Thoughts on the First Scrimmage Game of the 2024 NBA Draft Combine

May 14th, 2024

By Alan Lu

Today, I took the time to watch the first combine scrimmage game, but it was a little disorganized, because some of the jersey numbers of players that they showed on screen didn’t seem to match the jerseys they actually wore, they wove in interviews while the game was taking place, and then after commercials, the viewers would find out that the game was already going on when it would resume.  On top of it, it was a sloppy basketball game and the analysts didn’t seem to be too interested in telling viewers who were making those plays.  So, all of that made it kind of tough to follow along.  Anyways, here are my thoughts on watching the first combine scrimmage game of the 2024 NBA Draft Combine.

AJ Johnson’s sterling play in the first combine scrimmage game could make him an enticing option for NBA teams to consider in the late first to the second round range of the 2024 draft, as this seemingly puts his subpar NBL season performance in the rearview mirror. (Photo: Emily Barker/Getty Images, via ESPN)

AJ Johnson played really well to help Team St. Andrews get the win over Team Forehan-Kelly.  Whatever his season struggles were in the NBL, they seemed to instantly go away when he played in the wide-open format of this combine scrimmage game.

Johnson did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball to help his team get the victory.  He was excellent as a downhill driver, and he would often score on strong, quick drives to the hoop.   He is quick and shifty, and he regularly get past defenders to get to the rim.  He also showed off a solid jump shot, and he also was able to make a deep three-pointer.  On top of that, he did a decent job of passing and defending in this game.

Overall, his sterling showing in this game does not seem at all to match his sub-par season performance in the NBL.  In the NBL, it seemed to be a combination of things, that Johnson didn’t get nearly enough playing time to find his footing, maybe they didn’t award him with enough foul calls, and maybe they didn’t award nearly as many assists as they should have in the NBL, in addition to Johnson just didn’t shoot very well in the NBL.  In fact, this cognitive dissonance only serves to raise more questions, as maybe Johnson was misplaced in his role at Illawarra, and his extremely slight build may have made him ill-suited to playing in the NBL, as the NBL is known for their physical brand of basketball.

But here in the combine scrimmage was a different story.  Johnson played his heart out, and he played terrific basketball.  This game made a really strong case as to why an NBA team should consider drafting him, as he really thrived as a downhill driver and facilitator.  Currently, he is a second round prospect that may be worth a flyer in the mid to late second round, especially if he an put his skills all together.  Johnson is an extremely athletic, big ball-handling point guard that operates well as a shot creator and has the athleticism to be a plus-level defender, but he needs to continue to improve his jump shot and shot selection.  If everything breaks right for him, he could reach his ceiling and end up being a quality score-first combo guard similar to Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson.  Worst case scenario, Johnson could end up having a short career in the NBA due to his unpolished skill set.  Either way, Johnson’s strong performance here showed that he may have considerable upside, and he could be worth a pick in the mid to late second round of the 2024 draft. 

Team Forehan-Kelly’s Justin Edwards quietly played well, as he excelled on both ends of the floor in his team’s loss to Team St. Andrews.  He thrived as a shooter and scorer in this game, and put forth his strong shooting skills on display.  It’s clear that he’s put in the work to build up his jump shot, and it’s paying off.

Edwards showed a knack for making outside shots, as he could knock down threes and mid-range jumpers both off the catch and dribble.  He also can utilize a quick crossover move and pull up to knock down a jumper.  He also picked off a pass to get a steal and drove up court to score on a mid-range jumper in transition in this game.  Plus, he also rebounded the ball well, played unselfishly, and was quite active defensively.

Overall, Edwards is an athletic, skilled forward that can knock down jump shots and is a rangy defender that can cover plenty of ground.  He came in with high expectations, and while he had some early season struggles, he’s managed to bounce back to have a decent freshman season.  While he’s not exactly a dynamic offensive threat, his ability to knock down jumpers and make hustle plays on both ends of the floor combined with having good athleticism and upside would make him a worthwhile pick in the late first round of the 2024 draft.

Baylor Scheierman also had a strong showing for Team St. Andrews to help lead them to a win in this game.  He shot the ball very well, and he also thrived as a rebounder and defender in this game. Scheierman showed a knack for knocking down jump shots to spread the floor on offense.  He excelled at making catch-and-shoot threes, and he also ran off a ball screen to make a quick movement three at the top of the key off of a dribble handoff.  He also was able to score on a pull-up, mid-range jumper, and he can utilize the threat of his jump shot to take his man off the dribble to score every once in a while.  He also thrived as a scorer on strong, drives in transition, and he showed good footwork, balance, and body control to do so.

He also rebounded and defended well.  Scheierman grabbed plenty of boards in this game, and he also would get his hands on passes to help his team get steals.  Overall, Scheierman is a smart, crafty swingman that excelled at making plays to help his team get the win, and he could be a solid pick in the late first to the second round range of the 2024 draft.

Dillon Jones had a decent showing in this game, and he especially had a strong second half.  Despite not shooting the ball well from the outside, he did a good job of scoring on strong drives to the hoop, and he also rebounded and passed the ball well.  Overall, he’s a functionally solid athlete though not an elite one, but Jones consistently made solid plays down the stretch to help Team St. Andrews get the win.  He’ll need to improve his jump shot, but his ability to make team plays and excel as a scorer, facilitator, or defender could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider in the second round of the 2024 draft.

Team Forehan-Kelly’s KJ Simpson had a fairly solid showing in this game in his team’s loss to Team St. Andrews.  Though he didn’t pick up an assist, he excelled as a scorer and downhill driver, and he even managed to score on a backdoor cut.  He didn’t quite shoot as well from the outside however, but Simpson did a good job of scoring quick drives to the hoop, and he showed off more footspeed than anticipated. 

In addition, he did a great job of getting steals in this game.  Overall, Simpson is proving to be a fairly steady playmaker, and he could be a solid second round pick in this year’s draft as a game managing, backup point guard that can provide a scoring punch and also run the team.

Isaac Jones generally excelled at scoring in the post and on hustle plays to help Team Forehan-Kelly.  He excelled as a passer and rebounder, and did a good job of getting steals in this game.  On the other hand, he’s an undersized big man that still hasn’t shown that he can consistently knock down outside shots, and it’s unlikely that an NBA team would run many post-up plays for him at the next level, especially since he would likely start out at the end of the bench and they don’t tend to run many post plays in general.  Still, Jones has been productive this season, and his strong play this season and in the pre-draft camps will get him looks in the late second round range for the upcoming draft.

Antonio Reeves did a good job of scoring the basketball, and he would use score off the dribble and use motion to be able to knock down two-point shots.  He also played unselfishly and was able to pick up some assists.  He struggled with his three-point shot in this game, but he played well overall, as he was able to score 17 points and dish out 4 assists in this game.

Team Forehan-Kelly’s Jonathan Mogbo did a good job of scoring on fast breaks, and he is an athletic, high-motor combo forward that thrived at making passes to find teammates on the move to notch assists.  He generally played with a high-motor and made smart passes.  He could be a solid second round pick in this year’s draft, and he could really be an interesting player in the NBA if he can continue to develop and hone his jump shot over time.

Other Notes:

I didn’t see the second game, but there were some notable standout performers here.

Here was the box score for the second combine scrimmage game.
(Source:
Twitter/@DraftExpress)

For the winning team, Trentyn Flowers scored 12 points on 5 of 5 shooting, made his only three-pointer and free throw, and he also had 2 assists and 2 rebounds in this game.  He shot the ball really well, as he was perfect from the field.

Boogie Ellis scored 11 points, made 3 threes, and he also had 5 rebounds and 5 assists, but also committed 6 turnovers, and was a +15 in this game.  Pelle Larsson scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds, and was a +15 in this game.   Jalen Bridges scored 11 points, made 2 threes, and had 2 steals.  Also, Trevon Brazile scored 8 points on 4 of 6 shooting, and led all players in plus-minus in this game with a +21. Ajay Mitchell led all players with 7 assists in this game, and the the 6-5 point guard also scored 5 points.

For the losing team, Harrison Ingram scored 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting, made 3 threes, and he had 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block in this game.  Enrique Freeman scored 17 points on 5 of 6 shooting, made 2 threes, and had 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 ssist, and 1 block.  Jamal Shead scored 14 points and had 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal in this game.

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