NBA Combine Notebook: Help may be on the way

Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross might have the best chance at the NBA of any Ohio college player. (Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Brian Spurlock/Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

News, notes and general thoughts surrounding the NBA Combine in Chicago:

— Sounds like most general managers and scouts are high on the upcoming draft. While no one is envisioning any franchise-changers, a la LeBron James or Kevin Durant, most execs I’ve talked with feel there are plenty of guys who can make an immediate impact.

— Overall, basketball executives consider this a deep draft with lots of talent at every position, except maybe center.

— At the same time, it seems like a lot of GMs are open to trading out of the first round. Or at least, that’s what they’re saying publicly. Both Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and Cavaliers GM David Griffin have openly floated the idea of using the pick for immediate veteran help.

— As I already tweeted, most teams meet with most prospects for interviews at the combine at some point. Teams can interview up to 18 players in Chicago. After that, they can interview all the guys they missed during individual team workouts.

— Of course, some teams don’t interview guys at all but draft them anyway. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Lots of decent NBA players never talked to the teams that drafted them.

— Ohio guys at combine: Xavier point guard Semaj Christon, Cincinnati shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, and Ohio State point point Aaron Craft and forward LaQuinton Ross. Of those four, Ross probably has the best shot at getting drafted. But all four certainly have hope.

The Hottest

— My favorite sleeper-type in Chicago: Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early. He’s a hustler with underrated skills and a real passion for the game. I don’t think he’ll be an All-Star, but he’ll help a team.

— Admittedly, I usually miss on sleepers. Then again, two years ago I told teams Mike Scott was a first-round talent. They passed him by, anyway. Now, he’s a major contributor for the Hawks.

— You’re welcome.

— I’m not sold on Connecticut point guard and national champion Shabazz Napier in the NBA. But I sure am rooting for him as a fellow little man. Most scouts seem to love Napier’s winning mindset and general toughness. 

— Another point guard to keep an eye on is Elfrid Payton out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s projected as a late first-rounder.

— Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris is expected to be a lottery pick, but his stock may fall after measuring a shade shorter than 6-3 in Chicago. Then again, that was in socks, and as far as I can tell, no one plays basketball in only socks.

— I miss the days when pre-draft combines involved rolling out a basketball and letting the guys play an organized pick-up game. But I also understand why those days are gone. You can’t have people getting injured prior to the draft. Too much money involved.

— Still, I don’t think you can judge a player solely on how he tests athletically. That’s a great gauge for football, but basketball is so skills-oriented, and so much of a player’s success is how well he can play within a team concept. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and a whole bunch of other Hall of Famers would have looked pretty bad at a combine like the one organized today.

— But I’m not here to bash anyone. The combine can be telling in a number of areas. And regardless of how things are arranged before the draft, busts and surprises have emerged every years since pro basketball was invented.

— I’m particularly excited to see how the following combine attendees fare in the weeks leading up to the draft: Kyle Anderson (UCLA); Alec Brown (Green Bay); Spencer Dinwiddle (Colorado); P.J. Hairston (North Carolina/D-League); Rodney Hood (Duke); James McAdoo (North Carolina); Dwight Powell (Stanford); and one of my personal favorites, James Young (Kentucky).

— The lottery will be held Tuesday. The Bucks have the best chance to win at 25 percent. Then again, it’s been a decade since a team with the worst record got the first pick (Magic, 2004). The Sixers (19.9 percent) are next, followed by the Magic (15.6) and Jazz (10.4), respectively. The Suns have the worst chance of all lottery teams at 0.5 percent.