Now that the combine is underway, we get all sorts of cool new information to process and update our perception of each prospect. Unfortunately, the information is largely flawed and worthless. For instance: Doug McDermott topped Blake Griffin’s max vert (35.5″) with 36.5″. While it is encouraging that he may be more athletic than expected, it shows how deeply flawed some of these tests are since Griffin is a far superior athlete. But the official measurements are of value, and even though everything else should be ignored I will selectively choose to pay attention to it when I have a point to make.
Reach For The Stars
One aspect of the draft that does not make sense to me is how much more attention height gets than standing reach. Perhaps this is because height is easier to measure with a high level of accuracy, but height only approximates where a players line of vision falls. Players make plays with their hands, and reach is necessary to contest shots on defense and shoot over defenders on offense. Intuitively, the latter seems far more important. As a disclaimer, I am unsure how much a player can vary his reach by stretching as far as he can vs. casually reaching upward, so these measurements come with a grain of salt. But I don’t believe it’s nearly as flukey as the athletic testing, so it may be worth paying some regard to.
The biggest loser on measurements is Gary Harris. He measured slightly shorter than expected at 6’2.5″ without shoes, 6’4.5″ with shoes, and a 6’6.75 wingspan. But the ugly figure for him is his 8’0″ reach. The only players who measured with worse reach are small PG’s Russ Smith (7’11″), Aaron Craft (7’10.5″), Shabazz Napier (7’9″), and Jahii Carson (7’9″). Bigger PG’s such as Deonte Burton (8’1.5″), Tyler Ennis (8’2″), Elfrid Payton (8’2.5″), Marcus Smart (8’3″), Semaj Christon (8’3″), and Dante Exum (8’7″!!!) comfortably reached higher than him.
Going through DraftExpress’s database, I cannot find an example of a full-time NBA SG who measured this poorly. The worst measurements I can find are Jerryd Bayless and Randy Foye at 8’1″, who are both undersized and horrible defensively. After that JJ Redick (8’1.5″), Monta Ellis (8’2″), Dion Waiters (8’2″), and Jodie Meeks (8’2″) are the next lowest measurements among full-time SG’s, and keep with the theme of bad defense. The worst reach in DX’s database among SG’s who are considered to be good defensively is Avery Bradley (8’2.5″). Even if we give Harris the benefit of the doubt and tack on an extra inch to his measurement, it appears to remain problematic. I would not be surprised if he slides on draft night, as his main appeal had been a lack of glaring warts, and now that is no longer true. He may need to be paired with a big PG who can cross match defensively. I do not want to read too much into this, but I will likely drop him a few slots down on my board.
The other disappointing reaches were Patric Young and Jarnell Stokes, who shared a 8’7.5″ reach. This is surprising given their height and wingspan combinations, but they were also the two strongest players at the combine which likely hurts their reach. I believe this hurts Young more than Stokes since he has a lower skill level, with rim protection being his primary value in college. His reach puts a damper on his defensive upside, and he is so limited on offense I doubt he’s worth drafting. On the other hand, Stokes was known to lack rim protection skills and may have the skill level to contribute as an undersized PF, so this does not hurt him as much. But it still calls into question his ability to contest shots in the paint, as it is difficult to find any full time NBA PF’s with a pre-draft reach < 8’9″.
Dante Exum measured with a staggering 8’7″ reach. That is the same as Doug McDermott and Rodney Hood, and just half an inch worse than Stokes and Young. That is incredible for a point guard, as he may be able to cross match onto SF’s as he gains strength.
Kyle Anderson measured to have a 7’2.75″ wingspan and 8’11.5″ reach, better than a number of PF prospects in the draft such as Julius Randle (8’9.5″), Cory Jefferson (8’9″), Dwight Powell (8’9″), and Johnny O’Bryant (8’9″). He definitely has the length and reach to play PF and only needs to add strength to fit in at the position. This is important for him as the impact of his lack of speed and quicks is mitigated at PF.
Jordan Adams measured just 6’4.75″ in shoes, but more than atoned with a 6’10″ wingspan and 8’6″ reach. Further, he trimmed down to 209 pounds after being listed at 220 pounds this past season. He posted stellar statistics as a 19 year old sophomore, and it is a bit tantalizing to imagine how good they may have been if he had spent the season in peak condition.
Nik Stauskas measured slightly taller and longer than expected with a respectable 8’6″ reach. This bodes well for him since his tools are otherwise weak and he projects to be bad defensively. Having NBA SF size presents the option for him to match up with the slowest opposing wing and mitigate his lack of mobility on defense.
Tyler Ennis measured longer than expected at 6’7.25″, with an 8’2″ reach that barely trails some of the taller PG’s in the class such as Elfrid Payton (8’2.5″) and Marcus Smart (8’3″). For a player who does not have any distinct strengths athletically, it is encouraging that he at least has above average size for a PG.
Isaiah Austin measured 7’0.5″ in shoes, 7’4.5″ wingspan, and a 9’4.5″ reach. His reach exceeds that of some of the best defensive centers in the NBA, such as Larry Sanders (9’4″), Dwight Howard (9’3.5″), Andrew Bogut (9’2.5″), Tyson Chandler (9’2″), and Joakim Noah (8’10.5″– Noah is the best counterexample for the importance of reach measurements). Converse to Young and Stokes, his reach may have been aided by his lack of strength, but his combination of size, mobility, and shooting cannot be overlooked.
Adreian Payne measured with a surprising 7’4″ wingspan and 9’1″ reach, which means he may be able to play both PF and C. Further, it came to light that he has been dealing with mono since January so he may be underrated by his on court performance this past season. The mono would explain his decline in steal and block rates, which were especially bad in conference play. His age may inhibit his upside, but his combination of size and shooting makes him a solid bet to become a useful player.
Markel Brown appeared to be undersized for a SG as he was listed at 6’3″, but he measured favorably at 6’3.5″ in shoes, 6’8.75″ wingspan, and a 8’4″ reach. Along with his elite leaping ability (he tied Jahii Carson for best max vertical at 43.5 inches), he has the tools to guard NBA SG’s even if his instincts are in doubt. He carries intrigue as a round 2 flier as he combines excellent athleticism with solid passing and shooting.
The results from vertical, shuttle, and sprint drills should all be ignored. Doug McDermott’s vertical leap and Nik Stauskas’s score on the shuttle and sprint may be encouraging for those who are high on their skills, but in reality they are likely meaningless noise. For reference: Jimmer Fredette completed the shuttle drill in 10.42 seconds, which would have tied him with Zach LaVine for the best score in this year’s class. Yet he has been completely overmatched physically by NBA competition, as he cannot stay in front of anybody defensively. If his score made the Kings feel better about using a lottery pick on him, I doubt they still feel good about it now. Paying regard to any surprising outcomes is more likely to lead away from the truth than toward it, so we’ll just pretend these tests never happened and move on.
Again this qualifies as information that largely will be misleading, as a player’s performance on the court is far more important than speaking well in interviews. But I would like to take a moment to discuss my favorite interviewee: Spencer Dinwiddie.
In his interview, he discusses the adjustment to defending NBA players by noting his Colorado team wanted to close out late on 3′s, but that he wouldn’t want to closeout late on a Steph Curry 3. He also mentions James Harden as a player he compares to given Harden’s high volume of 3 pointers and free throws while also being a playmaker who makes the right pass “outside of the playoffs when he was shooting a lot.” This comports with a past interview where he noted that he wanted to improve his efficiency as a junior. And then he did so in part due to cutting the percentage of his mid-range from 33.3% to 14.5%, as he finished with an elite 66.7% TS.
He is clearly interested in a statistical understanding of the game, and he discusses it in a way that is rare to hear from a prospect. He would fit in well with an analytics driven team, as he would likely soak up the advanced information they have to offer. The possibility that he may be able to follow complex instructions offers a bit of hidden value that should be attractive to teams who are eager to maximize their analytic knowledge. There was nothing sharp about Colorado’s scheme on either side of the ball, and I wonder if he was trying to dissociate himself from their lack of regard for 3 point defense with his commentary regarding late closeouts.
Aside from conveying intelligence in his interview, Dinwiddie also measured well. His body is similar to that of Dante Exum’s, as they are both 6’6″ in shoes with a 8’7″ reach. His wingspan is 1.25″ inches shorter than Exum’s at 6’8.25″, but he is also 9 pounds heavier at 205 with less body fat (5.4% vs 6.4%). He has the size to guard either wing position, and the quicks to likely stay in front of most NBA wings as well. He is not much of a leaper and tearing his ACL this past January is not going to help, but he has the tools and intelligence to become an average or better defender. Offensively he can space the floor with his 3 point shooting, and he also has some PG skills as he can handle and create for himself and others.
Dinwiddie is 21 and doesn’t have the athleticism to be a traditional high upside type, but his combination of skills, body, and intelligence give him sneaky potential. He could become a B+ player on both ends, which is quite valuable considering the current lack of wing depth in the NBA and how easily he fits into most lineups. He fits the mold for a prototypical role playing SG in the modern NBA. He is currently ranked 36th at DX and 38th at ESPN, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a few teams over in interviews and rises into the 1st round.