Bronny James and Four Other Players Who Emerged at NBA Draft Combine

UConn’s Alex Karaban and Serbian Nikola Djurisic also made an impact as the organized basketball activities closed Wednesday.
Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA draft combine.
Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA draft combine. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA draft combine’s organized basketball activities came to a close Wednesday afternoon. While team personnel will stick around through Friday to watch agency-run pro days, Wednesday marked the end of what we’ll call the “unscripted” basketball portion of the week. The scrimmage action Wednesday saw several more players emerge, including a strong showing from Bronny James and a big day from a Serbian prospect who has caught many teams’ attention of late. 

Nikola Djurisic, Mega Basket

The Serbian wing was a man of intrigue for NBA teams coming into this week, and he bounced back from a shaky showing Tuesday with a strong performance in Wednesday’s scrimmage. He scored a variety of ways Wednesday, showcasing his versatile offensive skill set at 6’7”. Djurisic shoots a fairly flat ball but knocked down some jumpers in the game, and he was also effective slashing to the rim. Perhaps most impressive is Djurisic’s passing feel, making several quick decisions that generated easy baskets. He has his limitations defensively, but this was the type of performance Djurisic needed to gain real momentum in the draft process.

Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Fighting Illini

Despite being talked about plenty for being in the transfer portal, Hawkins has made clear he’d prefer to turn pro now. Performances like the one he put together Wednesday should help him toward that goal. He tallied a game-high 17 points, assembling one of the more complete showings he’s had across all competitions in his career. Hawkins does sometimes play out of control and lacks some explosiveness, but he finds ways to be productive and impact winning. On Wednesday, he drilled three threes, was opportunistic in transition and made some sharp passes under pressure. It may take the promise of a guaranteed contract to coax Hawkins away from what will surely be a substantial NIL payday in the portal, but Wednesday’s showing moved the needle. 

JT Toppin, New Mexico Lobos

Toppin’s rise from an underrecruited freshman who landed in the Mountain West at New Mexico to a potential one-and-done prospect has been remarkable. While most observers have expected Toppin to spend one more year in college by landing at a higher level out of the transfer portal, Toppin gave NBA scouts something to think about with a strong showing. He drilled a pair of corner threes and looks like he’ll develop into a reliable floor spacer, and his motor on the glass continues to impress on both ends of the floor. He’ll have to prove he can consistently guard in space as a true power forward, but Toppin has all the tools to be a very good NBA player, either this year or down the road.  

Alex Karaban participates during the NBA draft combine.
Alex Karaban participates during the NBA draft combine. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Karaban, UConn Huskies 

It took Karaban a day to adjust to the increased athleticism on the floor in an NBA setting, but he settled in nicely Wednesday and showed off the skill set that makes him an intriguing prospect. Karaban, who has won two national championships in college, has all the intangibles to be a successful NBA player, and he’s the type of cerebral mover without the ball that all teams could use. Add that to his three-point shooting, and Karaban has a chance. Of course, Huskies fans would love to see him back in Storrs, Conn., for one more season, but he’s someone I’d be targeting with a pre-draft promise with a pick in the mid-30s if I were an NBA executive.

Bronny James, USC Trojans 

If Monday’s athletic testing wasn’t enough, James solidified that he belonged on the combine stage with his showing in Wednesday’s scrimmage. With his father, LeBron James, in attendance (and audibly cheering him on), Bronny James was arguably the best guard in his game, finishing with a game high–tying 13 points. He looked confident shooting from beyond the arc, made good decisions dribbling into pull-ups and made some flashy passes in ball-screen situations that set up good looks or fouls. James’s college numbers certainly won’t wow anyone, and he’s far from a finished product, but today’s showing was a good step in proving to scouts he’s closer to being ready for the NBA than many outsiders may have believed.

LeBron James and his wife, Savannah, watch Bronny James at the NBA draft combine.
LeBron James and his wife, Savannah, watch Bronny James at the NBA draft combine. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Published
Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).