Posted May 15, 2014 2:45 PM
CHICAGO -- One-time and perhaps future lottery candidate Zach LaVine wanted to make it clear that he came to the pre-draft combine to meet with teams, to take the physical and go through skills testing, and even participate in basketball drills when others in the same range in the first round may duck the scrutiny to protect their stock.
"I'm doing everything," LaVine said. "Show all my skills."
He wants Thursday and Friday in the gym in front of executives and scouts and some head coaches from every team, wants as many opportunities as possible with the ball in his hand while others prefer a way out, wants the two days to start to change the conversation at the NBA Draft.
LaVine is trying to prove he is a point guard after all. Only a spot in the lottery hangs in the balance.
A 6-foot-5 playmaker with elite athleticism, a one-and-done from UCLA, should fall somewhere in the middle of the first round, maybe in the 10-14 range. A 6-foot-5 shooting guard with that athleticism, though, even with 3-point range is just another dynamic wing. Without the size advantage and physical benefits that would set him apart at the point, LaVine probably gets into the lower-third of the first round on June 26.
Doing everything means putting his confidence on display too, so LaVine arrived determined to use the combine here and the individual workouts in the ensuing six weeks to prove to front offices that point guard is his best fit. He will play wherever they want to get to the NBA. But he's out to prove he belongs at point guard.
It's a particularly interesting sales job coming off a season in which LaVine had a fast early climb up draft boards as the next Russell Westbrook -- same school, same physical gifts, same attacking the rim -- and then stalled in the second half as more and more teams saw him as a wing. Kyle Anderson, likewise headed to the first round, had the ball more as a point forward, and when Anderson didn't, Bryce Alford, the coach's son, did.
"I definitely see myself as a point guard," LaVine said. "I played there my whole career. It's just this one scenario where coach had different plans for the team, so I played the shooting-guard position. I feel like that definitely helped my game out as well. I feel like it helped me move without the ball, learn how to come off screens better, read defenses well. It definitely helped me as well."
Except that it may have also hurt his draft stock.
"I don't feel like it did," LaVine said. "I still got to be out there and play with my guys playing basketball. As long as I'm the court, I'm good."
The Westbrook analogy carries all the way to the Draft, the way Oklahoma City took him at No. 4 despite coming out of UCLA with very limited experience at the point. LaVine knows the storyline well. All he has to do now is convince a general manager to have the same vision. A spot closer to the top of the 2014 Draft depends on it.
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