Green was invited to an attended the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago today, which was broadcast live on ESPNU and later ESPN2. Thursday was the first day of the two-day event in which 60 players are invited to the combine to work out in front of NBA GM's, scouts and coaches. ESPN flashed the graphic at the beginning of the program that 29 out of the 30 college players picked in the 1st Round last year participated in the combine, so that bodes well for Green.
The combine pits players of like positions against one another in a series of skill workouts and strength and agility training drills, many at half to three quarter-speed. Today's workouts consisted of shooting and ball-handling drills, which included for the point guards: a dribbling course, the execution of the three-man weave, a 3-on-2 fast break, shooting from an array of positions behind the arc and sprints. Green wore #15 today in a group of 14 NBA Draft hopeful point guards. He also was introduced as Erik Green:
@jawehr13 yup. You'd hope they could've at least gotten his name right considering he's the nation's leading-scorer twitter.com/gobblercountry…— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) May 16, 2013
It would therefore seem that he might have been slighted to a degree as almost a courtesy invite, although there were three others with numbers higher than 15. Any apparent slight though would be shot down with what the panel of college basketball commentators handling the event would say about Green in the following segments. Here are the transcripts.
Fran Fraschilla talking about Michael Carter-Williams "But there are so many guys on the next couple of tiers down below that if you're a team picking anywhere in this first round you have a chance to steal a very good player at this position."
Jay Williams: "Prime example Erick Green, Virginia Tech."
Fran: "Erick Green, Lorenzo Brown, Dennis Schroeder from Germany, Pierre Jackson as a utility guy, Shane Larkin, CJ McCollum who's a combo. This is a deep position in my opinion."
Two things I noticed about Erick during this period when the commentators were speaking about him were that he looks like he's lost some weight, something which he needs to reverse and do the complete opposite. Green also looked very good with his handle, crossover, moves and explosion in his cuts in the dribbling drill. The commentators weren't done there, however, and went into this discussion about Green as they played a highlight video of him in the background:
Ryen Russillo: "A guy who did stick around college hoops for quite a while led the nation in scoring this years guy [I think he meant year guys?], from Virginia Tech, Erick Green. Now Jay, in years past sometimes you go 'oh hey, that guy led the country in scoring. That's interesting. He'll be able to tell people that down the road,' and we never think of them as NBA players. Is that the same thing here with Erick Green?"
Jay: "I am a massive fan of Erick Green's. Not only his ability to score the ball, which you need... he has a great jump shot. You can't go under that screen. He can shoot the ball from deep. If you try to go over he understands how to change speeds. He can utilize that strong upper body frame to knock you off balance. He understands how to attack. Now he averaged around 5 and 1/2 assists per game (which is incorrect, he averaged 3.8 apg.). After watching so many of his games at Virginia Tech, he could've averaged a lot more. He hit a lot of his players and Seth Greenberg, [a] guy that works with us at ESPN can definitely confirm this: he hit a lot of guys in the hands and guys were missing his passes. Also once he gets to the rim. Fran, he has that floater element to his game a lot of guards do not have to get that shot over the big man"
Fran: "Exactly right Jay. He's a tough shot-maker. First of all he is a point guard. He does deliver the rock. But to score as many points as he did on a team where the defense is loaded to him every night and shoot so efficiently inside and outside the arc... he's got great burst transition. The floater game, I love, because he's going to need that, Tom, at the next level. I don't know who's taking him, but all I know is he's one of those guys who I classify as a basketball player. He is hiding in plain sight to me and is staring us in the face, and he's going to end up, in my opinion, being a good NBA player even though we've all gotten to watch him for four years."
Then the players began the three-man weave drill. Erick's group went second I believe, and on the first sequence:
In the transition drill Green missed a 2-point jumper and delivers a good pass. On missed shot, looked like his foot got caught.— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) May 16, 2013
The foot thing was true, as it looked like he got caught taking an extra step, unsure if he was supposed to shoot it or pass it, but as I went back and looked, it actually went in. It drew a lot of fron iron, but went off the backboard and back in. It was hard to initially tell based on the camera angle.
Going down to the other end, Green's first pass resulted in a good shot, but a miss, so Green grabbed the rebound and headed back the other way, passing it off, which resulted in a Shane Larkin make. The other group stepped on the floor and the commentary about Green continued:
Tom Penn: "What you guys say about Erick Green is the stuff that an executive loves to hear from his scouts, because you dug deeper Jay. You talk about, I like to call them assist-worthy passes. They would be an assist if a guy can finish on the other end. That's the key decision-making. That's one of the nuances in analytics that gets lost if you just look at assists, right? Somebody's got to convert. The other thing is, if you assist to a player that gets fouled and makes free throws it turns into points. That's an assist-worthy decision. If he has that decision-making ability and that ability to finish in traffic, you beat your man off the dribble you penetrate into the defense and here comes the giants, and they will clean that away unless you have a creative ability to finish. You learned this, right!? (Addressing Jay) You probably learned it the hard way. How about your experience as an elite college scorer then trying to figure out how to find your space in The NBA."
Jay: "Oh it was challenging because when you're in college everything is designed for you, and then all of the sudden when you go to the pros you're playing with grown men and guys who expect to get the ball at the right time and you're also managing personalities. You're trying to make sure that everybody's happy. I think the big question for Erick Green that everybody talked about was could he defend? He couldn't do everything for his team. He couldn't score, pass AND defend. It took a lot of his energy out, but I think for sure he's a gem in this draft"
I think Tom Penn started talking and forgot what the hell he was saying, but the first half of that rant at least has some good points and makes some sense. As for Williams' comments, he is absolutely correct. One of the big reasons I didn't see J.J. Redick succeeding in the NBA (and I was right for a while) was that in college, everything was predicated on running a play off of a screen to free him up. They just don't do that for guys in the pros, especially if you're not one of the league's best scorers (which Redick is not). I would believe, however, that it is at least a little easier to find your own offense in the NBA as a point guard, as you usually have the ball.
The other thing that Jay said, and seemed to give credence to, was my theory about Green getting the Kemba Walker treatment from coach James Johnson. After all, it is true, Green could not do EVERYTHING for the Hokies, even if it often seemed like he tried.
During this time, Green's group got back on the court:
Green promptly hits his second shot and makes two passes for the assists. They're really featuring him. #Hokies— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) May 16, 2013
He then got confused about which way to go on the weave, something that should not happen, especially for a point guard, as it's a pretty standard drill. It looks like he thought it was his turn to switch sides, but either out of realization that without going back to his side that the drill would breakdown, or just to cover for the other player's (Lorenzo Brown) mistake, Green hustled back into position.
Green then recovers and makes excellent pass to Brown, leading him to about the foul line for a score on the other end. He then dribbles back down, penetrates turns and dishes to Isaiah Cannan for a deep two (it was a three off the pass, but Cannan stepped in). That finished his group's three-man-weave drill (at least as far as the viewer could see from the broadcast).
In the 3-on-2 drill, Green's first possession resulted in him missing a shot. There was too much passing on the play, as Lorenzo Brown got stuck when he was about to go up for a shot, which led to Green taking a fadeaway, contested jumper as the play had gotten too deep. On his second possession of the 3-on-2, Green received a pass on the right wing, drove, pumped for the jumpshot, drew in Larkin, kicked the ball back out to Ray McCallum for a long two at the top of the key (he was set up inside the 3-point line), which he hit. The next time down on offense, Green didn't get the pass, went underneath for the rebound, boxed out Larkin, neither player got the rebound but it was tipped out and McCallum found Green on the right side for a mid-range jumper that he hit with Larkin closing out.
So with those adjusted totals, I believe that Green hit three out of his four shots that he took, by far the most of any player that I saw on the broadcasts. Unfortunately, because of the broadcast format, which includes interviews with other players and long and frequent commercial breaks like the NFL Combine and Draft, we were unable to see Green's individual shooting workout or his work defensively on any of the 3-on-2's, two things I most wanted to see.
In the sprints to end the first-day workouts, Green also finished among the first in the sprints, something you would have expected for a player who relies so much on transition and his effort. He did false start on the third and final set of sprints though, which put him behind the pace and saw him finish around the middle of the pack. But just because the day was done didn't mean the analysts were done talking about him:
Fran: "We talked about this earlier if this were the NFL Draft, a team would consider trading down to get one of these guys later on in the first round. That's not gonna happen. That's not the dynamics of the NBA Draft. We mentioned Erick Green, who could go late first early second, Nate Walters who's likely to be an early second... there's eight or nine point guards here that I think could make NBA rosters next October."
That the analysts were so high on him and featured him more than any other point guard says a lot about how they feel about him and what the perception of Green as a prospect is. This is also an interesting development, as most of those guys have open contact with the NBA GM's, scouts and coaches in attendance, and usually know what types of players they like. I have been saying for a few weeks now, along with several beat writers, that even though Zabian Dowdell went undrafted in 2007 despite heavy rumors in the week leading up to the draft that he could be taken as high as the late first round, this time around it's a different feeling. Every indication is that Green will be drafted, becoming the first Hokie to do so since Deron Washington was drafted No. 59 overall in 2008. Green, however, if the current prognostications stand, could be the first Hokie picked in the first round since Dell Curry in 1986.
The second day of the NBA Draft Combine kicks off tomorrow at 10 a.m. EST on ESPNU. For more coverage of Erick Green, both regarding his performance in day two of the combine and the NBA Draft, Gobbler Country is your #1 source. Follow our live-tweeting of the event tomorrow.