Column: NBA Draft Combine Does It BIG



NBA Draft Combine Does It BIG



The NBA Draft Combine does it BIG. Seriously, with no pun intended. It’s an incredible production that, 15 years ago, likely didn’t mirror what we’re seeing today in the least. Signage is everywhere, sporting the “BIG Begins Here” slogan, the NBA logo and the four major aspects being tested: Shooting, running, jumping and agility.

On the side of the main court, there’s a stage that hosts NBA media personalities who dissect these prospects and teams to the max—finding every which way to analyze how players are doing, where they fit and where they need to improve. And they have the time to do it: Four hours of Friday’s Combine were broadcast live on ESPNU, with a fifth hour on ESPN2.

In the back, media seating lines a room that is part weight room, part media availability. Round tables are set up for players to field questions after their sessions (there are five groups of 10-12 participating in the event), and when media members are done asking their questions they file over to their seats along the walls, grabbing every last drop of internet connectivity there is in the building.

On the courts, about 60 of the league’s top prospects showcase their physical skills as well as their mental aptitude and their character. Dozens and dozens of team executives, coaches, scouts and additional personnel look on, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next great All-Star to enter the league.

All the while, we watch and wait. There are 40 days until the NBA Draft, and in that time we’ll, in turn, dissect, analyze, break down and debate which players fit best where and which ones don’t quite fit with that particular team.

The NBA Draft Combine does it BIG.

This really was the first step in this long journey to the draft, initiating a timeframe in which players can move up or down teams’ respective draft boards. No one knows at this point which players will pan out and which won’t, but the way players approach these workouts will go a long way in deciding how teams will perceive their abilities.

On the court, it’s about staying calm and playing your game. Prepare for the measurable tests (agility, sprint) as best you can, and then don’t get caught up in the nerves and nuances of the on-court drills. Most of these guys have played basketball their entire lives. This is just a job interview wrapped into a game they’ve known for years.

Colorado State’s Colton Iverson said it best—there’s nothing hard about it. This is what players have worked for their entire lives. Now is their time to apply everything they’ve learned and worked toward. Effort is everything.

“Some guys don’t really take advantage of it. They just come out here and go through the drills,” Iverson said. “I want to show teams I’m really dedicated to getting better and putting in the effort and work, to play and do everything I’ve got to do to get playing time.”

The other aspect of the weekend is how you conduct yourself in team interviews. Some athletes admitted that is probably even more important at this point. Coming into this week, teams have seen hours and hours of tape on players they’re targeting. Getting answers face to face in an interview setting spotlights the type of character teams are dealing with.

Some interviews seem to be very straight forward—focusing on the court. What are your strengths or weaknesses? What can you bring to a team right away? How do you impact your team defensively?

Others, not so much.

Virginia Tech guard Erick Green said two of the most random questions he received were “how many windows are in a hotel?” and “why were potholes invented?” Not exactly questions that focus on whether or not Green can hit 3-pointers from NBA distance.

But players need to be prepared for anything. That includes their own individual questioning.

Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum was prepared in that regard. He said he did his research before the camp to showcase how serious he is about this process. He wanted to know about teams so he understood where he might be headed, and he wanted to show he’s mutually interested in learning about his interviewer.

“You have to be a student of the game,” McCollum said. “I know a lot of teams’ budgets, I know restricted free agents. I know some of the coaches on a first-name basis. So it’s interesting to see how prepared I am compared to other perspective athletes.”

Forty days from now, we’ll know how it all played out. We’ll see who lands where, which teams trade up or down to satisfy their personal agendas, and we’ll begin speculating the next phase in the process. Which players will make immediate impacts? Which will be busts? Who, if any, will be All-Stars? Hall of Famers?

That’s down the road. Right now, we’re laying the foundation.

BIG things are on their way. The NBA Draft Combine is the first step.


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