The Washington Wizards held one of their more significant predraft workouts this morning by getting the opportunity to evaluate Kawhi Leonard, the San Diego State small forward thought to be perhaps the club’s primary target with the No. 6 pick.
Leonard was among six players, including Maryland power forward Jordan Williams, who participated in approximately an hour and a half of drills for Coach Flip Saunders and his assistants as well as team president Ernie Grunfeld and other front office staff.
Also working out were forward Jordan Hamilton (Texas), center Keith Benson (Oakland) and guards Darius Morris (Michigan) and Charles Jenkins (Hofstra).
Some of the more intriguing matchups on the auxiliary court at Verizon Center pitted Hamilton, a projected mid to late first-round pick, against Leonard, who in two college seasons carved a reputation as a dogged rebounder and defender also able to score close to the basket as well with a mid-range jumper and the occasional three-pointer.
Those attributes make him an ideal fit for Washington, which is seeking to upgrade its wing scoring with a player who ideally also can be a robust interior presence. Leonard (6 feet 7, 225 pounds) this past season led the Mountain West Conference in both in offensive and defensive rebounding and was fourth in scoring, fourth in steals, sixth in free throw percentage and seventh in field goal percentage.
“I don’t try to think about it,” Leonard said of being linked to the Wizards. “I’m just going to each workout staying focused and just trying to show the team how hard I work and how much I have improved since the season was over. . . .
“I just really haven’t been focusing in on a [particular] team. Just because people say the Wizards are going to pick me doesn’t mean they’re going to pick me.”
Leonard did say the Wizards’ workout, his second of many in the next few weeks, was the most physically taxing so far, although his performance didn’t appear to suffer even near the end of the session. During a fast-break shooting drill, Leonard sank four consecutive jumpers from the wing, including several a step or two inside the three-point line, shortly after Saunders asked only partly in jest if anyone would be able to hit four in a row.
In a shooting drill when players are asked to convert seven jumpers from each end of the foul line, Leonard started slow but looked much more comfortable down the stretch when he completed the assignment with the ball barely grazing the rim on the necessary makes.
“I’m just really working on when the point guards come off the screen, when he penetrates, when he kicks it out to me, I have to knock down that shot,” Leonard said. “Or if a guy is playing off me, jabbing him off and then lifting up and raising for the three and hitting it consistently.”
Leonard’s only other workout was with the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday, and he said he has roughly a half dozen more before the June 23 draft. During that time, Leonard and Hamilton figure to be matched against one another, which has been the case in various camps and offseason leagues since the two were juniors in high school in Southern California.
Leonard is from Riverside, Calif., approximately 50 miles east of Compton, from where Hamilton hails.
“It’s funny. All through high school we played against each other,” Hamilton said. “Didn’t get the chance to play against him when he was at San Diego State, but now we’re here working out against each other. I know Kawhi really well. We played on the same AAU team for a bit, and now we’re here today.”