There's no need to sugarcoat it—the needle is tough to move at the NBA combine.
Day 1 consists of drills that test simple fundamentals. The players are separated into groups by position where they're drilled on skills that correlate with their projected future responsibilities.
Coaches and general managers are using the eye test here—who stands out physically, who looks fluid, whose jumper is likely to translate.
You can't take much away from the drilling portion of the combine except who looks comfortable in each facet of the game. Here are some observations from Day 1 at the combine with regard to what scouts saw and how they likely viewed it.
"I'm out here to compete, I'm not running from anybody."
That's what Shabazz Muhammad told Andy Katz when asked why he chose to participate while many chose to sit.
You could see the determination in Muhammad's face during the drills, whether it was sprinting without the ball, side-shuffling defensively or moving from spot to spot.
Muhammad is bound to impress from during interviews from a likability standpoint. He's well-spoken, very bright and personable, and that goes a long way when you're trying to get people to admire you.
If Muhammad slips in the draft, it will be because scouts don't feel his game translates as well. It won't be because of character or effort.
Steven Adams looked incredibly raw during his freshman year. Just about all of his production came off catch-and-finishes at the rim, with very few points coming from further than eight feet away.
But during the shooting portion of the combine, Adams helped put questions to rest over his offensive limitations.
Adams was knocking down shots in the mid-range, both off the catch and off the dribble. If you've never seen him before you would have pegged him as a natural. He showed sound mechanics and looked fluid throughout.
His coach Jamie Dixon came on the broadcast before Adams took the floor and mentioned many will be surprised with his touch away from the basket.
Adams certainly showed he's got some pick-and-pop potential down the road, and that he may not be as raw as everyone claims he is.
No surprise here. As Minnesota's President of Basketball Operations, Flip Saunders came on the broadcast and was quick to mention the Wolves will be looking for shooting.
He talked about surrounding Ricky Rubio with guys who can make shots. I brought this up in a recent mock draft, where I discuss a possible trade scenario involving the Wolves trying to move up in an attempt to get a shooter like Kansas' Ben McLemore.
Add C.J. McCollum of Lehigh to the list of potential targets for Minnesota on draft-day, a scoring combo guard who can light it up from every spot on the floor.
If UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad can show in workouts his 38-percent three-point is no joke, expect him to be an option for Minnesota late in the lottery as well.
It's tough for a point guard to look anything but comfortable in a setting that doesn't test the ability to run an offense.
The only drill that can move the needle for point guards at the combine is the shooting drill. And Kabongo pushed it the wrong way.
He shot just 5-of-25 from behind the arc in the three-point drill. All shots were uncontested, but Kabongo still just couldn't connect. He shot 31 percent from three his freshman year and 29 percent as a sophomore, numbers that have already put his jumper under the microscope.
With scouts likely paying attention to Kabongo during the shooting drill, he didn't do himself any favors by missing 20-of-25.
To cap it off, Kabongo got absolutely burned by Nate Walters in a one-on-one move to the rack.
Take all of this with a grain of salt, but Kabongo did nothing on Day 1 to put himself in better draft position.
Some guys stand out just by being there.
New Mexico's Tony Snell stepped out showcasing his great 6'7'' size and incredible length for a wing. If you were to cover his face with a mask you'd wonder which NBA player you were looking at.
Snell came out and demonstrated his soft touch on his jumper, nailing a corner three off the bat.
One of the drills required two dribbles and a pull-up, which Snell looked sharp in as well. He's got a better handle than you'd think, along with a near 39-percent three-point stroke he'll use to market himself as a 2 and a 3.
The Kawhi Leonard comparison was inevitable, but Snell needs to add substantial muscle in order to get there. He'll get a chance to crack the first round as a strong workout candidate.
The court was surrounded by high-profile decision-makers, some likely seeing these prospects live for the very first time.
Mike D'Antoni and Mitch Kupchak were on hand. Rod Thorn and Jerry Sloan sat courtside and didn't budge. Neil Olshey, Flip Saunders, Chris Wallace and Danny Ainge were all there getting looks at the field they'll be choosing from.
You never know what mistake, move or type of behavior sticks in the mind of a general manager, so it's important for players to stay focused throughout.
A lot of these kids are making first impressions. The scouts have all seen them, but not the big-boss decision-makers. Having them there helps keep the intensity level high.
We might go through an entire first round without seeing a true power forward get selected.
It's pretty bizarre.
Tony Mitchell of North Texas ran with the 4s during the combine, though he's more of a combo forward in the shape of Derrick Williams. They also had Andre Roberson of Colorado play with the 4s, a college power forward who will no doubt have to play the 3 to make an NBA roster. Same with Robert Covington of Tennessee State.
Jackie Carmichael of Illiniois State showed he had some touch on the perimeter, though I'm not sure his upside is worthy of a first-round pick. Richard Howell of NC State will also be considered a safe bet, though again, his ceiling isn't high enough to justify first-round value.
Nobody else from the power-forward group really stood out, as most will likely be classified as borderline second-rounders.
When you break down Ricky Ledo with words—a 6'6'' athlete with a go-to scoring skill set and a tight handle—everything checks out in terms of the transition process. But after sitting out his freshman year at Providence (academically ineligible), we now get to see it in motion.
Ledo came out during the three-on-two fast-break drill, drifted to the corner and nailed a catch-and-shoot three to get things started.
Just a few minutes later he was paired with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a one-on-one drill, where Ledo beat him with the first step soared in for the one-handed highlight-reel slam.
Of course, these are just a few isolated plays, but that's all it takes sometimes to showcase NBA upside.
Based on his physical tools and skill set, Ledo is a prime candidate to rise during workouts and make his way deeper into first-round projections.
Every point guard looks good dribbling through cones and running two-on-one fast breaks.
The combine doesn't test the ability to break down a defense and run a half-court set. Awareness, timely passing, decision-making—all the important aspects of being a point guard are impossible to evaluate through drills.
If a general manager was seeing these point guards for the first time, he'd have no idea who was the top-ranked guy and the lowest-ranked guy.
Chances are that the rankings scouts have given their point-guards are unlikely to change much from the end of the season to the end of the pre-draft process.
The rims got more action than some of the top prospects invited.
With Nerlens Noel, Alex Len and Anthony Bennett out due to injury, and Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, C.J. McCollum, Mason Plumlee, Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke being kept out by agents, there wasn't much star power on the floor.
Though even the best of the best would have had trouble standing out in a settling like this, nobody really got into any eye-catching rhythm.
There were a lot of clanks and thuds throughout the event.