Basketball's stars—and role players—of tomorrow took center stage at the NBA Draft Combine Thursday.
It's the annual get-together of handpicked Association hopefuls where they flash their credentials through measurements, athletic testing, scrimmages and interviews.
While the event continues at Chicago's Quest Multisport, some prospects have already helped themselves. We'll spotlight three of the combine's early winners below.
Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Iowa State
As is the case with many pro prospects, Horton-Tucker's growing stock isn't tied to what he is now but rather what he could become.
His one-and-done stint with the Cyclones was hardly a fireworks show. He had some monster outings (six games of 20-plus points) and a handful of duds (six with five points or less), all contributing to a seemingly underwhelming stat line of 11.8 points on 40.6 percent shooting (30.8 from deep), 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
But NBA teams are likely to have first-round interest for a couple of reasons.
One, he doesn't turn 19 until late November. Two, he might be the longest 6'2½" prospect we've ever seen:
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress
One of the most interesting things to study with the measurements is comparing players height without shoes w/their wingspan. You often hear NBA scouts saying "he's a plus X". Talen Horton-Tucker is a huge outlier in the context of our database, which has thousands of entries. https://t.co/dyvQCExTw2
His build is as interesting as they get. He has the height of a guard, the weight of a wing (235 pounds) and the reach of a big man. If he can put all those assets together, he could be an offensive mismatch (longer than small defenders, quicker than big ones) and a versatile defender.
Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
Little's college career was interesting...and probably not in a good way.
The former McDonald's All-American MVP went from being the prized piece of the Tar Heels' 2018 recruiting class to a full-time reserve on their 2018-19 squad. He averaged just 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds over 18.2 minutes a night.
But he's treating the combine like he's making up for lost stock-boosting time. He impressed with his length (6'6" in shoes with a 7'1¼" wingspan) and then with his shooting (16 consecutive made threes, per HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy).
As ESPN's Jonathan Givony relayed, Little reportedly aced his interviews too:
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress
UNC's Nassir Little is having a good week in Chicago, measuring out impressively, shooting well in drills, and according to multiple NBA teams, having some of the best interviews of any prospect here. His closest physical comp in our database is Jaylen Brown. https://t.co/7Vt0tMjt5V
As for Little's forgettable numbers at UNC, he said at the combine the coaching staff never communicated "exactly what my role was, especially on offense."
Given Little's pedigree—he was pegged as a top-three pick in October—he could climb the draft boards in a big way if he keeps this up.
Isaiah Roby, PF, Nebraska
While Roby is a borderline first-rounder on most mocks, he seems determined to solidify that standing in Chicago.
The junior kept plenty busy during his scrimmage, posting 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 from three), five rebounds, two blocks and one assist in 21 minutes.
He's not big (6'8½"), but he's long (7'1") and incredibly sculpted (3.9 percent body fat). His skill set also intrigues for a player his size.
"From a talent perspective he has pretty much everything you're looking for in kind of a modern big man, a guy who can switch screens, who can protect the rim, who can handle as almost a point forward," ESPN's Mike Schmitz said on a media conference call Thursday.
Schmitz labeled toughness, consistency and shooting as the prove-it areas for Roby, but so far, he's doing what he needs to in order to stay in the first-round discussion.