NBA Draft Combine 2014: Biggest Winners and Losers from Chicago
CHICAGO—After two days of drills, measurements and athletic testing in front of plenty of high-ranking NBA decision-makers, some prospects will walk away having helped their 2014 draft stock, while a few just failed to make an impression.
Overall, there was solid on-court intensity and more competitive basketball than in years past—even if many of the top-projected picks chose not to participate.
Based on the buzz in the gym, the performances on the floor and the eye test, along with the results from measurements and athletic testing, these are your winners and losers from Chicago.
Winner: Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'6", PG/SG, Freshman
This predraft process was built for Zach LaVine, who was the clear-cut standout amongst those who participated in both drills and athletic testing.
He toyed with those athletic tests on Friday, finishing with the fastest lane agility time, the second-fastest shuttle and a ridiculous 41.5" max vertical leap, which tied the second-highest jump behind Jahii Carson and Markel Brown.
But you didn't need the timers or measuring sticks to come to the conclusion that LaVine is one hell of an athlete. He glided through drills and soared above the rim for a number of dunk-contest slams that showcased his effortless explosiveness off the bounce.
He was also impressive during shooting drills, where he nailed 14-of-25 NBA three-pointers, 14-of-18 jumpers off the dribble from 15 feet and 21-of-32 shots on the move from the same range.
During two-on-twos and three-on-threes, he was connecting with his pull-up jumper by elevating right over his defender.
We already knew about his long-term potential, but LaVine actually looked like the best player in the gym as of right now.
"I'm ready to step in and take somebody's job," LaVine told me when I asked about his NBA-readiness.
Though he's still got plenty to work on, in the right fit, I wouldn't be surprised if he's able to step in right away and make some plays as a scorer and playmaker.
Loser: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SF, Junior
K.J. McDaniels came in as a prospect to watch at this year's NBA Combine. But hopefully scouts didn't get the memo.
McDaniels, whose biggest weakness is his outside shooting consistency, hit just 8-of-25 of his three-point attempts on Thursday. During drills, I saw him get his shot blocked a couple of times with that low release he has right in front of his face.
On Friday, he registered the slowest agility time of any prospect who took the test. And his 37" max vertical leap was a bit underwhelming, given the expectations he had for this specific test.
He also measured in at just 6'4.5" in socks, and he weighed just 195 pounds—not the most encouraging numbers for a pure small forward.
I'm not sure McDaniels stock is going to plummet, but he didn't exactly capitalize in a setting that should have played to his strengths.
Winner: Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'7", SF, Sophomore
Glenn Robinson III really had a strong couple of days all around in Chicago, from his shooting and play to his measurements and testing.
On Friday, he tied for the highest standing vertical leap at 36.5" and tied the second-highest max vertical at 41.5". Between those numbers and the fact that he measured in a quarter-inch under 6'7", Robinson was a physical and athletic standout amongst the wings.
On Thursday, he finished with the top spot-up shooting percentage of any small forward. He also hit 16-of-18 off the dribble from 15 feet, and 25-of-39 total on the move in the mid-range.
He was playing with confidence during drills as well, something he didn't always do as a sophomore. At one point on Friday, he caught a lob for a ridiculous alley-oop right in front of a long row of scouts.
It's possible that Robinson's disappointing season at Michigan had a lot to do with the loss of Trey Burke in the lineup. Based on his overall performance in Chicago, I wouldn't be surprised if he climbs back up a few spots on draft boards after falling down some over the past few months.
Winner: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'9", PF, Freshman
Noah Vonleh didn't need to shoot a basketball to show off—he measured in at 6'9.5" in shoes with a jaw-dropping 7'4.25" wingspan. It was the biggest height-to-length differential in the class, and the second-longest wingspan to Baylor's Isaiah Austin, who's three inches taller.
Vonleh also measured with the biggest hands (second-biggest in NBA Combine history), and he weighed in at 247 pounds with 7.3 percent body fat. Physically, he might have been the most impressive prospect in the gym.
He also got up for a 37" max vertical—two full inches higher than Kentucky's Julius Randle.
Given the fact he's still just 18 years old, and that he led the Big Ten in rebounding (in under 27 minutes per game) while showcasing a refined post game and jumper, Vonleh's ceiling and basement floor are both extremely high.
I've had him as the No. 5 prospect on our big board all season long, and that's certainly not going to change following the NBA Combine.
Loser: Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'3", SG, Sophomore
Gary Harris didn't make much noise this weekend in Chicago, having sat out drills on Thursday before revealing he'd be skipping the athletic testing Friday with a strained groin.
However, he did make noise during measurements, only it was the wrong kind. He came in at just 6'2.5" in socks with a 6'6.75" wingspan—small numbers for a guard who strictly plays off the ball.
It doesn't help Harris that other 2-guards he'll be competing with for draft position put up some strong numbers of their own, like James Young, who came in at a quarter-inch under 6'7" with a 7'0" wingspan, or Nik Stauskas, who measured 6'6.5" and recorded a 35.5" max vertical leap.
We know Harris can play, but the measurements he put up make you question just how well his strengths will translate at both ends of the floor.
Winner: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
Rodney Hood was one of the higher-rated prospects to participate during drills, and it wasn't tough to tell. During two-on-twos and three-on-threes, his skill level and shot-making ability easily stood out.
At 6'8.5" with a balanced release on his jumper and the ability to score on the move, he was getting his shots off and sinking them with relative ease.
He shot 15-of-25 from downtown during shooting drills, 14-of-18 off the dribble from 15 feet and 26-of-33 on the move in the mid-range—the third best number at the NBA Combine. Overall, he finished as the fourth-best shooter in attendance, having hit 69.3 percent of his jumpers.
And though not known for his athleticism, he also got up for a respectable 36" max vertical.
But numbers aside, Hood just looked like one of the more polished players in the gym. His upside might be limited, but a team looking for an immediate shot-maker and half-court scorer could definitely target Hood with a mid-first-round pick.
Winner: Patric Young, Florida, 6'10", PF/C, Senior
Listed at 6'9" by Florida, Patric Young measured in at a legitimate 6'10" with a 7'1.75" wingspan—numbers that just might allow him to play some center in the NBA.
This is big, given Young's inability to shoot or play away from the rim.
To no surprise, he ripped off 25 reps at the bench press, the highest number at the NBA Combine. He finished tied for second among bigs with an impressive 37.5" vertical—1.5" lower than Arizona's Aaron Gordon. And he finished second among bigs (to Gordon again) in the agility test.
During drills, he even converted a couple of jump hooks over defenders.
Regardless, at a hair under 247 pounds with a 5.45 percent body, the attraction to Young stems from the physical presence he's offering. Teams looking to beef up their front line should have Young highlighted anywhere in that 35-50 range.
Loser: Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore
Jerami Grant should have had one goal coming in to the NBA Combine: to show scouts he can make jumpers when left open. And that just didn't happen.
He finished tied for the second-worst shooting percentage of anyone participating, having hit just 46.5 percent of his jumpers. And I remind you, there wasn't anyone defending them.
Grant measured in a quarter-inch below 6'8" at 214 pounds—not exactly ideal numbers for a power forward. And you just won't find many NBA 3s or wings who've succeeded without the ability to shoot or stretch the floor.
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.
On Friday, Grant chose not to participate in athletic testing, though it's unclear as to what the reasoning was.
With big-time athleticism and really long arms, Grant certainly looks the part. But in Chicago, I'm just not sure he did enough to prove he's got the game to go with the look.
Winner: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman
Aaron Gordon didn't participate in drills, but his athletic test results were about as good as it gets for a big.
Only six players in the gym finished with a better agility time, and all of them were guards. He also ran the fastest shuttle run of anyone there, and he registered a 39" max vertical leap—the third highest in NBA Combine history for power forwards or centers.
These numbers might explain why he finished No. 1 in college basketball in defensive win shares this season.
Gordon is some kind of athlete for a guy who measured in a quarter-inch below 6'9". He'll need to work on his jumper, but that can always improve. With top-shelf physical tools and athletic ability to match some valuable intangibles, Gordon excels in the areas of the game you just can't teach.
Winner: Alec Brown, Green-Bay, 7'1", C, Senior
Alec Brown wasn't exactly a headliner coming into the event, but I'm willing to bet he earned himself a few extra fans and supporters in Chicago.
He tied Iowa State's Melvin Ejim for the best three-point shooting percentage at the NBA Combine, having hit 18-of-25 spot-up attempts. It's noteworthy, considering he measured in at 7'1.25" with a 9'1" reach and a 7'1.5" wingspan.
Brown is a true center with tremendous shooting accuracy—he shot at least 42 percent from downtown in back-to-back seasons.
I watched him closely warming up on the sidelines prior to drills, and his jumper looked pure, fluid and effortless.
With this kind of size (he blocked 3.1 shots per game as a senior) and shooting touch, there could be a role for him at the next level as a stretch big man.
Loser: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, 6'7", SF, Senior
Cleanthony Early came in as a hot prospect following his big game against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, but he wasn't able to carry that momentum over in Chicago.
The big question with Early has been his position—he played mostly the 4 at Wichita State, which listed him at 6'8". But he measured in a quarter-inch over 6'7", and he struggled to finish plays during two-on-twos and three-on-threes with the wings.
But the most disappointing result from Early was his shooting numbers—he finished as the fourth-worst shooter at the NBA Combine, having hit just 47.6 percent of his jumpers (10-of-25 from downtown).
He's already 23 years old, so the whole "potential" argument isn't exactly strong for Early. With over a dozen top prospects sitting out, this was an opportunity for him to establish himself as one of the better players in attendance. And he just didn't do that.
Winner: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Delaware 87ers, 6'6", SF
I don't think anyone went harder than Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who approached each defensive possession as if it was the last of a one-point game.
He was a pest, frustrating opposing ball-handlers by playing physical, in-your-grill defense both Thursday and Friday. Antetokounmpo looked like that guy that opposing scorers dread matching up with.
He's a tremendous athlete—only six players at the NBA Combine registered higher max vertical leaps (39.5"). Antetokounmpo also measured in at 6'6.25" with a serious 7'0" wingspan.
Having hit 15-of-25 three-point attempts, he showed he's got some shooting potential—a significant development, given the struggles he's had in the D-League (30 percent three-point shooter) and the position he's projected to play.
But at the end of the day, it's Antetokounmpo's motor, athleticism and defensive versatility that drive his NBA upside. And he showed it in front of general managers and executives who've probably never seen him play up close.
Loser: The NBA Combine
If the lack of participation this year is a sign of things to come, the NBA Combine could be in trouble.
Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker didn't even show up. Thirteen more prospects projected as potential first-round picks showed up but sat out drills.
And it just didn't seem like many general managers or coaches were fully locked in to what was going on half the time.
Clearly, agents feel their clients have more to lose than gain by participating. And when one guy pulls out, the dominoes start to fall.
The NBA is going to have to find a solution here before this problem becomes a trend.