Commentary

Buzz from the NBA Draft Combine

Updated: May 28, 2009, 4:04 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- The entire league is represented here, revving up for the first NBA Draft Combine. After years of having five-on-five games here and in Orlando, Fla., the league finally scrapped the effort for a more NFL-style combine.

Fifty-two players have been invited to the camp, including all potential lottery picks. The only elite prospects missing are Spain's Ricky Rubio and Italy's Brandon Jennings. However, several of the potential top picks, including Blake Griffin, will be participating only in the non-basketball parts of the event.

The combine kicked off Wednesday night as players began 30-minute individual interviews with team representatives at the Westin hotel. Each team had as many as four interviews Wednesday and will hold many more Thursday and Friday.

Starting Thursday morning, players will head to the Attack Athletics gym to work out from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. (ESPNU will broadcast the workouts from 2 to 5 p.m. ET.)

Players will be broken into four groups: point guards, shooting guards, forwards and bigs. They then will go through three sets of activities: a series of drills run by NBA assistant coaches; strength and agility testing, including the bench press, the 3/4-court sprint, shuttle drills and the vertical jump; and a physical on the last two days that will be shared with every team in the league.

That's the basic format -- but a format no one seems happy with. A couple of general managers told me Wednesday that they won't even make the trip from their hotel to the gym.

"After spending hundreds of hours and millions of dollars on scouting, what am I going to learn watching players do three hours of layup drills at half speed?" one GM said. "I think the league is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the day of a relevant and valuable pre-draft camp is behind us."

That might be true. I'm not sure what anyone is going to learn in the skills portion of the workout that they haven't learned from watching hours of tape ... but the old way wasn't working, either. More and more top prospects were saying no to the pre-draft camp, and by last year, just a handful of prospects playing in the camp had any shot of going in the first round. In other words, while ideally everyone would play in the five-on-five games, all the guys everyone really wanted to see were skipping the event. How much good was it if the top talents weren't showing?

Call me a perpetual optimist, but I think there are a number of advantages to the pre-draft combine.

First, it gives everyone a chance to get an up-close-and-personal look at the top draft picks. While the drills they are doing might not reveal a lot, the interviews can be really telling and teams always scrutinize measurements closely.

Second, having a league-wide physical is important. Every team wants a baseline from NBA doctors on each player. Teams might follow up with more testing, but this becomes an important baseline.

Third, it's a chance for every GM in the league to get together and gossip. The Westin lobby was filled with team executives socializing and, in a few cases, hunkering down for substantive talks about potential deals.

Finally, for those of us who don't happen to be GMs, it's really a lot of fun to see so much talent on the floor together ... even if it is players weaving through orange plastic cones. For a hoops junkie, it's a lot of fun.

Here's the rest of the gossip I heard Wednesday ...

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider