Kings work out Duke’s Hood and UCLA’s LaVine with NBA draft looming next week

06/20/2014 5:47 PM

06/20/2014 11:11 PM

The NBA draft is Thursday and the Kings are still trying to figure out exactly which player available at No. 8 would work best for the franchise, including trade possibilities.

Meanwhile, the process of vetting prospects continues.

The Kings held a six-player pre-draft workout Friday that included two projected first-round picks: Duke forward Rodney Hood and UCLA guard Zach LaVine.

“Who we select, a lot of it’s going to (depend) on what goes on above us,” said Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz. “We like several players in this draft. I think the player we ultimately take, we’re going to be happy with. I like several players and we’re going to have to decide which one we like best. Hopefully that’s the guy that ends up being available.”

How the top of the draft plays out will be impacted by how many teams pass on Kansas center Joel Embiid. He was projected to be a top-three pick – if not No. 1 overall – before he had surgery on a broken bone in his foot Friday.

Embiid is the kind of shot-blocking presence the Kings covet.

“He’s a special talent,” Bratz said. “I think the teams above us are going to have to gauge how much risk there really is. I think the farther he drops, the less the risk for the team. If things fall to order, the top four or five guys are going to go in the same position anyway.”

Hood and LaVine are more realistic options for the Kings at eight. So are Creighton forward Doug McDermott and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas. The Kings watched them work out in Chicago this week, and Bratz said they are “probably” the two best shooters available, an area where the Kings need much improvement.

Hood (6-foot-8, 215 pounds) has recently seen his stock rise to the point he has been invited to New York City for the draft along with other top prospects.

Hood averaged 16.1 points and shot 42 percent from three-point range as a sophomore in his only season for Duke last year. He transferred from Mississippi State after his freshman year and sat out the 2012-13 season.

Hood said sitting out a season and learning is a big reason he’s now a top prospect.

“The things that I know now, I wouldn’t have known if I had stayed at my previous school,” Hood said. “Playing at Duke is a higher level. I think I would have made it to the NBA eventually, but I wouldn’t have been one of the top guys or been one of the guys to come in and make an impact right away. I think I would have been a project. Just going to Duke really helped me.”

Bratz said Hood was impressive Friday and that he could eventually play small forward and shooting guard in the NBA. The Kings need more versatility from perimeter players, making Hood an option in the first round.

“Rodney drives the ball really well into the lane and can finish,” Bratz said.

Hood’s defense has been criticized and said he needs to improve his focus when defending away from the ball.

“I need to work on it, it’s not a secret,” Hood said. “But I’m making strides.”

LaVine (6-5, 180) is one of the most athletic players available. He was far from UCLA’s star, averaging 9.4 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Bruins as a freshman, but caught the attention of NBA executives by showing promise as a ballhandler and scorer, even though he wasn’t the star of the team.

“There’s a lot of doubters out there,” said LaVine, who posted a running 46-inch vertical leap at a workout for the Los Angeles Lakers. “I don’t like doubters and I try to make doubters eat their words.”

“His athleticism is off the charts,” Bratz said. “He’s got things to learn. ... He lacks experience, but it’s nothing he can’t pick up.”

The Kings are looking for better athletes to help improve their defense and are looking to add depth in the backcourt.

LaVine can play either guard spot.

“I think eventually he’s going to be a combo guard,” Bratz said. “He handles great, he’s got good vision. I think he’s probably a little more comfortable right now at the two (shooting guard). “But with his ballhandling, his passing, I think he can be a good combo (guard) eventually.”

The Kings will hold another workout Monday.

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