Draft Workouts: John Collins

June 17, 2017 - Wake Forest forward John Collins spoke to Pacers.com following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers on Saturday.

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Draft Workouts: John Collins

June 17, 2017 - Wake Forest forward John Collins spoke to Pacers.com following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers on Saturday.
Jun 17, 2017  |  01:50

Draft Workouts: Harry Giles

June 17, 2017 - Duke big man Harry Giles speaks to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jun 17, 2017  |  02:49

Draft Workouts: James Blackmon, Jr.

June 17, 2017 - Indiana guard James Blackmon, Jr. spoke with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jun 17, 2017  |  01:40

Draft Workouts: Nate Britt

June 17, 2017 - UNC guard Nate Britt spoke to Pacers.com following his workout with the Pacers on Saturday.
Jun 17, 2017  |  02:42

Draft Workouts: Jamel Artis

June 17, 2017 - Pittsburgh forward Jamel Artis spoke with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jun 17, 2017  |  02:06

Draft Workouts: Billy Garrett

June 17, 2017 - DePaul guard Billy Garrett spoke to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout on Saturday.
Jun 17, 2017  |  01:49

Different Paths Lead Collins, Giles to Same Spot

The Two Talented ACC Big Men the Latest First-Round Talents to Work Out for Pacers
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor

Draft week is officially here.

The 2017 NBA Draft is this Thursday night, June 22, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. In just a few days, we will know which players in this year's draft class will begin their NBA careers in an Indiana uniform.

The Pacers, who currently own the 18th and 47th overall picks, held their ninth and (presumably) final pre-draft workout on Saturday morning at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The player of the most interest to the local media on Saturday was James Blackmon, Jr., the sharpshooting guard from Indiana University and a Hoosier State native (Pacers.com's Mark Montieth wrote about Blackmon's attempts to transition to the point guard position to make himself a more attractive candidate to NBA franchises).

But the two most intriguing players on the TCU Practice Court on Saturday morning were the two big men: Wake Forest's John Collins and Duke's Harry Giles. Both are candidates for the Pacers' first-round selection, though their paths to the draft could not be more different.

Collins, a 6-10 forward, was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He was a solid rotational player for the Demon Deacons as a freshman, when he averaged 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. A perfectly fine talent, but not a player on any NBA team's radars.

But that all changed after Collins' spectacular sophomore season. You would be hard-pressed to find any player who improved more in the past year than Collins, who averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds this past season on 62.2 percent shooting.

You won't find a player who was more efficient than Collins. He led the nation in player efficiency rating (PER) at 35.9. In addition to his ridiculous field goal percentage, Collins put up his averages in just 26.6 minutes per game. Per 40 minutes, the West Palm Beach native averaged 28.8 points and 14.4 rebounds per game.

Simply put, he was a monster.

"I think I was able to slow the game down, make more conscientious decisions, and make the game easier for myself," Collins said of his sophomore surge. "I think that helped me a lot."

Collins demonstrated an ability to score the ball at will on the low block in college. A high-energy player, he also thrived running the floor in transition and crashing the glass on both ends of the floor.

A number of mock drafts have projected the Pacers taking Collins with the 18th pick and it's easy to see why he could be a good fit in the Indiana frontcourt.

The Blue & Gold already have a franchise cornerstone at center in 21-year-old Myles Turner. Turner's offensive success stems primarily from his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting, so pairing him with a power forward who thrives in the post like Collins could help provide balance.

"I think myself and Myles could definitely be a pretty decent tandem," Collins said. "I can definitely see myself fitting in (with) the culture and everything."

Though he spent two seasons in college, Collins is extremely young for his class. He won't turn 20 until Sept. 23 and is actually almost five months younger than ULCA freshman T.J. Leaf, another power forward and likely first-rounder who has worked out for the Pacers.

Collins has been on the Pacers' radar throughout the pre-draft process. He had an interview with members of the Pacers' front office, including President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard, at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last month and said he walked away from the meeting with "a good impression" of the franchise.

He was originally going to work out for the team on May 23 against Leaf, but had to reschedule at the last minute.

While he was extremely productive as a sophomore, there are still areas where Collins can improve. One main area for growth is on the defensive end, where he struggled for large stretches at Wake Forest.

Collins is also hoping to show teams that he has expanded his shooting range after not attempting a single 3-pointer in college. He was hoisting shots from beyond the arc in shooting drills at the end of Saturday's workout, demonstrating at least the potential to eventually be able to score at three different levels in the NBA.

"For me, I know it feels good, it looks good," Collins said. "Obviously, it's just about repetitions. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I'll be shooting that shot...I think it will definitely become a lethal weapon sooner or later."

While Collins thrust his name into draft consideration within the last several months, Giles has been on NBA teams' radars for years. In fact, there was a period where Giles was considered a strong possibility to be the top overall pick in this year's draft.

But Giles' stock has suffered over the past year due to injury concerns. He tore the ACL in his right knee at the start of his senior year in high school, two years after suffering the same injury to his left knee. Giles' second ACL tear ended his high school career and kept him out of the first 11 games of his freshman season at Duke.

When he did eventually return to the floor, Giles saw limited playing time, as he struggled to shake off the rust from such a long layoff. Playing behind senior Amile Jefferson in the post, Giles played just 11.5 minutes per contest, averaging 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Though he was efficient in limited opportunities, shooting 57.7 percent from the field, Giles was merely a shell of the player that dominated the high school circuits just a couple years earlier.

Everywhere Giles travels during the pre-draft process, teams obviously take a close look at his knees. Team medical staffs have conducted extensive testing on Giles during the pre-draft process, but he insisted that he feels stronger and healthier than he did at any point during the season.

"They get to check for themselves now, so for me, it's just kind of letting them do what they've got to do," Giles said. "I'm good. I feel great and I just back it up on the court."

North Carolina point guard Nate Britt, another one of the participants in Saturday's workout, backed up Giles' words after playing against his former collegiate rival in three-on-three competition.

"Going against Harry, you can see his health is a lot better now," Britt said. "He's extremely athletic trying to guard the rim and guard the basket."

With a 7-3 wingspan and a 9-1 standing reach, Giles has the length to make a major impact on both ends at the next level if his knees cooperate. His frame and agility also could enable him to thrive in transition and on the boards.

Workouts have been particularly important for Giles, given his limitations in college. Teams have wanted to see how he fares against fellow first-round post players in a one-on-one setting. Giles said on Saturday that it was the third or fourth workout he had in the last two weeks where he matched up with Collins. It is his hope that he has used the opportunities to his advantage to showcase elements of his game that were not on display at Duke.

"For me, it's my versatility, just kind of getting back to my game as far as playing with my back to the basket and facing up," Giles said. "Playing 15 to 17 feet (from the rim), getting opportunities to create and playmake — that's things I like to do.

"For me, it's just getting back comfortable. During the season, I wasn't as healthy as I wanted to be and at the same time, was just kind of playing my role."

While it has been an admittedly difficult couple of years for Giles, he believes the adversity he's been through can also be seen as an asset, as he argues it revealed his true character.

"(Dealing with injuries tested) my patience and my desire and determination for the game," Giles said. "I think a lot of guys might stop playing if they went through what I went through or not attack it the same way...For me, I think the more adversity, the more it makes me hungry."

Given the uncertainty surrounding his health, Giles is most definitely one of the biggest question marks in the entire draft. But at a certain point in the draft, the risk outweighs the reward and someone will take him, hoping they're getting a top-five talent at a bargain price.

Whether that team ends up being the Pacers remains to be seen.

And if it comes to Collins and Giles on draft night, which direction would the Pacers go?

Though their paths to the draft could not be more different, either player could end up being a long-term fixture in the frontcourt for the franchise. In a few days, we may have the answer to that debate.

Jamel Artis, Nate Britt, and Billy Garrett

Pittsburgh's Jamel Artis (left), North Carolina's Nate Britt (center), and DePaul's Billy Garrett each are hoping their experience in college can help an NBA team.

Trio of Seniors Have Something to Prove

In addition to Blackmon, Collins, and Giles, three more prospects worked out for the Pacers on Saturday, all of them four-year college players: Britt, Pittsburgh forward Jamel Artis, and DePaul guard Billy Garrett.

Artis, a 6-7 forward, was one of the more accomplished scorers in the ACC, where he ranked fifth in scoring as a senior at 18.2 points per game. Artis has a versatile offensive attack, able to get to the rim or knock down shots from the perimeter (he shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range last season).

Artis' game at Louisville on Jan. 11 was one of the best individual performances of the entire season. He lit up the Cardinals for 43 points, going 15-for-22 from the field and 7-for-13 from 3-point range and almost single-handedly lifting an undermanned Pitt squad to a stunning road victory.

Though he would likely play on the wing at the next level, Artis is also a capable playmaker. He handles the ball well for a player of his size and showed a knack for creating for his teammates, averaging a solid 3.3 assists per game as a senior.

"I think teams always need another offensive threat and I think I can bring that to the table to any NBA team," Artis said.

The focus, then, for Artis during pre-draft workouts is on the defensive side of the floor. He knows that he will need to show teams he can be a solid contributor on that end if he wants to earn minutes in the NBA.

A few other factors prevent Artis from ranking higher on draft boards. First, his numbers came on a Pittsburgh team that struggled on the season, going just 4-14 in ACC play. More important to scouts is Artis' age — he is already 24 years old, which suggests that he might not have as much upside as young prospects.

While Artis put up big numbers in the ACC, Britt enjoyed a lot more team success, helping North Carolina make back-to-back appearances in the national championship game.

Britt had to make sacrifices throughout his four years in college, backing up Marcus Paige and then Joel Berry II at the point guard position. Playing in a limited role, Britt averaged between 4.5 and 5.5 points per game in each of his four seasons at Chapel Hill.

While that may not make the 6-1 guard an enticing prospect to NBA teams, he made the argument on Saturday that it shows that he could be a seamless fit in a professional locker room because he knows how to check his ego at the door.

"Knowing that you're on a team full of talent and that your role may not always be what you want to do, I think Carolina has prepared me for that," Britt said. "I think I've done an extremely good job throughout my four years of being able to play a specific role and contribute to the success of the team as much as possible."

Britt hopes that he has been able to impress teams by showing more aspects to his game during workouts. In particular, he thinks that he is a skilled creator in pick-and-roll sets, something that head coach Roy Williams did not run very often at North Carolina.

Britt is realistic about his professional prospects. He knows that he likely won't hear his name called on draft night, but plans to play in one or both of the summer leagues with the hopes of impressing a team enough to earn a training camp invite.

"My main goal is just to pick up interest and turn a lot of heads," Britt said. "I'm taking these workouts as an opportunity to show guys on the staff and front office things that they weren't able to see in my college career."

Britt is in the unique position that he is going through the pre-draft process at the same time as his adoptive brother, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins. Jenkins hit the buzzer beater that lifted the Wildcats over Britt's Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament championship game in 2016, then was in Phoenix in April to watch Britt capture his own national title.

Britt said he and Jenkins talk daily to compare notes from their different workouts. They plan to watch the draft together with the rest of their family.

Garrett is another four-year point guard attempting to make the transition to the NBA. At 6-6, Garrett has better size than Britt and put up bigger numbers in college.

As a senior, Garrett averaged 14.9 points and 3.3 assists per game. He was an inconsistent shooter during his time in college, but knocked down 36.3 percent of his 3-point shots in his final season on campus. Garrett's .882 free throw percentage suggests that he has the ability to become an even better outside shooter.

Garrett stayed in his hometown of Chicago for college, but did not enjoy a lot of team success during his four years at DePaul. The Blue Demons won just five Big East games over the past two seasons.

Garrett will be surrounded by a lot more talent in the NBA, but that also means he will have to adjust to playing a greatly reduced role from what he was asked to do in college. That's something he said on Saturday he would happily embrace.

"With each team that has different personnel, it kind of varies, but I'm happy with any role, no matter what it is," Garrett said. "Whether it's come off the bench and makes shots, come off the bench and defense, run offense, do whatever I need to do. I'm more than willing to do it."

Garrett is an inspiring story in that he has been able to achieve considerable success on the court despite having sickle cell disease. That diagnosis has forced him to be more careful about his conditioning and diet than most college athletes.

"I've learned from trial and error," Garrett said. "As a kid, I ran into a lot of trouble, but I learned from it.

"And now I'm at the point where I know exactly what my body needs for me to be able to perform at a high level and to maintain my endurance. I've been able to do that just with sleep and hydration and proper preparation. So I'm good now."

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