NBA Combine Athletic Testing Analysis

NBA Combine Athletic Testing Analysis
May 17, 2014, 02:31 pm
The NBA released the athletic testing results from the 2014 NBA Combine in Chicago. We take a look at who stood out and who struggled on paper.

See how all players stack up in DraftExpress' sortable historical measurements and athletic testing database

Though the conclusions that we can draw from the vast majority of the athletic testing data is extremely limited, we'll nonetheless try to take something away from the information we've been presented with.

Trying to pinpoint a player's athleticism based on their combine testing is akin to trying to get a feel for their basketball IQ by watching them play one-on-zero –it simply doesn't make all that much sense. It does help us get a very general idea of where a player is at in terms of physical conditioning and strength, which often speaks to their work ethic, but rarely sheds much light on what it really aims to portray.

Unlike the NFL combine, all parties involved realize that few people put much stock in these results. Players aren't trained in running 40-yard dashes from their days in high school like most gridiron stars and simply aren't well versed in many of these tests. Raw athletic data can be useful in a football setting where certain properties manifest themselves more completely on the field, but for the NBA's purposes, a player's lane agility time ultimately and has repeatedly proven to mean very little.

In basketball, where anticipation and coordination play major roles in how players perform on the court, combine numbers will always take a back seat to how a player uses the tools it aims to measure in actual games. Additionally, it's well accepted that there's a learning curve involved: prospects that conduct these tests multiple times will test better than those who are encountering this process for the very first time. Scouts have done their homework, they have a good feel for who the fastest players in the draft are, and know which athletes are the most explosive as it related to what they offer in game-settings. The combine only provides them with a standardized metric for particular athletic traits that often fail to live up to and remain consistent with what they already know.

Despite our reservations about the data, it still exposes some players who land at the extremes of each test, and gives us the chance to draw from some historical perspective on certain marks. At the end of the day though, the numbers these players posted at the combine are only as valuable as their ability to use them on the floor, and no matter how many times a player runs or jumps beyond his perceived means on test day, if he doesn't “play to his numbers” in games, he's not going to magically change his ways at the next level.
Athletic Testing Composite Rankings
Out of curiosity more than anything else, we've compiled our own Athletic Testing composite rankings. These were made by assigning players points depending on where they graded out compared with the other prospects in each of the tests done in Chicago. In a perfect world, this composite ranking would tell us who the best and worst athletes are in this draft class. Unfortunately, it's far from perfect for the reasons we described above.
Zach LaVinePG1
Glenn Robinson IIISF2
Cleanthony EarlySF3
Aaron GordonPF-C4
Nick JohnsonSG5
Thanasis AntetokounmpoSF6
DeAndre KanePG7
Jordan ClarksonPG8
Markel BrownSG9
Dante ExumSG10
Marcus SmartPG11
Doug McDermottSF12
James YoungSG13
K.J. McDanielsSF14
Elfrid PaytonPG15
Jahii CarsonPG16
P.J. HairstonSG17
T.J. WarrenSF18
C.J. WilcoxSG19
Melvin EjimSF20
Nik StauskasSG21
Tyler EnnisPG22
Patric YoungPF-C23
Kendall WilliamsPG24
Rodney HoodSF25
Aaron CraftPG26
Deonte BurtonPG27
C.J. FairSF28
Dwight PowellPF-C29
Shabazz NapierPG30
Noah VonlehPF-C31
Jarnell StokesPF-C32
James McAdooPF-C33
Joe HarrisSG34
Julius RandlePF-C35
Cory JeffersonPF-C36
Semaj ChristonPG37
Russ SmithPG38
Khem BirchPF-C39
Devyn MarbleSG40
LaQuinton RossSF41
Cameron BairstowPF-C42
Jordan McRaeSG43
Johnny O'Bryant IIIPF-C44
DeAndre DanielsSF45
Xavier ThamesPG46
Jordan BachynskiPF-C47
Alex KirkPF-C48
Isaiah AustinPF-C49
Alec BrownPF-C50
Lamar PattersonSG51
Jabari BrownSG52
Jordan AdamsSG53

Top Prospect Athletic Testing Analysis

-Julius Randle performed up to expectations in the athletic testing, posting a very solid 35.5 inch maximum vertical leap jumping off of on leg. While that isn't a truly outstanding mark when ranked among the rest of this year's field, it is among the best jumps recorded by a player weighing more than 250 pounds in our historical database. Randle's combination of strength and explosiveness is a big part of why he ranks among the top prospects in this class. Randle's others tests all ranked right around average, which is not surprising considering its always been his tremendous combination of strength, skill and scoring instincts that separate him as a basketball player, not his pure athleticism.

-Marcus Smart turned in an impressive showing testing above average in all of the speed drills and registering a standing vertical leap of 33-inches, ranking among the top-10 among players here. Repping 185-pound 19 times on the bench, Smart ranks among the strongest guards ever tested, which should come as no surprise to anyone who watched the 227-pound guard during his career at Oklahoma State.

-Aaron Gordon unsurprisingly turned in the top maximum vertical leap among the big men group and one of the top-10 in this group. He also ram the fastest time in the shuttle, ranking as the only non-point guard in the top-5. Testing above average across the board, Gordon reinforced sentiments that he's among the most explosive players in this class.

-Dante Exum impressed in the speed and agility testing, finishing in the top-10 in the lane agility drill, shuttle run, and ¾ court sprint. His 34.5-inch maximum vertical leap was below the event average, but his 31.5-inch no-step vertical was slightly above average. A quick, fluid slasher, Exum's skill level, basketball IQ and ability to finish creatively around the rim has always been a better asset to him than his ability to simply jump over defenders.

-James Young didn't participate in the mobility drills, but his did have his vertical leap measured. His 35.5-inch maximum vertical leap ranked just average, which wasn't unexpected.

-Doug McDermott posted a 36.5 inch maximum vertical leap which certainly was a surprise considering the questions he's faced about his athleticism over the last few seasons. He also fared well in the lane agility drills, posting one of the better marks among small forwards.

-Zach LaVine posted a 41.5 inch maximum vertical leap jumping off of one leg and had the quickest lane agility time. He ranked among the top players in every speed and explosiveness test. One of the top athletes in this draft class, it will be interesting to see how LaVine fared in the bench press testing (which we'll acquire soon), as his strength is a question mark.

-Rodney Hood finished around average in all the tests compared to the group, though his 36 inch maximum vertical jump 3.38 ¾ court spring don't stack up particularly poorly from a historical perspective.

-Cleanthony Early's 40 inch vertical jump and 3.18 ¾ court spring both ranked well above average.

-Tyler Ennis posted the 3rd fastest shuttle time, but ranked right around the mean in all the other tests.

-Jordan Adams fared fairly poor in the athletic testing, which scouts anticipated, finishing in the bottom-5 of many of the tests, as his anticipation and tremendous instincts can't help mask his lack of great athleticism in a setting like this.

Maximum Vertical Jump
Five Best
Jahii Carson 43.5
Markel Brown 43.5
Nick Johnson 41.5
Zach LaVine 41.5
Glenn Robinson 41.5

Five Worst
Jordan Adams 29.5
Isaiah Austin 29.5
Alec Brown 30
LaQuinton Ross 31
Alex Kirk 31.5

Jahii Carson and Markel Brown posted 43.5” maximum vertical jumps that tie them for 5th place in our database not just among all combine performances, but among players tested in any official setting. While Brown stands just 6'3.5 in shoes and Carson is 5'11, both players have incredible explosiveness around the basket. Despite a lot of chatter coming into this event, former Kansas Jayhawk Kenny Gregory's 45.5” combine record jump in 2001 remains unscathed, while D.J. Stephens' ridiculous 46 mark from last year's Nets workout still tops our database and likely will for quite some time. Glenn Robinson, Nick Johnson, Zach LaVine, and Cleanthony Early round out the players posting 40+ inch verticals, with Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Deonte Burton, and Aaron Gordon right on the door step as well. LaVine's leap was especially impressive as he, like Julius Randle, opted to jump off one leg. His ability to get off the floor looks almost effortless.

The low men this year were Jordan Adams and Isaiah Austin. Austin's ability to score and block shots around the rim has always been predicated more on his length than his explosiveness. Adams was one of the clear winners this week even if his vertical ranked among the lowest turned in by a shooting guard in combine history. His weight loss from the end of the college season until now was obvious, and it was not his athleticism that made him such a prolific scorer at UCLA, but rather his aggressiveness, scoring instincts and touch. LaQuinton Ross was the only other non-center in the bottom-5, joined by the 6'11 Alex Kirk and 7'1 Alec Brown.

Standing Vertical Jump
Five Best
Markel Brown 36.5
Glenn Robinson 36.5
Cleanthony Early 34
Jahii Carson 33.5
Nick Johnson 33.5
Zach LaVine 33.5

Five Worst
Jordan Adams 24.5
LaQuinton Ross 25
Isaiah Austin 26.5
DeAndre Daniels 26.5
Alec Brown 27
Kendall Williams 27
C.J. Fair 27
T.J. Warren 27

Markel Brown once again ties for the leap in an explosiveness test, this time with Michigan's Glenn Robinson. Very similar to the list above, Jordan Clarkson, Cory Jefferson, K.J. McDaniels, and Marcus Smart finished just a half inch outside of the top-5. Unlike last year when Cody Zeller posted huge numbers, there were not many big men represented at the top of the vertical jump rankings this year.

It isn't surprising to see four of the players with the lowest maximum vertical leaps at the bottom of these standings as well. C.J. Fair always seemed to look like a more explosive athlete than he actually is. T.J. Warren has never been known for his leaping ability either. Jordan Adams and Kendall Williams were the low men at the guard positions.

Lane Agility Drill
Five Best
Zach LaVine 10.42
Dante Exum 10.75
Jordan Clarkson 10.76
Aaron Craft 10.78
Nik Stauskas 10.79

Five Worst
K.J. McDaniels 12.71
Cory Jefferson 12.63
Markel Brown 12.62
Jordan Bachysnki 12.15
Jordan Adams 12.13

For the first time in three years, the top time in the lane agility drill was not turned in by a power forward. Zach LaVine led the field by a wide margin with a top-15 all-time mark. Big guards had a strong showing overall, as Dante Exum impressed here as well, as did Nik Stauskas. Aaron Craft turned in an unsurprising top-5 finish considering how we've seen him move his feet defensively at Ohio State the last four seasons. Aaron Gordon and Marcus Smart both fell just a bit outside of the top-5 as a number of elite prospects excelled in this test.

Based on what we know about this test and these players, it seems like K.J. McDaniels and Markel Brown may have slipped while performing this drill. McDaniels tested out above average across the board, while this is the only test where Brown was not among the top performers. Adams is the only guard in our bottom-5, which is usually filled with 7-footers like Jordan Bachynski given the obvious disadvantage their sheer size is in this test.

Shuttle Run
Five Best
Aaron Gordon 2.76
Zach LaVine 2.8
Tyler Ennis 2.84
Kendall Williams 2.85
DeAndre Kane 2.85

Five Worst
Cory Jefferson 3.39
Johnny O'Bryant 3.32
Noah Vonleh 3.29
Jabari Brown 3.26
Khem Birch 3.24

Aaron Gordon impressed in each of the quickness drills, as did fellow Pac-12 product Zach LaVine. Tyler Ennis makes an appearance in the top-5 here, as does Kendall Williams both of whom showed the ability to change speeds and directions with the ball to find their way into the paint at the college level. DeAndre Kane rounds out the top-5 a fraction of a second ahead of Dante Exum and Markel Brown.

Jabari Brown is the only guard in the bottom-5, as the bigger power forwards were among the slower players in this drill.

3/4 Court Sprint
Five Best
Melvin Ejim 3.14
DeAndre Kane 3.16
Cleanthony Early 3.18
Thanasis Antetokounmpo 3.18
Markel Brown 3.18

Five Worst
Isaiah Austin 3.55
Jordan Adams 3.5
Jabari Brown 3.5
Alec Brown 3.48
Xavier Thames 3.48
Alex Kirk 3.48

Iowa State teammates Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane paced the field here showing impressive speed even if their times aren't elite historically. Though they rank among the older players in this draft class, both showed the skill and athleticism to compete effectively in a setting like this one and the workouts they'll be attending in the coming month. To put into perspective the range of players that can excel in this drill, Ejim's performance ties him with Dwight Howard and John Wall. Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo both showcased impressive athleticism finishing well across the board. Thanasis may not be quite as tall or long as his brother, but he's a far more explosive athlete. Markel Brown rounds out the top-5, with Dante Exum, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Napier, and Dwight Powell just a fraction of a second behind.

There are a surprising number of guards in the bottom-5 this year, but in the same way the leaders in this year's group don't stand out historically, the slowest players were not as slow as they tend to be many years.

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