LOS ANGELES -- Every year the top prospects in the draft leave behind the comforts of college and head out to workout sites in Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Florida looking for an edge that might put them in a better draft position.
Some hire basketball coaches. Others hire personal trainers. A few hire former Navy SEALs.
The techniques from gym to gym may differ, but the goal is the same -- to fulfill a life-long dream of playing in the NBA.
For the last decade, I've taken a pre-draft tour to the top sites. I've seen the likes of Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Greg Oden, Blake Griffin and a host of other, lesser-known prospects prepare for the NBA draft. This year is no different. Over the course of the next week I'll be traveling throughout the U.S. checking in on the pre-draft workouts for the top prospects in the draft.
The workouts, obviously, don't carry the same weight as the games a player plays. However, they are helpful in identifying a few things.
First, it's a great way to check a player's work ethic and conditioning. These workouts tend to be grueling, and not everyone can take them. It's a great way to judge how committed prospects are to the game. It often gives you a glimpse into a player's strengths and weaknesses in a very focused environment. Players who come into the gym and just do what they already do well tend to struggle in the NBA. It's also a great chance to get to know these kids personally. NBA teams put a lot of weight on personal interviews with the players. That gives me a sneak peek at what they're in for.
This year the focus is going to be on a number of intriguing sleeper prospects who's draft stock is all over the place depending on the team you talk to. I'll end the trip at the Chicago pre-draft combine, where the 60 top prospects in the draft compete in a number of skill and physical challenges in front of every GM in the league.
We started the tour in L.A. again this year, and here's what I learned at the first stop:
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