A record 120 players will gather at Wintrust Arena in Chicago for the NBA draft combine and G League Elite camp this week.
Chicago will also play host to 17 agency-run pro days, as well as the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), marking one of the most important weeks on the NBA calendar.
For the first time in memory, the NBA has been able to secure full attendance from all of the top prospects currently projected to be drafted, including Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero, as well as several international players.
Only four draftable players declined invites to Chicago: Yannick Nzosa, whose season ended Sunday in Spain; Kris Murray, who appears to be headed back to Iowa for his junior year; USC’s Isaiah Mobley, whose agency typically has its own draft strategy outside of the combine; and Michigan’s Caleb Houstan, who some NBA teams speculate already has a promise in the first round.
Both the G League and NBA combines will help provide valuable feedback to the many college players “testing the waters” before deciding whether to keep their names in the June 23 NBA draft or return to school by the June 1 deadline.
Nine international prospects will also be in attendance, providing NBA teams with an excellent opportunity to evaluate players who would be difficult to see otherwise: Ousmane Dieng, Nikola Jovic, Hugo Besson, Leonard Miller, Khalifa Diop, Ismael Kamagate, Matteo Spagnolo, Gabriele Procida and Luke Travers.
Players will interview with teams and participate in competitive 5-on-5 games, shooting, transition and 3-on-3 drills. They’ll also undergo medical examinations, measurements and athletic testing, among other things.
The NBA moved the draft lottery to the middle of the NBA combine a few years ago, and began inviting the top projected picks to be a part of the television show, which helped make the combine more attractive to top prospects, who have historically declined their invites.
Still, most of the top prospects won’t do much more than that — and certainly won’t pick up a basketball in front of NBA teams during that time. Some might be willing to be measured or conduct interviews with teams or the media, but they won’t participate in drills or scrimmages for fear of injury or damaging their draft stock with a poor showing.
Don’t expect Holmgren, Smith or Banchero to do much of anything in Chicago — not even conduct team interviews — as they will have plenty of time to meet with whichever top-three teams their respective camps decide on once the draft order is set.
Shaedon Sharpe, Keegan Murray, Dyson Daniels, Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, Dieng, Tari Eason, Jovic, Johnny Davis and Ochai Agbaji are some of the potential lottery picks slated to participate in the agency-run pro days. This welcome addition to the calendar allows players to conduct drills of their choosing with their own trainers, accentuating their strengths and highlighting any improvements since their seasons ended.
In the past, NBA teams needed to spend significant time traveling around the country to watch the pro days, which many teams and scouts complained was a poor use of their time. As a result, the league banned pro days outside of the ones conducted in Chicago, as well as a three-day window in the Los Angeles area immediately following the combine.
The G League Elite Camp will kick off the proceedings on May 16, with 44 players slated to attend the two-day event. The best players from the scrimmages can expect to move on to the NBA draft combine later in the week — which is exactly what Terance Mann and Cody Martin did in 2019, eventually hearing their names called in the draft and carving out strong NBA careers with the Clippers and Hornets, respectively. Other G League Elite Camp alumni, such as Max Strus and Jose Alvarado, didn’t get the call-up but still went on to become impactful NBA players. — Givony
Which players have the most at stake?
Players with the most at stake are those who opted to leave the NCAA ranks but still have quite a bit to prove in order to solidify their standing within the 2022 draft class.
JD Davison — who is expected to play 5-on-5 — entered the season as a projected top-10 pick and had some outstanding moments early on, but was unable to string together a consistent season at Alabama. Proving he can shoulder some lead guard duties as a ball handler, knock down open shots (30% from 3) and defend with energy and awareness will go a long way in reviving his draft stock.
While both are testing the waters, freshmen Harrison Ingram and Max Christie have a lot to prove to NBA scouts. After generating quite a bit of buzz to start the year thanks to his size and feel, Ingram averaged just 9.0 points on 38% from 2 and 32% from 3 over his last 10 games at Stanford. Christie struggled to find any consistency at Michigan State, knocking down 31.7% of his 3s, and looking sped up and timid at times. Playing with confidence in Chicago would go a long way in proving that he can knock down the type of pressure-packed shots to carve out a role at the next level.
Although he’s not expected to play 5-on-5, this is a big week for Patrick Baldwin Jr., who will have the opportunity to explain to NBA teams why he struggled so mightily at Milwaukee, and remind them why he was once a potential top-10 pick with his size at 6-foot-9, smooth shooting mechanics and modern skill set.
Peyton Watson is in a similar situation as a highly touted recruit working his way back into the good graces of NBA scouts. Although Watson isn’t expected to play 5-on-5, he fits the profile of a pre-draft riser, especially if teams are able to see how he handles and passes on the move, two of his biggest strengths that we didn’t see much of at UCLA. — Schmitz
Which players have the most to gain?
Generally speaking, it’s often the players who haven’t been evaluated against elite competition as often as major college prospects that have the most to gain. In 2021, players like Bones Hyland, who catapulted himself into the first round after an outstanding combine showing last year, and one-and-dones like Josh Primo, a borderline first-rounder who became a lottery pick after competing in the combine scrimmages, gained the most ground. Here are some of the names that come to mind from the 2022 class:
Jalen Williams: Based on what I saw this season and during the pre-draft process so far, I’d expect the Santa Clara wing to be one of the biggest risers in this class, deserving of consideration even in the top 20 if he’s able to translate what we saw in the WCC to 5-on-5 combine action. Standing 6-6 with a 7-2 wingspan, a strong frame, an excellent feel for the game, shooting touch and defensive versatility, Williams is the type of two-way wing who could help an NBA team tomorrow, and given his late-blooming status and age having just turned 21, the former unheralded high school point guard has more upside than your typical junior. It remains to be seen how many on-ball reps we’ll see from Williams in a combine setting, but seeing his tools, touch, feel and defensive versatility alongside other collegiate stars should make an impression.
Ryan Rollins: The 19-year-old combo guard has an excellent opportunity to prove that his silky-smooth game translates against high major-caliber talent, especially since the majority of NBA decision-makers have yet to see him in person. Although Rollins averaged 19.1 points and 3.5 assists with NBA footwork and a host of different combo moves off the bounce at Toledo, he also averaged just 15.3 points, 2.7 assists and 3.3 turnovers on 39% from 2 and 25% from 3 in three games against high-major opponents. Showing he can impact the game without the ball in his hands will also be important for Rollins. If he’s able to find enough opportunities to hunt his own offense within the flow of the game, while also showcasing his underrated court vision, he could start to gain considerable traction in NBA circles.
Terquavion Smith: Smith is no secret prospect: He ranked eighth in the ACC in scoring with several outstanding games against respected opponents, including 34 against a UNC team that made it to the national championship. But the 6-4 guard, who is testing the waters, was feast-or-famine throughout the season, failing to reach double-digit scoring in nine of 32 games on an NC State team that finished 11-22. Smith, who holds some similarities to a young Anfernee Simons, is the type of microwave scorer who could easily take over a game completely, similar to what we saw from Hyland a year ago. That type of performance could undoubtedly boost Smith — who also grades out well on several advanced analytic models — into the first-round conversation, and potentially even the top 20. Proving he’s more of a winner than his NC State record suggests — he was a multiple-time state champion at Farmville Central High School — will go a long way for the explosive guard with deep range and no shortage of confidence. Among G League combine invites, Tevin Brown is another shot-making guard who could catch fire and prove he deserves to hear his name called.
Leonard Miller: The best international prospect to take the floor during the Nike Hoop Summit week in Portland, Miller has an excellent opportunity to build on the pre-draft buzz he has heading into Chicago. For as intriguing as he is at 6-11 with big hands, a 7-2 wingspan, versatility and impressive scoring instincts, most high-ranking NBA executives have yet to really study him in a competitive 5-on-5 setting. This will surely be the first time scouts see him against prospects in this 2022 draft class. From all of our evaluations of Miller, he often has risen to the occasion in a scrimmage type of setting, making things happen on both ends with his length, fluidity, instincts, touch and aggression. We’ve seen no shortage of physically intriguing prospects help themselves with a few great plays in 5-on-5 combine action — Darius Bazley (23rd), Luka Samanic (19th) and Josh Okogie (20th). If Miller, who is testing the waters, doesn’t convince evaluators in Chicago, he has two excellent options in Arizona and the G League Ignite.
David Roddy: The reigning Mountain West Player of the Year has a stellar résumé already, yet some scouts will still question whether or not his productivity can translate to higher levels given his frame as a 6-5, 250-pound combo forward, especially given his up-and-down tournament game in Colorado State’s loss to Michigan. With that said, Roddy is the type of aggressive, competitive, skilled prospect who could shine in a 5-on-5 setting. If Roddy is able to switch onto guards, knock down rhythm 3s, and show he belongs athletically, that could surely back up his tremendous MWC production — 19.4 points on 63% from 2 and 44% from 3 — and lead teams to start considering him toward the end of the first round. The success of players with a similar profile such as Boston’s Grant Williams during the playoffs doesn’t hurt his case, either.
Low-minute, high-intrigue college underclassmen such as Josh Minott and John Butler could certainly swing the pendulum by stringing together a few highlights in 5-on-5 action. — Schmitz
What should we expect from the international crop?
It’s a rarity to have so much international talent in the building, given how the European schedule often conflicts with the NBA combine. But this year’s draft features prospects hailing everywhere from France, Australia and Senegal to Italy and Serbia, with several of them expected to play in 5-on-5 action.
I’d be interested to see what Cremona 6-4 guard Matteo Spagnolo looks like against other accomplished collegiate guards, such as Andrew Nembhard. The 19-year-old had a breakout year in the Italian first division while on loan from Real Madrid. Sometimes struggling to beat rangier defenders off the bounce, scouts will have a close eye on how Spagnolo looks against high-major collegiate stars.
Fellow Italian wing Gabriele Procida is another one to watch. One of the best shooters in the draft, Procida is also an explosive leaper by European standards. How he looks physically alongside other high-major wings should be a good gauge for if that leaping ability can be a true asset at the NBA level, in addition to his stellar shooting stroke.
With five games of at least 20 points during the NBL season, 6-foot-5 French guard Hugo Besson is the type of microwave scorer who could potentially catch fire in Chicago. He was feast or famine for the majority of the season for the New Zealand Breakers. And with most NBA scouts yet to evaluate him in person, how Besson performs figures to influence his draft stock more than some other prospects. Although he struggles defensively, Besson can fill it up out of NBA actions and is an underrated passer.
Aussie wing Luke Travers (Perth) will have a chance to showcase his 6-foot-8 size and feel for the game at the G League combine, potentially working his way into the draft-and-stash conversation if he plays his way into the combine and answers questions about his perimeter shooting.
As for the bigs, Senegalese 7-footer Khalifa Diop should have a major impact given his size (250 lbs.), strength and experience with over 60 Spanish ACB games already under his belt. With most American scouts likely still developing an opinion on Dio, he can definitely help himself by flying around for offensive rebounds and blocks, and showing his underrated court vision in short-roll situations.
Ismael Kamagate is far more skilled as a shooter and ball handler than his game tape would suggest, but the 6-11 center isn’t expected to participate in drills or 5-on-5.
Potential lottery picks Ousmane Dieng and Nikola Jovic won’t play 5-on-5, but this is a big week for scouts to see how Jovic looks physically and skill wise in the Excel Pro Day. Dieng will not participate. Seven-foot-two, 18-year-old Croatian big man Zvonimir Ivisic is also expected to participate. — Schmitz
Which college programs with players testing the waters have a big week in store?
We’ve already touched on a few players testing the waters, like Rollins, Williams, Roddy, Miller and Minott, but there are a few more players whose decisions could have major implications on next year’s championship contenders.
Trevor Keels is a big one for Duke. He was excellent in the Final Four but finds himself projected as a late first-round pick, which might not be enough for him to keep his name in the draft. Keels would enter next season projected as a top-10 pick if he elected to return to school, but there aren’t many players willing to risk forgoing a guaranteed contract for the possibility of becoming a lottery pick. Keels was one of the approximately two dozen players given the option to not compete in the 5-on-5 or drills portions of the NBA combine, which is a good sign for his stock. He will take part in a pro day, but much of his decision will come in private workouts that happen prior to the June 1 deadline, as teams won’t learn much about him on the court in Chicago. Duke has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country and returns a key player in starting point guard Jeremy Roach, but Keels’ return would give Duke Final Four potential in coach Jon Scheyer’s first season at the helm.
Christie’s decision has huge ramifications for Michigan State. After an 11-9 record in Big Ten play and a round of 32 NCAA tournament exit, Spartan fans are feeling restless with the team not advancing past the first weekend of the tournament since 2019. Christie staying in the draft might keep a talent-deprived Michigan State out of the tournament altogether next year, something that hasn’t happened since 1997. For the 19-year-old Christie, this is a huge week to gain some positive momentum for his draft stock after an up-and-down freshman season in which he struggled to score efficiently and had a difficult time defending his position due to his lack of strength and physicality. Once a projected top-20 pick, Christie is not lacking in talent, but showing he can hold his own against older players while reminding scouts of his skill level will go a long way in solidifying him as someone worthy of guaranteed money in June.
Drew Timme is perhaps the most accomplished college player to compete in the combine scrimmages, as a two-time consensus All-American who has already scored more than 1,500 points in his college career. Question marks around his defense, perimeter shooting and position have largely kept his draft stock in check, as there are no guarantees he’d even be drafted as things currently stand. In the past, Timme would be a lock to start his professional career, as there’s not much left for him to accomplish at the college level besides winning a national championship. In the NIL era, he could very well be in line to make seven figures based on his marketability in Spokane, Washington — as well as the national notoriety he has gained as one of the faces of college basketball the past two years — which changes the equation altogether, as that could be the most money he ever makes in a single year. Showing new and different facets to his game at the combine, as unlikely as that seems considering how many big matchups we’ve seen him in, could put him in a different light professionally, which makes this a big week for him in Chicago. If Gonzaga can return Timme and Julian Strawther, who is also testing the waters, it could very well be in line for another Final Four run.
Dalen Terry‘s emergence from bit player to all-around player helped Arizona go from unranked in the preseason to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now whether Terry elects to return for his junior year will likely play a big role in what Tommy Lloyd’s second season in Tucson, Arizona, looks like, after already losing Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko to the draft. Terry, currently a projected second-round pick, will not be playing in the 5-on-5 portion of the combine, which means this week in Chicago probably won’t move the needle on his stock either way. He will participate in his agency’s pro day, though, and will have a big decision to make at the June 1 deadline.
What to expect from G League Ignite/Overtime Elite
All five G League Ignite players — Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy, Marjon Beauchamp, Michael Foster and Fanbo Zeng — will participate in Chicago activities to various degrees, along with three Overtime Elite prospects, Jean Montero, Dominick Barlow and Kok Yat. It will give teams an opportunity to gauge how they look both physically and skill-wise alongside college prospects, which can serve as a valuable comparison tool.
For everyone but Daniels, there’s quite a bit riding on strong performances in the scrimmages, as NBA teams are still getting a handle on how to evaluate these prospects against players much older (in Ignite’s case) or younger (for OTE). Comparing their productivity and growth isn’t as cut and dry as looking at players from the ACC or SEC, given how new these ventures are.
For Hardy and Montero, in particular, players who both struggled with scoring efficiency, decision-making consistency and defense, this is an important week to show teams they are better prospects than their film suggests. Both players started the season projected much higher than they are currently slated, having lost significant momentum due to their poor play. — Givony
Jonathan Givony is an NBA Draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by the NBA, the 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.
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