By Kevin Sweeney
Over the course of the past week, invitations were extended to NBA Draft hopefuls to the NBA Draft Combine. An ivitation to the combine is very important, as it allows players to showcase their skills in front of scouts and executives from all 32 teams.
The NBA released the complete list of players who accepted invitations to the combine: http://www.nba.com/2016/news/05/06/more-than-70-players-invited-to-2016-nba-draft-combine/
Here are my observations about the invite list:
- Mid-Major Stars Rewarded- While many mid-major standouts are often overlooked in favor of players from blue blood programs, this year’s combine features a nice nucleus of players from mid-majors. Ron Baker, DeAndre Bembry, Joel Bolomboy, AJ English, Kay Felder, Isaiah Miles, and Pascal Siakam make up this year’s mid-major invitees. Size is often critical with mid-major players, as they often don’t have the NBA-ready bodies that scouts love. Therefore, the measurement process will be important for these players’ draft hopes.
- Briscoe, Poythress Left Out- Prior to the 2015-16 season, it appeared Kentucky would once again produce up to 6 first round picks. However, the season didn’t go as planned for guard Isaiah Briscoe and forward Alex Poythress. As a result, neither were invited to the combine. Briscoe, who was a consensus first round pick entering the season, struggled with his shot and showed little ability to play the point. He now appears likely to return to school or face being a late 2nd round pick. Poythress, who has battled injuries throughout his college career, will now look to earn his way onto an NBA roster next season.
- Picture Becoming Clearer for Early Entrants- With this season’s new rules allowing players to explore the draft process until May 25, provided that they don’t hire an agent, an incredible number of underclassmen decided to test the waters. However, with the invites out, the decision as to whether to stay in the draft is becoming easier. Already, players like UCONN’s Rodney Purvis and Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes have announced their intentions to return to return to school. Other players, like Valparaiso’s Alec Peters and Peter Jok of Iowa seem likely to return to school.
- Strong Portsmouth Performances Lead to Combine Invites- The Portsmouth Invitational can be a great stepping stone for seniors in earning invites for workouts and the combine. This year, 5 of the star performers of the tournament earned combine invites. Tournament MVP AJ English, along with Isaiah Miles, Isaiah Cousins, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Elgin Cook all turned in great Portsmouth weekends, and as a result, are headed to the combine.
- Ingram to Attend, Simmons to Skip- The consensus top 2 picks in the upcoming draft have taken different approaches to the combine process. Ben Simmons, the favorite to be the #1 pick, decided to decline his invitation to the combine. He truly has very little to prove at an event like the combine. However, Duke freshman sensation Brandon Ingram has decided to attend the event. This also makes sense, as he wants to gain ground on Simmons as the #1 pick.