NBA Draft Combine 2022: Winners and losers from testing, measurements, scrimmages

The NBA Draft Combine has never been confused for being as impactful as its football counterpart. This year provided a good example of that dynamic in the NFL: Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker went from a projected mid-first rounder to the No. 1 overall pick because his athletic testing was so impressive. The NBA’s projected top four prospects have already been set in stone for months, and nothing that happens at the combine is changing that.

Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., and Jaden Ivey couldn’t even be bothered to weigh themselves this week in Chicago, let alone go through athletic testing or scrimmages. While the top prospects have already earned their lofty status ahead of June’s draft, everyone else was trying to show the NBA how big and how athletic they are. Players on the fringes of mock drafts even took the court for scrimmages.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft combine now that it’s over.

Winner: Jalen Williams, G, Santa Clara

Williams spent three years at Santa Clara getting better and better each season. As a junior, he earned First-Team All-WCC honors and put his name on NBA radars as a 6’6 wing who showed impressive pick-and-roll playmaking skills while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

We already knew Williams had ridiculously long arms, and the combine confirmed it: he measured at a 7’2.25 wingspan, giving him a nearly 10-inch difference between his height and reach. Williams also put up a 39-inch max vertical leap, the fifth-highest of any player at the combine.

Williams played in the scrimmage on day one, and showed off his combination of size, skill, and leaping. This was a nice dunk as the roll man.

This drive showed off his one-on-one scoring ability and finishing touch.

And this was an example of his high basketball-IQ.

Williams played on the ball for Santa Clara all season. He used 37.5 percent of his possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler, and graded out in the 86th percentile of efficiency on those play types, per Synergy Sports. He also finished in the 97th percentile on spot-ups after going 42-of-106 (39.6 percent) from three with plenty of pull-ups off the dribble mixed in.

The sell for Williams is his combination of passing and facilitating skill while being as long as some centers. While he proved he’s a great leaper at the combine, teams will have questions about his quickness. That lack of quickness shows up at both ends of the floor on the tape, but especially on defense. At the same time, it’s worth noting he had the fourth fastest three-quarter court sprint of any player at this year’s combine.

We had Williams projected as the No. 30 overall pick in our instant mock draft after the lottery. He now feels like a safe first rounder — even if there’s a statistical argument against his all-around game. By the time he left the combine, he was even getting lottery buzz.

Williams feels like the biggest winner of the combine. Watch this season highlight package from No Ceilings to get a better look at his game.

Winner: Terquavion Smith, G, NC State

No one expected Smith to be a one-and-done after he entered NC State ranked as the No. 94 recruit in his class. The Wolfpack had a miserable year finishing at 11-21 overall, but Smith’s instant offense scoring punch was enough to plant him firmly on NBA radars. After a standout showing at the combine, Smith now feels like the next slippery combo guard who can provide nice value in the late first round.

Smith measured at 6’3.75 and only 165 pounds with a 6’6.5 wingspan, and then put his shot-making prowess on display at the day one combine scrimmage by scoring 17 points. He made 37 percent of his threes this season on 8.1 attempts per game from deep, and showed the deep range on his jump shot both off the catch and off the dribble.

Smith’s playmaking is something of a question mark after he averaged only 2.7 assists per 40 minutes as a freshman, but he dropped some nice passes during the scrimmage to hint that he might have more upside as a facilitator than he showed at NC State.

Here are two examples:

Smith finished with 17 points in the first combine scrimmage, and then pulled out of day two’s games knowing he already increased his stock. He also shot the lights out in the shooting drills.

Smith is in a similar archetype to another player who rose up the draft after an impressive showing at last year’s combine: Denver Nuggets guard Bones Hyland. Hyland went No. 26 overall last year, and Smith now feels like he could go in a similar range.

Loser: Patrick Baldwin Jr.’s athleticism

Baldwin also had the second worst lane agility time and the fourth worst three-quarters court sprint.

Winner: Patrick Baldwin’s size

Baldwin was a top-five recruit in the country coming into the season who chose to play for his father at Milwaukee over taking an offer from Duke. He had a nightmare freshman year, playing only 11 games because of a lingering ankle injury, shooting only 27 percent from three, and watching his dad get fired as head coach after a 10-22 season.

The idea of Baldwin is still incredibly enticing: a 6’10+ forward who should project as a 40 percent three-point shooter based on his reputation as a prep player. Baldwin is legitimately huge, but he’s also a poor athlete. He’s going to need to live up his pre-college hype as a shooter to make it in the NBA, but if he does, he could eventually be a steal after falling down boards following his trying freshman year.

Winner: Jaden Ivey, for this quote

Loser: Blake Wesley’s testing

Wesley emerged as a surprise one-and-done after breakout freshman season at Notre Dame. The tape showed a big guard who could get wherever he wanted on the floor, but he struggled to finish at the rim. While we still like Wesley as a first rounder, he measured a little slower and a little smaller than anticipated.

Wesley had the eighth-slowest lane agility time. His 36 inch max vertical was solid but unspectacular, and two inches lower than a beefy forward like E.J. Liddell.

Wesley also measured with a 6’9.25 wingspan, when most reports had him with a 6’11 wingspan.

Of course, Wesley still has plenty of talent to work with. His tools just aren’t quite as impressive as anticipated.

Winner: Mark Williams, C, Duke

Williams didn’t do the athletic testing, but he was measured at the combine. And holy cow, the Duke center huge: Williams measured at 7’2 in shoes with a 7’6.5 wingspan, and 9’9 standing reach.

Only Tacko Fall has measured with a bigger standing reach in the history of the combine. Dude can basically touch the rim just by putting his arms up.

He will be one of the biggest players in the NBA from the moment he’s drafted.

His sister Elizabeth Williams has been a solid center in the WNBA for several seasons. Baby bro is next.

More winners from the NBA draft combine ….

Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard looked phenomenal in the second scrimmage as a 6’4 guard who can make shots and control the pace of the game. Purdue big man Trevion Williams also showed off his combination of excellent passing and inside scoring during the scrimmages. Meanwhile, potential lottery pick Dyson Daniels put up an incredible fast shuttle run time.

On the flip side, Canadian prep school prospect Leonard Miller measured huge but looked a little more raw in the scrimmages than we hoped.

Read our instant mock draft after the lottery. Here’s why we think the Orlando Magic should take Paolo Banchero with the first overall pick. We also did bigger breakdowns on Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, who are our top-two prospects in the class.

The 2022 NBA Draft takes place June 23 in Brooklyn. We’ll be following this class closely the entire way through the process.

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