Recapping the New Jersey Combine.
Ed Isaacson / @nbadraftblog
This past weekend, the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets and the Houston Rockets held a Draft combine at the PNY Center in New Jersey. Fourty-four players, in four groups of 11, were measured, tested and took part in five-on-five scrimmages in front of NBA scouts and personnel from almost, if not all, 30 NBA teams, as well as from their D-League counterparts.
While not as well-known—or stocked with talent—as the official NBA combine, which will take place in Chicago the first week of June, many among the players in New Jersey will be drafted in the late first and the second rounds.
Each of the four groups were drilled and coached by the likes of Nets’ assistant coach Popeye Jones and Springfield Armor (Nets D-League team) assistant coach Chris Carrawell. After the drills, the players were broken up into teams for the scrimmages. This was where you could see players doing what they do well, and what they have been working on since the end of the college season.
Though some of the more anticipated players, such as France’s Evan Fournier, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph and Alabama’s JaMychal Green withdrew prior to the start of the combine, the NBA personnel and media were treated to some very good performances. While players’ Draft stock is not affected by their performance in events such as this, it certainly gave teams better ideas of who they want to see more of in their own team workouts.
Here is a look at some players I came away impressed—or even more impressed—with after the weekend.
Kim English – The Missouri guard had the opportunity to show what he can do when he gets to settle into his natural position. After battling many bigger players throughout the college season, English showed that he can still defend guards with the best of them. He showed great speed on both ends, knocked down open shots, and was able to get into the lane and finish.
Cameron Moore – The athletic big man from UAB ran the floor well, finished in a variety of ways around the rim, and was able to step out and knock down mid-range jumpers consistently. In the right NBA system, Moore could be a very valuable role player.
Marquette – Yes, I know Marquette is not a player, but the school had two guys in New Jersey over the weekend, and they both showed more than expected. On Day 1, Darius Johnson-Odom treated the scrimmages like Big East games, playing in-your-face defense, pushing the ball at top speed, and getting to the rim and finishing strong. Day 2 gave us Jae Crowder, and he did all of the things that made him the Big East Player of the Year. Like DJO, Crowder played the signature tough Marquette defense, even battling 6-10 Xavier Gibson in the post for a duration. He showed intensity, but also great skill on the offensive end, hitting mid-range jumpers and using his body to post up around the basket.
Kevin Murphy – If you haven’t seen the big guard from Tennessee Tech yet, I recommend you do so quickly. Murphy has most of the skills of a quality NBA wing, and he showed them in New Jersey. Knocking down jumpers off the catch and off the dribble, using his length well to guard on the perimeter, and doing a great job spotting cutters and hitting them with great passes for easy scores, Murphy had many NBA teams trying to think of ways they could use him right away next season.
Alex Young – Read the above about Kevin Murphy, change Tennessee Tech to IUPUI, and you would have very similar descriptions. Young is not as good a shooter as Murphy, but he is very good creating shots off the dribble, and played better defense than I remember him playing at any time in college.
The Last Session Big Men – The final session of the combine had four big men, all with different skills, but all who impressed in their own way. LSU’s Justin Hamilton is fundamentally solid and is an offensive threat inside and out. Kyle O’Quinn showed the great athleticism on both ends that people have come to know since he popped up on the radar after Norfolk State’s great season, but you can see he has also been working hard at developing his post skills. Eli Holman, out of Detroit, also showed great athleticism, and defended well in the post and on the perimeter. Finally, Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre showed all of the skill fans have appreciated through the last few years, and he set the intensity level that all of the big men looked to match. Even during drills, you could see most of the NBA personnel surrounding the court moving their focus down to where the bigs were battling.
This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive of who played well and who impressed those in attendance. Many others, such as Scott Machado (Iona), Casper Ware (Long Beach State), Tony Mitchell (Alabama), Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara), Drew Gordon (New Mexico) and Jorge Gutierrez (California) showed what most expected from them.
Of course, there were also a great group of lesser-known players, such as D’Aundray Brown (Cleveland State), Rakim Sanders (Fairfield) and Malik Alvin (Shaw/Division II), who ensured themselves further opportunities to work out for teams before the Draft with good all-around play. While we didn’t get to see Fournier, we did get a look at 7-foot Lithuanian Mindaugas Kupsas. All I will say, Kupsas could be a very interesting player a few years down the road.
Overall, it was a very successful weekend for teams and players alike, and with the burgeoning trend of more teams utilizing their second-round picks in ways that pay off as quick as possible, giving players this chance to show what they can do in a setting like this can only be a help. This was the second year of the New Jersey combine, and while the location may be different with the Nets in Brooklyn next year, it should definitely remain part of the NBA Pre-Draft calendar.
Ed Isaacson is the owner/writer of NBA Draft Blog. Check out the site for the latest in player scouting reports and more.