Less than 24 hours before the main event, NBA Draft hopefuls gathered near Times Square for Draft Media Day. Fore just one last round of questioning from reporters, a night of (nerves filled) sleep, and little else separated these young men from beginning their lives as professional athletes. As recently as last week, there appeared to be some kind of order in this draft — a relief considering last year’s debacle. However, when news broke that a certain Cameroonian Jayhawk and former consensus #1 overall pick became hobbled with a stress fracture in his foot, all bets were off. With the Cleveland Cavaliers still reportedly requesting a workout with Dante Exum on the morning of the draft, it appears we have yet another crazy night on our hands. Here are some notes from the NBA Draft Media Day.
Stylistically, there was a wide range of wardrobe variation — some dressed in 3-piece suits and bow ties, and others in an untucked shirt and khakis. So while Doug McDermott looked like he was ready to spend a day at the office in his cubicle on Casual Friday, Aaron Gordon could have easily gone wedding crashing after the event and been the sharpest dressed man in the place. Rest assured, this was the warm up, and each prospect will be bringing his A game to tomorrow’s main event.
Don’t pigeonhole me!
Noteworthy was that Dante Exum insisted he was a point guard. Even more noteworthy was that Noah Vonleh insisted he’s a three. And both seemed to be damn sure of it. One line on Exum is that we haven’t seen enough of him to know whether he can play point guard in the NBA, at least in the short term. The other line on the Australian is that he is simply not a PG. However, in this scout’s opinion, Exum is right. He can and will likely develop into a very good point guard in the league. As for Vonleh making a living facing up instead of backing down defenders on the block, that is less believable. The Hoosier with a legendary wingspan/hand size combination proved to be an elite rebounder and effective scorer close to the hoop in college, and he also has the ability to stretch the floor with shooting range. As to maneuvering his 6’10" 250 lb. frame on the perimeter, it remains to be seen if this really plays to his strengths. It’s unlikely that any team that drafts him will go along with this fantasy, and he will be bulking up (further) for battle in the paint in no time.
Give Nik Stauskas credit — he is talented and very self confident, but not above answering questions about a player other than himself in a session that is supposed to be entirely about himself. Stauskas not only fielded, but also excitedly answered a barrage of questions about none other than fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins. And was beaming with Canadian pride the whole way through. He spoke a bit about how he was not good enough to make certain national teams that Wiggins did make, and he gave off a vibe that he knows he is not as naturally gifted as some of the other guys being interviewed to his side. But Stauskas also made it clear that he is willing to work his butt off to succeed in this game he loves.
Who reminds you of you?
Always interesting is finding out who the future draftees believe their games resemble. Of course there are always a few that say they are unique and have no comparison (Noah Vonleh). But others give answers that may be right in line with what the media has been saying all along. Elfrid Payton mentioned numerous times that he both models his game after and feels his style of play resembles Rajon Rondo. At 6’3" with a 6’8" wingspan, trademark toughness and a huge chip on his shoulder, it is not hard to see why. One comparison that stood out is Rodney Hood comparing himself to Joe Johnson. While qualifying the comparison by saying he needs to gain a bit of strength before truly making this a reality, it is also interesting given that few scouts look at Hood as a playmaker a la J.J. It could be a sign of what Rodney will be focusing on as far as developing and expanding his game at the pro level.
Fraternity of Elder Statesmen
The respect with which Doug McDermott and TJ Warren showed each other in their interviews was special. Each referenced the other in interviews in the context of who some of the top players in the draft are. The two had competed head to head in pre-draft workouts. And apparently they had a heck of a time doing so. Both are known for having explosive scoring abilities but less than stellar defense. The goals of their workouts were to prove they could do just that. "They all know I can score. They wanted me to show them how I can defend, and I think I showed them that I can," McDermott said.
Dante Exum spoke briefly about John Calipari recruiting him to join the Kentucky Wildcats for the second semester of the 2014 season, but stopped short of saying that they would have won the NCAA title had he joined. "You never know what will happen." Fun to think about…
Whether or not Jabari Parker really did "tank" his workout with Cleveland, he is saying on record, "I think I will go #2 to the Bucks." Also, Jabari claims that he has "too much pride to waste people’s time and tank a workout." Milwaukee is not far from Parker’s hometown Chicago, and there is also speculation that he is not fond of the idea of joining a reportedly dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers team.
They Said it…
"Everyone knows I can dunk. They want to see if I can do the little finesse things…" – Aaron Gordon
"Yes, I did know [that one-and-done was a possibility for me going into college]." – Aaron Gordon
"I remember playing AAU with Andrew [Wiggins] at age 13. The first time I saw him he did a 360 behind the back dunk or something. I was just like, ‘Well this kid’s going to the NBA!’" – Nik Stauskas
"I don’t think a lot of people thought I could dunk the ball. It’s something I had to show them to kind of… get that perception out of their mind." – Doug McDermott
"Elfrid Payton." – Definitive response from TJ Warren when asked who from this draft class he would like to play with at the next level.
"Don’t judge me but, a lot of Beyonce." Rodney Hood, on what’s on his pre-game playlist
The NBA Draft is Thursday night, 6/26, at the Barclays Center at 7:00.
Follow Drew on Twitter at @914BigD123