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Home - Is the NBA Combine Really A Waste Time?

  Is the NBA Combine Really A Waste Time?

kevin durant
Source: TSN on Facebook.

The NBA Combine is an annual tradition that involves getting the best college basketball players to run and jump, submit to having their limbs measured, play 5-on-5, and answer increasingly stupid questions like “do you stop or go at a yellow light?”, a mindbender posed by the Minnesota Timberwolves to Justin Patton. But far from being an essential bit of business, the Combine is rapidly falling out of favor with both top prospects and established pros.

Kevin Durant

The biggest criticism of the Combine, one made loudly by the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant recently, is that it forces players to demonstrate an aptitude for skills they don’t have and don’t need. Just as Patton doesn’t need to know how to drive a car to play center, and stepping out onto the court doesn’t require specialist knowledge of a manhole’s shape (a favorite question of the Maverick’s psych coach Don Kalkstein) Durant wasn’t a bad prospect just because he couldn’t bench 185lbs.

frank mason iii
Source: SONY SIX on Facebook.

So, quite apart from being an opportunity for players to show off their talents, the Combine seems more like a chance for coaches to mercilessly weed them out – sometimes, in a literal sense; Frank Mason III was asked how he’d like to die. There’s a rationale behind the questions (Kalkstein’s manhole question reportedly shows an appreciation of round pegs not fitting in square holes) but let’s be honest, there are better ways to assess a man’s faculties.

Zach LaVine

This year, a number of promising youngsters avoided the Combine altogether, including Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, and Malik Monk, a player that can perhaps afford his absence given that there are plenty of teams he’ll slot right in at, including the 76ers, who need a shooter. Markelle Fultz, another top prospect, did turn up though.

zach lavine
Source: 3 in the Key on Facebook.

But that’s arguably the entire point of the Combine – it’s not for players like Fultz and Tatum; it’s for rookies like Florida's Devin Robinson trying to improve their Draft stock. So, while it presented an unacceptable risk of humiliation for Durant, a man who achieved many young players' dreams last year by joining the Warriors, a team now -350 in the NBA betting odds to earn their second Finals win in three years, the Combine offers the undercards a chance at a brighter future. It’s still the only reason players like Zach LaVine of the Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler are where they are today.

2007 Draft

It’s also worth noting that the Combine also presents an opportunity for clubs to scout beyond their usual limits (the premise behind the original showcase event), talk to players they’re interested in, and harvest medical information and performance data. With that in mind, it’s hard to view the Combine as a pass-or-fail exam; after all, Durant was still picked second in the first round of the 2007 Draft despite his lack of strength, rendering his own Combine somewhat irrelevant.

So, is the Combine a waste of time? It depends on who you are – if you’ve got “MVP” written on your forehead, it might be, but for late bloomers, the Combine represents an essential springboard into the NBA.

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