Charlotte Hornets

Why are NBA pre-draft workouts slowly becoming extinct?

Maryland's Diamond Stone was one of a handful of possible first-round picks to work out for the Charlotte Hornets this month.
Maryland's Diamond Stone was one of a handful of possible first-round picks to work out for the Charlotte Hornets this month. AP

One of the time-honored traditions of the NBA draft is prospects traveling around the country in June to audition for teams interested in selecting them.

Those pre-draft workouts appear to be slowly becoming extinct.

The Charlotte Hornets hold the 22nd overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft. The Hornets have no second-round pick. And yet the majority of the 35 players who agreed to travel to Charlotte for auditions look like either second-round picks or players who might not be drafted at all.

Mock drafts aren’t always authoritative, but it looks like only four players who were in Charlotte for workouts project as viable late first-round candidates: Maryland center Diamond Stone, Australian high school center Thon Maker, Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon and Nevada-Las Vegas guard Patrick McCaw.

So it seems likely the Hornets will select a player who didn’t work out in Charlotte. That might be annoying, but it isn’t a setback, according to Hornets general manager Rich Cho.

“At this point of the season, we’ve already done our work, scouted a ton of games,” said Cho. “We’ve done all the background work, the intel. So we’ll be ready for the draft no matter who comes in for workouts and who doesn’t.”

Still, Cho found it amusing Friday, as the Hornets were about to wrap up their workouts, that agents weren’t directing more of their clients to teams with picks in the bottom 10 of the first round.

The math just doesn’t work.

“According to the agents, there are about 35 guys who will be picked before No. 22. We know there are going to be only 21,” Cho said.

“It gets harder (to schedule projected first-round picks), but that is the nature of the business.”

This is a leaguewide situation, not something unique to the Hornets. Ben Simmons, the projected No. 1 pick, initially declined to work out for the Philadelphia 76ers, who own the top pick, before ultimately agreeing to do so.

The agents’ reasoning seems to be: “Why expose my clients to scrutiny that could only push them down in the draft rather than help their stock?” In the case of Simmons, that might well be true. He was scouted extensively throughout his one college season at Louisiana State.

But why wouldn’t others do more workouts in a draft where there might not be that much difference between a player chosen 10th overall or 25th?

Still, Cho is right that players not doing a pre-draft workout shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Those team workouts are the last step in a process that sometimes extends for years. As North Carolina guard Marcus Paige mentioned last week after a Hornets workout, NBA scouts had more than 140 career college games to watch him play live for the Tar Heels.

But it’s a plus, and used to be the norm, for players in the zone of a team’s pick to show up, have dinner with the front office, then audition the next morning in the drills each team considers important.

A couple of years ago, Hornets owner Michael Jordan was asked about players skipping workouts. Jordan replied that it’s the NBA’s version of a job interview, and considering all the guaranteed money that comes with being selected in the first round, is that really too much to ask?