BOZICH | Who has more to prove at NBA Combine: Mitchell, Diallo or Bryant?
Who has the most to prove at the NBA Draft Combine: Donovan Mitchell of Louisville, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky or Thomas Bryant of Indiana?
CHICAGO -- They call it the NBA Draft Combine but what happens here the next two days will shape the 2018 college basketball season as well as affect the upcoming NBA Draft.
Not all of the 60 or so players participating in the games and workouts in front of NBA coaches and scouts are committed to remaining in the Draft. Some, like Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky, have kept the option of returning to school.
"This is just one piece, but it's an important piece as we get closer to the Draft," said one former NBA assistant coach. "It's a different evaluation than watching players in games or on video.
"You'll see some guys back down against the better competition. You'll actually see them hesitate. You'll see other guys be more aggressive. One thing they'll be judged on is how hard they compete when they're really challenged."
Seven players with local connections were invited to the combine at the Quest Performance Center, about 3 miles west of downtown Chicago.
Louisville is represented by one player, guard Donovan Mitchell, who announced last Friday that he planned to sign with an agent and remain in the Draft.
Kentucky's four representatives are Diallo, guards Isaiah Briscoe and De'Aaron Fox and forward Bam Adebayo. (Fox, however, scratched from his round of media interviews early Thursday afternoon.)
Two Indiana players accepted invitations -- center Thomas Bryant as well as forward OG Anunoby. Don't look for Anunoby in the practice games. He's still several months from full-court activity as he recovers from surgery that was required after his knee buckled late in the first half at Penn State.
Which local player has the most to prove?
"Diallo," the former NBA assistant coach said. "Nobody has seen him play, not against this level of competition. I've heard people say that he's as talented (as UK guard) Malik Monk. But we haven't seen it."
NBA scouts will be lined up to see if that is the case over the next two days. Teams will also schedule individual interviews with players under draft consideration. One source said Adebayo has 18 team interviews booked this week, which is a solid indicator that teams are evaluating he will be taken midway or late in the first round.
For Fox, the challenge will be convincing teams that he can be a more productive and effective pro that Markelle Fultz of Washington and UCLA's Lonzo Ball, two point guards ranked ahead of him. Fox decisively outplayed (and outscored) Ball when UK defeated UCLA in the semifinals of the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament in March.
The question about Briscoe has not changed: Can he score 10, 15 and 20 feet from the basket? Adebayo will be asked to prove his skills handling and shooting the ball away from the rim.
Projecting Mitchell's NBA future is also complicated. For most of the season, he played off the ball for Louisville. In the NBA, Mitchell will likely to be asked to move to point guard because of his size. Mitchell excelled at point guard during a mid-season stretch when Quintin Snider was injured.
Mitchell is projected to be selected late in the first round because of his dynamic athletic skills.
Bryant is a second-round projection because of his 7-foot frame. Turnover issues as well as a lack of explosiveness against smaller players knocked Bryant out of the first round as Indiana lost 16 of 34 games last season.
The team that drafts Anunoby will take him on potential. His offensive skills are raw and undeveloped, especially his ability to create his own shot. But at 6-8, Anunoby is the rare athlete who can defend four positions, making him a likely selection in the middle of the first round.
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