The NBA combine is a venue for prospects to display their athleticism and professionalism, but some players need direct competition to shine. These are the players who will really impress teams in private workouts.
In these workouts, teams will be looking to get a closer look at prospects. They may have a group of players compete against one another. In some ways, this setting best represents practice environments and the intensity players will face in the NBA.
A handful of prospects will thrive in this situation.
There was a lot made about Muhammad's poor shooting at the NBA combine.
At the NBA combine in Chicago. Shabazz Muhammad shot 8-25 in spot shooting on round two. Not a great start for the lottery pick #NBAcombine— Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn) May 16, 2013
He has gone from one of the most coveted players in this year's draft class to one of the fastest fallers. NBADraft.net has Muhammad 16th in their latest mock draft.
It is easy to see Muhammad isn't a freak athletically like C.J Leslie, Victor Oladipo or Ben McLemore. However his speed and quickness totals from the combine weren't embarrassing.
Shabazz Muhammad. 29.5" standing vert. 37" max vert. #NBACombine— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 17, 2013
As for the shooting, anyone can have a poor day shooting the basketball.
Beyond that, Muhammad is more of a scorer than a shooter. He'll probably never shoot a high percentage from the field, but what what he will do is get to the line consistently.
He shot 5.6 free throws per game at UCLA. As he improves, he should be in the same neighborhood in the NBA.
The private workouts will have some players competing against each other one-on-one. Because of his strength, will and scoring instinct, Muhammad can hold his own with anyone in this draft class.
He is the type of player who will make general managers and fans say, "I don't know how he does it, but this guy just get buckets."
Who will be the better pro?
Part of it is a good natural feel for the game; another aspect is his supreme confidence. Muhammad recently said he believes he is the best player in the draft. While many prospects may utter those words, few of them believe it.
Muhammad actually believes he is the best prospect in the class. While he may ultimately be wrong, it is good he thinks that way. This is how players should be wired.
Obviously, I'm not comparing Muhammad to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but do you think The Mamba or King James believe there is anyone in the league better than them—let alone in their respective draft classes?
Muhammad has the look of a kid obsessed with obtaining greatness. Does he have some character flaws? Absolutely, but he works hard and embraces challenges.
He proved that by even participating in the NBA combine.
In private workouts, Muhammad will outwork and outmuscle enough of his fellow prospects to improve his draft stock.
The combine was just the beginning for Leslie. The private workouts may be the first time the 6'9" forward will get an opportunity to prove to NBA scouts that he can really play small forward in the NBA.
CJ Leslie just recorded a ridiculous 10.19 sec lane agility drill. Top score at Combine and he's 6-9. #NBACombine— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 17, 2013
Honestly speaking, proving his ability as a wing will be the difference between Leslie becoming a Hakim Warrick clone or an uber-athletic and long small forward.
The latter is far more interesting and lucrative.
If he wants it, his length and athleticism should help him stand out in private workouts. He could compete in groups against both small and power forwards. If he is able to show the aspects of his game that enable him to shine in both spots, he may be able to climb into the first round.
Shooting the ball from distance is a big key for him. He has never shot the ball a ton from the perimeter, but that doesn't mean he can't develop the skill.
Free-agent big man Josh Harrellson was 9-for-29 from three-point range in his three-year college career with Kentucky. In two seasons with the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, Harrellson is 21-for-64 from deep in his career.
Harrellson is a 6'10", 275-pound center, so John Calipari had him playing his role as a traditional center.
Because of size deficiencies at North Carolina State, Leslie was made to play in the post and thus didn't get an opportunity to showcase and/or develop a perimeter game.
Harrellson told Tom Haberstroh of ESPN this in Oct. 2012, "I’ve always been able to shoot the ball, but I really didn’t showcase it at Kentucky because I always played with a lot of great shooters around me."
I've seen Leslie play since high school, he has more handle and perimeter ability than he's given credit for—much like Harrellson's case at Kentucky. This is just a high school mix tape, but the handle didn't just disappear.
In private workouts, I think he'll get a chance to show it off.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
As a second-generation player, Hardaway Jr. knows exactly what to expect, and he'll be ready to impress. You could see it in his demeanor at the NBA combine.
He knows his strengths and he's wise enough to play to them. Although Hardaway Jr's role will likely be as a spot-up shooter in the NBA, the son of former NBA-great Tim Hardaway knows he's a better athlete than many give him credit for.
The vertical leap numbers from the combine support that.
If he's ever invited to NBA All-Star Saturday it won't be for the Slam Dunk contest, but he can rise well enough to do his job.
What's most impressive about Hardaway Jr. is his competitiveness. This kid wants it badly.
When you see a prospect with desire, who hails from a background that presumably isn't one of poverty or financial hardships, it really speaks to their love for the game.
Qualities like that will shine through in private workouts.
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