Marshon Brooks helped his draft stock in Chicago. (Icon SMI)
By Ryan Feldman
Friday, May 20, 2011
The NBA Draft Combine took place in Chicago over the past few days. Not only is the Combine an opportunity for the top draft prospects to go through drills, measurements, athletic testing and interviews, but it also serves as an annual convention for agents, NBA executives and scouts.
Over the past few days, the hotel served as the temporary NBA Draft headquarters. Anybody who's anybody involving the NBA Draft congregated around the hotel. NBA teams hosted interviews with the players and I had a chance to speak with numerous scouts, NBA executives, agents and players.
Here's what I learned this week in Chicago:
The player who gained the most from the Combine was Marshon Brooks. I heard more than a dozen people mention Brooks' name, in a positive way. Scouts were impressed by his skills and his wing span (7-foot-1). He also is very well-spoken and mature. It seems as though Brooks has solidified himself in the first round, and he could even move up into the top 20.
Two players that were relative unknowns coming into Chicago were Enes Kanter and Jeremy Tyler. And both helped their stock. Kanter participated in drills and proved that he was the top prospect to participate. He also measured at 6-foot-11 in shoes and did a wonderful job in interviews. Tyler had the longest wingspan at 7-foot-5 and impressed with his athleticism. Tyler also seemed to really mature since leaving high school to become a professional basketball player. NBA teams haven't seen these two big men play much at all, especially Tyler, but both did nothing but help their stock by showing the potential that they have.
Keith Benson reportedly jumped off the charts. His vertical may have neared 40 inches, but the results of the athletic testing are not yet released. He measured at 6-foot-11 and just 217 pounds.
Kenneth Faried received mixed results. Some NBA executives praised how well he looked in the drills, but others questioned his size (6-foot-6 without shoes) and lack of offensive ability. Faried was also relatively unimpressive in interviews.
The Jimmer Fredette bandwagon quieted down for a few weeks, but the hype has once again begun. Fredette was one of the top prospects to participate in drills, and he didn't hurt his stock at all. A few NBA teams were really impressed by him in interviews. It is likely that Fredette will find his way into the lottery.
Jordan Hamilton helped his stock in Chicago. He was better than expected in interviews, as NBA teams questioned his attitude, work ethic and willingness to fit into a team environment. Hamilton measured at 6-foot-8 in shoes. As one scout told me, "He's a top-5 talent without a doubt, but is he coachable?"
A Sacramento Kings executive raved about how much he loved Kawhi Leonard. He said Leonard is the only NBA-ready small forward in the draft. He also mentioned that the Kings need a small forward.
The Toronto Raptors took Brandon Knight out to dinner, rather than just interview him at the hotel. A source said the Raptors are very interested in drafting Knight at No. 5 to replace Jose Calderon as their franchise point guard.
A source said that the Utah Jazz are very interested in Kemba Walker at No. 3. The question is what they would then do with Devin Harris. They could move Harris to shooting guard and play him alongside Walker.
Enes Kanter said he would prefer to play for the Washington Wizards and he also likes the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers. He didn't mention the Jazz as a team he likes. That may or may not be deliberate, but when asked again he gave the same answers.
Saturday was Kanter's 19th birthday. I learned in Chicago that Kanter's name is pronounced "ENN-IS" (as opposed to "EE-NIS") and his favorite food is Turkish kebab.
Jon Leuer measured a shade under 7-feet in shoes. He said he wants to one day become a Dirk Nowitzki-type player.
The Morris twins really want to play together in the NBA. They talked about it multiple times. But they also said that they will not work out together for any NBA teams. That was a decision their agent made in order to differentiate the two and create their own identities.
Chris Singleton was in Chicago not only for the Combine but also to show off his new clothing line, "Doughpe." Singleton is becoming quite the entrepreneur.
Jon Diebler was the best ping pong player among the draft prospects. He beat Malcolm Lee, also a very good player, six times in a row, including a clutch comeback victory in the final game. Kyrie Irving has some ping pong skills as well but lost to his agent once before getting revenge.
Klay Thompson's measurement of 6-foot-7 in shoes was very impressive for a guard. He also impressed NBA executives with his shooting in the drills. His stock is rising and he's a likely lottery pick at this point.
Nikola Vucevic measured as the tallest player at the Combine at a quarter-inch under 7-feet. He also measured with the second-longest wing span at 7-foot-4.5.
Derrick Williams stressed that he is an NBA small forward. But his skill set resembles more of a power forward at this point. However, he measured at 6-foot-7 without shoes.
Jordan Williams' measurement was also a bit disappointing at shorter than 6-foot-8 without shoes.
Brandon Knight said he got a 4.0 GPA in his one year at Kentucky. That's quite impressive for a student-athlete.
Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter both handled the hoopla very well. Both remained humble in interviews and spoke well while answering questions.
The names mentioned by NBA scouts and executives as the most impressive interviewees were Marshon Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Jon Diebler, Jimmer Fredette, Andrew Goudelock, Jon Leuer, David Lighty, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Singler, Chris Singleton, Nolan Smith, Isaiah Thomas, Malcolm Thomas, Kemba Walker and Jordan Williams.
Players that were mentioned as unimpressive in interviews included Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Iman Shumpert and LaceDarius Dunn.
The next stop in the NBA Draft process is Minnesota, where more than two dozen draft prospects will participate in a group workout on Monday and Tuesday. Many of the top invitees have declined their invites, but Tyler Honeycutt said he will be there. If so, Honeycutt likely will be the top prospect in the Minnesota group workout.