When the NBA draft is held tonight, both Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie hope to hear their names called in the first round.
That could happen for either. Or neither.
Both might slide into the second, but say this for the former Georgia teammates: they certainly have logged plenty of miles to try to make their NBA dreams come true.
“It’s a very tiring process going from city to city, basically every day working out, long plane rides and a lot of that,” Leslie said Wednesday from Dallas before a workout for the NBA champion Mavericks, the last of what he said was about a dozen team visits.
Leslie and Thompkins jumped to the NBA after their junior seasons for the Bulldogs.
Thompkins was widely expected to go. Leslie’s decision was considered more risky.
“I think they’re both bubble first-rounders,” said Chad Ford, draft analyst for ESPN.com.
Leslie just might have passed Thompkins on some teams’ boards heading into the 7:30 p.m. draft from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“Thompkins is very skilled and brings a lot to the table,” Ford said. “I think NBA teams have been turned off by his lack of conditioning. He has not worked out particularly well, and there’s been questions about how prepared he has been for the workout.”
The 6-foot-10, 239-pound Thompkins, from Lithonia, measured the highest body fat of 15.5 percent at the NBA predraft combine in Chicago, but the forward has shown an ability to score with 1,396 points in three seasons, good for 13th in program history.
Both Leslie and Thompkins have been hopscotching from city to city in the weeks leading up to the draft, trying to improve their stock.
“I’m very anxious,” Leslie said. “I hear late first, early second. Hopefully I can get in the first. Hopefully I showed in my workouts that I am capable of being a first-rounder.”
Being a first-round pick means getting a guaranteed contract under the NBA’s current labor agreement.
Leslie’s workouts have taken him to Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver, New Jersey, Washington and Dallas. Thompkins has been to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, New Jersey, Houston, Indiana, Portland and Dallas.
They went against each other in the Rockets workout.
“It was pretty funny,” Leslie said. “He was on the opposite team of mine. We were playing 3-on-3. My team was killing his team. It was good seeing him and playing against him.”
Thompkins could not be reached for comment, but tweeted on Monday: “Nervous. No clue what’s going to happen on Thursday.”
Philadelphia director of player personnel Courtney Witte told CNSPhilly.com after Thompkins’ 76ers workout that he has “a high basketball IQ, but I think it’d be fair to say that most people in the league want to make sure that he’s ready for the physicality of the NBA on a nightly basis as a power forward. I think he went a long way today to show us he can do that.”
Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com pegs Thompkins as a first-rounder with the 27th overall pick to New Jersey. Fran Fraschilla, a former head coach at New Mexico, St. Johns and Manhattan, said Thompkins “could drop” to Miami with the first pick of the second round.
“I’m not in love with Trey Thompkins, but his skill level is such that he’d be a steal at 31,” said Fraschilla, now an ESPN analyst.
Thompkins had an assortment of injuries this season, including a high-ankle sprain and injuries to a shin and toe.
“For a guy that’s had conditioning issues throughout his collegiate career, if you can’t get yourself in great shape for what is essentially a job audition, then it’s going to concern teams,” Ford said, “and they’re going to wonder how are you going to do it when you get a guaranteed contract and don’t have the same motivation that you have right now. I think that’s why he’s sliding out of the first round.”
Thompkins is not projected to go in the first round by DraftExpress.com, but Leslie is barely in as the No. 30 overall pick by Chicago.
“Somebody may look at Leslie as an athlete and say, ‘You know what? We’re going to take a chance’ because really those late first-rounders you’re taking a little bit of a risk in what you’re doing,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who coached No. 1 overall picks Derrick Rose in 2008 and John Wall in 2010.
The 6-4, 205-pound Leslie, who averaged 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, may be the most athletic player in the draft. But for a player who will be a shooting guard as a pro he hasn’t shown the ability to shoot consistently from the perimeter. The Decatur product made just 13 of 43 3-pointers last season.
Howard-Cooper has Leslie going No. 41 to Los Angeles and Ford has him going No. 34 to Washington.
“The question is, is he more than just an athlete?” Ford said. “Will he learn to shoot the ball? Will he bring other things to the table besides his incredible athleticism and his ability to finish at the basket? We know he can do that, but can he do anything else?”
Leslie said he hopes he’s shown NBA teams that “I can do more than just jump. In my workouts, I’ve been showing I can handle the ball better and hopefully a team can like me. All I need is a team to like me, so hopefully it goes my way.”