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Friday, May 30, 2008
Draft Watch: The stars come out in Orlando

By Chad Ford
ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After three days of watching second-round players in pickup games, all eyes turned Friday to the top 15 American prospects in the NBA draft.

While the camp participants battled in front of a sparse crowd, most of the top NBA executives and coaches crowded into the corner of the gym to watch the players who chose to skip the camp go through some shooting, ballhandling and athletic drills.

Here's a quick hit at how they looked:

Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley showed great shooting range on Friday.
Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State

Beasley was the first player on the floor but the last to go through the workout. While other workouts were going on, we all watched in awe as Beasley drained NBA 3-pointer after NBA 3-pointer. That continued in the workouts, in which Beasley shot as well as any prospect here. Deep or midrange, Beasley can shoot the lights out.

I also caught a sneak peek of Beasley's vertical jump test. He touched the 11-foot-9 mark on his running jump. Assuming he has a standing reach of about 8-foot-10, that's a 35-inch vertical. Not off the charts, but not too shabby, either.

Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis

Rose won't look especially great in these drills. His jump shot is his weakness, though it's not as bad as some people make it out to be. He hit a respectable number of shots in the workouts and showed his value with his speed, leaping ability and ballhandling.

O.J. Mayo, SG, USC

Mayo's fundamentals really showed here. He looked as smooth and as comfortable as any of the prospects in the gym. His shot was falling from everywhere, and he showed great poise.

It was interesting to watch one front-office team -- from the Heat -- zero in on Mayo. Many times, NBA executives and scouts spend as much time talking as they do watching the action. When Mayo was on the floor, he had the undivided attention of Pat Riley and GM Randy Pfund.

Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona

Bayless also looked good in workouts. He ran the floor well, shot the ball well and looked like an all-around good prospect. He's slighter than most of the players he's competing against in the draft, but his skill really showed.

Anthony Randolph, PF, LSU

I thought Randolph really helped himself in this workout. He moves incredibly well for a big man, showed great quickness and leaping ability, and shot the ball much better than expected. Randolph also looked as if he has gained some weight, which should really help his cause. I think Randolph is one of the five top prospects in this draft.

Brook Lopez, C, Stanford

Lopez was one of the few prospects who didn't look great. These types of drills aren't really tailor-made for big men -- especially ones who don't have elite athleticism. Lopez did show some nice touch around the basket in some big man drills, but he wasn't going to stand out here.

Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana

Gordon is the strongest and possibly the biggest of the combo guards vying for a lottery pick. He seemed a little more tentative than some of the other prospects and shot some air balls and some eyebrow-raising jumpers at times. However, he calmed down as the workout went on and ended with a much more solid shooting performance in the final minutes.

D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas

Augustin showed his ability to shoot the basketball. He doesn't get to do a lot of point guard things here … and those are Augustin's forte. He definitely looked really small out there and doesn't have the explosive quickness or athleticism that some of the other prospects had, but overall, I thought Augustin looked good.

Russell Westbrook, PG, UCLA

Westbrook was another prospect who really helped his cause here. His quickness, explosiveness and ability to change direction were scintillating in workouts. He also shot the ball extremely well in a number of drills, answering the critics who claim he's not a good shooter. If you compared Westbrook and Augustin head-to-head in just the drills, Westbrook would win hands down. However, it's his ability to be a floor leader in the game that teams still question.

Kevin Love
UCLA's Kevin Love put the ball on the floor with success.
Kevin Love, PF, UCLA

Love also performed well here. He continues to slim down, and a number of scouts mentioned that he's in as good shape as they've ever seen him. Although Love doesn't run the floor the way some of the other top athletes do, he hustled up and down the floor and showed good athleticism.

Just as important, Love shot the ball very well in the workouts. At times, he looked like a guard out there. Love also did well in the strength training, bench-pressing the 185-pound bar 18 times.

DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M

Jordan also has dropped some weight and looked in much better shape than we've seen him in the past. Although he runs the floor well, he struggled a bit in the skills portion of the workout. No real surprise here. He worked pretty hard … but there's no one with more questions swirling around him. Everyone loves him and hates him at the same time.

Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas

I thought Arthur looked as skilled and athletic as any big man here. He exploded in some of the footwork drills, showed an excellent 15- to 18-foot jump shot and really flew up and down the floor. Arthur's ability to score, both inside and out, makes him a really intriguing choice. I think he could rise as we get closer to the draft.

JaVale McGee, C, Nevada

McGee came in a little bulked up. He clearly has hit the weight room. However, McGee struggled in the workouts. He looked really uncomfortable shooting the ball and looked a bit out of shape. He was breathing awfully heavy just a few minutes into the workout.

Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia

Alexander showed off his elite athleticism. He drew a few oohs and ahhs from the crowd with his dunks. His jump shot was more of a mixed bag. He gets great elevation, but didn't shoot it as well as his workout partner, Love. Alexander also wowed people with his strength. He bench-pressed the 185-pound bar 24 times and, according to one source, is going to show a vertical jump of 40-plus inches.

Donte Greene, SF, Syracuse

Greene wasn't great in the workouts, either. He is a good athlete, but his shot wasn't falling as well as some other prospects' and he didn't do anything to stand out the way some of the others did.

The bottom line is that there isn't a lot you can learn from these workouts and they won't have much, if any, impact on their draft stock. It's just an early, brief, sneak peek of what NBA teams will see in the coming months. Players can begin team workouts Wednesday.


The camp itself ended with a bit of a whimper. Even though the players in the camp were playing their hearts out, few NBA executives and coaches were watching.

Although the talent at the camp was pretty good, many of the top prospects really didn't perform well. That's nothing new. It's not easy to stand out among 64 prospects playing a pickup game. I went back and looked at my pre-draft camp wrap columns through the years. The players who performed well in the camp rarely go on to be great NBA players. In fact, it's some of the poor performers who have better careers.

There are exceptions. David Lee was good when he played in the camp. So was Jamal Crawford. But players such as Jordan Farmar and Paul Millsap didn't play well here, and they turned into pretty good NBA players.

So take all this with a grain of salt … but here are the guys the NBA executives and scouts were talking about as the best and worst of the 2008 NBA pre-draft camp.

The Good

Mike Taylor, G, Idaho Stampede

Taylor had two excellent performances here. His quickness and athleticism really stood out, as did his ballhandling and improved shooting ability. Taylor was kicked off the Iowa State team last year and spent this season in the D-League. He has all the physical tools to be a good NBA combo guard and played with enough poise here to generate significant second-round buzz.

Taylor had 17 points in Game 1 and 24 points in Game 2. He struggled in Game 3, but no one was watching to see it happen. His performance in the drills today, right next to Westbrook, showed what a quick, athletic guard he is.

Gary Forbes, F, UMass

Forbes was great at the Portsmouth Invitational and here in Orlando. He scored a camp-high 30 points in the second game and, for a big man, showed a unique ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the line. Forbes also has shown enough shooting ability to play on the perimeter. I think he, too, has solidified himself as a second-round pick.

Ty Lawson, PG, UNC

Lawson looks like the only guy with a real shot at the first round. He had about 10 minutes of aggressive defense against Lester Hudson, then shut it down. Teams were impressed, but how impressed? The word is that Lawson is leaning toward staying in the draft and that a few teams in the 20s are interested. If he makes the first-round cut, his play here was a success.

George Hill, G, IUPUI

Hill was this year's sleeper. He had a great stat line in college and showed himself to be a potential point guard in the pros. He has good size, a good shooting touch and a lot of poise. I don't think he's going to crack the first round, but I do believe he'll be drafted.

DeVon Hardin, F/C, Cal

Hardin's numbers won't wow you. But his size and athleticism are really impressive. In drills, he looks like a lottery pick. He also played hard. Some teams are wondering whether, with the right coaching, he can be an impact player in the league. He has all the physical tools, but does he have the mental ones? If another player from this camp cracks the first round, it likely will be Hardin.

Other top performers at the camp: Brian Roberts, Dayton; Malik Hairston, Oregon; Sean Singletary, Virginia; Pat Calathes, Saint Joseph's; Richard Hendrix, Alabama; Josh Duncan, Xavier; Robert Vaden, UAB; Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA

The Bad

Davon Jefferson, F, USC

No one hurt his stock more than Jefferson did. He didn't really stand out offensively, looked out of shape, and waffled between passive and out of control. That's bad news for Jefferson, who already has hired an agent. I think he went from having a shot at the first round to being potentially undrafted. His strong last-day performance didn't get seen by much of anyone, unfortunately.

John Riek, C, IMG Academy

Riek showed up to the camp but was clearly hurting. He dragged his leg through workouts and didn't end up playing in any games. He's still recovering from a broken leg and really had no business playing here. As the camp moved on and Riek hung out in the shadows, he became somewhat of a sympathetic figure. He really needs to drop out of the draft, get healthy, find a good coach and start figuring out how to be a basketball player. He has a lot of physical gifts, but he's light-years from being an NBA contributor.

Jeremy Pargo, PG, Gonzaga

Lots of scouts, me included, are intrigued by Pargo's excellent athleticism and explosiveness. But the question has always been … is he a point guard, and can he shoot the basketball? The answers after this camp aren't encouraging. He led the camp in turnovers with 14 in three games. As for that shooting? He was 2-for-7 from 3. Pargo did have a good offensive performance in the last game, but it was marred by six turnovers.

From here, players will head to team workouts, which start Wednesday. We'll update our mock draft again Monday.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.