2019 NBA Draft Combine: Day 1 Takeaways

The opinions expressed in this column do not represent those of the Boston Celtics front office personnel.

CHICAGO – Sixty-four NBA hopefuls took part in the NBA Draft Combine Thursday afternoon in front of hundreds of NBA executives at Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago. Throughout the day, the young prospects were tested in various drills, interviewed by front office execs and grilled by the media about their potential futures in the NBA.

The marquee event of the day took place on the complex’s center court, where 40 participants were split up into four teams to compete in two 40-minute scrimmages. That’s where Celtics.com was stationed to highlight some of the standout performers of the day.

Below are some of the key takeaways from the two exhibitions.


Game 1: Team 1 vs. Team 2

  • Kris Wilkes, out of UCLA, made an impactful impression right off the bat in Game 1, as he took control of Team 1's offense. The 6-foot-6 forward opened up the game by knocking down two 3-pointers off the dribble, one of which he was fouled on and converted into a four-point play.

    Wilkes wound up scoring nine points during his nine minutes of first-half action, while not missing a single shot from the field or from the free-throw line.

    During the second half, the Indianapolis native showed off his attacking ability. He drove to the rim, drew contact, and earned a game-high seven trips to the free-throw line.

    Wilkes, who was the fourth-leading scorer in the Pac-12 this past season, dropped in a total of 16 points during 24 minutes, making him the only participant of the entire day who tallied more than 14 points.

  • Luka Samanic may not have been on a lot of draft radars entering Thursday afternoon, but he certainly is now. The 6-foot-10 Croatian forward dropped in 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field for Team 2, while also corralling a game-high seven rebound for the winning squad.

    Samanic showcased great offensive versatility, proving that he could knock down the deep ball and also finish with finesse at the rim. He also displayed some unexpected handles, at one point losing his defender on a double, between-the-legs crossover. On the defensive end, the 19-year-old displayed great lateral quickness as he switched off of big men to defend smaller guards with ease.

    That quickness was also on display during agility drills, as Samanic placed third among all forwards in both the shuttle run (3.03 seconds) and the three-quarter court sprint (3.23 seconds). He also had the fourth-highest max vertical leap among all forwards with a jump of 38 inches.

  • Dewan Hernandez missed all of last season due to an NCAA rules violation, but the Miami product was far from rusty during his scrimmage session Thursday afternoon. The 6-foot-9 center was not shy on the offensive end, where he tallied 14 points on a game-high 13 field goal attempts.

    Hernandez was also one of the most impressive participants in the agility drills, as he finished first among all centers in the max vertical leap (35.5 inches), and second in the shuttle run (3.25 seconds), lane agility (11.46 seconds) and three-quarter court spring (3.3 seconds).

  • General notes:

    Team 2 dominated the first scrimmage, 92-73, while shooting 50 percent from the field. The other three teams all shot below 40 percent.

    Both squads in this scrimmage were sloppy with the ball, as they committed 21 turnovers apiece. There were 13 different players who coughed the rock up at least twice.


  • Game 2: Team 3 vs. Team 4

  • The first thing that jumped out before Game 2 even started was the absolute giant standing in Team 4’s huddle.

    At 7 feet, 5.25 inches (7-foot-7 with shoes), Tacko Fall measured in as the tallest player in the history of the Draft Combine. He also logged the highest marks ever for wingspan (8 feet, 2.25 inches) and standing reach (10 feet, 2.5 inches). By the way, the NBA rim sits an even 10 feet above the ground, meaning that Fall can reach well above the iron while standing flat-footed.

    As for his impact on the court, Fall showed a few glimpses of promise, particularly inside the restricted area. The University of Central Florida product corralled three offensive rebounds, one of which led to a vicious dunk that he slammed through the net despite barely leaving the ground.

    Fall also blocked three shots, including one which he grabbed right out of the hands of Grant Williams during an unsuccessful dunk attempt. Another one of his blocks came on the perimeter, where he successfully switched onto 6-foot guard Shamorie Pond and swatted away a long-range 2.

  • Fall’s shot-blocking was impressive, but it paled in comparison to the swatting show put on by Georgia product Nicolas Claxton.

    The 7-foot center gave Team 3 no room to breathe inside the paint, as he blocked seven shots, all during his first 10 minutes of action.

    Claxton’s shot-blocking ability should come as no surprise to anyone who followed him this past season, as he led the SEC with 2.5 swats per game.

    One interesting Celtics-related tidbit about Claxton is that his father, Charles, had a brief playing stint in Boston during the 1995-96 season.

  • Jaylen Nowell dazzled all throughout Game 2 with a combination of athleticism, offensive creativity, and defensive awareness.

    The University of Washington product intercepted a pass early in the first half for Team 3, which he turned into a fast-break, double-clutch dunk. He also displayed a strong mid-range game, knocking down a couple of jumpers.

    Nowell finished with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, of which two were dished in behind-the-back fashion.

  • General notes:

    Game 2, unlike Game 1, went right down to the wire, as Team 4 edged Team 3, 72-65.

    The defensive battle featured 23 blocked shots and 19 steals.

    Boston College product Ky Bowman sealed the game with an and-one driving bank shot. He also knocked down all three of his free throws during the final minute of regulation.

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