Jalen Williams, Michael Foster rise after combine

CHICAGO — The NBA draft combine differs from the NFL draft combine in that not every player has to participate. Agents have the option to strategically choose what they want their player included in. The players projected at the top — Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey — didn’t participate in anything, including measurements or media availability.

There is still value in the weeklong event for NBA scouts and front office executives. Every year, a handful of players shoot up draft boards after a strong showing at the combine. Last year, it was Josh Primo, Bones Hyland and Quentin Grimes. Primo went No. 12 to the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets took Hyland at No. 26 and the New York Knicks selected Grimes with the 25th pick.

The NBA draft is just a month away and players will be busy with team workouts leading up to the big night on June 23. Here are six players who helped themselves the most after the NBA draft combine.

Jalen WilliamsSanta Clara

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 209 pounds

Williams was the best player on the court in both days of the scrimmages and probably played himself into a first-round draft pick. He got to the basket with ease, shot the ball well and had some of the best finishes in transition. Defensively, he fought through screens to keep his man in front and was effective in help-side defense, shooting the gap for steals and tips.

By all accounts, Williams had done enough on Day 1 of scrimmage play to sit out Day 2, but he played in both games.

“I came to Chicago for a reason and that was to compete and show NBA scouts what type of player I am,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I want to play and compete so for me, it wasn’t even a question whether to sit and not play.”

Williams finished with 11 points and four rebounds in just 21 minutes in the first game and had 19 points and four rebounds in the second game.

Santa Clara guard Jalen Williams shoots the ball against Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren during their game in February. Williams had a strong showing at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. (James Snook/USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Foster, G League Ignite

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 236 pounds

The first thing every NBA scout and front office executive noticed when Foster walked into the gym was his improved frame. Foster lost 14 pounds, added muscle mass and looked incredible. His body fat came in at 6.2% and he moved much better on the court than during the G League season.

Along with Williams, Foster helped himself the most this week. He shot the ball well during drills and bullied players in the lane during the scrimmages. Defensively, he held his own, too, something he struggled with during the G league season. His shot has improved, and he’s more consistent in the pick-and-pop. During his pro day, Foster hit eight corner threes in a row and showcased his athleticism with his dunks and explosive first step.

Foster did a little bit of everything in the first scrimmage with five points, six rebounds and three assists and finished with 14 points and five rebounds in the second game.

G League Ignite forward Michael Foster Jr.  defends during a gamer in December.  Foster is one of the draft combine risers.  (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

G League Ignite forward Michael Foster Jr. defends during a gamer in December. Foster is one of the draft combine risers. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 196 pounds

Nembhard played in only one scrimmage, but it was enough to showcase what he does best. The Gonzaga floor general looked comfortable creating for others, dishing out 11 assists. He also led both teams in points with 26 (10-for-18 from the field) and read the defense well of the pick-and-roll, knocking down the two-dribble pull-up confidently.

Nembhard is a projected second-round pick and met with only the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns during the combine week. His first workout will be with the Indiana Pacers this week.

Gonzaga's Andrew Nembhard dribbles during the 2022 NCAA men's tournament on March 17, 2022 in Portland, Oregon.  (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard dribbles during the 2022 NCAA men’s tournament on March 17, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Kenny Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 250 pounds

Lofton Jr. started his week at the G League combine and got a call up after a strong showing in the scrimmages at the beginning of the week. He’s far from your typical NBA power forward, but scouts loved how hard he plays.

Despite his size, he has great footwork around the basket and held his own with 7-foot, 293-pound Kofi Cockburn. He’s already lost weight since the end of the season and moves better in transition than expected. Lofton Jr. played in only the first day of scrimmages and finished with 13 points and three rebounds. After a strong week, Lofton Jr. has done enough to get drafted.

Kenny Lofton Jr.  participates in the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

Kenny Lofton Jr. participates in the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

Trevion Williams, Purdue

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 265 pounds

Williams had a strong week and showcased his vision in the open court, making the right pass every time and improved handle. He punished any guard who ever switched on him in a mismatch situation and his motor has improved since the end of the season. Williams told reporters after the first scrimmage he’s just going to continue working hard no matter how the draft shakes out.

“Whether I go second round or undrafted, man, it doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, I’m doing what I love. There’s plenty of guys in the NBA who are successful now that didn’t get drafted, so I’m never worried about that,” Williams said.

Terquavion Smith, N.C. State

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 165 pounds

Smith put his name in the draft with the option to return to school for his sophomore season. After playing well at the draft combine, the chances of him returning to school are slim (Smith has until June 1 to decide). Smith shot the ball extremely well from deep during the combine shooting drills and was one of the quickest players in transition during the scrimmages. He looked like a seasoned guard and controlled the pace of the game.

Smith shut it down after the first day of scrimmages and might have done enough to possibly sneak into the late first or early second round, similar to the rise Bones Hyland made after the combine last year. In his one game, Smith finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes on the court.

Terquavion Smith is defended by Kenny Lofton Jr.  during the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

Terquavion Smith is defended by Kenny Lofton Jr. during the 2022 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on May 19, 2022. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.