Last night, when doing some "research" on Sam Hinkie, I watched a Sloan Sports Analytics Conference panel on how to effectively communicate analytical data and information to decision-makers who might not be inclined to accept the information otherwise. It gives a lot of insight into how Hinkie makes decisions and how he feels an NBA front office should work, so I recommend listening to it if you have time. And like he has in many other press conferences, he mentioned that analytics is just a way to gather more information, some of it more valuable than others, and that he weighs that information alongside reports from scouts and information gathered from teammates and coaches and family members and other so-called traditional methods. He prides himself on getting as much information as possible about a prospect or a player before making a decision so as to make the best decision possible.
Which brings us to the NBA Draft Combine. The combine is ongoing in Chicago, which is essentially summer camp for NBA prospects and decision-makers. Teams gather all kinds of information about prospects that they could usually only speculate on beforehand - official height and wingspan measurements and the drills portion are probably the most important things that will come out of the combine. Not every player participates in all of the drills, but everyone at the combine goes through the measurements. And this wealth of information about almost all of the prospects contained in one place is what makes the combine important, although we don't know how important this information they gather will ultimately be in their decision-making.
According to Keith Pompey, who is covering the draft combine for the Inquirer, the Sixers either have interviewed or will interview the following players during the combine: Mason Plumlee, Cody Zeller, Rudy Gobert, DeShaun Thomas, and maybe Michael Carter-Williams. They'll likely interview everyone that figures to come close to either one of their picks in time.
A couple of notes before the notes: the official measurements I am using come from Chad Ford's chart found in this Insider article. You can find most of the important measurements on his Twitter account as well on Draft Express. Also, I'm using height without shoes because some guys apparently wear stilettos when measuring height with shoes on. I just assume that players will all play roughly an inch taller than their natural height.
- Rudy Gobert is ginormous - he measured at 7'0.5" without shoes at the combine and set records in both wingspan (7'9") and standing reach (9'7"). The latter two generally matter more for defenders than height, and Gobert comes three inches from touching the rim without lifting his feet off the ground. Teams are going to be very interested in that height, and from a development standpoint if he learns the game better, adds weight, and works on his conditioning, he could become a defensive monster. Those are all big ifs, and the Sixers could be in position to weigh whether or not he would be worth that kind of risk. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes ahead of the Sixers with those measurements.
- Cody Zeller's wingspan was better than initially reported - the same as his height without shoes, 6'10.75". While that could make him a slightly better defender, I'm still hesitant because of his strength issues.
- Mason Plumlee measured at 6'11.25" without shoes and a 6'11" wingspan, so fairly comparable with Zeller.
- Kelly Olynyk only had a 6'9.75" wingspan, however, which is pretty bad for a center even with his height.
- Otto Porter looks better and better everyday, with a 6'7.5" height without shoes and a wingspan over 7' and WHY DAMIEN WILKINS WHY?
- Jeff Withey and Gorgui Dieng had relatively similar measurements. Withey measured an inch taller while Dieng had an inch of wingspan on Jeff. Usually people prefer one of the older, defensive-minded bigs to the other, and these measurements won't really impact those arguments.
- Shabazz Muhammad measured only 6'4.75" in socks, which makes him a smaller wing even with a wingspan approaching 7 feet. His lack of height, combined with his newly known older age (still only 20), will likely drop him in the draft, and he could be available at 11 if the Sixers want him there.