Motion Capture

P3 Pre-Draft: A Scientific Approach to Draft Prep and Career Development

This was P3′s first year working with NBA pre-draft athletes. A total of six were selected in the 2012 draft. We collected and analyzed an exhaustive amount of biomechanical and movement data on each athlete and put very precise programs in place to address each individual’s unique long-term and combine testing needs.

A typical day for P3 pre-draft athletes consisted of light on-court work in the morning, followed by up to two hours of highly customized physical development work at P3, and then more demanding on-court work in the afternoon.

Festus Ezeli makes a 90 degree cut. Tracking sensors strategically placed on the body allow P3 sports scientists to quantify and identify each athlete's individual weakness in the long kinetic chain. The data we are collecting on these young athletes will serve them for years to come.

All of the respective NBA teams that drafted P3 trained athletes will be happy with the professionalism and work ethic they bring to the table. Each of these athletes has very different physical tools. Here is brief summary of what we worked on with each athlete leading up to the draft and what they need to work on going forward, from a physical performance standpoint.

John Jenkins – Atlanta Hawks

As an NBA wing, John will need to possess a great deal of lower extremity power and be able to apply it in multiple planes. To help John get in better positions to create force and become a more efficient and elastic athlete, we prescribed exercise that improved hip mobility (loaded strength movements, aggressive soft tissue, daily stretching programs) and emphasized eccentric adaptation work (lengthening movements, movements that force relaxation prior to muscle contraction). We worked extensively on John’s stimulus response and nervous system to build quickness and agility.

The Tennessean on John’s physical transformation:

John Jenkins has reached a level of physical fitness in preparing for the NBA draft that he said Vanderbilt fans never witnessed during his three seasons on West End.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard and two-time SEC scoring champion is toting a chiseled 212 pounds and six-percent body fat – down from 10-percent body fat.

Jenkins, who is finally back home in Hendersonville through Thursday’s draft, said a revamped diet and aggressive weight training helped him make it through 11 workouts for NBA teams over the last few weeks while leaving a trail of positive imprints along the way.

John Jenkin’s on P3 pre-draft training, from Dimemag:

“I would say I got my hops back and I’m more athletic. Working with P3 really helped me out and got me stronger and more physically ready for the game. In the team workouts I really think teams got to see my athleticism and the way I moved so much better, which was something they didn’t see during the season.”

The weeks of training at P3 prior to the draft helped John improve his athleticism and gave him better systems to train safely (improved hip and ankle mobility, better loading mechanics and work capacity). This paired with the fact that John no longer has to deal with the exhausting pre-draft process (11 team workouts, interviews, travel) or condensed summer league schedule means that he should now be able to progress into more top end power, high-volume work.

Along with training more top end power at a higher volume we will continue to push on hip and ankle mobility, as this is key to him being able to utilize the lower body power that has been developing and will continue to develop in basketball-specific movements and actions.

“Jenkins has added some muscle to his frame. Looks more explosive than he did at Vandy.” - Chad Ford, ESPN

Perry Jones – Oklahoma City Thunder

Perry’s athletic ability is off the charts. Our performance data indicates that he matches up very well with both NBA wings and power forwards.

We have a complete movement profile on Perry Jones and an extensive amount of kinetic and kinematic data on Perry doing max effort basketball-specific movements in our laboratory. In this picture we are collecting lower extremity kinematic data as Perry performs a lateral shuffle.

On hardwoodparoxysm, Dr. Elliott gives his perspective and insight into Perry’s athletic ability:

“He’s got a bigger work capacity than most of the athletes that we’ve had in, including NBA guys. He can go at high intensities for a long period of time.”

Elliott has worked with Jones for the last month and a half, preparing him for the Chicago pre-draft combine, team workouts and the leap to the next level. What he found was a mechanical issue, not one involving a lack of heart, desire or focus.

“When you create force for any kind of athletic movement out of your lower half — whether it’s jumping or sprinting or cutting — you use a combination of force generated from the ankle, the knee and the hip. We call those ‘force moments,’” Elliott said. Jones’ problem is that he was creating a bigger force moment over his knee than was desirable. His work at P3 has been about shifting his incredibly powerful force moments to his hips. While “motor” is a murky term, sports science showed something specific: His movement pattern put too much pressure on his knees to produce maximal force on a consistent basis. Perry’s smooth athleticism made everything look easy, but it was not.

Fortunately, unlike a lack of passion, this can be fixed. “It’s something we can absolutely affect,” Elliott said. “We’ve done it in dozens and dozens of athletes.” Jones has made significant physical gains in a relatively short amount of time. “It’s helped me a lot to be honest,” Jones said of P3 following his workout in Toronto. “I think if I wasn’t there I’d probably be tired through all of these workouts.”

In Santa Barbara, a typical day for Jones starts with a light 60-75 minute on court session in the morning, followed up by a high-intensity, rigorous training session at the P3 facility. In the afternoon, he’s back on the court for a demanding two-hour session. “We put the screws on him in overall work volume quite a bit,” said Elliott.

Jones is a rare athlete, with one of the most unique sets of physical metrics Elliott has ever tested. “He’s without question one of the ten most athletic athletes I’ve ever tested, maybe top five,” Elliott said. “In any sport.” As well as his ridiculous vertical leap and his deceptive strength, Jones’ agility at his size makes him special. His 5-10-5 shuttle was faster than any big man ever tested at P3 and faster than all but three wings. While some question his natural position at the NBA level — Raptors executive vice-president Ed Stefanski said “that’s something we’ll discuss thoroughly” — Elliott believes that Jones can play small forward without question.

Perry also creates more force from a rested position than any wing we have tested (by a significant margin) and is third overall. As observed during the rotational power test, Perry is deceptively strong and very well connected from the ground up. He creates 2515 Watts of power when rotating from right to left, which ranks 5th highest in our NBA player movement database. The 2449 Watts of power he produces when rotating from left to right ranks 3rd.

“If he was 6-6, people wouldn’t say he was slow. I guarantee if he was 6-6 and had the same movement that he has right now at 6-11 he’d be a natural three and they’d say that makes sense,” Elliott said. “Because he’s 6-11 people think that, I don’t know, that it’s some kind of stretch. But I can tell you it’s just because you’re not used to seeing guys that are 6-11 that can move like this kid can move. They just don’t exist.”

“For a long guy, he is able to transition from eccentric to concentric movements, from down movements to up movements and all kinds of athletic movements faster than about any tall athlete we’ve seen,” Elliott continued. “Most big athletes have a little bit of a lag between, say, dropping into a depth jump and then coming out of it or loading onto a single leg and then driving out of it. He has no transition, he moves more like someone who’s 6 feet to 6-4 as opposed to 6-11.”

As stated by Dr. Elliott, Perry made significant physical gains in a little over a month and a half. Continuing to work on hip mobility, hip stability, posterior chain development and coaching/cuing how to utilize hips through integrated movement will be key in allowing Perry to shift demand and consistently perform at his peak.

Festus Ezeli – Golden State Warriors

The prospect of applying science and personalized approach to keeping a physically gifted big guy like Festus healthy and moving well for many years is very exciting. We believe that NBA big men, in large part because of their extremely long levers, the considerable amount of  force they produce require more precise physical development than other athletes.

Festus started the P3 pre-draft development in late March, flying out on the weekends in-between classes at Vanderbilt. Utilizing unique sports science technologies we quantified/analyzed his movements and physical systems and compared these characteristics to our growing database of NBA big men. He stacks up very well in a number of performance metrics and has significant physical upside.

Festus is especially well connected for a big man and has a great deal of lower extremity power. Much of our work early on focused on improving his loading mechanics and eccentric adaptation. As these qualities improved, Festus became more elastic, more confident attacking the ground and quicker off the ground.

Festus Ezeli performing a trapbar Romanion deadlift and keg toss. This "complex pair" was applied as a means of improving Festus' loading mechanics, LE power and developing eccentric muscle adaptations.

Going forward we will aggressively target Festus’ multi planar speed, ability to link movements and change of direction. To improve these qualities we generally like to complex unilateral strength movements with skaters, split squat jumps, single leg depth jumps, followed up by open agility variations. When done with short rest intervals this type of complex is very demanding from a metabolic standpoint. We like all of our big guys to have great work capacity and anaerobic endurance, so that they can give maximal effort over and over again throughout the course of a workout or game. If a big man is stable and strong, can stay healthy, move well, and go harder than the guys he is matched up against, he will have a good chance to succeed in the NBA.

“Ezeli has a great body and is tough. But no one to match his strength here. In much better shape and more explosive now” - Chad Ford, ESPN

Jeff Taylor – Charlotte Bobcats

Jeff is a very well constructed athlete who possesses an excellent nervous system. His force graph curves show beautiful relaxation and tempo, and he interacts with the ground very efficiently.

When an athlete is well constructed like Jeff we focus on optimizing power development. Due to Jeff arriving late in the pre-draft process, and having heavy loads applied to him on the court we did not get to do as much high-volume, high-intensity work as we would have liked to. We placed more of an emphasis on improving his thoracic mobility/extension and hip mobility. Thoracic mob/ext to improve upright posture in the mid-back and reach in all planes. By building better mob/ext we think that Jeff will be a longer and more disruptive defender. We targeted hip mobility to allow him to better utilize primary force producing muscles in movement and play lower. We also did some motor programming and eccentric work to train better utilization of the hips.

We believe Jeff could could gain 10% more power through high-intensity, top end work this off-season. We will also continue to emphasize motor programming, hip mobility, and thoracic mobility/ext work.

Orlando Johnson – Indiana Pacers

Orlando is the athlete we had the longest run with leading up to the draft, and perhaps no athlete did more to improve his stock. During his initial assessment he demonstrated unique strength. His force production rivaled that of any big man we had tested. In order for Orlando to move like an elite NBA athlete we focused on improving hip mobility, ankle mobility, lower extremity power/first step, relaxation, and multi planar speed. Due to needs and adaptation time, Orlando did more power and open agility movements than any of our other draft prospects.

When Orlando first arrived his mobility issues at the hip and ankles put him in bad positions to move laterally and reach peak force quickly in the vertical and lateral plane. He would get very little depth out his hips, very little knee flexion and not enough knee or ankle force moment during dynamic movement. Instead of staying low and driving out of his legs when moving laterally, Orlando would bend at the trunk and create a lot of force out of his lower back and hips. These issues were identified and quantified through a combination of extensive mobilization screens, force plate testing, motion capture, and pure performance testing.

A primary goal during leg workouts was to get Orlando to utilize his ankles and knees instead of his back during high-intensity efforts and power-based movements. This was a process of opening up his ankles and hips, applying power movements that required ankle and knee force moments and coaching and cuing through integrated movements to teach and reinforce proper movement patterns.

Open agility, change of direction movements (slide agility variations, impulse to backpedal, figure 8s) and plyometrics that forced Orlando to relax and yield to elasticity were also a staple of his training.

As Orlando started utilizing his ankles and knees more, relaxing and finishing his movements we saw marked gains in vertical jump, first step, lateral speed/quickness, and his ability to transition and accelerate in multiple plains.

Orlando’s improved athleticism garnered a lot of attention during the pre-draft process. From the Sporting News:

After wrapping up his season at UCSB, Johnson checked in at Peak Performance in Santa Barbara and began working on his body. He started with a nutritionist, changed his workout regime and began getting into top shape. His vertical leap, he was surprised to find, went from 33 inches to almost 39 inches. Combine that with his knock-down shooting, and Johnson was ready for the predraft grind.

When he showed up for the group workout in New Jersey two weeks ago, Johnson made the biggest splash.

“He was the best guy there,” one general manager said. “Everybody knew who he was, but he looked like a different player. He was really impressive. He is an impressive young man off the court, too. He helped his stock out an awful lot, you would have to think.”

Orlando’s body composition and thoracic extension/mobility also improved a great deal. To really improve body composition and anaerobic/aerobic conditioning we would take Orlando through metabolic sets at the end of his workouts two times per week. Orlando also carried excess lean mass in his upper body, so dropping mass, improving mobility and upper body power were a focus during upper body days.

Going forward we will continue to push on ankle mobility, hip mobility, first step, relaxation and multi planar speed.

Marcus Denmon – San Antonio Spurs

Marcus is a very good athlete who excels at moving laterally, changing direction, and accelerating. In fact Dr. Marcus Elliott believes he has the physical tools to play defensive back in the NFL.

While Marcus moved very well when he first came to P3, he had interrelated mobility (very tight hamstrings and Psoas), postural (posterior pelvic tilt/thoracic extension), and motor programming issues that needed to be corrected. These mobility and postural issues led to excess stress across his lumbar spine and made it difficult for him to get full hip extension. Full hip extension is critical in both generating maximum force vertically as well as generating high levels of power horizontally.

Corrective strategies for Marcus’ posture and mobility included loaded strength movements that forced big knee flexion (bulgarians, lunge variations), aggressive soft tissue work, and targeted stretching programs. As Marcus’ hips opened up it made it a lot easier for him to extend at the hip joint during power based movements.

Along with prescribing hip opening movements we applied high weight exercises (Ie. Side Lunge) to force full extension, followed immediately by biomechanically similar plyometric/ballistic movements (Ie. Skaters).

Unlike many of our basketball players we did not focus much on improving acceleration, multi planar speed, and change of direction. These capabilities were already on board when Marcus arrived.

Marcus’ posture, mobility and hip extension improved by a significant margin leading up to the draft. All of these systems are linked very tightly and are still his primary needs moving forward. Changing motor programs and improving mobility and posture takes precision, time and hard work from the athlete. Marcus always brings the effort, and we believe that another month or two of targeted intensive work at P3 would give Marcus 10% to 15% more power in the lateral, and vertical plane.

The scientific, personalized approach lead to significant athletic gains and paid big dividends at the Chicago pre-draft combine (P3 athletes had three of the top five standing vertical jumps, three of the top five maximum vertical jumps, and two of the top five 3/4 court sprints at the combine) and on draft day. Even more importantly, the long-term developmental needs of our athletes were addressed on a daily basis and we have a considerable amount of movement data on each of them that can be referenced and used to precisely track development and biomechanical changes for years to come. As the off-season progresses we will continue to address specific needs and place more of an emphasis on optimizing power output through high-intensity plyometrics, antagonist relaxation and post-activation potentiation. We expect all of these athletes to continue to develop and be physically prepared for their rookie seasons.


  1. I love what you do. Taking care of details gives a huge payback. And I really hope P Jones will discredit all criticism.
    I have a blog on Sports science, any advice would be great


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