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NBA Combine Matters to Under-the-Radar Draft Prospects

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Justin Jackson and others hope to lift their stock with strong NBA draft combine performances.

Had it not been for the NBA draft combine, Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler would not have been a first-round pick and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine would not have moved from late-first-round selection to lottery pick.

That's why the draft combine is important and necessary.

It's for the NBA prospects who aren't Kevin Durant, who made news this week with his negative comments about the combine.

"If you're a top-10 pick or a first-round pick or whatever and you know you might be guaranteed, stay your (butt) home, work out and get better on your own time," Durant told ESPN.

Sure, if you're Durant - the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft - or if you're one of this year's top five picks, the combine might not be beneficial.

Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson are expected to be the top three picks in June. Their presence at the combine is not necessary. But consider the difference on a four-year rookie contract between the No. 3 and No. 5 picks in 2017 is $4.6 million. Perhaps the combine is valuable, even for top-10 picks.

The difference in money between the ninth and 12th picks is $1.7 million over a four-year deal. The difference between a second-round pick and late-first-round pick is a guaranteed contract. That's not insignificant.

Durant's comments were a topic at Thursday's combine session. "If you think there's anything here that would hurt you, don't come," Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. "If there's anything here that would help you, come. If you have to play to help yourself, come."

In the 2011 draft, Enes Kanter moved up several spots in mock drafts after the combine and was selected third overall. LaVine's combine performance and interaction with front office executives made him a lottery pick and several million dollars wealthier.

The combine is valuable for players trying to climb draft boards. The event gives players a chance to showcase on-court skills and off-court presence.

It's a vital event for front office personnel, too. USA TODAY Sports contacted 15 team executives under the condition of anonymity, and every person said the combine was worthwhile.

They not only get another look at a player in workouts, drills and five-on-five play but also conduct one-on-one interviews, obtain medical information and receive accurate measurements. The interviews and medical history might be the most important aspects of the combine.

While these might not be traditional job interviews, that is what prospects are going through. Does a team want to "hire" that player? Team executives want to compile as much information as they can on players in whom they will invest millions of dollars.

The more information executives have, the better equipped they are to make good decisions.

While Durant scoffed at the bench press, others who display strength could catch the eye of a team seeking muscle. In 2015, Pat Connaughton, now with Portland Trail Blazers, recorded the second-best vertical leap in combine history. That alone didn't turn him into the 41st pick after he had been projected as a late second-rounder, but it didn't hurt. Teams noticed his athletic ability.

The NBA combine began nearly 40 years ago. It was a one-stop clearinghouse for executives to see several players, some of whom they might not have scouted. In the 1980s, video didn't exist the way it does today.

But players remain underexposed even today, as Butler was at Marquette six years ago. Same with Saint Joseph's DeAndre' Bembry who went from second-rounder to late first-rounder by the Atlanta Hawks in 2016.

Similar scenarios will play out again this year, and players and teams will appreciate the importance of the draft combine.

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May 12, 2017
 
 
 

 

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