Sacramento Kings host Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine in six-man pre-draft workout

Zach LaVine, Rodney Hood and Nick Johnson chat after Friday pre-draft workout in Sacramento. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Less than a week remains before this year’s NBA Draft.  The Sacramento Kings are hustling to get as many workouts in before they are officially on the clock with the No. 8 pick.  On Friday, they hosted a group of six players: Rodney Hood (Duke),  Zach LaVine (UCLA), Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State), Nick Johnson (Arizona), Elijah Pittman (Marshall/D-League) and Richard Solomon (California).

  • Kings assistant GM Mike Bratz was impressed by the enthusiasm brought by the prospects in Friday’s workout.  “The draft process is winding down,” Bratz said.  “Some of these guys have been through six, seven, eight workouts or more so it’s a grind on them.  The fatigue is kind of setting in.  They’re doing a lot of traveling across the country.  The energy level was real high in here today and they all played great, really.”  On a related note, former Duke forward Rodney Hood says he rescheduled his workout last Saturday with the Kings because he had previously performed in four workouts in six days.
  • Bratz thinks Hood is a versatile talent capable of defending multiple positions at the next level.  The Kings assistant GM believes the former Duke Blue Devil will start his career defending the three, but has the potential to guard twos as well.  “He’s like a lot of college kids,” Bratz said. “They’re gonna have to adjust to the talent level when they get in the NBA.  Things are a little harder.  The athletes are better.  Rodney’s a real good athlete himself.  He’s a very intelligent player.  He’ll figure it out.”
  • Hood says he came into Friday’s workout intent on showing his strengths as opposed to demonstrating what he’s worked on since his college career ended.  “I just tried to showcase what I can do which is shoot the ball,” Hood said.  “I don’t go to teams and try to reinvent myself or show what I’ve been working on.  Just come in and shoot the ball.  That’s why people are really excited about me.  That’s what I’ve been doing.”  Ball-handling and his physique are areas of improvement Hood noted that he’d like to address this summer.
  • Bratz sees UCLA guard Zach LaVine as a combo guard at the next level.  “I mean he handles great,” the Kings assistant GM said of LaVine.  “He’s got good vision.  He’s probably a little more comfortable right now at the two.  But his ball-handling and passing, I think he can be a good combo eventually.”
  • LaVine on being a combo guard in the NBA: “I mean I do that now already.  My ultimate goal is to be the best player I can be.  Going to the NBA, whatever position the coach wants me to play, if it’s at point or it’s at off-guard, it’s whatever.  I’ll go at it and do the best I can.  Just go out there and try to compete with my guys and try to win.”
  • The Kings assistant GM has few concerns about LaVine’s defensive potential, noting that the former UCLA guard has athleticism that’s “off-the-charts” and can help him in the NBA.  “He’s got things to learn,” Bratz said.  “Just played his freshman year at UCLA.  So he lacks experience, but there’s nothing he can’t pick up.”
  • LaVine said it’s only recently that folks have taken notice of his athleticism, claiming that he had been known more for his ball-handling and shooting ability before.  He’s glad, however, that people are starting to take notice in his ability to jump out of the gym.
  • Bratz touched on the Kings’ visit to Chicago this week, where they took a closer look at shooters Nik Stauskas of Michigan and Doug McDermott of Creighton.  He called them “probably the best shooters in the draft.” “Shooting is something that every team needs and something we need more of,” Bratz said.  “And those two can really shoot the ball.  They’re very impressive.”
  • News broke yesterday that Joel Embiid would be undergoing surgery on his right foot, jeopardizing his chances of being picked first in this year’s draft.  Bratz weighed in on what that could mean for the order of the draft.  “Well, there’s speculation (that he’ll fall) of course, but he’s a special talent,” the Kings assistant GM said.  “I think the teams above us are gonna have to gauge how much risk they feel there is.  I think the farther he drops, the less the risk for the team.  I think if things just fall to order, the top four, five guys are going to go in the same position they were in anyway.”
  • Bratz on 7-5, 360 lbs. center Sim Bhullar: “Sim’s got a real soft touch.  The guy’s huge and to his credit, he’s really worked hard these last couple months.  He’s in pretty good condition.  He’s moving much, much better up and down the floor.  He’s got a chance.  You just don’t see guys that big.  He’s big.”
  • Bratz praised guard Nick Johnson’s basketball IQ and athleticism.  He thinks that the former Arizona Wildcat is capable of playing both guard positions at the next level.  “He’s a very smart player, he sees the floor and he’s a big time competitor,” Bratz said. “And he’s gonna be a real good defender in the league.  I think there’s going to be a spot for him in the NBA for sure.”
  • Johnson has participated in 14 different workouts and believes he’s done enough in each one to show he can play both guard positions.  “I think I have expressed and shown that’s a plus to me,” Johnson said.  “I can play the one and the two.  I have the confidence in myself that I can come in and defend the one and the two.   So I think that’s one thing that stands out about my game.”

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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.