DENVER — The second wave of Nuggets’ pre-draft workouts hit the Pepsi Center practice floor Tuesday and again consisted of a lot of local talent.
Between University of Colorado players Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon and Eric Garcia, who played for Denver-area high school Grandview, there was plenty of local emphasis at Denver’s second group workout of the offseason.
There were many familiar faces in attendance as well. Jamal Murray, who continues his rehab from offseason surgery, Juancho Hernangomez and Wilson Chandler were on-site as well, and observing next to the Tim Connelly, Michael Malone and the rest of the Nuggets’ brain trust.
Johnson is a standout from the University of Colorado who’s nearing 24-years-old but is a 6-foot-7 wing player and weighed in at 225 pounds. Johnson was joined by his college teammate Wesley Gordon in this pre-draft workout, which helped him get acclimated and comfortable.
“It is always easier playing with a teammate. Wesley Gordon is my guy,” Johnson said. “Been with him from day one. It is an opportunity to play with him again so doing that makes it more conformable. It was awesome.”
Johnson described the way he approaches pre-draft workouts.
“Put your best foot forward. Do what you do best. Don’t try to show anything you cannot do and don’t try to be something that you are not,” Johnson said. “Just do what you do and stick at it.”
Gordon is another prospect representing the University of Colorado. At 6-foot-9, Gordon played both power forward and center for the Buffs, can block the life out of the ball and is a solid rebounder. He weighs in at 230 pounds and is 22-years-old. Today’s workout with the Nuggets was Gordon’s first of the summer.
“I didn’t know what to expect, honestly,” Gordon said. “I was thinking about it all night. It was just a great experience. Talking to the coaches and getting advice from the guys.”
“Defense, an outside shooting threat, and playmaking,” Gordon said about what he can bring to a team.
Garcia is a senior point guard from Wofford College and played high school basketball for Grandview in Colorado. He is 23-years-old, 6-foot, and weighs in at 185 pounds. Garcia is a traditional point guard who led the Southern Conference in assists per game, total assists, free throw percentage and was second in minutes played. The Colorado product grew up a die-hard Nuggets fan and remembers watching Nick Van Exel, among many others.
“In my living room I had a little tykes basketball hoop,” Garcia said. “And I watched every (Nuggets) game.”
Garcia also has a relationship with another point guard from the Denver area; Chauncey Billups.
“He is so smart. He knows the game inside and out,” Garcia said of Billups. “He can shoot and he has seen everything he can as a basketball player so I am just trying to soak everything in and I am very thankful to have him in my life.”
“I texted him right before this workout,” Garcia continued. “You know, what should I look for and this and that. He just said ‘do what you do. Compete, work hard, and show guys that you are a basketball player. Don’t over think it too much.'”
Clemons is a 19-year-old from Campbell University who is a 5-foot-9 volume scoring guard. He weighs in at 165 pounds and is coming off of a season in which he averaged 25.1 points per game. Clemons stole the show for the second day of pre-draft workouts with what was one of the most impressive dunks I’ve seen in person.
Chris Clemons. pic.twitter.com/DJMWFhJPjx
— T.J. McBride (@BSN_McBride) May 23, 2017
“It must not have been that good cause coach didn’t like it too much,” Clemons exclaimed. “He gave me a seven but I thought it was at least an 8.5. It is just fun showing out for these guys. I am really enjoying my time in Denver.”
“We were talking about dunking, talking about Jamal, down there shooting,” Clemons said about his conversations with Malone. “What kind of workouts they go through and it is really interesting talking to him.”
Clemons, after taking some extra time to talk with both Malone and Connelly seems like the kind of player Denver could be interested in bringing to Summer League. Clemons’ combination of elite scoring and athleticism would show well in that format. Keep an eye on him as a guy to fill out some franchise’s summer roster.
Standing at 6-foot-9, Williams, who plays power forward who can hit threes and block shots, is likely the best and most NBA-ready prospect of the group. The former Gonzaga Bulldog weighs in at 228 pounds and is coming off a loss in the NCAA championship game to North Carolina.
Williams broke down what he focused on during his workout and how he attempts to stand out.
“That is what you look forward to in these workouts. Bringing a lot of energy. Showing the GM and the coaching staff, not what you are doing off the court, but what you do as a person; being energetic and talking.”
The 21-year-old is still undecided on if he will be entering the 2017 Draft or heading back to Gonzaga for another season.
“I am still deciding. I just want to take it one step at a time….I don’t have an agent because I am just testing the waters.”
When describing what feedback he has gotten, Williams really broke down his game, and what he needs to work on, very well.
“I bring high energy, defensive rebounding, defensive stopper. Most teams want me to focus getting better as a wing,” Williams said. “Keep my interior game, like my hook shots and all that stuff, but also develop my three-point shot and play a little bit more wing-oriented. Just try to get better at those aspects like ball-handling skills and shooting but don’t lose my motor and the things that I am good at.”
Williams is another prospect to keep an eye on. His shot-blocking in combination with the ability to shoot from three is a very desirable skill-set in the NBA and he fits that mold. If Williams decides to leave Gonzaga, look for him to wind up on someone’s Summer League roster.
The 19-year-old Humphries is the second Australian to work out for Denver in their first two pre-draft workouts. He is a 7-foot center who comes in weighing 255 pounds but played just 8.3 minutes per game last season at Kentucky. Humphries gave some great insight into how coming from Kentucky prepares players for the rigors of the NBA lifestyle and draft process.
“Things like this don’t really phase us,” Humphries said. “Being at Kentucky we are so used to this kind of thing. It sounds weird but we really are used to having scouts around all the time and the pressures that come with that. For me, it is just trying to perform my best. The hype and the pressure doesn’t really get to me much.”
Humphries also played with Nuggets guard Jamal Murray at Kentucky two years ago and the two got a chance to catch up.
“It is always good to see Mal,” Humphries said. “I miss him a lot and it was good to be able to catch up with him,”
“We were rooting for him so bad at Kentucky,” Humphries continued. “We were watching every game. It was so cool to watch him develop like that. I know he had little time to get used to it and get into it but it was so good to watch him come out of it. He is such a good player and we love watching all of our guys do well but especially Jamal because we were close and stuff like that.”