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2022 NBA Draft Combine Q&A: Matt Babcock on takeaways, teams to watch

2022 NBA Draft Combine Q&A: Matt Babcock on takeaways, teams to watch

In one week, we saw the 2022 NBA Draft picture begin to clarify. 

The Orlando Magic jumped to the No. 1 pick after last Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery, with the Oklahoma City Thunder earning the No. 2 pick and the Houston Rockets selecting third. Throughout the week, draft hopefuls also went under the microscope at the NBA Draft Combine, showing their skills in front of NBA teams and media members.

Our Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock was in Chicago for the Combine and NBA G League Elite Camp, and over the next month, he'll be gathering intel and updating our 2022 NBA Mock Draft regularly.

With the Combine in the rear-view mirror, Babcock provides his thoughts on some of the most pressing topics before the stretch run of the pre-draft process in a Q&A:

What are your initial thoughts on how the NBA Draft Lottery results could affect things come June?

"Two picks towards the top stand out to me: Oklahoma City at No. 2 and Sacramento at No. 4. My big question is: Does Sam Presti take Jaden Ivey? I’ve been saying this for a while, but the impression is that Ivey’s actual stock among NBA circles is higher than what’s being portrayed in most of the media and the public. I believe that he’s No. 1 or No. 2 on more teams' boards rather than being No. 4 or No. 5 as he is on most of the media’s mock drafts.

"The other pick is Sacramento — the early word is this pick could easily be on the move. I’m not quite sure what to make of it just yet, but I’ll surely be keeping a pulse."

Several prospects who participated in the first day of scrimmages opted not to return for the second day. What do you think of this move?

"Well, if the player got hurt, or if a team made a guarantee to select them, that’s one thing. But if it’s just to avoid the possibility of not playing well the second day, I’m not into that at all. I think it’s safe to say that all of the players who chose to play think they deserve a higher projected draft status. In that case, play. Show your stuff! Go out there and earn what you think you deserve. It not only sends a bad message to teams — I think it’s a slippery slope regarding how they approach their careers too."

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Much was made of Patrick Baldwin Jr.'s underwhelming athletic testing results. Do you see this notably impacting his draft stock?

"Patrick Baldwin Jr. battled some injuries this past season. His unwillingness to play through those minor injuries and his lack of toughness has raised concerns. He also chose to not play in the 5-on-5 games at the NBA Draft Combine. So for him to have such an underwhelming vertical jump just adds another negative element to the overall evaluation. He’s a very skilled and talented player, but I’ll be direct here: I think he should go back to school."

Santa Clara wing Jalen Williams has been a buzzing name on social media. How has his Combine performance resonated with teams?

"Jalen Williams definitely helped himself last week. He’s versatile, skilled, and long for a player that’s nearly 6-foot-6. I don’t think he’s overly athletic, but he’s moved up a little bit. I think some teams liked him more than others, but his name was certainly buzzing. I think he’s solidified himself as a solid draft pick."

Kendall Brown appears to be the biggest winner in the NBA combine testing. Are his standout numbers helping his draft stock?

"No, I don’t think Kendall Brown’s athletic testing helped him much, but let me explain. Coming into the season, Brown was widely regarded as a high-priority prospect, so everyone in the league saw him at some point or another. I think I can speak for all scouts on this one; we don’t need to see any metrics to figure out that Kendall Brown is a freak athlete. So, although the numbers are impressive, it was expected."

Which other players significantly improved their draft stock with strong efforts at the combine?

"A few guys who helped themselves were Darius Days of LSU and Marcus Sasser of Houston, both of whom played their ways into the NBA Draft Combine by competing at the G League Elite Camp first.

"Another player who impressed me was Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard."

Did any other draft hopefuls personally stand out to you that you might not have known well before the combine?

"Yes — Ryan Rollins of Toledo. He didn’t light the world on fire by putting up huge numbers, but he really caught my eye. He’s very shifty and quick. I think he has the potential to develop into a dynamic on-ball creator. I had the chance to meet him briefly, and Derek Murray will be interviewing him for us soon. I’m looking forward to learning more about Ryan over the course of the next few weeks."

With a month still left before the draft, how can prospects most directly impact their pre-draft image at this point?

Players are beginning to visit teams now. On those visits, some players will play competitive 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3, in addition to individual drills. That is the best way to move the needle for a player. The teams will also be interviewing the players and getting to know them on a personal level.

Many players have either recently hired an agent (or plan to) as the draft process continues. As a former agent, what advice can you offer to players currently making these decisions?

"At this point, players should have already signed with an agent. This doesn’t exactly answer your question, but one bit of advice that I’d share with players who just recently hired agents is to stick to the plan. They signed with their agents for a reason. These prospects are in probably the most vulnerable situation they’ve ever been in, as they don’t know how things will unfold, where they’ll live and play next year, or how much money they’ll make. It’s nerve-wracking. They need to trust their agents and let them do their jobs. They’re experts. See the plan through — at least the imminent one."

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