Skip to content

NBA Draft Combine starts Wednesday in Chicago… but what does that mean?

May 14, 2014, 9:17 AM EDT

2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2 2013 NBA Draft Combine, Day 2

When the NFL Draft Combine takes place each year in Indianapolis, it is an event. Players’ 40 times are dissected, their performances analyzed, and guys move up or down in the draft based on the results. It’s a big deal.

The NBA holds its own Draft Combine — starting Wednesday in Chicago — where 60 guys hoping to get drafted run sprints, are timed through drills, and…

It’s not that big a deal.

Parts of it matter, but not the parts broadcast on television, not the drills that the players run through. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis goes out on Wednesday and surprises people with his vertical leap. It’s not going to impact his draft status much at all — teams have already scouted him in person and on tape, they already know his game.

“It can help, though like a lot of the other information, it’s just another piece of the puzzle,” PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld tells us. “It can also work the other way. Results that can be construed negatively will be gathered and used as well when fully evaluating.But the bump or drop will never be significant.”

Look at it this way: It’s a famous story that Kevin Durant could not bench press 185 pounds even once at the combine. That really has held back his ability to play the game, I mean, what team would want him on their roster? (Yes, that was sarcastic.)

Just like at the NFL combine, the biggest names skip the NBA event — Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, very possibly the top three in the draft this year, are all skipping the combine. Is that a smart move?

“I hate to say it, but yes,” Isaacson said. “Ideally, the top 60 guys would take part and go through the same process. But there really is no incentive for agents to allow players who are certain to be Top 5 guys to take part. One of the agent’s primary jobs is to control the flow of information about their client. Taking part in the combine takes it out of their hands, and they know they are unlikely to be penalized by any team for not taking part. The only way this could change is if it starts to backfire on players, but I don’t see that happening.”

There are two things that can dramatically impact draft status at the combine: The medical evaluation and the interviews with teams.

With the medical, this is the time NBA doctors give a thorough physical to every player, running every conceivable test. Pick up a red flag here and you will fall.

For a recent example, there is Jared Sullinger. The Ohio State power forward had a back issue that raised a red flag and he fell from a potential Top 5 pick in 2012 all the way down to Boston at No. 21. Those doctors were right — Sullinger required back surgery that forced him to miss much of his rookie year. Nobody quite knew if he would bounce all the way back from that, because backs can be tricky. So far, so good, he played in 74 games last season (starting 44) and put up 13.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. But there were legitimate questions. Same with DeJuan Blair and the fact he doesn’t have ACLs, which was found out at the Combine.

The other thing that matters is the interviews. This is the first chance teams really get to talk to players and they do that, plus they can throw IQ or personality tests at the players. Plus some odd questions.

“The interviews are probably the most important thing that will happen at the combine,” Isaacson told PBT. “It will be the player’s first chance to make an impression on decision makers away from the court. I know many long-time NBA personnel who have said they know in the first few minutes whether a guy would be right for their organization. The type of interview, as well as the level of impression, will vary from team to team, but making a strong impression can really fast-track the process for guys with certain clubs.”

The interview is where a GM leaves the room and says, “I’m in love with Player X. We have to get him.”

That said, what matters more to teams is the individual workouts — teams invite players they are interested in to come work out at the team’s facilities.

“I’d say the team workouts are more important in the decision process, mainly because the teams can tailor it to see specific things they are looking for from guys,” Isaacson said. “Also, the team workouts at least allow some level of actual playing, even if it is just 2-on-2 or 3-on-3, and team can form the invitee groups in such a way that the player(s) they are interested in have a certain kind of player to work out against. “

NBA TV will be all over the combine, broadcasting live. It’s entertaining. For us basketball junkies it is good theater.

Just understand what you’re seeing on the screen is not going to move a guy up or down the draft board all that much.

Latest Posts
  1. Former NBA All-Star Bob Kauffman dies at age 69

    Aug 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Spaulding NBA basketball Getty Images

    He was a star with the Buffalo Braves (the franchise that is now the L.A. Clippers).

  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo was confused when Anthony Davis talked smack, called him “kid”

    Aug 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks Getty Images

    “Dude, what are you talking about? You’re only a year older than me!” — Giannis Antetokounmpo on Anthony Davis calling him “kid.”

  3. Jahlil Okafor helps one kid dunk, brutally blocks another (VIDEO)

    Aug 2, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Jahlil Okafor Jahlil Okafor

    Okafor is getting acquainted with his young fans in Philadelphia.

  4. Clippers waive Jordan Hamilton

    Aug 1, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Jordan Hamilton Jordan Hamilton

    Hamilton played 14 games with the Clippers last season.

  5. Gregg Popovich expects Tim Duncan to play the “same boring game” as usual

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich

    That would be good news for the Spurs and bad news for the rest of the Western Conference.

  6. Report: Chris Paul to attend Team USA minicamp

    Aug 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chris Paul, Ray McCallum Chris Paul, Ray McCallum

    Paul is still in the running for a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.

  7. Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri sees Bismack Biyombo as key part of roster transformation

    Aug 1, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    Biyombo has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer on post moves, other parts of his game.

  8. Nets finally taking responsible path to rebuilding, don’t expect another spending spree next summer

    Aug 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett Getty Images

    The Nets will be paying the price for their win-now era for a few years to come still.

  9. Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:11 AM EDT

    Dwight Howard AP

    This is the right move, whether he decides to play in Rio or not.

  10. Watch Karl-Anthony Towns highlights from Summer League

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwu3mmzjztazntu1ogzhywnkzju2otmyzgnloty5otbl1 AP

    He looks like a guy who can live up to the No. 1 pick billing.

  11. Pelicans waive Toney Douglas, still await Norris Cole decision

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Norris Cole is still looking for a bigger payday.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2576)
  2. M. Miller (1787)
  3. L. James (1716)
  4. B. Haywood (1708)
  5. T. Thompson (1597)
  1. I. Thomas (1584)
  2. N. Young (1580)
  3. J. Smith (1561)
  4. S. Napier (1369)
  5. P. George (1345)