NBA Draft Combine: Vonleh and LaVine Impress; Exum not so much

(Photo: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Fifty-nine NBA prospects were being prodded, picked and poked in Chicago this past Thursday and Friday as part of the evaluation process of NBA teams who are preparing for the NBA Draft which is set to take place on June 26th. The combine in Chicago took physical measurements of the 59 NBA hopefuls and ran them through a series of athletic and skill tests such as the shooting drills, agility drills and measuring their vertical leap, to name a few.

Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, along with Duke’s Jabari Parker sat out the combine in a strategic move to retain their high projection in the draft. Others attended but did not participate in many of the drills, such as Marcus Smart.

One of the athletes that is receiving a lot of attention is point guard Dante Exum from Australia. His appeal is mainly due to the unknown factor, having played his entire basketball career in Australia. Exum has played a few games outside of the Australian high school basketball bubble, playing well in the Nike Hoop Summit in 2013 and for Australia in the FIBA under 17 and under 19 championships; outside of that, there is very little information of how effective Exum can be against talent comparable to that in NCAA college basketball.

Adding to the intrigue is that scouts who have watched him play and been following his career have compared his game to players like Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant.

As far as his physical tools, the measurements out of the combine were impressive as expected. Exum measured 6’6 with shoes and a massive wingspan for a point guard, 6’9 and a half inches. Exum’s wingspan was the largest measured for point guards at the combine; Marcus Smart came in a close second at 6’9 and 1/4 inches.

Exum was equally as impressive in the agility and athleticism tests. Exum had the 2nd best time in the lane agility time which measures how fast a player moves around the key. Exum finished the drill at 10.75 seconds; only UCLA’s Zach LaVine finished with a better time, at 10.42 seconds.

In the shuttle run, which measures how fast a player moves when changing direction, Exum finished 7th with a time of 2.88 seconds. The leader in this area was Arizona’s Aaron Gordon who finished with a time of 2.76.

Where Exum disappointed was in the vertical leap test. Exum measured a 31.5 inch leap from a standing starting position and 34.5 inch maximum vertical leap which allows the player to take steps before jumping; Exum’s results ranked 17th and 37th respectively. For prospective, players like Julius Randle, Dwight Powell and Doug McDermott all finished higher in the maxium vertical leap test. His explosiveness is not anywhere in the Kobe Bryant or Russell Westbrook class if we go by the results of the combine.

An area of weakness for Exum is his outside shooting, based on the scouting reports. Exum did not do anything  to dispel those reports as he opted to not go through the shooting drills.

Exum is still only 18 years old and did enough at the combine to show he is big time NBA prospect with this quickness and size for a point guard, but his decision to not participate in shooting drills and poor vertical leap measurements might be enough to have him drop a few spots in the draft.

A couple of players that improved their draft standing were Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and UCLA guard, Zach LaVine.

Vonleh’s measurements were freakish, even by NBA standards. He only measured a height of 6’8 with shoes, but that is inconsequential considering he measured a remarkable 7 feet, 4 and half inch wingspan, 2nd only to Isaiah Austin, who is a much taller 7 feet tall.

Here is a shot of Vonleh’s hands from the NBA Draft’s twitter account:

Vonleh’s is said to possess soft hands and displays a nice touch. The measurements out of the combine also show that he has some huge pair of mitts; Vonleh’s hands measured the largest at the combine, 9.75 inches in length and 11.75 in width. A big man with big hands and possessing a nice touch is ideal.

One of the areas where Vonleh comes up a little short is that his athleticism. Vonleh isnt a horrible athlete, he just isn’t going to impress anybody with his quickness or leaping ability. He fared as expected in the athletic drills, towards the bottom or middle of the pack. Nevertheless, Vonleh size, length, touch and set of offensive skills guarantee that he will be a high lottery pick.

A player that scored well in just about all anthropometric areas was UCLA guard Zach LaVine. LaVine measured out well for his position: Height measured at 6 feet, 4.5 inches with shoes and wingspan measured 6 feet, 8.25 inch.

Where LaVine really shined were in the quickness and agility test; topping all participants in the lane agility test at 10.42 time, coming in 2nd in the shuttle run with a time of 2.80. LaVine showed major hops, finishing with a 33.5 standing leap and 41.5 maximum vertical leap, good for 5th and 3rd in the combine respectively.

LaVine has been projected as a mid to late first round pick in the upcoming draft; however, after the showing at the combine he could have earned himself a spot in the lottery.

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the 6th position in the NBA Draft order but that can change once the draft lottery is completed on Tuesday, May 20th, where the Lakers can move up to one of the top 3 spots if their numbers come up, or they could fall to as low as 9th if teams that are currently behind them jump over them by winning one of the 3 top spots. Exum, Vonleh and LaVine are all attractive players and viable picks for the Los Angeles Lakers, but there is far more scrutinizing to go. The Lakers along with other NBA teams will begin holding private workouts and interviews which will be the final stage in the decision making process. We’ll know more in the coming weeks as to where the Lakers are leaning  once the results of the interviews of the meetings and private workouts start to leak out. The results of the combine is just a small piece of the puzzle, but still very important.

– Fern Rea

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Writer & NBA fan who’s been hooked since the days of Magic v Bird. Love basketball debates without it ending in a knife fight. My BBall nickname: “Todo El Dia” (All Day.) Hit me up on Twitter @fullcourtfern or Instagram: @raining3sdotcom