Following the NBA D-League Elite Camp, team executives turned their attention to the NBA Draft Combine, which stands as the main stage for potential NBA prospects to showcase their skills. While a lot of the top prospects competing probably won't be stepping foot on an NBA D-League court, that doesn't mean that the Combine is irrelevant to D-League teams. It's actually the opposite of that, as the majority of players that compete in the 5-on-5 scrimmages are projected to be early-2nd round to simply being undrafted. With the first day of those scrimmages in the books, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the players that stood out.
Larry Nance- Wyoming: 12 points (5-10 from the field), 15 rebounds (9 offensive) and 2 blocks in two games
While there were a handful of players that were more entertaining with how they played, the former Wyoming product showed the traits that could make him into a extremely solid D-Leaguer. During his 21 minutes when he was on the floor, Nance kept on moving, whether it would be to get off-ball cuts or to grab offensive boards over taller opponents. Nance really has a great feel for the game, which is especially shown on the defensive end, where he displayed good focus and an ability to guard multiple positions.
Although his following day's performance wasn't as impressive (4 points and 7 rebounds), he maintained that high-energy approach. Nance always seemed to be in the area to grab rebounds, which should allow him to retain that level of play in the D-League.
With all that in mind, Nance's offensive game is still a work in progress, as he doesn't have much in the form of a jumper. However, his excellent feel for the game should give him a lot of playing time in the D-League, which will allow him to continue progressing as an offensive player.
Rakeem Christmas - Syracuse: 39 points (13-22 from the field), 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in two games
The former 5-star high school recruit had a disappointing four-year career as Syracuse, as he was never able to display his full potential. With his college career now behind him, Christmas was able to use the NBA Draft Combine to get a fresh start on his pro career. Christmas took that opportunity and ran with it, as he definitely stood out as the best player in that initial scrimmage. The 6'9 forward was in control offensively for the entire game, as he displayed some solid skills from both inside and outside the paint. From inside the paint, Christmas showcased some nice post-up moves, by working both in the left and right block against the 6'11 Mouhammadeu Jaiteh. As well, Christmas looked like a solid PnR threat, as he was able to shoot the mid-range jumper and work to the rim.
Christmas was able to maintain his status as the top performer among all four squads. Playing against former Florida forward Chris Walker, Christmas still impressed on the offensive end (19 points on 6-12 shooting) as he did some damage as a mid-range shooter, which was one of his biggest setbacks during his college career.
While his performance was impressive, it was also expected as the 23-year-old Christmas is older than a few NBA All-Stars (Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving). With that in mind, a dominant performance in the D-League could allow him to get an NBA role.
JP Tokoto - North Carolina: 23 points (10-11 from the field), 11 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists in two games
In this year's draft class, JP Tokoto is perhaps one of the best examples as to why the D-League is so important. Seemingly since the inception of the NBADL, the league has been filled with high upside, highly athletic wings that still need to develop as a basketball player. Tokoto is one of the more recent examples of this, as the UNC forward can pop off high-flying slams whenever he desires. That skill was showcased multiple times during the scrimmage. Aside from that, Tokoto was able to display some semblance of a shooting stroke, as he made a few mid-range J's while spreading out to the NBA 3-point line.
That shooting stroke maintained during Friday afternoon's game, as Tokoto made two separate mid-range jumpers. While two games is definitely too small of a sample size to truly make a judgement, it's encouraging that he has showcased an improved jumper during this Draft Combine.
Although Tokoto is currently projected to picked mid-2nd round, that doesn't meant that he won't be spending any time in the D-League. As we've seen in the past with the likes of Nick Johnson (Houston), Jordan Adams (Memphis) or CJ Wilcox (LA Clippers), NBA teams aren't afraid to just place their players in the D-League for most of their rookie season if they feel like they still need to work on some aspects of their game. The same could be said about Tokoto, who needs to develop some consistent perimeter play, that can coincide with his terrific athletic play.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh - France : 22 points (8-13 from the field), 19 rebounds (7 offensive), 1 block in two games
At least for me, Jaiteh has been on my radar since 2013, when it looked like he going to enter that year's draft. Now that's two years later, my excitement to see the French prospect maintained, as I finally got a real opportunity to see how he does against some of the best college prospects. Jaiteh ran with that opportunity, as he had a terrific double-double performance against the aforementioned Rakeem Christmas. Jaiteh looked like one of the more comfortable prospects, as he immediately fit into his a post-up scorer by displaying a nice hook shot. He was able to use his long 6'11 frame as he manhandled Christmas on the offensive glass throughout the entire scrimmage.
Jaiteh was able to maintain that solid performance during Friday's game, as kept on pushing the ball into the low-post. Jaiteh displayed a nice hook shot in the left block, which is nearly impossible to guard given his 7'3 wingspan.
While Jaiteh will probably go back to France after the Draft is complete, he's a talent that you should keep your eyes on. He's continued to develop as a pretty solid offensive weapon, which is an asset that should continue to grow, as he's an extremely young 20 year old prospect.
Quinn Cook - Duke: 22 points (4-6 from beyond the arc), 5 assists in two games
While the former Duke prospect didn't have the most impressive game on Thursday, his play just stuck in my mind for some reason. Perhaps it's because of how comfortable he is with controlling the pace of an offense is what impressed me, which is surprising when you consider that he was mainly a scoring guard during his time with Duke. Alongside that, Cook looked comfortable shooting from the NBA three-point line, which isn't too shocking when you consider that he shot 40% from beyond the arc during his senior season.
However, Cook's offensive arsenal really came on display in the 2nd half of Friday's scrimmage. In a span of seven minutes, Cook absolutely took off, as he scored eleven points off an array of threes and some highly contested inside buckets.
If Cook does end up in the D-League, I could definitely see him working in the same position as former Sioux Falls Skyforce guard Larry Drew. Although that isn't the most glamorous comparison, it isn't too bad as Drew was able to etch himself as one of the D-League's best guards before making a brief pit stop with the 76ers.
Andrew Harrison - Kentucky: 24 points (6-15 from the field), 12 assists in two games
With questions pertaining to where he'll be positioned in June's Draft, Andrew Harrison definitely needed to use this Draft Combine to showcase his skills in front of the all of the NBA executives. At least in the first scrimmage, the ex-Wildcat succeeded as he looked at ease during the entire scrimmage. Throughout the game, Harrison was working off the dribble, as he made some clean cuts to the basket, while also dishing it off to his teammates. As has been an issue for each of the Harrison brothers, Andrew did have a few instances where he forced up some contested jumpers.
Although his shot wasn't exactly clicking during Friday's scrimmage, Harrison still was able to help out his team. Harrison was still able to work off-the-dribble which allowed him to cut to the paint and kick it out to teammates.
Although he looked good in the scrimmage, Harrison still has some room to grow as a prospect, especially when it comes to his work as a perimeter shooter. That aspect of his game, alongside just sharpening up some other aspects could be worked on at the D-League level, as he could become the most high-profiled D-League rookie since Seth Curry.
Vince Hunter - UTEP: 33 points (14-26 from the field) , 21 rebounds (12 offensive), 3 steals in two games
From the moment that the second scrimmage tipped off, Vince Hunter set out to be the most impactful player on the court. That was definitely the best mindset that he could possible have, as he needs to create some sort of buzz to even scratch the surface of the NBA Draft. Hunter made his impact by being a high-energy performer on the offensive end, as he had success by cutting to the paint off screens or just using his strong frame to collect offensive boards.
On Friday's game, Hunter retained that same high-energy nature as he remained a force on the offensive end. As mentioned in the ESPN2 telecast, the ball really does find Hunter as his constant movement creates a lot of inside looks. Hunter's biggest weakness is still his jumper, but he did make an open mid-range look which is a good sign when you consider that he only shot 21% on two-point jumpers during his sophomore season.
At 20 years old, Hunter still has a lot of time to grow as a player, particularly with his continued development as a mid-range shooter. Although he did display that during the scrimmage, Hunter will seemingly need to master that skill, as there isn't exactly a market for 6'7 forwards that can't score from outside the paint.
Jordan Mickey - LSU: 17 points (10-20 from the field) 17 rebounds (4 offensive), 12 blocks in two games
While Vince Hunter showcased his potential on the offensive end, Jordan Mickey was absolutely tremendous as a defensive performer, whether it would be working as an on-ball defender or just sticking inside and waiting for an opponent to cut right at him. With his tremendous 7'3 wingspan, Mickey is able to defend against both guards and front-court player. As well, he did a great job on the offensive end, as he continued to show off his improved mid-range jumper.
Mickey was able to maintain his strong defensive performance in Friday's scrimmage, as he had four blocks in 27 minutes. As well, he displayed a developing mid-range jumper as he spread out and hit a few 20-foot jumpers over the course of that game.
Although Mickey was one of the more skilled players during this scrimmage, he still needs to become more polished as a player. Considering his likely future as a 2nd round pick, a lot of that polishing could come at the NBA D-League level.