CHICAGO — The NBA draft combine doesn’t quite make-or-break a player’s stock the way it can in the NFL, but it does allow prospects to separate themselves with their measurements and athletic testing, as well as provide an opportunity for less touted players to shine in scrimmages and drills.
Day one of the combine kicked off Thursday in Chicago with the NBA world watching. This is the type of setting where you turn the corner and bump into Larry Bird, turn another corner and spot Magic Johnson. Just about every prominent executive in the league was on hand as the next generation of talent was poked, prodded and measured.
Here are the winners and losers from day one at the combine.
Winner: Mohamed Bamba
The Texas freshman just put up the biggest wingspan measurement in the history of the combine.
Here's a look at how 20-year-old #Texas center prospect Mo Bamba's 2018 #nbadraft combine measurements stack up historically, according to the @DraftExpress database pic.twitter.com/027puo5hl2— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) May 17, 2018
He’s also an incredibly impressive and self-aware speaker who seems destined to help himself in team interviews:
.@NBADraft prospect Mo Bamba details his draft process thus far.#NBACombine— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2018
: ESPN 2 pic.twitter.com/VFq2Cla39l
I flew out to USA Basketball camp to profile Bamba as he was entering his junior year of high school. Even on a court with the likes of Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and Markelle Fultz, he stood out for his ridiculous physical tools.
Bamba’s frame has filled out a good deal since then, and he still has so much more room to grow into his body. It’s also possible he’s just scratching the surface of his skill level. For now, Bamba is rather raw on offense. He’s going to be a lob target early in his NBA career, not someone who is going to put the ball on the floor or beat you in the post.
There is some potential in his jump shot, though, which has been overhauled this spring:
Mo Bamba made 14 threes on the season, seems to have soft touch and might have more potential as a shooter than he demonstrated in college with @TexasMBB. He has good hands + will be able to space the floor vertically— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) May 17, 2018
Here he is working with @DrewHanlen leading up to the combine pic.twitter.com/w319GiG0EU
Bamba hit 14-of-51 threes at Texas, good for 27.5 percent. NBA teams are going to give him that shot all day when he enters the league. One day, Bamba might start making them pay.
Loser: Trae Young and Collin Sexton’s height
Trae Young is going to be one of the smallest point guards in the NBA. From ESPN:
Trae Young ranks among the bottom 10 percent of players ever measured at the combine in height, wingspan and weight, measuring 6-1¾ in shoes with a 6-3 wingspan and a 178-pound frame.
Of course, Young’s game has never been predicated on size or athleticism (Young didn’t go through athletic testing). His game is all skill, entering the draft potentially as the best shooter and best passer in this class.
Young is often pitted against Alabama’s Collin Sexton as the best point guard prospect in the draft. Sexton has been built up as the bigger, stronger, more athletic player. That remains true, but it’s also worth noting Sexton also measured small. He checked in at 6’1.5, 183 pounds with a 6’7.25 wingspan. That height is in the bottom 10 percent of players ever measured at the combine, per ESPN.
Winner: Grayson Allen
Oh no. Grayson Allen just killed the combine:
Grayson Allen's 10.31 lane agility speed is one of the five best marks in our NBA Combine database's history. Seems like he's going to end up testing off the charts here athletically.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2018
He also posted a 40.5-inch vertical, which was tied for sixth best among players who tested Thursday. What makes that even more impressive is that Allen did it as a one-footed leaper:
Getting UP at the #NBACombine! #PhantomCam pic.twitter.com/5GhdB4whxu— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2018
The first two players in that video are Anfernee Simons (the fifth-year high school player in this draft) and Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo, who were two of the other six players to post verticals of at least 40 inches. Notice how they took off from two feet. Scouts always look for one-footed leapers because they can get off the ground quicker. That’s a pretty ridiculous number for Allen off one foot.
Loser: Teams hoping Jaren Jackson Jr. slips past No. 4
Man.— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) May 17, 2018
Jaren Jackson measured out as well as you could have hoped:
Hand length: 10in (T-1st)
Hand width: 10in (T-10th)
Height w/o shoes: 6'9.75 (7th)
Standing reach: 9'2 (6th)
Wingspan: 7'5.25 (3rd)
Jackson has such a rare combination of size, skill set and developing athleticism. He unquestionably offers the draft’s best combination of three-point shooting (38-of-96, good for 39.6 percent) and rim protection (No. 4 block rate in the country at 14.3). In a draft with a ton of bigs expected to go near the top of the lottery, no one fits better into the modern NBA than Jackson, even if his per-game stats are essentially half of what contemporaries Marvin Bagley and Deandre Ayton posted.
I’ve had Luka Doncic as the No. 1 player in this draft since last June, but Jackson is giving him a hard push in my mind right now. I have him solidly as No. 2 on my big board. He’s talented enough to be a star in this league.
Winner: Josh Okogie and Kevin Huerter
Josh Okogie is another guy who appears to be crushing the athletic testing. 42 inch vertical, which is the best mark at the Combine so far. Also has a 3.03 shuttle run time, which is also #1 so far (Grayson Allen #2 at 3.04). Playing in the five on five right now.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2018
Okogie is a high-motor sophomore wing from Georgia Tech who profiles as a potential 3-and-D player. He’s only 6’4, but he measured with a 7-foot wingspan and once again proved himself to be a monster athlete in the testing. He hit 38 of 100 threes this season and hit 82 percent from the foul line.
Okogie made his SB Nation mock draft debut this week, as did another player who stood out at the combine: Maryland’s Kevin Huerter.
Kevin Huerter also appears to be helping himself so far. Looks automatic from NBA range with his feet set. Passing it well. Putting in a good effort in defensively. He's grown over an inch since last year according to the measurements. Seems to have strong buzz among NBA folks.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2018
Huerter is potentially one of the best shooters in this draft if he decides to stay in. He hit 41.7 of his threes (73-for-175) as a sophomore for the Terrapins this season, and also showed he can pass a little, too (3.4 assists per game).
The NBA draft combine finishes on Friday in Chicago.