This week I had the privilege to attend the Pro Basketball Combine at the Mamba Sports Academy in California where 24 NBA draft prospects displayed their talents. The event was a massive success, and was arguably the best group of talent the Combine has ever assembled. Here’s my recap of the 13 guys that stood out to me:
Chris Silva, a center from South Carolina, displayed his high level athleticism for a player his size (6’10/227). His jump shot is likely not to be part of his skillset, due to him having the second lowest performance of all the players in the shooting drills. However, in the 3-on-3 scrimmages and driving drills, he showed his long strides and ability to play above the rim, as well as defend the rim and be somewhat of a perimeter defender. Silva will likely head to the G-League next season and develop his game before heading to the NBA. Silva is still raw and has to refine his understanding of the game, as well as his jump shot form.
Justin Simon from St John’s displayed versatility and a high level defensive ability. His shot needs heavy refinement, but he was the best defender at the combine. In the 3-on-3 drills, Simon guarded a point guard, a wing, and a stretch 4, all at a high level, largely in part to his enormous wingspan. His lateral quickness, high-level instincts, motor, frame, and athleticism make him a great defender that can guard NBA players from day one. His best chance to succeed in the NBA is to develop into a defensive specialist off the bench. His athleticism and natural talent were on display, and he likely secured a chance for a spot on a G League roster, as many G League Executives were in attendance.
Isaiah Reese came into the Combine after a regression from his sophomore season to his junior season, but his skill level looked improved and he learned to play with more than his natural talent. Reese has worked hard to improve his jump shot consistency, which some scouts at the PBC believe will be the ticket to his success. Reese did not measure well, previously listed at 6’5, but instead listed as 6’2 with a 6’5 wingspan. Reese exploded in the scrimmage sessions as the leading scorer and was able to show off his playmaking ability as well. Look for Isaiah Reese to be in the G-League for a couple years adjusting to the tempo while refining his offensive game before eventually making his way to the NBA.
D’Marcus Simonds showed off stretches of shooting ability and played well in the scrimmages. After a regression as a junior, there was concern about his prospect status. All of his efficiency dropped, as well as volume output. However, his athleticism was near the best in the draft, as he had a top tier second jump and was 3rd in speed testing by just 0.03 seconds. Simonds needs to improve his shot form, but his skillset passes the eye test, so if he returns to Georgia State and shows improvement, he could raise his stock to a top 80 player in the 2020 draft.
Kerwin Roach is the best athlete in the draft, recording a 45 inch vertical. There’s a good case to be made for him being the best pure athlete to come out of the draft since Dennis Smith, Jr. in 2017. Roach, however, didn’t do as well as he had hoped in the shooting drills. Roach told me that while the practice jump shot has improved, he is putting a lot of work into making his jump shot translate in-game. Roach thrives at pick & roll ball handling as well as athleticism.
Jeremy Harris started the shooting drills cold, starting 1 of 5, but finished 17 of 20. His shot will be a make-or-break aspect of his game, as he can get to the basket well and thrives in transition thanks to excellent athleticism and long strides. Harris’ plus athleticism and long arms help his defensive prowess. Harris only played 2 years at Buffalo, and will be a worthwhile project for whichever team takes him on. Look for him in the G-League early on. Like many of the players at the PBC, Harris will likely have to carve out a role in the G-League before getting a look in the association.
Kenny Williams was a lockdown defender at North Carolina and continued his ways at the PBC. The big advantage for the Day 1 Player of the Day recipient was his jump shot success in shooting drills and in scrimmage. In the shooting drills, they do 3 rounds of 5 shots at each corner. In the college line rounds he was perfect from multiple areas and barely missed. Unfortunately, in the NBA range drill he had several shots go in and out for misses, but the shot looked improved. Against closeouts in the 3-on-3 drills, he was able to score at will as well as get to the basket easily. He has worked relentlessly since the end of the season on his jump shot, which could make him a two way guard that could be in contention for an NBA contract of some sort – whether it be an Exhibit 10, two-way contract, training camp invite, or an NBA deal. To no surprise, Williams’ defense was excellent in the scrimmages, and in the defensive drills he displayed excellent lateral quickness.
Kevaughn Allen shot the ball at a fantastic clip, shooting the 2nd best percentage at 80% in the NBA shooting drills. Allen also moved well in the defensive drills and athletic testing, and most importantly, he measured well with a 6’6 wingspan despite being undersized at 6’2 ½ . Allen is likely to be undrafted, but if he can polish his combo guard skills, which is something that takes time to transition to, he could have a successful NBA career. He must improve his shot selection, decision making, and limiting mistakes in order to make it at the next level.
Other notable performers:
- Kerry Blackshear was a name that intrigued me due to his college success and potential stretch ability. He displayed shooting upside, but still needs to improve consistency. He is limited defensively due to heavy feet and a lack of top-end athleticism. Blackshear is also in the transfer portal, meaning he can withdraw from the draft and play one more year in college basketball, eligible immediately.
- Paul White showed off his guard skills in shooting and ball handling, but didn’t test well athletically or in measurements with a square 6’10 frame.
- While Dontay Caruthers didn’t display a lot of NBA skill, he had the strongest defensive showing, making for an entertaining game locking down South Carolina’s Hassani Gravett. Caruthers has an elite motor that will help him always get better.
- Alex Robinson underperformed in the shooting drills, but excelled in athleticism and playmaking during his session, from testing/measurements to scrimmages.
Lastly is Desmond Bane, the very clear best player from the combine. The only negative Bane had during his session was a negative wingspan, although measuring an inch taller than listed throughout the season. Desmond Bane displayed his 3&D upside plus high level athleticism with a 41 inch vertical and some high flying rebounds in the scrimmage. Bane had the highest percentage in the 3 point shooting drill, shooting 88% and not missing 2 shots in a row. Only Tremont Waters performed as well in the NBA Combine in the same drill. While Bane’s form is unorthodox, he gets great rotation on the ball and repeats the form. There are still some questions about Bane’s shooting off the dribble, but it was very clear that Bane has been working hard on his jump shot to become even better since the end of the season. Bane has every tool to thrive as a defender besides length. Under Jamie Dixon at TCU, Bane became a better communicator on defense, which he led his team at in the 3 on 3 scrimmages, which led to quick rotations. The most important takeaway on court was his defense on Jeremy Harris. Bane had hard closeouts on Harris that led to some misses and even one play made Harris pass out of a shot.
Desmond Bane was arguably the best player at this combine, and only helped his status. Bane was in my top 45 on my board before the event, and solidified that position at the combine. With all of his on court abilities and his excellent character, teams will have a hard time passing up on a player with his athleticism, feel, and production. However, he could return to school for a senior season. If he returns and replicates his production, expect to hear his name called on draft night 2020.
Overall, the 2019 draft has lots of depth from 40-100. Despite the national media narrative regarding this draft class, key NBA personnel will agree with the fact that the draft gets stronger in depth each year, and this year is no difference. While the first round is not as strong as 2017 or 2018, the depth in the second round and undrafted pool may be just as strong. Look for lots of PBC alumni to be in or near the NBA in the future.
For more NBA Draft insight, you can find me on Twitter @MavsDraft