Espn Insider article
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The NBA draft combine is in the books, but the player workouts have just begun. Teams have already started their own workouts, and a number of player agents have decided to hold their own workouts as well.
I spent Thursday afternoon in Santa Barbara at the BDA Sports workout along with more than 150 NBA scouts and general managers.
The workouts consisted mainly of ball-handling and shooting drills. A few of the lower-ranked prospects also played competitive 3-on-3.
Here’s a look at five prospects who stood out.
Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Sr., Wisconsin
Frank Kaminsky is not just a big man who can shoot. He’s a flat out shooter.
“I hear ‘guys your size,’ and that doesn’t mean anything to me,” Kaminsky told me after the workout. “I just play one way. I count on myself to make every shot. … It’s competition within myself to make everything. It’s always been that way.”
Kaminsky shot the lights out in his one-on-none workout. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to those who followed him the past two years at Wisconsin. Kaminsky shot 42 percent from 3-point range this season as a senior and 38 percent as a junior. Still, his shooting prowess caught some NBA general managers off guard.
“I knew he could shoot it,” one GM told ESPN.com. “But not like that.”
Kaminsky said he’s always been a great shooter. As a high school freshman, he stood just 6-foot-2 and was a wing. He grew to 6-foot-6 as a sophomore. He didn’t hit big-man status until his junior year, when he reached 6-foot-9. By then his coach knew what Kaminsky could do from outside and created an offense that allowed him to roam the perimeter.
Ford: Who’s in, who’s out of 2015 NBA draft? The latest on which players are entering the 2015 NBA draft and which are staying put. People talk about D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker as the best shooters in the draft. But Kaminsky is right there with them – if not past them. It just so happens that he stands 7-feet tall.
Kaminsky flirted with entering the draft after his junior season. NBA scouts predicted he’d be a late first-rounder. But Kaminsky said he wasn’t quite ready for the NBA.
“I knew I needed to get better. I wanted to go back to school, finish my degree and do more research by watching NBA basketball so I could see what I needed to get better at,” he said. “It was like a free year to study for your final exam.”
It paid off. Kaminsky was the college basketball Player of the Year. By virtually all accounts, Kaminsky will be lottery pick this year.
But why isn’t he higher? He’s a 7-footer who can stroke the 3 and play in the paint. He’s had two incredible seasons at Wisconsin. Is it a little crazy that teams hold it against him that he’s a senior? The NBA is one of the few careers in the world in which a 22 year old is considered old.
Kamisnky said he’s frustrated by the age slight but that he understands. This season he played head-to-head against the two guys – Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor – who will likely go No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft. He averaged 21 PPG and 11.RPG in those two contests. Yet 10-plus spots in the draft separate him from them.
“I see the top-three picks, with the way drafts have gone in the past, as players with potential to be really good players for longer than potentially myself,” Kaminsky said, before acknowledging that Towns and Okafor were better at 19 than he was. “If I had tried to go to the NBA after my freshman year, people would’ve laughed at me. Just where they are, their potential, if they went back to college for three more years, they’d probably have better seasons than I did this year.”
Still, Kaminsky thinks he has a place in the NBA today. And he’s not trying to be a back-to-the basket center like Okafor or Towns. He wants to be the next Dirk Nowitzki. “I’m going to try,” Kaminsky said. “I see myself playing the 4. At least initially in my career, while I’m moving as well as possible. I feel like I’m shooting the ball well and moving well and I think that stuff translates just the way the NBA goes with pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, pick-and-fades … there’s a lot of room to operate. It’s the trend and it’s lucky for me that I play that way.”
Kelly Oubre, G/F, Fr., Kansas
Oubre may have more upside than any other wing in the draft.
After a strong performance at the Nike Hoop Summit and big moments in front of scouts at the LeBron James Skills Academy and Adidas Nations, Oubre began the season ranked at No. 5 on my Big Board – the highest of any wing in the draft. He’s the tallest of the four elite wings in the draft, has the longest wingspan, is the best or nearly the best athlete and he’s a lefty to boot. But while Justise Winslow was winning a national title and Stanley Johnson was being the alpha-dog on Arizona, Oubre began the season in Bill Self’s doghouse. And that cost him dearly.
“When I was going through those things, I never lost confidence in myself,” Oubre said. “I was still in the gym working my butt off to be the best player I can be. But while I was going through that, a lot of people stopped having faith in me and the things I can do. But I’m still the same person and I still have that same chip on my shoulder.”
Kelly Oubre struggled at Kansas but has major upside. Ed Zurga/Getty Images What he was going through was starting the game on the bench, playing just four minutes in the team’s opener. He didn’t crack 20 minutes in a game until Dec. 20 versus Lafayette. He responded with 20 points and 10 rebounds. More importantly, he started doing what Self had asked him to do from Day 1.
“The biggest thing was that he wanted me to be a two-way player,” Oubre said. “Coming in from Findlay [Prep] and all of those other places and all the All-Star games, I was pretty much just shooting the ball. I wasn’t maximizing my efforts on defense. Once coach dropped the hammer on me and made it known I needed to be a two-way player, I kind of started to get things and flow better. Now I know that at the next level, I have to be a two-way player.”
The NBA scouts and general managers I spoke with here actually think Oubre is well on his way. So much so that it’s his offense that they now question.
“I think he could be a terrific defender in the NBA,” one general manager said. “Bill really gave him a gift by demanding that he learn how to play defense. And to Oubre’s credit, he figured it out. He was a product of a system that didn’t demand that he play on both ends. Bill did and he learned. My biggest question is more on how he’ll get his offense.”
General managers wring their hands a bit on his shooting, though his shot looked better here in Santa Barbara than it did at Kansas. Even more worrisome is his ball handling. That part is still a work in progress. He’s been working with Drew Hanlen, the same trainer who last year helped improve Andrew Wiggins’ jump shot and handle. Oubre’s been studying tape of everyone, from James Harden to Paul George. He’s capable of mirroring this game after those guys, especially George. He’s a good athlete, has a crazy 7-foot-2 wingspan and is a workaholic in the gym.
“He sometimes ends up sleeping on my couch because he’s stayed over so long watching tape,” Hanlen said. “He’s eating up all the coaching. I don’t think he got a lot of individual skills coaching in high school. There were basic things that he just didn’t know how to do when I got him. But he’s getting there – quickly. And if he reaches his ceiling, he’s got a chance to be a star. The ceiling is high.”
Patience will be the key with Oubre. He’s not as polished right now as some of the other wings in the draft. Much like Wiggins last year, he’s being judged more by his physical tools than his basketball skills or production. But if he gets it going? His size, length and raw shooting ability should make him the best wing prospect in the draft. It will be interesting to see if he can show it at workouts. If he does, we have him way too low (currently No. 20 on the Big Board.)
Stanley Johnson, G/F, Fr., Arizona
Johnson is the Jabari Parker to Oubre’s Wiggins. He lacks Oubre’s elite length and above-average athleticism. But Johnson was the alpha dog on this season’s Arizona team while Oubre was a bit player on Kansas. He quickly stepped in and took the reins of this Wildcats team and didn’t let go.
Ask just about any scout what Johnson’s appeal is at the next level and you hear two things: NBA readiness and track record.
Johnson is a more polished player than Oubre, both on the court and physically. Weighing in at 240 pounds, he already has the body of an NBA veteran. And his overall feel for the game is better. While Oubre is working with a trainer for the first time in his career, Johnson’s been working with one for years, and it shows. He should be able to step right into the NBA and have an impact from day one.
And that track record? Johnson won four straight California state championships and helped lead Arizona to the Elite Eight before finally losing to Wisconsin.
Stanley Johnson impressed NBA scouts at Thursday’s workout in Santa Barbara. Harry How/Getty Images “Oubre is all about upside and potential,” one NBA scout said. “Johnson is about consistent production at the high school and college level. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high, but with the way Johnson works, I don’t see him failing in the NBA. One is sexy, one is safe.”
Johnson looked strong in the workout on Thursday. He didn’t shoot the lights out, but his jump shot continues to improve to the point that NBA teams no longer consider it a major weakness. And he looked like he was in good shape.
Still, there are questions about Johnson. While he’s built like a NFL linebacker, he’s not a particularly explosive athlete. That showed up primarily in Johnson’s inability to finish at the rim as a freshman. Despite his size and aggressive nature, he shot just 48 percent at the hoop.
Johnson blames it on the NCAA’s controversial charge rule that often forced him to put up uncomfortable shots. After years of steamrolling in the lane, the new rules forced him to try things outside of his comfort zone. Johnson is hoping for a more open court in the NBA.
Similar to Oubre, Johnson is studying Harden, along with George and Klay Thompson, and believes he could play like one of them someday.
“[Harden’s] shot is kind of like mine,” Johnson said. “It’s lower than the norm. But he gets his shot off all the time. James moves the ball. He’s a shot maker. And I think that’s what I can be.”
While not every team sees his upside being that high (Harden finished second in MVP voting this season), Johnson is a shot maker and, if he can improve his finishing abilities and jump shot, he’ll be difficult to contain.
Robert Upshaw, C, So., Washington
Upshaw, on talent, is a lottery pick. He’s huge (he has the longest wingspan and second-longest standing reach of anyone in the draft) and is the best shot-blocker in the draft (this season he averaged 4.5 BPG in 25 MPG).
But after getting kicked out of both Fresno State and Washington for reportedly failing multiple drug tests, he has his work cut out for him. Upshaw is honest and forthright about his problems. He went into rehab after being kicked off the Washington team and said the experience has not only made him a better person, but a better basketball player as well.
“I consider myself a top-10 talent,” Upshaw said. "But obviously my off-the-court issues have changed that. I could’ve done a lot of things better. Everybody messes up and makes mistakes … I had to find myself. Whether I go in the first round, second round, undrafted or not in the NBA, I’m learning lessons in life and that’s all that matters.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned in life is to be honest,” Upshaw continued. “I didn’t trust anyone. And it’s still tough for me to trust some people in my life. And now I have people around me whom I can be honest with and they’ll be honest with me. I have a great life mentor that I talk to constantly. Now it’s up to me to work hard and to show up every day until this all gets put back together.”
Off-court issues have driven down Robert Upshaw’s draft stock. Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire Upshaw looked good in the workout I saw. He’s gotten into better shape, is working on his lo- post moves and his shooting. He’s raw, but you can’t teach his size or shot-blocking ability.
It will be very interesting to see whether teams believe that his problems are behind him. All of them are wary, but at the same time, teams see the obvious potential and want him to succeed. If a team is willing to heavily invest in his development, as both a player and a person, it could pay off huge for Upshaw, both as a player and as a person.
Andrew Harrison, PG, So., Kentucky
Harrison has gotten some of his mojo back after playing well at the NBA draft combine. Suddenly his agent is getting lots of calls from teams wanting him in for workouts.
After going from being one of the top-five high school players in the country to a projected second-round pick last year to a possible undrafted pick this year, Harrison may be getting another shot at redemption.
He clearly believes he’s earned it after being the starting point guard on a team that went to the NCAA title game when he was a freshman and a team that went 38-1 during his sophomore season.
He’s been working out for the past month on his shooting and conditioning. Whatever he’s been through with his draft stock, he clearly hasn’t lost his confidence.
Andrew Harrison is hoping to match up against top PG prospects prior to the draft. Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports “I still feel like I’m the best point guard in the draft,” Harrison said. “I feel if I get the chance to match up with anybody in the draft, I’ll win it.”
That may be the issue for Harrison. In Chicago, he was playing against second-round picks. The same was true here in Santa Barbara in the 3-on-3-workouts. He’s stuck trying to prove he’s the best point guard in the draft but doesn’t get to meet the competition head-to-head anymore.
D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay most likely won’t work out against anyone. And the other top point guards – Cameron Payne, Jerian Grant, Tyus Jones and Delon Wright – might not workout against him, either.
Harrison said he’s trying to get back the same expectations he had in high school in an attempt to convince scouts that he might be underrated.
He started the long journey back at the combine, showed well again here in Santa Barbara and now needs some help from his peers to prove to NBA teams in workouts that he’s better than they think.
Be sure to check back on Monday for more prospect evaluations and updates, including intel on workouts by UCLA’s Kevon Looney, Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn
@Lulufulu Kaminsky is a very smart guy. Could have bounced early, decided to study the NBA game and work on his weak spots before graduating!? Thats just straight up maturity and a class act right there. Very impressive. Its also interesting to compare Oubre here. He seems like he could use another year in Bill’s system. Not as talented overall as Wigs but I’d put him on par with Ben Mac.
drgnslayr last edited by
Oubre appears to be making all the right moves. His first good move was to find a solid agent, which he apparently did.
I hope he goes high in the draft and gets every opportunity to prove himself. If he gets that opportunity, I think he’ll make it and have a long NBA life! I hope he is working with his right hand and learning to go to his right. He also needs to sharpen his skills with a crossover. Add in a spin move going to both sides and he’ll be a pretty solid offensive weapon within the 3 pt line (he’s already a weapon from 3).
He should become one of the better defenders in the league. Super long reach, with good reflexes and hunger for the ball.
JayHawkFanToo last edited by
Andrew Harrison thinks he is underrated? Coming from Kentucky? What a joke.
@JayHawkFanToo Noone ever said the Harrison twins were intelligent.
drgnslayr last edited by
I wonder if the Harrison twins have abandoned their relationship with John Lucas? He built them into the players they are today. Took them in when they were in the 8th grade and worked with them all the way through Kentucky. They were nothing but physical specimens back then.
It is hard to believe they aren’t better than they appear to be. They’ve been coached up for so long.
I just don’t see a high enough basketball IQ. When something gets thrown at them they panic instead of counter.