As NBA prospects work to up their draft stocks at the combine in Chicago, scouts and fans alike will get to see some tantalizing glimpses of the league's future.
Though the combine doesn't give NBA hopefuls a chance to prove themselves in organized five-on-five game play, it allows them a rare chance to demonstrate what kind of players they are in a vacuum. However they perform when taking jumpers or running the drills is getting measured (you can find this information here). There are no outside factors influencing the evaluation.
This system obviously doesn't benefit every prospect, but it's particularly instructive regarding prospects for whom there are lingering questions.
So as everyone gets evaluated, these guys will be the most interesting to track.
Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Coming out of college at 6'9", 250 pounds, Randle was considered potentially undersized for the NBA power forward position despite those respectable measurements.
Why was that? Well, it turns out he's not actually that tall.
As ESPN's Myron Medcalf documents, the combine has an annual tradition of revealing prospects are shorter than previously listed. Chief among them this year is Randle, who turns out to be just 6'7.75" without shoes.
Now, it’s important to note, again, that these players were all measured in socks. And you usually play basketball in shoes. Usually. (Ask Nik Stauskas to explain.) That’s why they were measured in shoes, too.
So the minor adjustment won’t be detrimental for most of these guys, especially since their freakish wingspans and athleticism will be included on their resumes, too. For others, however, it might lead to a fall in the draft.
These are scary, noisy numbers; the combine revealed Randle to be exactly 6'9" in shoes, which means we basically learned no new information here.
But for scouts already wondering how Randle will fare against taller defenders, even the inkling that he's smaller than he actually is could work to his detriment.
If he opts to participate in drills, a strong showing on the bench press could help quell those concerns. Stay tuned.
Dante Exum, SG, Australia
Exum is an enigma—someone regarded as an ultra-athletic 6'6" point guard whom, by virtue of playing Down Under, most have not seen firsthand.
Now he's in Chicago, listed at shooting guard, and his wingspan came in at a solid but unspectacular 6'9.25". So he's still something of a mystery.
Fortunately, after some ambiguity as to whether Exum would participate in combine drills, NBA.com's Jon Hartzell offers the answer for which we have all been hoping.
How Exum performs in the lane agility drill in particular will be key to his prospects as a professional point guard. At his size and with his still-progressing facilitation skills, he shouldn't be a team's primary ball-handler right away, but if he shows the quickness to dart through defenses, his future at the point looks bright.
Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
If you're looking for athletic freaks of nature, Anderson is not it, at least not in the traditional sense.
He's a 6'8.5", 230-pound small forward with a crazy 7'2.7" wingspan and a knack for passing the ball, but he also came out of UCLA with the nickname Slow Mo for his patient, methodical offensive game.
What scouts want to know is whether he plays slow or is slow. The former marks Anderson's maturity and intelligence on the court, while the latter caps his ceiling.
No other player will have as much riding on his three-quarter sprint. As offenses get faster in a point guard-driven league, sluggishness cannot be tolerated at a wing position.
Anderson is listed at small forward now, but he could become a small-ball power forward only if the drill doesn't go favorably.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Delaware 87ers
This is the guy you think of when you think freak. Greek Freak, to be specific.
Thanasis, big brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo, is also a small forward, but at 6'6.25" in shoes, he's about three inches shorter than Giannis. Nevertheless, the elder Antetokounmpo also has a wingspan that's wild in proportion to his height, measuring in at 7'0" on the dot.
And that's just the madness about Thanasis when he's stationary and earthbound. Just wait until he starts jumping and running.
Midway through his year of seasoning with the 87ers, Antetokounmpo put on a show to win the NBA D-League Slam Dunk Contest. His vertical numbers will likely be off the charts, and if he can perform well in the speed, agility and shooting drills as well, Thanasis could be the second first-round pick in his family in as many years.