BOSTON – Getting players in for workouts is a cat-and-mouse game played between teams and agents with players often caught somewhere in the middle.
NBA teams want to evaluate as many players as they can, while agents want their players to only work out for teams who are potential landing spots for their clients.
If a player is projected as a Top 10 pick and a team is selecting outside of the lottery (Top 14), chances of getting them in for a workout are slim.
And if the player is a solid first-rounder in a year when a team doesn’t have a first-round pick but still wants to work that player out...fuh-get-uh-bot-it!
That’s why things are noticeably different for the Celtics when it comes to scheduling players for workouts this year, a process that will pick up in earnest beginning on Wednesday with subsequent workouts scheduled for Thursday and Friday as well.
While it’s still challenging, the Celtics have a much more receptive audience now than past years.
Of course, having four picks (16th, 28th, 33rd and 45th) in the draft does help.
"These guys [draft prospects] can't work out for all 30 teams," Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, told CSNNE.com. "So agents try to limit it to your range. So that's probably the biggest advantage in our wide net is we have a pick for every range, almost. We're able to get more guys in which is even more important than what we're trying to get."
Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said the C's are likely to have 40-60 players in town for workouts.
Still, that’s just a fraction of the players he’ll see workout between now and the June 25 NBA draft.
Agents have arranged workouts where their clients go through a carefully designed set of drills and sets before league executives with the goal being to showcase their various strengths.
Danny Ainge recently returned from Los Angeles where he saw several group workouts arranged by agents.
By the time the draft arrives, Danny Ainge said he anticipates he will have seen 100 or so players workout between those arranged group workouts and the players that work out at the Celtics’ practice facility.
And when it comes to separating the great workouts from others, Danny Ainge said it comes down to just one thing: talent.
“They’re really good players,” Danny Ainge told CSNNE.com when asked what the common thread for a good workout. “It’s obvious to everyone in the arena. The best workouts I’ve seen in the draft process in my career have been Kobe Bryant, Amare’ Stoudemire and Shawn Marion; probably those three were the most impressive draft workouts that I ever saw.”
Ainge added, “It was obvious to every person in the gym that they were by far the best players on the court and stood out among a group of other good players.”
In the coming weeks, several players will be in town and will look to make a similar impression on Ainge and his staff.
But having seen these players for months at the college or international level, there’s little about them that the Celtics don’t know already.
However, Austin Ainge points out some of the reasons why these workouts are indeed valuable for both the players and the teams conducting them.
“It’s different for every group,” said Austin Ainge. “It’s evaluating some of the different questions we have on each player. If a guy is a poor shooter, we try to watch his shooting more closely. If a guy’s a poor passer, we try to put him in situations where he has to pass. We try to poke and prod and sum up the weaknesses of guys, try and learn a little bit more about them.”
In Danny Ainge’s experience as both a coach and league executive, often there is a noticeable change in the players that he would scout during the season compared to those he sees in workouts leading up to the draft.
“Some of these players are very young players,” Danny Ainge said. “Often when they get into our building in June, they are much different looking than they are on their teams. Kids have spent two or three months focusing on just their bodies. They don’t have to worry about studying. They don’t have to play games. They can focus on training and preparing for this process, preparing for the NBA. Often players just look different and are different athletically. In some cases, players look worst; they haven’t understood the magnitude of this job interview. But you get a chance to see them up close...from the stands you can’t see everything you can see up close on a player’s shot mechanics. You get a chance to visit with them, talk with them, ask them questions about their lives, their goals, their dreams, their path to success.”