If NBA executives were hoping the combine would provide a venue to watch the best collegiate players in the world battle each other, they came away disappointed.
Virtually every big name declined to participate in the basketball events at the combine. The vast majority of them claimed they would have played, but their agents had other ideas. Of the projected 14 lottery picks by DraftExpress, only Patrick Patterson participated.
The agents attempting to seize control of the drafting process didn't go unnoticed, and as first reported by Draft Express' Jonathan Givony, the canceled interviews with three players they were scheduled to interview after they refused to work out. In the long run the gesture may prove to be fruitless, but I applaud them for at least taking a stand.
And that's not to say there wasn't a lot relevant happening in Chicago, as the interviews the teams were conducting with the prospects were as important in helping teams become comfortable with these prospects as the workouts might have been. And, obviously, the measurement data is always in high demand, even if it may be a little overanalyzed at times.
Still, the NBA Combine presents a great opportunity to collect a lot of information on players teams are going to be significantly invested towards in five weeks, and the fact that agents are curtailing the workouts and diminishing the overall value of the event is disconcerting.
Players declining to work out isn't a new phenomenon, but it's a growing problem. Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet both declined last year, but the scope of the problem increased dramatically this season. Last year there were the only 2 lottery picks who declined.
As for the players interviews with the media, it's tempting to try to read too much from interviews, from players whose main focus is simply not to screw up. It's hard to say anything said here really changes a players draft stock, but what it does give you is some insight into who they are as a person, where they came from, and a chance to reinforce or dispel previously formed opinions.
As such, below are winners and losers from the past two days of interviews.
Patterson was perhaps the most well-spoken of the attendees, having the right answer, delivered in the right tone, all the while sounding sincere.
When asked about John Wall, he talked glowing about his leadership. When asked about the #1 pick, he diplomatically said both Wall and Turner were great players worthy of such an honor, but his loyalties would steer him to Wall. When DeMarcus Cousins was brought up, he emphatically stated that there's no reasons teams should be concerned with his attitude. Overall, he sounded like a genuinely great teammate.
On what a team would miss out on if they passed on Cousins due to personality concerns, he stated "one of the best big men, if not the best big man [in the draft]. Person who can score inside, person who provides a lot of points per minute, who rebounds extremely hard, and runs the floor exceptionally well, plays great defense, and works hard on and off the court."
The fact that he wanted to, and did, work out on the basketball drills only gives him bonus points.
Udoh was both extremely polite and honest, while being very confident in his abilities, including once jokingly referring to himself as "a watered down Kevin Garnett".
On playing defense, Udoh stated "something about stopping somebody, it gets me going. You get a critical stop, and it wins championships. It's just something I love, blocking shots. It gets everybody going."
He continued, "The next time [after a blocked shot], they're going to look at you right in your eyes and say 'aw man, here he comes again'".
About his parents growing up, Udoh seemed excited to help his family out. "I'm a self motivator, I just think of how hard my parents have to work, and with this step that I can make, hopefully, I can help them, lessen the pressure," he stated.
When asked what he would be doing if he weren't a basketball player his response was coaching, so he could help kids and help send them to college.
Udoh certainly did nothing to decrease his stock this week.
No player looked as comfortable as John Wall, and he went a long way to showing that he's ready to be the face - and hope - of a franchise.
Wall went above and beyond the call of duty with regards to the interview process, giving at least a dozen impromptu one on one interviews that are beyond the scope of what's required at the media sessions.
He dissected the intricacies of how he's trying to improve on the pick and roll, fielded questions about his late father and how it affected him growing up, and explained his own bouts of immaturity.
It's not that Wall revealed anything earth shattering, or said anything he hadn't said in the post. He simply reaffirmed the charisma that is going to make him more to a basketball team than just a superstar.
Both Wesley Johnson and Evan Turner were good interviews, both looking at times uncomfortable, but always courteous and informative. Daniel Orton was the best at providing sound bites. Paul George was a good interview as well, and worked out very well in the basketball portion of the combine. Hassan Whiteside's measurements alone put him on this list, even if he did come off a bit too sure of himself at times during the interviews.
Check out my article from the combine on DeMarcus Cousins for more information. If ever there was a player who needed to have a good combine, it was DeMarcus Cousins, and he failed to deliver. From his combative stance towards reporters, to his weight and body fat percentage being less-than-stellar, to some odd quotes about him coming from teammate Daniel Orton, Cousins did not deliver enough to assuage the fears of General Managers and fans alike.
One of the more perplexing quotes from the interviews was Ed Davis. When asked about his offensive game, Davis said "being at North Carolina and our system, the bigs are back to the basket a lot, and people think that I don't really have face-up skills," Davis stated. "It's just that I haven't really had the opportunity to show people that. People will see in the future that I am a face-up player and not a back to the basket player."
The problem is there really is no evidence to support this. Virtually all of his field goal attempts over his two years at North Carolina were in the paint, and on the rare occasions he did attempt a jumper they were neither pretty nor efficient. Davis is going to have to prove a lot in his workouts for this statement to have any merit.
It's not that Favors necessarily said anything wrong, it's that he really didn't say much at all. Very guarded and laid back, Favors gave the most one-word answers in the group. I can't say anything Favors said or did hurt his draft stock, but he was a little underwhelming in the interview process. He did measure fairly well, which in all honesty is more important.
A few awards below, based on my completely unscientific observatiosn:
Best interview: John Wall
Funniest: Daniel Orton
Most confident: Hassan Whiteside
Most charismatic: John Wall
Most controversial: DeMarcus Cousins
Most well spoken: Patrick Patterson
Least informative: Derrick Favors