When he applied as an early entrant for the NBA draft following a fantastic freshman season in March 2018, LSU point guard Tremont Waters had a plan.
It was to visit with teams to learn what he had to work on to enhance his chances of being selected in this year’s draft, which will take place Thursday in Brooklyn.
Waters’ patience and willingness to take the advice of the five teams he visited last spring will pay off if he’s chosen in this year’s draft, which consists of two rounds and 60 total selections.
Actually, it already has for Waters, who received an invitation to the NBA combine workouts last month after not getting a shot to showcase his abilities there a year ago.
Forward Naz Reid, who declared for the draft after making the Southeastern Conference coaches’ All-Freshman team, also was invited to the combine and is, like Waters, hoping to get a call on draft night.
Most mock drafts have both being selected although probably not as high as they would like to go — especially Reid.
A five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American when he came out of Asbury Park, New Jersey, Reid was regarded as a likely lottery pick when he arrived on campus last summer — mainly because of his size and strength.
But questions about the 6-foot-10, 250-pounder’s desire and work ethic, which were never an issue for LSU coach Will Wade or his staff when they were asked about Reid this season, have likely pushed him down into the top half of the second round.
On the other hand, the 5-9 Waters, who bulked up between his freshman and sophomore seasons and became more of a vocal leader for the Tigers, may have worked himself into the second round despite his lack of size.
While largely ignored in early mock drafts, Waters had another productive season in which he was a first-team All-SEC selection and shared the coaches’ co-defensive player of the year award.
In a survey of 10 mock drafts, only one has Reid going in the first round. Rotoworld.com has him as the 26th pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers with his top second-round slot going No. 33 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Still, NBA front-office execs and scouts are intrigued by Reid’s potential after he came on late in the season.
Chosen to Kyle Macy's Freshman All-America team for CollegeInsider.com, Reid was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game and led the squad with 7.2 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the field. He averaged 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds over the final 14 games with seven double-doubles.
In the second game of that 14-game stretch, he tied his career high with 29 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer in a 92-88 overtime win at Mississippi State.
Reid took over the game in scoring 25 of his 29 points after halftime and had LSU’s final six points in OT after State took an 87-86 lead with 1:52 to play.
“The positives are his size, and he’s really skilled,” one NBA scout said. “He can shoot the ball even though he’s not great shooting from 3. But projecting forward, his ball skills and basketball IQ are very good for a big man — and he’s got good feet.
“The knocks are he doesn’t have a great motor and he doesn’t always play hard,” he said. “Defensively, he leaves something to be desired at times and isn’t a rim-protector; he’s not the quickest defender. He’s got good footwork in terms of moving and scoring, but that’s different than being mobile or quick.”
Reid became the first LSU player since Ben Simmons in 2016 to leave after just one college season.
That could have been Waters last season, but he heeded the scouts’ advice and returned for his sophomore season and led the Tigers to the SEC regular-season title and into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
He led the team in three important categories in racking up 15.3 points, 5.8 assists and 2.9 steals a game. He started 61 of 66 games in his career, averaging 15.6 points, 5.9 assists and 2.5 steals.
Waters was at his best in a win at Texas A&M this season. Using an array of shots, including some deep NBA 3s, he poured in a season-high 36 points in a 72-57 rout of the Aggies.
“The positives on Tremont are his basketball IQ, and he’s really quick and fast for his size and build,” the NBA scout said. “Those things he does well kind of mitigate his size issues because he really passes the ball well and sees the floor well. Defensively, he gets his hands on the ball a lot … so he’s a disruptor, which is good to see.
“The negative is his size. For someone that size, he’s not finishing at the basket all that often. I’d like to see him shoot better from deep, but it’s not a broken shot; he’s about 33 percent, so I’d like to see that go up. It’s not a weakness, per se, but I’d like to see it be a strength.”