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NBA Draft Combine Observations: Winners, Losers and More

Nick Whalen

RotoWire's NBA Editor and award winning host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.

Chicago once again played host to the NBA Draft Combine, which featured more than 60 prospects hoping to hear their name called in New York City on June 22.

Athletic testing, measurements and 5-on-5 scrimmages highlighted the two days open to the media, and while several of the draft’s biggest names skipped out on the event, a number of first-round prospects, headlined by Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, were on hand.

With the 2017 NBA Draft less than six weeks away, we’ll take a look at which prospects hurt or helped their stock at the Combine.

WINNERS


Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky


Despite skipping out on the 5-on-5 sessions, Diallo was the big winner on Day 1 of the Combine, throwing up a 44.5” max vertical, 6’11.25” wingspan and ranking among the top 10 in lane agility, shuttle run and three quarter sprint times. Diallo, a class of 2017 recruit who graduated early and practiced with Kentucky throughout the spring semester, left Chicago as perhaps the most intriguing prospect outside of the lottery. He has a chance to be this year’s Thon Maker -- a relative mystery who’s lack of exposure seems to have only added to the intrigue. However, some scouts still view him as too raw and too much of an unknown to take a chance on in Round 1. All it takes is one team, though, and Diallo’s combination of top-tier athleticism and elite measurables could land him somewhere in the 15-to-30 range.

Diallo could still return to Kentucky for his de facto freshman season, and while a productive year could lock him into the lottery, there’s also the risk of being exposed at the college level. Diallo’s high school tape is impressive, but he’s a shaky ball-handler and is more jaw-dropping athlete than polished basketball player at this point his development.

Frank Jackson, G, Duke


From a pure measureables standpoint, Jackson did exactly what he needed to do. The freshman recorded a 42” max vertical and had the best shuttle run time at the Combine, leading him to sign with an agent on Friday morning, grabbing headlines before Day 2 began.

While Jackson explicitly stated that his decision to come out had nothing to do with the return of Grayson Allen and potential arrival of two blue chip guard recruits in Gary Trent and currently uncommitted Trevon Duval, it’s difficult to imagine Jackson in the lead guard scenario he’d need next season to dramatically improve his stock.

Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville


Like Diallo, Mitchell didn’t play 5-on-5 but came away a winner based solely on his testing. While Mitchell measured in at just over 6’1” in shoes, he showed off a 6’10” wingspan and 40.5” max vertical, in addition to recording the Combine’s fastest three quarter sprint time.

The Combine hammered home what scouts already knew about Mitchell, and while questions remain about his ability to play the point guard position in the NBA, he likely solidified his status as a top-20 pick.

Rawle Alkins, G, Arizona


Alkins is a physical specimen who stood out in a gym packed with athletic freaks. The freshman guard has the shoulders of a middle linebacker yet still recorded a 40.5” max vertical and 31.5” standing leap. While his agility times weren’t spectacular, Alkins was among the Day 1 standouts in 5-on-5 scrimmages, putting up a game-high 18 points (7-10 FG, 3-5 3PT) to go with five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block.

Despite the successful weekend, Alkins is a projected second-round pick, and he’s still on the fence as to whether he’ll stay in the draft. His strength, intensity and two-way skills reminded me of Lance Stephenson, a fellow New York City native who fell to pick No. 40 in 2010.

Kyle Kuzma, G/F, Utah


I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Kuzma heading into the week, but he was impossible not to notice during Thursday’s scrimmage portion. In 23 minutes, Kuzma hit 8-of-10 field goal attempts, including four three-pointers, while recording a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. His athletic testing wasn’t off the charts, but he moves well for a wing his size and looked more than comfortable shooting both off the catch and off the dribble in transition.

Jordan Bell, F, Oregon


An older prospect who’s a bit undersized at 6’7”, Bell will likely fall to Round 2, but he couldn’t have done much more to help himself. Coming off of a string of huge NCAA Tournament games, Bell recorded a 38” max vertical and had the fourth-best times in both the lane agility and shuttle run. A 6’11.75” wingspan should quell some of the concerns about Bell’s height, and he was spectacular on the defensive end, as expected, during 5-on-5. During Thursday’s scrimmage, Bell put up 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 25 minutes, and he followed up with eight points, 10 rebounds, two steals and a block Friday.

Defensively, Bell could be ready to contribute off the bench next season. The question is whether he’ll be able to develop enough of an offensive game outside the paint to become a true two-way threat. Bell was never comfortable stepping out beyond the arc at Oregon, and he did not attempt a three-pointer in either 5-on-5 game at the Combine.


LOSERS


Melo Trimble, G, Maryland


We’re now on year two of the “Melo Trimble should have left after his freshman year” conversation. At last year’s Combine, Trimble all but admitted he made a mistake returning to school for his sophomore season, and while he bounced back to some degree as a junior, he’s far from a lock to hear his name called on June 22.

While Trimble fared well in agility testing, he recorded the lowest max vertical of any point guard and the second-lowest standing vertical among all prospects tested. On top of that, Trimble measured in at just over 6’1” with an unimpressive 6’2” wingspan, the shortest at the Combine.

Trimble had a few nice plays during Friday’s 5-on-5 -- he finished with 12 points and six assists in 24 minutes -- but that came after a disappointing Thursday session, in which he went scoreless (0-5 FG) with five turnovers in a game-low 18 minutes.

Tony Bradley, F/C, North Carolina


No one was expecting Bradley to be DeAndre Jordan, but his Combine-low 27.5” max vertical -- a full three inches less than the next-lowest -- and 12 percent body fat (second-highest behind Tyler Lydon) were nonetheless disappointing. On the other hand, Bradley’s measurements were strong -- 7’5” wingspan, 9’4.5” standing reach -- and he looked more comfortable than expected during spot-up shooting drills.

Bradley is still deciding if he’ll sign with an agent. It seems unlikely that he did enough on the court to lock himself into the end of Round 1, which is reportedly what he’s seeking to remain in the draft.

Dillon Brooks, G/F, Oregon


Brooks played his usual freewheeling style in 5-on-5 sessions and tested fairly well, athletically, but his unimpressive wingspan is what will likely keep him out of the top 40. Brooks is already undersized for his natural small forward position, and he registered an underwhelming 6’6” wingspan, which doesn’t bode well for his defensive potential at the next level. Brooks was unquestionably a great scorer and playmaker in college, but teams have serious questions about his ability -- and willingness -- to transition into a role player in the NBA.

D.J. Wilson, F, Michigan


A quad injury prevented Wilson from participating in everything but measurements, and while he showed off an impressive 7’3” wingspan, the injury cost him an opportunity to stand out during 5-on-5. A strong second half of the season propelled Wilson into the draft conversation, but it now seems likely that he’ll return to Michigan for his junior season.

News and Notes


Wake Forest’s John Collins impressed with a 37.5” max vertical and 33” standing vertical, but his 6’11.25” wingspan -- the same as 6’3.5” Hamidou Diallo, for perspective -- was the second-shortest among all power forward and centers.

Ike Anigbogu didn’t test as well as expected (32.5” vertical), but he had the best height-to-wingspan ratio at the Combine. The freshman measured in at 6’8.5” without shoes before showing off a 7’6.25” wingspan, second only to French behemoth Jonathan Jeanne (7’6.5”). Anigbogu is unquestionably raw, but his age -- he won’t turn 19 until October -- and physical tools should be enough to make him a mid-to-late first-rounder.

Indiana’s OG Anunoby did not participate in agility testing but measured in at 6’6.25” with a 7’2.25” wingspan.

Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks both played well in 5-on-5. Hicks was 6-of-9 from the field and a team-best plus-25 on Thursday, while Meeks put up 19 points and 16 rebounds in Friday’s scrimmage. Hicks looked more athletic in person than I expected, and he showed flashes of comfortability shooting off the dribble, something he was rarely, if ever, asked to do at North Carolina. The senior measured in at just over 6’7”, which won’t help him, but his 7’0.5” wingspan and 37” max vertical will.

For as good as Meeks looked in 5-on-5, he didn’t do himself any favors in the testing portion. His 7’1” wingspan was fine, but Meeks ranked among the bottom-four overall in lane agility, shuttle run, three quarter sprint and max vertical. Of course, none of that should be overly surprising considering Meeks was heaviest player in attendance by more than 20 pounds.

Speaking of weight, Nigel Hayes was the Combine’s second-heaviest player, checking in at 254 pounds, nine pounds heavier than last year. The extra weight appeared to be mostly muscle, however, and Hayes actually increased his max vertical by five inches (33.5”) and added a quarter-inch to his already remarkable 7’3.25” wingspan. For the second straight year, Hayes was a non-factor in 5-on-5, but he interviewed well, as expected, and will be in consideration for some teams at the end of the second round, despite an inconsistent college career.

Projected first-rounder Terrance Ferguson measured in at 6’5.5” without shoes with a relatively pedestrian 6’8.75” wingspan. The class of 2016 five-star recruit spurned Arizona for an Australian pro team and is somewhat of an unknown after toiling in a minor role overseas. Known for his athleticism, Ferguson recorded a 38” max vertical, which was tied for 12th overall. Ultimately, Ferguson is in a similar position to that of Hamidou Diallo. Diallo tested better, but scouts have the benefit of evaluating Ferguson against much better competition.

As expected, Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk was one of the best shooters in attendance, but an ankle injury on Thursday kept him out of Friday’s session. Mykhailiuk measured in at 6’6.5” with a less-than-ideal 6’5” wingspan. His 33” max vertical was better than anticipated, but he recorded bottom-10 lane agility and shuttle run times and finished dead last in the three quarter sprint. Those results, coupled with the injury preventing Mykhailiuk from working out for teams for at least a week, suggest the junior could be back in Lawrence for his senior season.

Oklahoma State sophomore Jawun Evans opted against playing 5-on-5, even as he teeters on the border between Rounds 1 and 2. At 5’10.75”, Evans was the shortest player in attendance, though his wingspan (6’5.5”) was just an inch shorter than that of De’Aaron Fox. Evans’ all-around production and natural point guard instincts will carry him through the draft process, but he didn’t test overly well, recording average-to-below-average times in all three speed/agility drills. Evans recorded the 11th-slowest shuttle run, finishing behind the likes of Bam Adebayo, Ivan Rabb and Tony Bradley.

Moritz Wagner didn't turn heads in the testing phase and was straight-up overmatched during 5-on-5. At times last season, the sophomore looked like the best player on the floor -- most notably in the Wolverines’ second-round upset of Louisville -- but he struggled on the defensive end in scrimmages and labored through a pair of poor shooting performances. Wagner’s size and projected versatility -- 39.5% 3PT on 114 3PA last season -- are intriguing, but at this point he looks like a second-rounder, at best.

Human flagpole Jonathan Jeanne was the tallest player (7’0.75” without shoes) in attendance and, not surprisingly, registered the longest wingspan. After playing tentatively on Thursday, Jeanne was more aggressive in Friday’s 5-on-5. He showcased decent touch outside of the paint, at one point whipping out a eurostep that for a few seconds vaulted him to the top of my draft board. If you haven’t seen Jeanne, he’s basically a shorter Manute Bol who inexplicably wears low-cut Kobes.