There are few things more difficult for me to miss in realtime than the NBA Draft Combine. With the 2014 NBA Draft just completely loaded, I was dying to see what some of the best prospects are bringing to the table, and I made sure to watch all five hours of the first day’s coverage as soon as I got home from my 9-to-5 today.
A lot of notions i already had were just further confirmed, but I got to take a deeper look at some players who I really hadn’t been able to see much this season – looking at you C.J. Wilcox and Deondre Burton – and got to see how everyone looks on a leveled playing field.
Alright enough of the build up, here are some of my thoughts from the first day’s worth of workouts, as I’ll focus on the guards only for this post.
- First, I didn’t quite understand the breakdown of guards. We had guys like Zach LaVine and DeAndre Kane working out as point guards, while Nick Johnson and Jordan Clarkson were in with two’s. I digress.
- The first day of the combine seemed to be a bit of a coming out party for UCLA’s Zach Lavine. Not only did the freshman show off his 6-foot-8 (plus) wingspan, but he displayed an incredibly fluid looking jumper, and possibly the most impressive athleticism of anyone to take the court on Thursday. LaVine’s one of these players whose athleticism is understated because of how in control he is of his body, as he can cross you up and knock down a three as easily as he can blow by you and make a poster out of you. I saw a few non-chalant looking layups where LaVine was looking down at the rim, and I’m interested to see if he can distribute as well as he can score at the next level.
- Former Iowa State combo guard DeAndre Kane just continues to looks like an NBA player. I don’t care about his limited upside as a result of his age, the fact of the matter is he has an NBA body, NBA speed, a great combo skill set, and is a player who thrives in a quicker tempo, which he’ll find and flourish in at the next level. Kane can shoot, he can slash, he pass, he can lead…the only thing he can’t do is jump in a time machine so you can be happier about his upside.
- Boy was I unimpressed by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. Guys like Fran Fraschilla can talk about his intangibles and leadership credentials until they’re blue in the face, he doesn’t have the athleticism nor the ability to score, that it takes to really play at the next level. I mean it looked like he was setting to get his shots up, a la NBA players from the 1950′s. I do think he’s gritty enough and devoted enough to his craft (hah, no) that he’d be able to sign a 10-day contract here and a 10-day contract there, heck he could even be an injured reserve point guard, but he will not be a difference maker in any way in this league. I’m sorry, I like him, but let’s call a spade a spade.
- I’m very impressed in general by Nevada’s Deonte Burton and Xavier’s Semaj Christon, I don’t think either were given proper spotlight by the ESPN coverage, but I think both showed off decent jumpers, and great fundamentals for a point guard. Christon is a bit more athletic than Burton, and in the same token Burton’s probably a more reliable shooter, but I like both to get drafted and think they could both play in the league today.
- I would’ve loved to have seen Dante Exum take the court, but from his interview he comes across as pretty mature despite being so young. He really seemed to understand the scope of playing in America, and his seemingly high basketball IQ combined with his other worldly athleticism should make him a stud.
- I was impressed by Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson. At 6-foot-5 he looks like a very in control athlete. and although he’s not the best shooter, I think he can be a defensive guy who can penetrate. Not sure if he’s a two or a point guard.
- Former North Carolina wing P.J. Hairston looks awesome. I still can’t believe he averaged 21.8 points per game in the D-League. He’s showing off a great j/deep range, explosive athleticism, great size. He doesn’t appear to be in the best shape but still a tremendously explosive athlete finishing dunks.
- Again, I’m confused as to why Nick Johnson was in with the two guards when all those combo guards were in with point guards. Regardless, Johnson looked incredibly composed, and even though he’s in shooting drills for the most part, he looks most comfortable facilitating and creating offense for others, not just himself. He’s clearly an undersized two, but he shot the ball better than I expected at the combine and probably has the quickness and active hands to be able to guard NBA two guards.
- I’m relatively unfamiliar with him but I really like C.J. Wilcox from Washington. Yes he’s 24 so like Kane he has “limited upside,” but he has a great looking stroke, good range, good size, and a good first step. It seems as if he can get to the basket whenever he wants, which when combined with his efficient shooting it should allow him to score at the next level. He has maybe the sweetest looking jumper that I saw all day.
- I wonder if Virginia’s Joe Harris is athletic enough to stick around in the NBA. He’s certainly a good enough shooter, he definitely has good defensive instincts, but I’m not sure I can see him hanging around a league where he wont be there because of his scoring and he may not be able to keep up defensively. He’s probably not big enough to guard threes, and I don’t think he’s quick enough to guard twos. He’s a hell of a player, but he’s a bit of a tweener.
- UCLA’s Jordan Adams was another one of the more impressive guys on Thursday. Adam’s clearly slimmed down a ton, he looks great physically, and he looks even better shooting the ball. Adam’s will undoubtedly be able to score at the next level, and he may even be more prolific there than he was for UCLA, where he averaged 15.3 and 17.4 points per game, respectively, in his two seasons. Adams is a poised scorer and a crisp passer, and I think he and his old teammate LaVine gained the most of all of the guards today.
Happy drafting ya’ll!