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NBA PM: Six Recent NBA Draft Combine Snubs

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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.

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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

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