Tryout Trail

As Joe Alexander and other NBA Draft hopefuls make the circuit of team workouts, what exactly are they doing? We take a look inside the drills conducted by different teams to see what they are looking for as they put the draftees through their paces.

Each team conducts its workouts slightly differently, with different drills and procedures, but one of the things being tested at each stop is endurance. Drills are conducted at top speed, with few breaks in between, as coaches and front office personnel want to see how a player performs when he's tired. All of the college players in the draft might have played 30 or 35 games in their previous season, but they'll participate in more than double that number in their first season in the league. Thus, fatigue, and how the players deal with it, is a big factor.

Shooting, from all different angles and situations, is also a common theme. At the NBA level, players must be able to create their own shots on occasion, and it's not always going to be coming off a screen to shoot a 15-foot jumper. This also ties in with the fatigue factor -- how well does the player shoot at the end of a 90-minute workout? Does his shot change?

As noted above, there are differences in how each team goes about gathering this information during its workouts. After surveying several teams, we've put together a representative schedule for how an NBA workout progresses.

Players will begin workouts performing some time-honored drills to loosen up and get into the flow of the workout. Layups, some jumpers, and perhaps the Mikan drill (alternating lay-ups with the left hand and right hand as quickly as possible) test the ability to control, catch and shoot the ball with both hands as well as ramping up the heart rate. While it might sound easy, try this drill for two minutes straight, at top speed.

In the next set of drills, running is added. One of these features three different variations of execution, with no stopping in between.

The player starts under the basket with the ball and passes it to a passer standing in the foul circle. Player sprints to left sideline, hits it with his foot, turns and receives a pass. The ball is in flight, with some serious heat, before the player turns around, so he must have his hands ready to catch it when he turns around. He then passes the ball back, cuts to the hoop, receives another pass and lays it in.

Then, he gets his own rebound and repeats the process on the right side.

The drill continues with the variation that the player shoots a reverse lay-up from both sides, and it concludes with two more reps, followed by power dunks. While the drill takes about a minute, the full-out sprint and ball skills required make this a good test in several ways. And if the player drops a pass, he has to restart the drill. Every shot must be made as well -- a miss requires a rebound and a successful shot before continuing.

Another typical individual drill is also done in one-minute increments. Two passers are stationed under the basket, with the testee on the foul line. He sprints to the sideline, touches, and sprints to the foul-line extended wing. He receives the ball from the passer and shoots a jump shot, then sprints to the opposite sideline and shoots from the opposite foul-line extended. The drill repeats itself for sixty seconds with the goal being at least seven made shots.

In addition to individual drills, there are also tests that involve multiple players. Basic transition offense and defense (such as three-on-two and two-on-one) lets evaluators test the running, recovery and on-the-fly skills of the draftee hopefuls. Another drill is more basic, and pits players in more direct competition.

In this one, two players are positioned on either side of the lane, with a third player is standing with his heels on the restricted area arc. A ball is passed to one of the players on either side, and the drill begins. The player in the lane must do whatever he can to keep receiver from scoring. If a shot is missed, whoever gets the rebound becomes the offensive player. The drill doesn't end until someone scores.

This drill is very physical, as no fouls or out-of-bounds are called. While testing both offensive and defensive skills, it also is a mental gauge of sorts, as toughness in a stressful situation can also be evaluated.

Players typically wrap up their workouts with free throw shooting, with the idea being to see how they shoot the ball while fatigued. Shots are typically taken in game scenarios, in either pairs (shooting fouls) or one-and-ones.

These drills obviously don't test all aspects of a player's game. There may be players that excel at these sorts of tests, but don't play as well in full game situations with nine others on the court. However, they do give coaches, general managers and other NBA talent evaluators the chance to see the players, in person, and look at them first hand. The NBA teams also interview players, and while there's no equivalent to the NFL's Wonderlic test, they do get the chance to speak with them in a non-basketball environment as well.


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