2017 NBA Combine | Day 1 Notebook
Wrapping up Day 1 from the combine here in Chicago.
What do we take away from it? Well, it’s hard to tell now, but we’ll be using a lot of this content from future pieces. From the players we talked to on Thursday, here are observations on each:
Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal, Sophomore
Rabb could go as high as the middle of the first round. It’s true that he probably would have been a lottery pick last season, but he doesn’t care. He thinks going back to school for his sophomore season was beneficial.
“I thought I needed it,” Rabb said. “I thought it was very mature for me to go back. The plan is to stick in the league for a long time when I get there. I feel like I’ve made the best decision for me. I got better.
In 2016-17, Rabb averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. At the very least, he thinks those rebounding numbers will translate to the NBA.
“I know that translates,” he said. “I can hit the offensive glass really well.”
One thing scouts want to see is if Rabb can extend his range to the 3-point line. He shot 40 percent from the 3-point line last season, but it was a pretty small sample size with just 0.6 attempts per game.
“I feel like you can never be a good enough shooter,” Rabb said. “A lot of guys don’t know how well I can shoot it because I didn’t shoot a lot of 3s at Cal. I’ve definitely been working on it. And my shot is way more fluid.”
While his teammate last year, Jaylen Brown, came out after his freshman year and was drafted third overall by the Celtics, Rabb doesn’t knock him for it.
“I think everybody’s situation is different. I actually love his situation because he’s around vets.”
TJ Leaf, PF, UCLA, Freshman
Leaf projects to also be a middle-of-the-first-round pick. In his freshman year, he averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 46.6 percent from deep.
Leaf played on a UCLA team with Lonzo Ball, but don’t let that overshadow Leaf. He thinks that in a draft full of forwards, he has plenty to offer.
“I think there’s a couple of things. One is my basketball IQ. I feel like my IQ is very high,” Leaf said. “I think I can score on three levels which a lot of bigs are not able to do. And I think I play hard every possession which I think a lot of guys tend to take plays off. I’m going to at it every single play.”
Heading into the draft, leaf said he’s working on foot speed, strength and his shot.
“A lot of foot speed, a lot of strength. I’ve been working a lot with my trainers about being a more consistent shooter, a more consistent player.”
Justin Patton, C, Creighton, Freshman
Patton rose up the draft boards and is projected as a late lottery pick right now. Even so, he hasn’t really had time to think about playing at the next level.
“Not yet,” Patton said. “Maybe when I get the contract… Right now I haven’t really stopped to smell the roses.”
“It’s my dream to play in the NBA.”
Patton gave a solid answer in what he wants to improve on. He’s said that he’s asked teams what kind of player development programs they have. Mature answering.
“I’ve been getting good feedback,” Patton said. “One thing I’m looking forward to is developing.”
Justin Jackson, F, UNC, Junior
Jackson is a projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick.
He was asked questions on whether or not he’d enjoy being drafted by the Bulls (where Michael Jordan – heard of him? – a North Carolina great played) or Charlotte, where he played his college ball.
He gave the political answer.
“It’d be an honor whoever drafts me. “
Peter Jok, G, Iowa, Senior
Jok is at the combine hoping to prove to teams he can play defense. He averaged 20 points per game last season for Iowa and shot 38 percent from three on 6.9 attempts per game. But defense is what teams are asking him about.
“Defense. Every team wants people who play two ways. I think I can shoot . . . They say they need that. . . My main focus is to show them I can defend,” Jok said.
With Jok playing at Iowa, he was asked what is thoughts were on getting drafted by a team in the Midwest, like Chicago or Minnesota.
Like Jackson, he gave the political answer.
“I wouldn’t mind going anywhere however drafts me, it’s a blessing. . . To stay in the Midwest would be great, too.”
Wesley Iwundu, F, Kansas State, Senior
Iwundu is a fringe first-round pick after four years at Kansas State.
A big reason why is that Iwundu can guard the 1-3, and potentially a small-ball 4.
“Anywhere from the 1-3 I think is a good matchup for me,” Iwundu said. “Just something I’ve been guarding them since almost high school so I think sometimes even the 4. I can play anywhere in there.”
He got switched onto a 5 at the combine and gave us a laugh.
“That’s not a normal thing.”
For Iwundu, he’s probably entering the league at the perfect time considering teams are focusing more and more on players who can guard more than one position.
“I think I’m coming in at the right time. I’m feeling good about things.”
Frank Mason, G, Kansas, Senior
The National Player of the Year averaged 20.9 points per game while shooting a scorching 47.1 percent from the 3-point line.
While there aren’t many seniors entering drafts any more, Mason doesn’t for one second regret his decision to wait and develop at Kansas.
“I think it helped mature me on and off the court,” Mason said. “I learned a lot throughout those four years, through coach (Bill) Self, my academic advisors.”
One player who is somewhat comparable is Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon who is a Rookie of the Year candidate this year after being drafted in the second round as a senior. Can Mason learn from him?
“Definitely. I think he went second round. He’s proven that he was (better). . . you just have to focus on what you can control.”
Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland, Junior
After deciding to go back to Maryland for his junior year, Trimble said this year’s he’s all in for the draft.
“Last year I was stuck between if I wanted to go back to school and if I wanted to stay in the draft . . . Now I’m in a clear mind. I’m staying in the draft.”
Teams are asking Trimble two things: If he can run a team and how he’ll play defense at the next level. We know he can score (16.8 points per game as a junior), but those other two things will make or break whether he makes it in the NBA.
Moritz Wagner, F, Michigan, Sophomore
Wagner was one of the more fascinating guys to talk to, and really smart, too.
He hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll stay in the draft, but knows that either way, he’s in a pretty good spot.
“I’m a really good position, man, because I can’t really choose a bad option,” Wagner said. “Going to Michigan I don’t have to tell you that that’s a great option for myself. Going pro is obviously very attractive.”
Wagner, who averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds last year, said that he’ll probably need to get first-round feedback in order to remain in the draft, though.
“I just think anything else, is not worth risking to lose two more years of eligibility and the opportunity of a national at the University of Michigan.”
We’ll see what decision Wagner makes in the coming weeks.
Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon, Junior
Throughout the last few weeks, the Long Beach native said he’s been watching film, how to play off the ball and his footwork.
The possible first-round pick is excited to get this all over with, though, and start what he hopes is a successful NBA career.
“Anxious. Excited. Nervous,” Bell said. “Nervous because it’s the first time I don’t know my teammates. . . Definitely anxious to find out who I’m with.”
That’s all for Day 1. Keep up with our Ratke on the Road posts and we’ll have a Day 2 Notebook up on Friday afternoon.