Former Gonzaga teammates Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer went about predraft preparations in different ways with the same goal in mind: improving their NBA draft stock.
Sabonis trained at GU, skipped the draft combine on the advice of his agents and worked out for just four NBA teams, fueling speculation that he’s been told by at least one club they plan on selecting the 6-foot-10 forward.
Wiltjer trained in Chicago with seven other Priority Sports clients, attended the combine and worked out for 15 teams.
Sabonis will be one of 14 players in the green room Thursday at draft headquarters, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Most mock drafts list Sabonis in the top half of the first round, often between picks 9 and 16.
Wiltjer returned home to Portland where he’ll watch the draft with family and friends. He doesn’t know if he’ll hear his named called but he said he’s “extremely confident” he’ll be drafted. He’s typically rated among the top 75 prospects and a couple of mock drafts project him as a late second-round selection.
Sabonis is considered one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. He averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds as a sophomore, including 19.7 points and 14.3 rebounds in three NCAA tournament games. In the second round, Sabonis outplayed Utah center Jakob Poeltl, who is projected as a lottery pick.
He worked out for Phoenix, Utah, Boston and Toronto.
“Sabonis plays exactly how you’d think the son of a Hall of Fame European big man (Arvydas Sabonis) would,” SI.com wrote. “Great fundamentals, soft hands, high motor and IQ. … The issue is his lack of explosion and length, which raises questions about exactly what translates at the next level.”
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford has Toronto taking Sabonis at No. 9.
“He’s strong, tough, ready to play now and the most skilled of the four (players thought to be under the Raptors’ consideration),” Ford wrote. “He isn’t a great athlete, but that’s the only real thing holding him back.”
Sabonis impressed scouts at a pro day in Los Angeles earlier this month, according to Ford.
“He shot it very well from beyond the arc (a shot he rarely took in college) and showed off some explosiveness athletically,” Ford said. “Those are the two biggest knocks on Sabonis’ game.”
Wiltjer, who averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds as a senior, has opened some eyes in the last few months. Ford ranks Wiltjer No. 63 in his top 100 and projects the 6-10 forward as second round/undrafted.
“I’ve only helped myself through this whole process,” said Wiltjer, who made 159 3-pointers and shot 44.9 percent beyond the arc in two seasons as a Zag.
Wiltjer said teams became more interested after watching him at the combine in Chicago. He tested at 15.5 percent body fat, highest among the participants, but his vertical jump measured 35.5 inches. He posted solid scoring numbers during 5-on-5 scrimmages.
“I’m in the best shape of my life, obviously, but my natural body composition isn’t great,” Wiltjer said. “I didn’t hang my head over that because I knew how much better I was in other areas.
“The (vertical jump) wasn’t a surprise to me. I had a couple workouts where I got 37 and 36.”
CBSsports.com’s Sam Vecenie has Wiltjer going to Atlanta at 54th overall. Gary Parrish projects Memphis taking Wiltjer at No. 57.
“I’ve heard very good feedback (from NBA evaluators),” Wiltjer said. “I score the ball better than they thought. The No. 1 thing (to improve on) is moving my feet, and I’m continuing to work on that.”
Forward James Webb III, who played his freshman season at North Idaho College, is generally ranked among the top 75 draft prospects and considered a possible second-round selection.
Webb averaged 15.8 points and 9.1 rebounds as a junior at Boise State before declaring for the draft.
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