Shai Gilgeous-Alexander won't reveal pre-draft secrets
NEW YORK - It has been a while since we've seen Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, so when he popped up at the NBA's pre-draft interview sessions, there were some obvious questions. While other prospects have been trotting to cities around the league for team workouts, frequently speaking to the media afterwards, Gilgeous-Alexander has made zero trips to any NBA arenas.
It turns out Gilgeous-Alexander has been working out in Los Angeles ahead of the draft, and rather than traveling to workouts, sources told Sporting News that his agent, Thad Foucher of the Wasserman Group, had teams interested in drafting Gilgeous-Alexander visit LA to watch him.
Gilgeous-Alexander could go as high as No. 6 to Orlando. Cleveland had interest, too, at No. 8, as well as the Hornets at 11. One reason the flow of teams to watch Gilgeous-Alexander was so tightly controlled, a source speculated, was a desire to have him drafted by the Clippers, who have back-to-back picks at Nos. 12 and 13.
Toronto reportedly would like to trade into the top 10 to draft Gilgeous-Alexander, but such a deal would be difficult to pull off - the Raptors might need to dump either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan to make it happen.
The reason for the secrecy around Gilgeous-Alexander is a mystery in itself. But you have to appreciate the guy's ability to stonewall us media-types.
On Wednesday, Keith Pompey of Philly.com tried to pry some info of Gilgeous-Alexander and was shut down. Here's how it went:
Pompey: Did you work out with anyone?
Gilgeous-Alexander: Yeah, I did.
KP: Who all did you work out with?
SGA: I'm not allowed to share that.
KP (After SGA said he was in the lottery range): Is it low or high? Where at?
SGA: That's all I've heard.
KP: How many teams have you worked out for?
SGA: I already answered that. Nice try, though.
Will a team trade up for Mo Bamba?
We've been reporting for a while now that several teams love Mo Bamba, and why shouldn't they? Not only does he has a 7-10 wingspan, but he is an engaging young man who also happens to love his mother - he moved her out of Harlem this week, I am told, and into a new apartment in Midtown Manhattan.
Who wouldn't love a guy who takes care of his mom like that? Also, who wouldn't love a guy who spent the last couple of months working with Kevin Garnett, Joel Embiid and trainer extraordinaire Drew Hanlen?
Hanlen broke down Bamba's shooting mechanics since he declared for the draft, and rebuilt his shot, helping Bamba release the ball quicker and from a more consistent shooting pocket.
"I changed my mechanics for the betterment, honestly," Bamba told Sporting News, "and it was - when you are changing your jump shot, what people don't know about it is that it takes a level of vulnerability to be told that you're doing something not right, not correct. The process of changing it, it takes being open-minded and willing to change."
Who doesn't love an open-minded student?
The Celtics have been big fans of Bamba (they like Jaren Jackson Jr. as well) and have been exploring ways to move into the top five of the draft for weeks now. Boston has two potential lottery picks next year to offer - Sacramento's, protected for the No. 1 pick, and Memphis', protected for the top eight - though a potential deal is complicated by the possible pursuit of Spurs star Kawhi Leonard.
The other team with eyes on Bamba is Chicago, which had hoped that he would slide through the top six and land right in the Bulls' laps. Because that looks increasingly unlikely (Orlando also likes Bamba if he is there at No. 6), Chicago has engaged in talks to move up to No. 3, where Atlanta is considering its options but is likely to hold its pick, as well as Memphis at No. 4.
The Grizzlies have been prepared to trade their pick going all the way back to the lottery, when they were the big loser, dropping from a potential No. 2 pick to fourth. They're seeking to attach Chandler Parsons' albatross contract to any move involving the pick.
The Bulls would rather move a player (Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn) than take on the two years and $49 million of Parsons' deadweight contract. Chicago hopes to use its cap space to absorb unwanted contracts and collect further assets this summer, and Parsons' deal would pretty much chew up that space.
Trae Young hears your defensive concerns
There has been chatter that Trae Young has slipped, and his recent "secret" workout with Cleveland that was reported by ESPN may be an indication that his comfort zone - from No. 3 Atlanta to No. 6 Orlando - is not so comfortable anymore. The Cavs pick eighth, and they have Gilgeous-Alexander, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton and Missouri mystery man Michael Porter Jr. among their targets.
Give Young credit. He knows exactly why teams are wary about him: defense. It's difficult to focus on D, of course, when you are scoring 27.4 points per game with 8.7 assists, but for Young, it is a nit that teams have picked.
He was asked about why teams are knocking his defense. His answer: Well, I didn't play a lot of defense.
"I just think, the way I played this year, I left that out there," Young said, "I left the question out there. So, [the defensive criticism] comes from stuff I did this year."
Kentucky standout just keeps working
On the other end of the spectrum from Gilgeous-Alexander's pre-draft approach is the way that Kentucky teammate Kevin Knox went about his workouts in the past month. Knox worked out for every team from Orlando at No. 6 through the Clippers at No. 13, and he should land in that range.
Not only that, but he eschewed the standard one-on-zero workouts that so many top prospects insist upon, and mixed it up with other potential lottery picks. He enjoyed the process so much that he snuck in one last workout on Tuesday for the Sixers before going to New York for the draft.
"A lot of guys were doing solo workouts, but I wanted to do group workouts," Knox said. "I kind of wanted to compete. I wanted to show guys my competitive spirit. I did a lot of one-on-ones, a lot of two-on-twos. That's the mindset I had going in, to try to go at people and try to dominate. So I decided not to do solo workouts and I did more workouts than people expected."