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Ratke On The Road | Day 1 Combine Observations

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager


My goodness, you guys.

What a day. So much freaking content. And we get to do it again tomorrow.

Before I get into a bunch of observations on the players, let me throw some random stuff at you:

  • Everyone wants to know how guys look at the combine. Well, we don’t really know. Most of them are playing when we are interviewing other players, so we really never have a chance. You, though, have the best of both worlds.

  • Carlos (video dude) and I chatted with Tom Thibodeau for a bit. “You guys have a pretty rough gig, huh?” he said with a huge laugh. We also chatted about the Paul McCartney concert. He loved it. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch with him a bit tomorrow.

  • My Uber driver asked me if 90 minutes is an hour and a half. So there’s that.

Now, to the notebook.

Jaylen Brown, SF, Cal, Freshman

Brown, projected to go somewhere in the top-10, said that he met with the Timberwolves and came out of the interview impressed with Thibodeau.

“Tom Thibodeau,” Brown said. “I feel like we’re on the same page. That’s a good guy. I know he used to be in Chicago, but he’s a good guy. I feel like we see eye to eye.”

Brown said he also thinks his game will translate better to the pros than it did college. He certainly has an NBA body.

Kris Dunn, PG, Providence, Junior

Dunn, also considered a top-10 pick, met with the Timberwolves as well. I asked him what it would be like to join a team like the Wolves. He didn’t hold anything back.

“I mean, as a team, they’re young,” Dunn said. “They’re very talented. They have a bunch of athletes on that team. You can definitely see, they’re ready to blossom. They have so many great players. Karl-Anthony Towns is a phenomenal player. (So is) Andrew Wiggins. They’re all great players. I think they just got a good coach.”

It certainly seems like someone wouldn’t be upset to land in Minnesota.

Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State, Freshman 

Beasley is projected to go in the mid to late first round. He told us that his agent informed him that he’ll fall somewhere between 10-21. He’s met with Denver, Detroit, Charlotte, Memphis, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Houston.

Does he think a team favors him more than others?

“There’s a few teams, but I’m not going to address that.”

Deyonta Davis, PF/C, Michigan State, Freshman 

Davis was very soft spoken during his interview. He said that he’s improved the most on his shooting since leaving Michigan State, but he also needs to show teams that he can handle the ball for a big guy.

He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

Skal Labissiere, PF/C, Kentucky, Freshman 

Many thought Labissiere should have stayed another year at Kentucky, but here we are. He’s met the Phoenix, Philadelphia and “a bunch of other teams.” He’s projected as a late lottery pick

Labissiere agreed on the assessment that he might be a project pick, who develops four or five years from now.

“In four, five years, I see myself being a pretty good player in the league.”

Malachi Richardson, SG/SF, Syracuse, Freshman 

Richardson is projected to be a second round pick. He’s met with Philadelphia, Memphis, Boston and Golden State.

He has yet to hire an agent, though, so he could still back out of the draft and go to school.

“Just trying to find out what’s best for me,” Richardson said. “Weighing my options and seeing what plays out right. Whatever the best option is, staying in school or going into the draft.”

Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington, Freshman

Chriss is considered a late lottery pick. He admitted to meeting with Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Toronto and Utah. 

When asked if he was all in on entering the draft, even though the NBA gave underclassmen more time to decide, Chriss told us there was never a doubt in his mind.

“There was no testing the waters.”

Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky, Sophomore 

This undersized point guard is considered a mid to late first-round pick. The biggest knock on Ulis is his height, which he obviously can’t change. He said he’s gained 10 pounds of muscle after his freshman season and thinks he’s NBA ready because of the responsibility he had during his sophomore season.

“Way more prepared,” Ulis said. “My second year, I had to do a lot more than I did my freshman year. I learned a lot about myself and became a leader on and off the court. I feel like it helped me.”

Wade Baldwin, PG, Vanderbilt, Sophomore

Baldwin, a mid first-round pick, says he tries to model his game after Russell Westbrook, which is probably a good guy to model your game after.

“I just feel like that would be an ideal position, the point guard,” Baldwin said. “I like how he operates."

Baldwin said that he met with the 76ers and they had him draw a play up on the whiteboard to create a winning shot with four seconds left.

He said he drew it up for another player. Not sure if Westbrook would have done that.

Patrick McCaw, SG, UNLV, Sophomore

McCaw is projected as a late first-round pick, but he’s not exactly sure where he’ll land. 

“I’m hearing a lot of different things, but I don’t listen to that,” McCaw said. “Just gonna work and get better and see where I end up.”

He hasn’t met with any teams yet.

Dorian Finney-Smith, SF, Florida, Senior 

Finney-Smith is one of the older guys in the draft and will probably go somewhere in the second round. Despite no first-round grade, he’s enjoying the ride in Chicago.

“It’s been fun,” the former Gator said. “Out here with a lot of talented guys. Guys you played against throughout your college career. You’re going through a process together.”

Kyle Wiltjer, PF, Gonzaga, Senior 

Wiltjer could go undrafted, but he hopes that someone takes a chance on him because he’s a big guy who can shoot from deep. He shot 43.7 percent from deep last season.

“That’s what I do,” Wiltjer said. “That’s what I take pride in. It’s always good, especially if you have playmakers, to have a guy out there that can shoot. That just stretches the floor.”

His teammate, Domantas Sabonis, was not at the combine, but is expected to be a top-15 pick.

“He’s a beast,” Wiltjer said.

Michael Gbinije, SG/SF, Syracuse, Senior

Gbinije compares himself to C.J. McCollum with his ability to stretch the floor. He’s already met with San Antonio, Detroit, Washington, Atlanta, Indiana and Houston. 

What is he trying to get across in interviews?

“I just want them to know I’m NBA ready,” Gbinije said. “I can come in and play right now.”

Georges Niang, G, Iowa State, Senior

Niang will likely be a late second round pick or go undrafted. But in the city of Chicago, of course, he was asked what it would be like to play for the Bulls under his former college coach Fred Hoiberg. 

“That’d be awesome, now wouldn’t it?” Niang said. “(I’m) getting the chills.”

Gary Payton II, G, Oregon State, Senior 

The Glove’s son will likely go somewhere in the second round. He has met with Sacramento and pitched us on why he’d be a great fit there.

“I’m kind of a do-it-all guard,” Payton said. “I’m  a defender, athletic. Me and (Rajon) Rondo, that’d be a nice combo in the backcourt causing havoc.”

Perhaps if that were 2008 Rondo, then yes.

Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin, Sophomore

Hayes also hasn’t hired an agent yet, and hasn’t decided if he’ll stay committed to the draft. He thought he tested well, but was disappointed with how he performed in his on-court action. 

“I think I wasn’t aggressive enough during the game,” Hayes said. “I need to be more aggressive offensively.”

It’s worth noting that Ben Bentil, a power forward from Providence, interviewed with the Wolves. Malcolm Brogdon, a shooting guard from Virginia, also interviewed. The two are projected as second round picks.

Well, that’s all for today. Tomorrow we’ll have a prospect profile on Kris Dunn up, along with the same great (we hope?) coverage from the combine.

As always, thanks for reading.