Franklin Following Familiar Footsteps to NBA

Wheat Hotchkiss

June 22, 2013 | Updated 7:50 PM EDT

If the Pacers wind up drafting Jamaal Franklin on Thursday, it would be the second time in the three years the organization has taken an athletic wing out of San Diego State with their first selection.

Maybe this time they’ll keep the pick.

Two years ago, the Pacers drafted Kawhi Leonard with the 15th overall pick in the NBA Draft. But a short while later, they flipped Leonard to San Antonio in one of the great “win-win” trades in recent history. This year, Hill and the Pacers pushed the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Leonard and the Spurs did the same in the NBA Finals.

It almost seems like the easy way out to compare Franklin to Leonard, but the similarities between the two run much deeper than spending a couple years on the same college campus.

The 6-foot-5 Franklin put up exceptional numbers across the board this past season, his junior year at San Diego State. Franklin averaged 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 steals, leading the Aztecs in each of those categories. No other Division I player led his school in all four stats.

Two years earlier, Franklin was the freshman understudy to the 6-foot-7 Leonard, who averaged 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 steals as sophomore – leading the team in every category but assists, where he was second.

Franklin and Leonard talk regularly, their most recent conversation coming after Game 6 of the Finals. Following Saturday’s pre-draft workout with the Pacers, Franklin said they both pride themselves on being able to contribute across the board. For instance, take their approach on rebounding from the perimeter.

“Me and Kawhi always had a saying: ‘The board man gets paid,’” Franklin said. “So that’s one thing we always worked on having in college.”

Not only does Franklin possess similar strengths as Leonard, he is also facing the same questions that surrounded his former teammate prior to the draft two years ago. The biggest holes in Franklin’s game are his struggles shooting from the outside and his propensity for turnovers. Franklin shot just 28 percent from 3-point range and averaged 3.4 turnovers as junior.

Leonard shot just 29.1 percent from long range and turned the ball over more than twice a game his last year in college. But in San Antonio, Leonard has turned into a weapon from the outside – shooting the three ball at a 37.5 percent clip in his first two years – while averaging less than one turnover per game.

Whether Franklin can make the same adjustments at the next level remains to be seen, but he’s got the blueprint from Leonard. But Franklin’s model for improvement isn’t limited solely to his former teammate. He said Saturday he tries to emulate the best parts of a variety of players’ games, in an effort to become more complete.

“I can score real good in transition – I think Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are some of the best people in transition,” Franklin said. “I have a knack to get fouled like James Harden. I play defensively like Kawhi and Tony Allen. So I try to make my game after a lot of people.”

In addition to showing that he’s an improved shooter, Franklin said he recognizes that he needs to step his intensity up to prepare for the next level. All his accolades – he was the 2012 Mountain West Player of the Year and a two-time AP All-American honorable mention – mean nothing in the NBA.

“I made a name for myself in high school, I made a name for myself in college,” Franklin said. “But now I’m going to the stage where it’s grown men, and they don’t care who you are and where you came from. So it’s time for me to step the grind up a little more.”

Unfortunately for him, Franklin’s been dealing with a sprained left ankle for the last month that’s hindered his ability to make a full impression on the court in workouts. He was a limited participant Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, though that didn’t seem to have any impact on his mood or manners – he made a point of shaking hands with reporters after his post-workout interview.

Franklin’s injury has cast uncertainty on his draft stock. Mock drafts have him projected anywhere from late in the lottery to the end of the first round. The Pacers hold the 23rd overall pick, right in the middle of that range.

Though he’s been limited, Franklin said he’s attended workouts with nine teams. His audition for the Pacers stood out to him for one big reason – the man running it, Pacers coach Frank Vogel. While other head coaches have been in the gym for some of his workouts, Franklin said they’d never taken such an active role.

“I think it’s real interesting that the head coach did the workout,” he said. “I liked that a lot.”

Come Thursday night, there’s no telling who the Pacers will pick. Franklin might already be off the board by the time they make their selection. But given what happened with Leonard two years ago, if the Pacers were to call his name, it'd make for a nice bookend.

Experienced Dellavedova Tries to Prove Himself

One area the Pacers hope to address in the offseason is backup point guard. D.J. Augustin and Ben Hansbrough are unrestricted free agents and it’s uncertain if either player will be back next year.

There was only one point guard at Saturday’s workout, Saint Mary’s guard Matt Dellavedova. The 6-foot-4 Dellavedova was a four-year standout who ended his career as the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer while also topping the school’s career charts in assists, 3-point field goals and free throw percentage.

Though he’s not an exceptional athlete, Dellavedova possesses a high basketball IQ and strong experience. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.4 assists as a senior while shooting over 38 percent from 3-point range. He started 133 games in his four years at Saint Mary’s and helped the Gaels make the tournament every year.

Dellavedova also got unusual experience for a player of his age last summer, when he played for the Australian National Team at the London Olympics. He started six games and averaged 7.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in London while going up against some of the NBA’s top point guards in Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and Jose Calderon.

Dellavedova said the experience – where he played alongside fellow Saint Mary’s alum and current San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills – helped prepare him for the rigor of NBA tryouts.

“I don’t know if you can get served better competition than that,” Dellavedova said. “…Playing international basketball, all the players are smart. Each team has a few NBA guys and their manner is physical, so you’ve just got to take care of the ball.”

Dellavedova wants to prove that he’s got the lateral quickness to defend at the next level. He said he knows the Pacers have a need for a backup point guard, and hoped he made a good impression on the organization. He was the last player Vogel shook hands with before leaving the practice gym on Saturday.

“My agent (Bill Duffy) mentioned that this would be one of the good spots to sort of land in,” Dellavedova said. “Yeah, I felt like I had a pretty good workout, so we’ll see what happens.”

Marshall Trying to Make Rare Jump from MAC to NBA

Physically, Akron center Zeke Marshall is a carbon copy of Kansas’ Jeff Withey. Both players measure out at 7 feet tall and 235 pounds. Both have a reputation as defensive-minded centers and skilled shot blockers.

While Withey projects as a likely late first round pick, Marshall will either go in the second round or undrafted. Still, he says the competition between him and Withey has been close to even. Saturday was the second time they’ve gone up against each other in pre-draft workouts and, at least in Marshall’s mind, their battles have come out as a draw.

“It was a challenge and I enjoy challenges, so me and him both went at it,” Marshall said about going against the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year. “We did in Dallas. I feel like I had the upper hand in Dallas a little bit and he had the upper hand here, so it’s great competition.”

As a senior with the Zips, Marshall swatted 122 shots, an average of 3.7 blocks per game. He also contributed 13 points and seven rebounds a night. He boasts a 7-foot-5 wingspan, but his slight frame could hinder his impact at the professional level.

Marshall takes pride in representing the Mid-American Conference (MAC), where he was the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2011 Tournament MVP. Marshall also led the league in blocked shots all four years, the first time any player has accomplished that feat in conference history.

“The last (MAC player to play in the NBA) was really Chris Kaman who really did something and we had Wally Szczerbiak,” Marshall said Saturday. “Other than that, there’s not a lot of players coming out. So, I feel really honored to represent the MAC and try to do my best and get drafted and do well and have a successful career in the NBA.”

Though the odds are stacked against him, Marshall said he’s not going to give up easily on his dream of making an NBA roster. If he does end up on a team, he thinks the Pacers would be a great fit.

“For the team to be as young as they are and be as sound and as good as they are, I feel like they develop their team very well,” Marshall said. “I would love to be a simple part of that because I’m always willing to learn at a high level.”