NBA combine an integral aspect of draft process

CHICAGO – Compared to the full-scale media assault that takes place in Indianapolis during the NFL draft combine, the NBA’s version is far less publicized, generating significantly less hype. Only in recent years has there been live television coverage of the event (ESPN2 carries four-hour shows on consecutive days), which was previously exclusive to coaches, general managers and other team personnel.

Despite the relative lack of publicity, however, the combine is a significant piece of the lead-up to the draft, which takes place June 23 this year. It may not be a valuable showcase of on-court ability – numerous top prospects did not participate in 5-on-5 games Thursday – but NBA teams already have a year or more of game video to study on every potential draftee. Many of the most important moments of the combine take place behind closed doors, when general managers and coaches get the opportunity to conduct private interviews with targeted players.

“The NBA combine is an integral part of the draft process,” Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said Thursday, while watching 5-on-5 competition at the Quest Multi-Sport Facility, alongside New Orleans coaches and front-office staff. “It’s one of the final steps of preparing for the draft. Teams get the opportunity to interview and observe the participants in games, shooting drills, plus strength and agility testing. Most NBA coaches do not get the opportunity to watch college players during the NBA season (due to the 82-game schedule), so the combine is usually the first time they can watch them play in person.”

Entering Thursday, nearly every highly-rated player from a U.S. college was expected to attend the combine, with the notable exception of LSU forward Ben Simmons (however, it’s become commonplace in recent years for players at the very top of the draft to skip the combine). Early in the day, a few other top-10 projected names dropped out of external media interviews at the last minute, including Duke forward Brandon Ingram, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield and Kentucky guard Jamal Murray. Although dozens of media members missed the opportunity to interview those key potential draftees, players still met privately with NBA franchises. Teams also rely on the combine to obtain unbiased, vital information about prospects, which they’ll use in evaluations. For instance, some players’ colleges do not list accurate heights and weights, causing various prospects to previously be viewed as taller, lighter or heavier than reality. “Most players that will be in the upcoming draft will take a medical examination, which will also provide verified measurements including height, weight and wingspan,” Demps said.