NBA Combine 2018: Players Who Will Help Themselves in 5-on-5 Scrimmages

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 10, 2018

Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo (10) in action during an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. Villanova won 92-76. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

The NBA Draft Combine buzzes for a multitude of reasons.

Sometimes it's about who's not participating—potential top picks DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic fit that category this year. Sometimes it's about players flashing internet-breaking hops or unfathomable measurements. But sometimes it's simply about basketball and which players are shining in the five-on-five setting.

This year's event runs from Wednesday, May 16 to Sunday, May 20 and will be held at Quest Multisport in Chicago. ESPN2 will cover the action Thursday and Friday.

Here are three players best positioned to bolster their draft stock during scrimmages.


Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova

The last time DiVincenzo played five-on-five on the big stage, he had a spotlight-stealing 31 points to give Villanova a national title and himself the Most Outstanding Player award of the 2018 Final Four.

Even LeBron James took note of DiVincenzo's eruption:

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ESPN @espn

LeBron thinks Donte DiVincenzo improved his draft stock last night. 📈 https://t.co/ri9rFqEAjy

NBA talent evaluators paid attention, too.

"DiVincenzo is stirring up debate in NBA circles," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote in April. "He's intrigued all season with his shooting, secondary playmaking and defensive toughness, but he could also return as Villanova's top option and look to go higher in the 2019 draft."

Part of the reason DiVincenzo's title-game effort resonated so loudly was the surprise factor. He's talented, but his sixth-man role limited his opportunities and plagued his consistency. During two of his first three tournament games this season, he had seven points on four shots.

But at the combine, he'll no longer be searching for scraps left over by Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson. And when DiVincenzo has a green light, he can put on a show. There's enough athleticism and shooting ability here for him to leave the Windy City as the talk of the town.


Jacob Evans, F, Cincinnati

Evans looks better in person than on paper.

Go to his stat sheet, and you'll wonder how he's on the first-round bubble—three-year averages of 11.7 points and 2.5 assists aren't blowing anyone away.

But fire up his film, and you might think he belongs inside the top 20. Sure, he might not ever be the biggest source of scoring and distributing. But, as ESPN's Mike Schmitz pointed out, Evans is well-stocked with key qualities for a contemporary wing:

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

20-year-old Cincy wing Jacob Evans has boosted his stock this season with his winning impact on the 2nd best defense in the NCAA. His shooting stroke, feel, and defensive versatility are what NBA teams are looking for in a role-playing wing. More on him: https://t.co/GNAFQojWPD https://t.co/69kvBTnrsv

Evans needs to keep proving himself as a shooter, though. His three-point percentages lacked stability—33.3 to 41.8 to 37 over three seasons—and he finished his junior year on one of the down swings (3-of-21 outside over his final five outings).

However, if he's hitting shots with regularity during five-on-five work, he could shoot up the draft board. Every team could use more wings who defend multiple positions and bury long-distance looks.


Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky

A lot of John Calipari's players don't last long in Lexington, but Vanderbilt's Wildcats career—assuming it's over—had a blink-and-you-missed-it feel.

A foot injury delayed his debut. An ankle issue prematurely ended his run. He squished 238 minutes over 14 games in between the ailments. Nothing about his numbers screamed big league potential—7.9 rebounds, 5.9 points and one assist in 17 minutes per night.

But flash-back to last summer, and Vanderbilt was regarded as a top-20 talent in the freshman class and an exciting source of length and versatility.

"He does a lot of winning things," an Eastern Conference executive told The Athletic's Michael Scotto. "He can do a little bit of everything. He can defend, rebound and score. I like him because he doesn't do a lot of turnovers and make mistakes. He's an energy guy who plays hard."

If Vanderbilt is healthy enough to scrimmage, his blend of size and do-it-all skills should attract a lot of interest. He has more game than he could showcase at Kentucky, including playmaking prowess not often seen from players as big (6'9") and long (7'1" wingspan) as he is.


Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.

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