The 2015 Draft Combine: Day One Standouts

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer
@MaxRappaport

PHOTO GALLERY

CHICAGO –– This week, the nation’s top prospects have assembled in Chicago to put their skills on display in front of talent evaluators from around the league and across the globe. Most teams’ traveling contingents are the same – a president and/or general manager, a handful of senior scouts, and perhaps their head coach. But the Sixers had an interesting member as part of their scouting cadre… Joel Embiid.

Throughout Thursday’s events, Embiid sat with Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown, and a handful of Sixers officials on bleachers overlooking a main court on which prospects scrimmaged and took part in various drills. In addition to his “scouting” duties, the 21-year-old center was also involved in a handful of the team’s one-on-one meetings with potential draftees earlier in the day, getting to know some of the players who could soon become his teammates and also lightening the mood in what can be a tense and intimidating atmosphere.

“[Embiid]’s first question was, ‘Why didn’t you go to Kansas?’,” said Texas freshman Myles Turner, laughing. “No, but he was real cool, real chill.”

While Turner was one of 25 invitees who declined to participate in five-on-five scrimmaging on Thursday, 36 others did choose to partake in the new addition to the Combine slate.

Those 36 players were split amongst four teams and pitted against one another in a two-day round robin tournament. In the first game on Thursday, Syracuse guard Rakeem Christmas led the way with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting for Team 1, and North Carolina swingman J.P. Tokoto added 13 points (6/6 FG), five rebounds, a pair of assists, and three steals. For Team 2, big men Richaun Holmes (six points and five blocks) and Mouhammadou Jaiteh (12 points and 10 rebounds) were the key contributors to an 80-77 victory.

Holmes, a 6’10” senior out of Bowling Green, showed why he has the potential to develop into an impactful contributor on the defensive end at the next level. His 7’1.5” wingspan and 36” maximum vertical give him a 12’0” maximum vertical reach, a number on par with pre-draft marks hit by DeAndre Jordan in 2008, Joakim Noah in 2007, and Andrew Bogut in 2005. In 17 minutes off the bench, he allowed just one make on five defended shots at the rim.

Jaiteh, a hulking center out of France who has played professionally in his home country since the age of 15, put his two-way skills and rebounding prowess on display in that game as well. He pulled down five boards on the defensive end to go along with five more on the offensive end of the floor and also held his assignments to 2-for-6 shooting within five feet of the basket. Coming in at 6’11” and 247 pounds with a wingspan of 7’3.25”, the fact that he was able to score efficiently in a number of ways (2/2 on catch and shoots and 2/3 off the dribble) was encouraging.

In the second game, Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison was a standout, finishing with 17 points (5/10 FG, 7/8 FT), five assists, three boards, two steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers in 27 minutes of play for Team 4. His twin brother, Aaron, didn’t fair as well for Team 3, going 1-for-6 from the floor but doing some damage at the free-throw line en route to nine points, four assists, and four rebounds in 22 minutes.

Team 3’s Alan Williams, a bruising big man out of UC Santa Barbara, pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 12 points, two blocks, and two steals in an 82-77 loss; six of his boards came on the offensive end. At 6’8” and 261 pounds, Williams figures more as an energy four in the pros than as a center, the position he played throughout his four years in Southern California.

In the athletic testing on Day One, Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton was the clear winner. His 44” max vert was the highest among the 24 players measured on Thursday, and his standing vertical (second-best, 37.5”), lane agility (fourth-best, 10.74 seconds), and three-quarter court sprint (sixth-best, 3.20 seconds) were all impressive as well. With Justise Winslow, Dakari Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Trey Lyles, and Jerian Grant among the two dozen or so players expected to be tested tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if his vertical stands as this year’s best.

Keifer Sykes, a 6’0” point guard out of Wisconsin Green Bay, was also a standout in the testing portion of Day One. His 43” maximum vertical was second only to Connaughton, and his 10.50-second lane agility was the fastest on the day; he also third in the three-quarter court sprint, running it in a blazing 3.13 seconds. Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre posted a 37” maximum vertical and 34.5” standing vertical, and Georgia State junior R.J. Hunter put up decent marks (33.5” max vert, 27.5” standing vert, 3.26-second three-quarter sprint, and 10.97-second lane agility drill).

Stay tuned for more news and analysis from the Combine tomorrow, as a handful of potentially lottery picks, including Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, are slated to go through drills. 

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