Tyler Honeycutt, Malcolm Lee express no regrets after slipping to second round of NBA draft
For two players who were selected in the second round of the NBA draft Thursday, UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee seemed almost defiant about their decisions to leave college early.
"I think I'm the most athletic player in this draft," Honeycutt, a small forward who was selected 35th overall by the Sacramento Kings, said during a teleconference with reporters, pointing out his 41-inch vertical leap during predraft workouts.
Said Lee, a shooting guard who was picked No. 43 by the Chicago Bulls only to be immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves: "I look at it as a perfect situation."
It's certainly not as ideal as it would have been had they been taken in the first round.
By falling into the second round, neither player is guaranteed a contract, meaning their ability to make a season-opening roster is somewhat tenuous. Their situations are made all the more precarious by the looming lockout that is expected to wipe out the NBA's summer leagues, a proving ground for young players.
Honeycutt, who left the Bruins after a sophomore season in which he scored more than 20 points in only one game, dropped precipitously from some projections that had him as a borderline lottery pick a few months ago.
"I'm going to go there and try and show a lot of teams they made a mistake," he said.
Lee, who departed after a junior season in which he established himself as a lockdown defender but was a streaky scorer, had long been projected as a second-round pick. He had hoped his decision to withdraw from school and focus on the draft would help him move up in predraft workouts.
"I feel like I competed hard, played defense and showed people I have the ability to play point guard and score," said Lee, who twice worked out for the Timberwolves. "I feel like I played real well."
Neither player expressed concern about making an NBA roster.
"I'm real confident," Lee said. "That's the competitor I am. I'm going to go in there and compete and show them I can help this team better themselves."
Honeycutt, who is 6 feet 8 and 200 pounds, acknowledged that his strength might have contributed to his draft slide. He reportedly could not bench press 185 pounds during one workout.
"A lot of it I think is my body and people wondering if I can play at the next level at my weight," he said. "... It's something I want to improve on, need to improve on and will improve on."
Honeycutt also said being drafted so late would "make me work harder in a way. I've been doubted a lot in my career and told what I can and can't do. I've been told I couldn't make it to a Division I school. Now I'm in the NBA and I'm going to keep working hard."
While Honeycutt traveled to New Jersey for the draft, Lee remained in Southern California and didn't even watch the proceedings on television. Instead, he went to see the film "Super 8," in which a train derails.
"It was just nerves and just the whole suspense of watching, people getting their names called and stuff like that," Lee said.
Lee said he was excited to become a teammate of former Bruins star Kevin Love and didn't think the Timberwolves' logjam at point guard would necessarily preclude him from playing the position at the next level.
Both Honeycutt and Lee said they had no regrets about their decisions, insisting they would declare for the draft again even if someone told them beforehand they would be taken in the second round.
"Once the season ended and I knew this is what I wanted to do, I made sure there weren't any regrets," Honeycutt said. "I don't regret it at all."
Said Lee: "Getting in the league is my dream since I was little. If they said I would go 60, I would go."
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt flips a pass to guard Malcolm Lee (right) during a game against California. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times