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Indian center prospect Satnam Singh impresses at Wizards workout


Indian center prospect Satnam Singh impresses at Wizards workout

Wisconsin guard Traveon Jackson's confusion was perhaps understandable when he first saw Satnam Singh at the Washington Wizards' latest draft workout.

The mountainous 7-foot-2, 290-pound center is trying to become the first player in the NBA from India, though not the first of Indian descent. This is where Jackson's case of mistaken identity kicks in.

“I thought he was Sim Bhullar at first until he told me his name,” Jackson confessed following Wednesday's session. 

The 7-foot-5 Bhullar, who hails from Canada, broke the barrier when he played three games with the Sacramento Kings last season. Another milestone would fall if Singh lands with an NBA team. 

“I feel good about this because in India there are a lot of Indian players who could have a chance to come here and play in college and play in high schools,” Singh said. “I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play. So it’s good for India and all the players. It’s good for me and my country.”

Though he epitomizes the term raw prospect, Singh also offers upside. DraftExpress.com, one of the leading NBA Draft websites, ranks the 19-year-old as the 66th best prospect in the 2015 class.

Singh is also something of a mystery man. He left India - a recent Sports Illustrated article said he hails from a small wheat farm in Punjab - in 2010 for the IMG Academy in Florida. That's where he trained for the past four years before declaring for the draft. 

Though a member of India's national team, Singh didn't play D1 college basketball unlike the other five players working out Wednesday before members of the Wizards organization, including team President Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman.

Jackson, a 6-foot-3 senior and son of former NBA standout Jim Jackson, played with frontcourt standouts and potential lottery picks Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker during the Badgers' run to the national title game. On Wednesday, he and Singh were on the same side during 3-on-3 drills.

"He nice. He good. He’s definitely rough around the edges, but, man, he’s big,” Jackson said of Singh. “He was able to set some big ball screens and he can really hit the pull-up, pick-and-pop shots. So he’s definitely going to be on a team. I don’t know what team he’s going to be on but he’s going to be on a team for sure."

Singh previously worked out for the Kings and Boston Celtics.

Two other Big Ten products, Iowa center Gabriel Olaseni and Minnesota forward Maurice Walker, and a pair of Southeastern Conference players - Auburn guard Antoine Mason and Ole Miss forward M.J. Rhett - rounded out the session. Only Singh ranks among Draft Express's top 100 prospects.

The Wizards, who own the 19th and 49th picks, have center Marcin Gortat under contract for the next four seasons. With reserve big man Kevin Seraphin likely to sign elsewhere in free agency, Washington could look for a backup plan in the upcoming draft. Singh screams D-League project, but with Gortat around, the Wizards can afford patience with a possible second round selection. 

“He’s got good hands. He’s a big guy. He’s got a soft touch,” said Olaseni, who was also on Singh’s team. “Obviously being 7-2, close to 300 pounds, he’s effective around the rim so he kept a lot of loose balls alive for us. So being only 19 years old he’s got a lot of upside.”

Notes: University of Maryland standout Dez Wells headlines Thursday's workout session along with UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn.

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.


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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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