Pre-draft visits entail more than workouts in Sacramento Kings evaluation process

Mitch Richmond, Mike Bratz and Chris Mullin chat following a Kings pre-draft workout. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

A little more than two dozen prospects made the trek to Sacramento ahead of this year’s draft. Heralded names like Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon came to the capital city to display their talents before the Sacramento Kings.

With the draft just a little more than a day away, it’s unlikely that the Kings host any more prospect visits. But, they have made due with what’s been afforded to them ahead of the 2014 NBA Draft.

“I’d like to say these workouts don’t matter,” Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said after Monday’s six-man session. “But I mean, they’re here and we’re looking at them apples to apples, like how a guy looks versus this guy or whatever.”

What players showcased in those workouts isn’t likely to outweigh all the data the Kings have gathered in preparation for the draft. Over the last year, the Kings front office has spent countless hours breaking down film, crunching numbers and traveling the country and world to formulate educated opinions on this year’s prospects. That, however, doesn’t mean these visits were all for naught.

“There is something that you can do to move the needle at the workout,” D’Alessandro said. “A few workouts that we had, there were guys that I think differently about them.  It makes you go back and re-look at the games maybe you went to and re-look at maybe the reports that you’ve done.  And then decide, ‘Did I miss something?’ and try to watch a guy from a different context.”

The workouts themselves may not necessarily change much opinion as far as talent evaluation is concerned. But, the time spent off the court during visits may certainly leave a significant dent. Team executives and scouts are able to watch college players in games and practices, but they aren’t allowed to interact with them until they officially enter the draft.

The Kings front office approached prospect visits almost like college recruiting trips. They even took players to the team’s new Experience Center in Downtown Sacramento, giving them a first-hand preview of what it would look like to play in the franchise’s new arena in two years. Getting to know a young man they might invest serious dollars in on a personal level is something D’Alessandro and his staff relish about the pre-draft process.

“We try to do it in groups,” D’Alessandro said. “To try to get a bunch of our staff together and sit down in the group and really get to know them. And we’re all pretty casual people in our approach, so I think it’s pretty disarming for a lot of guys and you really get to see personality. It’s been enlightening for us with some of the guys we’ve talked to.”

The Kings’ personable approach hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players they’ve hosted. Deonte Burton, a point guard prospect out of Nevada, said he felt like he was at home during his visit with the Kings.

“Some teams, some coaches, the staff members don’t really interact,” Burton said following Monday’s pre-draft workout. “They take you through the workouts right here. But here, you interact, you can ask whatever questions you need. It was just a great vibe all day like I said. Going into the workout, you had that good feeling and you just wanted to give it your all.”

That players like Burton have come in and pushed themselves past their limits isn’t lost on the Kings. Burton himself had participated in roughly nine or 10 different workouts prior to his trip to Sacramento. Both D’Alessandro and assistant general Mike Bratz were very happy with the effort they saw from players in the team’s last two workout sessions.

“The process is rough,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s really rough on these kids. Like they come in and you’re at the end of it. You’re not getting the best of any of these guys. Even with that, I saw guys running and dunking and it’s really impressive to me and it says a lot about the kids who were here (on Monday).”

D’Alessandro on the challenges of scheduling prospect workouts

There is plenty of posturing by NBA agents and teams during this time of year. The Kings are in possession of just the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft, but they’ve been able to successfully convince players who are out of their range to come in for workouts.

Prospects like Nick Johnson of Arizona and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse are projected to be picked in the second and mid-to-late-first round, respectively. D’Alessandro has been able to bring players like them in for workouts by making it clear to their agents that the Kings are actively looking for picks to use on their clients.

“I have really good relationships with a lot of these guys and their agents,” the Kings GM said. “And I try to be a person of my word. If I’m saying trying to move and make things happen to get picks in different areas, I am. Then it’s their decision – are you betting on the fact we will or not? And these guys came in and betted on the fact that we would.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.