The days and months leading up to the NBA draft have evolved dramatically over the course of the last 10 years. The NBA draft combine was once seen as an opportunity for players to flash their skills in a series of tests and interviews to would-be teams in hopes of landing at a high pick. Now the draft combine has become less glamorous to some players looking to make that next step.
Players in recent years have elected not to attend the combine for a variety of reasons. Most notably missing from this year’s draft combine were Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, three players who are widely considered top picks in this year’s draft. Most players and agents against participating in the combine will argue that front offices have already seen everything they need to see based off of what they’ve scouted in person and on tape, so there are no real benefits by having a player participate.
“This isn’t make or break you,” said former University of Florida center Patric Young. “It’s not like the NFL combine where that’s make or break. The workouts after this are what’s going to be more important for guys getting to know teams better – interviews and how they do individually. This is going to help interest teams to see who they want to come into their facilities. These next few months are going to be grueling with the traveling and the workouts.”
In the NFL, players entering the draft are criticized in every facet of the game from their 40-yard dash times to how they perform in certain drills. It becomes a huge deal when a projected top pick like Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater elects to skip the combine. So with Manziel and Bridgewater opting out of throwing at the combine, it may not have been that big of a surprise when Blake Bortles was the first quarterback drafted after having thrown at the combine.
Many experts and analysts share Young’s thoughts that the activities after the combine are more important. When a player interviews with a team for the first time, they have an opportunity to make a lasting impression with them. The interview gives the player a chance to make a team fall in love with them to the point where they are forced to draft that particular player.
“I think I’m going to interview really well,” Young said. “I’ve been through it for four years so I’ve matured in a way to understand what it’s going to take at the next level to survive for 82 games. I need to show that I’m a lot more skilled and talented and can shoot the ball and do a lot of other things that I wasn’t able to do in our system at Florida.”
That system at Florida led by head coach Billy Donovan earned the Gators the top overall seed heading into the NCAA tournament last March. Despite turning in a 36-3 record, including a perfect 18-0 conference record, Young was the only Gators player to receive an invitation to the draft combine.
“I don’t what it is that we’re getting so under looked right now,” Young said. “If it wasn’t for injuries [Casey Prather] would have been a lot more consistent this year; his body was just really banged up. I don’t understand why Scottie [Wilbekin] wasn’t invited to come here. He proved that he’s a top player but I’m not a person that chooses that. They’re working hard down there in Florida and Boca and I’m doing the same thing in IMG and I’m just blessed that I was chosen to be here.”
Young may only be viewed as a potential second-round pick, but advice from former Gators center Joakim Noah has Young thinking he can do well in the league.
“I remember he said, ‘Pat, I got paid — however much his contract was — just for playing defense and rebounding,'” Young said. “That’s all you got to do is just find your niche, stick to it and don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.'”
Young averaged 11 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a senior, but his ability to make hustle plays, pull down rebounds and block shots has him thinking he can make a living in the league the same way Noah has. Young looks at Noah as a player that can impact the game without having the ball in his hands.
“We were in Chicago and I saw coach Tom Thibodeau and was thinking about Noah and I’m like, ‘This guy still can’t shoot,’” said Young, laughing. “But he has tremendous energy, plays his butt off on the defensive end, and still scores, not because he’s overly talented on the offensive side but he finishes well and because he rebounds well.”
Like most NBA hopefuls, Young is working hard to make dreams become reality.
“It’s really exciting just knowing that what I’ve been dreaming about is right in front of my hands,” said Young. “I just have these last two months and then hopefully get my named called. My hopes are high and I’m going to work hard and give it everything I’ve got every day and make sure I’m doing the right things.”
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