Now that the 2019 NBA Draft Combine is finished and we are waiting on the draft deadline to pass, here are five players that really helped themselves at The Combine. These guys helped themselves in their testing and their play during the scrimmage portions of the combine. The majority of these guys were thought to be second-rounders or even undraftable guys, but they’ve given scouts something to think and consider heading into pre-draft workouts. Here are the top 5 players I think helped themselves the most at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.
1. Isaiah Roby
The 6-foot-8, 214-pound Nebraska forward didn’t pop off pages with his stats coming into the combine, but he tested very well on the athletic scale and on the weight scale as he has less than 4 percent body fat. While that number is great, he will have to put on weight to hold his own at the NBA level on both ends of the floor.
Roby ranked second among forwards in lane agility, second in three-quarter sprint (3.21 seconds), fourth in shuttle run (:3.05) and fourth in standing vertical leap (32½ inches). His 7-foot-1 wingspan helps him as well, especially on the defensive end where he showed some flashes. He also penetrated well and put up some solid stats in 21 minutes of play on Thursday. He had 10 points, five rebounds, one assist and two blocks. In 30 minutes of play on Friday he had 15 points, six boards, two assists, two steals and a block with only one turnover.
He has the switchability on defense you like to see in today’s game, which was on display during the scrimmages. He can handle the ball well enough to bring it up the floor and initiate an offense much like Draymond Green. His athleticism and versatility are his biggest selling points right now as he will still have to prove in workouts that he can be a consistent shooter and that he has the consistency to play at the next level. He’ll also need to show good decision making with his passes and shot selection.
Best Team Fits: Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. The Cavaliers need another scoring option next to Collin Sexton and with their 26th pick, Roby might be a good option to grow with Sexton in the offense. The Nets are in danger of losing a ton of wings this offseason so grabbing Roby would be a backup plan for the team and make sure they don’t lose out too much if they don’t sign everyone in free agency. The Warriors are in a similar boat as they could lose several players to free agency and will need to replace them with cheaper options via the draft. The San Antonio Spurs are in need of a wing player who can score and more importantly defend. Roby would certainly help on the defensive end for them and could be nabbed with their 29th pick.
2. Tacko Fall
His measurements were quite literally off the charts. He was bigger than most people thought at 7-foot-7 in shoes. His weight wasn’t too bad as he checked in at about 289 pounds. For a guy that size you probably want to see him in the 300s, but his body fat is also low as its under seven percent. He broke every record the Draft Combine had for wingspan, height and standing reach dating back to the 80s. You could definitely consider Fall an athletic freak in that regard.
For those that didn’t watch him at UCF, they now know just how much real estate he takes up and how much of a difference maker he can be on defense. He likely won’t be a starter, but he has a very clear role that resembles that of Boban Marjanovic. Give him 10-15 minutes a game and let him affect everyone’s shots, muck things up for opponents on offense and just be big.
He showed off that size and length — over 8 feet of wingspan — in the scrimmages as well. People don’t have to imagine how he might affect a game when he very clearly did that and took on all comers at the rim like Tennessee’s Grant Williams who Fall absolutely stuffed in a scrimmage. He has tangible skills and while he might be a defensive specialist, he could certainly clean up on the offensive glass and be a great lob target over the tops of defenses. He is definitely going to be the next Boban and there’s nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise.
While Fall did help himself greatly, people aren’t quite sure where he might be drafted, but it’s safe to bet he will go somewhere late in the second round if he goes at all.
Best Team Fits:San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s clear the Spurs need a good defensive big man and they have experience using someone similarly huge in Boban Marjanovic so they could utilize his skills properly. The Pacers are generally a small team compared to the rest of the league with no legitimate seven-footer on the roster so grabbing Fall would certainly make them bigger and wouldn’t take away shots from their better offensive players. The Wolves need a good defensive front court player to pair with KAT and Fall makes sense. He may not be a starter, but giving him his 10-15 minutes a game that has overlap with Towns could be ideal.
3. Luka Samanic
A fair amount of people had Samanic sliding down their draft boards until his showing in the NBA Draft Combine. He showed off a little bit of everything during the opening scrimmage, and he did well enough to shut it down for Friday and not participate. Kevin Huerter and Kyle Kuzma are prime examples of guys who did that and ended up going in the first round.
The 6-foot-11, 227-pound forward out of Croatia was able to showcase his versatility on offense and defense. He posted up and beat his man on a spin move, he drove the basketball well and created some shots for himself. He also showed good feet on defense and competed with some toughness. He had 13 points and 7 rebounds in under 20 minutes of play in the lone scrimmage he played.
Samanic was arguably the biggest winner of the Combine as he could be leapfrogging into the first round now. He impressed in shooting drills as he was hitting threes and got to demonstrate his fluid athleticism that teams covet in today’s big men. He’s filled out nicely in the upper body and doesn’t look as thin as he did to start the season over in Europe and that’s something scouts took notice of over the two days.
Best Team Fits: San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. The Spurs are in need of a forward who can shoot or even a big to help on defense and take some pressure off Jakob Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Warriors have several players who could be coming off the books this summer so getting a big man like Samanic to work with over the course of a couple years to mold him would be ideal. The Nets are potentially losing a ton of wings and power forwards this offseason so Samanic makes a ton of sense for them as backup. The 76ers could be in a similar situation to the Nets so grabbing Samanic with one of their early second round picks or even their only first round pick if they feel he is good value there.
4. Nicolas Claxton
Coming in at a shade under seven feet and weighing about 217 pounds, the Georgia Bulldog shoved his way closer to the front of this draft class, or at least closer to the lottery than the second round. He’s a versatile big man and can even handle the ball a little bit as he did that for Georgia a bit last season. In the Thursday scrimmage and in 20 minutes of play, he had seven blocks (all came in 10 first half minutes), seven points, seven rebounds and two assists with only one turnover. In Friday’s scrimmage and in 21 minutes he had no points, but he did record five rebounds, four blocks, four steals and two assists against two turnovers.
He’s versatile on defense and can stay with smaller, faster guys for a time if needed. He clearly has active hands on defense — as evidenced by his block and steal numbers — and he plays smart on that end. He’s got a solid all-around game and is fairly far along for a player that will certainly be classified as a project. He will spend some time in the G-League, but that’s no knock against him. It shows how much potential he has to be a good player at the next level. He just has to improve his jump shot and Claxton will turn out to be a real steal in this draft.
Best Team Fits: San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks. the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. All of those teams have picks in the range that Claxton is projected at right now and all of them need a defensive-minded big man who has the versatility to defend a couple positions. If they work with him on his shooting, he will become an even more valuable asset to whichever team ends up getting him and will likely end up as one of the big steals of this draft.
5. Tremont Waters
The smallest guy on this list and almost the shortest guy at the combine, Tremont Waters didn’t play like it. He certainly made scouts and other people watching forget about his 5-foot-11 stature as he played tough and savvy. His body of work at LSU really spoke for itself considering the pieces he was working with as an offensive initiator. They were not perfect puzzle pieces for much of the season, but he made it work. For the Thursday scrimmage he had nine points, one board, three assists, five turnovers and two steals. In Friday’s scrimmage he had 10 points, two steals, one turnover, one assist and one rebound.
Waters was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year so he’s definitely tougher than people give him credit for and he showed that in the scrimmages. He also showed off his craftiness and his understanding of spacing and angles on offense, which helped him get to his spots and slither through the defense. This particular draft class is also lacking in quality point guards so a guy like Waters could absolutely find himself getting taken in the second round. By participating in the combine at all, he looked good. Now he has to show out in pre-draft workouts and he should be be just fine.
Best Team Fits:Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons. The Magic most notably need a point guard and while they are likely to find a starter in the first round, Waters could prove to be a capable backup. The Jazz are thin at the position so shoring up with a solid defender like Waters fits their bill and the Pistons could lose Reggie Jackson this offseason. Should he bolt, they will need someone else besides Jose Calderon or Ish Smith getting minutes at the position.