While most basketball fans were glued to the NBA playoffs last week, most of the league’s top coaches, executives and decision-makers descended upon Chicago for this year’s NBA Draft Combine. Sure, some of the top players (Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum) skipped the event altogether, and others (Markelle Fultz) only came to interview. But for dozens of other prospects, it was their best chance yet to make an impression in front of some of the sport’s most important front office personnel.
So which players helped their stock? And who, in some cases, might want to consider going back to school for another season? Here are the winners and losers from this year’s NBA Draft Combine.
Winner: Jordan Bell, F, Oregon
Bell has been riding a wave of positive momentum since the NCAA tournament in March (highlighted by a near-triple double against Kansas in the Elite Eight) and he only continued to improve his stock in Chicago. The forward from Oregon was excellent in five-on-five play, tallying 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks on Day 1, while adding eight points, 10 rebounds and a block in Friday’s scrimmage. Most important, Bell tested extremely well athletically, specifically with a 38-inch vertical leap.
Simply put, this was a best-case scenario for Bell, and it shouldn’t surprise to anyone if a guy who has been considered a second-round prospect throughout this process ends up in the first round on draft night. The combination of knowing his role (he’s an energy rebounder/defender who doesn’t need to score to be effective) and the fact that his athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions (crucial in today’s NBA) could allow someone to take a chance on him in the first 30 picks.
Loser: Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan
Like Bell, Wagner rode a lot of positive momentum from the NCAA tournament into the draft process, with a 26-point effort against Louisville in the second round really helping his case. But unlike Bell, Wagner absolutely, positively did not capitalize this week in Chicago. He shot just 3-of-15 from the field on Friday, and was 1-of-8 from three combined during his two days there. For a forward whose strength is his ability to stretch the floor, this was a worst-case scenario. His 32.5-inch vertical leap (40th out of 55 players) didn’t help, either.
Admittedly, there will always be interest in a player who is 6-11 and can hit a 3-point shot. But after this week in Chicago, it feels like -- at best -- Wagner is a second-round pick, and at worst he might go undrafted. It would probably do him well to return to college for another season.
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Winner… sort of: Frank Jackson, G, Duke
Multiple people told FOX Sports that Jackson was looking for any reason to stay in this draft, and apparently he found it thanks to a 13-point, four-assist performance in Thursday’s five-on-five play. It was enough for Jackson to pull out of Friday’s scrimmage, hire an agent and remain in the draft full-time.
Still, it’s probably unfair to call Jackson a flat-out winner since he really didn’t show us anything Thursday that we didn’t already know. Since his high school days Jackson has been known an uber-athletic, offensively driven, undersized two guard, the exact skill set he showed in Chicago. But for him to find a role in the NBA, he’ll need to prove that he can run an offense and create for others, something he was unable to show this season at Duke (he averaged 1.7 assists and 1.4 turnovers per game).
Jackson will have time to show off a more well-rounded game in private workouts, but he felt like a second-rounder heading into the Combine. That didn’t really change last week.
Winner: Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
Back in the fall, one of Jeanne’s former coaches told FOX Sports that he was the “next Rudy Gobert.” Jeanne obviously has a long way to go to get there, but he showed why so many people are so high on him at the Combine. The 19-year-old from France measured in at 7-feet without shoes and 7-2 with them, with an absurd 7-6½ wingspan. All three of those measurements were tops in Chicago.
Even better, he backed it up with strong play on the court, with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in Friday’s scrimmage. Though he needs to add weight (Jeanne weighed a meager 207 lbs.) it is hard to imagine that he will fall out of the first round on draft night.
Loser: D.J. Wilson, F/C, Michigan
Like his teammate Wagner, Wilson was hoping his time in Chicago would cement him as a first-round pick. Instead, it was an outright disaster, as a quad injury limited him to just a handful of workouts, no agility testing and no five-on-five play.
Ultimately, a lot of Wilson’s draft future will be determined by how quickly he can recover from that quad injury. If he can get healthy in time to get in some more private workouts, he still could find himself in position to stay in the draft. But Wilson was already a developmental prospect to begin with who – even with a strong week in Chicago – doesn’t appear to be ready to contribute to an NBA team next year. Because of those factors, it probably makes sense for him to return to school for another season.
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Winner: Tyler Dorsey, G, Oregon
Dorsey became known as Mr. March for the scoring outbursts that helped Oregon to the Final Four, but to his credit, Dorsey showed he was more than just a scorer during his week in Chicago. In addition to 18 points he tallied six assists in Thursday’s scrimmage and as always was lethal from the three-point line (5-of-9 in those two scrimmages). He also calmed fears about his below-average length, measuring in at 6-4½ with shoes, with a 6-5 wing span. That’s not great, but not as bad as what was expected, either.
A source also told FOX Sports that he interviewed extremely well in private settings, meaning that this feels like a best-case scenario for Dorsey. With the NBA so three-point heavy right now, it seems almost certain that someone will grab him in the second round.
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Loser: Justin Patton, F/C, Creighton
Patton was one of the fastest-rising draft prospects in all of college basketball this past season, a kid who spent all of 2015-16 redshirting, only to play himself into the lottery discussion after averaging just under 13 points and seven rebounds per game this season.
However, Patton’s draft buzz had already cooled by the end of the season (his numbers dipped exponentially after star guard Maurice Watson went out with an injury), and he didn’t help himself in Chicago. Patton didn’t play five-on-five, but his athletic testing was outright disappointing, specifically a 30.5-inch vertical leap (which was tied for the worst in the entire field). Though he’s still likely a first round selection, in a draft full of athletic big men, Patton might have played himself out of the lottery.
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Winner: Frank Mason, G, Kansas
Mason’s rise from a player who was once committed to playing basketball at Towson to a burgeoning NBA Draft prospect is nothing short of amazing. And although he was believed to be undraftable as recently as a few months ago, Mason continued his march toward hearing his name called on draft night in Chicago.
He not only tested well (highlighted by a 41-inch vertical leap) but also showed the same fire on the floor that helped him win Naismith Player of the Year at Kansas, with a 21-point, three-rebound, two-assist performance on Friday. Add it together and it seems certain that someone will take a chance on him come draft night.
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Winner… sort of: Hamidou Diallo, G, Kentucky
Kentucky’s “none and done” prospect (Diallo enrolled at the school in January but didn’t play in game action) is this draft’s man of mystery, and in Chicago he continued to show why he’s so damn intriguing. Diallo had a Combine-best 44.5-inch vertical leap, and a 6-11 wing-span, an insane measurement for a guard who measured at 6-5 in shoes.
Therefore, like Frank Jackson, Diallo certainly wasn’t a “loser” in Chicago, but it’s hard to totally call him a winner. Everything he did in Chicago was exactly what we expected, but we still don’t know whether his overall basketball skills (specifically ballhandling and three-point shooting) have improved at all. The same questions that plagued him during his high school career remain, six months later.