The NBA Draft combine will be held on Thursday and Friday at Attack Athletics on Chicago's west side, and I will be there. I really enjoyed covering this event last year because the access is pretty much unprecedented. I remember walking up to Nerlens Noels at an empty table a year ago and chatting with him about a few different things, most notably his recovery from ACL surgery. This was when the burn of Derrick Rose's decision to sit out the entire 2012-13 season following ACL surgery was still fresh, and Noel was in a similar position after suffering the same injury in February of that year. I asked him if he thought there was any chance he could sit out his entire rookie season and he looked at me like I was trying to trick or sabotage him in some way.
Of course, Noel would sit out his entire rookie season for the Philadelphia 76ers, which just goes to show how little control young players have over situations most of the time. The point is that the combine is terrific for being able to talk with the top prospects in the draft, even if there's little in the way of real basketball skills displayed. Position groups do go through sets of drills, but there's no scrimmaging and the workload mostly appears pretty light. The players who come to the combine -- and this year, Wiggins, Embiid, and Jabari won't, which is a huge bummer -- are mostly there to meet with teams, take athletic tests and get measured.
The NBA combine isn't as important as its NFL counterpart because basketball players go at each other in a two-way game and there's no benchmark test are critical as football's 40-yard dash, but a good measurement or athletic test can certainly still set off a rise up the charts. Every inch in height and wingspan counts; a monster vertical leap probably helped Shane Larkin become a mid-first round pick last year, too.
As I've detailed before, the Bulls have so many options this offseason, and the two draft picks they hold in the middle of the first round -- No. 16 and No. 19 -- are a crucial component in their package of flexibility. The Bulls need a backup center, they need wings, they might even want a find another young point guard with so many questions surrounding Rose's long-term viability. There are a number of prospects I like in this draft for the Bulls who will be at the combine this week, so I thought we should go through them here for those who don't following college basketball super closely.
Because there's so many prospects who may or may not be available for the Bulls, we're going to save in-depth profiles for latter on in the process. Consider this a cheat-sheet:
SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Positives: Arguably the best shooter in the draft alongside Creighton's Doug McDermott. Shot 44.2 percent on 5.8 attempts from three-point range as a sophomore after hitting 44 percent of his threes as a freshman. Carried a much bigger offensive burden this past season without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. at Michigan, and saw his assists rise from 1.3 to 3.3 per game. His ability to act as a secondary ball handler and playmaker in the pick-and-roll is a big reason to like him.
Negatives: Who is he going to defend? Look at some of the other shooting guards on elite teams in the East -- from Dwyane Wade to Terrence Ross to Lance Stephenson -- and there's a good chance Stauskas would get eaten alive by those guys. You might not even be able to play him in crunch-time if that's the case. Very short wingspan (6'7) for his height. It's worth noting that Kyle Korver (who's bigger, but still) worked his way into a pretty solid defender under Thibodeau, so maybe Stauskas can do the same thing.
Chance he'll be there: 30 percent. Teams like tall-ish shooters.
SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
Positives: Stronger than Stauskas at 210 lbs. and with wide shoulders. He projects as a player who can get to the rim in the NBA, which will work to his advantage on draft day. His defense is what really sets him apart from some of the other shooting guard prospects, as he developed into an excellent perimeter defender under Tom Izzo the last two seasons. Doesn't turn 20 years old until September. Is a good shooter (35 percent on 6.6 attempts from three as a sophomore, 41 percent on 4.6 attempts as a freshman). Might have been even better as a sophomore but played through nagging injuries.
Negatives: He's not tall (6'4) or long (6'7 wingspan). Was mostly shut down against a tough Virginia defense in the Sweet 16 (six points on 2-of-5 shooting). Doesn't have the range of Stauskas from the perimeter. Has a tendency to hold the ball, but displayed better playmaking instincts as a sophomore by averaging 2.7 assists per game. Not considered to be a great distributor.
Chance he'll be there: 10 percent. We know Chad Ford loves him. We'll see about everyone else.
SG James Young, Kentucky
Positives: Above-average athlete on the perimeter. Ideal size at 6'6 with a 6'11 wingspan. He can shoot with range, though I suspect most figured he'd be better than 34.9 percent from three. Doesn't turn 19 years old until August. Was very good in the NCAA tournament, scoring 20 against UConn in the national title, 17 against Wisconsin in the Final Four and 13 against both Wichita State and Michigan. Did this in the national title game:
Negatives: Youth is a double-edged sword, as we saw with Marquis Teague. Young has talent but he might not be ready quite yet. I'm not sure if he's going to defend anybody early in his career. He doesn't appear to have great floor vision or playmaking instincts yet. He's a better shooter by reputation than by the numbers. Does he make anyone else on the floor better?
Chance he'll be there: 60 percent.
SF T.J. Warren, N.C. State
Positives: Absolutely filthy scorer. Finished third in the country by averaging 24.8 points per game. Has a nasty floater that projects well to the next level. Can create his own shot and get off a good look from almost any situation. Scored 40+ twice in March. Was held under 20 points only four times all season. Shot 52.5 percent from the field on 18.6 shots per game after shooting 62.2 percent as a freshman. Former McDonald's All-American who got himself into better shape last year, and the numbers proved it. Great motor.
Negatives: Not an explosive athlete. Has a funny looking outside shot, and only made 26.7 percent of his three-pointers as a sophomore. At 6'8, 233 lbs., he's a bit of a tweener between small forward and power forward. Is not considered a good defender.
Chance he'll be there: 90 percent.
PG/SF Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Positives: Ideal size at 6'9 with 7'2 wingspan. Great feel for the game and tremendous floor vision. Essentially acted as UCLA's point guard (at 6'9!) last season, and averaged 6.5 assists per game. He'll fill up the box score with points (14.6 per game), assists, rebounds (8.8 per game) and steals (1.8 per game). Shot it a little better from the perimeter as a sophomore. Destroyed a great Arizona defense in the Pac-12 conference tournament championship game with 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
Negatives: His nickname is "Slow Mo" and he's compared himself to Boris Diaw in the past. He's just not a good athlete. Even with the impressive steals numbers and huge wingspan, it's fair to wonder if he'll be able to defend when isolated in the NBA. He's likes to have the offense run through him, so what happens in the NBA when it won't right away?
Chance he'll be there: 65 percent.
SG Jordan Adams, UCLA
Positives: Super productive and efficient in two seasons at UCLA. Averaged 23 points per 40 minutes and finished with a 60 percent true shooting percentage. Found a way to score against top defenses like Florida (17 points on 15 shots) and Arizona (19 points on 16 shots). Scores from every level. Improved his three-point shooting from 30.7 as a freshman to 35.6 as a sophomore on just over four attempts per game. Tons of steals (2.6) in part because of what many assume to be a huge wingspan, though there's no number on record yet. Can do everything (rebound, defend and pass) pretty well in addition to being a really good scorer.
Negatives: He's not a super athlete. Got shutdown twice by Stanford, when he couldn't reach double-figures in scoring. The three-point shooting is inconsistent. He's not going to blow by anyone in the NBA.
Chance he'll be there: 90 percent.
SG P.J. Hairston, D-League via North Carolina
Positives: Big, strong guard at 6'5, 220 lbs. with a 6'9 wingspan. Has range on the jumper -- hit 39.6 percent of his 6.6 attempts from three per game as a sophomore at UNC. Hit 35.8 percent of 7.8 attempts per game from three-point range in the D-League with the Texas Legends. Big enough to finish at the rim.
Negatives: Got screwed by the NCAA (note: this is not really a negative). Kicked out of UNC for linked to rental cars from a convicted felon, which Roy Williams called "probably the most difficult and saddest thing I've ever gone through as a head coach". Couldn't average one assist per game across 32 minutes in 26 games in the D-League. Lacks ball handling ability and superior floor vision. Isn't as crafty of a scorer as Adams, but is a better three-point shooter.
Chance he'll be there: 90 percent.
PG Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette
Positives: Great size at 6'3 with a 6'7 wingspan. Super athlete. Really good defender who averaged more than two steals per game as a sophomore and junior. Solid playmaker who averaged 5.9 assists as a junior and 5.6 assists as a sophomore. Pulled down six rebounds per game this last year. Is great in transition and finishing at the rim -- shot 50.9 percent from the field. Box score stuffer who has drawn comparisons to Rajon Rondo. I sort of see him as a less polished Reggie Jackson.
Negatives: Cannot shoot at all. Won't take a three-pointer and shot about 62 percent from the foul line his last two seasons in college. Still considered raw after three seasons of college, but he is only 20 years old. Not going to stretch the floor or hit a jumper when the kick out comes his way, at least not yet.
Chance he'll be there: 75 percent.
PF/C Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Positives: Very good shooter for a 6'10, 225 lbs. big man. Hit 42.3 percent of his threes as a senior, 79 percent of his free throws and over 50 percent of his shots from the field. 7-foot wingspan. Didn't record a lot of blocks in college, but could project as a solid defender and supplemental rim protector. I did not suspect he was athletic enough to do this:
Negatives: OLD. Well, at least by draft standards. He'll turn 24 years old in February. He also needs to add at least 10-15 lbs. of muscle. Has a thin frame that will get overpowered in the NBA if he doesn't.
Chance he'll be there: 50 percent.