(This is Part 14, the final in the series that I published at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the year.)
The 2013 NBA combine is behind us. After thirteen parts attempting to quantify what it all means, now it is time to declare winners & losers. Let’s start with the crew deserving a bump in their draft status.
Shane Larkin – If his NCAA-leading points produced through pick & rolls (scores plus assists) didn’t impress you, or his 24 points per game during Miami’s ACC Tourney run, then how about his joining this crew: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr, John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless? Those were the drafted underclassmen point guards with sprint speed below 3.15 seconds and no-step vert of 30” or more. Ignore concerns about his tiny stature; this Hurricane is primed to do big things.
Otto Porter – Tall small forwards rate as the NBA’s most-productive two-way players. Who stood tallest of the 2013 small forward class? Of course, Otto Porter, also the draft’s most productive 19-year old. I see a strong NBA career, despite middling athleticism tests…which aren’t consistently reflective of NBA success or failure for a small forward, anyways (actually, most of those correlations were negative).
Phil Pressey – He surpassed 3.2 seconds in the sprint and 11 seconds in the agility drill as a draft-worthy upperclassmen point guard. That’s been a can’t-miss combination over the last thirteen years and a great source of late value. Peyton Siva also bested these thresholds, but currently ESPN and Draftexpress include him outside the likely draftees*; at nearly 23, he has never been a particularly effective collegiate offensive player. This serves as opportunity to say, don’t overrate players that otherwise may not warrant drafting, just because of favorable combine results (obviously an Olympic track athlete isn’t likely to find NBA success).
Nerlens Noel – Did I bump my head? I am giving Noel the benefit of the doubt here. The small group of very long, very speedy prodigy centers is fairly glamourous. Nerlens’ 110” reach meets one criteria, and I have faith that his sprint speed bests 3.3 seconds.
Victor Oladipo – The complete list of underclassmen (Oladipo is still 21 as of February 1st, 2014) shooting guards with first-round talent and a 6’ – 9” wingspan, 31” no-step vert and 35” max vert in the last fourteen drafts is: James Harden, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, Ronnie Brewer and Jeremy Lamb. I expect the young Hoosier will fit nicely into this list. Ben McLemore also leapt over 31″ from a stand-still, exhibiting a trait often portending success for first-round, underclass shooting-guard talent. Allen Crabbe barely missed the combination of qualifiers that Oladipo met.
Cody Zeller - His sprint speed ties the third best of the centers evaluated by this study. His no-step vert rose the highest of the entire 2013 Combine. Given the precedent of these traits predicting success in underclassmen centers, this helps solidify Zeller in the top-ten. Norvel Pelle flashed an exciting blend of speed and length…who is he? I don’t know, but as a late second round project, he may be worth a look.
Rudy Gobert – Here’s the shocker; my big, contrarian view. Also, this may not be fair, because this project focused solely on NCAA players. But heading into May 16th, reports of his wingspan were 7’ – 9”…now it’s a confirmed 7’ – 8.25”. Why would this bump his draft stock? As an anecdotal case, the players in the draftexpress.com database with wingspan greater than 7’ – 8” include: Mamadou N’Diaye, John Riek, Alexis Ajinca, Saer Sene, Michael Olowokandi, Chris Marcus, and Boban Majanovic. Is this a list that inspires confidence? Detailed here and here, as a general rule, increased size did not correlate to improved offensive or defensive success for centers; instead, elite athleticism generally corresponded to raised performance.
Follow me on this gross simplification, as I attempt to illustrate a point. Of the players investigated in this study:
- Gobert’s reach of 9’ – 7” exceeds the 70th percentile of centers by 3.5”.
- His max vert of 29” falls below the 70th percentile by 4”.
- OK. Ignore the second bullet point. Based on his sprint speed of 19.7 ft / sec, compared to 70th percentile speed of 21.2 ft / sec, it takes 1/5 of a second for the faster player to gain 3.5″.
While I’m not sure that solved anything, athleticism provided much more reliable prediction of NBA success for Centers. Gobert’s sprint speed was third-worst of the 2013 combine, his agility second from the bottom, with max-vert tied for last. He failed at the more important stuff. I don’t think the events of May 16 and 17 did anything to positively differentiate from May 15th .
Shabazz Muhammad – At the one position where size rated as consistently beneficial, the UCLA freshman comes up short. Turning 21 at the start of next season, combined with non-elite NCAA production, he is probably a reach in the top ten.
Late draft shooting guards – Snagging a “two” in the final quarter of the draft is a longstanding popular decision amongst NBA front offices; following that pattern, a recent draftexpress.com mock shows five coming off the board between picks 46 and 60. Invariably, these picks have not worked out…potentially bad news for Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Vander Blue, Brandon Paul, or Michael Snaer. Rolling the dice on a fast point guard is historically smarter.
Myck Kabongo – In addition to the facts that he was not particularly productive at Texas, and that he technically qualifies as an upperclassmen (22 years old by February 1st), his athleticism results were gross. Not a good combination for a prospective point guard.
Upperclassmen Centers – Over the last 13 drafts, this has typically been the domain of marginally performing players. The exceptions are Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Emeka Okafor, and Brendan Haywood. Accounting solely for defense, Jason Collins can be added to the list. Disappointing speed and leaping results from Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Withey do not help their case towards breaking into this tiny group of successes. Gorgui Dieng skipped the athleticism testing.
Any sub-six foot point guard – Size showed zero inclination towards predicting offensive success for point guards, so if you like Trey Burke, Shane Larkin, Phil Pressey, Pierre Jackson or Isaiah Cannon, don’t be scared-off that they’re shorter than you.
Undersized big men – Richard Howell, Andre Roberson, DeShaun Thomas; if you liked these guys before the combine…carry on.
Anyone not listed here – Basically regardless of how amazing or disappointing the thing they did was…you shouldn’t let it dramatically change your perception of their draft stock.
*Casper Ware did not possess the necessary skill-set to get him drafted, hence he would not qualify in a re-do of this study in five years. As a small, fast point guard though, I featured him with a picture in the second part of this series. Due to that, I will always feel a small interest in his career. This year, in his rookie professional season in Europe, he sits as the second leading scorer (20.4 ppg) and fourth-best assist person in Italian Lega2. Despite struggling around the basket, he posted respectable true shooting of 55% to go with his bulk scoring. His team currently battles in their playoffs, clinching a first round series yesterday, behind Ware’s 20 points on 59% true shooting. Good luck in the semifinals, Casper. Come on, NBA cellar-dwellars and higher-level Euro teams…next year, we can do better than the Italian second-division for Mr. Ware!!