The 2014 NBA Draft Combine is the biggest event in the buildup to this year's draft. Prospects have the opportunity to showcase their athleticism and professionalism as they are scrutinized by a hoard of NBA scouts and executives.
The combine takes place in Chicago and features interviews, physicals and on-court drills designed to quantify each prospect's athletic abilities as he works to improve his draft stock.
ESPN's Chad Ford tweeted the official list of players invited to this year's combine:
NBA just released official NBA Draft Combine list. Take a look pic.twitter.com/CgJBCVzSGl— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 12, 2014
Here is the breakdown of when and where to watch these future NBA stars test their mettle:
|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 three biggest stars in this year's draft—Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker—will be skipping all combine activities. Michigan's Mitch McGary will miss out as he recovers from a back injury, while Michigan State's Adreian Payne will be a no-show due to a bout of mononucleosis, as per CBS Sports' James Herbert.
There are still a bevy of college stars and a handful of D-League standouts determined to show scouts flocking to the Windy City that they are ready for whatever challenges the NBA will bring.
Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle is regarded by most observers as one of the top five players in this year's draft. He's not going to be in the discussion for the No. 1 pick barring some catastrophe involving Wiggins, Parker or Embiid, but he will be prized for his ability to score around the basket and clean up on the defensive boards.
Randle faces questions about his overall athleticism and measurables, such as his relatively short wingspan. There is a concern he doesn't have the length and agility to create his own shot at the next level. However, he is unlikely to put a number on his athletic ability at the NBA combine, as per ESPN's Chad Ford:
Sources: Randle, Exum, Gordon, Vonleh, Ennis, McDermott, Stauskas unlikely to participate in drills at NBA Draft Combine— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 12, 2014
If he doesn't participate in drills, he's leaving it to teams interested in his services to give him a complete physical. The fact that few will be able to quantify his physical ability may enhance the perception that he isn't athletic enough to become a force in the league. ESPN's Myron Medcalf had this to say about Randle's NBA potential:
Julius Randle should buy a pen and a notebook, fly to Memphis and just watch Zach Randolph in the playoffs. That's his ceiling. Maybe.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) April 22, 2014
Randle's game is a bit different from Z-Bo's. He showed a strong ability to face up and attack his defender off the dribble in college. He's got a much quicker first step than Randolph. Randolph doesn't have a bad ceiling, but he is always downgraded for his lack of athleticism. Randle needs to have a strong combine to show that he won't suffer from the same fate.
Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Smart is one player who can't afford to have a single misstep at this year's combine. He's moving along cautiously, and Comcast SportsNet's A. Sherrod Blakely reported via Twitter that Smart will only participate in physicals and interviews for scouts:
Projected lottery pick Marcus Smart expected to do interviews and physicals but nothing on the court, source tells http://t.co/uX0e1FNigx.— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) May 14, 2014
Smart averaged 18.9 points per game as a sophomore and improved his game in a number of categories. He was unable to dispel doubts about his outside shooting, as he shot just 29.9 percent from three-point range in 2013-2014.
Smart heads to Chicago with high hopes and thinks he is ready to make it in the business that is the NBA, as he told Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis. "Man, I'm excited. The only time I've been to Chicago is for the McDonald's All-American game," Smart said.
"I'm just trying to go in there and make sure I'm calm and have fun. It's a whole new world now. It's a business. You have to carry yourself as a professional."
Professionalism is the keyword for Smart in the buildup to the draft. He played well during his sophomore season but will have to answer questions about his maturity due to his emotional displays on the court. An incident involving Smart and a Texas Tech fan resulted in a three-game suspension for Smart last season.
Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Exum is still somewhat of an unknown commodity despite all the pre-draft hype. He plays basketball in Australia, and not every scout or executive has had a chance to get up close and personal with him. Until now, that is.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix relays the hype surrounding the 18-year-old prospect:
Most fascinating combine attendee: Dante Exum. For a lot of execs, Chicago will be the first real look at the projected top-five pick.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 11, 2014
Exum is 6'6" and projects as either a point guard or shooting guard depending on whom you ask. His height would make him an absolute terror if he can prove to be an adept ball-handler at the combine, and any solid marks on his agility drills should cement his status as a lottery pick this year.
Exum is thought to be one of the best prospects in this year's draft, but there is still much to unpack when it comes to examining the finer points of his game.
This portion of the NBA combine closely resembles its famous NFL counterpart. It provides teams with an up-close look at the players' physical abilities as they participate in drills such as the three-quarter-court sprint, vertical jump, bench press and lane agility test.
Although ESPN's Chad Ford reported that Arizona forward Aaron Gordon is unlikely to participate in these drills, he will be a player to watch should he choose to do so. Gordon has unbelievable hops and an ability to tear down the court with his long strides.
Which player is most likely to improve his draft stock at the NBA combine?
Look for Clemson's K.J. McDaniels to improve his draft stock by providing scouts with some off-the-charts numbers. He is likely to be a leader in the vertical jump test, as the 6'6" swingman averaged 2.8 blocks per game in 2013-2014 and filled up the stat sheet in a variety of ways last year.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the D-League's Delaware 87ers is another swingman who will look to please scouts with some strong showings, especially in the vertical jump and lane agility drills. His older brother, Giannis displayed flashes of greatness as a rookie on the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013-2014, and it will be interesting to see if his younger brother can generate similar hype.
He can also hurt his stock with a poor bench press effort, as only the truly blessed like Kevin Durant can get away without putting up a single repetition.