Word on the Street: Golden State Workout, Walker Injury

Word on the Street: Golden State Workout, Walker Injury
Jun 16, 2008, 01:36 am
Representatives of 17 NBA teams (including numerous GMs) congregated this past weekend at the practice facility of the Golden State Warriors to take in 24 (mostly first and second round) prospects over a two day stretch. Participants included Brandon Rush, Nicolas Batum, Marreese Speights, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Alexis Ajinca, DeVon Hardin, Bill Walker, Ryan Anderson, Jason Thompson, Richard Hendrix, Gary Forbes, Joey Dorsey, Trent Plaisted, J.R. Giddens, Kyle Weaver, Jamont Gordon, Sonny Weems, Darnell Jackson, Rudy Mbemba, Ron Steele, Giorgi Shermadini and Josh Akognon.

A couple of injuries early on changed the dynamics of the workout early, including a very unfortunate setback to Bill Walker at seemingly the worst moment possible. Walker hurt his knee during the three man weave early on and was unable to make it past stretching, forcing him to pull out. An MRI conducted later (which is now circulating amongst teams) concluded that he has a partial tear in his meniscus, which will force him to sit for at least three weeks and not allow him to work out for any more NBA teams from now until the draft. There is reportedly no structural damage to the knee, but concerns could very well still linger considering that the 20-year old freshman already suffered two separate ACL tears in his short career, making teams possibly even more nervous about what the future may hold in store for him.

Walker declined to participate in the NBA pre-draft camp in late May and decided to pull out of two workouts with Houston and New Orleans last week. Up until now, he has only managed to visit the Toronto Raptors (where he looked extremely nervous and was tentative, but checked out just fine on his physical) and Detroit Pistons (where he was reportedly outstanding), meaning NBA teams will have much less information to go off on draft night than they would likely prefer.

Ironically, the injury was suffered just 48 hours prior to the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw their names from the draft. Walker, who has yet to hire an agent for this exact reason, will take the decision down to the absolute last minute, and as of right now could still return to school. He will likely be looking for assurances that he will be taken by the Detroit Pistons (where he fills a legitimate need and is likely the best SF on the board), because otherwise, he will almost certainly fall into the second round.

Also withdrawing from the workouts were Rudy Mbemba (hip flexor) and Nicolas Batum (halfway through after being poked in the eye).

A workout of this nature can be extremely important to a player’s draft stock considering the amount of teams present. We spoke to numerous people (both NBA executives and participants) afterwards to get a feel for what went on there. The three names that kept coming up more than others when asked who looked good were: Richard Hendrix, Brandon Rush and Courtney Lee.

Hendrix did everything he possibly could to help himself reportedly, blocking shots, rebounding well, scoring points both inside and outside, running the floor and playing strong defense. This is not the first strong report we’ve received from a workout he’s been in-- others have mentioned how much better he’s shooting free throws and mid-range jumpers, as well as the confidence he exudes and how impressive he is off the court as well. As we’ve discussed before, Hendrix’s numbers and overall profile compares favorably with Carlos Boozer’s at the same age, and even though we might not ever become an all-star like Boozer, he could develop into a Paul Millsap type steal if he falls into the second round.

The reports on Courtney Lee indicated that he looked “good enough to play in the NBA right now,” as he was “explosive, very polished, made good decisions, excellent defensively, jumped right over guys, and was terrific from mid-range.” Lee has reportedly been working out well almost everywhere he’s gone recently, and looks to be making a strong push to be drafted at 22 by the Orlando Magic, who had him in last week for a workout, and sent GM Otis Smith to Golden State to see him again.

Brandon Rush also drew some extremely high praise, as his size, length and skill-level were mentioned as big pluses, as was the fact that he can play two positions and looks to be in terrific shape athletically. He played strong defense, shot the ball well from outside, and even showed some nice craftiness with a few hook shots inside. Most executives we spoke with have Rush going either at 15 (Phoenix) or 17 (Toronto) in their personal mock drafts, but there is a chance that a team like Seattle or Cleveland for example could jump up ahead of them and take him at 13th if they can strike a deal with Portland (whose pick is clearly on the block).

Chris Douglas-Roberts was reportedly “just OK” in the workout, which is similar feedback to what we’ve heard consistently over the past few weeks from different cities he’s been to. As we’ve discussed in the past, he’s not proven to be a great workout player, which might be pushing his terrific season with Memphis a little further out of teams’ minds. Jason Thompson (good offensively, poor defensively) and Sonny Weems drew similar reports. Gary Forbes reportedly looked very poor, being outplayed athletically by both Brandon Rush and Courtney Lee, as he was unable to get past them and could not just bully them around the way he did to lesser prospects a few weeks back in Orlando.

JaMont Gordon measured out at a chiseled 6-3 ½ and 230 pounds, and reportedly got to wherever he wanted on the floor, but shot the ball extremely poorly, played a bit selfishly and even displayed some bad body language. Kyle Weaver was mentioned as having worked out favorably. The same can be said for Ron Steele. Alexis Ajinca received a couple of strong reports thanks to his terrific physical tools and skill-level—he reportedly played very hard (“battling inside”) and showed nice touch on his jump-hook shots and shooting the ball from outside. It appears he helped himself. Nicolas Batum was supposedly playing very well until he got hurt mid-way through.

News and Notes:

-A few teams we spoke with this weekend were wondering about the whereabouts of Darrell Arthur. The Kansas power forward reportedly canceled workouts with the Clippers (#7), Philadelphia (#16), Toronto (#17) and Indiana (#11) after working out for Seattle (#4, 24) and Sacramento (#12). Arthur has not hired an agent and is reportedly conducting all his business through his mother and AAU coach, although he will surely stay in the draft. One NBA team we spoke to had a hard time figuring out where he was and whether or not he’ll be showing up for their workout, as he did not bother to cancel or notify anyone of his plans. There were talks of a potential back and/or hamstring injury, leading some to question if anything funny is going on. He was reportedly 100% healthy when he worked out for Sacramento on Friday. Arthur’s camp could not be reached for comment.

-Danilo Gallinari was in Los Angeles this past weekend, working out for the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies for solo one on zero workouts. Teams we talked to indicate they believe Gallinari will pull out of the draft if he does not receive a promise in the top 10 by the early-entry withdrawal deadline (5 PM EST Monday).

How could a near-certain lottery pick like Gallinari not keep his name in this year’s draft? The word is that the main sponsor of his current team in Milan, Giorgio Armani, recently bought a controlling share of the club, and is reportedly offering a large amount of money for him to return. There are whispers in Italy that the team will hire legendary Italian coach Ettore Messina next season, and will be splurging on expensive reinforcements on the player market this summer, in anticipation of playing in the Euroleague once again. Gallinari himself told us that he is waiting to get “as much information as I can about the situation in Milano…the new situation in Milano” when we asked him whether there is a chance he stays in Europe this year.

His American agent Arn Tellem—for the sake of his own reputation if anything-- is much more likely to pull him out of the draft tomorrow than risk a Fran Vasquez/Orlando situation where a team drafts him in the lottery but essentially forfeits the pick by seeing him decide not to come over. Still, that uncertainly can’t be helping Gallinari’s stock in the least bit.

-O.J. Mayo will conduct another workout on Saturday for select NBA teams in Chicago. Those who are invited according to one report we received are only the four big market teams in the top 7—Chicago, Miami, New York and Los Angeles. Mayo continues to snub teams ranked three through five-- Minnesota, Seattle and Memphis, it appears. Speaking of Memphis, Kevin Love reportedly had a very strong workout there this past week. He looks like a solid candidate to be drafted fifth overall at this point.

-With Milwaukee surprisingly showing very little interest in Danilo Gallinari, it appears that it’s a two man race at this point for the 8th spot between Joe Alexander and Anthony Randolph.

-There is some talk that Russell Westbrook (who is working out, as expected, extremely well) could find a way to sneak up and get drafted as high as 6th or 7th, as long as Mayo and Bayless are already off the board at that point. That could knock Eric Gordon down a few slots lower than he’s probably expecting at this point.

-Two players we haven’t heard great things about from their workouts so far as DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee. Both have reportedly been outplayed by lower rated prospects such as Alexis Ajinca (in Charlotte) and Roy Hibbert. Jordan has not impressed anyone by showing up for his job interview (what this is essentially) in a t-shirt and shorts while players such as Hibbert and Courtney Lee arrived prepared to get down to business in a suit and tie. Jordan, in the words of one scout "could drop right out of the lottery" if he isn't careful, based off the way he's been working out. Hibbert on the other hand has gotten some strong reviews from teams who have seen him so far, as he appears to be in excellent shape and is reminding people why he was considered a lock for the lottery just a year ago, running the floor well (better than his peers), finishing with either hand around the basket, and shooting the ball better than expected from outside. Not surprisingly, the 21-year old Georgetown product has been extremely impressive off the court as well—which is an underrated element in this process.

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