New Jersey Workout
Though the media was locked out of the actual workout, word around the gym was that Corey Joseph, DeAndre Liggins, Jamine Peterson, Hollis Thompson and Diante Garrett looked the sharpest. I spoke with a few of the players to get a sense of how the workout went, and what they've been doing to improve their chances of being selected at the 2011 NBA draft.
DeAndre Liggins , 6'5, G, Kentucky
Whispers of Liggins strong play was circulating around the Nets practice facility. I always liked Liggins' game, but it was his mentality that impressed me after his workout. His mindset towards maximizing his effectiveness at the next level was right on point. " I showed them my jump shot, and my ability to guard multiple positions." If Liggins can present himself as a lockdown defender with threatening three-point range, he can absolutely find a way to contribute consistent minutes in a rotation.
When asked about what skills he most effectively showcased during workouts, he said, "It's my jump-shot and a little bit of playmaking ability". Remember, Liggins was brought into Kentucky as a point guard. His offensive versatility should be attractive to teams lacking depth in the backcourt.
"The system, the way we ran in college, was suited for the NBA. I'm hip to it, I know it's a spread offense... but I'm ready." Liggins is expected to keep his name in the draft, and should be considered a second rounder sleeper who lacks both risk and substantial upside.
Cory Joseph , G 6'3, Texas
Texas guard Cory Joseph was in attendance for Saturday's workout, being held up after practice for what looked to be an interview with scouts and coaches. He's extremely personable and upbeat, a likely reason for his high off-the-court praise. Joseph was a little bit of a surprise to test the waters, but with Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson on the way out, and standout recruit Myck Kabongo on the way in, experimenting in a shallow point-guard draft might not be a bad idea.
"I just have to play my game, get up and down, guard someone, just try and knock down shots and win the game. Even if it's in these workouts, I'm a winner, whatever I have to do to help my team win", Joseph said.
I asked Cory about the importance of convincing scouts he is capable of playing the 1. "Yeah, I try and and show I can run the point, because I played a lot of 2 this year at Texas... but I think everybody here knows I can play the point. I watch a lot of Deron Williams- We ran Utah's offense this year so definitely Deron Williams, and Chris Paul are the guys who I model my game after."
I also spoke with Joseph about the adjustments he must make moving from level to level. "The speed of the game. It just picks up. In terms of making moves, getting my shot off quicker, all the little stuff is just very quick.".
Joseph can shoot and looks comfortable handling the rock, but becoming a true playmaker will be his challenge moving forward. A likely second rounder with a ceiling that doesn't quite reach the top floor, his expectations seem to be realistic and limited. "I would like to get drafted by anyone that takes me".
Jamine Peterson , 6'6 F, D-League
Peterson has had an unorthodox journey to the NBA Draft. After being dismissed from Providence despite averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds two years ago, Peterson spent time in Greece before landing on the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBDL. Listed at 6'6, Peterson is more of a combo forward who thrives in a fast pace offense. "It was a great experience", Peterson said in regards to his short time abroad. "Playing overseas, they have a slow pace, not uptempo like the style I like to play."
Peterson said the right things in terms of what he needs to do to contribute at the next level- " I'm working on my overall game, but lateral movment, balance, rebounding, screening, being a good teammate... whatever the coach needs me to do". Peterson is one of the rare examples of an American kid playing in Europe before entering the draft. Peterson said he would recommend playing abroad if a lockout takes place. "It would show everyone that it's not just the U.S. that's good at basketball".
The buzz around the gym was that Peterson threw down some big time dunks during scrimmages Saturday morning. Considering his physical tools and experience in both Greece and the D-league, it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone take a chance on the ex-Providence standout. He has already stated that he hired an agent and will be staying in the draft.
Terrence Jennings , 6'9, F, Louisville
Jennings possesses the physical attributes needed for NBA play, however is skill level is really lacking on the offensive end. "I been working on it, constantly everyday, but right now I'll do whatever they need me to do."
Knowing the Knicks are in search for a big man, Jennings was asked about his thoughts of possibly playing in New York. "I definitely feel like I can be that guy who gives Amare a breather. Come out there and bring a lot of energy... the second unit, just come out and play defense. I can play the 1 through 5 on defense."
Jennings is more of a long-term project, and if drafted will be taken primarily on future potential.
Ashton Gibbs , 6'2, G, Pittsburgh
"I been waiting a long time for this. I've been working hard, I got my chance and I think I took advantage of it."
At 6'3, Gibbs lacks both the size and strength for an NBA 2-guard. He split time with Brad Wanamaker playing the point at Pitt, but was rarely able to show off any playmaking ability in coach Dixon's system. "I didn't really shoot as much today, because I want to be a point guard. I wanted to pass a little more, and defer to my teammates".
His best NBA attribute is his shooting stroke, where he knocked down 49% of his three point attempts in his junior year. Unfortunately, he lacks quickness and elusiveness off the dribble, which limits his abilities as a point guard.
In regards to the possibility of returning to college, Gibbs said, "It wouldn't be bad at all. I have great teammates, there's a great tradition at Pittsburgh, so it wouldn't be bad if I ended up back at school".
I asked Gibbs what type of feedback he's received from the scouts and coaches during this process. "It's mostly positive feedback. I'm the type of guy who takes criticism well".
Gibbs looked comfortable, mature and poised with the media- the same look he has on the court. He said his decision will probably hinge on whether he's told he would be selected in the first round, which is probably why just a few hours after the workout, Gibbs announced he will be returning for his senior year.