2010 NBA Combine: Storylines

2010 NBA Combine: Storylines
May 21, 2010, 04:01 pm
As the second day of the NBA Combine (see reruns on ESPNU) has come to a close, we take a look at a couple of storylines affecting this draft.

-Every NBA team is here in Chicago, represented by their top front office decision makers and, at times, their coaching staff. Agents, financial advisors, trainers, runners and every other member of the basketball industry is present as well, making this something of an annual NBA convention--where every rumor posted on Hoopshype is discussed ad nauseam.

The Invites

53 players were invited.
The list reads as follows:

Solomon Alabi, Florida State
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
James Anderson, Oklahoma State
Luke Babbitt, Nevada
Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Craig Brackins, Iowa State
Avery Bradley, Texas
Derrick Caracter, Texas El Paso
Sherron Collins, Kansas
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Jordan Crawford, Xavier
Ed Davis, North Carolina
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Tiny Gallon, Oklahoma
Charles Garcia, Seattle
Paul George, Fresno State
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Manny Harris, Michigan
Gordon Hayward, Butler
Lazar Hayward, Marquette
Xavier Henry, Kansas
Darington Hobson, New Mexico
Damion James, Texas
Armon Johnson, Nevada
Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
Dominique Jones, South Florida
Jerome Jordan, Tulsa
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
Dexter Pittman, Texas
Quincy Pondexter, Washington
Andy Rautins, Syracuse
Stanley Robinson, Connecticut
Larry Sanders, Virginia Commonwealth
Jon Scheyer, Duke
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Mikhail Torrance, Alabama
Evan Turner, Ohio State
Ekpe Udoh, Baylor
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
John Wall, Kentucky
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Terrico White, Mississippi
Hassan Whiteside, Marshall
Elliot Williams, Memphis

*Jon Scheyer was unable to participate in drills. He has mononucleosis, according to his agency, Priority Sports. He is in Chicago and did conduct measurements and interviews.

*Elliot Williams is not in Chicago at all after suffering a minor knee injury this week. His coach at Memphis, Josh Pastner, told us via text that “he is OK” and that the injury is “nothing serious.”

Williams’ agent, Thad Foucher told us that ""Elliot banged knees with another player in a workout in San Antonio and stayed in L.A. to rehab. It’s nothing too serious and he should be back in action by the end of the month."

*Quincy Pondexter was also not in Chicago for the combine, after reportedly hyper-extending his finger in a workout last week. His decision not to attend the combine means he will not conduct interviews with NBA teams, meet with the media, get measured or be examined by NBA doctors. The same goes for Elliot Williams. Pondexter can begin working out for teams as soon as next week reportedly.

The Portsmouth You Will Not be Invited to Chicago Tournament:

-The first thing that must be discussed is the fact that only one player (Mikhail Torrance) who attended the all-NCAA seniors Portsmouth Invitational Tournament was actually invited to this event.

This has to be viewed as an incredibly disappointing development for the organizers of that tournament, as well as the players who elected not to decline their invites to the PIT and actually compete at the event. At the very least, inviting Chicago native and tournament MVP Jerome Randle would have indicated that there is something to gain by attending the PIT and performing well. That obviously did not happen.

The fact that players who clearly should have participated at Portsmouth, but elected not to-- such as Andy Rautins-- were invited to Chicago, sends a poor message regarding the future of the PIT. How can you criticize Rautins for not attending Portsmouth if doing so will remove him the elite list of players brought to Chicago? It’s difficult enough already to convince top senior prospects to attend the PIT. This won’t make things any easier for next year.

From the NBA’s perspective, they already got the players at Portsmouth measured professionally and likely preferred to get measurement data and physical information for the huge amount of underclassmen that entered this draft and elected to stay in. There are only so many players that can be invited to Chicago after all.

The people who will be affected by this the most are the ones who actually decided on the players invited to the NBA Combine—the actual NBA teams. They’ve now likely hurt their own ability to evaluate a large group of seniors in a convenient setting every April. As one long-time NBA executive put it—“we’re shooting ourselves in the foot here, again and again.”

Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the 30 NBA teams to try to keep this very useful camp alive by spending a couple thousand more dollars (total) and inviting three or four of the top PIT performers to the combine?

Seniors who declined their Portsmouth Invites but were also not invited to Chicago:

Brian Zoubek
Matt Bouldin
Dwayne Collins
Omar Samhan
Jerome Dyson
Scottie Reynolds
Arinze Onuaku
Magnum Rolle

These players took the Andy Rautins route of trying to get invited to the NBA Combine, but unfortunately saw their plan backfire. NBA teams will not get any measurement data on these eight players now unless they bring them into their own facilities.

Underclassmen Not Invited:

Samardo Samuels
Dee Bost
Tommy Mason-Griffin
Courtney Fortson
Elijah Millsap
Andrew Ogilvy
Mac Koshwal
Courtney Fortson
Armon Bassett

These players can’t be too enthusiastic about their situation right now, as they do not have the ability to return to college, but have likely been deemed as not amongst the top-60 players in this draft (including international players) by not being invited to Chicago.

Lottery Prospects Doing Things Their Own Way

As soon as we arrived at the main hotel in Chicago on Wednesday, we begun hearing whispers of players electing not to participate in the basketball drills portion of the NBA combine the following day. Ultimately, 13 of the top 14 players in our latest mock draft elected not to do any basketball-related activities the following day, with some (such as DeMarcus Cousins) picking and choosing which athletic combine tests to participate in.

This has to be viewed as an extremely disappointing development for NBA teams, who altered the format of the pre-draft camp to its current state after struggling to attract first round-caliber players to compete in five-on-five action in Orlando in 2008 and 2009.

Last year two players—Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet--decided not to participate in basketball activities. With the number now swelling to 13, the NBA will likely need to sit down and think about how to address this issue for next season. Clearly they cannot allow agents to control the draft process and manipulate it as they see fit.

A constant stream of grumbling and complaining was all we heard from NBA teams following the first and second days of action here in Chicago. Many feel as though they were not able to learn anything new about the prospects they must choose from on June 24th. With their livelihoods on the line, NBA decision makers obviously want as much information as they can get to help them make correct decisions. Right now, they don’t feel satisfied at all. Their opinions may change in the next few days after they attend the Group workouts at Minnesota.

It’s Not All That Bad

Despite the complaints, it’s impossible to say that this isn’t an important week for NBA teams as they gather a number of important pieces that will help them in their decision-making process.

As Frank Hughes correctly stated in this excellent article on Sports Illustrated much of the important action in Chicago happens off the court.

Getting accurate medical information from the physicals, for example, plays a significant role in how this draft shapes up--as will the barrage of face-to-face interviews that teams are conducting with players in their hotel rooms. We’ve also gotten accurate measurements and will soon receive the athletic testing results.

Teams were still able to eyeball many top prospects and get a better feel for their conditioning level, body language and the way they move on the court. Many top level decision makers haven’t had a chance to see off-the-radar prospects playing in obscure places—such as Ryan Richards (who played in Switzerland), Paul George (Fresno State) and Artsiom Parakhouski (Radford). Much of the conversation in the evenings surrounded these types of players.

Players with exceptionally high skill levels (such as Gordon Hayward, Luke Babbitt and Xavier Henry) stood out on because of the non-competitive nature of these drills--where shooting mechanics and range are at a premium. Big men Parakhouski and Solomon Alabi impressed with their ability to knock down mid-and long-range jumpers, which is something many teams may not have been aware of previously.

Terrico White, Dominique Jones and Eric Bledsoe all drew praise for the way they looked. All three players pass the look test. They are exceptionally athletic guards with NBA caliber frames, and when their jumpers are falling, like they were on Thursday and/or Friday, they look very good.

Patrick Patterson Separates Himself

Kentucky junior Patrick Patterson is a player who drew a great deal of praise from NBA teams not only for how he looked on the court but also for the decisions he’s made off it. The only player projected in the lottery portion of our latest mock draft to actually compete in the drills in day one, Patterson did not waver in his commitment to participate in all parts of the NBA combine.

Yesterday afternoon we had a chance to sit down with Patterson in his hotel room to talk about his decision. That interview that will be published tonight on DraftExpress. As he implied to us, his decision was very simple.

“I [participated in drills] because I want to,” Patterson said. “I came here with one goal and one objective only, and that’s to impress everyone. In order to do that I felt like I needed to step out on the court and show them my heart and my competitiveness. I feel like I have to show NBA teams so much in such little time. There is no time that I can waste. There is no time that I can pick and choose what I want to do.”

“That goes to show you the type of person and player he is,” an NBA general manager drafting in the late lottery told us afterwards. “He’s not afraid to show up and compete, even if there’s a slight chance he may hurt himself. We know what type of player he is already, so that doesn’t really matter, but he came out confidently and knocked down shots and made a big statement by being the biggest name prospect out there. That’s going to help him in a huge way come draft night. We’re not looking for guys that want to take the easy way out. We want competitors. He separated himself in a huge way with that move, and you have to applaud him for that.”

Interviews > Drills?

We were not allowed into the actual drills portion of the combine, as only media members who are broadcast partners with the NBA (such as ESPN) were invited. With the combine broadcast on TV in the background, we spent over six hours in interview sessions with a large group of the top prospects.

After watching the combine in person at ATTACK athletics last year, it was tough not to come away with the feeling that we gained more insight into this draft by interviewing the top prospects, rather than watching them partake in non-competitive drills.

We really got to know the players better from a personality standpoint (something we miss over the course of the year) and were able to ask them many important questions that have been on our mind all year long.

The players weren’t always as forthright as we hoped, and some of them were woefully unprepared, but their answers were always extremely telling. To make sure we’re simulating the process NBA executives go through in their interview sessions, we crafted many of our questions with a company that specializes in preparing the team interviews. This yielded some interesting results.

Together with Tad Hathaway of the award-winning production company 312media, we filmed all of the interviews with an HD camera and will publish them in full on DraftExpress in the coming days.

The first batch can already be seen found here.

New Orleans Takes a Stand

In a surprise move, the New Orleans Hornets elected to cancel interviews with players not participating in the basketball drills portion of the NBA combine yesterday. A front office member of the Hornets confirmed to us that they canceled interviews with three players who did not participate in all portions of the combine.

NBA teams unanimously applauded the decision by New Orleans to take a stand, but some questioned what they will gain from that decision down the road, when it comes time to make important decisions. Surely this move would have been more effective had it been coordinated with all of the NBA teams at the same time, which would have forced the agents to reconsider their decision next year.

Either way, there clearly needs to be a discussion about how to move forward with this process in the future, as it really doesn’t make anyone look good as things stand.

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