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NBA teams take to Chicago for combine

By Jonathan Givony, for
Posted May 28 2009 10:46PM

The first two days of the NBA combine in Chicago are behind us, after an interview session and three hours of light drills at Tim Grover's A.T.T.A.C.K athletics facility. All 30 NBA teams have descended on the Windy City to talk about trades, compare notes on players, watch workouts and interview prospects. The players' schedules are busy, as they'll go through a series of medical and athletic tests, get measured, meet with the NBA Players Association and participate in the NBA's first Rookie Transition program before departing on Sunday.

A new twist to the pre-draft camp, now renamed the NBA combine, is 13-plus hours of interview sessions designed to help teams collect as much data as they can on the player's off-court personality. Each team submitted a list of 18 players they'd like to talk with, ranked by preference, and are then granted 30-minute blocks. Some teams opted to bring their head coaches, some their entire front office, and others just a psychologist who administered a personality assessment. Not all the agents have been all that receptive to the idea, though.

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On Thursday morning, the players were separated into four groups -- point guards, wing players, forwards and big men -- and put through a variety of drills intended to help the teams evaluate their skill level.

Ball-handling skills were the first they looked at -- left-hand, right-hand, crossovers and behind the back dribbles.

Then came a barrage of shooting drills -- jump-shots come off simulated screens from the elbow, the baseline, college range and NBA range, sometimes with the use of cones from different spots in a timed exercise. They also looked at their ability to make floaters with either hand.

The big men shot quite a few jumpers (which was sometimes fairly amusing to watch), but also were able to show off their post moves in non-contact situations.

The closest we got to live action were the 3-on-zero transition drills, where some of the prospects took advantage of the opportunity to display their athletic ability.

While the non-competitive action left something to be desired in terms of giving the ability to differentiate the prospects from each other, there were still a number of players who managed to stand out.

Jrue Holiday was clearly the biggest and most well-built player in the PG group, and he showed teams why he's been one of the fastest rising players in the Draft. Holiday looked very explosive finishing around the basket in the transition drills, looking equally adept at dunking or throwing in floaters with either hand.

Stephen Curry looked smooth, smart and extremely talented in pretty much everything he did. He appeared to have the most polish of any point guard in attendance, except possibly Jonny Flynn, who also stood out.

One of the least-known prospects in Chicago, Rodrigue Beaubois, seemed to show some of the best natural tools. He was arguably the quickest end-to-end player, and also shot the ball fairly well.

The group of wing players appeared to be fairly weak, with most of the prospects looking extremely limited in one or two key areas. Gerald Henderson confirmed that he's one of the most athletic players in this Draft, with Jermaine Taylor not too far behind.

Jack McClinton shot the ball pretty much every time he touched it in the transition drills -- but for good reason, as he's an incredible shotmaker. DeMar DeRozan looked the part of an NBA athlete but clearly needs to polish up his skills. The same can be said about senior Terrence Williams.

Austin Daye really stole the show amongst the small forwards. His shot barely touched the net on almost all attempts, and he looked ridiculously smooth in pretty much everything he did. Internationals Joe Ingles and Omri Casspi both shot the ball well. Tyler Smith and Damion James look like they'll be heading back to school, while Sam Young showed some serious athleticism.

Among the bigs, the player who may helped himself the most was B.J. Mullens. The Ohio State freshman showed freakish athleticism for a 7-footer, excellent touch around the basket, and even some basic ability to knock down perimeter jumpers. His upside is considerable, and it's pretty obvious why he was such a highly regarded player going into college. Still, this setting taught us very little about the many question marks that surround his passion for the game and all-around intangibles.

Other standouts included DeJuan Blair, who appears to have lost considerable weight, the extra-explosive Gani Lawal, and the super-polished and professional Dante Cunningham. Jeff Pendergraph also earned some praise from teams.

The combine continues Friday with many of the same drills, only this time integrated between different positions.

Givony is President and Director of Scouting of Draft Express. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer.

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