For the past several years, Jazz players have been spending weeks at a time during the summer training with the Peak Performance Project, or P3, in Santa Barbara. I sat down with several members of the P3 staff at their facility to find out what exactly they do with the Jazz and other NBA players. This is part two of a two-part series. You can read Part 1 here.
Over the summer, NBA teams are prohibited from holding “mandatory” workouts, at least as far as the organization is concerned. But that didn’t stop the Jazz from getting the majority of their team together for a stint in Santa Barbara this summer with P3.
The unique relationship that the Jazz organization has developed with P3 goes back to the original days with Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer. Ever since those two started the excursions down to sunny, southern California, more and more players have joined in each year. Not all of them were as open to the idea initially. When Deron Williams was still with the team, he was one of the players who needed to be “converted” to their style, as Dr. Marcus Elliott put it. Since workouts are not required, participation is purely based on the players themselves. After learning about P3′s methods, there’s a reason why more and more players are joining the party.
Williams became such a believer, that he has since introduced the Brooklyn organization to P3. In fact, as you look at the complete roster of P3 athletes, many of them have connections back to Utah.
The staff at P3 credited Jazz trainers Gary Briggs and Mark McKown especially for fostering such a fruitful partnership and had nothing but good things to say about the entire organization. This might be the off-season, but Dennis Lindsey, Ty Corbin and even Randy Rigby have all been down for visits.
In order to track the best results, P3 tries to get athletes to their facility first thing after each season, and then again before the start of the next season. That way, they can grade both off-season and in-season improvements.
The Jazz players to attend this summer were Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, John Lucas III, Brandon Rush, Ian Clark, and most recently Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Andres Biedrins. The latter three were in Santa Barbara as recently as last Thursday and Friday. The only members not to participate were Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson.
In talking with Dr. Elliott and staff, they were very cautious as to which information they shared with me. Because of relationships with different players and organizations, they stopped themselves several times before sharing confidential test results. Some information they gather could drastically affect contract negotiations for certain athletes. If, for example, they forecasted health issues with a certain player, that information could impact an organization’s desire to sign a particular player. They did have interesting insights about nearly every player though. But who has shown the most improvement?
“Alec [Burks] was the biggest winner,” said Elliott. The staff really admired him for his work over the past couple years. He has apparently improved in a number of areas from hip stability, knee position and trunk strength, all of which affect quickness. They recognize the unique opportunity Burks will have this season to finally get steady minutes, potentially even as a starter. He is considered one of their more “elastic” athletes. He reached a vertical height of 12′ 2.5″ during an approach this summer. When he first arrived in May 2012 he maxed out at 11′ 8.5″. That height is especially worth noting considering that he also weighs 11 more pounds than when he started.
The other player they talked most about was Jeremy Evans. Several coaches commented that this is the best he’s ever looked. He was noticeably thicker and displayed better overall strength. Evans is one of the few guys that has shown an increased vertical every year since entering the league. He’s one of the young guys on the team who has been with P3 since he was drafted. In his initial assessment his rookie year, he could touch 12′ 2.5″ on his vertical jump. This past off-season he reached 12’ 7.5”. That is the highest any athlete has ever touched with P3 and means he has increased his vertical five full inches since entering the NBA; he now boasts a 43.5 inch vertical. While Jeremy has always been exceptional with an approach, his ability to create force from a rested position or without the aid of the stretch shortening cycle has improved considerably. This has been their number one focus with him. He now has much greater jump diversity, as they call it. The fact that he hasn’t peaked and keeps adding inches to his vertical every year is very positive.
Next was Favors. On a few different occasions, the trainers referred to him as a “beast.” Everything about his performance has been improving by their standards. They were excited to see how it translated to the court this year with his added responsibility. I asked their opinion about his “raw” talent as it is often described. Dr. Elliott responded by saying, “Derrick is one of the hardest workers, strong, but it took him way too long to get off the ground.” So they started working on that specifically. His seated jump test was below average in the beginning, but is now number one (!) among NBA big men in terms of speed of jump. Since P3, he tests among the NBA’s best bigs in almost every category. Some trainers noted that he practically moves like a guard.
One of the most interesting stories was that of Ian Clark, as he started his relationship with P3 independent of the Jazz. He worked with them during his pre-draft workouts and went on to, as Dr. Elliott described it, “tear up the Summer League.” Elliott continued by saying, “I don’t think Dennis [Lindsey] will mind if I share this.” After some of his workouts in Santa Barbara, he called Lindsey to give him some of his numbers. He did not comment on the amount this phone call may have influenced the Jazz management to sign Clark, but the timing might suggest such.
Newly drafted Trey Burke didn’t have nearly as much data to pull from as other players. This was his first interaction with P3. They commented that he was “very hard working with solid character.” He hadn’t had significant professional training beforehand, so the staff was confident they would begin to see noticeable improvements. He showed good slide agility, and side to side quickness. The biggest thing they noted was that it was still difficult to see his ceiling as a player.
They were pleasantly surprised with Enes Kanter. His shoulder looks good, per their evaluations, and used the phrase “coming back online” to describe his rehab process. One of the main targets they worked with Kanter on was his force explosion, in essence, getting back up to the basket quicker. They use the force plates to determine these numbers as was described in part one of this series. Kanter is one of the highest force athletes they work with as well as one of the strongest of all the athletes they have tested in the NBA. He currently owns the second best mark, for an NBA player, in their rotational power test. But above all the physical numbers he registered, they were most impressed with his character and perseverance. They shared his story of training in Santa Barbara while simultaneously observing Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims will fast from food and liquid from dawn until sunset. To keep up with the demanding training, Kanter would set his alarm twice in the middle of the night to wake up and eat.
John Lucas III came with the rest of the team as a first-timer this summer. He was, according to trainers, “skeptical” of their approach. They noted his old school mentality towards the game, as one who grew up around the sport. By the end, Lucas was a solid convert. After observing the team’s behavior and chemistry together, Dr. Elliott added, “He’s going to be a great part of this team.”
Brandon Rush is another one to join the Jazz this off-season. He was reported to have a “ton of bounce in his body.” P3 didn’t have information on him before his injury, which made it tough to fully evaluate his progress with his injury. He hadn’t had much jump training before, but was still really quick off the ground. The best sign for his rehab was his balance and stability through all of the testing and workouts.
After last week’s workout, Gordon Hayward reportedly looked great. He has improved every off-season in terms of strength, power and agility. According to their roster, he is one of the best agility and lateral speed NBA wings and is also is an above average jumper both from a static position and an approach.
Rudy Gobert also looked good and did not have a number of movement pathologies that they often see in big men. His standing reach of 9′ 9″ is the highest they have recorded.
Overall, the Jazz showed great progress during their time in Santa Barbara. It will be an important growth year for the organization, and having this sort of relationship with one of the leading teams of experts, trainers and doctors on our side will definitely help player development. In my opinion, the Jazz are years ahead of other teams when it comes to off-season training and I was more than impressed with the entire P3 staff.
Here’s a video they posted on their Facebook page highlighting the Jazz’s workouts this summer.
P3 collects hundreds of biomechanical data points with every test, and could have gone into much greater detail athlete but asked that I refrain from sharing specific details about specific players as to respect their contracts with certain players/organizations, especially the Jazz. I respectfully agreed.