The words of NBA superstars mean a lot to draft prospects, but not many are talented enough to take the advice of Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant when it comes to the scouting combine.
“Stay your (butt) home, work out and get better on your own time,” Durant said to ESPN of his advice to top prospects.
Durant’s combine visited was defined not by his skills on the court, but by his inability to bench press 185 pounds. Durant still was drafted second overall by Seattle in 2007 before becoming a league MVP and perennial All-Star.
But not every prospect has that kind of pull, so some are still at the combine looking to impress prospective future employers. That’s why North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, a projected lottery pick, is at the combine while many others have stayed home.
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“That’s K.D.,” Jackson told reporters at the combine. “He can say pretty much whatever he wants. I’m a guy trying to get to that league, so I’m going to do whatever they ask us to do, whatever we need to do. Does all this stuff translate? Maybe not, but at the end of the day, this is what they asked us to do, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
The combine is an opportunity for unheralded prospects to prove they deserve to move up in the rankings. Players like Jackson, who some see as a late lottery pick or mid-first rounder, might be looking to rise to the top 10.
For UCLA forward TJ Leaf, it’s a chance to answer questions some might have about his game. Leaf, considered a first-round prospect, said the combine has been beneficial.
“I’ve gotten a lot out of it,” Leaf said. “I’ve met with 10 teams so far, so just that in itself is something I think guys should come out for. And the testing, maybe if you’re not very good at the tests, maybe don’t come out. But I felt that I had something to prove with a lot of the tests, so I wanted to go out and show people I am more athletic than people thought.”
Players like Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss and Kansas’ Frank Mason III can look to sell themselves as valuable additions, even if they aren’t first-round selections.
Mason III said he has notes on every team, which includes the names of front office personnel and the draft picks each team holds. He uses the time to talk about his leadership abilities, which were touted with the Jayhawks.
“I just tell them how much I improved over the years,” Mason III said. “Just being more vocal with the guys, just always communicating with them and also leading by example.”
While prospects at the combine might not be the next Durant, they can look to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon for an inspiration. Brogdon, a top candidate for Rookie of the Year who helped the Bucks make the playoffs this season, was a second-round pick.
“I think Malcolm did a good job of exemplifying what it means to be a mature, ready product,” said Williams-Goss. “He was able to step on the floor because he was able to handle that mentally and physically, and I think I’m along those lines.”