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NBA Offseason: Breaking Down Free Agent Workouts

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HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy explains how teams like the Trail Blazers approach free agent workouts.

BIG3 - Week Three - Birmingham Photo by Andy Lyons/BIG3/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers’ still have at least one move to make before their busy offseason comes to a close. Portland’s roster currently has two open roster spots and President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will fill at least one of those vacancies before the season starts.

Organizations approach filling out the end of their rosters in different ways. One way is to host potential signees in a series of free agent workouts. HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy recently explained what goes into those type of workouts.

Kennedy discussed the various tiers of free agent workouts. Starting with team-hosted individual workouts and finishing with player-led pro-day style auditions. In the story, Kennedy spoke with former Nets assistant David Nurse about where each type falls in the hierarchy of free agent pursuits.

“If it’s an individual workout, they’re probably more interested in signing you and that’s why they’re taking the time to look at just you,” said David Nurse, who trains NBA players and previously worked an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets. “In the group workouts, maybe there are two or three guys they’re seriously looking at and they want to see how they perform in live game action, so they bring in a group to test them. The other guys may be in consideration for Summer League or to fill out the G League roster or something like that. It’s sort of like the group dates on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette (laughs). When they go on the group dates, there may be one or two people they’re looking at. But when they go on the individual dates, they’re really serious about those people.”

Along with Nurse, Kennedy also spoke with former Suns assistant Cody Tobbert. Regardless of which type of workout, both Tobbert and Nurse agreed that conditioning is paramount for the players attempting to earn a contract.

“When you’ve been sitting at home and you’re trying to join a team midseason, there’s no training camp so you need to get in shape on the fly. The guys who never get out of shape are the ones who really have a leg up and stand out in these kinds of workouts,” Toppert said. “The guys who tend to fall out of shape are the ones who struggle. They’re getting used to the new system, coaches and teammates, so the last thing you want is a guy who has to play his way into shape on top of figuring out the other stuff”

Nurse went on to echo Toppert’s point and explained that the reason some “big name” free agents fail to earn a spot comes down to the shape they are in.

“Oftentimes, fans will look at a player’s name and decide they want their team to sign that guy,” Nurse said. “There are certain free agents who have a notable name, but they can never stick and fans wonder why. Sometimes, the player is never in shape. Unless you stay in shape, you can’t play in this league. Sometimes the player is talented, but they don’t understand their role and they could kill your culture. There’s so much that goes into ‘fit’ that most fans don’t realize.

The Blazers were one of the multiple teams that attended the pro-day style workout presented by Amar’e Stoudemire and Monta Ellis in Las Vegas. It is rumored that Olshey is targeting a big man with one of the final roster spots.

You can read Kennedy’s full post at HoopsHype.