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2019 NBA Combine | Day 1 Notebook

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


Day 1 of the NBA Combine is in the books. 

There are so many prospects and so much going on. There are drills, measurements, 5-on-5 and media availability all happening at the same time.

It’s really hard to capture everything that’s going on during the day. There was one point where I looked to my left and Larry Bird was just there drinking a Diet Coke. What a time to be alive. 

We’ll have more in-depth coverage of draft prospects as we lead up to the draft. A lot of that information comes from what we learned at the Combine. But here are a few quick hits from the first day of the Combine in Chicago.

Clarke Excited About Prospect Of Playing With Karl-Anthony Towns

Gonzaga power forward Brandon Clarke is projected to be selected right around where the Wolves pick at No. 11. Clarke was asked about team’s in that region and he perked up a bit when mentioning the Timberwolves.

“Obviously I think I would love playing with KAT,” Clarke said.

Clarke is “old” for NBA prospects at 22 years old. But that can also be looked at as a positive. He’s clearly mature. That was evident from talking to him for 15 minutes. Clarke averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and a ridiculous 3.2 blocks per game last season.

The question for him will be his shooting. He said that he didn’t shoot as much from deep last season because Gonzaga didn’t need him to. He shot 26.7 percent from deep on 0.4 attempts per game.

Clarke looked OK on shots at the Combine. He’s getting used to a new release. And to be honest, Combine results need to be taken with a grain of salt. He wants NBA execs to know he’s been working on his shot.

“Every team isn’t sure I can shoot it really, that’s my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I've been working really, really hard on it, so I’m just hoping they can see that I can actually shoot it and they can see that I made lots of progress on it and they can trust me that I can get better at it.”

He’ll need to gain some weight, too, but that goes for almost any prospect. 

There’s plenty to like with Clarke and the fact that he might be more NBA ready than most players might be at the top of the list. 

Hayes Has Surged Up Draft Boards

Texas center Jaxson Hayes was unknown to some before the college season. But the freshman is now thought to be a top-10 pick by some experts.

When did he think he could be an NBA Draft pick?

After the team’s fifth game of the season when he finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in a win over North Carolina. 

“That’s when I first saw my name on the draft board,” Hayes said. “One of my friends sent it to me. . . That was when I was like ‘I can definitely do this.’”

Hayes could be a lottery pick, but he’ll likely need some time to gain weight and mature. He’s only 18 years old. But his potential has teams excited, and for good reason.

Johnson Happy To Go Wherever

Kentucky guard Keldon Johnson is a player to watch. He’s humble, or at least was during his media interviews. The guard who shot 38.1 percent from deep last season for the Wildcats made it known that he’ll be happy with whatever team decides to take a chance on him. 

“Any team that drafts me, it’ll be a blessing, to be honest,” Johnson said.

Johnson is a player who could be a lottery pick or could fall to No. 20. This is a pretty unpredictable class. 

He said he doesn’t have any team meetings or visits scheduled, yet. That certainly will change. In the meantime, he said he’s going to work on improving his shot and keeping his handle tight. Even though he shot near 40 percent from deep last season, there are some doubters. Johnson, of course, isn’t one of them.

“I feel like I’m a great shooter.”

KZ Not Ruling Out A Return To Stanford

Stanford forward KZ Okpala just finished a sophomore season in which he averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting 36.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Still, he’s not positive he’ll stay in the draft. He could still return to Stanford depending on where he feels he'll go (or not go) in the draft.

“A lot of things go into it,” he said. “. . . Just the feedback I get from coaches and GMs."

Okpala said he thought his meetings with teams went well and the biggest thing he wants to show is that he can shoot over guys and make threes. Not a bad skill set to have.

Guy Focusing On Defense

Kyle Guy became a household name after leading Virginia to the National Championship in early April.

Guy is undersized and most-definitely needs to add weight. One concern with Guy is his defense. He said it’s something he’s focused on. It does help, though, that he came from a Virginia program that thrived on defense.

“I’m a perfectionist so I try to work on everything. I’m obviously very realistic,” Guy said. “I know that my defense has to be better . . . I do a pretty good job of keeping guys in front."

Guy will likely be a second-round pick. Something to watch with the Wolves having the No. 43 pick. 

Plenty more tomorrow. 

It’s time to go eat pizza.


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