Sullinger measures up as prospects face the tape at predraft combine
CHICAGO -- School might be over for the 61 NBA prospects who descended upon the Windy City this week, but the report cards remain.
And when the results from the predraft combine measurements came in on Friday, there were more than a few sighs of relief from players who were nervous about these particular grades. As tests go, these were the midterms, the physical measurements that -- coupled with a prospect's play at the combine and workouts with teams -- often impact draft status in the month leading up to the big day.
No one was happier than Jared Sullinger, the big man from Ohio State who has battled perceptions about his height and weight more than anyone here. While Sullinger was listed at 6-foot-9 during his illustrious college career, many NBA executives were convinced he was actually shorter. In fact, "undersized" may as well have been his middle name. His weight -- and more specifically, his body fat -- were concerns for teams as well.
Yet Sullinger measured 6-9 in shoes while weighing 268.2 pounds, with a body fat of 10.7 percent that wasn't anywhere near the Oliver Miller territory that some had predicted. His body fat was the sixth worst at the combine, but there were eight players with body fat of 10 percent or higher.
Texas guard J'Covan Brown had the worst mark at 12.5 percent, which paled in comparison to last year's leader: former Georgia forward Trey Thompkins was 15.5 percent body fat before he was taken with the 37th pick by the Clippers. All of which helped Sullinger smile his way through Day No. 2 of his media sessions.
He was already the against-the-grain candidate as it was, a skilled, below-the-rim player who offered none of the highlight-reel athleticism that has become such a significant part of this era. But as Sullinger joked with reporters Friday who found creative ways of bringing up this topic that is taboo in any other faction of society, he's simply following this trail that has been blazed by Minnesota forward Kevin Love.
"He's (representing) the undersized -- well, not undersized -- but the nonathletic basketball player," Sullinger said of the below-the-rim MVP in Love, who is 6-10 but has shed pounds and perceptions since coming out of UCLA in 2008. "Right now, I always say God-given ability is very good, but there are some things you can't coach and that's fundamentals. That's what Kevin Love has.
"That helps me out, and proves that just because he's not athletic there's still certain things that certain athletic guys tend to lose sight of. That's me. You've got to find ways to score. Some people say I'm 6-7, some people think I'm 6-6, but I measured in at 6-9, so that kind of ended all the questions."
Sullinger, who has yet to work out for teams, said he sees his first-round range as anywhere from No. 6 (Portland) to No. 17 (Dallas). He wasn't the only pleased player, though.
The height of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal has been a popular topic as well, as teams are often wary of having an undersized backcourt that -- a la Golden State when the 6-3 Stephen Curry and 6-3 Monta Ellis were together -- gets exposed on the defensive end. Cleveland, for example, already has 6-3 Kyrie Irving at the point and could be hesitant to add Beal to its backcourt with the No. 4 pick because of his size. Yet Beal -- who is considered a good defender -- measured at 6-4 ¾ with shoes with a 6-8 wingspan.
• Much like Sullinger, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson was often saddled with the "undersized" label. But the front-office critics will have to go quiet on that front now, as he measured 6-8 ¾ with shoes with a 7-3 ¼ wingspan. Robinson could go as high as No. 2 to Charlotte.
• Andre Drummond remains the most-alluring physical specimen in this crop, and the Connecticut big man who could be a top five pick now has the official data to prove it.
To the numbers: 6-11 ¾ with shoes, 278 pounds with 7.5 percent body fat and a 7-6 1/4 wingspan that has everything to do with the projections that he can dominate defensively in the NBA for years to come. And while the results of Friday's vertical leap measurements weren't released yet, Drummond said he jumped an impressive 38 inches -- and was disappointed. His personal high, he said, is 40 inches.
• The big men are sure to move their way up draft boards in coming weeks, with teams continuing to be impressed by their frontcourt options. The biggest among them likely got a boost in stock on Friday, too.
Illinois center Meyers Leonard (7-1 ¼), Syracuse center Fab Melo (7-0), and North Carolina center Tyler Zeller (7-0 ¼) were the biggest prospects measured.