Jaylen Nowell is out to prove he can defend.
At the University of Washington, he rarely showed what he could do because of the Huskies’ 2-3 zone.
So Tuesday, Nowell tried to put his defensive skills on display at a predraft workout for the 76ers at their practice facility in Camden. Sixers general manager Elton Brand and coach Brett Brown were among the front-office executives, coaches and scouts on hand.
“I just wanted to prove I could guard somebody one-on-one, man-to-man,” Nowell said. “I felt like I did a pretty good job of that, and I’m continuing to do that.”
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard thinks his defense is “very solid.” It is something the 19-year-old from Seattle takes a lot of pride in.
Yet, he is known for being a scorer.
Nowell led the Huskies in scoring in both of his seasons at Washington. He averaged 16.2 points this past season after averaging 16.0 as a freshman. Nowell scored 1,127 points during his two-year career. In the process, he became the quickest player in school history to surpass 600, 700, 800 and 1,000 points. He was on pace to break the school record of 2,073 career points held by Chris Welp.
This season, Nowell joined Welp (1986) and Brandon Roy (2006) as the only Washington players to win the Pac-12 Player of the Year award.
“He can [score] both on the ball as kind of a shot-getter and attacker, but also you can slide him off the ball and he can run off screens and shoot off movement,” said Vince Rozman, the Sixers’ senior director of scouting. “There is a lot of skill in that. And then I think he showed a lot this year to be able to make plays for teammates as well. So he is kind of evolving his game into a more well-rounded player.”
Despite that, he’s projected to be a late second-round pick, if he’s even drafted.
The Sixers have the 24th overall pick and four second-round selections — Nos. 33, 34, 42 and 54 — in the June 20 NBA draft. They could use one of their late second-rounders on Nowell or sign him in free agency if interested.
His being a little undersized as a shooting guard, not having point-guard skills and playing a zone defense at Washington are some concerns.