" I don't think anyone has matched Collison.  

Just read this quote and tell me you disagree.

I pride myself on toughness, I hate to lose, I love guarding big guys even though I'm the smallest guy. It shows a sense of pride.

This group of guys has such good chemistry and they're so tough I want to fit in right way.  Portland is one of those teams that I definitely want to come here. I've been looking at this team before I made the decision to come back to UCLA. This is one of the teams I've been looking at for a long time. I like their personality, they play together. It's never one person. Brandon Roy is an exceptionally good player individually but he does anything to help them win the game.

What I want to do is take a little bit more load off Brandon Roy. A point guard's job is to create for others. Steve Blake does an exceptionally good job at that. I have a tendency for living in the paint the last few years. I want to do that a little bit so Brandon Roy doesn't have to create so much. Not just create shots for myself but try to get everybody open and involved. But the biggest thing first and foremost before I talk about anything is defense. I pride myself on defense, I've been doing that for the last 3 years.
Yeah, I underlined the whole damn thing.  

It's like this guy read a month full of fanposts, condensed them down into talking points and then delivered them point after point in a verbal grand slam.  In addition, Collison's sincerity was off the charts, his toughness was praised by everyone that was asked and, perhaps most importantly, his skillset and size are complementary to Blake and/or Bayless.  There's not a lot of overlap between those three guys.  He seems like a fit on a number of different levels.  

Collison2_medium 
The question marks with Collison are obviously his size/weight.  It's difficult but not impossible to make it in the NBA at 160 pounds.  For comparison, that's one Yao Ming thigh.  Nevertheless, his 4 years at UCLA, his experience in a slower offense, his ability to penetrate, his commitment to defense, his ball skills, his toughness and his speed all add up to a player that would be difficult to pass on with the 24 pick.  

KP on Collison 
You look at a different position, Darren Collison is about as tough as it gets. He was feisty, he was tough, he was setting big screens. He competed out there with the big boys today.

He got in the paint at will. He really caused problems becaue he attracted a lot of the help side, the weak side. He made great decisions once he got in there. He's talented. He's got some jets."

Chad Buchanan on Collison
He's an NBA player. Thought he was very good today. Has great command of the ball. Very poised. Makes good decisions. Shoots a really soft ball. Good quicks, handles it. He's a pretty complete player. I think he's getting there [defensively], he's got the feet to do it. I wouldn't call him a great defender at this point but I think he can be. He was asked to do so much offensively that can kind of take away a kid's defensive mindset. He's going to be a fine guard in our league. I wouldn't say he has the same type of speed as Aaron [Brooks], he's got speed though. You don't see it as much because UCLA plays a slow, grind-it-out style so you don't see him going up and down as much. His family has a track pedigree, he has great north south speed. I think you'll see it at our level.

Nate McMillan on Collison

"He's very quick. He can get easy opportunities as well as finishing on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively he did a nice job. He's very quick. He can defend the ball, he's tough. He doesn't mind going to the basket and taking hits. A guy with a frame like that is normally cautious going in there but he's kind of fearless."

More Collison on Collison

Are these workouts a grind?

"Right now it's all mental. This is what you want to do so you've got to fight. We are all looking for a job. How much do you want it?" 

Are you big enough to play in the NBA?

"Why wouldn't I be? Aaron Brooks is a guy that's smaller than me, he gave Portland fits."

Tyler Hansbrough (6'9" and 250, PF, UNC) 

Hansbrough_medium

Alright, the hype goes last.  First of all, it's surprising to see Hansbrough working out for the Blazers given the fact he is seen as a potential late lottery pick.  You can read that one of three ways:

  1. The Blazers let him know they are seriously interested in him and might move up to grab him.
  2. Hansbrough doesn't trust the mock drafts.
  3. He just really, really likes working out.

Regardless of how you read his presence in Portland, the team's interest in Hansbrough is undeniable.  His character, motor, winning background, size and ability to compete are elements the team has talked about wanting to add to this team.  Add in the fact that he's one of the more NBA ready prospects in the draft (assuming you don't need him to start, which the Blazers obviously don't) and it's easy to see why you'll likely be reading 10 articles from various Portland sources this week eager to sell you on Hansbrough.    

As mentioned, his jumper was impressive today particularly from the middle of the floor. His size was better than expected but not enough to bowl you over.  

I think the number one factor preventing Hansbrough from becoming a Blazer is that his price will likely be too high.  Is the team willing to trade up for him?  If so, how far?  Are they willing to pay that extra money to a rookie given their limited salary cap flexibility?  I don't think we can know the answers to those questions.

Also, Psycho T is, in fact, psycho.  Just an FYI, his eyes are looking through you.

Psychotispsycho_medium

KP on Hansbrough

The thing about Tyler is you already know what you're going to get before he walks into the building. He's high intensity, he's a tough kid, he's won at a high level and there's a lot of teams going to be interested in him. So you like him and he would fit us. 

We've said all along that we know after being in a series with Houston we have to add some toughness. He's a tough kid but he wasn't the only [tough] one out there today.

There's not a split second he's not going as hard as he can. If you were going to mark down how many times he hits the floor, the over/under would be 5. You expect that. He's kind of a lunchpail, hard hat kind of guy. He wasn't the only one. I don't want to just focus on him.

The thing about Tyler is you throw the ball up or you're doing a drill in the summer he's going to bring every single of ounce of energy and he's going to knock you in the mouth. And he's going to get hit too. It looks like he kind of enjoys pain a little bit. [laughs] Is that a good thing for a team? Sure, why not?

He's out there to play physical and he gets hit, no problem, I'm going to hit you right back. But I thought Cunningham and Pendergraph were that way today too. There was no backing down at today's workout. No backing down.

Chad Buchanan on Hansbrough

He is what he is. You see him at Carolina, you see him in the gym. You meet him. He's exactly what you think. Great kid. We really like him as a kid. He's blue collar, he's going to come in and play his butt off. He's not going to say a word. He's going to play the right way. He's improved his skillset over the four years at Carolina. he's stepping out and shooting it a little bit now. His body looks great. He's going to come in and impact NBA games just because of how hard he plays. He's definitely in the [late lottery] discussion. I think he's got a fairly wide range. If he gets to 24 you'd have to have some guys bump ahead of him I would think. He's a low risk guy and he can help you. He's probably not a starter but he can come in off the bench and give you energy and toughness. He's going to play 100% for 82 games.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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