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Stock Risers: Top Standouts From the NBA Draft Combine

The NBA Draft Combine opened the door for multiple prospects to strengthen their stock.

Since its launch in 1985, the NBA Draft Combine has become one of the staples of draft evaluation of potential prospects. With scouts and executives from all 30 teams in attendance – this has become the premier outlet to make a rallying cry on draft boards.

This offseason, most draft talks will surface in the big-name options such as Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero. However, for scouts, they’ll be extensively looking at the bottom of boards for the next gem, a diamond in the rough so to speak. This week’s NBA Combine has sourced the outlet to find prospects slipping through the cracks, specifically through the 5-on-5 scrimmages.

Following the combine, here are some 5-on-5 participants who should be climbing up draft boards:

Terquavion Smith, Point Guard, North Carolina State

Terquavion Smith

Leading into this season’s NBA Draft Combine, one of the looming was who would be the next Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland. Hyland, who participated in last year’s combine, jolted up big boards after taking over his lone scrimmage game. Terquavion Smith was tabbed as this year’s pick – he paid off his investors.

As a Freshman, Smith ignited for the Wolfpack, averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists across 32 games. In these efforts, he thrived as an on-ball creator, launching over eight three-pointers at a 36.9-percent clip en route to an ACC All-Freshman nomination.

In the 5-on-5 scrimmages, Smith lived up to his collegiate averages and the comparisons to Hyland.

Smith was the story on Wednesday. In shooting drills, he dominated, nailing 18-of-25 three-point shots leading into scrimmage play. Smith carried this hot hand over to the live game, ending his first day with 17 points and six rebounds. This recording was good enough for the guard to drop out of yesterday’s game entirely.

ESPN currently has Smith ranked 34th on their overall big board. However, with a recent uptick in shot-creating guards excelling at the next level, Smith’s archetype makes him an alluring first-round target. His combine output should stamp that grade going into June.

Jalen Williams, Shooting Guard, Santa Clara

Jalen Williams

If you were following the NBA Combine over social media this week, Jalen Williams was the name mentioned the most. He was deserving of such praise.

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Jalen Williams posted a breakout Junior campaign this season with Santa Clara, swinging from a plug-and-play wing to the star of his group. Across 33 games, Williams placed 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.

After going into the combine as a second-round prospect, Williams was rumored to be in lottery consideration before even hitting the hardwood. Williams returned uncanny measurables logging a 7-foot-2 wingspan at 6-foot-5. To sweeten this pot further, his 39-inch vertical amplified his potential. The problem for executives – he’s no longer a well-kept secret.

Williams posted a productive 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting on Wednesday, throwing arguably the biggest highlight of the night off a right-handed posterizer. For Williams, he didn’t need to return on Friday. He had already been etched as one of the combine’s biggest risers. But, he decided to stick around for game two.

Williams’ decision to play in both games was a double-edged sword. A great game would launch his stock even further, but a bad game would settle the hype train. Now, the train has officially left the station.

In game two, Williams placed 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting, showing glimpses around the basket and from three, canning both attempted triples.

ESPN has Williams placed 36th on their big board. But, that should rise as he continues to work through this draft process.

Kenny Lofton Jr., Power Forward, Louisiana Tech

Kenny Lofton Jr.

The NBA G League can reveal diamonds. That sentiment stood firm in Chicago this week. The evidence was shown in Kenneth Lofton Jr.

Lofton Jr. tore up the Conference USA this season, averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for Louisiana Tech. He has garnered big-time attention before this week, as not only has the Freshman received multiple high-level transfer offers, but he also has graceful footwork at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds.

Kenny Lofton Jr. differs from the two aforementioned candidates because his trip to the NBA Draft Combine was no guarantee. Joining the NBA G League Elite Camp on Monday, Lofton Jr. had to star out of a group of 44 to keep his week going. In two games, he became the headline, utilizing his high-level footwork to average 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. That punched his ticket to the big stage.

Lofton Jr. made the most of his second gig. On Thursday, he showed zero drop-offs facing higher-ranked competition clocking 13 points (6-of-10 FG), three rebounds, and three steals.

Kenny Lofton Jr. is unranked on ESPN’s Top 100 prospects currently. But, rest assured, he’s Top 100 on some league-wide big boards.

Other Standouts: Josh Minott, Ryan Rollins, Keon Ellis