2014 NBA Draft Prospect Workout: Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine and Co.

Pete D'Alessandro and Chris Mullin chat with Zach LaVine after pre-draft workout in Sacramento. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

With the 2014 NBA Draft drawing near, the Sacramento Kings are finishing with a flurry of prospect workouts.  Friday’s cast of characters included one of the draft’s best shooters, an incredible leaper and a 7-foot-5 giant.  After bowing out of a workout last week, Duke’s Rodney Hood and UCLA’s Zach LaVine highlighted an interesting group of prospects.

Arizona’s Nick Johnson, gigantic Sim Bhullar out of New Mexico State, Cal’s Richard Solomon and Marshall-star-turned D-Leaguer Elijah Pittman rounded out the workout.

Rodney Hood

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Forward
  • College: Duke
  • Height: 6-8.5
  • Weight: 208 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 21
  • Quick Breakdown: Hood is a smooth-shooting, efficient athlete with NBA size.

Analysis: The Kings are looking for shooters and Hood is one of the best this year’s draft has to offer.  Playing alongside Jabari Parker at Duke, Hood averaged 16.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting from long range.  He is a willing passer with a high basketball IQ player on the offensive end.

At 6-8.5, Hood has the size to match up with most NBA small forwards, but his body is a long way from being a finished product. He has a frame that teams are looking for, but he needs to add size and strength to hang with the league’s best athletes.  Like Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas, Hood struggles on the defensive end and may not have the tools to excel on that side ball at the NBA level.

Hood is a late riser in the draft, but he won’t go anywhere near No. 8 when the Kings make their selection.

Zach LaVine

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Guard
  • College: UCLA
  • Height: 6-5.75
  • Weight: 181 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 26
  • Quick Breakdown: A young super-athlete with loads of potential and very little production to date.

Analysis: If basketball was purely about how high you could jump, LaVine would be the first overall selection in this year’s draft.  At the combine, he posted a 41.5-inch vertical, but he really turned heads in an LA workout when he posted a jaw-dropping 46-inch vert.  Unfortunately, basketball is about so much more than just athleticism and LaVine has a long way to go as a player.

Like plenty of other UCLA prospects, it’s hard to gauge how LaVine’s game will translate to the NBA level.  Can he be another Jrue Holiday or possibly Russell Westbrook?  Or is he more of a player like Tyler Honeycutt?  In his lone season as a Bruin, LaVine averaged 9.4 points on 49.4 percent shooting and 37.5 percent shooting from long range.  His athleticism has teams clamoring for his services, but like Hood, he won’t climb up the board to where the Kings are selecting.

this guy’s gonna be a stud
this guy’s gonna be a stud”

Nick Johnson

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Guard
  • College: Arizona
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 198 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 48
  • Quick Breakdown:  An undersized shooting guard with major intangibles.

Analysis: There is a lot to like about Johnson, but his size will limit where he is taken in this year’s draft.  The junior guard was a jack of all trades and a leader for the Wildcats.  He is a tenacious player on both ends of the floor and his 41.5-inch vertical at the combine shows that he has the athleticism to play at the NBA level.

He will have to develop as a playmaker if he hopes to stick in the league.  Johnson is more of a scorer than shooter.  He primarily played off the ball and was effective in catch-and-shoot situations.  With an increase in chances as a junior, Johnson’s 3-point numbers dipped slightly from 39.3 percent as a sophomore to 36.7 last season.  He finished out his career in Arizona averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33 minutes per game.

Sim Bhullar

  • Age: 21
  • Position: Center
  • College: New Mexico State
  • Height: 7-5
  • Weight: 360 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 90
  • Quick Breakdown: Bhullar is one of the biggest people on Earth.

Analysis: The big man out of New Mexico State is a behemoth.  To give some perspective, he makes Aaron Gray look small.  At the college level, Bhullar held his own, averaging 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 26.3 minutes per game.  He has a soft touch and he eats up space in the paint like no other.  Whether his size and game translate to the NBA level is a huge question mark, but don’t be surprised if he ends up on a summer league roster this year.

“Marcus is a physical player,” Bratz said.  “Elfrid Payton is tough and he did very well (against Smart).  Those are two really good guards.  Elfrid had a really good workout.” – See more at: http://cowbellkingdom.com/2014/06/02/sacramento-kings-evaluate-nba-hopefuls-marcus-smart-noah-vonleh-tyler-ennis-and-elfrid-payton/#sthash.fx3iGLd4.dpuf

Richard Solomon

  • Age: 22
  • Position: Forward
  • College: Cal
  • Height: 6-11
  • Weight: 226 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: 94
  • Quick Breakdown:  A lanky big man with long wingspan and a huge vert.

Analysis: Solomon finished his career at Cal averaging a solid 11.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game.  He fell off the map as a prospect early in his college career, but at 6-11 with a 41-inch vertical, he has to hold some intrigue for NBA teams.  His path to the Association will go through the D-League or Europe, however.

Elijah Pittman

  • Age: 22
  • Position: Forward
  • College: Marshall/D-League
  • Height: 6-9
  • Weight: 210 lbs.
  • Draft Express Top 100 Ranking: NR
  • Quick Breakdown: Talented player with major baggage.

Analysis: Pittman played parts of two seasons at Marshall after coming to the program as a junior college transfer.  His career ended eight games into his senior season when he was suspended indefinitely by the team.  At the time of his suspension, Pittman was averaging 21.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.  After leaving Marshall, he joined the Delaware 87ers, averaging 10 points in 20.6 minutes per game.  Talent doesn’t always trump all.  Pittman will have to further rehabilitate his image at the D-league level to get a shot in the league.

“Marcus is a physical player,” Bratz said.  “Elfrid Payton is tough and he did very well (against Smart).  Those are two really good guards.  Elfrid had a really good workout.” – See more at: http://cowbellkingdom.com/2014/06/02/sacramento-kings-evaluate-nba-hopefuls-marcus-smart-noah-vonleh-tyler-ennis-and-elfrid-payton/#sthash.fx3iGLd4.dpuf

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About: James Ham

James Ham provides coverage through news analysis and in-depth interviews with Kings players and staff. James is also one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart". James graduated UC Davis with a degree in history and is happily married with two children.