CHICAGO — It’s been a long, informative week-plus at the draft combine, with all 30 NBA teams and the vast majority of draftable prospects in attendance in some capacity. In a year where top decision-makers and front offices at large had limited in-person access to evaluate talent, the combine proved to be a more valuable juncture than usual to get a feel for players in person. Naturally, a lot has changed for a lot of players when it comes to their standing within the draft class, and with the NCAA’s July 7 withdrawal deadline approaching, some big decisions are on tap for a wide range of prospects.
A number of players have really helped themselves over the past week, some with standout performances, others through testing and interviews, and some by simply showing up and competing. There were a number of prospects who opted not to participate in some or all of drills, five-on-five, and pro day workouts, and as usual, teams were left wanting more of those guys, with the final month of team in-market workouts forming the last piece of the evaluation process.
For example, it would have been nice to see players like B.J. Boston and Isaiah Todd take the court in any capacity. As a result, it’s harder to get a bead on exactly where they stand—and there was a lot of opportunity for other prospects to move up into the 20–40 range, in which there really isn’t a ton separating many of them. Our Big Board is due for an update, but we’ll save that for after the NCAA deadline, in order to provide a more accurate picture of the final draft pool.
Until then, here’s a rundown of the noteworthy happenings in Chicago, with notes on prospects I felt most moved the needle one way or another, based on feedback from team personnel as well as my own observations.
Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Freshman
There was general agreement around the gym this week that Barnes is the player with the best chance to sneak into the top five on draft night. He’s certainly gained some steam since the season ended and helped himself a bit further this week by simply being visible. He tested and measured at the combine and held a brief, but intense, pro day workout that showcased a jumper that seems at least marginally improved. Barnes’s overall profile remains intriguing: He thinks the game at a high level, is one of the better passers in his draft class and has the tools to be a switchable plus-defender. While not a high-end athlete in terms of explosiveness, his consistent effort and passion on the defensive end should help cover for that. If his shot improves in a real way, Barnes’s ceiling would increase dramatically.
It helps matters that Barnes is by all accounts affable and well-liked by his peers, making him perhaps even more intriguing to rebuilding teams where his leadership and personality type add real value on a younger roster. He’s likely to win the intangibles battle, and with the Raptors, Magic and Thunder drafting 4–6, it’s a reasonable bet Barnes goes off the board in that range. While not without some risk, you can certainly argue his merits over Jonathan Kuminga, who for some time has been viewed as the consensus No. 5 prospect. Barnes’s overall arrow is pointing in the right direction one month before the draft, and it won’t be surprising if he goes a little higher than some expected.
Trey Murphy III, F, Virginia
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Junior
I probably owe Murphy a personal apology for ranking him way too low on this website; the next Big Board update will remedy that. Murphy had plenty of fans around the league this season, relying on a combination of projectable tools and consistent jump shot to play a valuable role for Virginia. I was over-concerned about his limited handle and secondary skill set, but didn’t quite have a feel for his size and mobility, which were useful to see on display at his combine pro day and helped clear up some of the hesitation I had with him.
Teams expect Murphy to defend, space the floor reliably and be a low-maintenance addition with room to grow into a larger role. At the very least, it’s easy to see why people feel strongly about him succeeding, with quality tools (he measured at 6' 9" with a 7' 0" wingspan) and explosive leaping skills. The downside here will be if he never develops much off-dribble acumen, but the floor is fairly high as long as he holds up his end of the bargain on defense, primarily as a four. I was worried he’d be purely a set shooter without complementary skills, but teams seem convinced he’ll make it work. Murphy has worked his way firmly into the first round, and his range now begins in the teens.
Joshua Primo, SG, Alabama
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Freshman
Primo was a person of interest all season for NBA teams and performed well at the combine, showcasing his feel, length and defensive potential in drills and translating that over into a strong performance on the first day of combine games. He opted to sit out of the games on day two, but I’m told he still has a number of in-market workouts scheduled and has not been shut down by a team. Primo was able to display a bit more of his on-ball ability, making some nice passes and good decisions in gameflow, particularly for someone who doesn’t turn 19 until December—making the Canadian guard the youngest college prospect in the class. Alabama’s style of play emphasizes wing players launching threes and didn’t really put him in position to showcase his decision-making ability.
It’s clear there’s more under the surface, and a strong level of competence here relative to Primo’s age. He also measured with a big 6' 9.25" wingspan and huge hands. While not extremely strong or explosive, there’s likely room for positive physical development here. It’s harder to find young players with Primo’s level of feel than it is to find guys his age who are mature physically, and the possibility he blooms late and becomes a shot-making combo guard (he averaged just 8.1 points as a freshman, but shot 38% from three on nearly four attempts per game) isn’t out of the question. He has a real shot at the first round and is firmly a top-40 guy at this point.
Quentin Grimes, SG, Houston
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Junior
Grimes was arguably the best player in the on-court portion of the combine and stands as a testament to why full combine participation can be so valuable. He’s another player who I unjustly buried in our rankings all season. Grimes’s pathway is unique: He was a projected lottery pick on arrival at Kansas, where he underwhelmed as a freshman before transferring to Houston and duly rejuvenating himself as a player. He had an excellent junior year, leading the Cougars to the Final Four and putting himself back on the radar for NBA teams.
As a well-rounded wing who can shoot, make plays in a pinch and play capable defense, Grimes looks like a good fit for an NBA bench role. I do think some scouts will hold that early hype and underwhelming freshman year against him—it’s often easier to forget about a guy and stay negative rather than do the full diligence in re-evaluating him as he develops. After what Grimes showed at the combine, it would be hard for anyone to maintain that same level of skepticism, and he was praised by teams for his maturity and poise in interviews. He’s now a likely top-40 pick with a shot at the first round, a far cry from where perception was this time last year.
J.T. Thor, PF, Auburn
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Freshman
While Thor’s freshman year numbers were pretty pedestrian (he averaged 9.4 points and five rebounds in 27 games), there was a swell of interest in the spring, and he’s moved up draft boards as an intriguing, if risky project. Thor’s extreme youth (he turns 19 in August) and impressive physical measurables (6' 9" with a 7' 3.25" wingspan and 9' 2" standing reach) are traits that almost always attract heavy NBA interest this time of year, and he’ll remain in the draft and take his chances.
Teams were mostly disappointed with Thor’s decision not to play in five-on-five at the combine, as he’s not yet a surefire first-rounder, which places a ton of weight on his ability to win teams over on the workout circuit. But he’s shown potential to shoot: he managed a streaky 29% from three, but made five and flashed his upside in a February loss to Kentucky, and has been trying to showcase that versatility in workouts. Thor’s range currently starts in the 20s and runs into the second round. It’s easy to see the idea here, but we’ll see how serious teams really are over the next few weeks, and if he can leapfrog more established prospects on draft boards.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, SG, VCU
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 170 | Age: 20 | Sophomore
Hyland did a lot for himself at the combine, playing through a minor groin injury, showing well on the first day of games and shooting it well at his pro day on Monday, solidifying himself as a top-40 prospect with a chance at the first round. While not particularly big or explosive, Hyland handles the ball well, is comfortable creating his own shot from long distance, plays extremely hard, and showcased more passing ability and feel than many scouts expected. His long wingspan (6' 9.5") and wiry strength and toughness helps compensate a bit for the fact he weighed in at just 169 pounds at the combine.
The main holdups here are the difficult learning curve for bucket-getting guards in the NBA, and Hyland’s average defensive profile, which create a narrower pathway for long-term success given how few of those guys last in the league (and the fact that guys like Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams hung around the league forever and kept those jobs). We know Hyland can make an impact in an open run-type setting, but it’s a fair question how easily his game will conform to structure. But he’s a fit for any team in need of bench scoring, and his unwavering confidence should help him along the way.
Jason Preston, PG, Ohio
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 180 | Age: 21 | Junior
I’ve had plenty of positive things to say about Preston of late, but he confirmed those suspicions with a strong week at the combine, and his stock is certainly in a better place now as he weighs a decision on whether to return to college or turn pro. Preston was the best playmaker in five-on-five, and by my estimation, the only guard in the event who seemed to truly enjoy passing the ball, which earns him points on my personal rubric for point guard prospects. He measured well (6' 4" in shoes with a 6' 8.5" wingspan) and assuaged any lingering concerns about his athleticism here. His jumper is workable, and there’s room for him to add strength to his frame.
As teams search for point guard help in the 20–40 range, Preston should be firmly in the conversation with names like Tre Mann, Sharife Cooper and Miles McBride, all of whom entered the summer with starrier profiles, but none of whom chose to play at the combine. Preston’s size, passing vision and overall makeup compare favorably to those guys, and open-minded teams will start to have those conversations. If he returns to school, he’ll be among the best players in college basketball next season.
Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Christopher made a good decision to play five-on-five at the combine and make himself visible to NBA decision-makers after a disappointing year of college in which he played just 15 games. Simply deciding to compete helped his cause, particularly while a number of his freshman peers chose to sit out. While Christopher didn’t shoot the ball well from distance in either game, he did a good job of mixing in unselfish moments and competing defensively to accompany his typical diet of jumpers. He can be mistake-prone, but Christopher’s talent has never been the issue, and his competitiveness shone through.
It helps that Christopher compares well physically (6' 9.25" wingspan) with other scoring guards in this class and has always been a powerful downhill player and skilled finisher. He isn’t a bad shooter, per se, and looked comfortable from three-point range in his pro day workout, but he’s always been inconsistent in game situations and clearly has work to do in that area. He’s still an acquired taste, and his reputation as a high-volume gunner isn’t going away. But while Christopher’s shot selection and self-awareness as a player are still lingering questions for NBA teams, he’s reinserted his name into the first-round conversation, at least on a cursory level. Just showing up and performing—even without showing teams anything new—can go a long way.
AJ Lawson, G/F South Carolina
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 21 | Junior
Give Lawson a lot of credit for playing his way from G League Elite camp into the combine without missing much of a beat: He was one of the more active, driven players in Chicago this week and has revitalized his draft stock, with a strong chance of being drafted in the second round. Lawson went through the combine process as a freshman and struggled, ultimately spending three up-and-down seasons in a difficult situation at South Carolina. But he’s trending in a good direction with a month to go until the draft, after entering the week somewhat off the radar for a lot of scouts. An impressive 17-point, seven-assist, seven-rebound, four-steal showing on the second day of the combine certainly helped.
Once viewed as a ball-dominant, playmaking wing, Lawson has reinvented himself as a high-energy complementary player, earning positive reviews for his defense and activity level and looking extremely explosive in game situations. He tested well and also put on one of the better three-point shooting displays of the week in his pro day workout, and while he shoots with a wide base that makes him more of a floor-spacer than a shot-creator, Lawson did shoot 35% from distance on eight attempts per game this season. It’s much easier to talk yourself back into him after what he showed, and he’s working himself into the 31–45 range.
Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 21 | Junior
Queta was pretty clearly the best big in five-on-five play, and the tallest prospect at the combine, measuring at 6' 11.25" barefoot with a huge 7' 4" wingspan and 9' 4.5" standing reach. He piqued real NBA interest while testing the waters as a freshman, went back to school and dealt with injuries, but managed to add to his game over the course of two years. He re-enters the draft much more prepared to contribute in the pros, and turns 22 in July. Queta moves well for a guy his size, protects the basket effectively, has become a terrific passer for his position and has also learned the nuances of setting screens, all of which create a good case for a second-round selection. He’ll be the first NBA player from Portugal when he checks into a game.
While he’s most likely a second-rounder, you can argue that Queta’s tools and skill level make him a more intriguing option than many of the other centers in this draft. If he’s able to add a legitimate jumper (which may not be likely, but isn’t totally out of the question), it would significantly help his outlook. He was extremely active on the glass at the combine and clearly has a more developed feel for how to play and add value without requiring post touches than most of his peers. He’s not exceptionally explosive and there are some concerns about his mobility that stem from his knees, but Queta isn’t a bad mover for his size and was an anchor for successful teams at Utah State. He helped himself with his performance in Chicago.
Jericho Sims, C, Texas
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 250 | Age: 22 | Senior
I typically try not to place too much emphasis on athletic testing one way or the other, but Sims’s exceptional combine showing—with a 44.5-inch max vertical and 37-inch standing vert—reinforced why he belonged at the combine. While not a skilled offensive player, Sims has been a steady defensive presence at Texas for four years, with a 7' 3.25" wingspan and a chiseled frame that will allow him to compete immediately against NBA centers. He clearly belongs from a physical perspective, and it will fall on his next team’s player development staff to help add nuance to his skill set.
Sims is 22 and fits a replaceable mold as a rim-running, screen-setting, non-shooting energy big, so the expectations need to be tempered here a bit. But he does stand out amongst a somewhat underwhelming center class, and has a great understanding of what he does well as a player. Quality bigs still matter in the playoffs, and having athletic matchup pieces to throw at those guys off the bench in a pinch can be a valuable thing. He’s likely vaulted himself into a second-round selection as teams scavenge for value at the center position.
Joe Wieskamp, G/F, Iowa
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Junior
It feels sort of disrespectful to Luka Garza to write that Joe Wieskamp is actually Iowa’s best NBA prospect, but at this point, a lot of NBA scouts agree. Everyone knew Wieskamp was a quality shooter (46% from three more than five attempts per game) coming into the week—and conversely, that he struggles to put the ball on the floor—but he was exceptional on the second day of combine games, making six of seven threes on his way to an efficient, game-high 26 points. Yet the big revelation from this week is that Wieskamp is well-suited physically for NBA play, as he held up quite well in the flow of combine games defensively, and looks like a competent specialist going up a level.
Shooters like Corey Kispert and Trey Murphy will come off the board in the first round, but Wieskamp looks like a potential value pick in the group of second-round floor-spacers, and now has a strong chance to be drafted. He measured at 6' 7.25" in shoes with a 6' 11" wingspan and 8' 7" standing reach, and while not known as an exceptional defender, it helps a bit that Wieskamp tested as one of the better all-around athletes at the combine. While not a dynamic or creative player, if he can hold his own defensively, knock down shots at a high clip and improve his handle to a competent level, he has a good chance to stick in the league.
Greg Brown, PF, Texas
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Brown deserves credit for opting to fully participate at the combine and putting himself out there for teams, where other players might have feared being exposed. Still, it’s clearer than ever that he’s going to take a lot of work in order to make it in the NBA, and at this point he feels like a clear second-rounder and long-term project. Brown followed up a bad showing on the first day of games with a more active performance on day two, making energy plays and flashing some of the potential teams were eager to see coming into this season. But there are still pretty significant questions about his jump shot, feel for the game and defensive versatility.
He’s one of the best athletes in the draft, but Brown struggles to sit in a stance on the perimeter and is best suited as a lob-catching four who defends bigs in the long run. He’ll need to add strength and work himself into a more legitimate shooter to have a chance, and land with a team that will be patient with him and allow him to develop in the G League next season. With a 7' 0.25” wingspan and 8' 11" standing reach, there’s a pathway for him to take the long route and work himself into a viable energy big. But factually, he’s far from that player right now, and it will take a ton of work to get there.
Marcus Bagley, F Arizona State
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Bagley was rumored to be looking for a first-round assurance coming into the combine, and at present, it feels unlikely he’ll get one. Naturally, there’s some uncertainty over whether he’ll opt to stay in the draft or return to college, where his name remains in the transfer portal. After choosing to sit out of five-on-five, Bagley put on a somewhat underwhelming showing in his pro day. And while one workout should only matter so much, it’s a bit more glaring when that’s the only glimpse teams see of you on the floor.
The ensuing week of workouts will be critical for Bagley to leave a positive impression, as some of his early-season shine has clearly worn off, and other players have begun to leapfrog him in the pecking order. He has solid physical tools and comes from an NBA family, but entered college with a reputation as a shoot-first player, and isn’t an extremely explosive athlete or creative passer. What role he successfully fills going up a level is a bit unclear right now, and his stock is in a bit of limbo with a month until the draft.
Daishen Nix, PG, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19
Nix was one of the bigger disappointments of the week in five-on-five play, where he struggled to hit jumpers and finish at the rim and occasionally looked like he was pressing. Scouts entered the combine intrigued to see how Nix would fare now that he’s worked himself back into better physical shape. He tested fairly well athletically and certainly looks more trim, although he still weighed in at 225 pounds. But it turned out to be the quality of his play, not his fitness, that ultimately left teams wanting more.
Entering the season, Nix was viewed as a potential first-rounder on a lot of draft boards (including this one), and rightfully so after the playmaking skills and toughness he showed in high school. His so-so showing with G League Ignite put him on thin ice coming into the pre-draft process. And right now, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that his development has stalled, with the questions surrounding his shot-making and issues scoring in the paint as significant as ever. Nix profiles as a second-rounder with a month until the draft, and while there may be some reclamation value to be had here, he hasn’t done himself many favors.
Dalano Banton, G/F, Nebraska
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 195 | Age: 21 | Sophomore
While Banton didn’t receive enough votes for the combine, he proved himself to be one of the most intriguing prospects at G League Elite Camp, only after being added to the event as a late injury replacement for Dejon Jarreau. Banton measured at 6' 9" in shoes with a 6' 10.25" wingspan and 9' 0" standing reach and led the G League camp in rebounds and assists, legitimizing his potential as a jumbo-sized playmaker and drawing second-round interest from teams.
I highlighted Banton as a sleeper before the combine, with the primary caveat being whether he’ll shoot. That remains a real question, but he did shoot well at his pro day workout, and if teams can talk themselves into the workability of the jumper, there’s a fascinating pathway for him to develop into a Shaun Livingston–esque role player. Banton is unselfish almost to a fault, but is an exceptional ball-screen playmaker who can access passing angles other guards can’t due to his size and vision. He’s built a case to be drafted after coming in off the radar, and has become more than just a curiosity for some scouts.
Max Abmas, PG, Oral Roberts
Height: 6' 0" | Weight: 160 | Age: 20 | Sophomore
Abmas was certainly an intriguing player to evaluate entering the week, after leading the NCAA in scoring and captaining Oral Roberts’s Cinderella run in March. He’s certainly talented, but it’s abundantly clear from an NBA perspective that he needs to return to college, following persistent struggles in scrimmages. Abmas was the smallest player at the combine in literally all facets, measuring just under 6' 0" in shoes, weighing 161 pounds and possessing the smallest hands and shortest wingspan and standing reach. On one hand, that makes his degree of college success that much more impressive. But it’s clear that making the NBA will be an uphill climb.
To succeed in the pros, Abmas will have to turn himself into a world-class shooter and learn to manage better in pick-and-roll situations—think a poor man’s Trae Young. At his size, he’s likely better off developing those skills in college. He has deep range but struggles to separate off the dribble against better athletes and had issues getting his shot off at all in combine games. Defensively, he’s going to be a liability. Going back to school, becoming a full-blown college star and building on what he’s accomplished is likely the best route for Abmas to buck convention and change the minds of NBA teams in the long run.
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