<
>
Insider

Prospect gets big boost after combine

5/28/2010

The NBA draft combine was supposed to be a waste of time. But for an event that included no 5-on-5 play or direct competition, the ramifications of the event continue to reverberate throughout the league.

The results of the strength and agility testing rippled through the league Wednesday along with findings from the medical portion of the testing.

Here's the latest:

He's Legit

Last year Tyler Hansbrough came into the combine looking like a mid-to-late first-round pick. Despite four years of terrific production at North Carolina, NBA GMs struggled with a perceived lack of size and athleticism for his position.

But at the combine, Hansbrough measured a legit 6-foot-8¼ in socks and 6-9.5 inches in shoes. He had a surprising 6-11.5 wingspan and a standing reach of 8-10 ... one inch better than No. 1 pick Blake Griffin.

He tested better than expected athletically as well. At 34 inches, his vertical matched up with Chris Bosh and Emeka Okafor. His 11.12 lane agility drill score was stellar for a big man and better than Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan. And his 3.23 three-quarter court sprint was quick for a big guy.

By draft night Hansbrough had moved into the lottery and went to the Indiana Pacers with the 13th pick.

This year's combine darling? Nevada forward Luke Babbitt.

Babbitt measured around 6-9 in shoes with an 8-9 standing reach. That doesn't blow you away. However, he had an impressive 6-11 wingspan and essentially measures up with Griffin (6-10 in shoes, an 8-9 standing reach and a 6-11 wingspan).

But Griffin is way more athletic, you say? Not according to the combine numbers.

Babbitt had a 37.5-inch max vertical, a 3.2-second sprint and an impressive 10.98 lane agility score. Griffin's numbers were 35.5, 3.28 and 10.95, respectively.

Griffin clearly had the strength advantage, benching a 185-pound bar 22 times to Babbitt's 15. But 15 reps is still an impressive number.

What about production on the court? Griffin clearly had Babbitt bested here. Griffin averaged 22.2 ppg and 14.1 rpg in 32 mpg his sophomore season. Babbitt averaged 21.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg in 37 mpg as a sophomore. However, Babbitt does bring two things to the table that Griffin doesn't -- 3-point shooting and ball-handling ability. Babbitt shot a blazing 43 percent from beyond the arc this past season and showed excellent ball-handling skills for a big man in the combine.

Of course, Babbitt isn't as good of a prospect as Griffin was. That's why we've had Babbitt No. 12 on our mock draft for two straight weeks. However, we might have him too low. Based on what I'm hearing, Babbitt could be in play as high as No. 9 to the Jazz.

Here's to Your Health

Every year at the combine, doctors from all 30 teams prod and poke at each prospect looking for potential injuries or medical issues that could affect their draft value. Sometimes the results can be devastating.

Last year Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair watched his stock plummet when medical tests at the combine revealed that he was missing ACLs in both knees. Until that point, most teams had Blair ranked as a mid-first-round pick. Eventually Blair slid all the way into the second round.

This year, luckily, there is no version of Blair. League sources told ESPN.com that none of the top prospects have any serious medical issues that would affect their stock.

Let's See What You've Got

Just two days after the combine ended, a number of GMs and scouts made their way to Minnesota for the first of two large group workouts (the second will be held in New Jersey June 9 -11).

Most of the players will have shown up to both locations with team personnel spread between both sites.

These workouts are more competitive than the combine drills we saw in Chicago. Players can go head-to-head in a 3-on-3 setting, something elite prospects shy away from.

While the top three tiers of talent aren't at the workouts, a number of promising first-round prospects did make the trip.

Craig Brackins, Willie Warren, Terrico White, Devin Ebanks, Keith Gallon, Stanley Robinson, Lance Stephenson, Jarvis Varnado, Jordan Crawford, Armon Johnson, Dominique Jones, Jerome Jordan, Gani Lawal, Darington Hobson, Trevor Booker, Derrick Caracter, Charles Garcia, Manny Harris, Sylven Landesberg, Andy Rautins, Ryan Richards, Latavious Williams, Matt Bouldin, Luke Harangody, Lazar Hayward, Luc Louves and Scottie Reynolds were among the participants in Minnesota.

I've talked to a number of NBA people who were at the workouts and the response hasn't been really hot or cold on anyone. But here are a few tidbits of interest.

D-Leaguer Latavious Williams may have made the biggest impression. Williams skipped college and went straight to the NBDL last year. His numbers weren't awesome, but the scouts who saw him play there thought he had a chance at making the NBA. Williams wasn't invited to Chicago for the draft combine, so this was his first chance to really show he belonged. The results, while not overwhelming, helped him.

"He's a good athlete and I thought he really went out there and competed," one GM said. "I think he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He's got to be in the mix. Another year or two of development and he could be a player."

Crawford lit it up the first day. He is a terrific scorer, and that stood out among his competition. "No one can get buckets in this group like Crawford can," one GM said. "He was unstoppable today."

Brackins also made a positive impression. "He was really showing off his face-the-basket game," one GM said. "If you pair him with a point guard who can really run the pick-and-pop, he could have a long NBA career."

Stephenson continues to impress NBA teams after a strong combine. "As far as guys who just know how to play, he's it," one NBA scout said. "He's going to be great in 'iso' situations in the league. If all the red flags about him weren't there, I'm pretty sure this kid's a lottery pick. He's going to tempt a lot of people."

Ebanks also had his fair share of fans. "I think we've probably been too hard on the kid," another GM said. "He played really hard, he can really defend and he was shooting the ball pretty well."

Finally, there was some love for Dominique Jones. "He doesn't do one thing great, but overall he's a guy who just really knows how to play and he competes really, really hard. If he was a better shooter or a little more athletic, I think we'd be talking about him as a mid-first-round pick."