Yahoo Contributor Network
This article was created on the Yahoo Contributor Network, where users like you are published on Yahoo every day. Learn more »Yahoo Contributor Network
2011 NBA Combine Reactions
The basketball industry came out in full force over the past few days in Chicago, as 54 of the top prospects in the 2011 draft assembled to be poked, prodded and questioned in preparation (or in hopes) of hearing their name called by NBA commissioner David Stern in Newark, N.J. on June 23.
No five-on-five competition is played at the predraft combine. Instead, this gathering is about measurements, thorough medical examinations, athletic testing, team and media interview sessions, and meetings with NBPA and rookie transition program.
Players also conducted light drills - ball-handling , shooting, footwork and transition - in lieu of five-on-five play. That seemed to annoy the huge contingent of talent evaluators more than any question marks about a player's long-term NBA potential. It didn't take long for the sarcastic barbs from scouts, a largely cynical group, to come out.
"Cone A1 is digging in deep on those shooters," cracked one. "I want those four hours of my life back," demanded another.
This is the tug-of-war that goes on each year between NBA teams and agents as one side tries to learn as much as it can about prospects while their representatives try to do whatever they can to avoid hurting their clients' draft stock.
This year, teams got the last laugh as a number of full-contact competitive one-on-one and two-on-two drills were conducted on the final day, "snuck in," says one agent.
USC's Nikola Vucevic may have helped himself the most, both on and off the court. The native of Montenegro measured out a hair under 7 feet in shoes and 260 pounds, with a gigantic 7-4 ½ wingspan and 9-4 ½ standing reach. On the court, he showed a high skill-level in the drills. Teams that are picking in the latter portion of the first half who are desperate for size will be thinking seriously about him.
"He carries himself like an NBA player," one general manager told us. "We're going to have to look back at what he did in the Pac-10 and reevaluate him. He's a lot better than I thought."
Providence's Marshon Brooks was another hot name among scouts. The senior wing player did not win very many games in the Big East this past season, but was one of the best scorers in college basketball, even scoring 52 points in one contest against Notre Dame.
"Marshon Brooks has surprised me," an assistant GM said. "He can get his shot off whenever he wants, and his wingspan is ridiculous."
Brooks isn't the tallest shooting guard in this draft at 6-4 ¼ without shoes, but his 7-1 wingspan is one of the longest ever measured at the combine at his position, earning him comparisons to Nick Young(notes), another long-armed pure scorer. He's risen up many teams' draft boards and has a good chance of going in the first round.
One player who might end up being drafted simply by walking through the doors is 19-year-old Jeremy Tyler, who spent the last two years in Israel and Japan. Tyler is a physical specimen at 6-10 ½ in shoes with a 7-5 wingspan and 9-2 ½ standing reach.
"He certainly passes the airport test," an assistant GM told us after the camp. "I don't know how much basketball he knows how to play, but he looks the part, and in a setting like this, that's half the battle."
Some teams think he might get drafted as high as the late first round.
(To see who else measured out well, see our NBA combine measurement analysis.)
INTERNATIONAL MEN OF MYSTERY
While this crop of prospects leaves a lot to be desired in terms of star power, seeing how the pecking order of international prospects unfolds might be the most interesting storyline of the draft.
There are five international players - all 6-9 or taller - who are expected to be selected in the lottery a. How they rank in terms of NBA potential is one huge source of debate amongst talent evaluators, but how much is known about their situations off the court will ultimately decide where they're selected.
While only one of them, Enes Kanter, was actually in Chicago, the rest were constantly being discussed.
The main topic: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania. He is considered by most teams to be the most intriguing of the bunch. At 6-11, with a reported 7-6 wingspan and a Joakim Noah(notes)-type motor, he's the type of prospect NBA teams have a difficult time getting their hands on outside of the draft. He has repeatedly indicated his desire to move to the NBA and only the NBA, which separates him from the Ricky Rubios and Fran Vazquezes of the world.
Seeing solid playing time for a BC Lietuvos Rytas team that made the top 16 of the Euroleague, and leading the competition in rebounding per minute, he's been seen by everyone. For him, it's his buyout, or lack thereof, that has teams worried.
Rytas has taken a major step forward in resolving the buyout issue in recent days by hiring a European lawyer with significant experience in NBA buyout negotiations. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Rytas will attempt to structure the buyout on a sliding scale depending on where he gets picked, and are willing to be flexible with Valanciunas on when he can leave the team in case of an NBA lockout, even giving him the opportunity to stay with the team until he signs his rookie contract.
If his buyout situation will be resolved in a timely fashion, look for Valanciunas to be drafted somewhere between Nos. 3 and 8 overall. He's ahead of Enes Kanter on both Cleveland and Toronto's boards according to reports and has huge fans in Detroit's front office as well.
Valanciunas has three more years on his contract after this current season, with no buyout option. His American agent Leon Rose of CAA has been negotiating with the team for the better part of the year Most of the dispute revolves around when the buyout will be paid. The team, which is in serious financial trouble, wants the money now, not when he joins the NBA. It's asking for a percentage of Valanciunas' rookie contract. An agreement could have already been reached some time ago but the team has sent mixed messages.
Most expect a deal to be struck no more than a week before the draft. Valanciunas falling in the draft will only hurt Rytas' cause as not only will it lose significant respect from fans and constituents in basketball-crazy Lithuania, but it'll also hurt its chances of landing the next great young local prospect with NBA aspirations. Furthermore, being drafted lower results in a smaller contract.
Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.