2016 NBA Draft Combine: Day 1 Takeaways
The opinions expressed in this column do not represent those of the Boston Celtics front office personnel.
CHICAGO – Day 1 of the NBA Draft Combine is in the books, and with that, NBA evaluators have 80 minutes of basketball to evaluate.
Thirty-seven of the 60 players who were at the Combine were full participants, and those players were broken up into four teams for two 40-minute games. One contest was a nail-biter. The other was a blowout. Takeaways from the two contests are below.
Game 1: Team 1 vs. Team 2
Robert Carter Jr., out of Maryland, was undoubtedly the most impressive player on the floor during Game 1. He was a force at both ends of the court.
Carter Jr. showcased an inside-outside game, making two of his three 3-pointers while also cashing in on buckets around the lane, some of which were off of decisive post moves. He has a nice, smooth release from NBA 3, and he moves well off of the ball for a big man.
At the defensive end, Carter Jr. racked up a game-high four steals to go along with a block. He showcased solid instincts by jumping passes and even swiped a steal on a help-defense dig, a play that’s much more typical of a guard.
It felt as if Carter Jr. was everywhere during the first half. His motor propelled him around the court at both ends and it was impressive to watch. He just needs to get into better shape so that he can maintain that level of play throughout an entire game.
Kay Felder, who stands in at a generous 5-foot-9, totaled 11 points, four assists and four steals during 23 minutes of action on Thursday. He’s a lot like Isaiah Thomas in the sense that he is incredibly confident for his size, and he scraps and claws for everything he gets.
Oh, and the dude can jump.
Felder logged the highest max vertical leap of anyone who was tested at the Combine on Thursday, at 44 inches. That mark equals the highest max vert that was logged at last year’s Combine.
I’m not sure if Felder will make it in the NBA, but he’ll make it somewhere. He is an explosive athlete, he plays the game in overdrive, and he has a nice feel for the game.
Cheick Diallo logged 22 minutes – three-times his average during his lone season at Kansas – and totaled 18 points, four rebounds and four blocked shots Thursday afternoon. His length immediately caught my eye. He notched the second-widest wingspan at the Combine, at 7’4.5”, despite the fact that he was the 19th-tallest player, standing in at just 6’7.5”.
Diallo’s length allows him to make an impact on defense, both in passing lanes and in defending the rim. He has serious defensive potential, and also showcased some offensive growth.
The question is, what position does he play in the NBA? His body type would have been prototypical of an NBA small forward 5-10 years ago, but with the NBA going smaller and smaller each year, he may move over to power forward. I’m just not sure if his game fits either position all too well.
Game 2: Team 3 vs. Team 4
You weren’t watching this game without noticing that Chinanu Onuaku does something you rarely ever see in a basketball game. That is, he shoots his free throws underhanded with both hands.
Onuaku uses the form Rick Barry made famous back in the 60s and 70s. Onuaku made 58.9 percent of his attempts this past season at Louisville and made three of his five attempts Thursday afternoon.
Onuaku was the only bright spot for his team, which got crushed by a score of 109-69. He’s a solid athlete, though he lacks explosiveness, with a nice touch around the rim and he extended out to 20 feet on Thursday.
Ben Bentil, out of Providence, was fantastic for Team 4. He scored the first five points of the game and seven of Team 4’s first 11 points overall. He finished the contest with 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action.
Bentil is a fantastic athlete and he’s capable of extending the defense. He made two of his four 3-pointers Thursday afternoon and, after watching him during shooting drills, I believe he will be a consistent shooter in the mid- and deep-midrange. He stands in at 6’7.25” without shoes and has a fantastic frame, which I believe makes him more capable of playing both forward positions than Diallo, at least at the moment.
I kept having flashbacks of a young Andre Miller as I watched Malcolm Brogdon play this afternoon. Brogdon is a bit taller with a bit more bulk, but his look just reminds me of Miller. Brogdon also played point guard throughout the afternoon and looked a whole lot like Miller in that aspect as well, as he played with a high level of aggression yet was also under control.
I took note after note after note on him. “Sees the floor well.” “Sees things before they happen.” “Flat arc on 3 but swished one home and made athletic plays off the dribble.” “Controlled.” “Long, accurate alley-oop pass.” “Strong handle, great build.”
Brogden finished the day with 17 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals. He certainly stood out to me, and I’m sure he left a lasting memory in the minds of the hundreds of executives who were also watching with a keen eye.