New Hornets boosted team’s evaluations at workouts

Saturday, June 27, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Throughout the past several offseasons, members of the New Orleans basketball operations staff have repeatedly stressed that pre-draft workouts are only a small piece of how they assess prospects. Individual performances are factored into evaluations, but three-hour workouts do not outweigh the larger body of work a player has compiled during his college career.

In fact, in 2007, the Hornets used the 13th overall pick of the NBA Draft to select forward Julian Wright – even though Wright had not worked out for New Orleans. That year, Wright was projected by many analysts to be picked earlier than No. 13 in the lottery, so he was advised by his agent to decline an invitation to a Hornets workout.

Darren Collison (6-foot, 160 pounds) and Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205) differ from Wright in that both players accepted the invitation to work out. The guards actually attended the same workout this month, on June 8. They weren’t matched up against each other much due to their height and size differential; Collison instead competed with fellow point-guard prospects Eric Maynor (picked No. 20 by Utah), Jack McClinton (No. 51 by San Antonio) and Jeremy Pargo (undrafted).

While Collison and Thornton impressed the Hornets with their exploits in NCAA hoops – Collison appeared in the Final Four three times at UCLA, Thornton was the SEC’s leading scorer and Player of the Year in 2008-09 – they also seem to have boosted their stock during the June 8 workout.

“We loved (Collison) when we had him in to work him out,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “We thought he did a heck of a job. Watching him in 3-on-3’s (during the workout) and watching him at UCLA, he has leadership qualities that we like.”

Meanwhile, the Hornets’ decision-makers were already impressed by Thornton’s physicality during his college games, especially for a backcourt player, prior to the workout. The Baton Rouge native cemented that assessment on June 8.

“Seeing how physical he was when he worked out for us, it was something that kind of sold us on him,” Scott said of the 43rd overall pick. “He was the most physical 2 guard we had in (during workouts). He was more physical than some of the 3s and 4s that we had in. I saw him in our workout get his shot off against guys who were three or four inches taller than him. I saw a guy on the defensive end who really got into people and wasn’t scared to get beat (off the dribble).

"That told me he was a very competitive guy and had some toughness. Those things kind of outweighed his (perceived lack of) athleticism and not being the prototype 6-7 shooting guard who can (score above) the rim.”