With the 2016 NBA Draft Combine now completed, it is time to take stock of the event, and identify some of the potential winners and losers of the event.
The Combine consists of a day of measurements, a day of physical testing, as well as two days of scrimmages. The event also includes some very serious medical testing, as DraftExpress pointed out.
A handful of top NCAA prospects decided not to participate, for reasons all their own: Ben Simmons, Dejounte Murray and Domantas Sabonis. For those players, their agents determined that participation was not worth the potential costs of attending the event.
As a note, few currently contracted players from another league are permitted to attend, so players like Dragan Bender, Timothe Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz, Ante Zizic and Ivica Zubac were not in attendance.
It should also be noted that, while it is historically unusual for players who were not invited to the combine to be drafted (last year there were only 5 according to Jeff Goodman), the new rules for early entry implemented this year mean that the current pool of players from which teams made invitations to the combine is likely to shrink before the actual Draft comes around. As such, it is possible we'll see a few more guys who were not invited to the combine drafted this year than in years past (particularly from the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, which we'll cover later).
For your reference, a summary of the combine results can be found here.
Physical Profiles: The Wow Factors
The physical tests are the wow factor of the NBA Draft Combine, where we get to oogle and ogle about amazing reach, unbelievable verticals, or unnervingly large hands.
Rarely are these tests strongly changing a player's draft stock, as they might at the NFL combine. Instead, they're designed to provide a concrete reference that is uniform across all players as to speed, strength, and size, so that teams do not have to rely on the oft-doctored stats that teams themselves provide.
A few players really stood out with their measurements.
In the height measurements, the obvious standout was Zhou Qi, who came in at 7'2.25. Thon Maker came in at 7'0.75, while Jakob Poeltl came in at 7'1. These were all more or less expected numbers, though Maker came in at his best measurement to date.
Both Kay Felder and Tyler Ulis came in at under 6' in shoes, measurements that, while not unexpected, cannot really help their value, despite the success of Isaiah Thomas over the last few years.
In wingspan measurements, there was really impressive figures. Qi again topped the chart, with a 7'7.75 wingspan that is the largest seen at the Combine since Rudy Gobert in 2013.
Two projected power forwards both under 6'10, Cheik Diallo and Pascal Siakam, also impressed, with 7'4.5 and 7'3.25 wingspans, respectively.
Among guards and wings, a notable standout was Wade Baldwin. Standing just 6'4, Baldwin measured out with a wingspan of 6'11.25, an absurdly large number given his height.
A trio of projected wings (Dorian Finney-Smith, Malachi Richardson and Jaylen Brown) all came in with wingspans right around 7', which should help concretize their defensive stopper potential in the minds of scouts.
The Athletic Tests
Two guards were among the standouts in the vertical testing. Felder tied an NBA Combine record with a max vertical of 44 inches, while Jackson, not to be outdone, finished with the 2nd best max vertical of 43.5 inches, and the 2nd best no-step vertical at 37.5 inches.
Dorian Finney-Smith was the most impressive wing in the vertical tests, leading all participants with a no-step vertical of 38 inches and a max vertical of 41.5 inches.
Joel Bolomboy was the top performer among bigs, with a 37.5 inch standing vertical and a 40.5 inch max vertical.
Other notable performers were Jaron Blossomgame, Sheldon McClellan, and Marcus Paige.
In the lane agility drill, the surprise winner was Bolomboy, who put up the best overall time at 10.26 seconds.
Baldwin and McClellan led all guards, with times of 10.45 seconds.
A few players who were potentially hurt by low times are Felder, Gary Payton II, and Blossomgame.
Identifying who improved their stock in scrimmage play is always tough, because what indicates a strong performance is often subjective. I'll rely on the work of Sam Vecenie and Jonathan Givony to identify a few of the players who are, by some consensus, seen to have improved their stock.
First, and widely agreed upon by other writers besides Vecenie and Givony, Cheik Diallo had a couple of great scrimmage games. Diallo had a good couple of days in measurements and athletic testing, but really showed up in the scrimmages, showcasing the skills that had him projected as a lottery pick earlier in the season. In the first game Diallo, matched up against a team largely lacking a top big, put up 18 points, 4 boards and 4 blocks, while in the second game, paired against Chinanu Onuaku, he put up 9 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks.
Another strong performer was point guard Kay Felder. In his first game, Felder had 11 points, 4 steals and 4 assists, though also 5 turnovers. He was able to clean up his decisionmaking a bit in game 2, putting up 12 points, 3 assists and 2 steals with just 1 turnover.
Michael Gbinije also had a strong performance, though this might be expected of a senior. Gbinije had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in game 1, to go along with 17 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in game 2.
Finally, Joel Bolomboy, the senior power forward out of Weber State, carried his strong momentum from the physical and athletic testing sections into the scrimmages. Bolomboy, despite being a senior, is largely considered a project player. However, he showed an ability to compete against relatively high level competition at the Combine. After a mediocre game 1, Bolomboy had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists in game 2, hitting 4/5 shots and both of his earned free throws.
A couple of other players deserve mention for strong performances, even if there is no consensus they improved their stock. First, Marcus Paige had two very strong days, averaging 12 points, 5 assists, 1.5 steals and less than 1 turnover over the two games.
Kyle Wiltjer was among the highest scoring players over the two games, hit 39% of his three point attempts, and rebounded fairly well.
Isaiah Cousins, while struggling with his shooting all weekend, was a highly effective distributor, and showed off a better than expected three point shot. He also showed off a surprisingly strong rebounding ability for a point guard, likely helped by his impressive 6'6 height for a point guard.
Finally, Pascal Siakam, a lanky sophomore power forward out of New Mexico State also impressed, averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks over the 2 games, while shooting 50% from the floor.
A Quick Note on the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament
The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is another event, similar to the NBA Draft Combine, but reserved for college seniors. This year, the tournament was held in April. As the one-and-done rule has made it increasingly common for players to leave before their senior seasons, the PIT has lost a bit of its luster, but it is still one of the two premier pre-Draft workout environments, and deserves a brief mention here.
A full breakdown of the performances of all participants can be found here, but we'll limit our discussion to just a few players.
This event was a highly successful one for Michigan State upperclassmen. The star of the show was sharpshooting guard Bryn Forbes, who averaged nearly 21 points over 3 games at the tournament, with shooting splits of 50/43/100%. Matt Costello, a 6'10 center, also put in a strong performance, averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds, along with an impressive 3 assists per game and 1 block per game.
Dorian Finney-Smith, one of the limited number of players who appeared both at the PIT and Draft Combine, also had a strong performance, averaging 18 points and 10 boards on 54/43/100% shooting splits.
Wes Washpun, the hyper-energetic point guard out of Northern Iowa also had a strong tournament. While he only averaged 9 points, he did so while shooting over 70% from the field. He also averaged 3 rebounds and 4 assists for the tournament, while turning the ball over just 5 times across 3 games.
Finally, Trey Freeman is deserving of a mention here. While Freeman struggled with his shot at the tournament, shooting just 39/44/100 for the tournament and averaging just 9 points, he has averaged 7 assists per game, with just 3 turnovers across all three games at the tournament. He's a prospect that merits some watching, as he might be a candidate for the now point guard-strapped Northern Arizona Suns.