5 takeaways from 2023 NBA Draft combine: Whitmore, Black help cause
NBA Draft combine: Whitmore, Black help cause originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
CHICAGO -- It was a busy week for the Wizards at the NBA Draft combine as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and their scouting staff observed prospect scrimmages and sat down with a collection of players for 25-minute interview sessions.
Here are five takeaways from the combine that could be relevant to the Wizards come draft night on June 22...
Whitmore and Black can jump
Two standouts in the max vertical leap portion of the combine have relevance to the Wizards. Cam Whitmore (Villanova) posted a 40 1/2-inch vertical leap, which was tied for third-best among the prospects who participated. Anthony Black (Arkansas) had a 39-inch vertical, tying him for sixth in the class. Whitmore is a 6-foot-7 wing who is only 18 and from Maryland. He stands out for his ability to get to the rim off the dribble and finish with power. Black is also 6-foot-7, but a point guard who combines creative passing with switchable defense.
Here's why these numbers are significant: both Whitmore and Black are considered top-10 picks largely because of their skills and intangibles. There are prospects projected to go ahead of them because they are perceived to be better athletes. Whitmore and Black each provided a tangible number to make executives take a closer look at them as posisble top-5 picks. If either are there at No. 8 for the Wizards, not only would they fit well in terms of position and skillset, it's now more obvious they have high athletic upside as well.
Hendricks and Walker have length
The same could be said for Taylor Hendricks (UCF) and Jarace Walker (Houston), though for a different reason. Both measured out with some of the largest wingspans in this class and that is noteworthy given the position they play. Hendricks is 6-foot-9 and has a 7-foot 1/2-inch wingspan. Walker, meanwhile, is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 1/2-inch wingspan. He also has a 38-inch vertical.
Both Hendricks and Walker are forwards known for their versatility on both ends of the floor. They are the types that maybe 15 years ago would have been considered tweeners, but in this era of the NBA could be uniquely suited for positionless basketball. Their measurements should bolster their potential to play not only the four but maybe even as a small-ball five. Their long arms may help their shot-blocking translate to the NBA level.
By now everyone probably knows the D.M.V. is one of the most talent-rich areas in the world for basketball. At this year's combine, that was very evident by how many players hailed from nearby Washington. Whitmore grew up just west of Annapolis, MD and frequented Wizards games as a kid. The same could be said for UConn's Jordan Hawkins, who is from Gaithersburg. Walker grew up near Baltimore, went to a Wizards game as a child and played for Will Barton's AAU team, Team Thrill. That's three potential first round picks.
There were some other Wizards connections with players who are not from the area. Jett Howard of Michigan is the son of Juwan Howard and relayed some nice things Juwan has said about beginning his career with Washington. Brandon Miller and Nick Smith Jr., meanwhile, both played for Bradley Beal's AAU program, Brad Beal Elite. They each talked about Beal's influence during their media sessions.
Richman coached scrimmages
Another Wizards link came via the coaching staff of the prospect scrimmages. Ryan Richman, a Wizards assistant, was the head coach of Team Richman. He led a roster that featured Emoni Bates (Eastern Michigan), Leonard Miller (G League Ignite) and Adam Flagler (Baylor). Bates is famous for being on a Sports Illustrated cover in high school as a young basketball phenom. Miller could be a first round pick, as an athletic 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.
Richman coached them and also coached against some notable prospects like Jordan Walsh (Arkansas), Ricky Council IV (Arkansas), Adama Sanogo (UConn), Jordan Miller (Miami), Isaiah Wong (Miami), Seth Lundy (Penn State) and Drew Timme (Gonzaga). Richman got a close look at a bunch of prospects who could be options for the Wizards in the second round, where they have two picks, or as undrafted guys for the Capital City Go-Go. He got a sense for how they handle themselves in practices and in huddles. That should be valuable data as far as their intangibles and how they process information on the fly.
Lundy stood out
Lundy was one of the top scorers in the scrimmages with an 18-point performance on Thursday. He's a big-time 3-point shooter and that was on display in the games. He shot 8-for-11 from three across two scrimmages. That may have helped solidify his status as one of the best shooters projected to go in the second round. He played four years at Penn State and last season made 40% from long range on 6.5 attempts per game, impressive numbers especially considering the volume.
Lundy is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He's got a strong build and also impacts the game as a rebounder, having averaged 6.3 boards per game last season for the Nittany Lions. The Wizards have two second round picks (42nd and 57th) and they need 3-point shooting. Lundy could be a good option for them and one who would possibly be able to contribute right away off their bench due to his age and experience.