One of the defining aspects of this draft is that there are a ton of point guards -- heading into a league that is hungry for good point guards. The Wolves held one of the most important group workouts of draft season today, featuring the vast majority of the top prospects. It was closed, but TrueHoop reader Michael Stephenson -- a season ticket holder -- was among those invited to watch. He wrote up the following report, and sent it over with his blessing to publish it on TrueHoop:
The group was Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Jeff Teague out of Wake Forest. I was most looking forward to seeing Jennings as I've been following him closely (on TrueHoop, among others) and was eager to measure his progress in person.
The first half of the morning was spent on drills -- dribble to this spot, crossover and take a jumper, that type of stuff. Flynn and Lawson proved the most fundamentally sound and were comfortable taking direction from the coaching staff. Nobody looked great initially but it was early and they weren't really being tested.
Things got exponentially more interesting in the one-on-one competition (taking turns playing D, staying on if you scored, etc). It was here that Evans established himself as the class of the group. Probably somewhat unfair to pit him against smaller, true point guards as he had at least three inches and twenty pounds on everyone, but I suppose those guys are going to have to get used to that type of matchup at the next level.
Anyway, Tyreke was dominant.
Refusing to simply muscle his way to the hoop (which he did handily a few times), he scored in a half a dozen different ways. Pull-ups on the wing, runners, balanced fade-aways, and a particularly spectacular jab-step and crossover that sent Flynn (without question the best defender of the group) reeling. His jumper needs work but I wouldn't call it a weakness, and he'll definitely hit enough to force defenders to respect it.
Lawson and Flynn played about how I expected them to. Controlled the ball well, took high percentage shots and occasionally switched gears to get to the rim. Both appear ready to play significant minutes in the league, but I'm not sure I can see either developing into a star. If forced to choose today I'd take Flynn based on his defense and freakish athleticism (40-inch vertical, as measured at the combine).
Holiday was the most dissapointing player of the group, by far. He played with low energy, struggled during a lot of the offensive drills and generally appeared unhappy and out of place. I know he's got some talent but I can't figure out why he was ever mentioned in the top five of so many mock drafts. Maybe he was just tired, it is a Friday.
Teague had the purest stroke and hit his jumper most consistently in the drills and during the scrimmage (which I'll get to in a moment). But it was obvious that he's a level behind and had trouble keeping up with his peers. In an extremely guard heavy draft, I imagine it's going to be tough for him to turn many heads.
As I mentioned, I went into the day hoping to see brilliance from Brandon Jennings and instead witnessed the type of raw, inconsistent play that many scouts and coaches have been ranting about. First off, the rumors about his foot speed are true. He was easily a full step (maybe half-step over Flynn ...) quicker than anyone in the gym. I'd love to hand him and Derrick Rose each a ball and watch them race up and down the court all day.
The drills were not kind to young Jennings. He missed a lot of shots and drew scorn from the assistant coaches when he repeatedly ignored direction -- often choosing to make the move he wanted to make as opposed to the one they were asking to see. In one-on-one he improved a bit but was continually over-powered by Lawson and Flynn (Brandon is listed under 170lbs, and his lack of strength was obvious) and gambled far too frequently on defense.
I was nearly ready to write him off and admit that perhaps his critics had him pegged, a year or two at Arizona would've done him some good ... and then they started scrimmaging. Three on three -- more or less a twenty-minute fast break with those guys.
Suddenly Jennings remembered who he was and started moving with the type of swagger that I'd read about. On the first possession of the scrimmage he cleanly picked off a pass and beat Flynn in a footrace for an emphatic two-hander. A few possessions later he took an outlet from Holiday and sprinted down the left side. After beating Lawson with a stutter step, he picked up the ball and put it behind his back to avoid Evans' help defense. Then he flicked a no-look over his shoulder to Jrue for the easy dunk.
Onlookers collectively gasped.
Two of the next four possessions ended with Jennings freezing his man and hitting 18-footers.
I'm not comfortable saying Jennings should be the player Minnesota takes sixth, especially if Evans is available (I'm seriously impressed). But I can't think of a player in the draft with more upside than Brandon Jennings.