It's a mad scramble as players prepare for the draft on June 28th. Just over three weeks remain for guys to jockey for draft position.
Kris Joseph: No one needs a better showing during any and all pre-draft workouts than Kris Joseph. NBA decision makers were down on him as it is, owing to lackluster late season play. KJ's decision to skip the Portsmouth Invitational and a group workout sponsored by the Brooklyn Nets did nothing to help his case. Now that school is finished, though, he's been working out with individual teams, with the Golden State Warriors, with the Portland Trailblazers and most recently with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As a mid-late second round pick, KJ's path to success lies less with proving that he's an outstanding all around player or even being better than this or that other player. It lies with showing that he can fill a niche on a team. With that in mind, the Warriors make sense as a possible destination. KJ is at his best when running the floor and the style of game the Warriors run suits that. The draft stock of Montreal's Finest has been slipping ever since his sophomore year at Syracuse. He needs to put in work to make it back.
KJ's post-workout interview, wherein he touts himself as a team player and exceptional ball handler (Note: one of these statements may be false):
Scoop Jardine: Scoop's pre-draft journey has been sort of the opposite of KJ's. Scoop was widely considered as a fringe prospect at best and unlikely to make a team at all, much less be drafted. He's been making the rounds as well, though, working out with the Knicks, the Spurs and most recently with his hometown 76ers this past Sunday. Scoop feels that his work is paying off:
"Right now, I'm turning a lot of heads. I'm starting to really rise since the workouts started. My dream is just to be drafted. I don't know where at. I'm very confident that I'll be drafted come June 28."
Like Joseph, Jardine's path lies in proving he has value in a particular role. In Scoop's case, that means showing he can effectively run a team for short stretches. I still think that the best place for him to do that will be in the Summer Leagues and not in pre-draft workouts, but performing well now will garner him more invites once summer rolls around. Scoop also plans to work out with Washington, Memphis and Atlanta.
Fab Melo: After working out extensively in Los Angeles, Fab has also started on the NBA circuit, working out with the Boston Celtics onSunday. He's reportedly scheduled to work out with the Bulls as well. Fab's draft stock has been the most consistent among all of the former Orange players in the draft. Where KJ's has sunk like a rock and Dion's ranges from 8th to 28th, Fab has consistently been projected to go in the 15-25 range. This puts him within the grasp of a number of teams where he wouldn't be expected to do much right away, allowing him the time needed to develop.
The Celtics are an intriguing possibility. Since trading away Kendrick Perkinsand the retirement of Shaq, Boston has been without a legit center. They've been stuck with the likes of Ryan Hollins and Greg Stiemsma. Boston would be a place where Fab could potentially play signficant minutes, but not be tasked with the pressure of having to score any points. And who better is there to teach the Big Bastard how to play NBA defense than Kevin Garnett? The Celtics have the 20th and 21st picks in the draft. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see Danny Ainge pick up Fab with one of them.
Dion Waiters: Finally, the man who's been the talk of the pre-draft. Despite declaring for the draft as a late first-early second round prospect, Dion's stock has shot up dramatically to the point where ESPN's Chad Ford projects him to be a mid-lottery pick. And he's been able to do it without the benefit of one workout with an NBA team. Dion's been in Las Vegas, working out and blogging (as well as eating spaghetti and thinking about ways to swag up for the draft) but has yet to attend an individual workout.
It's interesting that Dion has been able to improve his stock without meeting with teams, especially since most concerns about him surround his character, not his game. All of the questions about his size and what position he'd play in the NBA are well founded, but those who still rate Dion as a late first round pick all think that his history of clashing with coaches is what's holding him back. It's a well founded sentiment. We Syracuse fans witnessed it first hand when he and Coach Boeheim clearly didn't get along during Dion's first season. But we also were able to see the complete turnaround he had as a sophomore. People who don't follow the Orange closely only have the news clips and sound bites to go on and, in those cases, the negative always outweighs the positive. Dion needs the workouts to confirm for executives that his game is NBA ready. But more than that, he needs the face time to show that that he's grown up and is truly willing to do what it takes to make his team better. That's what's going to solidify his place in the upper tier of the first round.
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