NBA teams and hopeful prospects assembled in Chicago last week for a packed six-day schedule of events, including the NBA draft combine, the G League Elite Camp and the NBA draft lottery — as well as the related scrimmages, agency pro days, interviews, drills, measurements, athletic testing and much more that were part of the combine festivities.
There was no shortage of drama as executives from all 30 teams congregated with agents, college coaches, trainers and media members at one central location. Conference finals were underway, general manager and coaching hires were conducted and the unofficial start of NBA free-agency negotiations was in full swing behind the scenes. (Some observers refer to this as tampering season.)
The centerpiece of the occasion was the NBA combine, which wrapped up Sunday and saw several players either help or hurt their standings heading into the NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 23. Below is a look at our key observations from the week in the Windy City. Note that listed rankings refer to the most recent version of ESPN’s NBA draft Top 100, updated on May 24.
Winners | Losers | Measurement notes
What makes Jabari Smith the potential top pick? I broke it down with him at the NBA Combine in Chicago. Always so impressed with Jabari every time we sit down. Professional approach to the game at just 19. pic.twitter.com/x6mR7LttwT
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 20, 2022
Tuesday’s lottery removed one of the big questions from the 2022 NBA draft — who is picking first? — and cleared a path for Smith to make a short trip from Atlanta to join what’s becoming one of the most interesting young rosters in the NBA in the Orlando Magic. While Magic executives have made it clear they will conduct a thorough process — even extending beyond the widely believed top three prospects in Smith, Holmgren and Paolo Banchero — most NBA teams firmly believe that’s a formality and that Smith is all but assured to become the top pick. Smith, for his part, appears thrilled with that development. So is Holmgren over his looming marriage with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is also the overwhelming expectation from NBA executives with whom we spoke at the draft combine. — Givony
Dyson Daniels had (in my view) the most impressive showing of any prospect on the Pro Day circuit at the NBA Combine, shooting the lights out and looking like he still has immense potential he’s yet to tap into. Starting to generate some top-five pick buzz. pic.twitter.com/fiJ1ez4Qq4
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 21, 2022
Dyson Daniels (Top 100: No. 6)
Daniels continued his rapid ascent with an impressive showing at the Octagon Pro Day, where he displayed impressive shot-making prowess. Decision-makers from virtually every team in the NBA lottery were on hand to watch what appeared to be, in my view, the most eye-opening workout of the week in Chicago. NBA teams were buzzing afterward about Daniels’ talent, throwing out comparisons to the likes of Tyrese Haliburton and Khris Middleton.
Daniels, an alumnus of the NBA Global Academy and G League Ignite program, has grown considerably in the past few years, adding 3 inches and 30 pounds of bulk. Even so, he appears nowhere close to reaching his physical potential with an outstanding frame and near 7-foot wingspan. The knowledge that Daniels has guard skills, with measurements that should allow him to moonlight at power forward as his frame fills out over time, is intriguing in today’s NBA. The way teams rave about Daniels’ interviews at the combine and the background intel they have received is clearly working in his favor. There’s a real comfort level with what seems to be an extremely high floor for Daniels as a prospect, while the thought process regarding his ultimate ceiling appears to be evolving daily. — Givony
Shaedon Sharpe put on a show for NBA teams at his Pro Day in Chicago today, showing his shot-making prowess and explosiveness in front of quite a few decision makers. pic.twitter.com/tN5iLoZ3Pj
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 17, 2022
Sharpe’s pro day drew a huge audience of decision-makers from virtually every team to watch a player very few NBA executives had seen live. Sharpe started the workout with a bang, demonstrating his impressive vertical explosiveness and near 7-foot wingspan with a series of highlight-reel-caliber finishes, before proceeding to knock down a variety of difficult pull-up jumpers and step-backs from all over the floor.
The feedback from the workout was varied. Several teams in the top 10 said they were blown away by Sharpe’s overall talent level, while others said they were hoping to see other parts of his game, namely his first step and spot-up shooting ability, as they still don’t know enough about him to make an accurate evaluation for how his career might look. Teams in Sharpe’s range will get a closer look at him in the coming weeks in private workouts, which should provide more clarity on exactly how ready he is to help a NBA team and where he can expect to hear his name called on draft night. — Givony
Andrew Nembhard had the single-most impressive performance of the NBA Combine thus far with 26 points, 11 assists. Made all the right reads out of PNR and had his floater and pullup game working all game long. pic.twitter.com/3qdBlQnZUh
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 20, 2022
Nembhard suffered a minor quad injury during the athletic testing portion of the NBA combine, which caused him to miss the opening game of the scrimmages, something that clearly disappointed him, judging by his dejected body language on the sideline. Nembhard refused to let the injury hold him back and elected to push through and play in the second game, something NBA teams said they appreciated considering he has a far more impressive body of work than the majority of players who decided to sit out. Nembhard proceeded to have one of the most productive NBA combine games in pre-draft camp history, posting 26 points and 11 assists.
Even more impressive than the line was the way Nembhard controlled the game from start to finish with his pace, handle and outstanding feel for the game, never looking sped up for an instant and making all the right reads and decisions while whipping the ball all over the floor off a live dribble, out of pick-and-roll with both hands. His 26 points felt effortless, as Nembhard never appeared to be forcing the issue, taking open shots that were presented to him and attacking the rim aggressively while showing a polished midrange and floater game.
The success experienced by similar-minded backup point guards, including Tyus Jones and Monte Morris, helps a player like Nembhard, but the fact that he measured 6-foot-4½ in shoes with the type of dimensions that multipositional NBA guards like Donte DiVincenzo, Grayson Allen and Alex Caruso possess should give him versatility to play in different lineup configurations. Nembhard leapfrogged over several players who elected to sit out the scrimmages with his strong play, and may ultimately get looks as high as the late first round on draft night. — Givony
With the majority of top executives evaluating him live for the first time, the 21-year-old Santa Clara wing Williams made a strong impression with his play in Chicago, looking like a surefire first-round pick thanks to his combination of size, length, skill and two-way impact. Williams averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 24.1 minutes over two games while shooting 75% from the field. Playing predominantly on the ball at Santa Clara as one of the most efficient pick-and-roll creators in the NCAA, it was valuable to see Williams thrive in a variety of different roles alongside other collegiate stars.
Given that Williams is unlikely to be handed the keys to a team at the NBA level, watching him add value as a screener, cutter, downhill driver off the catch and defender was a welcomed sight, especially when you couple that with his ambidextrous court vision and pace as a primary ball handler. Williams whipped the ball all over the floor with either hand, stretched out for a few poster dunks thanks to his 7-2 wingspan and 39-inch vertical, and played with good energy defensively. He turned down a few rhythm 3s before eventually turning the ball over and is still turning himself into a consistent shooter from beyond the arc (35% on his career), which is important, as he’s not overly quick off the bounce. Williams more than proved his West Coast Conference production will have no problem translating to the NBA, and he deserves real consideration in the top 25 or so come June. — Schmitz
Dereon Seabron helped himself with two strong outings at the NBA Combine, showing impressive speed, ball-handling and passing while playing mostly PG at 6-foot-6 with a 6’9 wingspan. Scored 32 points in 59 minutes. pic.twitter.com/b2W1SVkNUC
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 20, 2022
Few players helped themselves in the NBA combine scrimmages as much as Seabron, who averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game on outstanding efficiency. Seabron’s excellent size and length gives him intriguing potential as a big point guard, as he got virtually anywhere he wanted all combine long with his excellent first step, elusive handle and ability to change gears explosively, often dishing off unselfishly after collapsing the defense but also seeking out contact aggressively in the lane despite his thin frame. Seabron’s perimeter shooting and inconsistent off-the-ball defense are still a major question mark, but that’s something NBA teams may be willing to be patient with considering the way he moves at his size and the upside he displays as a big playmaker. — Givony
Strong NBA Combine outing from freshman Terquavion Smith with 17 points. Made some nice reads off a live dribble and showed his bucket-getting ability in a variety of ways. Clearly one of the most talented players here. pic.twitter.com/wCirw8ymOD
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 19, 2022
Smith’s appearance was one of the most highly anticipated of the NBA combine scrimmages, and Seabron’s NC State teammate did not disappoint in his lone outing, making several scintillating plays offensively while also showing some of the things he needs to work on. The success of players including Anfernee Simons, Jordan Poole and Bones Hyland has every NBA team looking for explosive shot-makers in a similar mold. The 19-year-old Smith fits that profile well and made several plays at the combine to show off his potential as a bucket-getter, rising up fearlessly for deep, out-of-rhythm pull-up and step-back 3-pointers out of isolation, getting downhill with an excellent first step, changing speeds smoothly out of polished crossovers and showing nice creativity with the way he finishes in the lane.
While Smith is not immune to taking questionable shots or getting out of control with his decision-making — he needed 17 field goal attempts to score his 17 points — he did show some flashes creating for teammates off a live dribble that bode well for his ability to develop his combo guard skills as he gains experience and the game slows down for him. That will be important considering he weighed in at just 165 pounds — light even for a point guard — and doesn’t always bring the type of intensity you’d like to see defensively off the ball. Regardless, his youth, upside and scoring instincts appear to have placed Smith firmly in play for teams drafting in the first round, with plenty more to gain in private workouts over the next month. — Givony
Big showing for Mega Mozzart’s Karlo Matkovic at the Excel Pro Day. Wasn’t on many teams’ radar prior but walked out with a slew of workout invites. Bouncy 6’11 big with a much nicer stroke than you’d expect considering he’s barely taken any 3s in his career. Has some good buzz. pic.twitter.com/dwDMsG3wYl
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 22, 2022
Karlo Matkovic (Top 100: No. 61)
While NBA teams sometimes groan at the growing importance of pro days in the pre-draft process (although they never stop attending them), there is a certain type of prospect who can really benefit from the platform these workouts provide, especially when considering high-level decision-makers are always present en masse. Matkovic was one such prospect — despite being ranked in ESPN’s 2022 draft Top 100 all season, and being teammates with projected first-rounder Nikola Jovic, he wasn’t taken very seriously as a legit draft option until an explosive showing in Chicago. Matkovic was one of the bounciest big men we saw all week on the pro day circuit, regularly putting his head on the rim and surprisingly showing a very natural stroke and impressive shot-making prowess considering he’s attempted only six total 3s in his 137-game career, according to the DraftExpress database.
Matkovic’s energy on the floor was infectious, and it was clear that his American workout partners gravitated to him and were having a great deal of fun witnessing his introduction to the larger NBA world in Chicago. Matkovic’s agency says it has quite a few workout requests following the pro day, more requests than available dates at this point. There’s a much better chance of Matkovic hearing his name called on draft night now than existed last week, but he also has the ability to withdraw his name on June 13 and try to ride his momentum into an even more favorable position next year. — Givony
Dalen Terry’s huge personality was on full display in an impressive showing at the Excel Sports Pro Day. Bouncy 6’7 guard with a 7’1 wingspan is clearly making strides with his perimeter shooting. pic.twitter.com/ZBtuEsqHa6
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 21, 2022
Terry was one of the combine’s biggest winners without even playing a 5-on-5 game. Officially just testing the waters, Terry is quickly emerging as a potential top-20 pick now that teams have had the opportunity to sit down with the charismatic, high-energy 19-year-old to learn more about him. League executives we spoke with consistently raved about Terry’s interviews, citing his competitiveness, feel for the game and engaging personality.
Terry’s intensity and infectious personality came to life during his pro day, further confirming the elite intangibles that evaluators who followed him closely raved about all season. There’s surely another level Terry can reach as a player, as he averaged just 8.0 points in 27.5 minutes last season while connecting on just 28 3s in 37 games. But Terry isn’t short on confidence, as he was sure to point out that he shot 47% from 3 over the last 10 games of the season when I mentioned the questions about his shooting. Although he lacks the most picturesque mechanics, Terry has already proved in workout settings that concerns about his shooting may indeed be overblown.
While he won’t be drafted as a go-to scorer, Terry’s combination of physical tools at 6-7, 195 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan, defensive versatility, passing ability and overall willingness to do the little things that impact winning could earn him looks even as high as the lottery, sharing some similarities to a smaller Scottie Barnes in terms of his all-around impact and approach to the game. — Schmitz
Mark Williams got to show some different sides to his game at the Excel Pro Day. Williams measured 7’2 at the NBA Combine with a 7’7 wingspan and 9’9 standing reach. pic.twitter.com/wdHLX79w1b
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 21, 2022
Williams’ 9-foot-9 standing reach will officially make the Duke center the longest player in the NBA, and our historical measurement database, the moment he steps foot on the floor, edging out Mo Bamba (9-7.5), Rudy Gobert (9-7) and Boban Marjanovic (9-7). Williams’ sheer reach immediately makes him a game-changer as both a lob-catcher and rim-protector, elements we saw all season in the ACC as he finished a remarkable 76% of his shots at the rim in the half court. Williams also ranks No. 3 among our top 100 in block percentage and fourth in offensive rebound percentage, regularly creating extra possessions with tap-outs thanks to his timing and length. On top of all that, the fact that Williams weighed in at 242 pounds despite having considerable room to fill out his frame (5.4% body fat) bodes well for the 20-year-old, as he’s not the most physical big man out there. Expect Williams to generate significant interest throughout the lottery, potentially even leapfrogging fellow center Jalen Duren. — Schmitz
Touted as a potential first-round sleeper at different points of his junior season, Roddy was unable to back that up in two 5-on-5 games, averaging just 5 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist per game while missing all six of his 3-point attempts. Roddy still had a positive impact on the game by sliding up and checking bigs on some possessions, attacking off the catch and making heady reads in the half court. But as Roddy struggled to knock down 3s, he started to turn down open looks and had issues finishing around the rim versus length (5-for-11 from 2).
While energetic on defense with strong athletic testing numbers, he proved he’s much more effective in small spaces on that end than he is covering ground given his 261-pound frame. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Roddy had his ups and downs given the adjustment from the Mountain West Conference. In spite of those issues, Roddy was able to really shine in his pro day, showcasing his underrated leaping ability and shooting touch. He still has fans in NBA circles given his strength, agility and versatility, and will benefit from the success of players like Grant Williams in the NBA playoffs. But Roddy was unable to use the combine platform to emerge as a legitimate first-round candidate like I expected he might. — Schmitz
Leonard Miller (Top 100: No. 44)
As the youngest player currently projected to be drafted, not turning 19 until late November, Miller’s lack of experience was evident in his two games at the NBA combine, where he shot just 7-of-18 from the field and looked a step slow with his decision-making and off-ball awareness defensively. Miller is using the pre-draft process to learn what he needs to work on to become the high-level player his sky-high potential suggests, and he walked out of Chicago with a long list of things he’ll have to improve on long-term. None of this should be a surprise considering Miller was a 6-5, non-shooting guard just a few years ago, before hitting a late growth spurt and blossoming into a five-star-caliber prospect as a high school senior. Unlikely to secure the first-round assurances he’s seeking, Miller will now likely be picking between attending college at Arizona and spending a year in the G League Ignite program. — Givony
A year after seeing a record six players propel themselves into the first round by competing in NBA combine scrimmages, teams were expecting agents to bet on players and try to solidify or improve their standing in Chicago. The opposite occurred, as a shocking 50 players elected to sit out the scrimmages or didn’t make it to Chicago at all, a huge number considering only 58 players will hear their name called on June 23. With 16 players currently projected to be drafted who did indeed compete in the scrimmages, and at least a half-dozen others who had stock-boosting showings, there are bound to be a large number of players who end up going undrafted with a major bullet in their holster they elected not to use.
Most of those 50 players instead opted for the safety of the more controlled pro day setting, which sometimes resembled choreographed dance routines more than real basketball. NBA executives say they view pro days, of which 160 players will participate in 25 separate events, as a supplemental tool but not one that replaces competitive scrimmaging as an evaluation tool. In fairness to agencies, NBA teams have yet to consistently show they are willing to reward those who choose to play 5-on-5 rather than resting on their laurels. Teams also tend not to dismiss poor two-day showings by well-known prospects, which is a major reason this cat-and-mouse game exists. Private workouts usually end up being key, with the combine’s main purpose the ability to obtain a huge batch of medicals and interview sessions with prospects.
While getting buy-in to live scrimmaging has been difficult, the NBA continues to innovate with the combine experience as a whole, which teams uniformly raved about in terms of the level of organization and detail that goes into every part of the week, aided by the spectacular setting of sparkling Wintrust Arena. The coaching staffs who were assembled, and especially the drills portion of the event (which spanned all of Wednesday and was coordinated by former Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen) garnered quite a bit of praise for mixing in competitive action with gamelike situations that prospects will encounter in the NBA. — Givony
Other measurement takeaways
LSU’s Tari Eason measured the widest hands at the combine at 11 inches (9.25 inches long), edging out Arizona center Christian Koloko at the event. Standing 6-foot-8, 217 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan, huge hands and an impressive frame, Eason shares some physical similarities to Kawhi Leonard, who came in at 6-7, 227 pounds with a 7-3 wingspan, and 9.75×11.25-inch hands. Leonard Miller came in with the third-largest hands at 10.5, with the 18-year-old ranking in the 95th percentile of our database. On the flip side, Hugo Besson and Scotty Pippen Jr. measured the smallest hands (by length) at 7.5 and 7.75, respectively. Even with the small hands, Pippen was everywhere on defense, wreaking havoc in the backcourt with his ball pressure while averaging 16 points and 4.5 assists over two games, looking like a young Jose Alvarado on some possessions.
The most unique physical profile in Chicago belonged to John Butler, who measured a massive 9-4 standing reach despite weighing just 174 pounds at 4.7% body fat. Few players in our database have the ratio between height and weight that Butler does, ranking him in the 99th percentile in that category among thousands of measurements. The fact that Butler registered just a 28.5-inch max vertical with such a narrow frame further adds to his unorthodox set of physical tools. Despite the narrow, thin frame, Butler did some interesting things in live action, shooting 39% from 3 while using his length and timing to block six shots in just 50 minutes.
If Butler earned the title as most unique physical profile, David Roddy is a close second at 6-6 in shoes, 261 pounds (third heaviest) with a 6-11.5 wingspan and 11.6% body fat. Roddy’s closest physical comparisons are Eric Paschall, Craig Smith and Zion Williamson.
The draft’s biggest mystery, Shaedon Sharpe, measured 6-5.25 in shoes, 198 pounds with a 6-11.5 wingspan and 4.8% body fat, the first figures we have on the 18-year-old in our database. Sharpe’s closest physical comparison according to our database is Hamidou Diallo.
Nikola Jovic helped himself by coming in at 6-11, 223 pounds with a 7-0.25 wingspan and a 9-0.5 standing reach, which should allow him to function as a stretch forward, and even a small-ball, skilled 5 as he continues to grow into his frame. Jovic’s closest physical comparison is Jan Vesely, who was similarly viewed as a combo forward during his draft process yet is now a lob-catching center for Fenerbahce in the Euroleague. Mike Muscala and Michael Porter Jr. are other physical comparisons who stand out.
The 19-year-old wing Peyton Watson has added over 2 inches and 33 pounds in less than three years, measuring 6-8 in shoes and 203 pounds with a 7-0.5 wingspan. A few names with similar dimensions to Watson: Cam Reddish, Andrew Wiggins, Herbert Jones, and Isaac Bonga.
Kofi Cockburn tipped the scales at 293 pounds with a powerful frame (8.2% body fat) to go along with a 7-4.25 wingspan. Should he make an NBA roster, that would make Cockburn one of the heaviest players in the NBA — Boban Marjanovic weighed in at 293 pounds at 2009 EuroCamp. For comparison’s sake, when DeMarcus Cousins weighed in at 292 pounds at the 2010 combine, he registered 16.4% body fat.
Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams registered the largest difference between height and wingspan at 6-4.5 barefoot with a 7-2.25 wingspan, just edging out Ron Harper Jr., who registered nearly identical measurements to Draymond Green. Although 2 inches shorter than Green at 6-5.5, they have the same wingspan (7-1.25) and standing reach (8-9) while Harper weighs four pounds more at 240. Harper had a solid showing in drills and live action, registering 11 points and 4 assists on day one, showcasing his shooting potential and vision.
Justin Lewis also registered a huge height-to-wingspan difference at 6-6.25 inches barefoot with a 7-2.5 inch wingspan, comparing closest to OG Anunoby physically. Lastly, Trevion Williams was a wingspan winner at 6-7.25 barefoot with a 7-2.75 wingspan. Williams struggled in the athletic testing and weighed in at 265 pounds, but was still able to have a major impact in 5-on-5, proving he’s far and away the best big-man passer in the draft with dimes from all over the floor while dominating the offensive glass. Williams solidified his stock as a second-round pick by averaging 9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists over two games.
Speaking of big-bodied bigs, Kenneth Lofton Jr., weighed in at 280 pounds while standing 6-6.5 in shoes with a 6-11 wingspan, making his closest physical comparison Zion Williamson. Despite the lack of height and extra weight (15% body fat), Lofton earned a call-up from the G League Elite Camp and went for 13 points in 20 minutes while swiping 3 steals and blocking one shot in the lone combine game he played. He needs to improve his ability to guard in space, but his touch, instincts, improving shooting and overall aggressiveness at 19 years old makes him someone to monitor long-term.
As expected, Kennedy Chandler measured just 5-11.5 inches barefoot, 172 pounds. But the elusive Tennessee guard registered a 6-5.25 wingspan and finished with the highest max vertical at 41.5 inches, just edging out former Sunrise Christian teammate Kendall Brown (41) and fellow Mokan Elite product Christian Braun (40). Meanwhile, Braun had some excellent moments in 5-on-5 play and is surely in the mix to hear his name called in the first round.
Viewed more as a “load jumper” who needs momentum to get off the floor based on the film, E.J. Liddell registered the highest no-step vertical at the combine at 35.5 inches, a huge figure for a 243-pounder with 12.2% body fat. Liddell comes from a long line of volleyball standouts.
Ryan Rollins measured one of the biggest wingspans among guards at 6-9.75 inches to go along with 6-3.25 in shoes and a light 179-pound frame. Rollins’ closest physical comparison is Anfernee Simons. Rollins put his length and footwork to good use in the lone 5-on-5 game he played with a big tip-dunk, a huge block at the rim from the weak side that was somehow called for a foul, and smooth finishes around the rim. Rollins misfired on all three catch-and-shoot 3s and was caught upright on the ball defensively, but showed his talent as a midrange scorer and passer along with the impact his length can have defensively when he’s locked in. — Schmitz
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.
Mike Schmitz is an NBA draft expert and a contributor to DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by the NBA, the NCAA and international teams.