Lakers Host Slimmed Down NCAA Tournament Star to Pre-Draft Workout

Rob Pelinka

Getty Rob Pelinka

The Los Angeles Lakers are putting in work ahead of the NBA draft and appear to have at least moderate interest in a 2024 NCAA Tournament star who is flying under the radar.

The dynamic DJ Burns Jr. led the NC State Wolfpack on an improbable run to the ACC Tournament Championship, which earned them a No. 11 seed in the 68-team field last March. Burns and company then joyously stomped their way to a Final 4 appearance before the magic finally ran out against Purdue.

The Boilermakers dropped the Wolfpack by 13 points in that game, though that is next to nothing compared to the 45 pounds Burns said he’s lost since on the strength of 5 a.m. workouts four days weekly, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and FanDuel TV. Burns — who ESPN lists as 6-feet, 9-inches tall and a ‘hard-to-believe-it’s-only’ 275 pounds — did not participate in the NBA combine, which is by invitation.

However, the Lakers recently hosted him to a pre-draft workout, according to 247 Sports’ Pack Pride. During his tryout in L.A., Burns was able to show off his new physique and highlight his skills as a professional prospect.

“The former Wolfpack star confirmed with Pack Pride earlier this week that he flew out for a pre-draft workout with the Lakers as one of several trips he plans to make prior to the 2024 NBA draft,” R. Cory Smith wrote on May 22.

DJ Burns Became National Star During ACC, NCAA Tournaments

DJ Burns

GettyDJ Burns of the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Burns is a versatile scorer and a good passer, particularly for a big man who will play the forward spot if his career continues at the next level.

He finished regular season play with solid averages of 12.9 points 4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. However, with the Wolfpack’s collective back against the wall and the lights at their brightest, Burns upped his game in tournament play.

He captured MVP Awards for both the ACC Tournament and the South Region of the NCAA Tournament, as his numbers jumped to 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per night across 10 postseason contests.

However, despite his unusual size and statistical production during basketball’s most magical time of the year, Burns’ biggest draw was perhaps a combination between his gregarious on-court personality and the fun-loving nature with which he plays the game. Not only did he effectively involve his teammates, but took obvious joy in both their success as well as his own.

DJ Burns Faces Athletic Deficiencies, Has Red Flags as NBA Draft Approaches

D.J. Burns Jr.

GettyD.J. Burns Jr. of the NC State Wolfpack.

Burns is 23 years old, and his age and history of carrying a significant amount of extra weight are likely to work against him as he competes to be one of the 60 players selected in the draft.

That he doesn’t have 3-point range and could battle athletic deficiencies against some of the better big men in the NBA won’t do him any favors either.

But, that said, the Lakers clearly see something within Burns that makes him worthy of a pre-summer workout. And if the NC State big man can continue slimming down and shaping up, there’s no telling how high he could climb in a draft class universally considered one of the weakest in recent memory.

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