For all of the dissection of physical measurements, athletic testing and the small sample size of actual basketball that occurred at the NBA Draft Combine, for league personnel, the most valuable part of the event, held in Chicago, takes place behind the scenes.
“It’s like any year. There’s good players and there’s guys we haven’t seen during the year, maybe you get a look at. But most of these guys, we’ve scouted for several years and we’ve seen in game situations, practice situations. We’ve watched film,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman explained. “You can always gain a little something here, but overall, the most important thing to us is the chance to sit down with guys and get to know them.”
McDermott talks Bulls, Korver connection
Doug McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer and national player of the year in college basketball this past season, starred for Creighton, which is also the alma mater of fellow Iowa native Kyle Korver, the former Bulls sharpshooter. McDermott, who played for his father in college—before Creighton, the elder McDermott, Greg, coached at Iowa State, which has numerous Bulls connections, including the aforementioned Forman, ex-Bulls coach Tim Floyd and former player Fred Hoiberg, the school’s current coach—and is well acquainted with Korver.
“I actually talked to him last night. We were having a little contest about who could have the best vertical and I think I got him. I got 36 1/2. But Kyle loved it in Chicago. He was sad to go and he loved playing for Coach Thibodeau. He was mad that he had to go, but I know this would be a great spot for me,” said McDermott, who interviewed with the Bulls while in Chicago. “I really like where they’re going. I really liked how comfortable I was in that meeting and they’re a really great group of guys that are real familiar with my game, and have seen me play a lot.”
McDermott didn’t have the best physical measurements, but fared surprisingly well athletically and is looking forward to showing off aspects of his game other than his touted three-point shooting, as well as facing less focused defensive attention than he did in college.
“I’m really looking forward to that aspect because for four years now, I’ve been the focal point for every defense and now, there’s certain guys who will be getting a lot more attention. So I feel like that’ll get me a lot more space, a lot more open looks and a lot more opportunities for me,” he said. “I really think I can fit in with my I.Q., my ability to score from a lot of different areas on the floor. I really don’t think I’m just a shooter. I feel like I can put it on the floor, make people around me a lot better. I’m not going to be the focal point right away in the NBA like I was at Creighton, so I think I’ll have a lot more space to work with.”
Warren the answer to Bulls’ scoring issues?
Although he was overshadowed by in-state and conference rival Jabari Parker of Duke, North Carolina State sophomore forward T.J. Warren was actually the ACC’s leading scorer and player of the year. Equipped with an old-school game consisting of mid-range jumpers, floaters, quick post moves and crafty finishes around the basket, Warren is a natural scorer who believes that he can improve on his perceived deficiencies—long-range shooting and defense—while being an impact scorer from the outset of his career.
“I feel like [his game] translates well. I’m able to get my shots off very quickly. I’m really great at transition, just moving without the basketball and there’s a lot of space in the NBA, so it’s a lot of space and time to operate,” he explained. “I couldn’t really show my defense in college because I meant so much to my team and with the new college rules, it’s kind of hard to play a really aggressive defense. But I know whatever team selects me, I’m not going to be asked to do a lot on the offensive end, so I can really lock in and really focus on the defensive part. And definitely extending my range for wide-open threes.”
The soft-spoken Warren revealed that the Bulls are one of the teams he’s scheduled to meet with and seemed excited at the prospect of playing for the team.
“I’m going to meet with them. Most likely, I’m going to work out for them and I’m looking forward to that. Chicago’s a great city,” he said. “I feel I’ll fit good. I’d add another dynamic scorer that can create his own shot and definitely buy into the system, and just be an overall great guy on and off the court, a good locker-room guy, so I’m looking forward to visiting Chicago.”
Bulls’ Snell dishes out advice
New Mexico product Kendall Williams, a four-year senior, was the Mountain West Conference’s player of the year two seasons ago, though the team’s best prospect was Tony Snell, who used a strong league tournament to become the Bulls’ 2013 first-round pick. Williams had another strong season this past campaign and upon arriving in Chicago, the floor general didn’t hesitate to pick Snell’s brain for advice.
“I ask a lot from Tony. He’s still a close friend. Obviously he’s out here in Chicago, so as soon as I landed, I called him and I’ve been nervous since I came out here, being one of those under-the-radar guys trying to prove myself. So I just asked him for advice, not only for the combine, but I’m sure I’ll be asking his advice all throughout the year because he’s one step ahead of me,” Williams said. “I thought he had a really good rookie year. He’s flown under the radar his whole time, so even though he finally kind of came out—he was the 20th pick, first-round guy, surprised people—I think the best for him is still to come. I think he helped the team a lot this year, and if they continue to use his versatility and build a team that he can be a part of, then his talents can continue to blossom.”
Williams, a speedster with good size, was one of three Lobos to be invited to the combine—power forward Cameron Bairstow, a rugged native of Australia, and seven-footer Alex Kirk were the others; Kirk’s combination of size and deep range were particularly impressive—and fared well at the event.
“I think I’m one of those under-the-radar guys, especially being a senior and with those two really talented teams, we didn’t make a lot of noise in March. So it’s just one things that I know I just have to build myself from the ground up, which is kind of funny to say, being a four-year guy and being out there. But I just think going to a small-market school, being a four-year guy and having a team that was really successful, but never really made a run in March, those things work against you,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, we’re all out here on an even basis, so I just have to come out here and have an opportunity to show my stuff.”
Robinson talks “The Region,” famous father
A native of Northwest Indiana, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III was the closest thing to a player with local ties at the event. But he admitted there was no love lost on the court between “The Region,” which claims the likes of his college teammate, Mitch McGary, and current Orlando Magic guard E’Twaun Moore, and Chicago when he was in high school.
“When we were in AAU and playing, it was kind of a rivalry between Indiana and Chicago teams,” Robinson said. “But I would say it’s a rivalry in a sense where we’re trying to produce the best players and Chicago had us for a while, but I think that we’re really developing and they call it ‘The Region’ area, so I think we’re representing that well.”
Robinson, of course, is the son of former No. 1 overall draft pick Glenn Robinson, a native of Gary, Ind.
“He’s very much involved and that’s something that I’m fortunate enough to have, somebody who’s already been through this and somebody who could give me a lot of advice,” Robinson, who is scheduled to work out with the Bulls, said of his father. “He didn’t participate too much in the combine, but everything that he’s been through has helped me.”
Duke’s Hood discusses teammate Parker
Duke swingman Rodney Hood might have had the opportunity to meet up with his college teammate, Chicago native Parker, while in town, but it wouldn’t be at the combine, as Parker, along with fellow top-three prospects Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, opted to skip the event.
“I called him, but me and him will link up later on, just chop it up. I haven’t talked to him about why he didn’t come, but I’m sure there’s a great reason,” Hood said. “I left about a week earlier than he did. He just came home. I know he’s in Chicago.”
Hood, like McDermott and Warren, could be a Bulls’ target with one of their two first-round picks, if either of the long-range shooters are still on the board.
Top guard Exum defines his position
Australian Dante Exum is regarded as the top available guard in the draft, though most observers haven’t seen him play. Even video footage of him is scarce and in the two showings in which most NBA personnel saw him play—last spring’s Nike Hoop Summit all-star game in Portland and last summer’s FIBA under-19 world championships in Prague—he functioned as more of a scorer.
But the 6-foot-6 Exum, whose length and quickness were outstanding at the combine, believes that while he can play both backcourt positions, he’s more of a point guard than a shooting guard.
“I feel more comfortable with the ball in my hands, playing point guard,” said the potential top-five pick, the son of Michael Jordan’s former University of North Carolina teammate. “I’ve played the position for a couple years now and that’s where I feel most comfortable.”