Just like in the NFL, the NBA holds an annual draft combine for its best prospects to put their work on display for team scouts and general managers. And, just like the NFL Combine, some of the top prospects decide it’s in their best interest to skip the over analysis and media horde for one week.
Some of the best prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft have decided to skip this year’s event. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid all announced this weekend that they would not attend the event, which will be held in Chicago starting on Tuesday. All three players are projected to be top selections in the draft come June, and all three have been pegged as potential top overall picks at some point in the mock draft process.
While it may be a bit surprising to see these three players decide not to attend, it shouldn’t be. Because of their high marks as prospects already, there isn’t a whole lot for Wiggins, Parker and Embiid to prove. The combine is, more or less, a way for fringe players to put on a show for possible drafting teams. It’s where players such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Virginia’s Joe Harris can impress scouts and make themselves jump into draft boards across the NBA. They are the players that don’t have a lot of hopes in the NBA right now, ones that succeeded at the highest level in college but are battling for their professional lives.
It’s often in top prospects’ best interest to ignore the combine and focus on their individual team workouts and interviews. With Wiggins and Parker, they are conceivably the top two prospects in the draft and the combine could hurt them. With staying away from the media storm for a while longer, they can focus on getting better individually and prepare themselves for all the scrutiny that will fall upon them eventually. For now, they can work out on their own and deal with the interview and workout process when their time comes for different teams.
However, not everyone has it in their best interest to skip the combine. It’s not known just how far along Embiid’s back injury has progressed, so there is a fear there for some teams. Embiid has been one of the hottest names in the draft since he first became a starter for Kansas, even taking his teammate Wiggins’ high draft stock and making it his own. Maybe his back isn’t quite ready for full drills and scrimmaging, which will be done at the combine. What we do know is that, like Wiggins and Parker, Embiid will be taken early in the draft regardless and his “upside” is tremendous.
Then there are the players who could benefit from the combine but will be sitting it out for various reasons. Michigan State’s Adreian Payne will attend the interview process but miss the drills and scrimmages while he battles mononucleosis. Payne’s in-state college rival, Mitch McGary, will follow the same path. McGary is a borderline first-round prospect but is still dealing with the back injury that made him miss all but eight games this past season.
For Payne, he has the credentials to let his combine absence slide. McGary, however, will have to prove himself. Since he can’t do it at the combine his individual workouts for teams will carry much more weight. The sophomore prospect entered the NBA draft on less than desirable terms, stemming from a positive drug test for marijuana that would force him to be suspended for an entire season per NCAA rules. Teams will have questions about his past use now and, couple that with his back issue, could make teams turn away from the ultimately unproven McGary.
The NBA Draft Combine is a fun event that allows all of the top prospects to showcase their skills — physical, mental and verbal — for a number of teams at the same time. While the star power is diminished, that just leaves room for many other players to step up and steal the spotlight. Who can take the bull by the horns and truly make themselves a sought after commodity in the NBA? That’s one question that we’re looking to answer within the next week.