They can pose for a group picture today in the gym in Santa Monica, Calif., four NBA-bound centers linked by draft class, for sure, by the range they will be picked June 27, probably, and by projected role in the pros, maybe.
The group workout in two sessions is particularly important to Gorgui Dieng from Louisville, making his first appearance in front of scouts and executives since the sprained right ankle about three weeks ago put him in a walking boot at the Chicago combine. But it could be an impactful few hours for all four in a showdown of centers who could be part of a run on bigs from late in the lottery through the late-teens or early-20s.
Steve Adams of Pittsburgh, Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga, Jeff Withey of Kansas and Dieng will all be in Santa Monica today, and a little less than four weeks later could all come off the board in rapid-fire succession. Rudy Gobert, a power forward-center from France, will likely be in the same mix.
It’s the projected grouping on draft night – all possible to be go within eight or 10 picks of each other – that makes this a particularly intriguing workout. It’s far from the last time they will be seeing each other, too, as scheduling for auditions for individual teams ramp up.
Adams and Olynyk are the highest-rated of the four, though as different players. Olynyk has an advanced offensive game for a big man, while Adams is more of a physical presence who is starting to show signs he can be more and, in fact, the better prospect.
Dieng and Withey are projected as backups, both known for their defense and hoping to use the next month to show teams they are not one-dimensional. Withey in particular has made that a priority. More than Adams, still relatively inexperienced against top competition after growing up in New Zealand and playing one season at Pitt, Withey and Dieng are picks for teams wanting a big man with a better chance of contributing right away, the very clubs that mostly start picking from the late-teens into the 20s.