There are 80 players expected to attend the NBA G League Elite Camp May 12-14 at Quest Multisport in Chicago.
Press him hard enough, and now former DePaul Blue Demon star Max Strus could probably figure out the other 39 draft-eligible prospects who will join him at the event — the other 40 participants are non-draft eligible G League players. But if he were to name them correctly, it would purely be a guess.
“I don’t even know who’s in [the NBA G League Elite Camp], so I’m just ready to show up and play,” Strus said.
A spot at the NBA Combine is the reward for the top performers at the NBA G League Elite Camp. With that in mind, Strus only focuses on himself as he works through the process of realizing his dream of reaching the NBA ranks.
This focus and discipline, coupled with what DePaul Blue Demon head coach Dave Leitao has dubbed an “insatiable work ethic,” has transformed the kid with just one Division I scholarship offer out of high school into a legitimate NBA prospect after completing a winding path from Division II Lewis University to DePaul.
Following DePaul’s College Basketball Invitational run that extended the season into early April, Strus took a couple of weeks off to allow his body to recover after playing over 1,300 minutes last season. He signed with Chicago-based Priority Sports and Entertainment and has been training with the group since. Training includes two-hour skill sessions followed by lifting six to seven times per week.
“It’s the perfect fit,” Strus said about Priority Sports and Entertainment. “They’ve done a great job and are a very good agency that does very good work in getting their guys ready to go. I trust them and believe in them to help me get where I want to be. I think they’re going to be helpful with my NBA career.”
This spring, Strus has worked out for the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics. After combine week, he’ll schedule more workouts with other teams.
“It means everything to me,” Strus said about the opportunity to play in the NBA. “This is everything that I’ve ever dreamed of and everything I’ve ever wanted in my basketball career.”
With just over a month remaining until draft day on June 20, here’s the book on Strus.
Strus’ shooting ability is his most marketable skill in a space-obsessed NBA.
“The NBA is about perimeter shooting right now, shooting threes,” Leitao said. “He’s probably going to be in that very high, top-tier group of guys who you give him the ball and trust that he’s going to make a shot.”
The raw numbers are a tad misleading when it comes to Strus’ shooting. During his first season at DePaul, he shot an underwhelming 33.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line. That number improved last season to 36.3 percent, which was 25th best in the Big East Conference among players who averaged at least two attempts per game.
But a substantive stretch of hot shooting at the end of the season showed just how lethal of a weapon he can be from downtown when locked in. In the Blue Demon’s final 10 conference games, Strus shot 42.4 percent from 3-point land on 8.5 attempts per game. Strus also averaged almost nine 3-point field goal attempts per game during the entirety of the season, and 57.7 percent of his shot attempts in college were behind the 3-point stripe.
The issue with his 3-point shooting has been the inconsistency. In 10 games against one of the softest nonconference schedules in the country, he shot a mediocre 35 percent from long range. He also had 17 games this season where he shot below 30 percent from 3-point range.
So, is Strus just a good shooter or is he a great shooter like he showed during those hot streaks? The answer will go a long way toward determining his NBA draft stock.
Couple his shooting with the fact that he’s an athletic 6-foot-6-inches and 215 pounds and a wildly competitive individual, and Strus has the positional size and versatility to thrive as a wing at the NBA level.
“[My game] fits very well in the NBA, I believe,” Strus said. “Everybody is a shooter now, everybody wants to shoot threes. I can do that. A lot of it is spacing and shooting and I can do all that. I think being a threat at the 3-point line will help teams, so I think I can help with that. I can guard one through four, I’ve shown that. So teams with switching and a lot of small lineups a lot of teams are looking for wings, and I fit that role.”
Nobody is perfect.
Even when he dropped 43 points against St. John’s on March 3, Strus missed eight of the 22 shots he attempted. While this is tongue-in-cheek, there are real areas where he can improve ahead of the draft.
“I think pretty much any young wing that’s trying to make the jump from college to the NBA, you have to tighten up the ball handling,” SB Nation draft expert Ricky O’Donnell said.
The Blue Demons relied on him as DePaul’s best player in the last two seasons to be the focal point of their offense. He led the team in field goal attempts per game and usage percentage in each of the last two seasons. O’Donnell doesn’t think creating offense for himself and his teammates is Strus’s strength, although that shouldn’t matter given what his role will become once he begins playing professionally.
“Max Strus’s strength isn’t creating offense one-on-one off the dribble,” O’Donnell said. “He did have to do that at DePaul because he was the most talented player on the team. But in the NBA, he’s going to have somebody creating offense for him. He’s going to be spotting up along the 3-point line with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] creating offense or James Harden [creating offense]. Strus won’t have to worry about that because he’s a guy who will be a role player and slot into a specific role that his team wants from him and that will be an advantage for him.”
Several sources believe Strus is talented enough to make the NBA someday, although they don’t expect him to get drafted and think he’s going to have to take a winding path [playing internationally or in the G League first] en route to the NBA.
But hell-bent on making the NBA via any route possible, Strus remains confident he’ll hear his name called on draft night.
“It’s still early in the process, but I think I have a pretty good chance,” Strus said. “Throughout the next month, going through the process will be good for me. I think I’ll be able to surprise a lot of people and hopefully be on the draft board.”