NBA draft combine: Four players who most improved stock with athletic testing

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The NBA draft combine is underway in Chicago and it has already been an incredibly productive few days for scouts around the league.

As the top decision-makers in the game gather to watch the next generation of talent audition for a spot on a roster next season, many of the top prospects have been able to separate themselves from the pack. While scrimmages are considered the most exciting part of the activities, measurements and athletic testing are imperative as well.

Tennesse’s Keon Johnson set the record for the max vertical jump, shattering the previous best by more than two inches. That will certainly ingratiate him in the eyes of some scouts and executives working for NBA teams.

Meanwhile, below are some of the other players who were able to move the needle at the combine so far this week.

Note that all anthropometric and strength/agility scores are courtesy of NBA.com.

Scottie Barnes

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

This draft class typically has the same five names (Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga) listed consecutively, in some order, at the top of most rankings. It's time to start including Scottie Barnes in that tier. The former Florida State standout is widely seen as a top-ten pick in the 2021 NBA draft, so this take isn't exactly bold. But there is a strong case that he is someone who ought to be strongly considered with one of the first five picks in the draft. https://twitter.com/chadfordinsider/status/1407886600273465345?s=20 While many players in his draft range typically sit out athletic testing or skip the combine altogether, Barnes took the opposite approach. That risk was met with a fantastic reward for his fans as his performance was truly stellar. Barnes is 6-foot-7 without shoes, which is about the height of most wings. But his wingspan is just a quarter-inch shy of 7-foot-3, offering more length than even your prototypical NBA big man. For a physical comparison, a tool from nbadraftcomp.herokuapp.com offers Rudy Gay – who has played 14 years in the NBA – as a comparison.

(via nbadraftcomp.herokuapp.com)

According to Synergy, however, he finished 23.3 percent of his possessions as the ball handler in pick and roll sets and an additional 18.0 percent as the ball handler in transition. Pair that with his next-level court vision, where he offered an assist percentage of 31.6 percent, which was the best mark among all high-major players 6-foot-5 or taller. Meanwhile, he has all of the athleticism that you would want for a defender who is as versatile as he is. The shuttle run (2.99 seconds) he recorded was just a mere 0.01 seconds short of the top score among all participants at the combine this year. It is also worth noting that his standing vertical (36 inches) was third-best as well. He used that to his advantage in games as his steal percentage (3.4 percent) ranked fourth-best among all high-major freshmen. Barnes was already seen as a lottery talent but he is making sure everyone knows why he is worthy of becoming a top-five pick.

Jericho Sims

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Texas Longhorns big man Jericho Sims averaged just 6.6 points a game during his four years in the NCAA and he took just one three-pointer in his collegiate career. But before the draft combine began this week, an NBA scout who spoke to HoopsHype on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of their team, said that Sims was easily the most impressive player that their staff saw in team workouts. The scout told HoopsHype that Sims was such an incredible athlete that it would be shocking if he did not hear his name called in the 2021 NBA draft. But that became even more likely when the big man recorded what was at the time the second-best max vertical among anyone who has ever participated at the combine. https://twitter.com/BrookeWeisbrod/status/1407502327855128583?s=20 His ability to look like he is jumping on a trampoline would be notable even in a vacuum but his physical measurements are just as exciting. Sims has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the second-longest among all participants in the event. He was dunking over just about everybody during scrimmages and that translates during live game action, too. He had the fifth-most dunks among all D-I players in college basketball this past season, per Bart Torvik. He shot 79.6 percent from within five feet of the basket, beating out projected top-five pick Evan Mobley for the best overall mark among all high-major players with at least 100 attempts in this zone. Before scrimmages, no one has done more to help their draft stock than Sims has done so far in the combine.

Scottie Lewis

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Florida's Scottie Lewis was a top-ten recruit coming out of high school and a presumed one-and-done candidate for the 2020 NBA draft. Lewis instead opted to return to school to improve his draft stock after what some would consider a disappointing freshman campaign. However, he was not able to show much offensive productivity, which limited his upside in the eyes of some evaluators. https://twitter.com/NBADraftWass/status/1407489779688689664?s=20 But during athletic testing and measurements, he was able to remind the top decision-makers why he is worth serious consideration when their team is on the clock next month. Lewis dominated during the strength and agility drills, producing one of the best marks in almost every category. His max vertical leap (42 inches) led all players except Texas big man Jericho Sims and Tennessee wing Keon Johnson, who set the combine record. He tied South Carolina's AJ Lawson for the fastest mark at the three-quarter sprint (2.98 seconds) and he also recorded the fastest lane agility time (10.45 seconds) among all combine participants in 2021.

(via NBAthlete.com)

If you plug in his measurements to the simulator tool from NBAthlete.com, two of the players with similar measurements are stellar wing defenders Marcus Smart and De'Anthony Melton. Both of these players notched a "similarity score" to Lewis of at least 91 percent. The 21-year-old had his limitations on the offensive side of the floor but like Smart and Melton, his primary strength in the NBA is going to be his defense and athleticism. While he is just 6-foot-4 without shoes, Lewis also measured with a 7-foot wingspan during the event. That elite length gives him a huge advantage on the defensive side of the floor, as you can see in this highlight below: https://twitter.com/AC__Hoops/status/1344495041696440320 As noted in this mock draft, Lewis was the only D-I basketball player in a high-major conference who averaged a block and steal percentage both over 3.5 percent this past season. While he might not be someone whose numbers pop out, Lewis certainly has the makings of someone who is going to earn his way on an NBA roster and keep his spot.

Joe Wieskamp

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Iowa's Joe Wieskamp was a bit overshadowed playing alongside Luka Garza, who was the top player in college basketball this past season. But the 21-year-old wing is someone who gained a lot of fans by shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc as a junior in 2020-21. He averaged 1.46 points per possession on catch and shoot jumpers, per Synergy, which put him in the 97th percentile among all D-I players. He gained even more respect, however, based on how well he tested at the combine when he participated in the athletic testing and measurements. https://twitter.com/dmurrayNBA/status/1407406000072712193 Wieskamp recorded a 42-inch max vertical, the third-best mark among all participants. For comparison, reigning dunk contest champion Anfernee Simons notched his 41.5 inches back in 2018. He also had the fourth-fastest lane agility time, clocking in at 10.7 seconds, among all participants as well. Meanwhile, with a wingspan measured at 6-foot-11, he has competitive length even for a frontcourt prospect. But if you put him on the wing, he will actually have a size advantage over some of his NBA peers at his position. As a floor spacer with solid athleticism, he is going to make a team very happy at the next level. [listicle id=1508460]

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