Quick Links

Looney and loaded: 'Freak of nature' forward visits Wizards


Looney and loaded: 'Freak of nature' forward visits Wizards

When looking at forward Kevon Looney's entire portfolio including measurables, stats and analytics, the take from the UCLA product's former teammate doesn't seem so outlandish.

"Kevon is a freak of nature," said guard Norman Powell, who played with Looney during the big man's lone college season. 

The pair and four other NBA Draft prospects worked out for the Washington Wizards on Monday. For all kinds of reasons, Looney is frequently projected as one option for the Wizards with the 19th overall pick:

Need - Whether Paul Pierce stays in Washington or not, the Wizards are in the market for a stretch-4. The 6-foot-9 Looney shot 41.5% (22 of 53) from beyond the college 3-point arc during his freshman season while averaging 11.6 points.

Glass work - Rebounding numbers, more than most stats, tend to translate from college to the pro game. Looney grabbed 9.2 last season, including 3.8 off the offensive boards. Though a good rebounding team during the regular season, the Wizards work on the boards dipped in the playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

"His IQ of being able to go and grab rebounds. I've seen him grab rebounds that I didn't even think was possible," Powell exclaimed. 

Measurables - Not only does the Milwaukee native possess good height for NBA power forward, Looney sports a 7-foot-4 wingspan. Powell: "His measurements are out of this world."

Advanced math - DraftExpress.com looked at seven different analytics models from various sources in comparison with its own rankings (Read more if you want to geek out on the details). Most of the expected top picks, including Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke big man Jahlil Okafor and Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell, retained their lofty status. Looney finished ninth overall, ahead of Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis and Kentucky shot-blocker Willie Cauley Stein. DraftExpress rates Looney 17th overall.

Versatility - if you one of those modern-thinking basketball fans who likes concept of a point-forward, Looney wants you to know he ran his team's offense during his senior year of high school, which ended just about one calendar year ago. 

"I didn’t play some. I played point guard in high school," the 19-year-old Looney stated. "I think I bring a lot to the table from both positions, small forward and power forward. A good rebounder and real versatile. I think that’s one of my strengths."

That strength works perfectly in the current NBA where players are tasked with constantly switching on both ends of the court. Asked which position serves him best entering the league, Looney passed on picking just one.

"I don’t like to limit myself because when I watch the games a lot of guys are interchangeable," he said. "Otto Porter played a lot of three and the four. Paul Pierce even played four this year. You watch a team like Golden State where their guys are playing everywhere so I don’t want to limit myself."

For all that potential and freak of nature talk, there is some downside when examining Looney's future, which explains why he might not hear his name called until the early 20's.

He's not an exceptional athlete by NBA standards with only basic-level quickness. DraftExpress notes his "high, narrow hips that give him somewhat of an awkward build." 

Looney isn't the only freshman in consideration for teams picking in the Wizards' range, but lack of experience plays a factor for a team with thoughts of winning the Eastern Conference. CSNwashington.com asked NBADraftBlog.com analyst Ed Isaacson to rank 10 prospects with the Wizards' situation in mind. Looney ranked last.

The media was allowed to watch the final 10 minutes of Monday's workout, which went for more than one hour. Of the six prospects, Looney was the one appearing fatigued, grabbing at his shorts and not moving his feet defensively during 3-on-3, half court drills. Apparently that's the norm. From DE's player profile: "Looney tends to tire fairly easily and often looks fatigued as the games move on, grabbing onto his shorts and really struggling with his effort and awareness."

Then again, like the other prospects, Looney has spent the last month crisscrossing the country going from workout to workout. The Wizards were the 11th or 12th team he's visited.

One more session at San Antonio remains. The Spurs pick 26th. There are teams in the early teens who have shown interest. 

"I really have no clue," Looney said about where he might land. "I’m waiting for a surprise. I really don’t know. I worked out for everybody from 12 to 23, 25. Anything can happen. I don’t know what to expect."

On some level, the same can be said for the "freak of nature" prospect.

Notes: The 6-foot-4 Powell has worked out for 14 teams with two more coming ahead of Thursday's draft. The combo guard with a two-way game believes his draft range is anywhere from "mid-to-late first to early second." 

Quick Links

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.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

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.”


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!