Monday, June 14, 2010

Workout Report: Xavier Henry, Luke Babbitt, "Born Ready"

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 9:51 AM

The Grizzlies held two significant pre-draft workouts Sunday totaling 12 players. There were significant contenders for the #12 pick (Xavier Henry and Luke Babbitt) along with several options for the team's late-first-round picks. I was there for both workouts and, while I won't go into great detail on what happened, I'm giving brief notes on each relevant candidate.

Group One:

There were two players in the morning workout who aren't really in the first-round mix: Marquette's Lazar Hayward and Michigan State's Raymar Morgan. Morgan, in particular, had a nice day, but I can't see the Grizzlies considering either player at #25 or #28.

Xavier Henry
  • Xavier Henry
Xavier Henry (Kansas): Henry, a definite candidate at #12, was the feature attraction in this group and if he didn't jump out as much as you might expect, there are two factors that have to be accounted for: At 19, he's several years younger than the other players he worked out against, and he's probably the best shooter. Heading into the workout, the take on Henry was that he's a pro shooter with a pro body but that there are questions about his athletic upside and all-around game. And I think those questions — along with ones about his aggressiveness — remain. Based on his size, youth, shot-making ability, and basketball I.Q., Henry should remain on the radar at #12, but didn't really bolster himself in my mind yesterday.

James Anderson (Oklahoma State): Considered a darkhorse candidate at #12, Anderson was hard to get a read on. He was playing with a minor hamstring injury. He pushed himself through the contact drills — impressive in itself given how common workout cancellations are —  but sat out the shooting drills. Nothing about Anderson really jumped out but it's hard to say how limited he was physically.

Dominique Jones (South Florida): A good athlete with more-than-acceptable size at the two, Jones appeared solid as a slasher, playmaker, and even shooter. His workout wasn't quite as impressive as ones in past years from similar players such as Courtney Lee and Marcus Thornton, but he looked like a NBA-caliber player and should be in the mix with the late picks.

Stanley Robinson (Connecticut): Robinson is a tough one because he clearly has NBA-level ability and thus should be in play in the late first round, but as an athletic swingman without a reliable jumper (see: Sam Young, DeMarre Carroll, Ronnie Brewer), he's exactly the type of player the Grizzlies don't need more of on the roster. Robinson was impressive around the rim (including one windmill dunk on a break) and could have a future as an energy guy in the league.

Group Two:
There were two players in this group well outside the first-round range, Syracuse shooter Andy Rautins and Western Kentucky big man Jeremy Evans, but Evans was something of a shock: A long, thin 6'9" forward, he consistently made plays around the rim offensively and defensively and flashed a surprisingly smooth mid-range stroke. He's needs time — probably in the developmental league — to add strength and refine his game, but this generally unknown prospect absolutely looked like an NBA-caliber talent.

The rest:

Luke Babbitt (Nevada): Babbitt entered the day atop my personal Grizzlies draft board and though his performance tempers my enthusiasm slightly, I saw enough good that I would keep him strongly in the mix at #12. Adding the workout to the store of information on Babbitt, this is what we seem to know: There are three strong positives in his favor. One, he's a legit shooter with NBA range (he shot 18-25 from three-point range in the shooting drills and a couple of the misses just rimmed out). Two, he has the size (nearly 6'9" with a nearly 7-foot wingspan) to swing over and be a stretch four when the Grizzlies want to go small or match up with other teams who are going small. This is a type of player the team doesn't currently have on the roster and could really use. Third, Babbitt displayed the ball-handling and passing ability to allay any fears that he's just a one-dimensional spot-up shooter.

The downside with Babbitt is the legitimate concern about his strength and explosiveness. Babbitt tested well athletically at the draft combine, but matched here with really physical small forwards (Lance Stephenson and Quincy Pondexter) and longer true power forwards (Evans, Craig Brackens), those combine results didn't translate quite as much as I'd hoped. He's going to have to get stronger and quicker to make contested plays around the rim or defend slashing perimeter scorers.

Lance Stephenson
  • Lance Stephenson
Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati): Nicknamed "Born Ready," the controversial high-school star had a shaky one-year run at Cincinnati but seems to be on the upswing as the NBA Draft approaches. Stephenson is a big, powerful two-guard who was consistently able to get to the rim, take contact, and finish. His ability in this regard is somewhat reminiscent of Tyreke Evans. As a shooter, Stephenson was erratic, but looked better than his college production indicates. He connected on enough shots and looked good enough doing it to suggest he could develop into a viable three-point threat at the next level. He didn't handle the ball well beyond taking a bounce en route to the rim and even in halfcourt three-on-three drills there were questions about his hoops IQ and grasp of team play. But Stephenson looked good overall. He's definitely a first-round talent who can be a scoring threat in the NBA. I'd put him solidly in the mix at #25.

Stephenson was more productive in the live drills than Babbitt was, but what I think needs to be factored in is that the drills in this workout were halfcourt three-on-three contests, and that's not what you're drafting players to do. In the real game, there will be more space and players can't expect to have the ball as much. Babbitt is someone who will be able to find open spots and knock down shots. Stephenson looks good with the ball in his hands 18-feet-and-in, but I wonder how much he'll help you when he's not in that situation.

Quincy Pondexter (Washington): I didn't have Pondexter on my list of Grizzlies draft prospects based on the idea that the team can't afford to add another wing player who isn't a shooter, but based on his strong workout with the team, I'll definitely be adding Pondexter to the list on the next update. A sturdy 6'6" swingman (built similarly to Sam Young), Pondexter was solid in pretty much every aspect of the workout and really surprised with his dynamite mid-range shooting. I'm not sure if he can stretch that shot out to NBA three-point range but he looked okay from that distance in drills. Pondexter duplicates a lot of what the roster already has in the form of Young and Ronnie Brewer, but if you're looking for someone in the late first who's a reasonably safe bet to be able to play in the NBA, teams will have a hard time doing better than Pondexter.

Craig Brackens (Iowa State): Like Stephenson and Pondexter, Brackens really helped himself here, at least in my eyes. At 6'10", Brackens would give the team a longer option at power forward than Zach Randolph or Darrell Arthur, and one with deeper shooting range. Brackins' shot looks great from mid-range and his performance suggested he could be a legitimate three-point threat in time. Athletically, Brackens was a little more live than I expected and made some plays above the rim, but I still think he needs to get stronger to really hold his ground in the paint. Still, his combination of size and shooting ability would be very enticing with one of those late first-round picks.


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