CHICAGO — The NBA draft suit differs from the NFL draft suit in that not all players have to participate. Agents have the ability to strategically choose what they want their player to be included in. The players projected to the top – Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey – did not participate in anything, including metrics or media availability.
There’s still value in the week-long event for NBA scouts and front office executives. Every year, a handful of players launch draft boards after a strong performance at the combine. Last year it was Josh Primo, Bones Hyland and Quentin Grimes. Primo went to No. 12 at the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets took Hyland at No. 26, and the New York Knicks selected Grimes with the 25th pick.
The NBA Draft is only a month away and players will be busy with team practices leading up to the big night on June 23. Here are six players who helped themselves the most after the NBA Draft.
Jalen Williams, Santa Clara
Height/Weight: 6-5, 209 pounds
Williams was the best player on the court over the two days of scrimmage and likely played himself in a first-round pick. He got to the basket with ease, shot the ball well and had some of the best finishes in transition. Defensively, he fought through the screens to keep his man up front and was effective in defense on the assist side, widening the gap for steals and tips.
By all accounts, Williams had done enough on Day 1 of scrimmage play to sit out Day 2, but he played in both games.
“I came to Chicago for a reason and that was to compete and show NBA scouts what kind of player I am,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I want to play and compete, so for me it wasn’t even a matter of sitting down and not playing.”
Williams finished with 11 points and four rebounds in just 21 minutes in Game 1 and had 19 points and four rebounds in Game 2.
Michael Foster, G League Ignite
Height/Weight: 6-9, 236 pounds
The first thing all NBA scouts and front office executives noticed when Foster walked into the gym was his improved frame. Foster lost 14 pounds, added muscle mass and looked amazing. His body fat was 6.2% and he was moving much better on the pitch than he was during the G League season.
Along with Williams, Foster has helped himself the most this week. He shot the ball well during drills and bullied players into the lane during scrums. Defensively, he also held his own, which he struggled with during the G league season. His shooting has improved and he is more consistent in the pick-and-pop. During his pro day, Foster hit eight straight threes and showed off his athleticism with his dunks and explosive first step.
Foster did a bit of everything in the first scrimmage with five points, six rebounds and three assists and finished with 14 points and five rebounds in Game 2.
Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga
Height/Weight: 6-4, 196 pounds
Nembhard only had one scrum, but it was enough to show what he does best. Gonzaga’s field general seemed comfortable creating for others, delivering 11 assists. He also led both teams in points with 26 points (10-18 from the field) and read the pick-and-roll defense well, confidently knocking down the two-dribble pull-up.
Nembhard is a projected second-round pick and has only met the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns during combine week. His first practice will be with the Indiana Pacers this week.
Kenny Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech
Height/Weight: 6-7, 250 pounds
Lofton Jr. started his week at the G League combine and was called up after a strong performance in the scrums earlier in the week. He’s far from your typical NBA forward, but scouts loved how hard he plays.
Despite his height, he has great footwork around the basket and held his own with 7-foot, 293-pound Kofi Cockburn. He has already lost weight since the end of the season and is moving better in transition than expected. Lofton Jr. only played the first day of scrimmages and finished with 13 points and three rebounds. After a good week, Lofton Jr. did enough to get drafted.
Trevion Williams, Purdue
Height/Weight: 6-9, 265 pounds
Williams had a solid week and showcased his vision on the open court, making the right pass every time and improving the grip. He punished any guard who ever turned him on in a lag situation and his engine has improved since the end of the season. Williams told reporters after the first scrimmage that he was going to keep working hard no matter how the draft went.
“Whether I go to the second round or not drafted, man, it doesn’t matter to me. In the end, I do what I love. There are a lot of guys in the NBA who are successful now who haven’t been drafted, so I never worry about that,” Williams said.
Terquavion Smith, State of North Carolina
Height/Weight: 6-3, 165 pounds
Smith entered his name in the draft with the possibility of returning to school for his second season. After playing well in the draft, the chances of him returning to school are slim (Smith has until June 1 to make up his mind). Smith shot the ball extremely well from deep during combination shooting drills and was one of the quickest players in transition during scrums. He looked like a seasoned guard and controlled the pace of the game.
Smith shut it down after the first day of scrums and might have done enough to eventually sneak out late in the first or early in the second round, similar to Bones Hyland’s rise after the combine last year . In his only game, Smith finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes on the court.