LAS VEGAS -- As all of the ASM Sports clients rolled through their workouts earlier this week -- from potential first-rounders Brice Johnson and Malachi Richardson to longshots Egidijus Mockevicius and Angel Rodriguez -- there was one conspicuous absence during the three sessions of players.
Likely first-round pick Malik Beasley -- currently No. 23 on the CBS Sports NBA Draft Big Board -- largely sat out the proceedings beyond just briefly shooting around before things began. After declaring for the draft in April, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Florida State and his agent decided that he should undergo surgery in order to a stress fracture he received in his left leg midway through his freshman season.
"I felt it a little bit during the season, then toward March I felt it more," Beasley said. "I didn't think it was anything so I just kept playing on it."
Beasley said he now has what he calls a "rod" placed through his right tibia. It was a situation where Beasley could have theoretically rested, then continued to play on it. But he, his team around him and his family decided that it was better for him to miss time now rather than miss the time at some point during his NBA career. It was a pre-emptive strike, so to speak. There are not expected to be long-term impacts from the injury now that he's gotten the surgery out of the way to repair the fracture. Knowing this and the fact that he has this metal placed into his leg, Beasley has begun referring to his own future invincibility in a different way.
"I'm Iron Man now," Beasley says with a laugh and 1,000-watt smile. "People say you can take the rod out, but that I'd have to go through another rehab process, and I don't want to do that until I'm at least in my fifth year in the league. But really, I'll probably keep it in just to say I'm Iron Man."
Beasley has begun working out on his own again, but will not work out for any teams before the draft. Once he is selected in the draft, he and his team will meet and figure out a course of action in terms of how to move forward. It's possible he could play in summer league, but that will just all be up to the team and how their doctors want to proceed. He said he will be ready for training camp, and hopefully all of the lasting leg injury stuff will be behind him. Especially given that it's a bit surprising to him that he's even in this position to be drafted in the first round at all.
"I'm a little surprised," Beasley said. "I was sitting at the hotel earlier and I was just like 'damn,' and I was looking at the view and thinking of this amazing process and how I got here. Hard work pays off, that's the main thing. But it is a little surprising. Everyone goes in wanting to be one-and-done, but the way it happened was surreal. Going in, nobody knew me."
Now everybody's going to get the chance to know Beasley's name when he hears it called on draft night.
Brice Johnson looks to add consistency to jump shot
At North Carolina this season, Brice Johnson was one of the most consistent players in America by largely dominating on the block instead of going out and playing into the midrange. However, at 220 pounds and with only a 7-foot wingspan, Johnson might have some extra issues doing that in the NBA despite possessing pogo-stick-like jumping ability and a terrific motor on the glass.
That has meant he needs to add a jump shot to his game. And while Johnson has always had a relatively solid-looking shot, he knows that it will be important for him add it to his repertoire at the next level.
"Shooting it consistently," Johnson said when I asked what he's been working on since leaving North Carolina. "I've always been able to shoot the ball, it's just at North Carolina we were a post-oriented team and (UNC coach Roy Williams) wanted me to score with my back to the basket. So the biggest thing has been shooting it consistently and showing that I can step behind that line and be able to shoot a couple of those. Just gotta keep working at it, because that's the biggest thing coaches and G.Ms haven't seen from me."
For his part, at his workout Johnson looked terrific in that capacity. The shot looked fluid and clean, with an extremely quick release that should bode well for him into the 15-foot range at the next level. Really, it's not hard at all to envision him having that shot within the next couple of years. And if that's the case, all that teams need to worry about is making sure that he's locked in defensively at all times.
Johnson's a guy that I was never particularly in on as an NBA prospect early in his career, but with all of the things he's added to his game over the course of his career, it's easy to see him becoming a really valuable contributor at some point at the next level.
Fred VanVleet still fighting underdog label
Fred VanVleet is the prototypical underdog in the NBA Draft process. As a guy that doesn't have the seemingly required height, weight, length, or athleticism for the point guard position in the NBA, he's thought to just not have the all-star potential of some of the players ranked above him. But this role isn't something that's new for him. Really, it's just been a continuation from his high school and college days, where despite dominating everyone who stepped in front of his path he only received offers from schools like Wichita State.
"Nothing has changed," VanVleet said with a chuckle. "It might even be worse now. Once you get that stigma on you, it's hard to get it off in terms of not being a prototypical NBA guy in terms not being fast enough, not quick enough, can't jump high enough. Once somebody says it, it's like wildfire. It spreads. So I've been battling that, but basketball is basketball and at the end of the day I know I can play. There's a lot of people in front offices, and I'm confident somebody will fall in love."
Can you blame him for noticing that? After a stellar career that saw Wichita State win 121 games with him at the helm while he won two Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year awards, you'd think teams would take notice despite his limitations. But instead, there are questions. And don't believe that VanVleet doesn't see those questions being asked about him or those players who are ranked above him.
"The draft process is a potential-based thing," VanVleet said. "It's a hype machine in terms of the mock drafts and coverage of it. It's not necessarily about who's the best basketball player. Sometimes, it's kind of like college doesn't always translate. And I understand that. But at the same time, I measure myself up against some of the guys that are way higher than me, and it just doesn't really sit well at the end of the day."
On one hand, everyone knows what VanVleet brings to the table in terms of his intangibles and play. But still, it was a bit of a surprise to see him snubbed from being invited to the NBA Draft Combine. There was an unintended consequence to that which he didn't foresee ahead of time.
"I was kind of frustrated at the time, but the only reason looking back that I wish I'd have went is because now I have to test at every team when I work with them," VanVleet said. "So I've got to do that now 16 times instead of just once. But I understand. There were a lot of underclassmen there."
If there's one guy I'd bet on to overcome the odds, it's VanVleet. Heck, I'm on the record saying as such. At some point, it seems like it would be prudent to stop doubting him.
Mathias Lessort shows off for NBA scouts at pro day
Mathias Lessort is one of the more unknown potential draft-and-stashes for general audiences, although scouts have known about him for a good while now. He's a 6-9, athletic power forward who currently plays for Chalon in France. He's a high motor player that has performed solidly as a role player this season in France, putting up six points and 4.7 rebounds in under 15 minutes per game. That's the kind of capacity he hopes to bring to the NBA level.
"My strength is my energy, my ability to play defense against any position, and my athleticism," Lessort said. "I try to use my body, hit him hard every time, then go to the rim and finish hard."
Imposing would be an understatement for Lessort. Yeah, he's not that tall as only a 6-9 big man. But this guy is about as strong as you'll see for a 20 year old. He is as physically built for his age as you'll find in terms of muscle mass, and his 7-1/7-2 wingspan helps him compensate for his height. For as physical and tough as he is on the floor though, he's pretty much the polar opposite of it off.
Speaking with those around him, Lessort is very reserved off the floor and basically just likes to relax and be with his family when possible. From Martinique -- an island in the Caribbean -- the forward had two big brothers who played basketball and learned from them. He moved to France when he was 15 to play with Chalon, where he has played since then. However, he recently signed a three-year deal with Nanterre, also in the Pro-A league. It's unclear what the buyout situation is at this stage, but given that Lessort would be more likely than not a second round stash if he stays in the draft, it's more worth noting where his game is than how his buyout situation could affect anything. If Lessort can add a bit more to his offensive game, he'll have a real shot to be an NBA role playing big. If he stays in the 2016 draft, I'd expect him to be picked somewhere in the second.
Big Board movement
- No movement throughout the top eight. That's pretty set at this stage with the only places truly up in the air being at No. 3 and 4 between Kris Dunn and Dragan Bender and at No. 6 and 7 with Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield. Those two could each flip-flop at some point, but none will fall out of the top eight barring an unknown injury.
- Ante Zizic moves up to No. 14, the biggest mover on the board. Simply put, I'm a believer in what I think he can provide to teams due to his motor, energy, athleticism, height and length. In a corresponding move downward, Henry Ellenson sits just ahead of him at No. 13 now. Ellenson is someone that, speaking with people around the league, NBA teams have quite a few questions on. Is he a good enough shooter to make an impact from distance? Can he cover ground in the pick-and-roll defensively or provide any value on that end at all? He could easily do that one day, and the overall package of skill is interesting. But from an NBA point of view, it's hard to see what exactly he does right now that could work in an NBA game beyond rebound.
- Malachi Richardson is someone that I continue to be swayed on the more I speak with people around the league. Simply put, teams buy his footwork, his shooting ability off the dribble and off the catch, and his potential on the defensive end despite losing a year of development in that capacity by playing at Syracuse. The shot selection is a question, and he doesn't play as athletically as his testing would indicate. But it seems highly likely at this stage he goes in the first round, and might even crack the top 20 by the time things are all said and done. He rises into the top-30 here for the first time.
|2016 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings|
|9||Deyonta Davis||Michigan State||Fr.||PF||6-10||240|
|16||Wade Baldwin IV||Vanderbilt||Soph.||SG||6-3||194|
|18||Denzel Valentine||Michigan State||Sr.||SG||6-5||220|
|20||Brice Johnson||North Carolina||Sr.||PF||6-10||230|
|22||DeAndre' Bembry||Saint Joseph's||Jr.||SF||6-6||210|
|23||Malik Beasley||Florida State||Fr.||SG||6-5||196|
|24||Demetrius Jackson||Notre Dame||Jr.||PG||6-1||201|
|41||Isaiah Whitehead||Seton Hall||Soph.||SG||6-4||210|
|45||Stephen Zimmerman Jr.||UNLV||Fr.||C||7-0||240|
|50||Pascal Siakam||New Mexico State||Soph.||PF||6-9||230|
|51||Gary Payton II||Oregon State||Sr.||PG||6-3||190|
|52||Wayne Selden Jr.||Kansas||Jr.||SF||6-5||230|
|59||Marcus Paige||North Carolina||Sr.||PG||6-2||175|
|60||Fred VanVleet||Wichita State||Sr.||PG||6-0||186|
|61||Joel Bolomboy||Weber State||Sr.||PF||6-9||235|
|62||Anthony Barber||NC State||Jr.||PG||6-2||190|
|64||Danuel House||Texas A&M||Sr.||SG||6-7||212|
|68||Shawn Long||UL Lafayette||Sr.||PF||6-11||246|
|69||Georges Niang||Iowa State||Sr.||SF||6-8||230|
|71||Ron Baker||Wichita State||Sr.||PG||6-4||210|
|73||James Webb III||Boise State||Jr.||SF||6-9||202|
|76||Jameel Warney||Stony Brook||Sr.||PF||6-8||260|
|78||Julian Jacobs||Southern California||Jr.||PG||6-4||180|
|82||Zach Auguste||Notre Dame||Sr.||PF||6-10||245|
|85||Alex Caruso||Texas A&M||Sr.||PG||6-5||186|
|90||Isaiah Miles||Saint Joseph's||Sr.||SF||6-7||216|
|91||Derrick Jones Jr.||UNLV||Fr.||SF||6-7||190|
|103||Shevon Thompson||George Mason||Sr.||C||6-11||243|
|106||Bryn Forbes||Michigan State||Sr.||SG||6-3||190|
|108||Thomas Walkup||Stephen F. Austin||Sr.||PG||6-4||195|
|116||Tonye Jekiri||Miami (Fla.)||Sr.||C||7-0||248|
|118||Kyle Collinsworth||Brigham Young||Sr.||G||6-6||215|
|122||Nikola Jovanovic||Southern California||Jr.||PF||6-11||235|
|123||Mamadou Ndiaye||UC Irvine||Jr.||C||7-6||300|
|124||Wes Washpun||Northern Iowa||Sr.||PG||6-1||175|
|127||Marvelle Harris||Fresno State||Sr.||SG||6-4||210|
|128||Marcus Georges-Hunt||Georgia Tech||Sr.||SG||6-5||216|
|135||Emmanuel Malou||Yuba CC||-||PF||6-9||210|
|136||Devin Williams||West Virginia||Jr.||PF||6-9||255|
|139||Jameel McKay||Iowa State||Sr.||F-C||6-9||225|
|140||Alex Hamilton||Louisiana Tech||Sr.||PG||6-4||195|
|141||Kevin Punter Jr.||Tennessee||Sr.||PG||6-2||190|
|142||John Brown||High Point||Sr.||SF||6-8||210|
|144||Winston Shepard||San Diego State||Sr.||SF||6-8||210|