What makes the regular season and first and second rounds of the NBA Playoffs so good is that you can usually rely on at least one game every night. But once we hit the Conference Finals, NBA Finals, and the offseason, there is just less basketball to watch. This is why I savor things like the NBA Draft Combine, Summer League, and the World Championships/Olympics.
At this point, today’s combine is over, but it will be re-airing tonight and will continue in full swing tomorrow. Like the NFL Draft Combine, which gets quadruple the coverage as the NBA Combine, players have the opportunity to raise their stocks tremendously. Stephen Curry was certainly a Lottery pick last year, but at last year’s combine, he also displayed the quickness, ball handling skills, and passing skills that helped make his rookie campaign so memorable, and probably prevented him from slipping to the Knicks. But besides the “sure things,” the combine really does give teams the chance to update their scouting reports about the rest of the players in the Draft to make more informed decisions come Draft Day.
Rodrigue Beaubois and Darren Collison were considered Draft steals, but according to NBADraft.net’s analysis of last year’s combine, you should have already known: “Beaubois has the most freakish length of any point guard in the Draft with a 6-10 wingspan at 6-2. Looked good shooting the ball displaying a smooth release. Collison showed his blinding speed in the full court speed dribbling drill. Knocked down some 3 balls, solid performance.” In other words, all the signs were there starting a month before the Draft.
According to Chad Ford’s Must Impress List, Willie Warren (Oklahoma), Devin Ebanks (WVU), Larry Sanders (VCU), Gani Lawal (GT), and Lance Stephenson (Cincy), are the five guys who need a great showing at the combine in order to secure getting picked in the late first round/early second round. I think it’s also safe to add Quincy Pondexter (Washington) and Dominique Jones (S. Florida) to this list.
Also like the NFL Draft Combine, which has the famous Wonderlic Test, NBA scouts look for more than just physical giftedness. And as advanced statistics become more widespread, teams don’t just look for the guy who can jump the highest but the guy who times his jumps right to give himself the best chance to block a shot. The Celtics employ consultant Dr. Jon Niednagel, known as “The Brain Doctor,” to help determine a player’s cerebral toughness. Last year at the combine, he said Tyreke Evans would win Rookie of the Year. ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke to him about what he looks for in a player at the combine:
“I look at more than just body language, my research shows that people have inborn designs. I watch how guys move whether they’re more smooth which is more right brain dominant, whether their more robotic and mechanical its more the left brain. The reason that’s important is not only when it’s a big game and tight, when guys get loose, but also it effects your vision. The right brain dominant guys have better peripheral awareness so they can see the floor better, wider; and the left brain people have more of a tunnel vision so when the pressure really hits they don’t see the floor too well.”
Interesting stuff. I wonder if Steve Nash only has a right brain. And if the combine isn’t enough ball for you, make sure to check out Game 4 of the 1986 NBA Finals, Celtics vs. Rockets, airing tomorrow on ESPN Classic at 5 P.M. ET.
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