For NBA Draft junkies like me, the annual Draft Combine is the commencement of a nonstop obsession for about a month each summer. Although the Combine doesn’t present the ideal opportunity for scouting, there are still an assortment of minor details revealed about teams, players and the intentions of both that can prove invaluable during pre-draft analysis. Here is what I learned regarding the Nuggets from the first day of the Combine.
Last year the Nuggets were rumored to be interested in moving up in the Draft. They were connected to Golden State and took a liking to Bradley Beal, who ended up going No. 3 to the Wizards. Later this year it was revealed the Nuggets were also intrigued by John Henson, who like Beal, ended up being a Lottery pick. These developments proved Masai Ujiri, a draft guru in his own right, will not hesitate to move up if he feels the player he’s targeting is worth the risk. And after one day of Combine action this year, it’s already been reported Ujiri has met with Lehigh guard and projected lottery pick, C.J. McCollum, for a private interview. Per SI.com’s Chris Mannix:
McCollum is interesting for two reasons: First, he has a very similar game to Bradley Beal, whom, as I mentioned above, the Nuggets showed interest in last year. Both are cerebral, undersized shooting guards who can really stroke it from downtown, give 100 percent every night, rebound at a high rate and possess very well-rounded games overall. But while McCollum is undoubtedly a talented kid, his skill set is not exactly a top priority for the Nuggets at this point in time. The Nuggets have plenty of well-rounded players who can score the rock, and though it’s true McCollum is a solid shooter from outside, his 3-point accuracy is nothing the Nuggets won’t be able to obtain in free agency… Which leads me to one conclusion: Ujiri likes McCollum a LOT and think he’s underrated by his counterparts. That’s really the only reason to justify moving up to take him. McCollum has been drawing a plethora of comparisons to 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, and if any of them are accurate, then Ujiri has a damn good reason to show interest in McCollum.
For those unfamiliar with McCollum, here’s an excellent breakdown of his game as well as a Combine interview from DraftExpress.com:
The other interesting development to arise from Day 1 at the Combine was this bit of information courtesy of Chad Ford:
If you’ve been following RMC recently you might recall this post I published on April 8 that asked if Ujiri had his eye on a “Greek freak” by the name of Giannis Adetokunbo (who’s recently made it known his last name is spelled “Antetokounmpo,” which is obviously much easier to pronounce). During the Combine broadcast Ford said the team that made the promise to Antetokounmpo was in the late first round. Now, while the term “late first round” is somewhat vague I’d venture to say it generally applies to teams in the 25-30 range, which the Nuggets happen to fall in. And while I’m by no means suggesting the Nuggets are the team to have made the promise, as already outlined in my previous Antetokounmpo post, there are some interesting connections between Ujiri and the “Greek freak” which cannot be ignored. In any case, Ford’s proclamation certainly does nothing to extinguish the already suspicious fire burning between the Nuggets and Antetokounmpo.
Lastly, one of the most intriguing and mysterious prospects in this year’s draft, Steven Adams, had an incredibly good showing during the first day of the Combine. Chad Ford raved about how impressed he was with Adams, as can be seen in the following tweet. Below that is Adam’s DraftExpress video scouting report.
Adams is a guy with a fascinating background (he’s from New Zeland, has 17 siblings, often played against women due to lack of competition growing up, etc.) who was highly touted coming out of high school but who struggled mightily in his first year at Pittsburgh. I watched him numerous times throughout the season and always came away thinking he was a good two or three years away from being able to compete at the NBA level. However, he’s also a really smart kid who grew as the season progressed and showed maturity in his game once March rolled around. But while his athleticism and defensive instincts are elite, his offense and feel for the game are still almost nonexistent — at least, that’s what I thought.
According to Ford, Adams not only showed up at the combine but showed well. He looked intelligent in his interviews and shot the ball as good as any big. If Adams displays even more progress over the next month or so, this is a guy I’d fully endorse the Nuggets attempting to grab even if it means paying to move up in the draft. Much like Andre Drummond last year, his stock is gonna take a hit due to his deficiencies, but his potential is through the roof and likely not as far away as many have thought. In three years, he could end up being one of the most threatening, defensive-minded anchors in the entire league — which is exactly what the Nuggets need to bolster their chances of winning a title.
(If anything significant unfolds on the second day of the Combine, I’ll be sure to post an update. So stay tuned! And as always…)
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