NBA teams and prospects met in Chicago last week to participate in the annual NBA draft combine, featuring players from college, the G League, and international play. While the focus in Mavericks land is the Western Conference Finals, we also kept close watch on scouting and reports from a week full of official measurements, drills and scrimmages.
Draft enthusiasts Ian, Luke, and Jordan had a chat about takeaway from the week in preparation for this summer’s draft.
JORDAN: What jumped out for you in general? What jumped out from players you’re tracking for the Mavericks 26th pick?
LUKE: I don’t even watch the combine scrimmages. I’d way rather watch tape of the dudes playing in college or overseas than see them playing with guys they just met and are (in theory) competing against. What I LOVE about the combine is getting official numbers and measurements related to players’ frames and athleticism.
IAN: I look at the NBA combine as a small part of the overall evaluation process. Getting official measurements is nice. Most of the top players don’t participate in drills or the scrimmage, so almost all of the “new information” that’s coming out is more for fringe players; guys either trying to crack the first round or assure they’re drafted at all. Still, the most critical part of evaluating these players should have already happened, when reviewing tape and doing background research. Who “wins” or “loses” the combine rarely has any correlation with who ends up being the best NBA player five years or so down the line.
That being said, one player who clearly stood out was Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams. While generally thought of as one of a bunch of names being given second round consideration, Williams generated buzz with his 7’2 wingspan, 39 inch vertical, and strong performance in the scrimmage portion of the combine. Several plugged in reporters suggested Williams may end up being a top 20 or even a lottery pick, which if true would obviously take him out of consideration for Dallas.
On the flip side, Notre Dame’s Blake Wesley had a slightly underwhelming combine, posting a 36 inch vertical that while decent by prospect standards, fell a little short of expectations, given the way Wesley is generally thought of as being one of the better athletes in the draft. Wesley opted not to participate in the scrimmage or shooting drills, so he clearly believes his status as a mid-late first rounder is secure. He has been mocked to Dallas more than once, and certainly will be a name to remember should the Mavericks sit and pick on June 23.
JORDAN: I liked the potential I saw in Wesley during the season. But it does feel at times the actual product can be a little underwhelming so far. Which…yeah I guess that’s why he would still be around in the mid-20’s.
Williams on the other hand jumped off the page to me. Having what, a plus-nine inch wingspan is wild. I’ve seen a few mocks that have him selected by the Mavericks and his physical traits and numbers intrigue me.
IAN: I would take either Jalen Williams or Jaylin Williams, personally.
JORDAN: Admittedly Jalen wasn’t on my radar until a few weeks back. But where is Arkansas’ Jaylin Williams being projected?
IAN: Second round? I’ve mentioned before but really like the way he defends, draws charges, plus has some faceup passing/shooting potential. Moves feet well, which makes me think he might have a better shot at guarding pick-and-roll than some of the more prominent shot-blocker types.
LUKE: The two guys who stood out to me were actually two of the guys I’ve been most interested in for months: Christian Braun and Mark Williams.
Braun disappointed a bit with his wingspan (he measured 6’7 with shoes but only has a wingspan of 6’6.5). He made up for that, though, by showcasing his otherworldly athleticism. He had the third-best max vertical leap of any participants at 40 inches.
Mark Williams impressed with his frame. He measured the top standing reach at 9’9, the top wingspan at 7’6.5, and was the second-tallest guy at the combine, standing at 7’0 without shoes. I assume Williams will go way higher than where the Mavs will be picking, but he has potential trade-up value. If that doesn’t happen, Braun is looking really nice for Dallas.
JORDAN: Yeah Ian and I talked a little about Braun last week after those measurements came out. He fits a mold of college guys who seem to have a high floor, low ceiling with underwhelming wingspan. High IQ guys that can space the floor, but end up flaming out in the NBA. But as you said, Braun’s athleticism is what makes me think he sticks in the league and keeps me intrigued about his possibility in Dallas.
Now that this phase of draft prep is over, and all that’s left is private workouts, what will you be watching for before the draft as it pertains to the Mavs?
LUKE: Drafting late in the first round means you need a lot of luck. You might have guys you’re targeting, but quite a few players always end up going higher and lower than people expect. So I’ll mostly be interested in hearing leaked reports about which teams are falling in love with certain guys. For example, maybe one of the teams in the 14-18 range is in love with Christian Braun. Then I won’t even get my hopes up.
IAN: The Mavericks in the past have been very secretive about who they’ve worked out or might be targeting. It will be interesting to see if that changes slightly with Nico Harrison here now; really, I’ll be curious to see what if anything changes across the board with him installed, given the somewhat nebulous nature of Donnie Nelson’s role with the team previously. The other storyline to watch of course is the trade market, and the chance of Dallas trading the pick is certainly there, though they’ll have to wait until draft night to do it officially. The Mavs will have their ears up should a disgruntled star hit the trade block.