CHICAGO - Give point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander some credit for aiming high. He was asked this week about how he models his game, and he said there was no one player he tries to emulate.
Instead, it goes like this: "I like a lot of James Harden, isolation-wise," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll. Kevin Durant in transition. I like watching a lot of LeBron (James) as he picks apart defenses with his vision and his IQ."
Ideally, then, Gilgeous-Alexander will develop into some hybrid of Harden, Paul, Durant and James. Hey, no pressure.
The way things have gone for Gilgeous-Alexander this season, maybe he's right to expect big things. He arrived at Kentucky last season the lowest rated of his incoming classmates, so often referred to as a sleeper in his first months with the Wildcats that he wasn't that much of a sleeper.
His defense made him an immediate contributor in Lexington. But over the final stretch of Kentucky's season, Gilgeous-Alexander began making a bigger impact offensively - he averaged 17.8 points with 6.1 assists on 49.7 percent shooting (40.0 percent 3-point shooting) in Kentucky's final 16 games. Along the way, he showed not only that he would be an NBA pick, but also the Wildcats' top entrant into the draft.
He raised some eyebrows around the league with the way his wingspan - 6-11.5 - measured. No other point guard had a wingspan bigger than 6-8.5.
One league talent evaluator said that the likeliest landing spots for Gilgeous-Alexander are Cleveland at No. 8 or the Clippers at Nos. 12/13. But don't count out Gilgeous-Alexander and Orlando, which picks sixth and could use a point guard.
"He is a guy who, the more you watch him, the more you like him," the league evaluator said. "He can shoot, that needs to improve, but he is not a bad shooter. There's a lot to work with there. But he can control a game. He can be a quarterback of your offense. He is already an excellent defender - he can guard three or four positions as it is.
"The late lottery might not be early enough. He has moved up and up, and I don't think he is going to stop moving up."
Gilgeous-Alexander said that the NBA is better suited for his game, both in terms of how he can attack offensively and how he can provide defensive versatility.
"My ability to create off the dribble and play-make from there, and defend multiple positions," Gilgeous-Alexander said of his strengths. "This league is going to, obviously, a more versatile league, playing small-ball and things like that. With me being able to guard multiple positions - and a lot of teams are switching things, like the pick-and-roll and off-ball screens - me being able to defend multiple positions would only help an organization."
In meeting with teams this week, Gilgeous-Alexander's rapid improvement this year has been a frequent topic.
"That's one of the things they have asked about," he said. "The uphill climb and how good of strides I made throughout the season."
Already, Gilgeous-Alexander has skyrocketed in value this season. He has five weeks to continue the climb.
Pistons, Trail Blazers use unique interview methods
By far, the big hit of the predraft combine was the interview setup for the Pistons, who turned to virtual reality to challenge the potential draftees with 12 game-type decision questions. Players were required to don VR goggles, which transported them to the team's practice facility and presented them with plays unfolding around them.
Using a remote control, the players would answer the questions.
"I was on the court, in their practice facility," Kansas guard Devonte Graham said. "Might be a pick-and-roll over here. Pin-down over here. So, what reads should you make, coming off the pick-and-roll, depending on what the defense does. I thought it was cool. It was different. I didn't just sit there and answer questions."
On the flip side, the Trail Blazers had a much more stripped-down session, featuring only a psychiatrist who handed players a written set of questions, then read back the answers. No coaches or front-office personnel required.
"They didn't send anybody," Duke guard Gary Trent Jr. said. "They just sent a psychiatrist, and you filled out a form. It was different. She simply just talked. There wasn't much to it."
Graham also said that one NBA team dusted off a classic interview question, one the Hawks had asked potential draftees back in 2015: If a bat and ball cost $1.10, and the bat is worth $1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?
Graham was asked for the answer.
"You tell me," he said.
When he did answer, Graham laughed and said, "I told them the ball was a dollar and the ball was nothing, but you put taxes on the bat. I was overthinking."
Melvin Frazier makes pre-draft jump
Notable that Tulane's Melvin Frazier sat out on the scrimmages Friday after shining in 5-on-5 games on Thursday. Frazier had 14 points, four assists and four steals playing for "Team 3." His measurements were impressive, too, and he handled the athletic testing phase well, too.
Frazier came into Chicago as a likely second-rounder, but speculation holds now that he's earned a late first-round spot.
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