ORLANDO, Fla. (STATS) - No one was ever under the impression Greg Oden or Kevin Durant would play at this week's NBA predraft camp. But fringe prospects like Wilson Chandler, Derrick Byars and DeVon Hardin skipping out, too?
Has the weeklong annual Orlando showcase officially turned into a Mickey Mouse operation?
Those looking for more marquee names when the camp opens Tuesday may still find players like Pitt's Aaron Gray and Boston College's Jared Dudley, but the turnout is clearly not what the league was looking for when it made a rule change this season prohibiting private team workouts before the start of the camp.
The purpose of the change was to convince players like Chandler, Byars and Hardin - and, quite frankly, players of a higher caliber than them - to join the Florida field in search of guaranteed first-round money or a second-round shot.
However, with the draft still over a month away, many agents feel their clients can either do enough impressing in postcamp private workouts or will be able to rely on their collegiate resumes in lieu of facing the Orlando competition.
"How much do you gain versus how much do you risk and how much do you potentially lose?" said John Hamilton, who represents former LSU star Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Questions about Davis' weight and injured quad seem to make him a perfect candidate to participate in the camp, a forum that could provide ample opportunity for him to disprove the doubters. Instead, he's sitting out, even though he could drop out of the first round altogether after being considered a potential lottery pick following LSU's run to the 2006 Final Four.
"The overriding issue is that all the guys he's competing against for slots in the first round won't be there," Hamilton said. "As bad as he wants to go and as much as we wanted him to be there, it didn't make business sense."
Still, the camp can be a golden opportunity for some to move up the draft board. One year ago, Renaldo Balkman went from a virtual unknown to the 20th overall pick by the New York Knicks thanks in large part to his Orlando performance.
Balkman and the Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Farmar were the only first-round picks among the 11 players drafted who participated in last year's camp. The NBA was hoping it would get significantly more than two eventual first-round selections attending this time around, but while it's likely more than 11 of the participants will get drafted overall, the top-tier talent continues to shy away.
"There are a number of players who pulled out. Their agents, or teams, have told them, 'Don't go to Orlando, we guarantee you a spot in the draft,'" said NBA director of scouting Marty Blake. "We would always like to see everybody play, but a lot of representatives and parents of kids say don't go there. They'd probably have them not play anywhere, just send them a check."
Even representatives of many international standouts are not interested in putting their clients up against collegiate stars despite scouts' concerns about how foreign players will perform against top-flight U.S. competition.
The agent for Marco Belinelli, widely considered the best sub-7 foot international player available, won't put the prospect from Italy in the camp and is even holding back clients Arron Afflalo and Gabe Pruitt - big names, but hardly guaranteed first-rounders.
"It's a situation where you have to just take a look at the risks and rewards for sending a guy to Orlando," said Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management. "While it's an excellent camp, we had made a decision here that we felt that their bodies of work had spoken for themselves and they're going to rely on their workouts."
While it seems unlikely the NBA will ever be able to put together something similar to the NFL combine, where nearly every player hoping to be drafted participates, there are ways the league could move forward in adding to the camp's prestige.
Assuming it does not plan to completely restrict private workouts, the NBA could push the camp even closer to the draft, thus giving players and teams that much less time to get together.
"I think they're gonna evaluate how it goes this year and I'm sure they'll have a meeting when it's over," said agent Mark Bartlestein. "The teams really seem to enjoy the individual workouts much more than the camps. I'm not even sure how much of a premium they're going to put on the camp in the future."
At the same time, there is no question the camp holds value, particularly for those players who remain undecided about entering the draft or those hoping to improve their draft status.
"I don't think (the rule modification) really changed anything from our point of view," said Bartlestein, who could have as many as four clients - including Dudley - competing at the camp.
Besides, it's not like the first round is the only one that matters.
Pointing out just how important the second round can be, Blake mentioned that among teams left in the playoffs, the only rookies seeing significant playing time are Cleveland's Daniel Gibson and Utah's Paul Millsap - selected 42nd and 47th, respectively.
"You gotta go in the draft understanding you're not gonna get Durant, you're not gonna get Oden, so how long will it take the guy you get to develop?" Blake said. "There's a lot of sleepers this year."
Justin Einhorn is a senior editor for STATS and will be in Orlando covering the NBA predraft camp all week. He can be reached at jeinhornstats.com.


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