The Pacers took a wide look at the 19-year-old wingers during their pre-draft workout at the St Vincent Center in Ascension on Monday.
Max Christie and Peyton Watson, both considered future lottery picks, entered college as five-star recruits and McDonald’s All-Americans. Everyone played a limited role as a freshman last season, but they still chose to enter their names into the NBA draft rather than go back to school.
While they may not have shown lottery-level talent yet, both players offer high upsides that could appeal to a team willing to take a patient approach and help them develop. That’s exactly the type of player the Pacers front office might pick with their No. 2 pick, No. 31 (the first overall pick in the second round).
Based on their college performance, Christie is the more perfect product. The 6-foot-5 guard started 35 games for Michigan State last season, averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game. He was one of five players selected to the Big Ten rookie team.
Christie showed a lot of promise in his freshman season with the Spartans. From Dec. 21 to Jan. 29, he scored in double figures in four straight and six of eight games, including a season-high 21 points in a Jan. 5 win over Nebraska. He’s shot 16 with lights out and is -23 from 3-point range in those six games, but has struggled from beyond the arc for much of the rest of the season, 123 on the season. Made 39 of 39 (31.7 percent).
Despite these averages, Christie remains confident in his shooting ability. He also said he felt like he had come a long way as a defensive player during a year with legendary coach Tom Izzo, who pushed him to lock that down more consistently and take advantage of his nearly 6-foot-9 The wingspan entangles guards on the perimeter.
Christie had a terrific run at the NBA Combined Draft in Chicago last month. He showed good speed — tied for the fastest time in a three-quarter sprint — and athleticism — flashing 37.5 inches vertically. Those attributes, combined with his age (he only turned 19 in February), make him an interesting option for a team that’s in the late first round or second-round primaries.
The young Christie hopes to follow the career trajectories of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker, two wings of similar size and playstyle. Initially, though, he was happy to play an explicit supporting role, as he did at Michigan State, helping his team win.
“I think being a knockdown shooter, or even a secondary ball handler, takes some of the pressure off the main players,” Christie said of how he envisions himself playing at the next level. “[I can]be a scorer if needed. But at the end of the day, I think I’ll find my way of defending on the court.”
Watson’s only season at UCLA didn’t see the floor the way Christie did. The 6-foot-8 forward appeared in 32 games off the bench, but averaged just 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per contest.
When he did get extended minutes, Watson had some productive games. He had 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 21 minutes in an overtime loss to Oregon on Jan. 13, and a 26-point win over California on Jan. 27. 12 points and 6 rebounds in minutes. For the most part, Watson struggled to get significant minutes on a deep Bruins as he played behind a string of wings and guards, including Johnny Johnny, returning for UCLA’s 2021 Final Four Juzan, Jamie Jax, Jules Bernard and Tiger Campbell.
While Watson may not have many opportunities at UCLA, there’s still a lot to appreciate about his potential. With a wingspan of over 7 feet, he doesn’t turn 20 until September. Watson hopes to use the pre-draft process to remind teams why he was an important recruit a year ago.
“Just showing my ability on both ends of the floor,” Watson said. “Whether it’s blocking shots, finishing at the rim, finding teammates, it’s all about showing my length, fluidity and athleticism. Just showing my versatility and my skills.”
Watson said he’s also focused on proving he has a locker-room personality. As a rookie, his focus will be on mingling with his new teammates while earning minutes by focusing on specific areas.
“Being a good defender, just harassing each other on the defensive end,” Watson said of how he will help the team next season. “I think when you’re defending hard, it can change the course of the game. My goal is to influence the win.”
Watson looked up to former Pacer Paul George, who also had an early impact on defense before developing into the best NBA player.
When digging deeper into what Christie and Watson have to offer, beyond a simple glance at their college stats, one starts to see a reason for a team to take a chance on draft night. Whether that team ends up being the Pacers is a question that will be answered in a little over two weeks.
Widely traveled Allen, Brown offer a unique level of experience
As NCAA transfer portal activity increases, it’s becoming more common to see rookies who have spent time at multiple colleges entering the draft.
However, two other rookies, Teddy Allen and Terrell Brown Jr., took that approach to the extreme during Monday’s pre-draft workout. Both players attended five different schools during their college careers.
Allen spent his freshman season at West Virginia before transferring to Wichita State. He missed the next season after being refused to give up the game immediately. He was expelled from the program that June and instead enrolled at Western Nebraska Community College, where he led the NJCAA in scoring with 31.4 points per game.
Allen entered Nebraska for the 2020-21 season, where he led the team in 16.5 points per game while playing under former Pacer Fred Hoiberg. He opted to move again, spending last season in New Mexico. He had his best NCAA season with the Aggies, averaging 19.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists, and won the WAC Player of the Year.
“I think it totally shaped me,” Allen said of his college journey. “Being able to grow in life and be a man in real life, I think it helps me a lot. Especially going into a league where players are traded, one day you’re on this team and the next day you’re up and down .
“I’ve been able to learn how to adapt and maintain my work ethic no matter where I am. I think it’s been very helpful for my career.”
A 6-6 wing, Allen had 30 or more points in five games last season. In a Jan. 15 win over Abilene Christian, he dropped 41 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He followed that up in March in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, going 37-for-4 on 3-pointers and 13 on 13 free throws as No. 12-seeded New Mexico beat No. 5-seeded Connecticut.
Allen is one of the older rookies in this year’s draft class, turning 24 on Tuesday. But he still offers the potential to help the team right away as a backup scorer, and he’s shown the ability to shoot from many different stops.
But Allen sees himself as more than just a scorer.
“In addition to what people already know, I think I bring a lot of toughness to the team in any role,” he said. “Whether you want me to try to rebound, defend anyone, or be a bench player who pushes guys hard in practice, I think my toughness is probably my greatest attribute, aside from what I can bring on offense. .”
Brown has also embarked on a unique path to the NBA. An overlooked prospect from Seattle, he was scheduled to play at a secondary school in Western Oregon but left soon after changing his mind. Instead, he spent the 2017-18 season at Shoreline Community College before starring the next two seasons at Seattle University, where he averaged 20.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.9 rebounds in 2019-20. assist.
After that season, he moved to Arizona, where he had the opportunity to play for his godfather Jason Terry, a 19-year NBA veteran who joined his alma mater that season as an assistant. coaching staff. Brown played a supporting role with the Wildcats, starting nine of 26 games and averaging 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. But after a coaching change, he opted to move again, returning for his senior season at the University of Washington.
After playing for the Huskies, Brown was once again the leading scorer. He led the Pac-12 with 21.2 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game. The 6-foot-3 guard has 20 or more points in 22 of 32 games, including his last six college games.
“I think it helped me the most with my maturity,” Brown said of his nomadic college career. “Adapting to the new system — from college to the NBA, it’s a different role — I know I’m not going to get 20 points a game like I did in[Washington]. But I know I can promote, I can play defense, and Score when I need to.”
Brown is 24 years old and has problems with his shooting percentage (28.4 percent from 3-point range in Division I, compared to 20 percent last season). But he said he was confident in his hitting and thought he was shooting very well in Monday’s practice, which he hopes will go a long way to answering the “obvious questions” he knows scouts are asking about his game.
Late Flowers and O’Connell top Monday’s panel
Scheduled participants for Monday’s training initially included Toledo guard Ryan Rollins and overtime elite forward Kok Yat. Both were on the list of participants announced on Friday, but neither was available on Monday.
They were replaced by Washington State linebacker Michael Flowers and Creighton linebacker Alex O’Connell.
Flowers is a 6-foot-1 guard who also had a smooth college career. He spent three seasons at West Michigan, averaging 15.7 points as a sophomore and 16.9 as a junior. He moved to South Alabama for the 2020-21 season, where he averaged 21 points per game.
Using the NCAA to allow players to qualify for an extra year because of COVID-19, Flowers moved again in his final season to enter the Pac-12 power conference. He continued to play well in his only season in Washington State, averaging 14.2 points and 3.4 assists.
Flowers is primarily known as a shooter, averaging 5.8 to 8.1 3-pointers per game in his final four seasons in college. He set a Washington State record last season with 100 3-pointers, shooting 36.9 percent from the field.
“I think it’s one of my best attributes…I love shooting,” Flowers said. “It’s something I’ve been doing at a high level.”
The 6-foot-6 guard O’Connell spent three seasons at Duke University, where he played a backup role, starting just 14 of 101 games for the Blue Devils in 2017-20. He moved to Creighton and played a similar role in 2020-21, averaging 3.4 points in 24 games.
However, O’Connell finally made his breakthrough last season. He started all 35 games for the Blue Jays, averaging 11.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
O’Connell attributes his breakthrough to his growth on the defensive end. While that initially limited him to a few minutes early in his career, he worked hard for it and developed into one of Creighton’s most trusted perimeter defenders last season.
“It’s been fun for me to go into a new role and go into a new leadership position,” O’Connell said. “Teach young people and share some of the experiences I’ve gained over the years with them about racing and doing things right.”