AUBURN HILLS – There is something to be learned from the list of players an NBA team invites to work out for their consideration prior to the draft.
Good luck finding out what it might be.
Ed Stefanski, running his second draft for the Pistons, isn’t a big fan of the process.
“I think the workouts are broken,” he said Monday after the Pistons finished the process, one that stretched out for 38 days and involved 12 six-man workout groups and one single-player workout. A total of 71 players came to the Pistons practice facility, two of them – Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon and Kansas State’s Barry Brown Jr. – visiting twice apiece.
Dating to his early days in the NBA more than 20 years ago with the then-New Jersey Nets, Stefanski has pushed the idea of regional workouts in four corners of the country with NBA teams sharing in the expense to consolidate efforts, saving time and expense for teams – and much wear and tear on the draft hopefuls.
“They’re exhausted. They’re dead,” he said. “We had a kid here today that it was his 19th workout.”
So why do the Pistons engage?
Because in the arms race, you’ve got to keep up. Of the 71 players the Pistons brought to Auburn Hills, perhaps a third of them will get drafted on Thursday – and that’s a generous estimate. It could be closer to 20. But it’s a chance to pick up intelligence – to learn how a player reacts to stress, to find out more about his background and character, to get secondhand information they might pass on about their experiences at workouts for other teams.
“This is my fifth team. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but this is my fifth team,” Stefanski said. “I have not seen that secret workout yet that tells you this kid’s going to be a phenomenal NBA player.”
There’s enormous gamesmanship in merely arranging workouts. When you have six picks like the Atlanta Hawks do, it’s pretty easy to get 95 percent of your calls returned and workouts arranged. The Pistons have the 15th and 45th picks, meaning the agents for the 20 players or so convinced that they’ll be picked in the lottery are reluctant to work out for the Pistons.
So who doesn’t visit is often more telling than who does.
Of the 71 players to work out, five are realistic potential 15th picks for the Pistons: Nassir Little, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Keldon Johnson, Brandon Clarke and Goga Bitadze. Another handful of prospects could wind up later in the first round, including Bruno Fernando, Daniel Gafford, Luguentz Dort, Talen Horton-Tucker and Darius Bazley.
Who hasn’t worked out or visited? Among the more notables generally considered first-round but not top-10 candidates: Tyler Herro, P.J. Washington, Romeo Langford, Rui Hachimura, Kevin Porter, Bol Bol, Cameron Johnson and Mfiondu Kabengele. It doesn’t mean they all rebuffed the Pistons – the Pistons could have decided not to invite some of them to camouflage their interest, having enough information from the combine and elsewhere to satisfy their needs – but it’s likely a number of them did.
“It’s always hard when you’re at 15 and people you think are in your mix, their agents are saying they’re not going to be there,” Stefanski said. “It’s all a game the agents and the teams play. It’s very difficult to get guys in, but I’ve been happy with what we got in. … The agents run the workouts. That’s the bottom line.”
Here’s the list of players who’ve worked out for the Pistons:
- May 10 – Armoni Brooks, 6-3, Houston; Jordan Caroline, 6-7, Nevada; *Javin DeLaurier, 6-11, Duke; Olumiye Oni, 6-6, Yale; *Payton Pritchard, 6-2, Oregon; B.J. Taylor, 6-2, Central Florida.
- May 20 Group 1 – Louis King, 6-9, Oregon; Naz Reid, 6-10, LSU; *Andrew Nembhard, 6-5, Florida; Justin Robinson, 6-2, Virginia Tech; Marques Bolden, 6-11, Duke; Ignas Brazdeikis, 6-7, Michigan.
- May 20 Group 2 - Martin Krampelj, 6-9, Creighton; Ethan Thompson, 6-5, Oregon State; Savion Flagg, 6-7, Texas A&M; Quinndary Weatherspoon, 6-4, Mississippi State; Ahmed Hill, 6-5, Virginia Tech; Phil Booth, 6-3, Villanova.
- May 21 – Fletcher Magee, 6-4, Wofford; Ky Bowman, 6-1, Boston College; Cody Martin, 6-5, Nevada; Bruno Fernando, 6-10, Maryland; Daniel Gafford, 6-11, Arkansas; Jaylin Walker, 6-1, Kent State.
- June 4 – Sedrick Barefield, 6-2, Utah; Darius Bazley, 6-9, Princeton HS (Cincinnati); Kevarrius Hayes, 6-9, Florida; Nick Mayo, 6-9, Eastern Kentucky; Matt McQuaid, 6-4, Michigan State; Milik Yarbrough, 6-6, Illinois State.
- June 6 – Kris Clyburn, 6-6, UNLV; Tyler Cook, 6-9, Iowa; Corey Davis Jr., 6-1, Houston; Anthony Lawrence, 6-7, Miami; Simi Shittu, 6-10, Vanderbilt; Dean Wade, 6-10, Kansas State.
- June 7 – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5, Virginia Tech; Luguentz Dort, 6-4, Arizona State; Amir Hinton, 6-5, Shaw; Talen Horton-Tucker, 6-4, Iowa State; Nassir Little, 6-6, North Carolina; Shamorie Ponds, 6-1, St. John’s.
- June 10 – Oshae Brissett, 6-8, Syracuse; Barry Brown Jr., 6-3, Kansas State; Digue Diawara, 6-9, France; Nikola Miskovic, 6-10, Serbia; Zach Jackson, 6-5, Nebraska-Omaha; Josh Perkins, 6-3, Gonzaga.
- June 12 – Jalen Adams, 6-3, UConn; Brian Bowen, 6-7, Saginaw; Jarrell Brantley, 6-7, Charleston; Robert Franks, 6-9, Washington State; Khalil Iverson, 6-5, Wisconsin; Terance Mann, 6-7, Florida State.
- June 13 – Jordan Bone, 6-3, Tennessee; Charlie Brown, 6-7, St. Joseph’s; Jalek Felton, 6-3, Union Olimpija (Slovenia); Trevor Manuel, 6-10, Olivet College; Zach Norvell, 6-5, Gonzaga; Derek Pardon, 6-8, Northwestern.
- June 14 – Bryce Brown, 6-3, Auburn; Jon Elmore, 6-2, Marshall; Donta Hall, 6-9, Alabama; Juwan Morgan, 6-8, Indiana; Matur Maker, 6-10, Australia; Nick Ward, 6-9, Michigan State.
- June 17 - Kavell Bigby-Williams, 6-11, LSU; Goga Bitadze, 6-11, Republic of Georgia; Barry Brown Jr., 6-3, Kansas State (second visit); Brandon Clarke, 6-8, Gonzaga; Sagaba Konate, 6-8, West Virginia; Quinndary Weatherspoon, 6-4, Mississippi State (second visit).
- June 17 – Keldon Johnson, 6-6, Kentucky (individual workout)
*underclassman, subsequently withdrew from NBA draft