The NBA has evolved over the years. The game has gotten faster, quicker and higher.
Players of all positions are able to jump, run and shoot better and faster than ever before. One of the main things that general managers and coaches look for these days in drafts is not necessarily shooting percentages (which do help), but rather the things that cannot be taught at the next level: height, speed, reach, leaping ability, vision.
Players in the NBA today do not just have one position, but two or three positions due to their athletic ability. The athleticism is a huge factor in the drafting process and a major reason why the NBA hosts combines for players to showcase their athletic ability.
In this year's draft, athleticism is everywhere, but there are only a handful that are off the charts.
Now this may come with some surprise, Kawhi Leonard. Even though he did not wow anyone at the combine with three reps on the bench press and a vertical leap of 32.5 inches, Leonard is as athletic as they come.
He may not be the most explosive player, but he is by far one of the smoothest, most graceful players coming out of this draft.
He has a great first step off the baseline and a terrific perimeter shooter. At 6'7", 230 lbs. Leonard has great speed and is a sure top-10 pick.
Tyler Honeycutt is an athlete. A very tall small forward, standing at 6'8", Honeycutt has a wingspan of 6'9" and has tremendous control in the air.
Honeycutt is a very explosive jumper, which is a huge advantage as he drives the lane.
He moves very quickly and has great agility moving up and down as well as laterally. A player who can guard almost anyone, will be anywhere from a top-20 to 25 pick.
Listed at 6'8", Kenneth Faried is a beast.
He has a 7'0" reach with a 35-inch vertical. Combine that with a 3.26 second three-fourth court sprint, and this kid can move at 21 years of age.
His shooting may not be what offensive juggernauts are looking for, but his high intensity, explosive nature is what many coaches do want.
Faried is ranked at about a mid-20 pick, but he could move up based on his combine numbers and terrific athletic measurements.
JaJuan Johnson stands at 6'10" with a 7'2" reach. His vertical comes in at 38 inches, and he recorded 16 reps on the bench press at the combine. His three-fourth court sprint was recorded at 3.14 at 22 lbs.
Johnson is one of the freak athletes in this draft, and whoever nabs him will get a steal, seeing as how he is projected early second, late first.
Johnson will need to add some weight in order to hang inside the paint with the other NBA big men, but he will be a treat to watch at the next level.
Well I am pretty sure that his picture says it all.
Malcolm Thomas, the most athletic player for the San Diego State Aztecs last year, stands tall at 6'8" which for a small forward is a bit undersized, but his 7'2" wingspan allows him to pay taller than he is.
Thomas is not the quickest cat in the draft, but he has the ability to beat most defenders with his first step, and the explosion that he possesses allows him to be a solid rebounder when called up.
Though he is not projected by many to go in the draft, his combine numbers sure helped his case.
We all knew he was going to be on this list.
Kemba Walker is by no means the tallest tree in the bunch (6'3" on a good day), but his vertical makes up for it tenfold at 39.5 inches. His three-fourth court sprint at 3.16 showcased his motor, but he seems even faster with a basketball.
Not only does he have tremendous hops, but when he is in the air, the body control that he has is one of the most uncanny things to watch. A tremendous competitor, proven winner and even though he was the second lightest player at the combine, he was one of the toughest around.
Should go top five, at worst top 10.
A top-three pick. Standing at 6'3", Brandon Knight weighed in as the lightest of all draft prospects, but that all proved for not when he put up 10 reps on the bench press.
Knight has great quickness and explosiveness, with many speculating he will translate nicely into the NBA.
With an almost unhealthy body fat percentage (4.2 percent) Knight's three-fourth court sprint was the fastest at 3.07 seconds. Oh yeah, and his vertical isn't too shabby ether coming in at 37.5 inches.
Knight is poised to do big things in the NBA.
Listed at 6'9", more like 6'7", Tristan Thompson is another athletic freak, with a wingspan of 7'1".
He has a 35-inch vertical, and his three-fourth court sprint is 3.26 seconds. Now compare that to the others on that list. It really does not make him that special, but when you factor in that he weighs just about 230 lbs, that is pretty impressive.
Thompson, like the others, has terrific explosion and a tremendous first step off the dribble. However, it will be his leaping, rebounding and defending that sets him apart from the others in this draft.
Thompson is ranging somewhere around a top-15 pick.
Derrick Williams is not a physical freak by any means. If anything, it is his above-average measurements in just about every statistical category. Standing at about 6'9" with a wingspan of 7'1.5", Williams has tremendous reach, speed and girth.
Williams weighs 250 lbs., but you would never guess that with his three-fourth court speed recorded at 3.23. He recorded 19 reps in the bench press. His explosion and quickness are what set him apart from all the other prospects.
His body control in the air, not to mention his incredible highlight-reel dunks (Blake Griffin-esque).
Like Kawhi Leonard, not overly freakish physically, but the grace, consistency and smoothness of his play make him for an amazing athlete.
Should be the second pick overall.
The unanimous choice, for this writer anyway, for best athlete coming out of the draft is Travis Leslie.
At 6'4", he plays at 7-feet. Leslie recorded a 40-inch vertical at the combine with a 3.13 three-fourth court sprint. His smaller, but muscular stature was able to record 10 reps on the bench press at the combine.
Leslie is projected in the top 40, but after that combine is stake has only gone up since the end of the season. He shot about 50 percent from the field during the season, and he looks to be a gem coming out of the draft and into the NBA next season.
Isaiah Thomas: Washington
Alec Burks: Colorado
Kyrie Irving: Duke
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