Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard/forward James Young (1) drives the baseline defended by Connecticut Huskies guard/forward Niels Giffey (5) in the first half during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Draft: General Combine Observations: Day 1

The first part of the NBA Draft Combine was televised today on ESPNU and ESPN2. While top prospects Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid did not attend, and several other prospects only participated in measurements and interviews, there was still quite a bit of knowledge to be gained from the event, particularly pertaining to players who may fall in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ draft range. Below are some tidbits gleaned from today’s session.

  • The panel from ESPN put an emphasis on how fit matters for each prospect and the teams that may draft them. Not only in the sense for how the player can help the team, but how playing for that team may help the player succeed in the NBA. This did not seem like a focus for the previous Cavaliers regime.
  • Guys like UCLA guard Zach Lavine are easy to fall in love with in this setting. Lavine’s combination of size, athleticism and shooting are intriguing despite him not having an inspiring freshman season.
  • Measurements don’t seem like something important until you begin to hear them for each player. Guys like Noah Vonleh, James Young, Adreian Payne, and Jerami Grant all benefited from good measurements, while Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, and Glenn Robinson III may have been hurt by theirs.
  • As Sam Vecenie of Fear The Sword noted, Adreian Payne’s height of 6’9.75” combined with his 7’4” wingspan and 9’1” standing reach may allow him to play as an undersized center who can stretch the floor and protect the paint. Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress pointed out that Payne has similar measurements to Derrick Favors, and while he is much older than Favors was when he was drafted, Payne is a much better shooter than Favors. The only two big men who come to mind as being capable of spacing the floor on offense while being a defensive force inside are Serge Ibaka and Rasheed Wallace. Considering their need for shooting, keep an eye of Payne for the Cavaliers if they decide to keep their pick and not draft a small forward.
  • Speaking of small forward prospects. The best available to the Cavaliers if they wind up with the ninth overall pick are Doug McDermott, James Young, and Rodney Hood. While Young had great measurements and Hood and McDermott were not as impressive, the fact remains that all three men are currently poor defenders. While the plan is for the Cavaliers to become more of an offense-focused team, you still have to be able to guard the opposition. It would not be a shock to see the Cavaliers take a big man with this pick and possibly select a project small forward in the second round.
  • Among those project small forwards, two who stand out are Robinson III and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Robinson was considered a potential lottery pick last year, but returned to Michigan for his sophomore season only to watch his stock fall. While he doesn’t have the traditional offensive game of a small forward, and his standing reach of 8’4.5” was disappointing for a player of his height. Robinson has always shown good offensive potential due to his athleticism and he led all small forwards in the spot-up shooting drill today, finishing at 31-50 (one ahead of Hood, whose strength is outside shooting). He does show some potential as a “3-and-D” player down the road at the next level.
  • Antetokounmpo is he older brother of Milwaukee Bucks wing Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he does not have his brother’s shooting ability or natural feel for the game. Thanasis is an even better athlete with a great motor who shows the potential to be an elite defender who can get to and finish at the rim with the best athletes in the league. Turning 21 on Friday, Antetokounmpo would be a long-term investment who should be at least able to put up Alonzo Gee-level production right off the bat.
  • The team interviews were obviously not televised, but the interviews players did with Andy Katz were very good. The players came off like quality young men who were focused on and excited to achieve their lifelong dreams of playing in the NBA. Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, and Doug McDermott stood out here along with the mystery man of the draft, Dante Exum.
  • Considered a likely top-four pick. Exum interviewed well with Katz and had terrific measurements. At 6’6” with a 6’9.75” wingspan, Exum had solid size for a shooting guard and is absolutely huge for a point guard.
  • Speaking of interviews, Exum, McDermott, Marcus Smart, Elfrid Payton, and Julius Randle all said they had or will interview with the Cavaliers sometime at the combine. Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross is schedule to work out for the Cavaliers on Monday.

That’s all the news for now. The NBA Draft Combine continues tomorrow with athletic testing as well as more interviews and basketball drills, including some three-on three. It’s a great way to learn about some promising NBA prospects.

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