The NBA Draft Combine had a strange year when it come to the on-court scrimmages as many members of the G-League Elite Mini-Camp made their way onto the floor. Since many players in the perceived 20-40 range opted to sit out, there weren’t many bonafide first-round studs taking the floor. But as we saw with players like Pascal Siakam and Kyle Kuzma in the past, there was still room for some players to shine during the scrimmage portion of the combine as these five players helped themselves with their play in Chicago. 


Nicolas Claxton,Georgia

The Georgia big man was one of the combine’s most pleasant surprises as his rim protection and increasing skill level showed through. Claxton had an impressive 11 blocks during the combine as he was able to show a natural ability to follow plays and adjust accordingly at the basket. Surprisingly efficient with his movements, Claxton also showed some offensive ability to handle in the open floor and knock down some shots — although his offense in a half-court setting is still a work-in-progress. Claxton has perhaps the most fascinating decision of any player who participated in the combine. If he enters now, he could very well sneak into the first round. If Claxton chooses to return to Georgia, he’ll have NBA scouts at every practice and game with his development and the addition of potential top-five pick Anthony Edwards as a freshman guard. Claxton could play his way into next year’s lottery — but he might not need to if he’s already at this level.

Game 1: 7 pts (3-5 FG, 1-3 3PT), 7 reb, 7 blk

Game 2: 0 pts (0-3 FG), 5 reb, 4 blk, 4 stl
Luka Samanic, Croatia

Only playing during the first day of scrimmage action on Thursday, Samanic might have been the player who helped himself the most with just one day of scrimmaging. Showing he belonged among the American college prospects, Samanic showcased his versatile offensive skills to go along with solid shot selection and good production on the glass. Defensively, Samanic was more willing to get physical and switch than initial scouting reports led me to believe as he’s a lot more fluid and quick on his feet than anticipated. While Samanic still drifts a bit when shooting on the move, he has the capability of knocking down shots at a high clip if he makes some small adjustments. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see Samanic play his way into the first round based partly on Combine performance.

Game 1: 13 pts, (5-7 FG, 1-3 3PT), 7 reb, 1 blk
Tacko Fall, Central Florida

The most unique player at the combine (and maybe in the NBA, if he makes it), Fall’s massive size and ability to impact on defense was a major talking point. Registering insane measurables at 7’7" with an 8’2" wingspan and 10’3" standing reach, going at Fall when he’s standing near the rim can be a daunting task. Although Fall’s lack of mobility and agility will give him problems in an up-and-down game where he has to defend in space, as a stationary backup defender, Fall could be an asset because he’s such a unique force around the basket. Offensively, Fall doesn’t provide much, but he’s a capable lob finisher because he doesn’t even need to jump to finish an oop. Fall’s game isn’t going to be for everyone. But if he can show one or two go-to post moves and continue to defend the rim, some team could take a second-round flyer on him or get him on a two-way.

Game 1: 5 pts (2-3 FG), 6 reb, 3 blk

Game 2: 4 pts (2-3 FG), 2 reb, 2 blk 
Quentin Grimes, Kansas

The full Quentin Grimes experience was on display at the combine as his offensive game had plenty of ups-and-downs. Highly-touted coming out of high school, Grimes was mediocre during his freshman season at Kansas as he struggled to figure out his role in a dual-point guard (Devon Dotson) lineup. It’s still tough to label what Grimes exactly IS at this point, but it was promising to see him compete and contribute in other facets of the game besides scoring. Grimes rebounded effectively, pushed on breaks, found open shooters and also used his size and athleticism to get into passing lanes and up into opposing players. The jumper (and how consistently it goes down) is still the major question mark for Grimes in this draft process, but it’s hard to knock his other intangibles to go along with good combo guard size and athleticism. Grimes might never be a pure point guard, or showcase a pure jumper, but he looks the part of NBA player and there’s still plenty of room to grow at only 19 years old.

Game 1: 10 pts, (4-8 FG, 1-3 3PT), 4 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl
Game 2: 9 pts (1-9 FG, 1-3 3PT), 4 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl

Dewan Hernandez, Miami

Missing this past season at Miami due to the college basketball corruption scandal, Hernandez was one of the Combine’s best players from a pure production standpoint during scrimmages. While Hernandez still has to work on his skill level and floor-spacing ability, it was a major positive to see him not only fit in, but at times stand out, after missing so much time with the Hurricanes. Active on the glass (five offensive boards in Game 2) and showing activity around the rim, Hernandez looked like a potential second-unit big man thanks to his mobility and fluidity. His ceiling might be limited compared to some in this draft, but Hernandez has a lot pedigree and showed he can still play.

Game 1: 14 pts, (7-13 FG), 5 reb, 1 ast

Game 2: 18 pts (6-14 FG), 10 reb, 2 blk 

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