Ryan Richards and Latavious Williams are both working out in front of NBA scouts today in Minneapolis after being all but forgotten over the past season.
My original plan for this morning's post was to analyze the players from yesterday's workouts, but the reports coming back varied wildly depending on who gave them - even Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony's published Tweets contradicted the other's based on the person that gave them the information.
While I could add to the second-hand accounts, it's ultimately impossible to know what happened inside the walls of the Target Center without actually being inside the Target Center.
Instead I've decided to extrapolate a bit on today's lesser-known prospects because, ultimately, that's what I'm here to do. And kick ass. And chew bubble gum (but not this new Trident Layers kind - it's as terrible as the commercial). But mostly to talk about players with NBA hopes that you don't know enough about like Latavious Williams and Ryan Richards.
We're going to go a little inverse this morning and talk about the afternoon session before the morning workout - but that's only because one of our own is included.
Latavious Williams will be the player to watch in the afternoon workout simply because I'm under the assumption (judging by the emails I receive) that NBA teams know a lot less than they should about his game considering he was playing right under their noses in the NBA Development League this season.
It also doesn't help that he was left off the list for the Chicago Pre-Draft Combine where teams could have taken a look at the 6-foot-8 forward they've never seen instead of inviting a player like Andy Rautins (also in this workout) who should have been known quite well by NBA scouts considering he played at Syracuse for five seasons - he was entering "Next Gerry McNamara" territory. But I digress.
Williams didn't seem like he was ready to play at even a D-League level at the beginning of the season but he seemed to get better and better as his playing time began to increase starting in January while continuing throughout the D-League playoffs.
Williams averaged 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in less than 20 minutes of action during the playoffs, though he ranked among the top rebounders in the league all season when looking at the per-minute numbers.
While it was widely speculated that he can play both forward positions (Chad Ford still lists him as a small forward), he has a lot to work onto become more than an "energy forward" in the league. Though his mid-range jumper did improve over the course of the season, he still hasn't shown the ability to put the ball on the floor from the wing with any sort of consistency - nor is he able to shoot off of the dribble.
As it stands, he's a 21-year-old raw athlete (think the type of high school athlete that colleges recruit and assign a position later) with some pretty freakish athleticism and a penchant for tip-dunks.
The other players in the afternoon workout are Denis Clemente (Kansas State), Tommy Mason-Griffin (Oklahoma), Donald Sloan (Texas A&M) and Craig Brackins (Iowa State). If Williams is able to hold his own with Brackins, an "NBA-ready big man," we'll hear about it.
In the morning session, the player to watch for is probably England's Ryan Richards. All of the other players were either big-time scorers at major conference schools (Michigan's Manny Harris, Virginia's Sylven Landesberg), incredible athletes (Connecticut's Stanley Robinson, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado) and whatever you want to classify Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson (should-have-been-high-scoring-but-instead-headcase?).
Richards, however, doesn't fit in any of the above categories.
The 19-year-old lefty hailing from London drew quite a bit of buzz after he, as ESPN's NBA Draft expert Chad Ford describes, "shot the ball well, was very fluid running up and down the court and showed a sound basketball IQ" in Chicago.
He'll likely be looking to build on that buzz in this morning's workout, but it seems a 19-year-old 7-footer with considerable upside is probably a lock to be picked in one of the rounds of the NBA Draft regardless of how he performs today.
Regardless, he didn't exactly put up big numbers while playing in the basketball mecca of Switzerland last season as he averaged just over 20 minutes of action, scoring 13.3 points and grabbing 5.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field and a beyond-impressive 91.3 percent (21-of-23) from the free-throw line. His season was ended early when he dislocated his shoulder in mid-February.
The more interesting part to Richards' story is that he's specifically said that if he's going to get drafted, he wants to play in the USA instead of spending more time in Europe.
"I've made it pretty clear that if I do get drafted, I want to stay with the team whether I play up-and-down in the D-League or with the team," Richards told Draft Express. "I definitely don't want to go back to Europe."
"If they want to pick me and send me back to Europe," Richards continued, "I'd rather withdraw my name then come back next year."
In the end, it seems Richards has a goal and wants to succeed, regardless of any (unwarranted) stigma being assigned to the D-League might bring along.
Which player would you rather your team draft?
Latavious Williams, Tulsa 66ers (55 votes)
Ryan Richards, BBC Monthey (Switzerland) (45 votes)
100 total votes