Observations on the First Scrimmage Game of the 2018 NBA Draft Combine

May 18, 2018

By Alan Lu

I was finally to watch the first combine game that was played on May 17th, and it was a messy, dreadful affair that was riddled with lots of missed shots and turnovers, as this was an utter slop-fest.  Even worse, no one has been able to find a consistent, constant box score, as no one could settle on the statistics that each of the players had accumulated, as NBA.com had kept changing the numbers. 

But there were several standouts in this first game, as Missouri State’s 6-9 senior forward Alize Johnson impressed with his solid all-around performance, while Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans, and Villanova’s Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo also played fairly well on this day.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared in this contest.  Anyways, the Game 1 box score can be found here.

Missouri’s 6-9 senior combination forward, Alize Johnson played very well in this game, as he showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also is a solid playmaker, especially for a player his size.  Though he has the height of a player that could play center, he has the playmaking skills of a guard, as he can really handle the basketball.

He did a good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop.  Johnson runs the floor well, and he has good body control and balance to get plenty of scores around the basket.  Also, he excelled at knocking spot-up threes off the catch.  In addition, he also was able to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound.  However, Johnson had some trouble scoring in the post, as he had trouble connecting on his jump hooks.

Plus, he displayed solid playmaking skills.  Johnson sees the floor well, and he is a good passer that can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  Late in this game, he also managed to set a good on-ball screen for a teammate in the backcourt.  In addition, he did a good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would haul in plenty of boards when he was on the floor.  Also, Johnson played good defense.  He was able to tip a pass to a teammate to help his team get a steal, and he also would actively defend jumpers out on the perimeter to force his opponents to miss shots.

In general, Alize Johnson had a solid showing, as he played well in virtually every facet of this game, and he also was able to help Team 1 White get a narrow victory over Team 2 Gray.  He is an athletic, skilled forward that can help his team in many different ways, and he could be a good value pick in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

Kansas’ sophomore center, Udoka Azubuike also put forth a good performance, as he excelled as an inside scorer and he also showed off good defensive skills to help Team 1 White get the win in this match.  Azubuike did a good job of running the floor, and he has very good hands, as he would often catch passes, and throw down powerful dunks to finish plays above the rim.  He also used a pump fake to score on a thunderous jam over a smaller defender after posting up.

He generally showed a good ability to score in the post.  While his moves were fairly basic, they were effective, as he can overpower his opponents down low, and he also used a quick drop step to score on a graceful jump hook another time.  Plus, he also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Azubuike managed to catch a lob pass off of a roll to score on an alley-oop dunk, and he also threw down a powerful put back dunk another time.  Also, Azubuike did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball, and he would fly in to get strong boards on both ends of the floor.

He also played good defense.  Azubuike would actively contest jumpers to force misses, and he also stepped up on a drive to force another miss.  Also, he managed to poke a ball away when defending a high post to nearly get a steal once.  However, he can occasionally have lapses defensively, as he was called for a 3 seconds in the key violation due to being in the paint too long.  Another time, he committed a foul when defending an opponent on a roll.

In summary, Udoka Azubuike is a strong, physical center that can get tough points and rebounds in the middle.  He has been having a good combine so far, and he also measured to have a 7-7 wingspan, which placed him second in that category behind Mohamed Bamba.  With his skill set, he could end up being a solid value pick for an NBA team in the second round of the upcoming draft.

Villanova’s redshirt freshman center, Omari Spellman played for Team 2 Gray, and in this game, he did a very good job of passing and rebounding the basketball, and he also defended well.  While he struggled to make his shots efficiently, he was able to score in a variety of ways.  Spellman excelled at finding teammates on the move, as he can hit the cutter, and he can throw long outlet passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.

He also was active as rebounder and as a defender, as he would grab many offensive rebounds, and he would actively contest and block shots to get his opponents to miss a wealth of shots.  He did struggle to consistently knock down threes, but he was able to make a quick corner three, and Spellman excelled at scoring off of offensive rebounds.  On the other hand, he had trouble making jumpers in this game, and he also missed on a jump hook when posting up once.

In summary, Omari Spellman had a fairly good showing, as he was able to help Team 2 Gray in a variety of ways.  His team in general really struggled to make shots, but he was able to contribute in many different areas.  Overall with his skill set, he could end up getting selected in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

Villanova’s 6-5 redshirt sophomore guard, Donte DiVincenzo did a good job of making quick spot-up threes off the catch, and he generally excelled as a shooter and scorer on offense.  He also would crash the glass to get plenty of defensive rebounds, and he also would often run in to intercept passes to get steals. 

DiVincenzo played good defense, as he has quick hands to get steals, and he also would contest threes to force misses.  However, he also would throw inaccurate passes that would lead him to commit turnovers, and he would occasionally be prone to committing touch fouls.  Still, DiVincenzo had a fairly good showing in this game, and he is a skilled offensive player that could go in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans had a fairly good game, as he excelled at making spot-up threes, and he also ran the floor to catch a lob pass to score on an alley-oop play.  Plus, he also played very good defense.  Evans blocked a shot inside, drew a charge on an opposing ball handler, and he can defend opponents in the post as well as out on the perimeter to force misses.

On the other hand, Evans struggled to consistently score on drives to the hoop, and he did not look to pass nearly as often as he usually does.  In summary, Evans played fairly well, as he can shoot and score the basketball, and he may be one of the better perimeter defenders among players at his position.  With his skill set, he could end up going in the late first to the early second round range on draft day.

Other Notes:

West Virginia’s senior point guard, Jevon Carter did not particularly shoot the ball well, but he excelled as a distributor and defensive player when he was on the court, as he would continually make good passes to show off his strong court vision and table setting skills, and he would consistently get steals as his ability to hound his opposing ball handlers would frustrate his opponents.  Carter is a smart basketball player that is a very good defensive player, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the second round this year.

Colorado’s George King also had a decent showing, as he excelled at knocking down mid-range jumpers, and he also did a very good job of getting scores in the paint.  King was able to score on a nifty, up and under move in the post, and he also scored on a reverse layup in transition.  Plus, he made a quick backdoor cut to the hoop, and he received the ball as he later scored on a powerful dunk that time.

He also played very good defense, as he would catch errant passes and poke a ball away to help his team get steals, and King also successfully drew a charge when defending a baseline drive.  On the other hand, he did not make any of his threes, and he occasionally struggled with his footwork and ball handling, which would lead him to commit some turnovers.  But in general, George King excelled at scoring the basketball when he would take shots inside the arc, and he played solid defense, and he is an energetic, high motor basketball player that could be a good selection for an NBA team in the mid to late second round range on draft day.

After some box score confusion about the point totals of Penn State’s sophomore point guard Tony Carr, from having seen him play in this game, I do not think he scored a single point in this game, as his team lost to Team 1 White.  He generally struggled to make jumpers, and he he also threw an ill-advised interior pass that ended up getting intercepted, and his play was generally disappointing on this day.  While Carr is still an athletic playmaker that can shoot and score the basketball, his streaky shooting combined with his at times questionable decision making skills could make him unlikely to get picked in the first round, as he may be looked at more as a second round prospect this year.   

One interesting note is that former Kansas’ big man, Billy Preston did not play in this game, as he collected a DNP for Team 1 White.  Considering that he played in zero basketball games for Kansas, and he played in just 3 games in the Adriatic League for BC Igokea, he definitely needed to play in the scrimmage game to show that he can hold his own against the other prospects at the combine, but curiously, he chose to sit out.

In terms of measurements and in the athletic testing portion, he put up okay, if not great numbers.  Preston did measure to be 6-10 ½ in shoes, and he has a 7-2 wingspan.  However, he consistently was near the bottom in the jumping drills, as he posted just a 25 inch standing vertical leap, and his 33 inch max vertical leap is surprisingly tied for being the ninth worst among all prospects that chose to jump for that particular drill this year.

His 11.26 second, lane agility time runs in the middle of the pack, but his 3.35 second shuttle run has him as posting the 6th worst mark among all prospects that ran that drill this year.  Preston’s decision to not play basketball, combined with posting less than stellar numbers in the athletic testing could cause his stock to drop, especially since he has not played in a whole lot of games this year.  Right now, the best move he can make is to play in a basketball game tomorrow.  With my current assessment, it is that he will still need time to develop, and the best move for him may be to withdraw from the draft, as that can give him time to hone his skills in the G-League or overseas next season.