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Secondary NBA combine helps teams find “guys who slipped through the cracks”

May 31st, 2017 at 10:32 AM
Aggregated By Sports Media 101

As representatives were interviewing prospects at the first-ever Professional Basketball Combine on the evening of March 16, Jonathon Simmons of the San Antonio Spurs was showing exactly why a secondary combine for lesser-known prospects is necessary and how it can be beneficial to NBA teams.

That night, Simmons scored 22 points in 26 minutes against the Golden State Warriors – shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three-point range. In the span of four years, Simmons went from paying $150 to try out for the Spurs’ D-League affiliate to becoming one of their most productive players in the Western Conference Finals.

The Professional Basketball Combine, which was held shortly after the NBA’s official combine, is designed to help under-the-radar players get discovered sooner than later so they can avoid having to bounce around like Simmons did early in his professional career. Essentially, it’s an opportunity for an overlooked player to showcase his game, impress an executive enough to land a team work and, ultimately, increase his draft stock.

“There’s certainly players who slip through the system, even these days with Synergy Sports film and scouts all over the world; there are still those Jonathon Simmons stories where a guy slipped through the cracks,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “Because of that, anytime you get an opportunity to see a large number of prospects at one time, it’s definitely helpful and an efficient use of a scout’s time.”

This year, there were 23 prospects who participated in the event and there were representatives from 16 NBA teams: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Golden State, Indiana, LA Clippers, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, Utah and Washington.

“We want to make this an annual event – a secondary combine that runs in conjunction with the NBA’s combine – and we’re already starting to plan for next year,” founder Jake Kelfer said. “We believe there’s a huge need for an event like this with the G-League expanding, with the new two-way contract spots and with teams constantly looking for diamonds in the rough. More and more, we’re seeing players from small schools excel at the next level and you never know who you might discover at an event like this. It’s really beneficial for everyone involved. The goal is to eventually get to the point where all 30 teams are in attendance and even more draft prospects are involved.

“This year, we did team interviews, combine testing, measurements, 3-on-3 and provided live stats. I think it was a great first event and it gave all of the prospects a lot of exposure and gave the teams an opportunity to evaluate some of the players that they might not have seen otherwise.”

Several executives and scouts were excited to see this kind of event come together, since teams are always looking for hidden gems and more information on under-scouted players. And, as Kelfer mentioned, the expanding G-League (formerly known as the D-League) and two-way contracts make finding these bargain-bin players even more important.

“It’s a great event because they bring multiple prospects to one place, so it’s very efficient,” one Western Conference executive said. “It’s also a good opportunity to see other teams and pick their brain a bit from conversations that come up naturally.”

“There’s not a ton of scouting at this time of the year to be done on top-tier guys,” one Western Conference scout said. “Everyone already knows their games. I’m unlikely to learn anything basketball related by watching Lonzo Ball work out. It’s more about gathering background info and interviewing others about him. For lesser-known guys and maybe …

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