Watching the NBA draft combine on NBA TV you’ll hear a lot of talk about verticals, wingspans, reach and other metrics that are supposed to create a profile of a player and help teams weigh their options. I’m not sure exactly how much GMs read into these stats, but I can’t imagine it being much. These are statistics that should be used as a coarse filter for players, and little more than a cursory check. It’s kind of like when a child is born and you check their vital signs, see if they got 10 fingers and 10 toes etc. Sanity check for whether things are close to what’s being advertised.
I’d even argue that the results of the drills that are being performed in the combine are largely irrelevant beyond the aforementioned sanity check, and that GMs are more interested in the manner a player approaches the drill. The professionalism they display, the seriousness with which they approach the task, their attitude towards other players, etc. Scouts have been following these players all year long, they’ve seem them play countless competitive games so I find it hard to believe that their results in a controlled non-competitive environment is going to be the key to where they’re drafted. Sure, this camp will result in individual workout invites and what-not, but the off-the-court is what’s key here. GMs are putting a lot of emphasis on how a guy interviews, because the biggest potential problem for NBA players isn’t their core skill, but their attitude, professionalism, and mental approach to the game.
There aren’t many guys in the NBA who couldn’t make it because they weren’t athletic enough or couldn’t jump high enough, it’s always been whether they have the motor, the base skill (shooting for a shooter, passing for a PG, etc.), and whether they have a desire to collect more than a big paycheque.
On to some nonsense. You’ve already heard about the talk of the Raptors being interested in Dion Waiters, and the man is getting rave reviews by the combine analysts. Chad Ford, though, is sticking to his guns about the Raptors drafting a small forward. When asked what the top five small forwards were, he responded with Royce White, Quincy Miller, Moe Harkless, Harrison Barnes, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. When asked which small forward the Raptors would go for, he promptly said Terrence Jones. I don’t know how that works. Draft Express has the Raptors taking Jeremy Lamb which I think is asinine, because that guy just looks like he’d take lazy shots. And I didn’t like his comments about playing for the Raptors.
If the Raptors decide to keep the pick in favor of trading for a veteran, you have to ask what type of guy would Casey be interested in. Obviously, he’s not going to be draft a defensive dud and that’s why the Dion Waiters talk holds some weight. I remember when RR was calling for the Raptors to draft Avery Bradley to address the perimeter defensive issues in the 2010 draft; I’m sure if Casey was in charge at the time that would’ve happened. Now that he is, I fully expect a defensive-minded, solid instinct player who requires little direction to be drafted. With Jonas coming in, Bargnani and DeRozan staked as the 1/2 guys in terms of shots, there aren’t going to be shots available for a Beal or Barnes type player, so you have to be creative and get the best-fit guy.
The scene would’ve been different if the Raptors had a high pick, which is when you’d just draft the best player available. The #8 pick is just where you start looking at fit more than talent.