This news is not entirely recent, but last week the Utah Jazz held their third pre-draft workout. The Jazz had worked out six seniors on the 7th, and then another six seniors on the 8th. On the 20th they worked out six more. Yes, Senior NCAA players aren't as sexy as the one-and-done types, but they bring a certain maturity and experience to the game in lieu of outstanding, star-making talent. And that's the Jazzy kind of player to bring in for a work out.
If you had been following along from the beginning you'd know that the Jazz bring in players who have a low chance of getting drafted for their early workouts. They do so in part to develop a good relationship with the agents (who may also represent players the team is actually interested in); but more so to catch that diamond in the rough. It's not unheard of for the Jazz to call back an early workout wonder for a second look at a later date, or even for one of these guys to make it to the Jazz summer league team or even get a training camp invite. These aren't the big name players, but they are low risks for the Jazz to evaluate right now.
The big difference between the first two work outs and this most recent one was that *drumroll.wav* in this last workout one of the players was actually highly regarded enough to be invited to the NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago!
That player was none other than Canadian forward Melvin Ejim. There were other 'headliners' in this group, including March Madness shooting star Scottie Wilbekin, and NCAA Champion UCONN Huskie German import Niels Griffey. There where three other players as well, and they deserve long writes ups. It's an honor to get to where they are in their careers. So hats off to Jerrelle Benimon, Jake Odum, and Sam Dover Jr.
Ejim's combine results were average. As a wing his 6'11.25" wingspan is nice, but wingspan alone does not make one a complete player (Ronnie Brewer has a 6'11 wingspan, MarShon Brooks has a 7'1 wingspan and we all know how his career went...) He was one of the fastest kids out there (north to south), but amongst the other small forwards one of the last in lane agility (east to west). He was middle of the pack everywhere else. Furthermore, he didn't distinguish himself in any one area. One of the things I do at the combine is make a sheet (like an assistant coach) to mark down good plays / effort. Compared to some of the other guys working out there on the floor he didn't impress. (He didn't screw up either, so that's good. He didn't C.J. McCollum it out there.) (Last year they had to stop a drill to teach it to him again and let him catch his breath.)
STILL, it's NICE that the Jazz finally brought in a guy who has a better than average chance to get drafted. The only other cat who could make it (according to the consensus rankings) is Justin Cobbs, the point guard out of California (Jazz workout #2).
What about Scottie and Niels? Well, those guys came into their own in their senior year as three point shooters. Niels shot 48.3% from downtown last season (3.0 attempts per game), and Scottie shot 39.0% (5.1 attempts per game). They are vastly different players (one a 6'7 wing, the other a 6'2 point guard), but their main offensive 'deal' is being able to hit the three, primarily from spot up position. But we've seen this type of player before. We've drafted this type of player before (Scott Padgett). Scott was a knock down three point shooter on a number of good Kentucky teams back in the 90s. He finished his senior year hitting 38.1% of his threes, and at the NBA level shot an acceptable 37.3%, but took only 1.4 threes a game. One dimensional players in college rarely succeed at the NBA level.
Anyway, these players are projected to go at picks #50-60 if at all. The Utah Jazz do not have a pick in that range (last one is #35). So either this is to evaluate bubble guys who may go undrafted or to just see if they are worth moving back into the draft at a later spot to pick up. Ejim, the "best" player worked out in Workout #3 is on 8 of 20 draft boards used for the consensus ranking, and goes as high as #41 on one mock, and is ranked as low as #87 on another.
There is no word yet on who and when Workout #4 will happen. So let's review all the data from the three workouts so far:
Not everyone is measured, so this information is really useless right now with all the orphans. But it seems like there have been the bare minimum of PGs worked out (2 each group), and by adding it all up the majority of the players are wings (2s and 3s). There have been a number of bigs in, and if you take a close look, it hasn't just been stretch bigs being brought in.
NCAA Career Averages:
Senior year stats are either misleading or more accurate of who a player is right now; but I still use career stats. The main reason here is that ALL of these 18 guys are Seniors. There's no point in cherry picking which of their numbers to use because as guys who played four years of ball it's important to see their sum total production. Two big things pop out. The first is that Niels really didn't do much at the NCAA level. He shot well from downtown, but he didn't help his team out on the court in ways the boxscore identifies. The 6'9 center from Gonzaga averaged a higher APG value for his career than Niels did. The other thing that popped out to me is how hilarious Travis Bader is. I'm not going to clown on a guy who went to the school that I may or may not have consulted for on some student athletes, but what's not shown is that he takes the most shots per game out of all 18 guys, and that 9.09 of his 12.60 shots per game (average) over his four year career in the NCAA are threes. Really. All this guy does is shoot threes.
NCAA Career Advanced Stats and Percentages:
So all but two of the bigs make threes. Tipping our hand there for Noah Vonleh? Also STEVE HOLT! with the second most Win Shares over his NCAA career. STEVE HOLT! Also the Niels Giffey / Travis Bader thing just gets nuts when you look at Go Rating. All Bader does is attack, giving him such a ridiculous value. Giffey has the Go Rating of Greg Ostertag level offensive players. In college. Yikes.
I don't know if there's a clear winning out of all of these players. Justin Cobbs is the highest ranked by consensus ranking. Ejim was invited to the combine. Taylor Braun and Jake Odum have nice advanced stats. And Travis Bader took 9 three pointers a game over four years of college basketball and made 40% of them.
A senior is supposed to be the most 'game ready' to help a team in his rookie year. Is there one of those guys here? For the sake of the Jazz scouting department, I hope so.