Wednesday Pre-Draft Workout Features Athletic Wings
It’s no secret that the deepest position in this year’s NBA Draft – especially in the first round – is the small forward/wing spot. Players in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-8 range that are long, rangy, can score the basketball and are versatile defenders.
On Wednesday, the Nuggets brought in a strong group from just that range, which included Oregon’s Troy Brown Jr., Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie… and an intriguing wild card in Duke’s Gary Trent Jr.
Rounding out the group was Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell and Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford.
No player had a more detailed view of what he wants to accomplish defensive end of the court than Brown, who, as a freshman, collected 55 steals at Oregon, which ranked ninth all-time in a single season at the school.
“Defensively, for me, is just making sure everyone is in order,” Brown said. “Just make sure everybody knows that you have backside help and stuff like that. Making guys know that they are in the right positions, or helping guys out, moving them into different spots. For me, personally, in one-on-one matchups I like to make guys take tough shots; that’s just my thing. Just try to stop the first play and make them do a couple of moves into a bad shot.”
Asked what sets himself apart from other wing prospects, Brown focused on his versatility.
“I feel that in this draft I’m one of the few players that do everything on the court,” Brown said. “That can come in and make an immediate impact, no matter what the coach needs on the floor – whether it’s defense, offense, passing, playmaking, stuff like that. There are a lot of different options I feel I can bring to the court.”
Smith, meanwhile, is arguably the most athletic player in the draft. His journey from arriving in Lubbock, Texas, as a moderately recruited player out of Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland, Texas, to being a bonafide first-round talent in a calendar year has been a whirlwind.
“In the middle of the season, I felt (I could be a one-and-done),” Smith said. “Just how I was playing. I was just praying and talking to my family about it.”
Smith led Texas Tech in total rebounds (185), blocks (42) and steals (42). With that toughness, and a vertical leap of 41.5 inches – tied for second-best at the NBA Combine – he profiles as a player that plays taller than his height of 6-2¾ without shoes, and 6-4 with shoes.
Gary Trent Jr. is fighting to rise in the rankings. At Duke, Trent was used mainly as a spot-up shooter, but is eager to prove that he is much more than that.
“Going to a school like Duke, everyone knows they are going to sacrifice parts of their game,” Trent Jr. said. “Just simply by the talent you’re going to play with; the system that coach (Mike Kryzyzewski) has. But we all believed in it. We all trusted in him.”
So, what more can Trent Jr. show?
“I can score from all three levels – the post, the midrange, the three,” he said. “A little bit of playmaking. I didn’t get to do much of that at Duke, but it’s whatever. I played with the cards I was dealt and had a great experience. It was fun and I loved everything about it.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.