CHICAGO -- By the time the NBA's combine had come and gone on Saturday, nothing had changed about the massive uncertainty surrounding the draft.
Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis was still the consensus No. 1 pick to New Orleans, and everything from that point on remained about as predictable as a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist jumper. The Wildcats' small forward with the suspect shooting touch is among those still believed to be in play to be taken second by Charlotte, along with Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, Connecticut center Andre Drummond and Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal.
That is, of course, if the Bobcats even wind up using the pick on June 28. They need major roster help and are interested in moving back in pursuit of multiple assets. The Trail Blazers and Rockets are among the teams with two picks apiece in the top 16, meaning Charlotte general manager Rich Cho shouldn't have trouble getting call-backs as he continues to explore all options.
But no matter how the top tier of the draft eventually unfolds, few, if any, dispute the fact that Beal is considered the best shooting guard in a deep crop that includes Syracuse's Dion Waiters, Washington's Terrence Ross, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb and Duke's Austin Rivers. Beal has managed to create some well-timed separation from his peers, even after a freshman season in which he didn't shoot as well as expected (44.5 percent from the field, 33.9 percent from three-point range).
His Teflon stock has a lot to do with the fact that he is athletic, versatile and a physical player who can score inside and out as well as defend and rebound. That
While Beal compared his offensive style to that of future Hall of Famer Ray Allen recently, he made a point to clarify his assessment at the combine: He's like the Ray Allen of old -- not the old Ray Allen.
"He was super athletic coming out of college," said Beal, who cited Allen's
Beal, who weighed 202 pounds with 6 percent body fat on Friday, found a comparison to 24-year-old Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon to be much more agreeable.
"He's able to catch and shoot, but he has that big body where he's super athletic as well," Beal said. "He can get to the basket and finish and dunk on somebody."
Beal, the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, was the only one of five brothers not to play football throughout high school. He stopped after his sophomore year -- he was a quarterback, receiver and safety -- but said he still has a football player's mindset.
"It's just that toughness and that knack for finding contact," Beal said. "I always feel as if basketball is a contact sport -- it's still physical, and guys still get knocked around."
Agent Mark Bartelstein told SI.com that he has no plans for Beal to conduct workouts with teams beyond the top four. Beal is tentatively scheduled to work out for Washington on Thursday, Cleveland on Saturday and Charlotte on June 18.
Just as Beal has established himself as the No. 1 player at his position, Weber State's Damian Lillard still appears to have top billing among point guards. While most premier prospects passed on the drills here, Lillard's decision to participate paid off as he shot the ball very well and was widely seen as a combine winner.
But North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall is an intriguing second option for any team looking for a floor leader, a Ricky Rubio lite of sorts who ranked second in the country with 9.8 assists and has scouts and executives wondering if he can shoot. Such is life when you're surrounded by fellow first-rounders. Small forward Harrison Barnes and big men Tyler Zeller and John Henson, who are all expected to be taken ahead of Marshall, handled the scoring duties for the Tar Heels. Marshall averaged just 8.1 points while shooting 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 35.4 percent from three-point range. The questions about his scoring ability, Marshall said, are "with good reason."
"I only averaged eight points a game," he said. "But if you let me tell it, there's a reason I didn't shoot the ball a lot. There are other guys in my team that specialize in that area. But I feel like when my number was called, and when I needed to score, I did so. That's one of my main goals in these next couple weeks, to show that I can be a much more consistent shooter."
If only he were completely healthy. The left-handed Marshall broke his right wrist after a brutal spill in an NCAA tournament victory against Creighton on March 18. He had season-ending surgery the next day. But six weeks later an MRI taken at the IMG Academy in Florida showed an undiagnosed broken elbow that he sustained on the same play. The injury didn't require surgery, but it's still holding him back. Marshall shot at the combine but did not do contact drills.
Baylor small forward Quincy Miller remains a mystery man in the first-round mix. Before tearing his ACL during his senior season at Westchester Country Day School in High Point, N.C., Miller was
"I'm physically back to 100 percent," Miller said. "During the season it was progressively getting better, but now I'm back to 100 percent. I think teams believe that I'm back. They've seen me play enough. They see my movement is way better than it was during the season. They see a different player now."
Miller said he expects to go anywhere from the late lottery to "the 20s," but one general manager said he could fall to the second round. Miller said he has workouts scheduled with Cleveland (Nos. 4, 24, 33 and 34 picks), Detroit (9, 39 and 44), Golden State (7, 30, 35 and 52), Houston (14 and 16), Denver (20, 38 and 50) and Dallas (17 and 55).
• It's a big week for Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who has been seen as a mid-first-round pick for quite some time but has a chance to move up. It's no secret that the Warriors are considering him (either for No. 7 or if they trade down), and I'm told that Sacramento (No. 5) is very intrigued as well. He'll work out with both teams this week, a source said, visiting the Warriors on Monday in a face-off against Baylor forward Perry Jones (Zeller and Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli will be in that workout too) before his Sacramento visit. Terrence Jones said he is also scheduled to work out for Atlanta (No. 23), Orlando (19), and Denver (20).
• Washington's Ross has serious sleeper potential, and all of it -- the range, quickness and athleticism -- is there for teams to see in this process. The 6-7, 197-pound guard is taking the nothing-to-hide approach to promoting himself. He said he has already worked out with the Timberwolves, Celtics, Nuggets and Hornets, and has sessions scheduled with the Raptors, 76ers, Suns and Trail Blazers. He averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Huskies last season while playing alongside a point guard in fellow draft prospect Tony Wroten who had more turnovers (132) than assists (130).
• An informal poll of executives after the combine produced the following list of players who helped their causes either through their play or their measurements: Lillard, Ross, Kansas' Robinson, Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, St. John's small forward Moe Harkless, Illinois center Meyers Leonard, Syracuse center Fab Melo, Marquette shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom, Missouri shooting guard Kim English and Norfolk State power forward Kyle O'Quinn. For perspective on where those players stood going into the combine, check our
• In yet another sign that the teams at the top never stop working, San Antonio (no first-round picks) and Boston (Nos. 21 and 22) requested combine interviews with numerous high-profile prospects whom they have no chance of drafting. Silly though it may seem, the teams see it as their only chance to connect with a promising player who will be a free agent someday.
After mentioning that he had visited with the Celtics, Kidd-Gilchrist said he never considered declining the meeting with a team drafting so low.
"I mean, I just want to get picked, to be honest with you," he said. "I'm just blessed to be in this opportunity, so I don't take it for granted."
The interviews, which are granted by the NBA after the submission of formal requests, last a maximum of 30 minutes with team officials.
• Barnes, a media darling here with his polished personality, provided some combine comedy on Friday. When asked about the craziest question he'd faced during interviews with teams, he said, "Someone said, 'If the players and coaching staff would all go out at 2:30 [a.m.], would you go out with us?' I said, 'I might have to pass on that.' And they were like, 'But, we're in Miami?' I said, 'No, I'd have to pass.' "