2010 NBA Draft Combine Recap
News and notes from Chicago.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
52 of the best collegiate basketball prospects converged on Chicago this week for the NBA’s annual pre-Draft combine. From physicals, individual interviews and workouts for teams, to group skills testing and drills held at the famed Attack Athletics Center run by Tim Grover, the Windy Center was the center of the basketball world over the past few days. The event gives NBA scouts, coaches, and GM’s an opportunity to get an up-close and personal look at a few of the players who make up the 2010 draft class.
For the combine, players are grouped together by their projected positions in the NBA and are taken through a battery of tests and drills to measure things like vertical jump, speed, agility, and general basketball IQ. Of course, the center of attention in this year’s class were Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner who will almost assuredly be the first two names David Stern calls at the podium in Madison Square Garden next month. On the advice of their agents, neither participated on the first day of the combine and had very limited participation on day two, but their basketball fates are already set. However, their absences gave opportunities for other players to shine and potentially raise their stock as well.
One of the players whose stock really elevated was 6-7 swingman Paul George from Fresno State. Teams love his length and athleticism and he seems to really be climbing up the draft board. He’s also enjoying the experience that comes along with fulfilling a lifelong dream. “This is fun. This is what I dreamed of since I was a little kid. Nobody in Palmdale [California, where George is from] can really say that they’ve done something like this. This is a dream. This is what people really try to experience and try to get to.” George interviewed with ten teams at the combine. The list includes Memphis, San Antonio, Chicago, Phoenix, and Portland just to name a few. George says it doesn’t matter to him where he plays; he just wants to wear an NBA jersey. “I don’t have no ego to say I don’t want to go here or I want to go there; I’ll be happy to play for whoever drafts me.”
Another player a lot of teams seem very intrigued by is NCAA Tournament darling, Gordon Hayward from the Butler Bulldogs. Hayward as you recall led his Butler squad on an incredible run this past season and he came within a miraculous half-court shot of knocking off Duke for the National Championship. At 6-8, teams like his size and his incredible basketball skills, but what many people may not know is that he developed those skills when he was much shorter and growing at the rate that he did is still taking some time for him to get used to. “I’m still kind of getting adjusted into my body. It hasn’t been very long since I’ve been at this height. I went from 5-11 as a freshman [in high school] to 6-8 as a senior. It was weird looking at everyone at eye level walking down the hall to looking over everyone. And you don’t even realize it when you’re growing. It all came really fast.”
What also came quickly for Hayward was his meteoric rise into the national spotlight and his place on many draft boards as he interviewed with a number of teams while in Chicago. “I interviewed with eight teams [on Thursday]. I interviewed with Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Utah, Atlanta, and I interviewed with the Bulls. I know I’m leaving somebody out, but it’s been a lot.”
Brooklyn’s own, Lance Stephenson, aka Born Ready was also in Chicago to show teams what he can do. Currently projected as a second rounder, Stephenson hoped to elevate his stock with a strong showing at the combine. At 6-6, he has an NBA body and looks to be ready to compete physically in the League. He came into the combine in terrific shape and he hoped that coaches and GM’s took notice not only of his skills, but also his intangibles as well. “I’m a hard worker, real good on defense, and I’m a leader on and off the court. So I think I bring a lot to a team.”
Xavier’s Jordan Crawford is tired of hearing about “LeDunk.”
Every time he’s asked he just shakes his head, almost in disbelief that people are still talking about it. He just wants people to know that there is a lot more to him than just one isolated incident. “I was happier with the way that I played in the tournament more than any other thing. People started talking about how I can play the game instead of a dunk in a scrimmage. That was a scrimmage; it wasn’t no game or nothing like that. He wasn’t playing his hardest. How many times have you seen LeBron give up a dunk when he’s playing hard? He was just having fun at his camp. So yeah, I’m tired of talking about it.” However, as tired as he may be of discussing it, he does realize the importance of that moment in his basketball career, especially after transferring from Indiana to Xavier. “[The dunk] put my name back out there after sitting out a year. You don’t get talked about when you’re being redshirted. But it put me back out there and I got a chance to let people know that I was for real.”
One of the more interesting people at the combine was DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky. Not only is he big, he’s surly. Think Kendrick Perkins with much better basketball skills. During the media sessions, he became annoyed when questions were raised about his maturity and attitude. As a result, his interviews were riddled with short and oftentimes one word answers to questions, and a lot of awkward pauses. While some found it annoying, I found it enjoyably funny and he’s good for interesting quotes if you can, you know, get him to actually talk.
When asked who he looked forward to playing against in the NBA Cousins said simply, “Shaq and Dwight Howard.” When asked why he answered, “Those are the two dominant big men in the League and I’m trying to get there.” When asked if he was the villain of the draft class he coolly responded, “Yep… Which one would you take? A nasty big man or a friendly one?” When I told him that I wanted my big man to be a little mean, he calmly said, “Thank you.” When a reporter questioned him about being a poor teammate, Cousins said, “That’s ridiculous. You talk to any of my teammates and you’ll get a positive answer back.” And when asked if Coach John Calipari gave him any advice before coming to the combine, Cousins said, “Yeah. He told me to smile.”
Projected to go within the first four picks, Cousins should be an immediate impact to whichever team drafts him.
During the combine, anthropometric measurements are taken of players to give their exact height with and without shoes, their weight, wingspan, standing reach, body fat, hand length and hand width. Some of the numbers were staggering.
John Wall, although being three inches shorter than Evan Turner, has a wingspan more than an inch longer than Turner’s. Turner’s wingspan measured out at 6 feet, 8 inches, while Wall’s wingspan measured and impressive, 6 feet, 9 and-one-quarter inches. Hassan Whiteside from Marshall had the longest wingspan of anyone at the combine at 7 feet, 7 inches. The longest standing reach measurements belonged to three players, all big men. Whiteside, 7-1 Jerome Jordan from Tulsa, and 7-1 Solomon Alabi from Florida State all measured out at 9 feet, 5 inches. The biggest hands of the combine belonged to Craig Brackins from Iowa State whose hand width measure out at 11.3 inches.
Dexter Pittman, whose 16-year-old brother was tragically shot and killed during Day 1 of the combine forcing him to return to his family’s home in Houston, looked to be in much better shape compared to his days at the University of Texas. He came in looking much slimmer physically and looked a lot more nimble on his feet. However he had the highest body-fat percentage of any of the combine’s participants at 20.8 percent, but an impressive wingspan for a 6-11 player that measured out at 7 feet, 6 inches. The player with the lowest body fat percentage was Ole Miss Guard Terrico White at 3.7 percent. A close second was Manny Harris from Michigan at 3.8 percent.
My apologies for not including more pictures. Unfortunately, my Blackberry battery didn’t make it and died at the scene. And for some reason or another, I kept missing Evan Turner, but over the next few days I’ll be bringing you exclusive one-on-one interviews from the combine with Kentucky’s John Wall, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe, and Kansas’ Sherron Collins.