Prospects Trying To Play Their Way Into The First Round Participate In Portland's Second Workout
The Portland Trail Blazers, owners of the 25th overall pick. held their second predraft workout in preparation for the 2019 NBA Draft Monday morning at their practice facility in Tualatin. While none of the six players — Ky Bowman of Boston College, Jalen Lecque of Brewster Academy, Shelton Mitchell of Clemson, James Palmer of Nebraska, Stephen Thompson of Oregon State and Dylan Winder of Belmont — in attendance at Monday’s workout are currently projected to go in the first round, the 2019 Draft might end up going down as one of the most unpredictable in recent memory after the few marquee names in this class are off the board.
Which could work to the advantage of a number of players who came through Portland Monday morning. With no real consensus outside of the Top 10 (and even that’s is probably an overstatement), the opportunity for a fringe first-rounder to improve his stock at workouts is probably as great as it’s been in the last five years. So players at Monday’s workouts were surely trying to show off their best attributes in hopes of securing the guaranteed money and years that come with being a first-round pick.
For Jalen Lecque, a 6-4 guard who played last season at Brewster Academy, the predraft process is a chance for the 18 year-old to get in front of NBA executives after forgoing the traditional route through college basketball. Lecque competed at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine — he recorded the highest vertical leap at the event at 43 inches — and have plans to participate in a number of workouts in the lead up to the Draft on June 20.
“I always feel like I have to show even more,” said Lecque after his workout with the Trail Blazers. “Even being the youngest, still being 18, it’s a great accomplishment playing with guys that are 22, 23, even 20. Just playing against these guys, learning the physicality, learning different things. It’s a great opportunity.”
Originally committed to play at North Carolina State next season, Lecque, who turns 19 on June 13, opted to declare for the 2019 Draft, where most projections have him being selected early in the second round. As one of the youngest players in the Draft, showing he’s coachable and mature could help bump his stock enough to get into the late first round.
“Just energy, anything they need me to do, anything and everything,” said Lecque. “I’m encouraging, can score the basketball, I pass the ball pretty well, so I’m just trying to have an overall game so a coach can put me in any position.”
While NBA front offices might be getting one of their first extended looks at Lecque during workouts, the opposite of likely true for Dylan Windler, who declared for the 2019 Draft after playing four seasons for the Belmont Bruins. In the past, playing for a mid-major might have been limiting for a player like Windler, though in today’s NBA, that’s no longer the case.
“The NBA, they have good enough scouts, they’re going to see the best players regardless of where you’re at,” said Windler after his workout with the Trail Blazers. “The best advice I could give to younger players is just go to a school that’s the best fit for yourself. A lot of people get caught up in getting the biggest offers, people are talking in their ear ‘you should go here, you should go there.’ Scouts are going to find you regardless of where you’re at, so just find that best fit for yourself and ultimately they’re going to find you.”
What likely has NBA scouts paying attention to Windler is his ability to shoot from deep. The 6-8, 200 wing shot 41 percent from three during his career at Belmont, capped by shooting 43 percent from deep during his senior season. With how desperate teams are for shooting, having that one NBA skill might be enough to get Windler into the first round.
“Just a winning mentality, doing whatever I can to help the team win,” said Windler when asked what he thinks he brings to an NBA team. “For me, first and foremost, I’m a shooter, that’s my strength, so obviously that, but just anything. Getting offensive rebounds, hustle plays, getting steals, extra possessions for the team, just anything I can do to help the team win.”
Having shot better than 50 percent from the field all four years at Belmont and shooting at least 43 percent from three during his last two seasons in Nashville, NBA teams are likely familiar with his ability to score. The real question is whether Windler, who will likely have to play small forward at the next level, can defend well enough to get on and stay on the court in the NBA.
“For me, I’m just trying to prove that I can defend,” said Windler. “Teams want to put me against either bigger, stronger guys or smaller, quicker guys to see how versatile of a defender I can be. Just trying to prove that every time I go out and just play hard.”
With Monday’s workouts completed, the Trail Blazers will likely hold two more workouts later this week before making their selection on June 20.