What Is The NBA Draft Combine & Why You Should Care

Finally, NBA Draft Combine week arrived in the city of Chicago! Have you enjoyed the action? Or perhaps you are nerve-wracked for your favorite prospects? Oh? You are not familiar with the NBA Draft Combine. So you don’t know what to make of the events? No issue. I can easily free up my schedule to get you up to speed with the ins and outs of the event and why the Combine is such a tentpole in the annual draft process.

Starting with the basics, the NBA Draft Combine is an annual, May-scheduled, nearly week-long convention of NBA team executives and scouts scanning every nook and cranny of upcoming NBA draft hopefuls’ lives in order to help determine which prospects would best contribute to each team’s future championship glory. Those dozens of draft hopefuls run through a gauntlet of physical examinations, skill drills, scrimmages, and interviews to prove to each NBA team the hopeful deserves top priority in the NBA Draft that generally follows the combine in the following month of June.

Now before we proceed any further, the most important axiom to bear in mind when observing the combine is “Draft combine results NEVER tell the full story of a prospect”. Almost universally, NBA scouts and executives prioritize a prospect’s game film over any specific time in an agility drill, any shot percentage in a shooting drill, and any wingspan measurement during physical examinations.

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You can call the NBA Draft Combine a SAT or ACT exam for NBA draft prospects. Much of the purpose of the combine for NBA team personnel is to see how well a prospect can prepare himself to reach peak condition and form for a specific event. The personnel would not take to heart that the combine results would be a representation of a prospect’s median condition and form during a regular season or offseason.

With that clarified, let’s begin with the physical examination section of the combine, which usually launches the combine “festivities”. Of course, one major reason for this physical testing is to just check for any potentially chronic physical ailments or disorders that would interfere with the prospects having a long and durable NBA career.

Previous highly regarded prospects such as Jared Sullinger and DeJuan Blair have had their draft stock slide precipitously due to recently discovered limb injuries or heart conditions that made betting on said prospects far riskier than previously thought. A first round pick in the NBA Draft gets a guaranteed contract for signing with the drafting team and no team ever wants to guarantee salary to a player who could seem injured for at least half the contract length.

The physical exams at the combine also provides measurements for each prospect’s body parts as history has informed the NBA of the increased probability of future success when prospects meet certain measurement thresholds for particular body parts. Such valued measurements are length of wingspan (long arms allow for more space to be covered when defending an opposing player or trying to shoot or pass around an opposing defender), weight (a Goldilocks measurement where a weight too light creates strength worries against bigger opponents and a weight too heavy creates quickness worries against smaller opponents), hand width & length (bigger hands allow players to better control the basketball when trying to avoid or cause turnovers or take close shots at the basket), body fat (48 minutes of NBA basketball will have most unconditioned men dry-heaving), and standing reach (related to wingspan with a long standing reach making your defense potentially more obstructive for opposing shooters and making avoiding the hands of opposing defenders easier to accomplish).