Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots against Michigan Wolverines forward Moritz Wagner (13) during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports
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With the 2017 NBA Draft Combine fast approaching, players like Donovan Mitchell, who are testing the NBA waters, have the most to prove.
The 2017 NBA Draft Combine will take place from May 9-14. There were over 60 players invited, though some top prospects are expected to skip out. For example, Lonzo Ball already declined an invitation. You can check out the list of those invited and who declined here.
When it comes to who declares for the NBA Draft and makes it to the NBA Draft Combine, there’s a slew of different stories. You have top prospects like Ball, who won’t participate. In addition, you have guys who signed with an agent looking to increase their stock. And lastly, you have players who did not sign with an agent testing NBA waters.
These underclassmen may look for input on whether to stay in the draft or what to improve on when they return to college. Justin Jackson of North Carolina is a perfect example of the latter. Jackson was told by NBA teams to improve his shooting. He listened and now has a chance to go in the first round. Unlike Jackson, some prospects do get the green light to stay in the draft.
What’s interesting about this process is we haven’t seen most of these guys since their season ended. That means we don’t know how much better they’ve gotten. Some years, guys show up for the combine as different players than we’re accustomed to. So with that being said, here are three very different guys with first-round potential heading to the combine without an agent.
Mar 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is defended by Michigan Wolverines guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Donovan Mitchell is one of a handful of players who are waiting to decide whether to stay in the draft. He wasn’t asked to participate in 5-on-5s, which is a good sign. Most of the players who were not asked are top prospects who have already signed with an agent.
Heading into the combine, Draft Express has Mitchell going 20th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. Tankathon has him as a late first-rounder. Mitchell has a great chance to go in the first round, but likely wants to hear from NBA teams what his range is. That being said, he’s about to turn 21 and age matters. So after a solid sophomore season, it could be tough for him to improve his draft stock.
He averaged 15.6 points, 2.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game this season, but shot just over 41 percent from the floor. Mitchell likely could play some point guard every now and then, but is better off at shooting guard.
He’s undersized at just 6-foot-3, but has the strength, foot speed, and length to defend the 2. Guarding two positions shouldn’t be a problem for him at the next level. Teams looking at Mitchell will likely need a good shooting point guard, as Mitchell has been streaky. He did improve, though, from a 25 percent three-point shooter to a 35 percent one this year. But that’s not exactly elite. When his shot is falling though, you’d better watch out.
Mitchell has the potential to be a secondary initiator who can defend the ball incredibly well. If he keeps improving as a shooter, he’s got a chance for a long NBA career.
Mar 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Hamidou Diallo during practice the day before the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Where Mitchell is the proven college player, Hamidou Diallo is an unknown. He also represents what could be a new trend in basketball.
Diallo is in the high school class of 2017, but enrolled early at Kentucky this spring. After graduating last year, he’s technically eligible for the NBA Draft. Due to his athleticism, Diallo could theoretically make it to the NBA without playing in college or overseas.
Heading into the combine, Diallo projects to go 33rd by Draft Express and 27th by Tankathon. This move could create quite the ripple effect for years to come, but Diallo isn’t guaranteed to be a first-round pick.
According to Draft Express, Diallo is an insanely athletic player with tremendous defensive potential. He’s also still a work in progress offensively. Last year he averaged 18.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, while shooting an abysmal 17.6 percent from three.
Being asked to play 5-on-5 is probably a good thing for Diallo. Should he opt to go back to Kentucky though, he’ll only be able to test the NBA waters one more time and be allowed to return to school. As he turns 19 soon, making him an old freshman like Josh Jackson, age possibly played a role in his decision to declare.
Mar 10, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Thomas Bryant (31) holds the ball against the Wisconsin Badgers in the first half during the Big Ten Conference Tournament at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Bryant, a top-20 recruit in 2015, hasn’t lived up to expectations. After losing Yogi Ferrell to the NBA and OG Anunoby to injury, Bryant had an opportunity to take over Indiana. He did not.
As a sophomore, he averaged just 12.6 points 6.6 rebounds, barely an improvement from his freshman campaign. Both Draft Express (42nd) and Tankathon (47th) have Bryant going in the second round. Still, at 6-foot-10 with a huge wingspan and an improving three-point shot, he got an invite to the combine.
Thomas Bryant looking very nimble compared to previous years. Down to 9 percent body percent. Skill level was on display. pic.twitter.com/70vCmZCKbx
Like Diallo, Bryant has been asked to play 5-on-5. Given it’s not exactly a great year for big men, Bryant needs to show he can dominate. If Bryant can show his ability to protect the rim and shoot, he might just convince an NBA team to draft him earlier than expected.