I'm headed to Chicago for the NBA Pre-Draft Combine -- where every NBA executive of note will be in attendance to see some of the top players go up against one another. The problem? Most of the elite guys won't do much more than jump and talk.
Nerlens Noel (knee) and Alex Len (ankle) won't do much of anything, and another lock lottery pick, Anthony Bennett, won't even be in attendance after heeding his doctor's advice to rest his injured shoulder. It doesn't matter, though. None of the three would have done much more than measurements and team interviews, anyway. Few of the likely lottery picks will do anything, and there's little the NBA can do about it.
What ever happened to good, old-fashioned competition?
A year ago, I watched Bradley Beal sit courtside as he heeded his agent's advice not to do any competitive, on-court, actual basketball work. He was salivating to get onto the court, as was Thomas Robinson. But I understood their agents' stance since both Beal and Robinson had already solidified their spots in the top half of the lottery, and why risk it?
Guys like Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, Mason Plumlee and others projected to be taken among the top 12 or 15 picks (i.e. Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Shabazz Muhammad) will do the same this year in Chicago. I've also been told it's unlikely that Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, coming off a foot injury that ended his college career, will participate. Louisville's Gorgui Dieng is recovering from an ankle injury. C.J. Leslie, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly are also out due to injury.
Instead of the top 60 guys battling on the court, it'll ultimately be a group of 40 or so -- many fighting to get into the back half of the first round, and the rest likely to be taken in the second round.
For those NBA guys who did their homework this season, a combine setting will do little for them, anyway. Most have already seen these guys in actual game competition, the most effective manner to evaluate. The measurements and testing might be as critical as anything else. Standing reach is more important than actual height.
With that said, there will still be players who have an opportunity to improve their draft stock this week in Chicago. Here are some who will have the magnifying glass on them the remainder of this week at the Harrison Street Athletics Facility:
1.) Rudy Gobert -- NBA guys are enamored by the 7-foot Frenchman's length and his ability to run the court, but they want to see if he can compete physically with college big men. It'll be interesting to see if he can score in the post and hold his own against stronger guys.
2.) Ricky Ledo -- The well-traveled Rhode Island native has the size and skill set for an NBA two-guard. The question is baggage? He has been to five schools -- including four high schools -- and left Providence after never playing a game in college. It'll be interesting to see how he performs both on and off the court for teams and whether he becomes worth the risk of a first-round selection.
3.) Allen Crabbe and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope -- Guys with length who can knock down shots excel in this kind of setting. Crabbe and Pope both look the part, and each are capable of putting on a shooting clinic that would further grab the attention of NBA GM's. Both could easily find themselves going in the 20s come draft night.
4.) Myck Kabongo -- He only wound up playing 11 games after the NCAA forced him to sit the majority of the season. He has the speed that NBA guys want out of the point guard position, and his personality will blow away teams in the interview process.
5.) Glen Rice Jr. -- Was basically a problem child for two different coaching staffs at Georgia Tech and wound up being tossed from the program. He's talented, though, and got a chance the second half of the D-League campaign, where he lit it up. How will he show in Chicago, and will the red flags hinder his draft stock?
6.) Norvel Pelle -- Long, athletic and 6-foot-11, he didn't qualify after signing with St. John's. Has bounced around, but plenty of NBA guys are intrigued with his upside. He'll get a chance to show whether someone will take a flier on him.