The NBA Draft Combine begins this week in Chicago, and many of the top names will be in attendance but not participating. For some, it’s a result of injury, but for others it’s a matter of choice.
The biggest names missing the physical component of the combine due to injury will be Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Maryland’s Alex Len and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.
But other potential lottery picks like Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Kansas’ Ben McLemore will skip the workouts, relying on their body of work from college and future individual workouts with teams.
Former Maryland coach Gary Williams thinks that the prevailing attitude of expected lottery picks to skip portions of the combine opens the door for other players to shine.
“This thing in Chicago this year is really important,” Williams said. “You go out there and do some things, you can really help yourself.”
Williams said that players like Len and Noel have shown enough in college, and even earlier when NBA and college scouts begin watching prospects, to be drafted in spite of injuries.
Other players with question marks in the eyes of the NBA can move up in the draft with a solid performance at the combine.
“I don’t think the NBA is real sure on a lot of players,” Williams said. “It’s a great opportunity for guys from [draft picks] 15-30, even early in the second round.”
Greivis Vasquez starred at Maryland for Williams, but even after winning the ACC Player of the Year award as a senior in 2010, NBA front offices weren’t sure what to make of the guard.
Vasquez showed up at the combine in great shape, Williams said, and helped push his draft stock up with a strong performance and great interviews. Considered by many a second round pick, Vasquez was drafted late in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Williams said a similar combine showing last season by Damian Lillard landed the guard out of Weber State in the lottery.
“Greivis really helped himself out there, he was in great shape,” Williams said. “Not every player out there is in great shape.”
Next level for Alex Len
Not all players make the right decision to go to the NBA early from college, but Williams believes Len made the right call.
“He’s in a great situation. There’s just not that many big people around,” Williams said of the 7'1" Len. “There’s some guys, when they announced they’re coming out, you go, ‘what for?’”
Len has a skillset that should translate to the pros, as long as he can develop a consistent game.
“He’s still a little raw,” Williams said of the Ukrainian 19-year-old. “He’s quick, can run the court, [NBA scouts] think they can make him more aggressive.”
Another advantage for Len in the NBA over staying in college is the unlimited practice time. In college, Len has to attend class and can only receive a set amount of hours of coaching.
“In Len’s case, he’s going to be in the NBA.”
Right move for the Wizards
It’s tough to judge what the Wizards need in this draft, because the team could use many pieces. Williams believes the Wiz should focus on a big man, but the team also needs players that can score.
“They could really use a young big man. McGee, Blatche, they didn’t work out—both talented, just wrong situations,” Williams said.
The Wizards have a long list of prospects they intend to interview in Chicago, and not all fit the big man mold. Williams said the biggest key for the Wizards is guy that can score, from any position.
“A lot of guys out there that really work hard and give you effort, but they’re not great skill players. You want a package of a guy that really works hard but can really shoot it,” he said. “They did a good job with [Bradley] Beal last year.”
Beal, named All-Rookie first team this week, proved to be a great pick for the Wizards. But the team has also had some high profile first round misses.
“Everyone knows they have to do a better job with that first pick.”