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NBA PM: Top Storylines of the 2014 NBA Draft Combine

A look at the top story lines in the 2014 NBA Draft Combine, which is already underway but kicks into heavy gear this upcoming Wednesday and Thursday.

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Sixty of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft have gathered in Chicago for the annual predraft combine. This event was originally designed for the league and prospects to all gather together in the same place so that a complete group workout, set of thorough medical examinations and interviews could be conducted. It’s supposed to be a cost efficient way for NBA teams to familiarize themselves with the incoming draft class, but it’s really become about what agents are willing to let their players do.

Agents now control the process; the absence of Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins – three guys vying to be the top overall pick in the draft – is the biggest testament to that fact in recent years. At the very minimum everyone usually participated in the measurements portion and talked to the media. Players projected to go outside the top 20 are generally full participants.

Prior to this year, it was somewhat of a rarity for players to skip out on the media part of the combine. It’s great for exposure since it’s the most publicized part and it gives them the opportunity to address anything that may be impacting their draft stock or what they’ve been working on. The drills are virtually meaningless in the eyes of many, most of their measurements are already well known and the team interviews stay private. The press stemming from it has the longest shelf life. A lot of the attention would have been on the trio mentioned above; with them gone, the following topics will be the hottest in Wednesday and Thursday’s media sessions:

Who is Dante Exum?

Exum really benefited from having a strong limited body of work while the other top prospects in this year’s draft had their struggles in the NCAA. Without having to share the spotlight with them at the combine, expect the positive press on Exum to come through in abundance as he’s introduced to a lot of the American media for the first time.

A mystery to most, Exum will win over a lot of people with his engaging personality, understanding of the game, its history and how humble he is. Exum hired an agent months ago and is undoubtedly well prepared to handle the most amount of media attention he’s ever received like a seasoned pro.

Don’t be surprised if the talk of Exum being in the mix for the number one pick peaks after this week. Without participating in competitive drills and have great physical gifts at 6’6 tall with a 6’7.25 wingspan, he can really only help himself. He may not be as strong as teams would like for him to be, but that’s not a major concern for a 19 year old with as good of a work ethic as Exum is reported to have.

How is Spencer Dinwiddie’s recovery from a torn ACL coming along?

Before going down with a torn ACL on January 12 Dinwiddie was putting up 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. He led the Buffaloes to a 14-2 start overall and a 3-0 mark in Pac 12 play. They were the 15th ranked team in the country and Dinwiddie was playing his way into the first round of just about every mock draft. They were nowhere near as formidable without him.

Now almost four months removed successful surgery to repair the torn ligament, Dinwiddie’s stock is hanging in the balance. There’s precedence for guys with torn ACLs getting drafted despite not being able to participate in anything other than medical examinations and interviews. Just last season Nerlens Noel, who suffered the exact same injury around a year prior, was drafted sixth overall. In 2010 Da’Sean Butler was drafted 42nd overall after tearing his ACL in the NCAA Tournament.

Six is too high and 42 is too low for even an injured Dinwiddie, but his progression will determine where he falls in between. If he’s on track to at least be able to work out this summer and get his first live action in before the start of training camp, teams in the later portion of the first round are going to start giving him consideration again. If it looks like he’s not going to be ready to play until after the season starts, there’s going to be a lot of hesitation to give him a guaranteed contract.

Can Mitch McGary rekindle the level of interest that was there after his freshman season?

After finishing off his freshman campaign strong and playing an integral role in Michigan’s run to the national championship, there were a lot of people calling for McGary to leave while his stock was hot. He almost certainly would have been a mid-to-late first round pick in last year’s draft, but he stuck around for his sophomore season in hopes of climbing into the top 10.

Unfortunately for McGary, a back injury cost him all but eight games this season. He didn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave because of that, but a failed random drug test (marijuana) earned him a season long suspension for 2014-15 and made his draft decision for him. Set to turn 22 on June 6, McGary has a lot of ground to make up between now and draft night.

His back is still not 100 percent, so he won’t be participating in the athletic testing or drills, which he really could have benefited from, but at this point McGary needs exposure – even if it’s just from talking to teams and media.

The center position, unlike last year when there was over a dozen that garnered first round consideration, is quite thin. While Joel Embiid is going to be nearly impossible to knock off the top spot, there’s an argument to be made that McGary is the most ready to contribute center in this draft class. If teams walk away from the combine with the impression that he’s going to be 100 percent sooner rather than later, he could climb as much as anyone before draft night.

Will Randle capitalize where his peers don’t once again?

A top prospect that is willing to be a full participant in the combine is almost unheard of in today’s day and age. Yet Randle, who is unlikely to be on the draft board past eight barring an unforeseen plummeting on draft night, sounds like he is planning on doing just that.

“I’m a competitor,” Randle said to NBA.com. “I like to see how I stack up against other people.”

Last year Shabazz Muhammad participated in the drills during the first day of the combine. Due to mixed reviews and not dominating the competition as he may have hoped, Muhammad sat out day two. However, there were some teams who were impressed by the fact that he suited up alone. He ended up going in the late lottery, 14th to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

For Randle this is another opportunity to add to his body of work that easily trumps those ranked ahead of him already. Like Muhammad, he would win over a lot of people just by getting out there. It shows that he’s confident in his abilities and eager to compete. As much as top prospects run from the drills, the potential damage they can do to their stock is not as bad as their agents fear. Randle could potentially increase his value if he follows through with his comments while his top competition is watching – just like in the NCAA Tournament.

Are Hairston’s character issues behind him?

A series of bad decisions off of the court over the past year that varied from associating with a known felon, getting cited for speeding and possession of marijuana cost Hairston his eligibility at North Carolina. That’s never the kind of impression you want to make when you’re going after one of the most highly coveted careers in the country and trying to convince teams that you’re worthy of a multi-million dollar investment. However, the NBA has a track record for being a forgiving league, especially for players with the talent level of Hairston – as long as they’re convinced that his troubles are behind him.

Hairston made the wise decision to stay underneath the NBA’s microscope by immediately joining the D-League. Against a higher level of competition than he was facing at UNC, Hairston averaged 21.7 points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from deep in 26 games. He didn’t have any more legal troubles either, but that’s not going to spare him of aggressive, thorough questioning regarding his past transgressions at the combine.

Teams are going to want to know beyond any shadow of doubt that Hairston has made the necessary changes in his lifestyle and circle of friends to stay trouble free. If he does so, Hairston stands a very good chance to be the first D-Leaguer to get selected in the first round.

Basketball Insiders is in Chicago covering the 2014 NBA Draft Combine with a four man team of Steve Kyler, Alex Kennedy, Joel Brigham and Yannis Koutroupis. Keep an eye out for extensive coverage throughout the next week on everything you need to know from the premiere predraft event of the summer!

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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