HAWKSVILLE - The reviews were unanimous.
On 10-point scale, Tyler Hansbrough’s Sunday morning workout for the Hawks at Philips Arena ranks at the very top of anything conducted in the past five days.
It wasn’t any one thing in particular that had the Hawks’ coaches buzzing. It was everything. Hansbrough’s energy, effort and obviously better-than-advertised shooting and athleticism caught more than a few folks in attendance by surprise.
“He kicked the meter up. It was off the Richter Scale,” said Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew, who ran the team’s workouts all week. “That was one of those 8.0s, one of those quick, hard earthquakes. Because his energy is at another level. You just don’t see many players capable of playing with that type of energy and effort and can sustain it through a game, or even a workout. He plays at a totally different level than some of these young guys out here.”
I felt like I needed an ice bath after watching his 90-minute workout. But Hansbrough proved a theory that a wise Eastern Conference executive reiterated to me Sunday night, “effort is a skill in the NBA.” And Hansbrough has it in reserve.
Alade Aminu (Stephenson High and Georgia Tech) and Shawn Taggart (Memphis) were the other bigs on hand Sunday. And they were also impressive in the individual drills and two-on-two work that was done. But Hansbrough’s refusal to go at anything but full bore during the entire workout had everyone buzzing afterwards.
Love him or hate him, and Hansbrough laughed about the fact that he’s inspired the masses to do either one or the other and sometimes both, he’s going to do it his way. And the truth is the Hawks could do a lot worse with the 19th pick. But they probably won’t have to worry about Hansbrough there, as I haven’t spoken to anyone anywhere that believes he’ll still be on the board when the Hawks are on the clock Thursday night.
“If this kid is still there at 19, the Hawks better not hesitate,” another Eastern Conference executive told me Sunday afternoon. “The kid’s a dream for coaches in our league, because he’s going to come in and crank things up automatically. He’s just wired differently than most of these other guys.”
That’s the real problem with a pick that late. You can project who you think might be there and evaluate accordingly, but there’s no way of knowing who will be around by then on draft night. One glitch on the draft board in the early lottery can swing the draft in a totally different direction than projected.
The Hawks sent things sideways in 2004 when they took Josh Childress ahead of Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala – defying most mock drafts that had those other two guys going ahead of Childress.
And anytime one player rises and is picked ahead of projection, someone else falls and lands in the lap of an unsuspecting team like the Hawks (who have no doubt done their due diligence throughout this process by examining all the possibilities).
Check any mock draft you want and go over the list of names where the Hawks are picking and there are either guys you draft on potential (Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, who acquitted himself well in his workout Saturday, or Ohio State’s BJ Mullens, who did the same a day earlier) or seasoned college guys that will be needle pushers as rookies (guys like Hansbrough, Pitt’s Sam Young, Louisville’s Terrence Williams and Georgetown’s DaJuan Summers, all of whom the Hawks have had face time with throughout the process).
The usual anxiety surrounding the Hawks at draft time doesn’t really seem necessary this year, at least the way I see it. The Hawks’ heavy lifting is going to come in free agency – and that’s where Hansbrough and all the bigger guys on the short list I’ve detailed above come in handy. Follow me now. When the Hawks lost Josh Childress to Greece last summer, they didn’t have a ready replacement for a 6-8 guy with his skills and seasoning, mostly because they didn’t have a draft pick to use on a player of that ilk. Say, for the sake of my theory, that the Hawks are unable to keep all their free agents. Don’t you think another cat with size and versatility might come in handy next season, even if he’s just a situational rotation player as a rookie?
While I didn’t agree with the notion that drafting 6-8 to 6-9 players ever year now matter what would lead a team from 13-win seasons to the playoffs, I can see the wisdom in taking players that fit that mold if you’re in the best-player-available mode on draft night and picking outside of the lottery. It’s just wise to have your roster well-stocked with a couple Trevor Ariza/Mickael Pietrus/Linas Kleiza types. I think the entire league realizes that now after the playoffs.
FROM THE DO YOUR HOMEWORK FILES …
A quick aside from the Hawks-themed portion of the program requires us to look across the pond fro a moment.
Flooding Europe with scouts from every NBA team has finally caught up to the league and to the crop of talent. The Euro harvest is expected to be extremely thin Thursday night.
Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times had a staggering statistic in his story about the sudden change in philosophy regarding drafting European (and really international) prospects:
“Teams appear to be straying from the recent trend of drafting overseas players because many of them have not lived up to expectations. Of the 39 international players selected in the first round since 2002 with no prior experience playing in the United States, only Yao Ming has surfaced as an All-Star. In that same time, 14 of 171 American players drafted in the first round made at least one All-Star team.”
Math was never my best subject in school, but I know crazy numbers when I see them. And that’s craziness.
OTHER LASTING IMPRESSIONS WERE MADE DURING WORKOUT WEEK, including a stellar showing by a guy not getting any first round buzz. Keep LSU combo guard Garrett Temple in mind in the second round. He’s going to make someone a nice player wherever he is drafted (provided he is drafted, and if not, he’ll be a good free agent pick up for some team). I remember watching him shut J.J. Redick down at the Georgia Dome during LSU’s run to the Final Four a few years back. He’s got NBA height for his position but his frame is need of some bulk to stand up the type of pounding he could endure at the pro level. But he’s got every tool you want in a player and he’ll compete with anyone.
Another guy the Hawks had in that made an impression me was Lester Hudson, a 6-3, 200-pound bull from Tennessee-Martin that refused to let anyone slow him down in his workout. He’s the kind of feisty guard that NBA teams love to have coming off their bench to wreak havoc on opposing defenses and to harass opposing point guards. And you talk about a guy breaking down walls to reach his goals, tell me Hudson hasn’t done exactly that after reading this from my man Chris Low from ESPN.com.
Jonesboro’s Toney Douglas (Florida State) was by far the most tenacious defender in attendance all week. He didn’t miss an opportunity to mix it up in the drills I watched. I can see why folks have been gushing about him as a potential, Ben Gordon-like combo guard. But he’s a defender like Gordon wishes he was (granted, few guards this size on the planet can score from the distance and in the variety of ways Gordon does). Still, whatever team nabs Douglas on draft night will have happy coaches and fans that will appreciate his in-your-face style.
Summers is my sleeper pick for the draft. I got into a heated debate with my man JB “Beans” Beckett Sunday about Summer and Young. After watching some film clips of both, including some of their head-to-head matchup from the season, we agreed that we were both right and that Summer and Young have a chance to contribute as rookies wherever they go. Now if we could just convince someone to let us draft for them Thursday night.
All joking aside, I have no earthly idea what happens Thursday night. Who does?
Too much can swing things on draft night. And we didn’t even get into the all the crazy scenarios that could happen if the Hawks were to find the right package to move the pick (and whatever else necessary) to shore up their depth issues at certain positions.
Nothing is outside of the realm of possibility right now, my friends. Nothing at all.