Scouts and fans will get a chance to see how some of basketball's top prospects stack up against one another when they demonstrate their skills at the 2014 NBA combine.
As players run three-man weaves and show off their verticals, everyone watching will be subjecting them to the eye test, trying to identify how their drill work will translate to a professional basketball court.
After all, a poor showcase of one's physicality doesn't mean a guy will fail in game action; Kevin Durant famously couldn't do a single bench press rep at his combine. That said, those who impress in Chicago have the potential to shoot up draft boards and make themselves some extra money on their first contracts.
The future will be on display, and the hopefuls there will give everyone a glimpse of what they could be at the next level.
NBA just released official NBA Draft Combine list. Take a look pic.twitter.com/CgJBCVzSGl— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 12, 2014
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That Durant anecdote shouldn't be an excuse to discount this drill; KD only attained his elite status in the NBA because he bulked up and gained a good deal of strength after entering the league.
Even as small-ball forwards proliferate and offenses spread beyond the arc, the interior is still prime real estate on the court. Anyone who has the upper body strength to bang down low can be sure that teams will be taking that heavily into consideration.
The ability to do 185-pound press reps has relevance at every position on the floor.
Of course, guys like Julius Randle need to prove they can hold up physically against the David Wests (approaching 20 reps would help), but even someone like Marcus Smart could show something interesting here; if he can play the point and bully smaller guards with his strength, he could project as something of a modern Mark Jackson.
It doesn't take much imagination to realize that a guy's vertical is an important component of his evaluation, right along with his height, weight and wingspan.
The combine measures leaping ability in two parts: the standing vertical and the maximum vertical.
The former is just as simple as it sounds: Prospects leap from a standstill. That will be more significant for post players like Khem Birch, who will be tasked with going straight up on defense to avoid fouling and to go over the top of opponents to score on the other end. If he's anywhere close to 40 inches, that's huge for him.
In the maximum vertical drill, participants get a running start before they jump. Anyone who scouts are hoping will be able to penetrate and score inside as a pro has to excel at this drill. Without good explosiveness on the move, no young guard is going to be able to shoot over the trees once he gets into the lane. For a scoring guard like Tyler Ennis, a measurement in the 40s becomes key.
An NBA court is 94 feet long, but presumably, three-quarters-court sprint sounds better than 75-foot dash, so that's what they're calling this one.
Straight-line speed isn't necessarily the most important trait unless you're a team like the Philadelphia 76ers that wants to run constantly. Rather, watch this drill for the acceleration; the faster someone can reach top speed on the court, the better.
For the guards, a time hovering just above three seconds would put them right in the range where they need to be. Again, watch guys like Ennis and Elfrid Payton out of Louisiana-Lafayette here; they're rangy point guards, but without the ability to run, they won't be able to put their frames to the best use.
Also note particularly sluggish performances from any big men. They'll be tasked with running between the rims rather than the three-point lines, so if they struggle to get up and down the court, they won't have a place on an NBA team.
This is the NBA combine's cone drill. A cone is placed at each corner of the paint, and participants have to navigate the square around them—both clockwise and counterclockwise—all while facing the same direction. This tests their ability to burst forward, strafe and backpedal in one drill, as well as how they change directions between those movements.
Wings will need to put on good performances here; a P.J. Hairston or Gary Harris will be tasked with quick cuts to get open or beat defenses backdoor, and they need the agility over short distances to execute. A time around 10.5 seconds or less would look very good for them.
Also, pay attention to Dante Exum here.
The young Australian could be a 6'6" point guard, but at that size, he'll likely spend a decent amount of time off the ball as well. His potential on the wing is directly tied to how well he moves in this drill. A nice showing would make the difference between big, athletic guard and multifaceted offensive threat.