The NBA combine is underway, but the buzz this year around the proceedings is understandably muted.
With most of the projected lottery picks failing to either show up at all (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker) or not participate in drills if they did (Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart), the combine definitely lost some of its appeal. Prospects were measured, and then it was a showcase for potential second-round picks.
It's hard to blame the players for not participating, considering attendance and participation isn't mandatory. Prospects without any financial guarantees run the risk of injury by working out at an event like this, and agents are smart to advise their clients to only perform at private team workouts, where a bad performance can fly under the radar.
Too much stock could be put into a bad showing shooting the ball in such a small sample size, and players already being pegged as top picks have more to lose than they have to gain by performing.
Even with that being said, there was some information gleaned from the NBA combine.
The main talk based around the combine has to do with measurements. The official NBA.com database has the list of measurements, before they can be doctored by teams and rounded up to the nearest number.
Let's start with the top prospects first. Julius Randle from Kentucky may have gained the biggest uptick in his stock from the combine, as he measured 6'9" in shoes with a 7'0" wingspan. That's a big deal, as there were definite concerns about Randle's short arms coming in, as Jonathan Tjarks at SB Nation wrote earlier this year:
Randle is built like a Tyrannosaurus Rex: all torso and no arms. (...) When matched up against the best power forwards in the world, he's going to have a significant length disadvantage, a problem that could impact his game on both sides of the ball.
The extra inch or so added to Randle's wingspan will quiet some fears around the league, although it's still not a plus. That being said, if Randle came in with a wingspan at around 6'10", the talk here would be significantly different. He helped himself, as every inch counts in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Randle, a fellow power forward had a great combine as well. Indiana's Noah Vonleh won the early stages off the draft process simply by being measured. Although he checked in at "only" 6'9.5" with shoes on, Vonleh registered the second-longest wingspan in the draft at 7'4.25", coming just behind Baylor's Isaiah Austin.
Vonleh also ended up having the biggest hands of any draft prospect in both width and length, which won't hurt his case either.
Although there's much more to this than arm length and hand size, Vonleh's scoring ability and good-looking shooting stroke combined with those measurements is going to have general managers drooling over the next few weeks. He could sneak his way into the top three picks potentially, especially if teams are concerned with Joel Embiid's injury history.
Most of the big movers and buzz on combine day came courtesy of the fringe first-round prospects who participated in drills. One of those players was UCLA guard Jordan Adams, as Bleacher Report's own draft expert Jonathan Wasserman breaks down here:
Based on what I saw Thursday during drills, along with his measurements—he dropped almost 11 pounds to 208.8 and registered a 6'10" wingspan—Adams looked like a guy who's going to draw first-round interest for sure.
He hit 36-of-50 spot-up jumpers, the second-best number of the 2-guards during shooting drills. He also dominated two-on-twos and three-on-threes.
Adams looked in shape, converted from outside and finished the few opportunities he got around the rim in traffic. If I had to bet, my money is on Adams getting called in the 20-30 range.
One of the other top prospects that got a boost here was Australian point guard Dante Exum. Checking in at 6'6" with shoes and an excellent 6'9.5" wingspan, Exum measures out like a huge point guard or a lanky shooting guard.
.@chadfordinsider says Dante Exum's wingspan is almost 6-10 and some teams will consider him at No. 1 overall.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 15, 2014
Whether he's a point guard or shooting guard, it wouldn't be a surprise if he enters the conversation for first pick in the draft, depending on which team wins the lottery on Tuesday.
What was really interesting from Exum's combine appearance was how he handled questions about angling to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Exum shares the same agent as Kobe Bryant, and you can't blame a kid for wanting to live in Los Angeles.
Dante Exum bats down suggestion he is aiming for the Lakers in the draft, but does not rule out pressuring some teams to not take him.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) May 15, 2014
While this may turn some teams off, Exum is smart to take his stock into his own hands. Ultimately, it's not all about how high you go, but the situation you fall into. Controlling that as best as possible is smart, even if it's a dangerous game.
On the team side of things, Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge expressed a fondness for Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, who wowed attendees with his size and length (227.2 pounds, 6'9.25" wingspan).
"I sort of like Marcus Smart, I like his fire." Danny Ainge to @ESPNAndyKatz— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) May 16, 2014
While it's not unreasonable to take Ainge's comment exactly for what it is, keep in mind that general managers are always playing the game and throwing up smokescreens. Even a small comment like this can start something substantial, and Ainge would be wise to help a player's external stock that he has no real interest in.
Is that a little too conspiracy heavy? Maybe, but it's hard to see how Smart would fit in Boston with Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley (a restricted free agent) in the backcourt, especially given Smart's troubles as a shooter.
It's just something to keep in mind this time of year. Don't trust everything you hear, and don't place too much value in workouts, measurements or small sample sizes in general. The majority of the scouting work should have already been done, and events like the combine should be viewed as tiebreakers rather than opinion-makers.
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