NBA Combine Competitive Action Recap: Day One

NBA Combine Competitive Action Recap: Day One
May 12, 2016, 09:48 pm
Recapping the ten most impressive performances from day one of the competitive action at the NBA Combine, including Georges Niang, Malcolm Brogdon, DeAndre Bembry, Cheick Diallo and more.

Robert Carter, Junior, PF/C, Maryland
22 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 4 steals, 1 block, 6 fouls, 6-12 2P, 2-3 3P, 26.5 minutes

Robert Carter may have helped himself as much as any other player to participate in Thursday's 5-on-5 scrimmages. The 22-year-old big man showed his versatile offensive skill set, knocking down pick and pop jumpers out to 3-point range, putting the ball on the deck, scoring with jump hooks in the post and competing defensively and on the glass. Carter showed flashes of offensive brilliance during his junior year at Maryland, but with a glut of big men and a very talented overall roster, he was a bit inconsistent in his production. At 6' 8.5” with a 7' 3.25” wingspan Carter fits the ‘pass, dribble, shoot' mold that teams are looking for in today's NBA. While Carter shined on the offensive end on Thursday, he still has a ways to go defensively.

Weighing as much as 280 pounds during his two years at Georgia Tech, Carter has done a great job slimming down to 251 pounds and 12.5% body fat, but he still has a ways to go before becoming an adequate perimeter and ball screen defender. All in all Carter most certainly showed his NBA value in front of all 30 teams, and should be considered a solid second-round prospect moving forward.

Gary Payton II, Senior, PG/SG, Oregon State
8 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, 5 fouls, 4-6 2P, 23.3 minutes

Payton didn't exactly steal the show in Thursday's 5-on-5 session, but he stayed in his lane offensively, used his athleticism in transition, did a nice job of staying in front of Cat Barber on defense, and made a couple of impressive passes while on the move in the half court. Payton isn't the most natural point guard, often looking to give the ball up rather than probing and facilitating offense. He found some success, however, in quick actions to the rim, displaying impressive vision and accuracy on a drive and kick in traffic while also showing excellent touch and instincts on a lob pass. Payton's highlight of the day came when he barreled down the lane unguarded and hammered home a tomahawk dunk off of two feet. The 23-year-old Seattle native still has his struggles as a scorer in the half court, mostly due to his shooting stroke. Payton missed a wide open pull up jumper from the elbow and turned down an open three from the wing a few possessions later. He's not quite a vocal floor general or big-time shot creator, but with Payton's defense, passing instincts, physical tools (6' 3” with a 6' 8” wingspan) and athleticism he was able to find some success playing off the ball next to Kay Felder, and remains an intriguing second-round prospect.

Kay Felder, Junior, Point Guard, Oakland
11 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 steals, 4-6 2P, 0-1 3P, 3-3, FT, 23 minutes

Felder had a strong game, outplaying a point guard he's battling for draft position with in Cat Barber, although that wasn't enough to help his team get the victory. He showed he can play intense pressure defense on any of the bigger point guards he was matched up, shadowing Barber up the court and not giving him an inch to breathe, while also causing a number of turnovers. More importantly, he played with great effort, which wasn't always the case with the huge offensive burden he was expected to shoulder at Oakland, which may answer some questions NBA teams may have about him on that tend of the floor. The 6'2 1/2 wingspan he measured here in Chicago could help make up for his lack of size.

Offensively, Felder was up and down, but also had some strong moments. He's a scorer first and foremost, but showed impressive burst getting to wherever he wanted on the court, and lived at the front of the rim the entire game, finishing nicely off the glass at times. He can split ball screens with his strong first step and excellent ball-handling skills, and had some nice moments creating for teammates off the bounce, even if his vision wasn't quite as impressive in this setting as it was at times for Oakland. Felder didn't make any 3-pointers, preferring to do most of his damage in the mid-range area, but showed tremendous range all season long and is clearly an excellent shooter.

There aren't too many players who are more entertaining to watch than Felder in this draft, and he once again showed today that he could have played at any level of college basketball, as he did throughout the months of November and December. He certainly helped his stock here so far, but still has more work to do.

Georges Niang, Senior, Power Forward/Center, Iowa State
20 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 1 steal, 7-10 2P, 1-2 3P, 3-3 FT, 20 minutes

Georges Niang may have had the most productive outing of any player at the NBA Combine in day one, scoring a smooth 20 points in 20 minutes of action, while putting his full bag of tricks on display. Niang measured out well to start things off, just a hair under 6'7 in shoes, with a 6'10 wingspan, which is not bad for a power forward. He's done some really nice things with his body as well, and looks to be in excellent shape.

Niang showed his entire offensive arsenal today. He made a spot-up 3-pointer, and created a lot of offense himself off the bounce, using outstanding footwork and a variety of moves to finish around the rim, including a swooping hook, a pretty scoop shot, and demonstrating all kinds of touch off the glass. His skill-level is extremely high, and he has an outstanding understanding of how to maximize himself when defenses take away his primary moves, while still looking to get teammates involved unselfishly.

Niang grabbed just 3 rebounds in 20 minutes, something that's been somewhat of an Achilles heel for him his whole career, and didn't do much to answer the question marks about who he will guard at the next level. He did a great job of showcasing his strengths while staying within himself, though, and likely earned himself some more looks during the draft process in the form of private workouts with NBA teams.

Cheick Diallo, Freshman, Power Forward/Center, Kansas
18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks, 7-10 2P, 4-5, FT, 22 minutes

After sitting on the bench at Kansas all season, Cheick Diallo didn't shy away from the opportunity to finally showcase what he can do in front of NBA executives, despite being one of the youngest players on the floor at all times.

Diallo showcased his strengths and weaknesses quite vividly, being able to have a very productive game on both ends of the floor, and even finding ways to score despite his somewhat unpolished skill-level.

Diallo's trademark high energy level was on full display throughout, as he ran the floor extremely hard and covered ground much more effectively than most players his size are able to. He was especially impressive on defense, where he blocked four shots in 22 minutes and was scrapping and hustling non-stop, diving on the floor for loose balls and flying around constantly.

Diallo has clearly been working on his shooting mechanics and displayed a smoother and more compact release while in Chicago, which paid off in the form of a nice looking mid-range jumper he hit at one point. He also was the recipient of a number of dump-off passes around the rim, which he was able to get to due to his knack for being around the ball and always staying involved in plays.

Diallo's lack of experience and still developing frame means he still has plenty of room to improve on both ends of the floor, as he's not particularly polished and can look a little to sped up at times. That's to be expected though considering his age and how little high-level basketball he's played up until this point. The fact that he was able to be productive in this setting against players significantly older than him likely helped his standing in the eyes of NBA teams.

Pascal Siakam, Sophomore, PF/C, New Mexico State
12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks, 1 steal, 4 fouls, 5-9 2P, 2-3 FT, 24.4 minutes FT

Productive 22-year-old sophomore Pascal Siakam stood out during Thursday's game thanks to his non-stop motor, rim running ability and excellent mobility. He's not the most offensively polished prospect in attendance, but Siakam competes on every play, a useful skill when coupled with his 7' 3” wingspan, fairly quick (although not overly explosive) leaping ability, and agility. He's the first one down the floor on nearly every possession, which resulted in a few transition buckets, including an And 1 finish that came after sprinting out to run Jarrod Uthoff off of the 3-point line and then recovering to block his jumper (one of three blocks on the game). Siakam also showed impressive footwork defending the perimeter and ball screens, something he wasn't always asked to do at New Mexico State as the Aggies played quite a bit of zone.

Siakam, who has a decent feel for who he is as a player, knocked down a short corner jumper and two of his three free throw attempts, but he still room to polish his skill set. He missed a face-up 17 footer, and botched a couple of finishes around the rim versus length. Siakam isn't the most physically imposing player at 227 pounds, but his compete level, energy, rim running ability, length and agility make him an very solid second-round prospect if he decides to stay in the draft.

Malcolm Brogdon, Senior, SG, Virginia
17 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 turnovers, 6-8 2P, 2-3 3P, 3-4 FT, 24.4 minutes

Coming off an ultra-productive four-year career at Virginia, Malcolm Brogdon played an impressive, efficient game, scoring 17 points on only eight shots, while contributing in a handful of different areas. The 23-year-old two-guard looked like the best pure basketball player among all four 5-on-5 teams as he was able to distribute as the primary ball handler, knock down open shots, and finish over length and through contact all while locking up on the defensive end.

There's not a ton of flash to Brogdon's game – he's not an explosive athlete and he doesn't have the most beautiful shooting stroke – but he's been a winner at every level (his team won by 40 points on Thursday) and most certainly stood out as the most NBA-ready player to play 5-on-5. At 6' 5.5” with a 6' 10.5” wingspan and a strong 223-pound frame, Brogdon found some success playing on the ball on Thursday, especially out of ball screens.

He doesn't exactly turn the corner in isolation situations, but he showed that he's a sound ball handler versus pressure and has the IQ to facilitate against a variety of pick and roll coverages. Brogdon may not be loaded with upside but he has a winning mentality, is a tremendous defender, can make standstill jumpers and knows how to make up for some of his athletic limitations as a half-court scorer. He's a safe pick for a team in the late first or early second round, and could very well rise with more strong performances during the pre-draft process.

DeAndre Bembry, Junior SG/SF, Saint Joseph's
18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 7-10 2P, 1-2 3P, 1-1 FT, 21.4 minutes FT

The 21-year-old Bembry put together an impressive all-around performance as he scored 18 points in only 21 minutes while playmaking from the perimeter and showing some competitiveness on the defensive end. Bembry did a fair amount of his damage in transition where he's very opportunistic both as a lane-filler and ball handler.

A solid athlete, Bembry can finish above the rim in space and did so on a couple of occasions on Thursday. In the half court the 6' 6” Charlotte native found success playing both on and off the ball. He's very comfortable playmaking out of ball screens as he's an instinctual (though not overly advanced) ball handler with sharp court vision for a wing. Bembry's feel for the game also shows as a cutter – he was able to break free on the perimeter and finish off of a nice bounce pass from Jake Layman.

The key to Bembry unlocking his potential revolves around his jump shot. Bembry knocked down a catch and shoot three on Thursday and rattled home a step back mid-range pull up, but he missed a pair of jumpers as well. Although his mechanics aren't all that bad, he struggled to shoot it consistently for three years at Saint Joe's, so it will be interesting to see how he evolves as a shooter moving forward. Bembry also has room to improve as a 1-on-1 shot creator versus NBA level defenders. All in all Bembry is a versatile wing who checks a few different boxes and could very well hear his name called in the first round of this year's draft.

Chinanu Onuaku, Sophomore, Power Forward/Center, Louisville
11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4-6 2P, 3-5, FT, 21 minutes FT

Chinanu Onuaku had a strong start to his NBA Combine, which is important considering he's still just testing the waters and very much on the fence for whether to hire and agent and stay in the draft. He looks to be in very good shape from a physical standpoint, which helped him play with maximum effort every moment he was on the floor, something that he's been inconsistent with at times during his career.

Onuaku proved to be a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor for his team today, protecting the rim with his length and timing while competing on the interior, at rebounding at a very high rate. Offensively, he made some nice passes and was able to do some damage around the basket using his strong frame, rolling to the rim with nice timing and finishing using his solid hands and touch, despite not being the most explosive player around. He even stepped away from the paint at one point and knocked down an open mid-range jumper, which is somewhat surprising considering how much he's struggled with his free throw stroke in the past.

Onuaku's solid measurements, 6'10 in shoes with a 7'3 wingspan and a 245 pound frame indicate he'll have very little issue playing center at the NBA level. While his upside is not off the charts due to his average skill-level, explosiveness and feel, he's a very serviceable big man who will likely hear his name called if he elects to keep his name in the draft.

Ben Bentil, Sophomore, Power Forward, Providence
15 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 assists, 0 turnovers, 3-6 2P, 2-4 3P, 3-4 FT, 21 minutes

Ben Bentil was as hot as you can get to start off the game, hitting his first four field goals just six minutes in, three of which came from beyond the arc. He slowed down quite a bit after that, but still ended up having a strong outing, rebounding better than expected, and playing solid defense.

Bentil's shooting is a great place to start, as its one of the most important aspects of his NBA profile. He has gorgeous mechanics and excellent touch, with range well out to the NBA line and even some ability to create some separation off the dribble in the mid-range when closely contested or off a jab-step.

Some of Bentil's warts were also on display, as he repeatedly showed average awareness when defenders started closing out more aggressively to eliminate his 3-point shot, not really seeing the floor to the level you'd need to playmake out of those situations. Instead, he would dribble with his head down into traffic, which has been somewhat of an issue throughout his career as he does not possess the highest basketball IQ around.

Benti's shooting range and overall scoring ability from the power forward position automatically makes him a candidate to be drafted, especially considering his solid measurements, standing a hair over 6'7 barefoot with a 7'1 1/2 wingspan. He'll need to round out the rest of his game to stick long term, but NBA teams are absolutely in the market for players in his mold these days. Bentil is only testing the waters at this point, but another strong performance tomorrow and beyond as we get closer to May 25th could convince him to keep his name in the draft.

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