Posted at 1:19 a.m., Tuesday, June 19, 2007
NBA: Conley Jr. impresses in pre-draft workouts
By Charles F. Gardner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Ohio State freshman Mike Conley Jr. showed yesterday why he is considered the top point guard in the June 28 NBA draft.
The 19-year-old handled everything thrown at him in a fast-paced one-hour workout, and he even showed a better outside shooting touch than expected.
And he gave indications of the athletic ability that ranked him fourth among all players in skills testing a few weeks ago at the Orlando pre-draft camp. During that camp, Conley had the best three-quarters court sprint time (3.09 seconds) and posted an impressive vertical jump of 40.5 inches.
"And I fell on the shuttle run," the ultra-competitive Conley said. "I was kind of upset when I saw I was fourth (overall)."
Conley said he heard about it from his dad, Mike Conley Sr., who was the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump.
"He was actually upset at me when I told him my time (11.63 seconds) in the shuttle run," Conley said. "He was, like, `Michael, that's awful.' We try to win everything. I'd love to run it over, but that's just how it went down, I guess."
Bucks director of player personnel Dave Babcock wasn't fooled by any slips in the shuttle run, and he liked what he saw during Conley's individual workout. The Bucks' brass also took Conley out to dinner on Sunday night.
"Athletically, he's as good as it gets," Babcock said. "A pass-first (point guard) would be a tremendous addition to our team, because we do have a lot of scorers.
"Even though he's 6-1, he's a good defender. He's solid and he's strong. Will he get taken advantage of by the bigger point guards? They all do, Chris Paul, T.J. (Ford), all those guys. But they take advantage of them at the other end with their quickness."
Conley has no doubts he can fit into an NBA lineup, whether it be with Pau Gasol in Memphis, Michael Redd in Milwaukee or Kevin Garnett in Minnesota.
Conley is projected to go anywhere from third to ninth on draft night, and he has already worked out with Memphis (fourth) and Chicago (ninth). He will go to Minnesota (seventh) on Wednesday and Atlanta (third) on Monday.
Although he has just a year of college experience, Conley doesn't figure to be intimidated, not someone who grew up idolizing hard-nosed point guard Isiah Thomas.
"That's what a point guard is; he has to be a leader," Conley said. "I lead by example; I can lead by being vocal. Having to deal with a lot of older guys in the NBA, you can't just go up to them and yell at them. You've got to have respect for them. If I go in and work hard, they'll see I really want to get better. I can go from there and try to lead the team."
Conley said he had talked with Redd and would love to form an all-Buckeyes backcourt in Milwaukee.
"He's a great slasher, a great shooter," Conley said. "I could definitely get accustomed to passing the ball a lot. He could get me a lot of assists."
MIKE CONLEY JR.
Height: 6-1; Weight: 175
Age: 19 (Oct. 11, 1987)
College: Ohio State
2006-'07 averages: 11.3 points, 6.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals as a freshman
Strengths: A steady, unselfish point guard who passes the ball well and is not turnover-prone. . . . Shoots with either hand and is truly ambidextrous, although shoots primarily left-handed. . . . Has ability to get into the paint and hopes to emulate San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker and former Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas. . . . Excellent on-ball defender. . . . Great leadership ability. . . . Strong guidance from father, Mike Conley Sr., who was 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump and silver medalist in 1984 Olympics.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent jump shot and must develop NBA three-point range. . . . Still very young. . . . Can be hard on himself when he makes mistakes. . . . Not a big point guard and could struggle to defend more physical point guards in the NBA.
Start right away? Yes, although Bucks general manager Larry Harris said drafting Conley would not preclude the signing of free agent point guard Mo Williams, the Bucks' starter last season. "There are a lot of options," Harris said. "We're going to look at taking the best player, whether it's a point guard, a small forward or a power forward. We're looking to add assets to the team. That's why Mike was in here today." Would Conley's addition be any type of signal to Williams? "It should not be," Harris said.