The NBA Draft Combine started with virtual workouts and measurements taking place for teams to review. The Draft has begun as the Orlando Magic work quietly.
The NBA Draft Combine is usually a big event in the world of NBA business.
There are only so many events where general managers and basketball executives are all in the same place at the same time. Inevitably rumors leak out as the media also join in the fun. Everyone seems to set their needs and the outlines of trades seem to get solidified.
This year’s draft is obviously different.
The pandemic canceled the Combine formally. There would be no mass gathering. Teams have taken their draft preparations behind closed doors, leaving just about everyone in the dark on who teams are working out, interviewing, looking at or doing when it comes to the Draft.
The virtual Draft Combine has given a small peek behind those doors. But even those teleconferences with prospects inevitably devolves into, “Who have you worked out with?” and “How do you think you fit in with this team?” Those interviews are rarely productive except for the media and fans to get some look at which players teams are looking at.
But even those interviews are all an incomplete picture.
Unlike previous combines, measurements were not done in public. If the results are going to be made public, as they have in previous seasons, they have not been published yet. The Draft Combine began last week and is expected to continue throughout October.
Of course, this whole process is different from normal. The Combine is usually done all at one time. It is usually the public kick-off of the draft process. Those days in Chicago are the first time teams can interact with the top prospects (or near-top prospects) in the Draft, scheduling interviews and workouts with agents and prospects.
The NBA is still trying to match teams with prospects participating in the Combine in the same way. But draft prep is already significantly underway.
After the season ended, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said the Orlando Magic’s front office had already placed their prospects into tiers. The extra time has allowed them — and assumedly every team — to do deep dives into the draft and craft a plan for draft night.
Everyone has had five extra months to prepare for this draft after all.
Of course, the concern then is about paralysis by analysis. Assistant general manager Matt Lloyd said on the Down the Road podcast with Nick Grienywicz the team has done a lot of draft prep already — including loads of interviews with potential prospects — but even he feels it is important to take a step back.
“We’ve been working diligently towards the draft is going to be at some point,” Matt Lloyd said. “We can’t get paralysis by overanalysis. We have to continue to get all the information we would normally get to allow Jeff to make the decision on draft night. We’ve been using our time to dive into some of the process stuff that we do and at the same time go back to the draft.”
Lloyd said part of the draft preparation has included watching the games inside the NBA campus and evaluating what makes a successful player. Many pundits have postulated that the Miami Heat’s success with shooters — particularly undrafted Duncan Robinson and late-lottery pick Tyler Herro — will put a premium on shooting in this year’s draft.
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Lloyd estimated the team has interviewed more than 120 prospects and put them through their psychological tests and whatever workouts they can do remotely.
But Lloyd’s biggest concern in the team’s draft prep is to avoid overexposure and letting doubts in their evaluations creep in. The team just wants to gather as much information as they can to make the best decision without overthinking it.
To this point, there has been no reporting of any prospects from the Combine who interviewed for the Magic. Some of it is probably the small Orlando media contingent.
Among the notable names the NBA has made available via teleconference is Auburn forward Isaac Okoro, German point guard Killian Hayes, American shooting guard LaMelo Ball, American forward R.J. Hampton, French point guard Theo Maledon, Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton and Israeli forward Deni Avdija.
The Magic have surely interviewed a few of them at this point. Hampton, Maledon and Haliburton are all projected at least in some mock drafts as available when the Magic will pick.
Some of these prospects have taken advantage of the down time and are doing something of a media blitz, putting out videos of their workouts to generate some buzz. Hampton has displayed a reshaped shooting stroke from his work with former Orlando Magic forward Mike Miller that has turned at least a few heads.
As always with trade rumors and draft rumors, never take a lack of reporting as a lack of activity. The Magic are clearly very deep into their draft preparations.
They are just doing it very quietly in the lead-up to the Nov. 18 Draft.