The hour long workout was one of the most intense weve seen in the three years weve been doing this. Short drills like the pitch and fill and general shoot a rounds were followed by an extremely competitive 2 on 2 session that rotated the 6 players in and out in various game simulated situations in the half-court.
The action at this workout was a significant contrast to the sterile feel of the main event over at the Wide World of Sports complex. Being able to sit in such proximity to the action allowed for a far greater read into the emotion and effort being displayed by these athletes. While the Milkhouse is a great venue and the organization of the tournament is excellent, there is just too great a separation from the action while sitting so high above the court and being back on the floor watching the interplay between each player and seeing their facial features when competing brings the game to a new level.
Alexander Johnson, 6-9, Power Forward, Junior, Florida State
Absolutely the star of this workout, Johnson went a long way in solidifying his place in the first round with his performance and could even have moved himself into the teens. Johnson showed off everything he needed to show to prove his worth to an NBA team, whether it was with his rebounding, his mid-range shot, his toughness or with the sheer quickness in which he moves on the floor and gets off the ground.
Johnson's shot was money from the second he walked into the gym and until the workout ended. He showed great decision making when receiving the ball in the high post and taking what his extremely tall, long and athletic defender Ryan Hollins gave him. Johnson threw a number of jab-steps and shot-fakes at him to try and get him in the air; since Hollins did not bite, he was went ahead and elevated high off the ground and stroked the ball from 16-18 feet out almost every single time.
Johnson also impressed with his quick and explosive second leap, using it especially well on the glass. On one occasion, Johnson missed a shot about 6-7 feet from the basket, but immediately jumped up over Ryan Hollins to grab the rebound while maintaing the balance to score the putback. On his second leap, he didn't even need to gather himself, and was still able to easily get through Hollins to grab the putback.
Inside the post, he mixed up his back to the basket work nicely by facing the basket and using excellent counter moves to blow by or spin by his man explosivelly. The most impressive sequence of the workout came when Diaz came off a screen and threaded a pretty bounce pass to Johnson for a spin to his right shoulder and explosion off the ground for one of the most thunderous dunk we've ever witnessed in person, plus the foul. Being pushed away from the basket and forced to use his left hand, he got incredibly high off the ground and threw it down in so hard that had the entire gym in a state of disbelief.
When one of his teammates missed, Johnson was just quicker than anyone else on the floor to every single loose ball. His tenacity and physicality meant that he just wanted every ball more than anyone else. He used his strengh to get to wherever he wanted on the floor, but combined that with nible feet and terrific anticipation skills to leave an extremely strong impression. He made 9 of his 11 shots in the competitive 2 on 2 portion of the workout, and looked like he could have continued running for another few hours when it was finally done. Teams that were in attendance here like the Bulls, Timberwolves, Jazz, Pacers, Knicks, Hawks and Sonics could surely use a player in his mold who has a well-defined role on the floor and brings a workmanlike attitude to everything he does.
Guillermo Diaz, 6-1 ½, Junior PG/SG, Miami
Facing questions about his size and lack of a true position, Diaz came out sizzling this afternoon, proving once and for all that there should be no questions about his ability to put the ball in the basket. While his shooting results during Mondays workout were somewhat inconclusive, Diaz showed picture perfect form here. His entire motion is completely effortless, with a high, quick release and perfect spin. He missed only a handful of shots the entire workout, from the beginning of the warm-ups to the end of the competitive two-on-two.
It was in the competitive portion of the workout where Diaz showed truly special scoring ability. He scored off the dribble in a variety of ways - whether it was flipping up soft floaters just over the outstretched arms of a hard-charging Ryan Hollins or pulling up off the dribble against Pooh Jeter, everything went in and everything looked pretty. Jeter tried hard to stay in front of him, but Diaz did a great job of using jab steps and fakes to create space, and even when Jeter did manage to cut him off, he was helpless against Diazs dazzling pull-up jumper. Diaz gets incredible elevation on his midrange jumper, and his form remains dazzling. He keeps his body in perfect control, and his release doesnt change. To put it simply, there are few players in the NBA that can pull up for this kind of elevated jumper with such success. In the end, Diaz hit 9-10 shot attempts in the 2-on-2. Considering the difficulty of the contested 3-pointers, floaters, and dribble drive jumpers he was taking, Diaz showed off downright spectacular scoring ability in this workout.
Of course, after all of this, the questions about size and true position have yet to be addressed. Diaz can make himself a lot of money if he can prove that he is a legitimate point guard, and had a chance to flaunt his floor general abilities in the competitive portion of this workout. Unfortunately, it was his scoring mentality that rose to the forefront. Diaz generally made good decisions, but they almost always ended with him shooting the ball. Alexander Johnson was getting good position on Hollins, and he probably didnt get as many looks as he should have. There were a couple of nice passes, but Diaz generally held on to the ball a bit too long and didnt read pick and rolls quite quickly enough. If Diaz is going to play the two, he is going to have to toughen up a bit. His body is quite toned and muscular, but he has a slight frame and didnt respond well to physical confrontations in this workout. It is easy to see him getting pushed around when matched up against NBA wings.
Make no mistake about it, Diaz put on a spectacular scoring show here. His ability to maintain his shooting touch in the air and on the move is first rate, and there will be a place for this in the NBA. If Diaz is able to prove that he can play some lead guard, a much wider range of suitors will emerge.
Jeremy Kelly, 6'4, Point Guard, Senior, Tennessee-Martin
In this, our third viewing of Kelly in a workout setting, he continued to impress and intrigue about his potential as a tall and extremely strong point guard. His natural point guard abilities were not on display in this setting, which consisted of 2-on-2 scrimmages and some full court drills, but he impressed with the rest of his game.
The first thing you notice about him is his impressive physical attributes. He's 6'4 with long arms and a very strong build, possessing a chiseled, large upper body. He uses his body well on the defensive end, where he plays intense, in-your-face defense, using his strength, quick feet and long arms to contain his opponent. He has good hands, which he showed by poking at the ball here a few times, including a clean pick on the perimeter of the 5'10 Pooh Jeter. He played some good prevent defense at times, too, using his length and lateral quickness to get in between his own man and the man with the ball, preventing the pass to him. He showed some defensive versatility when matched with Jamaal Williams, a 6'6 PF from the University of Washington, bodying up to him in the post and mid-range. His toughness and terrific motor were always on display throughout the workout, which had to make a strong impression on the many decision makers in attendance.
Offensively, he showed a potent inside-out game, using his explosiveness to get past his man and to the rim as well as scoring from the outside on his shot, which has improved considerably in the few months since he's graduated. The mechanics on his shot are solid, as he has a high release, good follow through, and is consistent with his motion. His release could be a little quicker, but he's made excellent progress on his outside shot in the short time he's been working here with his trainer David Thorpe. In the 2-on-2 scrimmages, he hit a few fadeaway jumpers from the mid range as well as one shot from behind the NBA three-point arc, coming around a screen to get space for his shot. He also shot the ball fairly well in the warm-ups prior to the scrimmage. On one occasion in the scrimmage, Kelly missed an outside shot, but quickly reacted to it, blew past his man on the perimeter, and explosively grabbed his own rebound and made the putback attempt.
Kelly did not show any point guard abilities in the 2-on-2 scrimmages, except for feeding the post to teammate Alexander Johnson on a few occasions. He has improved on his outside shot in a very short period of time, which was previously his biggest weakness coming out of college. This, along with his physical characteristics and impressive athleticism make him a very intriguing prospect, though it's still yet to be seen how well he can play the point guard position against higher-level competition in a 5-on-5 setting. He's had some private workouts with NBA teams already, and with his impressive performance here, along with the fact that 15 NBA teams were on hand for the workout, he should have many more lined up leading up to the draft. He might not get drafted, but should still get plenty of chances to catch on somewhere in summer league.
Ryan Hollins, 70, Center/Forward, Senior, UCLA
Hollins physical ability is top-notch for a player his size. Hollins has a lithe, long build with solid upper body strength and a slim waist. His mobility is excellent as he can run the floor as well as any big in this draft. Hollins has explosive power and quickness when attacking the rim. Having the opportunity to watch Hollins workout the day before, it was obvious that trainer Rico Hines had done his job preparing his player for maximum endurance while maintaining his explosive lift throughout. Hollins also possesses some nice skills for a big man. His mid range jumper is consistently solid from 15-17 feet and he can finish softly or with authority around the rim. Hollins also was extremely vocal and showed tremendous passion throughout the competitive work.
As far as weaknesses are concerned, there are a few things that Hollins must work on to be a top of the rotation player in the NBA. During the competitive workout, Hollins lost focus in a number of different instances. This was something that showed itself a bit the previous day when he had to be reminded on a few occasions on what to do during a given drill. In the competitive workout, Hollins got caught ball-watching when the guards had the ball. This caused him to be out of position for a number of rebounds, but also seemed to be a principle factor in his biggest flaw, composure. It is common for players to jaw at each other and be physical, which Hollins certainly was. But, physicality must be used within the context of game play and Hollins allowed Johnsons constant contact and work to take away his focus and start reacting with inappropriate retaliatory elbows and shoving.
Overall, Hollins has great physical tools to make a living in the NBA. As a seven footer with his skill set and athleticism, he should have no trouble finding a spot for himself on the next level. Hard work and dedication to improvement will determine just how much success Hollins has on that next level. It is clear that Hollins has put a tremendous amount of work in developing his physical strength and endurance, so he has the mental toughness to work thats for sure. But, Hollins must also work on his feel for the game and learn how to apply his physical gifts to the nuances of the game that are critical for high level success.
Jamaal Williams, 6'6, Forward, Senior, Washington
Physically, Williams is built solidly having a thick frame and wide shoulders that hold his 230 pounds well. At 66 he as good size for the small forward position. While Williams doesnt have an athletic looking build he possesses solid physical strength and has the ability to finish strongly around the rim. Williams first step is not exceptionally quick, but he uses his body well to create space and lane penetration opportunities to get the score
Skills wise, Williams has a very nice touch from the perimeter having range out to the college 3 point line. His shooting form isnt 100 percent fundamental, but it is 100 percent consistent. Williams releases the ball above his head and uses only wrist to get a soft and arching trajectory on the ball. Williams uses his body quite well when around the rim and showed his power forward mentality on the block playing against a superior athlete in Jeremy Kelly. When Williams got the ball down low he was able to create some space to get his shot off cleanly. Though he was tightly contested on most every possession Williams still maintained his touch and composure when going for the finish using spins and body contact to free himself up for the shot.
Williamss biggest weaknesses at this point are ball-handling and conditioning. Williams looks far more comfortable on the block then he does out on the perimeter with the exception of his fine shooting touch. Williams doesnt have the ability to ball handle effectively enough to play on the perimeter against NBA caliber wing defenders at this point. Lateral mobility could be a problem at this distance from the basket as well, so Williams would have to use superior technique and aggressive ball pressure to effectively guard the wing. Williams conditioning is not where it needs to be yet, though he has come a long way in this regard over such a short period of time working with coach Hines. Williams has yet to reach his maximum physical potential as an athlete and must do so before he can entertain ideas of moving away from the post.
Overall, Williams is a creative low post scorer who has the benefit of being able to shoot from the perimeter, which makes him a difficult match up at the 4 position. But, as a three he doesnt posses the ball handling ability or foot speed to play out on the perimeter on the next level. As a European power forward Williams would have a good chance at making some serious money, and more importantly, get some serious playing time which is vital for continuing his development.
Pooh Jeter, 510, Point Guard, Senior, Portland
Jeter is not extremely tall, but he makes up for this to some degree with his excellent quickness and sturdy frame. Jeter has a strong build for a point guard and displayed good core strength to go along with excellent conditioning. During the drill work the day before competitive play, Jeter showed his ability to finish nicely on a number of acrobatic shots that were indicative of his body control. For a smaller player, Jeter showed plenty of speed and quickness, which are essential for someone his size. Jeter gets up of the ground quickly enough to create space for his shot, though hes not going to be able to just drive at will into the lane against larger competition.
Jeter has some good point guard skills to work with. He has excellent control of the ball with his dribble, using both his left and right hand equally as well. His handle allows him to use change of direction dribbles with decisive speed into the move, which is how hes able to get free for making plays. Jeters footwork is also good. He uses the combination of dribble and switch-stance footwork to keep his defender guessing. Going against a larger and faster opponent in Guillermo Diaz, Jeter still got into position to make some shots. Although he didnt have much success converting his bucket opportunities, Jeter was absolutely lights out during the intense drill work the day before. Considering that his form was the same during drill work and competitive play it doesnt seem to be a concern that he can make shots.
Overall there are some weaknesses that Jeter will have to overcome. For one, his size is something that will be a concern for any team who works him out. While there are plenty of successful examples of players who overcome height disadvantages, it is still going to be something he will be measured by at first site. Also, while Jeter is quick, he doesnt posses blazing speed or amazing explosive lift like Earl Boykins or Nate Robinson. So, Jeter will have to rely more on technique to make things happen. But, Jeter shows a great work ethic and tremendous heart when competing on the floor and will push himself to the limit of his endurance without complaint. His conditioning is top-notch as well. Many point guards like Jeter have gone overseas and realized tremendous success at high levels. Some players benefit from the experience and improve their games enough to come back and have an impact in the NBA. Regardless of what path Jeter chooses to go, he will be paid to play this game and should be a developing asset for whomever he plays for.