Here's a dirty little secret that no one wants to admit: The NBA Draft Combine is meaningless. Evaluating players isn't hard, and there's no need to take a trip to Chicago to do it (although Chicago is a mighty fine town).
Seriously, what's the point of an event where they measure players without shoes? I asked our interns here at Liberty Ballers to do some research last week, and they were able to confirm that there has never been a single game in NBA history played without sneakers.
Secondly, two of the best players from the 2014 combine were Rodney Hood and Noah Vonleh, and they barely got on the court last season. You know the best way to project how someone is going to play against Kevin Durant? By watching him play against Kevin Durant. Jahlil Okafor's 25/20 versus Elon University last December was nice and all, but until he does that against the Elon Musk of the NBA - LeBron Raymone James - it means nothing to me.
Truth be told, the only way to properly scout potential NBA talent is via their social media accounts. Think about it: Who was/is the most entertaining member of the 2014 draft class? Joel F. Embiid. And who has the potential to be one of the more dominant centers that the league has seen in recent memory? Exactly.
Twitter... is like a window into one's soul. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then Instagram is a 1,000-page scouting report on some of the best basketball talent that the world has to offer.
So throw out your Chad Ford mock drafts, your YouTube videos and your Athlon guide books. Delete that Kentucky-Montana State game that's been sitting on your DVR for the past six months. You want to figure out who the Sixers should take with the No. 3 pick? Hit him up on the 'gram.
Mario Hezonja - @mariohezonja (Twitter and Instagram)
Analysis: Hezonja has sent a total of three tweets in the past two-plus years, and he created his Instagram page an hour and a half ago. How can I trust a man who doesn't put his entire business out there for public consumption?
He has 12 pictures on his Instagram account. This is probably the most exciting one:
LB Social Media Draft Projection: Mid-Second Round
Emmanuel Mudiay - @emmanuelmudiay (Twitter and Instagram)
Mudiay's Instagram feed is kind of boring. Not Mario Hezonja boring, though - that's pretty much impossible. I'd blame it on being signed to Under Armour, but Steph Curry's Instagram game is solid. For what it's worth, IG is pretty much blocked in China, so I'll give Mudiay a pass for now.
Ali is the greatest athlete of all time hands down!— Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) May 31, 2015
Happy bday KG!!— Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) May 19, 2015
did anybody see J Lo MY GOD!— Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) May 5, 2015
It's good to see that kids these days have an appreciation for those who came before them. But I need to see less shout outs to Jennifer Lopez and more crossovers of Stephon Marbury before he moves up my big board. No wonder why we rarely hear Mudiay's name linked to the Sixers.
LB Social Media Draft Projection: Late First Round
Kristaps Porzingis - @kporzee (Twitter and Instagram)
Analysis: His basketball handle is way better than his social media handles. Would have gotten bonus points if he had gone with either @Staps, @StapsMurda, @KRISOne or @Pringles. However, kudos to 'Staps for using a less than flattering picture of Michael Jordan as his Twitter background (A leather blazer and faded jeans? Who does that?)
Listening to these two jams now pic.twitter.com/AkcVYsOHiY— Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) May 15, 2015
Fan of both Drake and The Weeknd? Not a bad start...
Chamillionaire? CHAMILLIONAIRE? I mean, I guess he deserves a pass because... Latvia, but ... Chamillionaire? That song is nine years old - isn't there a more current standard for when you feel like stuntin' on everyone? On the other hand, at least it's not Flo Rida.
For what it's worth, Porzingis cleans it up by posting Instagram videos of himself dunking on people as well as one of himself in full Mutombo/Embiid/JaVale McGee mode, blocking shots and taking names. The man has elite-level confidence, and I'm not mad at that. We see you rollin', Pringles. We see you.
LB Social Media Draft Projection: No. 1 Pick
D'Angelo Russell - @dloading (Twitter and Instagram)
Analysis: With a name like D'Angelo and a nickname of "Voodoo", I would have expected something a little more on the username front. @Dloading is a play on the word "downloading", but There's still time to change it to @BlackMessiah. You could even go with @Brown_Sugar if you want to appeal to the ladies.
Russell is good friends with Nerlens Noel and went to high school with the man who's going to beat him out for the Rookie of the Year award, Joel Embiid. His taste in friends = solid decision making on the court. So don't worry about whether or not @Dloading is a true point guard - he's going to be just fine.
One of these men pictured is a skilled rapper who spends a lot of time at basketball games. The other is Wale.
Players who call themselves the best player in the draft and then RT Vines of their highlight reels have that confidence that you want in a potentially franchise-changing pick. Can you spot confidence in the lane agility drill at the combine? NOPE.
LB Social Media Draft Projection: Top 5
Jahlil Okafor - @jahlilokafor (Twitter), @bigjah15 (Instagram)
Analysis: His social media names are lacking in creativity, much like his offensive game away from the basket.
The caption on this picture ("Gang selfie") is a bit concerning. I'm not a Chip Kelly stan by any means, but I'm also not a fan of players who have gang ties, regardless of their ability.
Jahlil Okafor named his new puppy Natty. As in "National Champions." That's the most Duke thing ever - I'm surprised the dog didn't slap the floor before guarding Big Jah.
Always reminding myself I'm a national champ. haha— Jahlil Okafor (@JahlilOkafor) May 14, 2015
Never mind.... THAT'S the most Duke thing ever.
LB Social Media Draft Projection: Undrafted FA