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Observations From the NBA Draft Combine: Looking For Some Sleeper Draft Prospects

Following the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, we look at some of the best performances of the 5-on-5 scrimmages.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

After the NBA D-League Elite Camp wrapped up, team executives turned their eyes for the NBA Draft Combine, which is the main way for over 70 prospects to showcase their skills. While some of the bigger name players attending the Combine will become fixtures of NBA rotations next year, there's a slew of prospects that came to Chicago with the hopes of simply getting on the radar as potential 2nd round picks. The biggest way for prospects to do that is through the 5-on-5 scrimmages which allow the players to showcase their skills in live game action. Terry Rozier (Celtics) and Larry Nance Jr (Lakers) both ended up being taken in the 1st round a year ago after competing in these scrimmages, while a bunch of prospects became second-round instead of undrafted.

Among the crop of prospects that competed on Thursday and Friday, there were a handful of players that stood out and saw their status possibly rise after impressive performances in the 5-on-5 drills.

Kay Felder - Oakland: 23 points, 7 assists and 6 steals on 10-18 shooting in 2 games

Former Oakland standout Kay Felder was probably the MVP of the Draft Combine as he shined in both the physical drills and scrimmages. The 5'9 Felder exhibited his incredible athleticism with a 44 inch max vertical leap, which ties Shane Larkin (2013) and Pat Connaughton (2015) as the highest number in Draft Combine history. In the scrimmages, Felder put on a show on both days as he just displayed a high level of focus and tenacity.

That persistent nature was especially evident on the defensive end as he was an absolute pest against the likes of Melo Trimble and Cat Barber. During those two games, Felder stuck on to the opposing guards like velcro by not giving them even an inch to breathe. That ultimately lead to him forcing some turnovers, as he averaged 3.0 steals per game during the two scrimmages.

Offensively, Felder looked strong throughout the two games, which isn't shocking considering he averaged 24 PPG during his junior season. Felder displayed incredible burst during the scrimmages by utilizing ball screens to get wherever he wanted on the court. While he was a solid perimeter shooter with Oakland (shot 35% from 3 in junior year), he mainly stuck to mid-range jumpers and cuts to the rim. His incredible athleticism and on-court awareness allowed him to some solid cuts to the rim.

Robert Carter II - Maryland: 35 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals on 13-24 from the field (2-5 from 3)

Aside from Felder, Carter II may have boosted his draft stock the most with his play at the NBA Draft Combine. Over the course of the two days, the 6'8 forward displayed his potential as a pick-and-pop threat. He looked extremely comfortable shooting from the NBA 3-point line as he's able to quickly get up the shots with a smooth shooting stroke.

Alongside that, Carter displayed an ability to cut to the rim, launching jump hooks in the low-post and crashing the offensive glass. That versatility combined with his incredible 7'3 wingspan gives him potential  to work as an NBA PF despite being undersized at 6'8. While there's going to be many talented players looking to get into the draft as 2nd round prospects, Carter might have solidified his spot with his performance at the Draft Combine.

Isaiah Miles - Saint Joseph's: 27 points and 9 rebounds on 8-18 shooting in two games

For Isaiah Miles, the last 12 months have been nothing but a steady but impressive progression as a potential NBA prospect. Looked at as nothing more than a role player during his first three seasons at Saint Joseph's, Miles just burst on the scene during his senior season by averaging 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on 52% from the field and 38% from 3. That efficient performance continued over to the Portsmouth Invitational as he put up a solid 19 points on 57% from the field and 50% from 3 (on 4 attempts.

As was evident at the Combine, Miles' game is similar to Robert Carter, as he's an extremely versatile offensive player.  Over the course of those two games, Miles displayed the ability to knock down the mid-range and NBA 3-point line and also cut to the paint. In those drives to the basket, he showed a veteran-like instinct of being able to draw contact and get to the free-throw line as on Friday's game he had 8 FT attempts. That ability could intrigue NBA teams as it shows that Miles could still be effective even when his shot isn't quite going down.

While showing that he could match up with the draft's best forwards, Miles will probably be spending most of his rookie season in the D-League. That isn't to discredit his skills at all, as that offensive versatility could allow him to be a potential NBADL All-Star in the same mold as Devin Ebanks or Jarnell Stokes.

Cheick Diallo - Kansas: 27 points, 14 boards and 6 blocks on 13-18
shooting in 2 games

The NBA Draft Combine was a bit of a "Welcome Back" celebration for Cheick Diallo. While he was technically on the Kansas Jayhawks roster, he was basically relegated to the bench as he averaged only 7.5 minutes during his time with the team.  However, his performance in Chicago definitely reminded everybody more of the five-star recruit than the Kansas bench warmer.

Over the two games, Diallo displayed a lot more offensive versatility than anybody could've expected. Diallo exhibited abilities to work the offensive glass, make off-ball cuts, work the right block and even hit a 20-foot jumper. Those offensive skills were especially displayed on Thursday, as the 6'9 Diallo put up 18 points on 7-10 shooting.

Although Diallo impressed NBA scouts with his solid offensive work, his main "bread and butter" still rests with his potential as a rim protector. Despite being undersized at 6'9, Diallo more than makes up for it with a 7'4 wingspan and incredible athleticism. For an inexperienced player, Diallo showed a surprising amount of defensive awareness, as he was regularly in the right position to swat the ball away without having to draw a foul.

With his Draft Combine performance, Diallo undoubtedly answered many the questions that people had after a disappointing college career. Signing with an agent hours after the Combine wrapped up, Cheick Diallo solidified himself as a viable 1st round option.

Ben Bentil - Providence: 32 points, 17 rebounds and 4 assists on 12-24 shooting

Like Isaiah Miles, Bentil made some huge progress as an NBA prospect over the last year. Following a less than stellar freshman season, the Providence forward erupted as a sophomore as he averaged 21 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 46% from the field. That play led Bentil to being named to the All-Big East First Team, where he joined fellow Providence teammate Kris Dunn.

Bentil was able to carry that great sophomore season over to the NBA Draft Combine, where he showed a lot of potential as a pick-and-roll threat. While he only shot 33% from the NBA 3-point line during the Combine, he didn't look tentative with launching those shots. As far as the roll part, Bentil shows some quickness and has solid handles for a 6'8 forward.

As of the time of this piece, Bentil hasn't signed an agent which means that he can still return to Providence. However, it might be best for him to stay in the draft as his momentum seems to get higher every time he steps on the court. While there's a flood of pick-and-pop front-court players looking to be drafted in the late 1st/early 2nd round, Bentil might have solidified himself as one of the best players of that group.

Michael Gbinije- Syracuse: 30 points, 6 assists and 7 steals on 11-20 from the field and 4-8 from 3

If there was a player with the most to prove during the Draft Combine, it might have been Michael Gbinije . As one of the older players in this year's draft class (turns 24 in June), Gbinije had to demonstrate to NBA executives that he has the skills to help an NBA team from the jump.

Gbinije definitely proved that emphatically as he was just an all-around force on Thursday and Friday. He displayed an ability to produce in a variety of ways: defense, facilitating, cutting, perimeter shooting. Gbinije was an absolute menace on the defensive end, as he continued to disrupt the passing lanes to the tune of seven blocks during the two games.

While he impressed on the defensive end, Gbinije was especially effective on the offensive end through his facilitating and scoring. Despite standing as a 6'7 wing, he occasionally worked as the de-facto PG with either Gary Payton II or Kay Felder working off-ball. In those situations, he displayed some solid court vision as he was able to drive and dish it off to teammates. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his NBA Draft Combine performance was how effective Gbinije was from beyond the arc. Shooting 4-8 fro, beyond the arc, he displayed a pretty smooth shooting stroke and looked extremely comfortable with working from the NBA 3-point line.

Showing that he can be productive in a variety of ways, Gbinije has definitely raised his draft stock. While it's unlikely that he makes his way into the 1st round, he's definitely worth a 2nd round flier as a 3-and D wing that can help out your bench.