CHICAGO — The on-court portion of the draft combine wrapped up on Friday, with two more scrimmages giving prospects a chance to perform in front of the entire league. As a whole, five-on-five play was heavily watered down this year as a vast majority of potential first-round picks opted not to play, aiming to protect their draft stock. Regardless, there were a number of intriguing players who benefited this week, including Luka Samanic and Jalen Lecque, both of whom we discussed on Thursday, and opted to shut it down after positive showings. There were also some guys who struggled. Some of the more noteworthy performers from both days of scrimmages are listed below.
Nic Claxton, Georgia
A potential first-rounder, Claxton really popped in the combine setting and made a wise decision to participate in scrimmages, where his defensive activity and smarts were on display. He’s got impressively active hands and feet—measured at just under 7’0” in shoes with a 7’2.5” wingspan—and left a strong impression by constantly finding ways to disrupt the opposing offense. Offensively, Claxton is comfortable handling the ball and often did so at Georgia this season. And while that won’t be his role at the next level, he’s a pretty strong all-around player for someone who can also be classified as a project. If his jump shot can make additional progress, there’s real upside here. He’s the type of versatile big teams will be happy to develop, and will have a good case to remain in the draft if he chooses.
Grant Williams, Tennessee
Williams was the highest-profile college player to participate in scrimmages, and while that decision was admirable, it didn’t really move the needle in the end. He has rightfully earned praise for his intangibles and basketball feel, and he’s a rock-solid, active competitor who can make a positive impact in several ways. But NBA executives I’ve spoken with remain skeptical, noting that he stands 6’7” in shoes with a wingspan a hair under 6’10”, and that his top-heavy body type limits his mobility. Williams is limited off more than two dribbles, and will be best suited at power forward. But the big question is how much efficient offense he’ll be able to supply, noting his troubles finishing against bigger, longer defenders, and an inconsistent three-point shot that will ultimately make or break him. Bottom line, he’s the type of potential role player who seems to make more sense on a two-year guarantee than on a first-round contract. With his physical limitations, Williams’s ceiling is only so high.
Neemias Queta, Utah State
After a difficult first day in which he was matched up exclusively with 7’6” Tacko Fall (more on him later), Queta bounced back with a much more productive showing on Friday, running the floor, rebounding and altering a ton of shots. He measured well at north of 7-feet tall in shoes, with a 7’4” wingspan and the combine’s widest hands (11”). While offensively, Queta is extremely raw. His ability to naturally impact the game at this level on defense was evident, frustrating opponents into misses on a number of occasions. He will need to add some weight and polish his game offensively, ideally harnessing some of his jump shooting potential in a more game applicable setting. But there aren’t many mobile bigs built like Queta, and he’s worth a hard look as a long-term project who could help a team’s rotation down the road.
Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
After an uneven showing on Thursday, Roby looked like one of the better prospects on Friday, making more confident decisions with the ball, sprinting the floor, finishing plays, and showing off more of his skill level. Consistency has been an issue with him, but teams are intrigued by his tools. If he can make strides as a jump shooter, he has a real chance of becoming a contributor at some point. Roby still has work to do and is more of a second-rounder right now, but the upside is certainly there.
Darius Bazley, Princeton HS (OH)
Bazley didn’t do much to help his stock this week, as it’s evident his feel for the game continues to lag behind his peers. He’s still looking like a possible second-round selection and will clearly need G League time. He was able to display some of his athleticism and made some jump shots, but Bazley too often tends to pound the ball and look for his own shot, with little indication that he’ll be ready to fit into a team concept. He turns 19 in June, so there’s time and tools for teams to work with, but he’s clearly going to require development time, and might be someone who doesn’t return any value until his second contract or beyond, if at all.
Tremont Waters, LSU
In my eyes, Waters did a good job dispelling some of the concerns about his lack of size despite measuring as the shortest player here, at just under 5’11” in shoes. He’s always been extremely savvy and earned respect from teams this season, lifting LSU to a good deal of success despite a roster that featured somewhat disparate parts. Waters is surprisingly tough defensively and has a good understanding of angles and spacing, which helps him find pockets in the defense to score and make plays. In a draft class somewhat lacking for quality point guards, Waters looks like one of the better second-round options.
Quentin Grimes, Kansas
Grimes was someone teams were intrigued to see in a different setting after a disappointing freshman season that saw him fall from potential lottery pick into stay-or-go limbo this spring. While he didn’t shoot the ball especially well here and has a frustrating tendency to blend into games, Grimes is an unselfish player with good size for his position who tries to play the right way. He’s not a point guard and has to shoot the ball better, but he discernibly has some role-player ability and is still just 19 years old. Noting his prospect pedigree and youth, it won’t be surprising if he still gets picked in the second round. He can also still go back to Kansas.
Dewan Hernandez, Miami
One of the big winners of the week on whole was Hernandez, who stood out at the G League Elite Camp, earned an invitation to the combine, and generally acquitted himself well. Nobody had seen much of him in over a year due to ineligibility stemming from his naming in the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but his skill set has developed well and he remains an impressive, mobile athlete. He’s flashed some ability to handle and shoot from outside, and some appealing defensive switchability. It’s certainly not a lock he gets drafted, but it wouldn’t be crazy to see him picked in the second round, either.
Tacko Fall, UCF
Earning a combine invite after an intriguing display at the G League Elite Camp, Fall has been perhaps the most fascinating player to scout in this environment, noting the way his massive height and length can alter the floor on defense. He takes up a ridiculous amount of space and moves his feet surprisingly well in spite of it, and what his legs can’t cover for, his arms often can. In today’s NBA, Fall only projects as a situational role player at best, but it won’t be shocking to see a creative organization find a place for him, whether it’s a Boban Marjanovic-style 10-minute per game role, or simply subbing in late in games to protect the rim or defend an inbounds pass. There may not be a ton of value in actually drafting Fall, but now teams at least have a better feel for what he can do against this type of competition. This saga will continue into Summer League, at minimum, and it’s not out of the question he eventually ends up on a roster. Sometimes it’s the most unorthodox role players who find a way to hang around.