NBA Draft Combine recap: Who helped themselves in Chicago?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NBA Draft Combine concluded over the weekend. Here is a summary of what we learned and how it may affect the Atlanta Hawks.

A lot of valuable things can be learned at the NBA Draft Combine, but the results have to be considered with an understanding that production remains the most important factor in success. While there are always some surprises, the combine mostly confirms what is already known about most prospects. No player took a great leap during the combine or fell completely flat. However, some players definitely helped themselves and a few did little to keep from getting jumped by other prospects. Following up with the questions from the 2014 NBA Draft Combine Preview, here are players who won, lost, or solidified previous evaluations.

Will K.J. McDaniels participate in drills?

NEUTRAL. McDaniels participated in every event and tested in top-10 of most physical skill events. He was the fastest player in the 3/4 sprint. He jumped and ran mostly as expected and tested as a top-5 athlete at the combine. His wingspan was longer than previous measurements at just over 6'11". He did not shoot well, but shooting performance at the combine has had little translation to shooting performance at the next level. He remains a prospect in the 18-25 range of the draft. While he may drop a couple of spots on the next Peachtree Hoops Draft Board due to some other players having particularly notable performances, I still view him as a top-10 prospect and a great fit in Atlanta.

Will Doug McDermott's lack of athleticism be exposed?

WINNER. Most boards have had McDermott as a lottery pick most of the season, but I remain skeptical of his athletic ability due to his anemic numbers in blocks and steals. He surprised me at the combine and impressed with a 36.5" maximum vertical. I was most impressed at the lane agility drill where he looked the part athletically in addition to having a solid time. I am more convinced that Doug will have to play small forward to succeed in the NBA, but his combine work showed that he may have more physical tools for doing so than my previous judgments. As a potential 50/40/90 shooter, McDermott may be showing just enough athletic ability to develop into an NBA starter if he is able to add some strength. He remains in play for Atlanta at #15.

What position group will Kyle Anderson workout with during drills?

WINNER. Kyle worked with the power forwards. He measured in at 6'8.5" and 230 pounds with a 7'2.5" wingspan. He did not participate in the physical drills and may not have due to the measurements from the first day. Teams will probably begin to think that he can play some at both forward positions while bringing unique ball-handling and passing gifts to the positions. Anderson is definitely a strong possibility to be selected in the lottery. He fits as many needs for Atlanta as any prospect in the draft, but not the greatest need for perimeter defense.

Was the Mitch McGary era in college basketball real or a basketball movie?

LOSER. I do not see how a team can draft McGary in the top 45 picks of this draft much less in the first round. I think the stock for Hickory's Ollie is hotter than McGary's.

Will Elfrid Payton measure up to prospects from larger schools?

NEUTRAL. Payton did nothing of note. He looked like he belonged which is good for a player who has not played much strong competition. He did not stand out athletically which raises some questions about his potential given that he is a poor shooter and turnover prone. Payton remains a player likely to be selected late in the first round. Due to need and draft position, he should be far off the Hawks' radar.

Biggest Winner

Zach LaVine. The UCLA combo guard is a physical freak. He was not highly productive at UCLA, but he flashed plenty of basketball skill during the season. He was viewed as a great athlete, but I am not sure anyone knew just how much physical ability he brings to the floor. Measuring a 1/4-inch shy of 6 feet and 181 pounds, the freshman registered a 41.5" maximum vertical while finishing in the top-4 of every drill except the sprint--where he was still fast. Maybe the Russell Westbrook comparisons are not as far off as believed. LaVine is an elite athlete who can shoot. Depending on how his personal interviews go with team, he may now be a lottery pick. He certainly has to be a player the Hawks will be taking a long, hard look at in the weeks ahead.

Other Winners

Dante Exum. He has been valued as a top-5 player due to a high level of skill, but he also showed plenty of physical ability while impressing in public interviews. There was some buzz that he did just as well while interviewing with teams. Exum could crack the top-3 depending on how the NBA Lottery plays out on Tuesday night.

Glenn Robinson and Markel Brown. Both players were perceived as first rounders going into the college season and both dropped. Robinson and Brown were near the top of nearly every athletic test. Shooting drills are suspect, but Robinson shot as well as anyone throughout the event--particularly among the best athletes. Robinson may be able to move back into the first round and Brown's confirmation of his athleticism should secure him being drafted.

Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis. Smart confirmed his unusual strength for a point guard and demonstrated that he is explosive and agile enough to measure with other great athletes. Ennis measured average in athletic drills as anticipated, but measured in slightly taller (6'2.5") and longer (6'7.25") than in previous events. Both were reported to handle individual interviews well. Smart is in play as a top-5 choice and Ennis in top-10. I prefer Ennis.

Nik Stauskas. The film shows a guy that can make plays for others while being a lethal shooter, but it was also clear that Stauskas is a great athlete very much in play for the lottery. It will be interesting to see how scouts view his 12.1 body fat percentage. Does it show a guy whose numbers get better once he can trim that down or a prospect who has not been devoted enough to his conditioning?

Noah VonlehAaron GordonAdreian PayneAlex KirkPatric YoungRodney Hood, and Jarnell Stokes. Without any specific detail, all of these prospects helped themselves over the two days.

Biggest Loser

Gary Harris. Measured at 6'2.5" without shoes, it reveals that he is no where near the 6'5" where he has been listed. Additionally, he showed a shorter than expected wingspan from previous measurements and had to pull out of drills due to a groin injury. Harris is a really good player, but he is a short shooting guard who does not project as a player capable of sliding to the point or to small forward. The numbers confirm that conclusion. Outside of the measurements, Harris did nothing wrong but nearly everyone around him in mock drafts had a good combine. It is difficult to believe that he could fall out of lottery, but it seems a possibility. Atlanta could be very fortunate if that happens. He remains a younger, productive player who fits a need and could be able to help in a rotation as a rookie.

Other Losers

Jerami Grant. I am a proponent of not overvaluing the shooting drills, but his shot looks bad. Grant remains a great athlete without an NBA position. Viewed as a late lottery pick and linked to the Hawks at one point in the season, Grant is sliding closer to the 25-30 range as he looks to be a project.

Aaron Craft. Craft is a gutty, clutch college basketball player. That is going to be his NBA resume. Of all the players at the combine, he stood out as the player who most looked like a guy who snuck in. I believe he secured not getting drafted.

Cory Jefferson, DeAndre Daniels, Khem Birch, LaQuinton Ross, Devyn Marble, Lamar Patterson. None of these guys helped themselves and all but Daniels will need to impress in private workouts and interviews to crack the top 40. Daniels has made not going in the top 40 a possibility following an impressive run in the NCAA Tournament.

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