Red Flags That Emerged from the 2014 NBA Draft Combine

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2014

Red Flags That Emerged from the 2014 NBA Draft Combine

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    While the 2014 NBA Draft Combine is an opportunity for prospects to showcase their best stuff, it's also a chance for scouts and executives to make unpleasant discoveries.

    Throughout the festivities in Chicago, players go through skills drills, athletic testing, physical measurements and interviews. There's bound to be some disconcerting revelations after all that scrutiny.

    As the weekend unfolds, we'll be breaking down the red flags that emerge. Instead of harping on previous concerns (for example, Joel Embiid's back), we're going to focus more on findings unearthed during the combine itself.


    Shooting drills statistics and physical measurements gathered from database.

Gary Harris: Height/Length

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    Throughout the 2013-14 season, Michigan State's Gary Harris was considered one of the best shooting guards in this draft, an elite prospect with substantial two-way potential.

    He may still be a top-10 pick after the combine, but he'll be viewed as more of an underdog physically.

    Harris' height with socks on was measured at 6'2.5", which means his height with shoes on is likely no taller than 6'4". He also has a 6'6.75" wingspan, which is not impressive for someone who's going to spend the vast majority of his time on the wing.

    When it comes to finishing drives, shooting over NBA swingmen and defending NBA 2-guards, it's not going to be a piece of cake. Harris will be the smaller player in the matchup more often than not.

Jordan McRae: Driving Through Contact

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    Tennessee's Jordan McRae is a late-second round prospect who's on the bubble of going unselected, so he needs to deliver in every department leading up to the draft.

    He scored the rock in a variety of ways during college, and he notched 18.7 points per game as a senior.

    But when he encounters NBA-caliber physiques, it looks like he's going to struggle. McRae weighed in at 179 pounds in Chicago and had some difficulty slashing past bigger defenders.

    Jay Williams noticed the shortcoming during ESPNU's broadcast of the combine: "Watching him in some of these one-on-one closeouts, he's having a very difficult time driving by defenders who are stronger than him, and I think he's going to see that a ton on the next level."

    As a potential bench weapon, McRae needs to be able to break down opponents off the dribble and get into the paint. Can he put on another 15-20 pounds of upper and lower body muscle and play a stronger brand of hoops?

Doug McDermott: Height/Length

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    For those with defensive question marks, the measurements at the combine can be an important event.

    Unfortunately for Creighton star Doug McDermott, the numbers don't look so good. He wasn't measured with shoes on, but in socks he stood 6'6.25". So it's safe to assume his height with sneakers is somewhere between 6'7" and 6'8". In addition, his wingspan was a pedestrian 6'9.25".

    What does that mean? He almost certainly won't be able to check any NBA power forwards, as Jonathan Wasserman, B/R's on-site evaluator, explains: "This might kill his chances of playing the 4 at the next level, something coaches would likely have looked at for defensive purposes, given his lack of lateral quickness on the perimeter."

    McDermott talked to Wasserman about the quandary at the combine: "I'll really have to be able to guard a 3 or a 2. It's something I'm going to have to work on, but I really understand the team concept of defense, and I think I'm going to be just fine out there."

    This isn't a damaging revelation draft-wise, because his offense drives his value. But it will make his role and playing time tricky on a nightly basis.

Deonte Burton: NBA-Range Shooting

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    One shooting drill isn't going to colossally reshape a prospect's draft stock, but it can serve as an encouraging or disappointing point of reference.

    Deonte Burton's NBA-range exploits at the combine were a bit of a letdown, and may be an indication that he won't be a consistent perimeter threat as a pro. He shot 7-of-25 (28 percent) from the NBA arc Thursday, which is somewhat unsettling considering these are unguarded attempts.

    No one expected Burton to torch these drills, as he was an erratic 34 percent shooter from distance at Nevada, including 32 percent his senior year. But we hoped for better results in this controlled setting.

    Attacking the basket is Burton's most potent asset entering the Association, so he's not going to tumble dramatically on draft night based on executives' opinions of his jumper.

    However, he raised some eyebrows negatively and missed a prime opportunity to enhance his value.

Russ Smith: Weight

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    Although he bumped his assists up to 4.6 per game in 2013-14, attacking and scoring is Russ Smith's style. He's not a prototypical floor general, and he's not just going to probe defenses, looking to dish the rock.

    That aggressive scorer's mentality was fun to watch in college, but he's going to get tossed around like a toy in the NBA if he doesn't pack on some muscle. Louisville's decorated senior weighed in at 160 pounds at the combine, as it appears he hasn't hit the weight room too hard recently.

    Smith's slight frame hurts his draft stock, but more importantly, it hurts his chances of cracking an NBA rotation and seeing meaningful minutes.

    Coaches love energetic attackers like Smith coming off the bench, but they prefer their reserve guards to be 20-30 pounds heavier than he is. He'll have a difficult time maneuvering past strong athletes at the next level, and he'll get bulldozed when he tries to slow down bigger playmakers.

LaQuinton Ross: Athleticism and Body Fat

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    It's one thing to leave school early when your stock is high, sitting as a probable first-round pick. But when you leave college as a second-round caliber player, you had better post solid pre-draft numbers.

    Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross entered the combine as a second-rounder hoping to sneak into the late-first round, and he raised some red flags that ruined those chances.

    It ultimately comes down to two numbers for him: his 16.3 body fat, which was the worst mark in the combine, and his 31" max vertical. Jason McIntyre of USA Today lambasted the out-of-shape Buckeye:

    "You leave school early and then show up at the combine with the highest percentage body fat  of any player? That’s just embarrassing," McIntyre said. "Ross has no shot at the 1st round. It looks like he made a really bad decision to leave school early."

    Don't expect him to hear his name until the 40s or 50s on draft night.

Jerami Grant: Tweener Skills

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    During his sophomore season at Syracuse, Jerami Grant improved his mid-range jumper and became a more assertive weapon in the Orange offense.

    Entering the combine, scouts were looking to see if the sophomore high-flyer had enough shooting skills and handles to potentially play on the wing. The results were far from ideal.

    Grant didn't wow anyone with his shooting skills, posting mediocre numbers from the college (32 percent) and pro (48 percent) three-point line.

    Most unnervingly, he didn't look great handling the ball, according to B/R's Jonathan Wasserman: "During two-on-twos and three-on-threes, he looked raw and unpolished with the ball in his hands, showing little ability to create good looks for himself in the half court."

    That's bad news, especially for a guy who's not tall enough or strong enough to play power forward.