Alabama point guard Collin Sexton said his aspiration heading into the June 21 NBA draft is being chosen by the team where he’d best fit.
Sounds like a cliché, except Sexton’s approach to the pre-draft process suggests something more meaningful. A 6-foot-2 guard with jetlike acceleration in transition, Sexton has worked out for only three teams – the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets – and has one more workout scheduled, Saturday with the Orlando Magic.
If that continues to be all of his workouts, then it’s telling: All four of those teams, picking between the Magic at sixth overall and the Hornets at No. 11, have immediate minutes available at point guard.
“Honesty, I just want to be picked by a team that will fit me and fit how I play,” Sexton said Thursday following his workout with the Hornets.
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The draft isn’t like college recruiting, where the player makes the final decision, but agents have taken an increasingly proactive and selective approach to the draft run-up. Sexton, like most players projected to be in the lottery (top 14 picks), worked out for the Hornets separately from the other five players brought in Thursday. Some agents representing lottery picks hold their own workouts with multiple teams to gauge interest before picking which NBA cities get additional auditions.
The draft is only one step in an NBA player’s path to generational wealth. The collective bargaining agreement includes a rookie wage scale that limits what players make in their first contract, in return for guaranteeing at least two seasons of salary for all first-round picks.
That means a typical player’s second NBA contract is dramatically more consequential to his career than his first contract. So the right fit with an existing roster might be just as important as how early a player is drafted.
Need at point guard
The Hornets have only one established point guard, All-Star Kemba Walker, under contract for next season. Malik Monk, the Hornets’ first-round pick a year ago, played some point guard last season after playing shooting guard at Kentucky. Monk figures to play at both guard positions the rest of his career.
Sexton is 6-foot-2, with the sort of muscular body Walker didn’t develop until about three seasons into his NBA career. Sexton averaged 19.2 points and 3.6 assists his one college season at Alabama, playing for former NBA point guard Avery Johnson.
Sexton is great on the fast break and got abundant training from Johnson in the pick-and-roll, the foundation of all NBA offenses. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas calls Sexton the best competitor in this draft class.
Sexton’s flaw? He shot 33.6 percent from the college 3-point line. Based on the portion of his workout open to media Thursday, Sexton needs coaching on the mechanics of his jump shot. He rushes it some from when he gathers in the ball until his launch point. But Walker demonstrates that shooting is fixable; he improved from 33 percent or worse his first four NBA seasons to 37 percent or better his next three seasons.
“I do hold myself to that (standard) - most competitive coming out of college,” Sexton said. “I want to get the best out of my teammates every time I’m on the floor.”
Sexton’s resolve was tested to the extreme in November, during a holiday tournament game against Minnesota. Seven Alabama players were ejected for stepping onto the court during a fight. Then, another teammate fouled out and yet another sprained his ankle.
That left Alabama playing against Minnesota 3-on-5 for the game’s final 10 minutes. Sexton scored 40 points and the Crimson Tide lost by only five to a Minnesota team ranked 14th nationally at the time.
“You’ve got to fight through fatigue, but once we got our second wind it was good,” Sexton recalled. “After the game, it was like, ‘Dang, we really could have won that game!’”
Sexton sounded savvy and surgical in his approach, particularly when asked about choosing to play for Johnson at Alabama.
“He taught me at least 10 different ways to run the pick-and-roll,” Sexton said, “and also what reads to look for coming off the pick-and-roll.”
If Saturday really is Sexton’s last pre-draft workout, he’ll have four days to kill before learning where he’ll play. Players and agents control the workouts, but the general managers still rule draft night. He’s OK with that.
“On the 21st,” Sexton concluded, “dreams come true.”