Sacramento Kings evaluate NBA hopefuls Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Tyler Ennis and Elfrid Payton

Marcus Smart bodies up against Elfrid Payton in a pre-draft workout for the Sacramento Kings. (Photo: Jason Wise)

Four potential first round picks made their way to Sacramento for two pre-draft workouts on Monday.  The Kings took a look at Marcus Smart (guard, Oklahoma State), Noah Vonleh (forward, Indiana), Tyler Ennis (guard, Syracuse) and Elfrid Payton (guard, Lousiana-Lafayette) as well as Eric Moreland (forward/center, Oregon State), John Bohannon (center, UTEP), Stephen Holt (guard, St. Mary’s) and local product Brendan Lane (forward/center, Pepperdine).  Vonleh, Smart, Moreland and Payton participated in the first workout while Bohannon, Holt, Lane and Ennis took part in the second.  Below are a few notes and quotes from Vonleh, Smart, Ennis and Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz, who addressed the media following both workouts.

  • Bratz praised Vonleh’s size, length, overall skill and versatility.  He believes that the former Indiana big man is capable of functioning as a stretch four at the NBA level because he shoots the ball very well for his size.  Bratz still thinks Vonleh has a lot of things to learn.  But for a player who turns 19 in August, he thinks Vonleh has a lot of upside.   “Noah’s a skilled player,” Bratz said.  “He’s got a lot more than just standing on the block.  He’s a really talented player.  Young, physically – you can just tell that this guy’s gonna be a stud.  He can take it outside.  He’s got a nice touch.  He can do other things.  You put guys in positions on the floor to see what they might be able to develop as well and Noah, he’s an impressive kid.”
  • Bratz on how Vonleh would look next to DeMarcus Cousins: “If he were playing next to DeMarcus Cousins, he would definitely draw attention and open things up for DeMarcus a little bit because Noah has skill to step outside.  And he’s also big – he’s big and young.”
  • Vonleh on the possibility of playing with Cousins: “I definitely can see myself complimenting him.  He’s a great player.  He can put 20 and 15 every night.  I think I could take some help away from him in the paint, stretch the floor with my shooting, things like that – my versatility.  That’s really about it.”
  • Vonleh has spent countless hours working on his versatility and skill.  At Indiana, he would hit the gym with Hoosiers assistant strength and conditioning coach Seth Cooper and former teammate Stanford Robinson to work on ball-handling and shooting.  His versatility for a player his size are just one of the things that he wants to demonstrate to NBA teams in these private workouts.  “Just trying to show I can handle the ball, I can play away from the basket and I’m real versatile,” Vonleh said.  “Rebound the ball, rebounding in my area and I have a great touch and I can keep on extending my range.”
  • Bratz has been watching Smart for quite some time.  The Kings assistant GM has lived in Texas the last 14 years and knew that Smart played in the same league as his son’s high school, so he’s kept his eye on the Oklahoma State guard’s meteoric rise. “He’s a very, very impressive kid,” Bratz said of Smart.  “Really, really sound kid.  Physically tough, mentally tough and skilled.  He’s a really good player.”
  • Bratz says the Kings wanted Smart to match-up specifically with Payton and not Ennis in Monday’s workout.  Payton earned a reputation as a solid defender during his three seasons at Lousiana-Lafayette.  “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.”
  • Smart suffered a minor injury, jamming his pinky finger in one of the last couple of drills.  It was nothing serious.
  • Smart on if he made the right decision to come back to Oklahoma State for a second-straight season: “100 percent.  I definitely think I made the right decision with coming back.  I have no regrets.  I got to go back, have another year in college, enjoy that experience and still be able to play in the NBA.”
  • Ennis came into Monday’s workout hoping to show that he’s capable of knocking down the NBA three-pointer.  There have also been questions about whether his athleticism is up to snuff at the NBA level, especially when it comes to defense.   The 19-year-old guard also wanted to demonstrate to the Kings that he’s a capable one-on-one defender considering the Orangemen’s reputation as a zone-defense team.   “Coming from Syracuse, a lot of people question whether you could defend,” Ennis said. “So I tried to go out there and show that I could defend.”
  • Ennis believes his greatest strength is that he’s faciltator and passer first.  He thinks that focusing on playing his game will help him stand out from the rest of the other point guards in this year’s draft.  “I think (I’m) probably the most true point guard of the group,” Ennis said.  “I think I’m able to run a team.  I think I’m able to score with the best of them in this class as far as point guards.  So I’m just gonna go out there and play my game and whether they draft me higher than anybody else, I’m just worried about getting on the right team and the right fit.”
  • Ennis on not getting to compete against Smart or Payton: “As a competitor, you want to go out there and compete regardless of who it is.  To be in the same gym as these guys, working out for the Kings is an honor, but you want to be able to show your skills against them.  I think the next workout in L.A., we’ll be able to play against each other a little bit more.  But I’m just going out there and trying to play, prove myself who I’m against.”
  • What’s next for each prospect that came through Sacramento on Monday?  Smart, Ennis and Vonleh are apparently heading to Los Angeles for a workout with the Lakers on Wednesday.  Smart has a second workout scheduled with the Orlando Magic and will make a visit to Boston as well.  Ennis will also be heading down to Orlando and has workouts scheduled with Atlanta, Charlotte and Denver.  The former Syracuse point guard has already worked out for the Toronto Raptors.
  • Their schedule is subject to change, but the Kings won’t be having more workouts anytime this week.  Bratz said that their next workout is scheduled a week and a half from today, sometime after June 15.

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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.