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NBA AM: Why Skip The NBA Draft Combine?

With nothing to really gain Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins appear to be skipping the 2014 NBA Draft Combine… Warriors zero in on Stan Van Gundy… Lakers starting their process too.

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Bowing Out Of The Combine:  With the 2014 NBA Draft Combine set to get underway in Chicago on Wednesday, news broke this weekend that the top overall prospects Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker would not be attending. Yesterday Andrew Wiggins joined the fray with word leaking that he too would be passing on the combine.

While none of these guys were going to compete in drills or do much more than pose for the cameras and sit in on a few face-to-face meetings with teams. There were some red flags raised by this decision, the biggest being on Embiid.

Embiid was unable to finish his season at Kansas due to a stress reaction in his back, and the word is he still has not been medically cleared for full contact. With doubts about his back and to some extent his problematic knee, opting not to take part in the combine raises some concerns among teams that could be in range to draft him.

There are a couple of realities about the combine process. The teams that genuinely view these guys as options will likely draft them regardless of them appearing or not appearing at the combine and their respective agents know that. These guys were not going to work out for teams outside of the top four or five any way. Those teams, once the draft order is set, will get a chance to meet with these players and conduct their own medical checks, assuming their agents don’t have that done independently.

Last year’s top pick Anthony Bennett did not attend the combine, and the year prior Dion Waiters left the combine before it started after receiving a draft commitment from a team. He did not meet with anyone or take part in the medical portion and was drafted in the top four.

As long as teams do not penalize players for not appearing, players are under no obligation to appear; it’s simply about positioning and exposure. In the case of Parker and Wiggins, both are expected to go in the top three in some order based on who lands the top picks. There is a small chance that teams consider other players more seriously, simply because they can meet with them now, but it’s doubtful that either player sees their draft stock take a hit for not appearing.

There is something to be said about first impressions – especially when you factor in that NBA teams put a substantial amount of weight on the face-to-face interviews and the medical testing that’s done at the combine. The stuff you see televised in not weighed at all in the process. It can serve as a way for second tier guys to remind teams about them, but no one gets drafted or not drafted based on the drills held at the combine. It is possible that a team gets blown away with a guy after sitting with him, but it’s doubtful that the combine face time alone gets a guy drafted.

A small text survey of a handful of NBA decision makers and executives pointed to Embiid as the only player that could see an adverse effect on his draft stock, but that that could be cleaned up with a thorough medical examination done by the team possibly drafting him.

None of the executives texted could rationalize why any of these guys would skip the face-to-face meetings and medical, unless there was something else going on or that they were trying to steer the process. All agreed it simply brought unnecessary negativity on those players, but understood the power their agents had in this part of the process.

Players are drafted all the time that do not appear or are not invited to the combine, so you really cannot put too much weight on the top guys deciding not to attend, but it does open all of them up to the “why?” question. It also makes not attending the storyline for all three unnecessarily.

Because these players are not in the NBA yet, there are no rules that require compliance. Players attend because it’s good for their draft stock. Players compete in the drills to improve their draft stock. In the case of Parker, Wiggins and Embiid they are universally considered among the top five players in the 2014 NBA Draft, so it’s fair to say there is nothing gained for them appearing. However, there is something to be gained for those that do. NBA teams are allowed to schedule up to 18 one-on-one interviews with players, when three guys bow out, that’s simply a chance for three more interviews from those teams that may have set aside time for Parker, Wiggins and Embiid and that plays in the favor of guys like Dante Exum, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart.

Equally, teams that may not hold a top three or four selection use the combine to either develop a player file on a top prospect or meet with them to decide if they are willing to try and trade up to obtain one of them.

That option is still available outside of the combine environment; however, it’s now completely controlled by the agent.

Basketball Insiders will have in-depth coverage of the 2014 NBA Draft Combine starting on Wednesday. We’ll also have video interviews with all the attendees in Chicago. Look for those to start dropping on Thursday.

In Related: The top five point guards in the 2014 NBA Draft

Is Stan The Man?:  With TNT and former Suns executive Steve Kerr closing in on a multi-year coaching contract with the New York Knicks, it seems the Golden State Warriors, who pledged to have a full and thorough coaching search, may be targeting former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy as their top target.

Reports from the region say that the Warriors have contacted Van Gundy and are looking to have a face-to-face interview with him in the coming days. Van Gundy had turned away overtures from several NBA teams looking for a new coach; however, it’s believed that Van Gundy, who grew up in the Bay Area, is open to the Warriors job.

Several candidates have surfaced in connection with Golden State including former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and former Laker coach Mike D’Antoni.

The Warriors have not set a time line on hiring a new coach, but it seems if Van Gundy genuinely wants the job, it might be his in very short order.

Make sure to read: The latest NBA news and rumors

Lakers To Begin Coaching Search:  The LA Lakers were not exactly ready to start a coaching search when Mike D’Antoni resigned. They had basically decided to let him coach out his current contract and look for a long-term coach next summer when they knew more about what their roster was going to look like.

Now the Lakers find themselves in the hunt for a coach and are supposedly ready to start phone interviews and some face to face interviews at the combine this week.

The Lakers are said to be open to a lot of conversations and want to be thorough in this process. There have been a number of names linked to the Lakers, but sources close to the process say they are far from a short list.

Up Close With Jarnell Stokes: Basketball Insiders stopped in for a visit at IMG Academy  to check out Tennessee big man Jarnell Stokes. Here is his work out:


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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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