2013 NBA Draft Combine Blog

NBA Draft Combine Blog

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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8:00 AM: Welcome to the 2013 NBA Draft Combine here in Western Chicago. I’ll be here at that Attack Athletics Facility throughout the day as we go through Day 2 of the workouts. This weekend, the players will go through a series of medical evaluations to help teams sort out additional information on the players, but today it’s all about the on-court workouts. I’ll walk you through what I’m seeing as we move along.

The draft workouts begin at 9 a.m. and run through about 2:30. There are supposed to be about 60 prospects here, and they are divided into groups of five. Bigs are working out with bigs, guards with guards. The early groups are the big men, and we’ll see the guards later (at least that’s how the groups were divided up on Day 1, but the groups are a little different today). I just arrived and found three big courts set up for different testing. The main court has bleachers as well as courtside folding chairs for both team executives and media. The warmup court is on my far left, the main court is in the center and the agility drills court is on the right. Lots of signage with the “BIG Starts Here” brand on it here, and it’s true. It’s exciting to think about what future All-Stars could be working out today trying to begin their careers.

It’s quiet here now, but we’ll start seeing people file in a little bit later. For now, I’m going to get set up in the media room and await the first group of players.

8:45 AM: The first group of players are warming up on the far left court with the Wolves’ own trainer David Crewe. Right now I’m seeing Colton Iverson out here as well as Roseville Area’s Mike Muscala, who played for Bucknell. Others who are in the first group are Steven Adams, Kenny Kadji, Jeff Withey, Kelly Olynyk, Dewayne Dedmon, Norvel Pelle and Rudy Gobert. Execs and coaches are all pretty much filed in. Flip Saunders is here, and he was just chatting on the court prior to things getting started. I also see a five other members of the Wolves’ organization, including Rob Babcock, R.J. and David Adelman, Matt Bollero and scout Zarko Durisic. To my immediate left is Danny Ainge, and down the row I see Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni chatting.

9:00 AM: Drills are under way here for the bigs, and we’ll have the guards filling in later on. It looks like today will be an alternating format of forwards/centers and guards. Essentially the workout begins with warm-ups and full-court dribbling, then breaks down into smaller groups of rebounding and tip drills. They then go into full-court transition drills with the aid of coaches facilitating the ball. Players get the rebound, create an outlet pass, run the floor, set a screen and put up a shot. Next up is small 2-on-1 drills, a little perimeter shooting and pick-and-pop routines. They then head over to their agility and leaping drills used for measuring ability, and they wrap up in the weight room before heading into to visit with the media. As we get done with this first group, I’ll be in the media room trying to compile interviews with players, and I’ll compile the best moments from today’s Combine as we keep rolling here in Chicago.

10:30 AM: As far as Group 1 goes, Cody Zeller, Alex Len and Colton Iverson were the two main draws.

Zeller had best moment of the first group. He was talking with media members and found out that he allegedly beat Indiana teammate Victor Oladipo by about 0.01 seconds in the sprint drill, which prompted a little celebration. “Yes, I knew I’d get him on one,” Zeller said. “We’ve been competitive on everything.” A few minutes later, Oladipo walked by during his own workout. “Oh no you didn’t…let me go again,” Oladipo responded. As for his own game, he’s been able to get some advice from his brothers, Luke and Tyler, who have NBA experience. He said his time at Indiana helped teach him about work ethic, bringing it every day. And he said the Kelly School of Business has helped him with interviews. He did say he hasn’t interviewed with Minnesota .

Audio: Alex Len

Len, the 7-foot-1 center out of Maryland, isn’t participating in the physical drills because he is recovering from ankle surgery. He’s been doing some of the light measurable tests, like wingspan and body fat. He said he’s met with about 12-13 teams, and the Timberwolves were one of them. Len brings size and seemingly a willingness to study the game and improve. He’s originally from the Ukraine, so he’s only been in the U.S. a couple years. He said he hardly knew English when he arrived here and learned it in a year—he was awfully fluent in it when we spoke on Friday. As far as learning the game, Len said he understands coaches are looking for front court guys who can play defense, rebound and run the floor right away. That’s what he’s hoping to do immediately in the league. From there, he’s hoping to continue to build on his offensive talents and expand his game.

As for Iverson, he talked a lot about how he’s grown as a player since leaving Minnesota for Colorado State. He spent his redshirt year pushing himself to get better in all facets of his game—he said a big reason why he wanted to transfer is he felt like he wasn’t getting better with the Gophers. “I wasn’t getting the opportunities I wanted. I felt like I wanted to find a place where I could really be a team leader and show what I can do,” Iverson said. It worked, as he put himself in position to not only get invited to this camp but also have workouts with teams pretty much booked between now and the Draft. “I moved to Vegas, and in the next six weeks I’ll probably be there about six days.”

Audio: Victor Oladipo

12:30 PM: The second round of interviews here were guards, and the focus of this group was put squarely on Victor Oladipo and Tim Hardaway Jr. The pair of Big Ten shooting guards made a buzz coming into this draft because of their strong play last season, and in listening to them you could tell they have the confidence and determination that could help them become nice pieces to NBA teams.

Oladipo’s interview was interesting. He referenced the 1991 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Lakers as the defining moment when he first fell in love with basketball (it must have been a replay, because he wasn’t born yet). He described Jordan’s famous drive to the hoop in which he switched hands and scored on a reverse layup nearly perfect, adding: “I thought I had to play this game. I’m going to go crazy.”

Now, he’s about a month away from fulfilling that lifelong dream.

It’s taken a lot of time in the gym to get there. Oladipo said athletes have 24-hour access to the gym in Indiana, and he was there so frequently that his swipe card wore out. He was known for the midnight workouts—heading to the gym in the middle of the night after watching NBA playoff games to work out even if he had to be up the next morning. “I’m just abnormal, to be honest with you,” Oladipo said. “I’m a weird dude, I’m not going to lie.”

Kidding aside, Oladipo did make big strides as a player this past season. He referenced working hard on gaining confidence in his shot, taking the better looks while not trying to force the issue. When the baskets started to go in, he gained more and more confidence. But his best asset is his defense. He’s a guy who works hard on the defensive end, and he feels like he can make an impact there with an NBA team.

Audio: Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Hardaway obviously has the NBA pedigree given the success of his father in the league. He said his dad’s advice as he begins this journey to the draft is simple: “I just talked to him—he said, ‘Are you having fun?’ I said yeah. He said, ‘That’s all that matters. That’s been his advice since Day 1.”

Hardaway spoke with a wisdom when he talked about the Combine. He understand she has one, maybe two chances to impress a coach or a GM and he needs to be ready to do that at every turn. And he’s getting his chances—Hardaway listed off a long group of team he’s talked to, including Minnesota. Coming from a school at which he shot a lot, Hardaway said the offensive game is where he can make his impression felt early on. But he also said rebounding is another aspect of his game he feels he can impact.

“I think that’s a nice asset, because a lot of pressure is on the point guard to grab it and push it,” Hardaway said. “If you grab a rebound and get out in transition, it can help give him an opportunity to score as well.”

He has the name recognition and a trip to the NCAA title game on his resume, but there seems to be no sense of entitlement—he’s just trying to make his way and get better.

“I’m not going to take the foot off the gas pedal at all,” he said. I’m going to keep working.”

One other guy from this group is Ricky Ledo. The Providence College shooting guard never played for the Friars due to academics. He practiced with the team but did not play during his one season. But Ledo was a top recruit coming out of high school, and despite having no in-game college experience he is a player who could find himself in the late first round or the second round.

“I just need to get a chance,” Ledo said. “I think my game will make up for the draft position.”

Ledo is 6-foot-6 and can bring scoring to a team. It will be interesting where he lands. He said Minnesota is one of the teams he’s spoken with during the Combine.

1:30 PM: I had an interesting conversation with Virginia Tech’s Erick Green about what types of questions he’s fielded from NBA teams. He said he’s been asked how many windows are in a hotel, and why were potholes invented? Two questions that clearly reflect his ability to spot up in his mid-range game, right? Speaking of shooting, Green said if he had to compare himself to a current NBA player, he’d compare his mid-range and leadership to Indiana’s George Hill and his 1-on-1 game to Devin Harris.

He said he hasn’t spoken with Minnesota but does have a workout scheduled with them down the road. Green became an elite collegiate scorer with the Hokies, and he’s hoping to showcase to NBA teams he can consistently hit the NBA 3 while also displaying his speed and athleticism during the Combine.

“I just feel like I’m getting better and better every day,” he said. “After this, I get back to training. Whatever news I get, I have to go back and work on it.”

He’s a little undersized for a shooting guard at 6-foot-3, but he’s certainly got a shooting touch.

Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope met with the Wolves on Thursday. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard said while he trusts his offense, it’s his defense that will be his biggest asset to a team.

“I really just focus mostly on my defense,” he said. “My offensive game is always going to be there. I know that. But really my defense, just keeping calm, being patient and just letting my game come to me. My legs, my quickness, I have really quick hands.”

Because of that, he said he feels like he can join a team and immediately make an impact on a team’s perimeter defense.

“I’m quick laterally, I’ve got quick speed, I have long arms and quick hands,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I can be a pretty effective guy on defense.”

Audio: C.J. McCollum

2:00 PM: Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum is one thought-provoking player. He carries himself extremely well in media interviews, and he showcased something employers so often like to see: He seemed awfully interested in asking just as many questions about teams as they had about him.

“One GM asked me if they’re interviewing me or if I’m interviewing them,” he said.

McCollum said it’s important to be a student of the game, and so he came into the NBA Combine with background knowledge on teams’ budgets, free agent lists and came in on a first-name basis with members of teams’ coaching staffs. It’s his maturity he’s trying to sell to franchises. He played four years at Lehigh, entering at a young age and finishing up his eligibility by the time he’s 21 years old.

And he said he’s ready to bring that maturity and knowledge of the game to the next level.

“I went through four years of college, and not just any college, Lehigh University,” he said. “I think that plays in my favor.”

McCollum said he didn’t meet with Minnesota during his time in Chicago, but he think there could be interest there and he is interested to see if a workout is scheduled down the road. In the meantime, he was able to showcase his skills on the court with hopes that his athletic ability will catch teams’ attention as much as his interviewing.

“I’m just trying to prove I’m healthy and I can compete with anybody,” McCollum said. “I think that will show in the workouts when teams invite me up. They’ll see what type of player they’re getting, not only on the court but how I’ll perform off the court as well in the community.”

Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas had a brief interview with the media, but one thing that stood out was his story about setting goals. He said his dad told him at a young age to write his goals down on paper, and one of those goals was to reach the NBA.

Now, he’s nearing that goal.

“This would be a blessing,” Thomas said. “It’s something I’ve just go to keep working on, keep God first and stay blessed.”

As far as improving his game, he said he needs to keep focusing on the defensive end.

“Keep active and keep on learning,” Thomas said. “Just keep on working hard. Everything’s been good. All that stuff is paying off.”

Audio: Shabazz Muhammad

2:30 PM: Last group of the day here in Chicago, and it’s a good one. UCLA shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter, Jr., were both in this group—two of the most intriguing 2-guards on the draft docket this year. Each said Minnesota spoke to them at the Combine.

Muhammad is an interesting prospect. He can most certainly score the ball, but with the Bruins he was sometimes mentioned as a selfish player. Muhammad tried to quash those notions at the Combine, fielding questions about his character head on with the media.

“People are saying a lot about me being selfish and things like that,” Muhammad said. “Getting into the league, I can’t wait to shut that down. I don’t think I’m a selfish player at all. I’m a guy who wants to play and wants to win. I enjoy my teammates and players.” Muhammad said that, like so many other UCLA guards before him, he’s excited to get onto the NBA court and see what he can do in space and outside of the Bruins’ system. He said his best asset is how he can score in a variety of ways, taking guys inside or working on the outside.

Audio: Otto Porter, Jr.

Porter is soft-spoken, but he’s incredibly talented and on many mock draft boards he’s listed in the top three picks. He said he think she can impact a team right away with his rebound and bring the ball up court, helping his team make something happen. He also said teams ask him about his strength and his quickness to guard certain positions.

“Anything the coach has in store for me, I think I can carry over,” Porter said.

3:00 PM: That’s it from Chicago. Media availability for the weekend is over, and the players will have a couple more days of medical and off-the-court testing they will take part in before continuing on their respective paths to June 27. They’ve got individual workouts with teams going on from now until the Draft, keeping most of them busy for another month before they find a new home in the league. I think Colton Iverson said it best, that this is the best time in these guys’ lives and there’s nothing hard about going out there and playing the game you love. It’s all about showcasing that love for the game and trying to translate that into a career. This week was a big first step.

Be sure to follow along with Timberwolves.com as we cover the Wolves’ individual player workouts as well as the annual league-wide workouts held at Target Center for projected late-first rounders and second rounders. We’ll also be profiling potential draft picks throughout June—putting a little extra emphasis on these guys as we get closer to the Draft.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.