The NBA combine is a mutually beneficial event for both prospects, scouting departments and high-level executives.
However, it's not an event that will make or break anyone's draft stock. It's a platform for prospects to get recognized.
Unlike the NFL Scouting Combine, the NBA combine is rather shrouded. It won't headline any newspapers or lead any news broadcasts.
It exists for evaluators and decision-makers to get a look at the consensus top-60 prospects under the same roof. Not every NBA general manager flies around the country following player after player. That's what scouting departments are for.
Freshmen with upside, late-blooming seniors, mid-major stars and power-conference standouts are all placed on one equal playing field in front of dozens of NBA personnel.
Days 1 and 2
The players are divided up by position. The point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers all separated into groups.
Within each group, instructors run specific drills that correspond with the responsibilities of each position.They practice many of the same drills you and I have gone through at basketball camps growing up. Three-man weaves, two-on-one fast breaks, stop-and-pop at the cone—drills that test players' comfort levels in different areas of the game.
Eventually, there's a little bit of half-court three-on-three, but you won't find any full-court scrimmaging going on at the combine.
The Combine is an Eye Test
It's impossible to blow anybody away running a three-on-one fast break. General managers aren't sitting there documenting and analyzing how many layups are made and missed, or if a rebound is grabbed at its highest point.
The combine is an eye test. Big men want to showcase their athleticism and physique. Guards want to look fluid, quick and decisive.
Prospects want to turn heads just by showing up and participating. Sometimes, a player's appearance and the level of fluidity he operates with can grab a GM's attention.
There is one exception to my theory on the eye test, and that's jump shooting. A strong performance during a shooting drill can help move the needle, or at least make GMs want to see more.
Sometimes, you can peg a promising shooter based on his rhythm and mechanics. Bradley Beal went No. 3 overall after being labeled lethal from downtown, though he only shot 33.9 percent at Florida.
Just watching him release, scouts knew Beal would turn into a deadly long-range threat.
Many big men at the college level aren't given the freedom to let it fly from outside. It's a skill that could go hidden throughout the year. A power forward or center can increase his appeal by looking comfortable and confident during shooting drills at the combine.
A guy like Cody Zeller would really benefit from a sharp shooting performance at the combine.
It can also work the other way. I remember last year, Tony Wroten Jr. just couldn't connect. He struggled mightily during the three-point drills, though it's difficult to say whether that weighed on his stock.
Again, it's not going to make or break it, but it could eliminate a potential suitor who got turned off by the failed test.
Athletic Testing and Physical Measurements
The second half of the combine is the one to keep an eye on, though it's not as entertaining to watch. With the fear of being exposed, it's been a trend for the top prospects to sit out the first two days.
But nobody can dodge the athletic testing and physical measurements. That would be like refusing to take a breathalyzer test if a cop pulled you over.
The athletic testing consists of:
- No step vertical jump
- Max vertical jump
- Bench Press
- Lane Agility (lateral movement, stop-start acceleration, etc.)
- 3/4 Court Sprint
The physical testing measures:
- Height without shoes
- Height with shoes
- Standing Reach
- Body Fat
How one measures each result is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes you ignore them, like Kevin Durant unable to lift the 185-pound bench press or Kenneth Faried measuring in at 6'6'' in socks.
Other times you highlight them, like Anthony Davis' 7'5'' wingspan or John Henson's 9'4'' standing reach.
Realistically, the only thing prospects should really try and accomplish is getting noticed and generating buzz.
Allen Crabbe should want Danny Ainge to mention his name to Glen Grunwald. Shane Larkin should hope to spark a conversation between Billy King and Sam Presti. Shabazz Muhammad should want Andy Katz to mention he's trending on ESPN.
Buzz is real and it's important. Nobody wants to miss out on the "next big thing."
Dion Waiters shut himself down at the combine last year, with rumors quickly spreading the Suns had made him a promise at No. 13. Soon, Waiters was getting workout requests by teams in the top 10. And before you know it, the Cleveland Cavaliers were reaching for him at No. 4 overall.
Buzz triggers intrigue, and intrigue is contagious.
2013 NBA Combine TV Schedule
Thursday, May 16: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on ESPNU and 2-3 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Friday, May 17: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on ESPNU and 2-3 p.m. ET on ESPN2
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