The NBA combine took place on Thursday and Friday with players being run through shooting plus 3-on-2, 2-on-1 full court drills, and combine measurements and athleticism testing.
To illustrate the importance of being invited, last year out of the 54 players invited to the Chicago Draft Combine, 52 were drafted.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this year’s combine will not have nearly the same success rate. My top candidates from the combine most likely to go undrafted: Ben Hansbrough (invite), Jimmy Butler, Scotty Hopson, Mike Dunigan, Isaiah Thomas, Jereme Richmond, Jamie Skeen, and (yes) Charles Jenkins.
The real strength of the draft combine is that it provides a chance for teams to conduct interviews with up to 18 players each.
The combine is a difficult event for scouts because it’s challenges them to re-evaluate their opinion of players. To some degree scouts see what they want to see. They form opinions on guys for 363 days and then are forced to re-evaluate those opinions. How much an impressive or poor showing should matter depends on each scout.
Player’s jump shots, speed and athleticism and attitude/demeanor are really the main things that can be evaluated. A player’s feel for the game, passing skills (particularly for point guards), and ball handling really aren’t on display.
Kyrie Irving Skips Athleticism Testing
Kyrie Irving‘s decision to skip not only the Chicago combine workout but also the combine athleticism testing has to raise some eyebrows.
Not only does it set a bad precedent, it could influence future players into following suit (particularly if he ends up going first). It also raises the question about whether Irving is really back to 100%. Is he hiding something?
Could this decision cost him? It’s possible.
His 10% body fat is extremely high for a guard. Has he been unable to fully workout after the season ended?
The Kyrie Irving we saw after he returned from injury in the NCAA tournament was not worthy of a top 10 pick. So the notion that Kyrie has "nothing to prove" is completely bogus. This development has to be horrifying for the Cleveland Cavs.
Could Cleveland instead opt for a more proven and NBA ready Derrick Williams and hope that Knight falls to them at 4, and take Kemba if he’s gone?
Kyrie has been widely compared with Chris Paul. But to assume Irving can be anything close to Paul in the NBA is taking huge liberties. Irving lacks Paul’s speed, athleticism and college experience. And the only point guards that have made a successful jump to the NBA with limited college experience have been freakish athletes (Marbury, Rondo, Rose, Wall).
Of all the freshmen that entered the draft (including Cory Joseph), Kyrie was the one that could have used another year of experience the most. His game has the most maturation left to develop and after missing 2/3 of his only season, he will be adapting to the NBA point guard position on the fly.
Expect a similar progression as Mike Conley with 2-3 years of struggling before things finally fall into place. Being taken #1 will not do Kyrie any favors as the expectations will be through the roof. But he’s a mentally tough kid and should be able to persevere.
One thing is for sure, Irving will do extremely well during the interview process as he’s a confident and charismatic kid.
The Kemba-Knight debate
The panel of commentators debated this one. In my opinion, it’s not even close, it’s Brandon Knight in a landslide. What Knight did as a freshman was more than what Kemba did as a sophomore and his size and length gives him a huge edge.
In fact, Knight was widely rated above Kyrie Irving by recruiting analysts until the end of their senior years in high school. And unlike "some analysts" that reported Knight could fall into the second round during the season, we’ve remained high on him all season and rating Knight as the second best point guard prospect all along.
Knight vs Irving is probably a more legitimate debate and I think a case could be made for Knight. He won more in high school and is more proven at the college level. Sure Knight struggled early, but he was an elite prospect throughout highschool and has the type of character and killer instinct what will insure success in the NBA.
Charles Jenkins Over Hyped?
Charles Jenkins has been projected by some as a first round pick. But every scout I have spoken with has him in the 50s or lower. I ‘ve watched him play a number of times and scoured through hours of his highlight footage and I see a player that scores primarily by bullying opponents inside of 12-15 feet of the basket. He’s got a strong physique but he’s an average shooter and at 6’3 he is very small for a shooting guard.
He doesn’t show much in the way of point guard skills as far as I can tell. I also am not all that impressed by the numbers he put up this year because of the level of Hofstra’s competition. Sure he averaged 22.6 ppg, with a 2-1 a/to ratio on 52% fg%, 82% ft and 42% 3p.
But keep in mind that Hofstra played a soft schedule outside the top 3-4 teams in their conference. Of Jenkins 33 games, only 11 came against top 100 RPI teams and the team went 3-8 in those games. Teams looking for another Rodney Stuckey can keep searching.
Kyle Singler Underrated
Singler is getting sold short as a player that can’t make it in the NBA. ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said he thinks Singler will not make it in a rotation and be out of the league in 2-3 years.
Let’s not forget how instrumental Singler was to last year’s NCAA title for Duke. Duke ‘s system has a habit of making players look less athletic than they really are and this is a guy that was rated in the top 5 by many recruiting analysts in a class that included Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley Eric Gordon and Kevin Love.
He was forced into playing out of position his first 2 years and filled in admirably in the post. He was also getting talked about as a possible lotto pick after last year’s title and now is considered a borderline first rounder.
Sure he lacks upside, but Singler has been one of the most consistent players in the NCAA over the last 4 years. His basketball IQ and feel for the game are tremendous.
He brings experience and character which in a draft heading into a lockout season are two highly desirable attributes. He shoots it much better than what he showed this year. He was much more productive over the course of his career than Chandler Parsons, yet somehow many people have become higher on Parsons.
Look for teams to come to their senses and for Singler to ultimately end up in the late first round and have a solid NBA career. He’s too competitive, tough and versatile not to make it in the NBA.
Top Players Pull Out of Combine
This has to be a concerning development for the NBA. Players skipping the combine workout included Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, Kawhi Leonard, and Tristan Thompson.
Basically all of the American players that think that they are top 10 picks. So expect next year the top 20 will not participate and the following year the entire first round.
The NBA should really look into putting something into the collective bargaining agreement that stipulates that a player must participate in the combine in order to get drafted, because it is getting ridiculous.
Back when this event wasn’t a combine and called the predraft camp, players like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin .etc would all take part in the "combine" portion which included some full court weaves, 3-2, 2-1 and shooting around, essentially what the combine is now. With all these players choosing to skip even this portion, the event is becoming ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous: The NBA’s decision to shut out all media besides ESPN from this event. Are they simply deciding to allow ESPN to monopolize the coverage or is having the rest of the media cover it somehow detrimental to the event?
Before last year, this event had always been open to credentialed media and it’s not like the blogosphere media is disruptive to the scouts. The NBA is limiting the coverage (and in turn interest) in their product, which can’t be a good idea. Can it?
ESPN had some real head scratches in their positional lists. First Isaiah Thomas as a shooting guard. Sure he plays like a 5-10 SG. But if he’s going to play in the league, he has to be a PG. You are the position you guard, as they say. He’ll be the first 5’10 SG in the NBA since the 1940s if he’s actually going to play the position. Next one was Jonas Valanciunas as a PF. This guy is a center all the way. He’s 6’11 with a 7’4 wingspan and is way too slow to play PF. At least Fran Frachilla knew that…
Fran the Man
Speaking of which….Fran Frachilla was in rare form saying it’s possible the frozen gym could be heated up by all the hot air the crew was spewing. Had to love how opinionated he was on all the players he spoke about without pulling any punches (including the Texas and Big 12 players, and in particular Avery Bradley not being a point guard). I get a chance to speak with Fran each year in Treviso, Italy at the adidas Eurocamp and really enjoy hearing his insight on players.
He made an interesting analogy that NCAA basketball is to AA baseball as European basketball is to AAA baseball. Without question the top teams in Europe are stronger than NCAA teams. But that is a little like comparing apples to oranges because the style of game and athletes are so different. There are certain standout NBA players who excel at isolating who would struggle to fit into the team concept of certain European teams.
During the broadcast on Day 1 Frachilla contradicted himself at one point as he first ripped Darius Morris for going from a second rounder to all of a sudden being projected as a mid first rounder and questioned whether he was a legitimate first rounder. He later said it wouldn’t surprise him if a guy like Darius Morris ended up better than guys taken higher than him.
Valanciunas May Ultimately Pull Out
We were reluctant to move Jonas Valanciunas to the 2011 mock draft due to the fact that we were hearing he may not end up in this draft, and there remains a real possibility that he will pull out.
While this appears to be the optimum draft for him to get a high draft position, the fact that he’s a few years away from being NBA ready combined with his uncertain contract situation could be enough to scare teams in the top 10 away.
After speaking with his agent in Barcelona at the European Final Four, it appears that Jonas does want to stay in this year’s draft. But whether he will still appears to be up in the air.
It will be interesting to see what kind of assurance Valanciunas can get from teams in the lottery considering his situation, and where a team will feel comfortable selecting him knowing it may be 2-3 years before he could come over and be productive.
Minnesota has had a lot of questions to answer after selecting Rubio with the 5th pick two years ago and not having anything to show for it thus far.
UCLA System Effect
After seeing Malcolm Lee twist his ankle and walk out in a boot at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas two days before, I was amazed to see him moving around so well at the combine.
His size and athleticism is intriguing and he’s sure to help his cause in workouts leading up to the draft. Similar to a European team, the UCLA system makes it difficult for any individual player to standout stat wise.
Considering the success of recent UCLA players Love, Collison, Holliday etc, teams are sure to rethink their evaluations on both Lee and Tyler Honeycutt. Honeycutt looked good shooting it and although his shooting numbers were poor at UCLA, you have to consider the fact that UCLA likes to hold the ball late into shot clocks, disrupting the offensive flow and the emphasis on defense also takes away from shooting numbers.