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NBA PM: Six Recent NBA Draft Combine Snubs

Cody Taylor breaks down some of the biggest NBA Combine snubs of the last few seasons.

Cody Taylor

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Each year, the top collegiate prospects are invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine. These players go through a series of workouts and on-court drills in front of the league’s top executives to prove why they should be drafted.

We’ve seen over the years that some of the elite prospects will elect to skip the event in order to keep their draft stock high. These players feel that working out in private workouts with NBA teams can be more beneficial than participating at the Combine in front of every team.

The Combine has proven to be most effective for players that are attempting to climb up teams’ draft boards. An excellent showing at the Combine can be the difference in a player being drafted in the first round rather than in the second round.

While the Combine has proven to be beneficial for a lot of prospects over the years, not receiving an invite doesn’t necessarily mean a player won’t make it to the NBA. In fact, we’re seeing more players each year that were not invited to the Combine make it into the league.

The NBA sends out invitations to players based on feedback they receive from teams. For one reason or another, teams opted not to invite the players listed below to the Combine. Some players view being snubbed from the Combine as motivation to prove teams wrong.

As we began to see some notable prospects snubbed from this year’s Combine (the full list was announced earlier today), we decided to take a look at some of the most notable players snubbed from the Combine since 2010 based on what they’ve done during their respective NBA careers. For this list, international players and players that declined invitations were not included.

Here are six notable players that didn’t receive an invite to the Combine (in no particular order):

Tyler Johnson, Fresno State (2014):

Johnson’s path to the Miami HEAT is quite remarkable. He didn’t receive an invitation to the Combine out of Fresno State in 2014 and would eventually go undrafted. He earned a training camp invite with the HEAT after a great showing during Summer League.

He began the 2014-15 season in the D-League and eventually would be called-up to the HEAT in January of that season. He signed two 10-day contracts with the HEAT and then was signed to a multiyear contract shortly after.

Of course, Johnson signed a four-year, $50 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets last summer that the HEAT matched. He turned in a career year this season after averaging 13.7 points, four rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game with the HEAT.

Josh Richardson, Tennessee (2015):

One year after finding Johnson, the HEAT found another diamond in the rough in Richardson. It may have come as a surprise to some that he was drafted by the HEAT in the second round even though he didn’t receive an invitation to the Combine.

Richardson was thrust into a large role with the HEAT during the second half of his rookie year. The HEAT were riddled with injuries, and Richardson made big contributions for a team that was fighting for a playoff spot.

He averaged 10.2 points and shot 53.3 percent from three-point range after the All-Star break that season. During the playoffs, he averaged 6.6 points in 27.6 minutes per game. He dealt with injuries for most of the 2016-17 season but improved his scoring to 10.2 points per game.

Richardson’s $1,471,382 salary for next season guarantees on June 30 if he is still on the HEAT’s roster.

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (2016):

“Yogi Mania” was officially a thing in the NBA this season. Ferrell’s exclusion at last year’s Combine was among the biggest surprises. Instead of letting that affect him, he used it as motivation and had quite a memorable rookie season.

He went undrafted but quickly signed with the Brooklyn Nets after the draft. He bounced around in the Nets organization between the NBA and their D-League affiliate before getting picked up by the Dallas Mavericks in January.

He started his first game with the Mavericks on January 29 and recorded nine points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals. He scored 19 points the next night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and by his fourth game with the Mavericks, he scored a career-high 32 points.

He signed a multiyear deal with the Mavericks in February and the team has until June 24 to pick up his option for next season.

Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion (2012):

Before signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks, Bazemore had a few stops along the way. He went undrafted in 2012 and immediately signed with the Golden State Warriors. He averaged two points per game with the Warriors in 61 games that season.

He began the next season with the Warriors and averaged just 6.1 minutes in 44 games before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline. In his first real chance to play, Bazemore impressed. He averaged 13.1 points in 23 games for the Lakers following the trade.

Bazemore signed with the Hawks the next season and it wouldn’t be until his second season in Atlanta that he showed he could be an every game starter. He averaged 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his increased role last season, which allowed him to sign a massive deal.

Bazemore admitted that he had a poor showing in the annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He was down on himself during that time, but he stuck with it and continued to get better and is now among the best wing defenders in the game.

Jeremy Lin, Harvard (2012):

While we experienced “Yogi Mania” this season, none of us can forget “Linsanity” a few years ago. Lin was a relatively unknown player out of Harvard and wasn’t invited to the Combine and would go undrafted that year.

Lin split time between the Warriors and the Reno Bighorns of the D-League during his rookie season in the NBA. Of course, it was the chance he received with the New York Knicks the following season that allowed his to career take off.

It was against the New Jersey Nets that Lin scored 25 points off of the bench to lead the Knicks to the win. During his 25-game run as a starter during Linsanity, he averaged 18.2 points, 7.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Just seven months after waiving him, the Houston Rockets signed him to a three-year, $25 million offer sheet that the Knicks opted against matching. Lin has since played with the Lakers, Charlotte Hornets and, now, the Brooklyn Nets.

Jonathon Simmons, Houston:

Simmons’ story to this point is among the best that you’ll hear. He went undrafted out of Houston in 2012 and was eventually forced to pay the $150 tryout fee for the D-League. He made the cut and was signed by the Austin Toros (now the Austin Spurs).

Simmons spent two seasons in the D-League before getting an opportunity with the San Antonio Spurs. He averaged six points in 55 games last season and 6.2 points per game this season.

The best performance of his career came on opening night this season when the Spurs defeated the Warriors 129-100. Simmons scored 20 points in that game and threw down a highlight-reel dunk over JaVale McGee in the final seconds.

Now, Simmons is set to enter restricted free agency this summer and has likely earned himself a bigger contract. He’s come a long way since paying that tryout fee.

Honorable Mention: Tim Frazier, Langston Galloway, Willie Reed, Ish Smith, Fred VanVleet, Tarik Black, Troy Daniels, Briante Weber, T.J. McConnell, Tim Quarterman.

*****

As these players above have proven, it’s not the end of the world for a draft prospect not to be invited to the Draft Combine. Of course, participating in the Combine certainly helps a player’s chances of being drafted and making it to the NBA, but there are other ways to make it into the league as well.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Daily: Credit Ujiri And Raptors For Taking The Risk

Perhaps emboldened by OKC’s ability to retain Paul George, the Raptors are taking a gamble of their own.

Lang Greene

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In any given NBA season, at the most, there are only five legitimate title contenders in play. The rest of the league could be considered as either on the rise, middle of the pack or in the hunt for a lottery pick.

There are far too many teams around the league that are content with solely making the playoffs while not seriously contending for a title. This is why the Toronto Raptors organization along with team president Masai Ujiri should be given credit for taking the ultimate gamble in acquiring a top-five player, even one who could amount to a one-year rental.

The Raptors shipped four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran wing Danny Green.

The move is the ultimate gamble for an organization that has turned itself into a perennial playoff presence with five consecutive postseason appearances and three straight 50-win campaigns. DeRozan, 28, was locked under contract the next three seasons and the organization could have theoretically decided to ride the DeRozan and fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry duo until the proverbial wheels fell off.

But instead, Ujiri unexpectedly shipped their star player, who wanted to be in Toronto long-term, to acquire Leonard who reportedly has his eyes dead set on joining one of the Los Angeles franchises once he hits free agency in 2019.

Think about this for a moment.

While Toronto has served as LeBron James’ playoff punching bag as of late, make no mistake, Raptors basketball is undoubtedly experiencing the peak of its golden era.

Sure, the team’s former stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh will likely go down in history considered better than DeRozan (and Lowry). But none of the aforementioned players led the franchise to a 50-win season while with the organization. None of those guys led the Raptors to a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. DeRozan was a vital cog in breaking new ground while with the team, defiantly re-signing with the Raptors despite overtures from his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

Perhaps emboldened by the success the Oklahoma City Thunder recently had in taking a similar risk last summer, the Raptors took the gamble. The Thunder traded for All-Star forward Paul George, who also reportedly also had Los Angeles dreams, last summer, and were able to convince the wing to re-sign earlier this month to a long-term deal.

Toronto has never been a free agency hot spot and the aforementioned stars all forced their way out of town early in their careers. What if Leonard doesn’t buy the soup Ujiri is cooking? There are already some reports stating the forward has no desire to play with the Raptors at all.

Even if this is the case, Ujiri and company still have options. Leonard can still be dealt before next February’s trade deadline. Ujiri could theoretically create a bidding war between the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for Leonard’s services with an attractive.

At the bare minimum, the Raptors are all-in this season for a championship run in an Eastern Conference no longer facing the talents of LeBron James. If things don’t work out, DeRozan’s $54 million owed after this season is off the books. Lowry will be owed $33 million in 2020 but could potentially be an attractive expiring contract. All of this to say, the Raptors are simultaneously preparing for a title run and bracing for a rebuild of their current roster.

Far too many teams become content with just making the playoffs and not rocking the boat. Ujiri took his shot to boost the Raptors up the league’s hierarchy. The ultimate risk. Much respect for taking it.

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NBA Daily: Quality Free Agents Still Available

Many quality free agents are still available nearly three weeks into free agency, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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With the NBA Summer League over and training camps a few months away, the NBA would normally be quiet this time of year. Apparently the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors didn’t get the memo as they agreed to a trade centered around Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. Additionally, Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to relieve the Oklahoma City Thunder from a tremendous tax burden.

As the dust settles from these trades, many free agents continue to wait in the wings. The list includes many talented players who will eventually make their way back onto an NBA team’s roster. Some will return to the team they played for last year, which is especially likely for restricted free agents (e.g., Marcus Smart). Some may, for a variety of reasons, not return to an NBA roster. Last year Rodney Stuckey sat the year out and used the time to improve his health in order to make a comeback this year. Former All-Star center Roy Hibbert just announced his retirement at age 31 after not being active last season.

The list of available restricted free agents has seriously dwindled now nearly three weeks into the free agency period. RFAs such as Marcus Smart (back to the Boston Celtics) and Jabari Parker (to the Chicago Bulls) have recently signed new contracts. These signings, among others, leaves Houston Rockets RFA center Clint Capela and Los Angeles Clippers RFA center Montrezl Harrell as two of the bigger names left on the board.

Available Restricted Free Agents:

Clint Capela

Clint Capela is coming off of his best and most efficient season averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes a game (all career highs) and he is only 24 years old. Capela also spearheaded a defense that, when combined with James Harden’s offensive mastery, pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink in the Western Conference Finals. Reports are that Capela has turned down an initial offer to re-sign for well below his max. While the clock ticks on the Rockets and Capela, Capela finds himself in what remains a punitive free agent market. The Sacramento Kings is the only other team capable of immediately signing Capela to a competitive contract to lure him away from the Rockets. To make matters worse, the Kings have been committed to stocking their roster with as many big men as possible making them a less-than-ideal suitor for Capela’s services.

Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell won’t generate as many headlines as the other RFAs that have been in the news lately but don’t sleep on him. In a season that never went according to plan for the Clippers, Harrell was one of the bright spots for the team. Harrell, acquired by the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, showed tenacity on offense as he served as a strong offensive rebounder, floor runner and helped the Clippers weather a five-game stretch where center DeAndre Jordan was unavailable. Harrell played especially well in place of Jordan. However, working against Harrell is the Clipper’s roster crunch. The team has 18 players on the roster, not counting Harrell. If the Clippers do ultimately decide to bring back Harrell, the Clippers will have to make several moves to clear roster spots.

Rodney Hood

Cleveland Cavaliers RFA wing Rodney Hood also remains available. Utah Jazz fans can relate to the ups and downs of cheering for Hood who has flashes of brilliant play but remains inconsistent. Hood was acquired during last season to help bolster the Cavaliers’ championship run. However, Hood’s scoring, three-point shooting, overall statistics and minutes went down significantly due to his uneven play. While Hood is still a capable player, his time with the Cavaliers did not end well, which has impacted his stock around the league. It didn’t help Hood’s cause when he was benched in the postseason and he subsequently refused to enter the game when instructed to. The Kings, in need of help on the wing, could be a suitor for Hood’s services. However, Cleveland could match any such offer as the franchise continues to build a new team after the loss of LeBron James.

Available Unrestricted Free Agents:

Dwyane Wade

The group of remaining unrestricted free agents is a mixed bag. As mentioned above, there is at least a chance that one of these players may not even make a roster when the dust settles this offseason. Dwyane Wade has bounced around the league the last few years with stints with the Bulls, Cavaliers and a most recent return to the Miami HEAT under his belt. Wade remains capable of spurts of offense and is a fan favorite in Miami. The most obvious result here is a return to Miami. However, Wade himself commented regarding a potential return or possibly retirement.

“When I get back from China, I’ll focus on that [decision],” Wade said while in China. “The basketball will take care of itself. I’ll sit down and figure that out once I get back from this tour at some point.”

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley remains unsigned despite a strong outing last season for the New York Knicks. Beasley started 30 of 74 games played. His numbers don’t jump off the boxscore: 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 22.3 minutes. However, these are some of the best numbers he’s put up in years and the most consistent he has played since 2012-13. The Knicks may likely move on from Beasley but he remains a viable scorer who could come off the bench and start in a pinch for many teams if the price is right.

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young remain unsigned veterans who offer potential teams a scoring punch off the bench. Young has the benefit of showing that he contributed in spurts to the Warrior’s championship season while not becoming a distraction. Both are known for knocking down difficult outside shots but can be inefficient scorers and potential liabilities on defense.

Honorable Mentions

A few notable big men remain available as well. Phoenix Center Alex Len never became the elite big man the Suns had hoped for when they used the fifth pick in the 2013 draft to acquire him. However he remains a serviceable player. For his career, Len averages 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes. He is somewhat mobile and could be a strong option for a team looking for a backup center. Centers Al Jefferson and Jahill Okafor can both score the basketball but have to directly combat the notion that they have become antiquated. The modern game calls for mobile centers that shoot reliably from the outside to stretch the floor, are efficient on offense, can guard the rim as well as being at least somewhat capale of covering ball handlers on switches. Okafar and Jefferson don’t fit that profile and will have to convince potential suitors that despite their meager contributions over the last few seasons that they can sufficiently adapt to the modern game and make a positive impact.

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NBA: Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan Makes Sense

In an unexpected move, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard swapped teams, and it makes complete sense.

Dennis Chambers

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The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is finally over.

In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, news broke via Twitter that Leonard was about to be shipped across the Canadian border to the Toronto Raptors for — get this — DeMar DeRozan.

Leonard, and his deteriorated relationship with the San Antonio Spurs, dominated the offseason headlines, and while reports constantly whizzed around about where the All-Star small forward would wind up — maybe Los Angeles, maybe Philadelphia, maybe Boston — his final destination is one that came completely out of left field (despite the current odds).

While many people viewed the situation with Leonard as a chance for San Antonio to start fresh and plan for the future, the Spurs appeared to have no interest in that avenue. The entirety of the deal, Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick displays a win-now outcome for each party.

After winning 59 games and obtaining the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors eventually were bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a sweeping fashion. Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 Coach of the Year, was fired after not being able to extend the franchises’ best season to an NBA Finals appearance. It appeared, with LeBron moving West, that the Raptors were going to run it back one more time to see if they could finally break through to the game’s biggest stage.

On the other side, the Spurs were coming off of a season in which they won 47 games and were two games out of the Western Conference’s third seed — all of which they achieved without Leonard. In the waning years of Gregg Popovich’s career, it appeared his team was still talented enough, and system still effective enough, to make relevant noise in the playoffs without a superstar player.

At its core, this deal comes down to each team swapping their best player for the other’s. Leonard gets out of San Antonio, to a team whose core won 59 games in the East. DeRozan gets the benefit of fitting into a system with the best head coach in the league, on a very competitive roster.

Now, it remains to be seen how happy each player will be in their situations. Reports surfaced early Wednesday morning that both players were dissatisfied with the trade outcome. But, as we all know, winning cures everything.

On the Spurs’ front, it’s interesting how little they considered trade packages for future picks and quality role players. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported San Antonio rebuffed offers from the Sixers and Celtics that were centered around future assets, in turn focusing their trade efforts on the likes of Ben Simmons, and the Celtics’ young core. Instead of landing a handful of assets or players that may not materialize until Popovich is gone, the Spurs reeled in a player who is a year removed from averaging 27 points per game. Oh, by the way, he’s also under contract for the next three seasons.

DeRozan keeps the Spurs relevant. Maybe he doesn’t help them beat the Golden State Warriors (in fact, he most certainly doesn’t), but he allows his new team the chance to win meaningful games in the postseason over the next three years.

From everything that’s been reported, there was no way Popovich was going to commit the final few years of his NBA life to a rebuild. With a man like that at the helm, and a star player like DeRozan under contract, who knows what other tricks San Antonio might have up its sleeve.

Up in Toronto, if the Raptors can convince Leonard to play this season, their core plus an upgrade on the wing might finally be enough to break through to the Finals. New head coach Nick Nurse suddenly has a player widely regarded as a top-five talent in the league on his roster to accompany a deep and talented core. Although, just like in San Antonio, Leonard might not add enough to the Raptors to dethrone the Warriors. However, he suddenly has a better supporting cast to try and give Golden State a run for its money.

Plus, given Toronto’s inability to get out of the East, a Finals appearance in its own right would be considered a success next season.

All around, maybe this wasn’t the deal we expected to get Leonard out of San Antonio, but digesting the move from all angles, it appears to be the most sensible.

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