The 2016 NBA Draft Combine kicked off on Thursday, and now that the 5-on-5 component is here to stay it gives evaluators the opportunity to see more than just how tall someone is without their shoes on. Thursday's action featured two games, and a handful of players who needed to show out did just that.
Observations from game one:
- Cheick Diallo was probably the player who helped his draft stock the most in the combine's first game Thursday, registering 18 points (7-10 FG), 4 rebounds and 4 blocks. He knocked down a couple of smooth baseline jumpers, something he really didn't display during his short time at Kansas. Diallo looked pretty comfortable playing around the rim too, throwing down a handful of dunks and at one point showing off a nice jump hook. He protected the rim well without really chasing after blocks like a lot of young bigs tend to do. The one real weakness I noticed in his game is still how skinny his frame is. Maryland's Robert Carter took Diallo to the rim on multiple occasions without much effort. Overall, a very solid day for the 19-year-old. A performance like that might keep him from returning to the Jayhawks for his sophomore year.
- I'm a big fan of Robert Carter, a 6' 8" power forward who played his college ball at Georgia Tech before transferring to Maryland. He finished the day with 22 points (8-15 FG, 2-3 3PT), 7 rebounds and 4 steals, and looked like the complete package. The 22-year-old showed real good range as well as an ability to score in the post, improved handles and solid on ball defense. A couple of his steals came as a result of denying passing lanes, and he was tough on the boards. There's still a chance Carter goes undrafted, but I think he's shown the tools to be a solid rotational big in the NBA for a handful of years.
- Outside of Oakland's Kay Felder, I didn't find myself enamored by any of the ball handlers in game one. Felder did a great job locking down NC State's Cat Barber, who struggled to get any sort of separation and turned the ball over three times. Barber finished with 13 points (5-10 FG) and 6 assists. Oregon State's Gary Payton II played like his scouting report reads: explosive athlete, good defender and passer, can't shoot. Payton had 8 points (4-6 FG) and 4 assists. All three would probably find themselves as mid-second round picks, but I think Philadelphia could find better options elsewhere.
- Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes has had quite the downward spiral. Once considered a late first-round pick, I'm not even sure he's worthy of getting drafted at this point. His playing style is really lethargic, and he doesn't seem all that interested in getting involved. He had just 2 points in 22 minutes. Kentucky's Marcus Lee should also really re-consider entering this year's draft.
- St. Joe's DeAndre Bembry and Providence's Ben Bentil were the big winners from this game. Bembry led all scorers with 18 points (8-12 FG, 1-2 3PT) while also chipping in 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He showed off some very impressive handles and was really comfortable pushing the ball in transition, resulting in 7 fast break points. He also looked like he's spent a lot of time on his jump shot. Bentil is fantastic, and I pray that if he decides to stay in this year's draft that the Sixers consider him at pick 24. He had 15 points (5-8 FG, 2-4 3PT), 11 rebounds and 3 assists. Bentil looks like he can make a real impact as a stretch four in the NBA, as his jump shot looks great and his ability to pull down rebounds is impressive for someone who definitely isn't as tall as his listed playing height of 6' 9". His ball handling is still a serious work in progress though, and that'll be a key component of his progression. Once defenders started to defend him tight on the perimeter was when he started jacking up some terrible shots.
- Two other bigs that I thought looked solid were Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku and New Mexico State's Pascal Siakam, who spent a good portion of the game guarding each other. Onuaku had 11 points (4-6 FG) and 7 rebounds, while Siakam had 12 points (5-9 FG) and 7 rebounds. Onuaku's post game is still pretty raw, but he does a solid job of establishing position and rising high to finish around the rim. He even stepped outside at one point and knocked down a mid-range jumper. Siakam is all hustle; he made a living on Thursday beating opponents down the floor for easy layups and wouldn't be outworked for rebounds. Both are definitely project players, but worth a second-round flier if they hang around in this year's draft.
- I've been tooting Melo Trimble's horn for over a year now, but he's been a tough guy to defend as a serious prospect since February. The Maryland point guard had just 5 points (2-8 FG) and 2 assists in 21 minutes of action. He's struggling to get himself open looks, and had a couple of layup attempts swatted away after he went to the rim rather soft. The concerns about his athleticism are really starting to catch up with him. Maybe one more year in College Park isn't such a bad idea.