With an interesting group of draft prospects working out at Conseco Fieldhouse on Tuesday, I made some time to go down for the media availability portion of the workout.
Since Jimmer Fredette is often tied to the Pacers in various mock drafts, he was definitely the key player among those that worked out. Fredette was matched up against Duke's Nolan Smith, whose last trip to Indy included cutting down the championship nets at Lucas Oil Stadium after Duke withstood Gordon Hayward's desperation shot to win the NCCA title.
Jeremy Tyler, now eligible for the draft after skipping his senior year of high school to play overseas, and Florida's Vernon Macklin knocked heads around the bucket, while Tennessee's Tobias Harris and Kansas' forward Marcus Morris matched up.
All of the above were battling fatigue at the end of an obviously strenuous workout as they played a controlled 3-on-3 "game" running plays under the direction of Dan Burke. The initial impression I took away from what we were able to see was that all six of these players have flaws in their game which makes sense, otherwise they would be projected to go much higher in the draft and not bother working out for the Pacers.
So for kicks, here's a little snap judgment on each player.
Jimmer Fredette - Fredette's positives are pretty well known. Dude can shoot the ball from all over and make plays and, despite being winded, he showed those traits. When given an opening he could hit the open jumper or draw a foul trying to get the ball up around the rim. After the 3-on-3 work, Jimmer knocked down 18 of 22 3-pointers as he worked his way around the arc.
But those were practice shots, not game-flow jumpers. Speaking of Jimmer's jumper, he has a little hitch when cocking the shot which made his release seem a little slow. Thinking about the slight openings shooters often have to squeeze off a shot, in particular I'm envisioning Kyle Korver racing around a screen, turning and firing in one motion and still barely getting a clear shot off, that little hitch would allow many an NBA defender to help and/or recover to disrupt Fredette's shot.
Defensively Fredette looked about as advertised. Nolan Smith was able to free himself from Jimmer on several possessions. On others, Fredette held his own, but getting down and dirty at the defensive end won't be the reason the Pacers or any other team select Fredette. He made it clear after the workout that he has always played point guard and expected to do so on the NBA level. Fredette plans to workout with the Knicks, Kings, Jazz and Suns before the draft.
Nolan Smith - Smith looked the part with nice size and athleticism for a point guard. Again, aware of the fatigue factor, his defensive effort varied a bit as well. He moved well, made good decisions with the ball and knocked down open mid-range shots, all of which he will have to do consistently to find his niche in the league. If I were Smith, I'd just focus on the defensive end and try to become a guy no one wants to play against in these workouts.
Tobias Harris - Considering Harris is not yet 19, he looked good on the court physically. For a 3/4 tweener he'll need more strength but he's starting with a good base. Harris isn't an overly athletic, high-flying player but he has a solid game around the rim and showed that in the workout. He went against Marcus Morris who overpowered him a couple of times. His offensive game shows plenty of upside, though including a mid-range shot that could develop into a consistent weapon. If the Pacers are looking for help next year, though, Harris won't be the guy at 15.
Jeremy Tyler - Tyler turns 20 on Wednesday but few have seen him play any significant basketball. Fortunately for Tyler, former Pacer coach Bob Hill took him under his wing while he played in Japan last season. The young fella already has an NBA body, although the mind and big body haven't quite synced up. When it does, he could be a beast. Tyler showed a decent shooting touch which he admitted is an area he needs to continue working. He definitely has the right frame of mind to keep working for his NBA dream. His decision to leave high school forced him to grow up in a hurry and after a disastrous start, he seems to have learned from those lessons. The Pacers are likely looking at him in the second round but it will be interesting to see how far up a team is willing to reach to take a chance on Tyler's upside.
Marcus Morris - Morris seemed to play in bursts, again probably due to fatigue, but was pretty aggressive playing around the hoop. He was a bit of a bull in a china shop trying to make things happen with the ball. He'll need to develop some kind of move with the ball around the rim, but going to hard is a better problem than going to soft.
Vernon Macklin - Macklin appeared to be the most-ready to step in and bang bodies in the NBA. However, that may be his best attribute. Macklin is looking to work his way into a second-round pick and will have to continue relying on defense and rebounding to make that happen. The guy was Dale Davis stout, unfortunately he appeared to be allergic to shooting the ball. Seriously, I think he'd break out in a rash were he to cock his wrist, add a little arc on his shot and follow through.
Macklin played with at Georgetown for a couple of years and spoke glowingly of Roy Hibbert, mentioning how Hibbert would always grab him to go work out to keep improving his game. Sounds about right.
So that's my first impression, snap reaction to the limited portion of the workout I was able to watch today. I realize I'm basing this analysis on a mere swath of the entire workout, let alone the full pre-draft process these guys are going through, but writing about basketball is fun and this was fun, so sue me. Seriously, though, it was nice to watch these players in person and see how they move around and physically stack up. Plan on plenty of highlights and audio in the links tomorrow.