Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker may not be headed to Chicago for this week's NBA draft combine, but the league announced Monday the 59 players who will participate in its yearly pre-draft camp.
ESPN's Chad Ford provided the list disseminated to media on Twitter:
Not all players listed as participants are guaranteed to attend. Michigan's Mitch McGary (back) and Michigan State's Adreian Payne (mononucleosis) have already informed the NBA they would not be able to attend, per Ford. Their names were included on the preliminary participants list before their withdrawals, while Wiggins, Embiid and Parker told the league beforehand.
While late withdrawals are still possible, it seems the aforementioned trio are the only likely high-lottery picks skipping out on the festivities. Kentucky's Julius Randle, Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Australian point guard Dante Exum are listed among the participants. Each of those players are expected to compete for the two remaining top-five spots that won't belong to Wiggins, Embiid and Parker.
It is highly irregular for players to forgo the trip to Chicago without a publicized reason. Wiggins, Embiid and Parker are unlikely to be affected by their decision—they're the consensus top-three prospects in this class—but their absences are nonetheless noteworthy. By skipping out, the trio are able to dictate their own process, choosing which teams they'd like to work out for and undergo medical testing with.
"To be honest," one general manager told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, "I'm surprised more guys don't do this. It's the only thing they can really control."
|NBA Draft Combine TV Schedule|
|May 15||10 a.m. - 1 p.m.||ESPNU||WatchESPN|
|May 15||1 p.m. - 3 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|May 16||10 a.m. - 1 p.m.||ESPNU||WatchESPN|
|May 16||1 p.m. - 3 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
The combine, which takes place in the Windy City from Wednesday to Sunday, in many ways mirrors the more-publicized NFL version. Players undergo full physicals, do athletic testing and do individual drills before a league-wide gathering of scouts and coaches. The combine is also the first place where teams have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with players, given the NBA/NCAA embargo on contact with underclassmen before they declare.
In many ways, the combine is as much a networking tool as it is a test of a player's skill set. It is likely that some players pick and choose the drills in which they participate to limit bad exposure that can happen following a less-than-stellar performance. It would not be a surprise to see top lottery candidates opt out of individual shooting drills and the like, choosing instead to speak with teams and undergo the required medical testing.
Unlike the NFL, highly touted players are unlikely to see their draft stocks fluctuate much on combine results. College basketball is inherently more transferable to its professional version than football, and scouts have enough tape on players to have a hierarchy already in mind.
Players who typically benefit most from the combine are mid-tier first-round picks who did not get a lot of national exposure or fringe first-round guys who play their way into locks. Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton, already rocketing up draft boards, is someone who may benefit from the large stage. Payton led the Cajuns to an NCAA tournament berth, but that was only one of a handful of nationally televised games the Sun Belt team played.
The combine also offers an opportunity for well-known players to reverse preconceived notions. Former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston, who played in the D-League this season after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, will have to ace the interview portion to continue building on his rising momentum. Teams will also be interested in speaking with Exum, a 6'6" wild card who tantalizes scouts with his talent but is largely unproven.
Wiggins, Embiid and Parker won't be affected because they can afford to make teams "come to them." But for the myriad players who are not afforded such luxuries, this week will kick-start what should be a nerve-wracking month-long process between the combine and draft night.
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