Every year the NBA has held its scouting combine, players use that opportunity to their advantage to boost their draft stock. This year’s combine seems no different. After four different scrimmages over the course of two days, here are a few guys that I am a fan of and thought did themselves a service not only competing with their contemporaries but helped their draft stock in the process to get themselves in consideration to be a late first-round pick or potential early-to-mid second-round pick.
Nah’shon Hyland PG/SG VCU: Hyland, nicknamed ‘Bones’ did not play on the second day of scrimmages, but the first was all he needed. Bones Hyland finished his first scrimmage with 17 points, five rebounds, and four assists while showcasing a ton of playmaking with the ball in his hands. Hyland was already renowned for his shooting ability at VCU (nearly a career 40% shooter from 3 and 82.7% from the free-throw line) but showing he can create for others, score off the bounce, and nail pull-up threes will only help his case to get drafted and the ability to fill the role a team asks him to provide. ESPN’s Mike Schmitz compared Bones Hyland to the Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley and it’s hard not to see the correlation. It’s a shame VCU was not able to compete in the NCAA Tournament because of COVID-19 issues that affected the program because it deprived the opportunity to make Hyland a household name, but his performance at the combine should get him looks from NBA teams around the 20s onward, in my opinion.
Josh Christopher SG Arizona State: Josh Christopher’s talent suggests that he should not have even been competing during these scrimmages. He’s a very good athlete and a big-time shot-maker. Getting by his defender was not a chore for Christopher, and neither was finishing above the rim. Christopher is raw who will often get caught ball-watching or gambling for passes, but he does compensate with effort overall defensively and on the glass. His shot selection tends to skew more towards the chucker side at times, but I think that can be improved upon, and he did show a willingness to move the ball. If I were running an NBA team, I’d be looking at Josh Christopher in the late first and stash him over on a franchise’s G League team for a year to get him more experience. Of all the guys who competed during these scrimmages, Christopher seemed like the one with the highest ceiling. He just needs more reps under his belt.
Isaiah Mobley PF/C USC: Isaiah’s brother Evan will get all the buzz in their house, and rightfully so, but Isaiah has shown he’s got game in his own right. Mobley showed a ton of comfortability playing on the perimeter on both ends of the floor. Though Mobley shot about one three a game during his two seasons at USC, he hit about 37% of those looks and shot it more frequently during the two combine games with about the same efficiency. He’s got good feet defensively to hang with guards (something he wasn’t asked to do a lot at USC since they primarily played a 2-3 zone), can protect the rim with size, length, and athleticism, and will tape over the holes once the defense begins to leak. Isaiah Mobley looks the part of a stretch five who fits the ball of the modern NBA.
Jason Preston PG Ohio: There might not have been a player I enjoyed watching more during these scrimmages than Jason Preston, especially since I didn’t have many opportunities to watch him at a mid-major school. He didn’t look like a mid-major prospect during the combine and looked every bit the part of a floor general. These scrimmages can tend to get, let’s say sloppy, to put it nicely, but Preston had his team looking like a well-oiled machine when he was out there. Preston’s playmaking was and is overall, sublime. When he sensed the chance to run in transition, he sent out a pass to a running teammate to get an easy look. In the halfcourt, he read scrambling defenses well to find open teammates and let them play to his strengths. Preston averaging over seven assists the last couple of seasons was no fluke. He’s also a good team defender who loves to rebound to get his team in transition that much quicker. Jason Preston reminds me of Lonzo Ball. He isn’t there as a scorer yet, probably not the isolation defender that Lonzo is, but both are super solid winning players that know how to make their teammates and teams better while stretching the floor (. There’s a reason Jason Preston nearly put up a triple-double in Ohio’s NCAA Tournament win over the Virginia Cavaliers. Preston just makes good things happen on the floor. He will help whoever drafts him. I’m a big fan of his going forward.
Quentin Grimes SG Houston: There might not have been a more impressive player during these two days of scrimmages than Quentin Grimes of the Houston Cougars. He lit it up from deep in a variety of ways: catch-and-shoots, step-backs, side steps, you name it. Grimes flashed some ball-handling ability, but I suspect he’ll make more headway as a shooter who can space the floor more so than a guy a team would ask to create his own shot. Luckily for him, just about every team needs that kind of guy, especially one who can defend multiple positions like Grimes can at 6’5” 205 pounds and fight for rebounds. Quentin Grimes shot 40.3% from three this past season over eight attempts per game. That shooting translated during the scrimmages, where he scored 39 points over the course of two games on 15-24 shooting from the field. He’d be a great draft bargain in that late first to second round range if it carries over into the actual NBA games, which I suspect it will.
Neemias Queta C Utah State: If teams are looking for a Clint Capela, Nerlens Noel type of rim-running, rim-protecting big man, then look no further than Neemias Queta. Queta was super active defensively, getting deflections and swatting shots at the rim. He showed solid mobility helping on the perimeter before retreating back to his fortress under the basket. Offensively Queta looked to throw it down whenever he could and even dropped some slick pocket passes as a fulcrum around the elbows. Queta was strong finishing around the rim and collecting boards. He helped himself a lot during these scrimmages.
Joe Wieskamp SF Iowa: NBA teams always will look for shooting wherever they can find it, and Joe Wieskamp of Iowa showed he’s got plenty of that. Wieskamp never shot less than four threes per game during his three seasons at Iowa and hit a robust 41.16% percent of them while also converting 77% of his free throw attempts. Wieskamp brought that dead-eye range to the scrimmages where it was most on display during his second scrimmage. Wieskamp dropped 26 points and hauled in 10 rebounds to boot while shooting 6-7 from deep. His athletic testing may have done him more of a favor than his game did. Wieskamp measured in at 6’7” with a 6’11” wingspan and a 42 inch vertical. Those are very promising measurements for anyone hoping to find a 3-and-D guy who can defend multiple positions and stretch the floor. Watching Wieskamp reminded me of Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards. Shooting is a very wanted skill and Joe Wieskamp has that and then some. He looks like a guy that should not only be drafted but can stick around for a while and help teams win.
Jericho Sims C Texas: Though Sims’ game is much like Queta’s Sims has another gear in athleticism that Queta doesn’t. Jericho Sims delivered some of the best vertical leaps and standing vertical measurables in the history of the NBA combine. If you want someone to fill the duties of dunking the ball, grabbing rebounds, and protecting the rim, then getting someone who can jump super high would be a nice way to start. Playing more in his junior and senior campaigns than he did his freshman and sophomore seasons, Sims averaged at least 1.6 stocks (steals and blocks), so he matched some production to go with his athleticism. That isn’t necessarily what makes good defenders, but it is a start for sure. It didn’t seem like Jericho Sims was on many radars before the combine. But after unleashing some finesse as a roll man to complement his athleticism and defensive potential, he looks like he could be a great find later in the draft.
Greg Brown III SF/PF Texas: Greg Brown III, like Josh Christopher, is a very gifted player who is still raw. That’s how he finds himself more so as a late first-rounder now than a lottery pick after being a top ten recruit coming into this season. Brown didn’t do a lot during his first scrimmage, but he played with purpose and energy in his second, playing above the rim whenever he could. He’s a long, wiry, and athletic wing who should be able to defend multiple positions, kind of like a Derrick Jones Jr. of the Portland Trail Blazers. Brown could be a much better offensive player than Jones Jr. could dream of being, however. Brown is just raw and needs reps to improve his jumper (33% on 3.5 attempts per game, 70.8% from the free-throw line), but there is definitely something to work with there. Brown just needs more reps. If I felt confident in my player development program as an NBA team, I could see Brown progressing like how Pascal Siakam did in Toronto. Being a long and versatile defender provides a great floor for a player entering the NBA, and I think that should easily translate for Greg Brown III. But I think there’s potential for way more than just that, and I’d be willing to take that shot if I were running an NBA team.
Kessler Edwards SF Pepperdine: You want a 3-and-D guy? Boom, here you go. Edwards was seemingly the only player that could bother the scorching hot Quentin Grimes as he was in the midst of a 27 point scoring bonanza. Edwards is a sturdy 6’8″ 200 pounds, a career 38.7% three-point shooter, and career 78% free-throw shooter. NBA teams can never have enough 3-and-D guys, so I’d expect Edwards to hear his name called sooner than later during the 2021 NBA Draft.