Before delving into some of the results from the first day of the NBA combine, it is important to establish what this event is not.
The NBA combine will never be confused for the NFL combine, where millions of dollars are at stake with every tenth of a second that ticks away during a 40-yard dash or every rep that a future middle linebacker does on the bench press. Yes, the NBA combine is certainly one factor that goes into the decision-making processes of front offices when the draft rolls around, but Andrew Wiggins isn’t going to fall out of the top 10 just because he wasn’t in Chicago Thursday.
It was still an opportunity for many to leave an early impression on general managers and teams, and the Thursday measurables that ideally did just that can be found here.
Without further ado, let’s dig into a few of the notable takeaways from the event’s first day.
Where is Everyone?
Unfortunately for the lottery-bound teams that are sure to have early draft picks, the biggest storyline of the day was the attrition regarding some of the brightest stars in the college game.
Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, who just may be the top three players taken on draft day, all skipped the proceedings. We can speculate on their reasoning, but how much can they actually improve their stocks if they are already potential No. 1 picks?
The fact that those three players weren’t going to be there is somewhat old news, but Chad Ford of ESPN filled fans in on the latest developments Thursday:
Not participating in the drills because of injury is understandable, but that is a lot of talent that won’t be practicing at the combine. Guys like Shabazz Napier and T.J. Warren have a chance to play themselves into the mid-first round with an impressive stretch before the draft, so this is somewhat surprising.
Hopefully, everyone dropping out of the drills at least got some deep-dish pizza when they were in Chicago to make the trip worth it.
Dante Exum—Man of Mystery
So many of the top collegiate players are readily available to the media and on television all year, but Dante Exum is the Australian man of mystery for the 2014 draft.
Those media members in attendance at the combine responded accordingly to their opportunity to interview him, as Chris Forsberg of ESPN pointed out:
Exum is a ball-handling extraordinaire at the point guard position, but his electrifying passing, perimeter shooting and ability to get to the rim with an explosive first step will certainly make an impact on NBA fans. There is a reason that he is seen as a potential top-five pick, and his measurables Thursday did nothing to hurt that opinion, as Ford noted:
We are talking about an athletic specimen who has a small forward body at the point guard position. Don’t be surprised if Exum hears his name before at least one of the triumvirate of Parker, Wiggins and Embiid.
Jerami Grant Helped His Stock
Jerami Grant averaged better than 12 points and nearly seven rebounds a game for Syracuse and will likely be a first-round pick come draft day. He certainly improved those chances Thursday.
Grant, who was measured as a small forward, checked in with a standing reach of 8’11”, which just so happened to be higher than that of power forwards Aaron Gordon, James Michael McAdoo, Patric Young and Julius Randle.
Grant also tied Kyle Anderson for the longest wingspan (7’2.75”) of any small forward, and only five players in total, who just so happened to be centers or power forwards, had longer wingspans.
Versatility is so highly valued in the NBA, and former general manager Tom Penn thought Grant helped his stock in that department Thursday, via Mike Waters of Syracuse.com: “We start to think of him as power forward, a rebounder and shot-blocker. You can make a credible case based off these measurables of him as a four.”
If we are to peek ahead a bit, Grant could boost his stock even more Friday when players are measured for vertical leaps and participate in drills and sprints.
After all, it is his athleticism that immediately stands out about his game, not a jump shot or particularly great ball-handling skills. Presuming Grant impresses in the athletically based drills, he could hear his name called on draft day much sooner than some expect.
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