As the 2014 NBA lottery looms on the horizon, the NBA Combine is underway without big names such as Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker.
In the wake of critical absences, several prospects increased their stock on Thursday via drills, interviews or some combination of the two.
Now, the players who missed out on the festivities are not exactly in danger of not going in the top three. Just ask Anthony Bennett, who went No. 1 overall last year and missed the combine with an injury. But there is critical draft board movement at stake for the rest.
Here's a look at each team's shot at the top pick and three prospects who stood out the most on Thursday.
|Rank||Team||Chance of Winning|
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||6.3%|
|10||New Orleans Pelicans||1.1%|
|11||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)||0.8%|
|12||Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)||0.7%|
*Chances via ESPN.com
Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Observers have known about Noah Vonleh's game for quite some time and that he can take it to the NBA level. He can bang down low, but also stretch defenses thanks to his ability to knock down shots from range.
All aboard the hype train! Vonleh's combine measurements have his stock trending upward. In fact, as Jonathan Givony of Draft Express illustrates, the Indiana product posted some historic numbers:
Freakish measurements for Noah Vonleh. 6'8" w/o shoes. 7'4.75 wingspan (+8.75"!) Hand length of 11.75" is 2nd all time to Greg Smith's 12.0"— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 15, 2014
Ben Anderson of 1320 KFAN points out that the jarring numbers make for some interesting comparisons:
Noah Vonleh could make big jump in the draft. 6'8 w/o shoes, 7'4.75 wingspan. .75 inches shorter than Derrick Favors, but .75 inches longer.— Ben Anderson (@BenKFAN) May 15, 2014
Most notably, ESPN's Chad Ford saw the measurements and immediately thought up an interesting comparison:
Vonleh has excelled in a department most figured he would, but the measurements are perhaps even better than anticipated. He has always been that guy many want to peg as a riser, and the combine may finally allow him to fulfill that hype.
There's a power forward battle going on inside each draft board thanks to the likes of Adreian Payne and Julius Randle, but Vonleh now has a head start.
Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The mystery that is Dante Exum has finally been realized upon his arrival at the draft combine.
Just 18 years old, Exum dominated the competition overseas, but had never truly been given a shot to compete with some of the top-tier talent present at the combine. As ESPN's Chris Forsberg captures, Exum's first taste of the NBA was quite the spectacle:
Dante Exum media huddle at combine. Other draftees craning their necks as they walk by to see who is in there. pic.twitter.com/KxyA8BCNTF— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) May 15, 2014
As Ford notes, the soon-to-be NBA point guard blew away scouts from around the league with his measurements:
Dante Exum measured 6-6 in shoes, 196 pounds with a 6'9.75 wingspan. That's huge for a NBA PG.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 15, 2014
The next step is for Exum to show what he has on the court itself against top-tier competition, but to say that the top three picks in this year's draft are already cemented is downright wrong.
Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
After averaging 9.4 points and 1.8 assists per game as a freshman at UCLA, Zach LaVine surprised some with his decision to turn pro.
He surprised many more on Thursday for a couple of reasons. For one, he decided to participate in drills, unlike other big-name prospects, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
Zach LaVine (No. 14) is top-ranked player on Chad Ford's Big Board participating in drills at #NBACombine.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
Two, LaVine blew away scouts once on the court, as captured by Fox Sports' Reid Forgrave:
A couple scouts told me names that surprised & impressed them today: Cleanthony Early, Zach LaVine, Glenn Robinson III.— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) May 15, 2014
That probably had at least a little bit to do with his wicked jump shot:
LaVine made the most of his opportunity, to say the least. In an environment where strong shooting and wicked athleticism go a long way, he stood out the most. The remaining path is long and difficult, but LaVine gave himself quite the head start on Thursday.