The 2024 Knicks’ playing days are done, but the work isn’t. The NBA Combine had some clear winners that may impact Knicks’ decision-makers.

For the Knicks, Draft SZN has officially begun due to a slew of injuries and the Indiana Pacers collectively deciding to stop missing shots. For the rest of the NBA however, Draft SZN started last week with the lottery and the NBA Combine in Chicago.

For some, the combine is the end all be all of draft content; it’s a magical place where intel leaks push every agent’s agenda, and sports media acts like hitting shots in an empty gym is the single most impressive accomplishment a basketball player can achieve. For others, however, the combine is no more than a place for confirmation bias personified, where you can turn any prospect you want into either the next Lebron James or the next Anthony Bennett.

Over the past week, you may have seen posts or heard podcasts debating the merits of Alexandre Sarr as the top pick, comparing this class unfavorably to the much-maligned 2013 draft class, or at the very least debating whether Bronny James should be playing in Turkey or the NBA. All of these conversations, regardless of the level of nuance, stem from the combine, where all prospects are put under a microscope and an unprecedented level of access is given to teams and media alike.

How much stock you put into the combine depends on your draft philosophy. Just like with the NCAA tournament, this setting does matter but the weight of it varies depending on the individual scout. We have years of data and film on these guys, in multiple contexts for almost all of them, so should 25 threes in an empty gym or a performance in one 5-on-5 pick-up game influence those opinions? The answer is yes, to an extent, because we already have all of the baseline information we need on these prospects, and the combine is the perfect environment for supplemental information.

Measurements cannot truly be surprising, there is no prospect that did not measure in the range that we expected them to. However, on the margins, there were players a little taller and longer than anticipated which can go a long way depending on skillset and anticipated role. Similarly, there is a functionality of the athletic ability testing that for certain non-Zach Edey prospects, could be extremely relevant to how well their abilities will translate from college to the pros.

So, for the uninitiated: the NBA combine consists of various components, which are now almost all mandatory. Those components include standard measurements, athletic testing, skill testing, team interviews, and 5-on-5 scrimmages. Team interviews are not open to the public but all testing and measurements are public record and the scrimmages for those that participated were streamed live to the viewing public. We are going to look at some of the winners of the combine and who helped their draft stock over this last week.

Devin Carter – Providence

Devin Carter is somebody that I have written about a few times already and will keep writing about throughout the next month leading into the NBA draft.

The 2024 Big East player of the year had a great combine that highlighted his length and athleticism in a way that makes it clear that his athletic profile is fit for the next level. Let’s look at what popped for the Providence guard.

First and foremost, he measured well once you got past the Steph Castle measurement mix-up. Carter measured at 6’2.25 without shows which was top-five for point guards and not bad for a class filled with small guards. More important than his height, however, was the 6’8.75 wingspan which was first among point guards and fifth among all guards in the class. His +6.5″ wingspan was second out of all guards and top-10 among all prospects.

His length is important for his defense considering his ability to cover space, close out on shooters, and get his hands on balls. However, it is more than just length which was why his athletic testing was so important. Athletic testing can be a bit of a tease at times, as one out-of-context high number may not actually be relevant for that player’s game or have much effect on the court. That is not the case for DC, however, as his testing backed up what the eye test has shown all year.

Devin Carter put up an athletic profile that no guard has shown at the combine since Zach Lavine, which is good company for an athletic guard. Carter’s 42″ vertical jump was tied for the highest of the event, as was his 35″ standing vert, showing a high level of bounciness for a guy who has been at the top of the list of most dunks in the college basketball season the last two years. While his shuttle run time was a comparative weakness at only 9th out of all prospects, his lane agility test was third in this year’s class.

His 3/4 court sprint time of 2.87 was not only the fastest out of the year’s batch of players, but it set a new combine record. While the off-the-charts athleticism displayed at the combine reflected what we already knew when you parlay that with the defensive player of the year finalist’s 20 points per game and 38% three-point shooting on high volume, you have a prospect primed to rise up draft boards. He is somebody who checks a lot of Thibs’ boxes if he is available at 24, or even if they have to move up to get him.

Carlton “Bub” Carrington – Pitt

Bub Carrington is an interesting prospect because you probably didn’t hear about him during his college basketball season.

The freshman guard had a nice year in the ACC averaging 13-5-4 but has blown up recently as he is one of the youngest prospects in the class. There is an additional level of intrigue due to the age and the flashes shown beyond what the counting stats may show. The combine was a great opportunity for Carrington to capitalize on that momentum going into workouts and that is exactly what he did.

The Pitt Panther measured in at 6’3.75 without shoes with a 6’8 wingspan and an 8’3 standing reach. This qualified Bub as the tallest listed point guard of the group and the longest point guard not named Devin Carter. His athletic testing was good, not great, but where he shined throughout this process was in the shooting drills. Carrington is widely considered one of the best shot-makers in this class from the draft community, especially off of the dribble and pull-up jumpers.

That is not necessarily reflected in the 32% three-point shooting that Carrington presented this year on a tough shot diet with high volume, so this combine was an opportunity to show off that shooting ability. The 18-year-old guard was one of the most dynamic shooters in the combine knocking down 80% of his threes from the corner and an impressive 70% off the dribble. That skillset is the reason for much of the appeal to what Carrington can provide at the next level, so it is important for him to take advantage of the opportunities presented.

Dillon Jones – Weber State

Of every participant in this year’s draft class, I do not know if a single player helped himself in more ways than Dillon Jones. The Weber State Wildcat tested the waters last year, got feedback on what to work on, and improved in nearly every single statistical category in this year’s combine.

His athletic improvements were significant, adding 4.5 inches to his max vert and 3.5 inches to his standing vert. He made those improvements while also shaving off .27 seconds, .25 seconds, and .31 seconds off of his 3/4 court sprint, shuttle run, and lane agility time respectively. Those improvements are massive for someone with questions about their athleticism and when compounded with his measurements, speak to a very unique physical profile.

At only 6’4.5 without shoes, Jones is in an interesting purgatory positionally as he plays much bigger than his size. Jones weighed in at 236.8 pounds, making him the eighth-heaviest prospect in the class which helps him to throw his body around and play bigger than his height would suggest. The other benefit shown at the combine was Jones’ magnificent 6’11 wingspan, which put him at an impressive +6.75″, near the top of the class for non-big men.

So, just from a physical perspective, Dillon Jones is an interesting prospect who benefitted from his showing at the combine. However, that only tells the very beginning of the story of the 22-year-old wing. Dillon Jones is known for a lot of things on the basketball court and filled up a stat sheet at Weber, but shooting was never his forte. Jones shot 32% over his 4 years in Ogden, Utah but shot the lights out of the gym throughout the week and continued shooting the ball during pro day and team workouts, which could go a long way considering the versatility he provides without shooting.

During the combine shooting drills, Jones ranked 13th in spot-ups, shooting 68% and an even more impressive 83.3% on off-the-dribble threes which was good enough for third out of all prospects. For those keeping track at home, Dillon Jones measured well physically, improved in every athletic testing area, and was a top-tier shooter throughout the drills. That must be it, right?

Wrong. While Dillon Jones did not go off for 17 points as he did in last year’s combine, he did put on a display of feel and passing that got the attention of the draft community. There is a reason that Dillon Jones gets frequently compared to Josh Hart considering the effort and feel, if he sures up the shooting on top of that, he could be a very interesting candidate for the Knicks in the late first.

Baylor Scheierman – Creighton

Sometimes at the combine, players show new skills or improvement on things they are making a concerted effort to work on.

Other times, however, they do exactly what you expect and that is all you need to see. That would be the case for Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman, who showed why he was such an important piece of Creighton’s offense this year. Taking out Scheierman’s rough freshman year at South Dakota State, the Nebraska native shot 41% from three on 6.4 attempts per game over the last four years. With those numbers, it should not surprise anybody that Scheierman led the class with 88% made on-spot up threes and was sixth out of the group in off-the-dribble threes at 80%.

While he certainly doesn’t jump out of the gym, the Creighton Blue Jay was between 15 and 20 for all of the agility and speed testing, which is much better than most would have anticipated given the unathletic flags for Scheierman. He measured well, coming in at 6’6.25 which provides good positional size even if he does not have overwhelming length. All of the measurements and athletic testing for Scheierman were on the right side of the ranges you would suspect for him.

However, he was a winner in the combine not because of the testing or measurements but instead because of his performance in the combine scrimmage. Scheierman was the best player not just in the first 5-on-5 scrimmage, but probably in any of the scrimmages. If you are a believer in plus-minus as an accurate reflection of a player’s performance, you might find it interesting that Scheierman was a +20 in an 8-point win. He did that by scoring in every conceivable way during that game, putting on an absolute show on both sides of the ball.

He finished that scrimmage with 17 points, eight rebounds, and three steals for good measure. Scheierman showed off his ability to create his shot, as well as a continued ability to relocate and catch and shoot from long range. The shot-making was never a question for Scheierman but he displayed the ability to get those shots off in an impressive way as well as showing off his motor on both sides of the ball. More shooting is never a bad thing, and Scheierman provides that in spades, he was someone the Knicks could target at 38, but if he continues to rise up draft boards, he might be worth it at 25.

While I do not believe that the combine could have any losers, there were degrees to how much a prospect can raise his stock. There were players like Alex Karaban who caught fire and showed off his premium shooting skills hitting 21/25 in the star drill, as well as players like Bronny James who surprised people with skills that he had not shown during the season.

I would still caution against putting too much into a specific combine performance; plenty of players will continue to rise over the next month. Especially in a fluid class where there are fewer clear tiers and more team-based needs, there are players who can surprise people with their draft positioning. The combine is the kickoff for what will most certainly be an eventful draft season, players will continue to rise while the rumors start to swirl, and I can’t wait to cover every second of it.

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