SportTacko Fall shatters records at NBA draft combine, while Bol Bol among big disappointments
The NFL could make the scouting combine its next traveling circus
There is some fear in Indianapolis that the scouting combine - which has been held in the city since 1987 - could be moving on. The city and the NFL only have one year left on their current deal. The league has seen the benefit of moving major events around. If the NFL wants to make the combine and bigger deal than it is, then Indy is in trouble. There might be some nostalgia, but the league office is generally short on that. They do what they are supposed to do which is make as much money for its stakeholders as possible.
CHICAGO — More than 60 aspiring pro players attended the NBA draft combine this week with the hopes of impressing the plethora of scouts on hand in the Windy City.
Although the draft’s locked-in top three picks — Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett — were either back home or didn’t compete in drills or measurements, the battle for the Los Angeles Lakers’ No. 4 pick continues to get interesting.
Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, Duke’s Cam Reddish and North Carolina’s Coby White all improved their cases via measurements and drills while Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter might have benefited just as much - by skipping the combine.
Kentucky to have strong contingent present at NBA combine
Kentucky will have a presence in the upcoming NBA combine, which will be held in Chicago the week after next. PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson have accepted invitations to participate in the annual pre-draft event. Neither Washington, Herro nor Johnson plan to play in the five-on-five games staged at the combine, their fathers said Saturday. Each will do athletic and medical testing, plus be interviewed by NBA teams. A fourth UK player, EJ Montgomery, has reportedly accepted an invitation to participate in the combine and plans to play in the five-on-five games.
But it was further down the mock draft board where other players either boosted or hurt their stock, particularly from scrimmages.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers from Thursday and Friday’s action:
Tacko Fall. The UCF big man was in the national spotlight when his team nearly upset Duke in the NCAA tournament’s second round. And now he’s making a case for an NBA future by shot blocking and playing solid pick-and-roll defense in front of scouts. After a strong showing in the G League Elite Camp earned Fall a spot at the combine, the Senegal product measured at 7-foot-7 in shoes with an 8-foot-2¼ wingspan and a 10-foot-2½ standing reach — shattering all the previous measurement records. Those measurements factored with a better-than-expected scrimmage performance should thrust Fall onto most mock draft boards.
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Brandon Clarke. During Gonzaga’s 2018-19 season, first team All-American Rui Hachimura was the team’s best player and a projected top-five pick. But here is an example of how the combine matters. Hachimura skipped the combine and likely fell way down in the lottery, whereas Clarke attended and boosted his stock as a top-10 pick. Despite posting one of the worst wingspans at the combine (which only emphasizes Clarke’s NCAA-leading shot blocking with the ‘Zags), Clarke showed off an impressive vertical jump of 40.50 inches, and fared surprisingly well in the lane agility drill.
Jordan Bone. Speaking of vertical jumps, Bone’s vertical leap of 42.50 was second-best on Thursday and his 3/4-court sprint was a 3.03 — the best of all potential draftees and a better time than Derrick Rose (3.05) and Russell Westbrook (3.08). For a player who flew under the radar at Tennessee and is entertaining the idea of returning to college, his showings at worst let NBA evaluators know his name.
What’s next for Celtics? Lottery, draft, and Anthony Davis trade talks
For the front office, next year basically starts now, as it steps into one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. The Celtics will try to convince two former All-Stars to stay, they will try to trade for a superstar, they will figure out what to do with up to four first-round draft picks, and they will try to assemble a roster that has better chemistry than the most recent one. Draft lottery Tuesday The Celtics could have two lottery picks in next month’s draft, or they could have none. But their preference would be to have one. Boston will receive the Kings’ pick as long as it does not land at No.
Nassir Little. Forecast as a top-five pick before the 2018-19 season, Little’s production off the bench at North Carolina was inconsistent and the forward admitted he displayed a lot of “hesitancy” in his game that he hopes to show scouts is in the past. Little’s sheer athletic gifts — a 7-foot-1¼ wingspan — make him hard to pass up in the top 10, and his combine helped punctuate he’ll likely be a better pro than college player. More than that, Little reportedly impressed in team interviews.
Luka Samanic. The 6-foot-9½ forward tested well in all categories—the shuttle run, vertical leap and ¾-court sprint. But it was his play in 5-on-5 scrimmages that will likely shift him up on mock draft boards as one of the few international prospects in this draft. The Croatian had 13 points in less than 20 minutes in one of the scrimmages, showing off his smooth stroke and his ability to defend multiple positions.
Kyle Guy. The Final Four most outstanding player is a late second-round pick at best. Looking at him at the combine, he definitely doesn’t pass the eye test as a skinny, 6-2 guard. But that’s why the 5-on-5 scrimmages are so vital for players like Guy, who we already know can shoot the lights out. So when he wasn’t making shots, it was less important compared to his strong showing of passing and driving ability on offense and his defensive quickness. Guy hasn’t lacked exposure, but seeing him blend in at a combine setting likely helped scouts see what they’d be missing by passing on him.
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Bol Bol. The son of NBA giant Manute Bol, the Oregon prospect had his NCAA career cut short with a season-ending foot injury. That lack of exposure dropped the formerly projected top-10 pick down quite a bit with his health uncertain. And unfortunately for Bol, who didn’t participate in drills or scrimmages but underwent measurements, his weight stood out at the combine. He checked in at 208 pounds, and given he's 7-2, that’s pretty frail. He weighed 234 last summer. In a physical game in which Bol will be expected to bang in the paint as well as step out with his versatility, those are the type of numbers that are off-putting and can cost a player two or more spots in the draft.
Tyler Herro. The Kentucky sharpshooter has been difficult to gauge as a middle-to-late round draft prospect. Some mock draft boards have him going in the top 14, others have him lower. While Herro didn’t struggle at the combine, his natural measurements won’t do him any favors. Herro’s 6-3¼ wingspan was one of the worst of the entire combine and that lack of length could be a deal breaker for some teams that might be weighing defensive potential alongside his obvious offensive prowess.
Darius Bazley. The former Syracuse signee wasn’t unspectacular at the combine, and his mere presence there will help his stock. But taking 2018-19 off drastically hurt Bazley’s pro future prospectus so he’s already fighting an uphill battle as far as exposure and relevancy. He initially announced he planned to play in the G-League instead of at Syracuse but then decided not to play in the G-League and trained on his own. His performance at the combine had the potential to bring his name back into the draft equation. It really didn’t, even though the 6-9 forward showed glimpses as an NBA-caliber talent in scrimmages. Meanwhile, high schooler Jalen Lecque is in a similar situation where he might turn pro as an 18-year-old, and all he did was enhance his stock at the combine by fitting in with college veterans.
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Shamorie Ponds. The St. John’s elite scoring guard posted the second-highest body fat percentage at the combine (9.8 percent). While that’s hardly something most teams will harp on, Ponds is in a unique situation as a projected late second-round pick, even with flashes of great play in scrimmages with offensive creativity and defensive eptitude. He’s also only 5-11 without shoes and trying to show he belongs — something that didn’t seem to come through at this combine due to lack of strength and efficiency.
Follow Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tacko Fall shatters records at NBA draft combine, while Bol Bol among big disappointments
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