Numbers Crunching

Draft prospects breathe sighs of relief when test results erase red flags

Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo
Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo
Andy Lyons/Joe Robbins (Getty Images)
CHICAGO – Beauty – or a red flag – is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the NBA’s measurements registered as part of the league’s annual draft combine. Some organizations place more of a premium on what the numbers say than others, but nobody really lets the numbers scare them away from a player they believe can improve their roster.

Then again, nobody wants to put up a number that furrows eyebrows.

So it was big for Trey Burke that he measured a little better than 6-foot-1 in shoes after some fears he’d check in at under 6 feet. Victor Oladipo’s athleticism and work ethic are likely to outweigh most concerns that he’s a tad undersized, at 6-foot-4¼, for shooting guard, but a 6-foot-9¼ wing span will give him an offsetting boost.

Cody Zeller was relieved that his wing span measured 6-foot-10¾ – the same as his height. Anything less than an even ratio between height and wing span is considered a negative for a big man.

“It’s still not good,” he shrugged, “but it’s better than 6-8,” a figure that had been making the rounds before Chicago set the record straight.

Zeller had an impressive day in Friday’s testing, recording a 35½-inch standing vertical leap, which was reported as the best for any player 6-foot-9 or taller in the past decade. He also posted a faster sprint time (3.15) than his Indiana teammate, Oladipo (3.25), prompting Oladipo to stick his head into Zeller’s media session and demand a retest. Oladipo and Ben McLemore, the potential overall No. 1 pick, recorded 42-inch maximum verticals, which allows a running start.

The Pistons met with both Indiana players on Thursday night among their allotment of 18 interviews in Chicago. Their request to interview Trey Burke was not granted by the NBA, which sets the schedule. They were to meet with another round of players after Friday’s sessions, including potential lottery targets Ben McLemore, Shabazz Muhammad and C.J. McCollum.

The set of numbers that made eyes bulge the most belonged to France’s young center, Rudy Gobert (pronounced go-BEAR). He measured 7-foot-2 in shoes with an astounding 7-foot-8½ wing span. He’s raw, but he’s definitely generating lottery buzz. It would be a long shot for the Pistons, one year after drafting Andre Drummond, but don’t rule out Gobert’s draft stock rising sharply enough to put him in play for the Pistons’ lottery pick if they don’t draw into the top three at Tuesday’s lottery.

Gobert – who told me his goal is to go in the top seven, and the Pistons go into Tuesday’s lottery in the No. 7 spot – is one of a number of big men projected to go somewhere after the Pistons pick but before the end of the first round. Alex Len might be taken ahead of the Pistons, in fact. Len, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Pitt’s Steven Adams all said they had yet to interview with the Pistons and didn’t have them scheduled while in Chicago.

Duke’s Mason Plumlee, a teammate of Kyle Singler’s for two years, said he didn’t interview with the Pistons but has had some preliminary discussion about coming to Auburn Hills to interview and work out.

“If teams know they can get you in,” he said, “they probably won’t talk to you here.”

Interviews and testing conclude on Friday as most NBA front-office personnel will head home. Medical testing concludes the draft combine on Saturday. I’ll start an 18-part series on Monday leading to the June 27 draft with a look at the only two players certain to be out of reach for the Pistons if they don’t draw into the top three, Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore.