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The NBA Draft Combine is an annual chance for the league's scouts and decision-makers to collect critical intel about players. This year's combine took place in Chicago, where over 70 players participated in multiple days of physical measurements, agility drills, 'pro day' workouts, scrimmages and interviews.
A number of top prospects skipped the combine's most helpful (for scouting) activities, but there was still plenty of information to be gleaned. And over the past week, opinionated verdicts have rolled in from numerous sources who attended the Combine or have first-hand knowledge of what went down.
The aim of this column is to use those verdicts on the combine (whether or not they’re in agreement) to triangulate prevailing opinions. I wasn't at the Combine and was only able to watch scrimmages, so this column is indebted to the following sources (I also link to articles and social posts throughout the column): The Draftmatic on YouTube, NBA.com’s Draft Combine Data, John Hollinger at The Athletic, Sam Vecenie at The Athletic, Mike DePrisco at NBC Sports Washington, Krysten Peek at Yahoo Sports, Kyle Boone at CBS Sports, and Jeremy Woo at SI.com.
Below are 18 players who stood out during the combine, for better or worse, beginning with the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, Cade Cunningham.
Cade Cunningham - Oklahoma State - Wing - 6'8", 220 lbs - 19
Cunningham was conspicuous for his absence during the Combine. Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs were also absent, and all three guys are secure in their status as cream-of-the-crop prospects. As such, they had little to gain by submitting to measurements and agility tests, let alone scrimmages.
For what it's worth, though, John Hollinger (who is about as plugged-in as it gets) writes that "It’s not a slam dunk" Cunningham goes No. 1 overall to the Pistons. He adds, "I can very much confirm that the Pistons are intrigued by G-League Ignite guard Jalen Green and could take him over Cunningham." Pistons writer Keith Langlois wrote almost the exact same thing in a mailbag column from June 30: "I think the likely outcome is that the Pistons retain the No. 1 pick and then use it to take Cunningham. But it’s not a slam dunk." He bolsters the apparently popular 'not a slam dunk' take by referring to GM Troy Weaver's own post-lottery comment that there are five prospects legitimately in the mix for Detroit.
Jericho Sims - Texas – Center – 6’10”, 245 lbs – 22 years
Sims shot 14-of-19 during combine scrimmages, with an average shot distance (I'm estimating) of 0.1 inches. He knows his role and although he may not be an ideal fit in today's NBA, there's still room for mobile big men with Sims' size (7’3” wingspan) and athletic abilities (37.0-inch no-step vertical leap, second only to Keon Johnson). He must have been confident in his performance, since he has since signed with the Klutch Sports Group agency and thereby officially ended his collegiate career.
Chris Duarte - Oregon - Guard - 6'6", 190 lbs - 24 years
Duarte didn't participate in the combine, which was odd for a guy who should presumably still be working to improve his draft appeal. Vecenie reports in The Athletic that Duarte's absence has "[led] some teams to speculate that he has a promise from someone," but goes on to clarify, "It's unclear if said 'promise' exists currently."
DJ Steward - Duke - Guard - 6'2", 163 lbs - 19 years
Steward's combine was potentially disastrous. During scrimmage play, despite the absence of most projected first-round prospects, Steward shot 4-of-18 from the field with seven turnovers. Worse yet, he measured under 6'1" without shoes and only helped his cause with an impressive standing vertical. It wasn't the stock-boosting performance he likely envisioned.
Max Abmas - Oral Roberts - Guard - 5'10", 162 lbs - 20 years
Much like DJ Steward, Abmas' combine was flawed for multiple reasons. He struggled in scrimmages with 3-of-18 shooting and three assists in 46 minutes combined over two games. A few rough exhibitions aren't a deal-breaker, given the small sample size and utter lack of team cohesion that was on display, but Abmas' measurements were also cause for concern. He was the shortest player in Chicago at 5'10", and also had the shortest standing reach, wingspan, hand width and hand length. He was the slightest player at 161.8 lbs. Perhaps most damningly, he finished 52nd in the shuttle run out of 55 players who submitted to strength-and-agility testing. He's likely headed back for another year of college.
Nah’Shon Hyland - VCU - Guard - 6'3", 174 lbs - 20 years
The man nicknamed 'Bones' clocked a 6'9" wingspan and was also impressive during 5-on-5 scrimmage play, giving everyone in attendance a glimpse of his scoring upside. Despite playing through a groin injury, he finished his first exhibition with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from deep), six boards, four assists, three 3-pointers, two blocks and one steal. With nothing left to prove, he sat out the second day's scrimmage.
Scottie Barnes - Florida State - Forward - 6' 8", 225 lbs - 19 years
Barnes' jump shot during the combine was "at least marginally improved" from his freshman season with Florida State. That tidbit comes from Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo, who adds, "There was general agreement around the gym this week that Barnes is the player with the best chance to sneak into the top five on draft night." He has a 7'3" wingspan with a 9'0" standing reach and huge hands, so the measurement portion of the combine also worked to his benefit.
Joshua Primo - Alabama - Guard - 6'5", 190 - 18 years
Primo is young even by the standards of NBA draft prospects, and also has intriguing raw physical tools with a 6'9" wingspan and the second-biggest hands of any guard in Chicago (only Moses Moody has bigger mitts). He played well and said all the right things throughout his time in Chicago, and Yahoo's Krysten Peek believes there's "no way teams let him go back to college after what they saw at the combine."
Joe Wieskamp - Iowa - Wing - 6'6", 212 lbs - 21 years
The sharpshooting Hawkeye lived up to expectations during the combine, particularly in scrimmages where he went a combined 8-of-14 from downtown (6-of-7 in his second game). He was north of 45% in college, so that was to be expected. What few saw coming is the fact that he posted a max vertical of 42 inches, and ranked fourth in lane agility. He also has a 6'11" wingspan and 4.1% bodyfat, so dismissive notions of him as a one-dimensional 3-point shooter had to be revised in a hurry. “I believe that I’m a lot more athletic than a lot of people think, so I want to continue to prove that here at the combine,” Wieskamp said. For what it's worth, Wieskamp has already had private workouts with the Bucks, Cavs, Celtics and Spurs.
Luke Garza - Iowa - Big - 6'11", 243 - 22 years
The reigning Naismith Player of the Year wasn't able to scrimmage due to a groin injury, but otherwise he left a positive impression in Chicago. The highlight is that he weighed 243 lbs, a startling drop from his listed weight of 265 lbs for Iowa last season. Unfortunately, he also had the combine's worst results in sprints and standing vertical, and it's not a given that his groin injury was the culprit. He's on the older end of the prospect pool and his lack of athleticism remains a huge problem going into the Draft.
David Johnson - Louisville - Guard - 6'5", 203 lbs - 20 years
Johnson may not have differentiated himself as a lead guard during his sophomore season, with modest averages of 12.6 points on 41.1% shooting, 5.8 boards and 3.2 assists. He has a nearly 6'11" wingspan and did shoot 38.6% from deep last year, so there's enough upside that he'll likely make a team's second-round list. He had the fifth-fastest sprint from three-quarter court during the combine, and also showed off his leaping ability, so altogether it was a positive showing for the former Cardinal.
Marcus Bagley - Arizona State - Forward - 6'8", 215 lbs - 19 years
Bagley was "underwhelming" at the combine, where he skipped scrimmages and only took part in measurements and drills during pro day. It's not that he did anything to hurt his stock, necessarily, but Bagley still declined an opportunity to impress a gym full of quasi-skeptical scouts. It could cost him.
Daishen Nix - League Ignite - Guard - 6' 4", 225 lbs - 19 years
"Nix was one of the bigger disappointments of the week in five-on-five play, where he struggled to hit jumpers and finish at the rim and occasionally looked like he was pressing," Jeremy Woo writes on SI.com. To his point, Nix finished 0-of-10 from the field in a pair of exhibitions. Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports concludes that although Nix has "slimmed down significantly" over the past year in the G League, he ultimately "didn't do a ton to help his stock in Chicago."
Quentin Grimes - Houston - Guard - 6'5", 210 lbs - 21 years
Grimes led all scorers during scrimmage play and earned unstinting praise after the combine. Woo refers to Grimes as "arguably the best player in the on-court portion of the combine." Peek writes that Grimes was "by far the best player on the court in Day 2 of the five-on-five scrimmages." Hollinger opines that his "shooting performance ... likely locks him in as a mid-second-rounder or better." Boone adds that Grimes stood out at the combine," and that his "combination of size and feel for the game look projectable."
Grimes himself said he was prepared for the unique challenges of the combine. “It was my second year coming to the combine, I knew exactly what to do and what NBA teams are looking for,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I just went out there and played my game and tried to shoot the ball well, play defense and play with confidence." His stock rose accordingly and it's possible he goes in the first round. Grimes was also "praised by teams for his maturity and poise in interviews," so it's worth mentioning that he met with the Bucks, Celtics, Mavericks, Nuggets and Pelicans.
Keon Johnson - Tennessee - Guard - 6'4", 186 lbs - 19 years
Johnson leapt over the competition in Chicago, literally. The second-highest standing vertical leap was Jericho Sims at 37.0 inches -- Johnson was first at a whopping 41.5 inches. Sims was also second to Johnson in max vertical leap, but there's no shame in that since Johnson set an all-time combine record at 48.0 inches.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see his jaw-dropping athleticism in action during scrimmages. I'm not sure how much importance scouts and teams place on pure leaping ability, but Johnson gets it all and more. Presumably, though, he still needs to convince teams he can develop a more reliable shot (27.1% from deep and 70.3% from the line with Tennessee).
Neemias Queta - Utah State - Center - 7'0", 248 lbs - 21 years
Queta had the combine’s top standing reach at 9’5” and was just over 7’0” tall in shoes. He was “definitely one of the standouts of the day,” according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, showing improved shooting to go along with his usual defensive abilities. “I feel like I’m the best shot blocker in this draft class,” Queta told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t really see it as, ‘I played at a low-major, that other guy played at a high-major school.’ It’s basketball, 40 minutes. And if you’re coming into the lane, I’m going to try to block your shot. If I’m taking it to the basket, I'm going to try to score. It’s that simple." He backed up his talk with equally confident play, giving himself a nice boost a month before the Draft.
Corey Kispert - Gonzaga - Forward - 6'6", 220 lbs - 22 years
Kispert was quick in the agility drills and had a 30-inch no-step vertical, which Hollinger believes "allayed a lot of those concerns [about his athleticism] and probably cemented the Zags' sharpshooter as a lottery pick." He's old for a rookie but can contribute immediately and his 3-point shooting (2.8 per game on 44.0% last season) speaks for itself.
James Bouknight - UConn - Guard - 6'5", 190 lbs - 20 years
Draft guru Jonathan Givony shared a video of Bouknight effortlessly sinking dozens of 3-pointers during his Pro Day. He wrote that Bouknight "put on an absolutely incredible shooting display ... Shot the cover off the ball, showing phenomenal footwork, touch and body control." His draft stock was already rising prior to Chicago, and his polished scoring was only tarnished by 32% from deep with UConn. If he convinces scouts that he can be a knock-down perimeter shooter, it wouldn't be shocking for a team reach into the top-10 for him.