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NBA Draft Combine Primer

by Matt Sanchez

By Matt Sanchez –

The NBA draft combine begins today and will provide an opportunity for the majority of draft prospects to go through the wringer of physical testing, athletic abilities and interview savvy. While most prospects do participate, it’s not uncommon for the top prospects to sit out the physical tests. LeBron James didn’t participate in 2003, and this year Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid have all declined to participate.

The NBA combine began in 1987 and is not unlike the NFL draft combine (though the NFL version has a larger tendency to make or break a player’s draft stock). The NBA combine is more of an opportunity for teams to get an up-close look at the prospects.

Everything from body fat and hand width to wingspan and height (with and without shoes) is measured. These measurements help teams to get a more in-depth look at a player and his basketball attributes.

While combine numbers don’t usually hurt players’ chances of being drafted, they can definitely help. Ronnie Brewer tested as one of the best athletes in the 2006 class, and those impressive athletic numbers likely helped him become a lottery pick in the draft.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing physical tests, and how current Jazz players performed on those tests. We’ve also included a historic look at the all-time best performances at the combine and which Jazz players fared the best.

* Ian Clark, Jeremy Evans, Diante Garrett and Brandon Rush did not participate in the NBA draft combine.

Bench Press

Prospects attempt to show off their upper-body strength in the bench press. Players are tested to see how many repetitions they can do at 185 pounds.

To give you an example of how arbitrary this test is, look no further than 2007. Reigning MVP Kevin Durant failed to bench press 185 pounds (the standard weight) even once. This raised an eyebrow or two at the time, but obviously didn’t have any bearing on the league MVP’s actual basketball skills.

Bench Press
Current Jazz Players
Trey Burke 2013 3 reps
Alec Burks 2011 5 reps
Derrick Favors 2010 14 reps
Rudy Gobert 2013 7 reps
Gordon Hayward 2010 10 reps
Richard Jefferson 2001 14 reps
Enes Kanter 2011 14 reps
John Lucas III 2005 4 reps
Erik Murphy 2013 13 reps
Malcolm Thomas 2011 5 reps
Marvin Williams 2005 12 reps
All-Time Best
Joey Graham 2005 26 reps
All-Time Jazz Best
Kris Humphries 2004 22 reps

Lane Agility Drill

The lane agility drill is specifically designed to measure a player’s lateral quickness and agility at top speed. Cones are placed at the four corners of the key, and players run a bevvy of combinations around and through the cones. Up, down, side-to-side, backward, forward, shuffling, cutting. Nothing can replicate an actual game, but this drill is useful.

Lane Agility
Current Jazz Players
Trey Burke 2013 11.20
Alec Burks 2011 10.96
Derrick Favors 2010 11.74
Rudy Gobert 2013 12.85
Gordon Hayward 2010 11.73
Richard Jefferson 2001 11.19
Enes Kanter 2011 11.30
John Lucas III 2005 10.44
Erik Murphy 2013 12.91
Malcolm Thomas 2011 11.31
Marvin Williams 2005 11.11
All-Time Best
Isaiah Thomas 2011 8.22
All-Time Jazz Best
John Lucas III 2005 10.44

3/4 Court Sprint

This is the NBA’s version of the 40-yard dash. Speed kills, and players can often make up for their lack of size or athleticism with their speed. If a player is faster than his defender, then he has a better chance to break a defense down. It’s rare for basketball players to get up to a completely full sprint during a game, so this drill focuses more on acceleration and reflexes.

3/4 Sprint
Current Jazz Players
Trey Burke 2013 3.16
Alec Burks 2011 3.17
Derrick Favors 2010 3.25
Rudy Gobert 2013 3.57
Gordon Hayward 2010 3.22
Richard Jefferson 2001 3.15
Enes Kanter 2011 3.26
John Lucas III 2005 3.14
Erik Murphy 2013 3.57
Malcolm Thomas 2011 3.29
Marvin Williams 2005 3.17
All-Time Best
Nate Robinson 2004 2.96
All-Time Jazz Best
Josh Howard 2003 3.09

No-Step Vertical Leap

There are several vertical leap tests at the combine, but this one is intriguing because it can show a player’s natural leaping ability. The no-step vertical leap requires more power and full-body movement than a leap off a jump or with a running start. This test translates to action in the paint—where a player is most likely to finish a play or contest a shot from a static position.

No Step Vertical
Current Jazz Players
Trey Burke 2013 29.5"
Alec Burks 2011 29.0"
Derrick Favors 2010 31.5"
Rudy Gobert 2013 25.0"
Gordon Hayward 2010 30.5"
Richard Jefferson 2001 33.0"
Enes Kanter 2011 26.0"
John Lucas III 2005 29.0"
Erik Murphy 2013 24.5"
Malcolm Thomas 2011 32.0"
Marvin Williams 2005 29.5"
All-Time Best
Nick Young 2007 39.5"
All-Time Jazz Best
Ronnie Brewer 2006 35.0"

Max Vertical Leap

The max vertical leap seems to be the most telling of any of the drills in regard to overall athletic ability. When you think of the best athletes to come through the NBA, they all have one thing in common: leaping ability. From Dominique Wilkins to Vince Carter, max vertical is a telling stat. It certainly doesn’t signify the best overall players but showing well in this test shows off your athletic ability and can be the difference between being drafted and not.

Max Vertical
Current Jazz Players
Trey Burke 2013 36.5"
Alec Burks 2011 36.0"
Derrick Favors 2010 35.5"
Rudy Gobert 2013 29.0"
Gordon Hayward 2010 34.5"
Richard Jefferson 2001 38.5"
Enes Kanter 2011 32.5"
John Lucas III 2005 34.0"
Erik Murphy 2013 29.5"
Malcolm Thomas 2011 36.5"
Marvin Williams 2005 35.0"
All-Time Best
Mugsy Bogues 1987 44.3"
All-Time Jazz Best
Ronnie Brewer 2006 41.0"

The physical testing will be May 15-16, and can be seen on ESPNU and ESPN2 from 8am-1pm each day.

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