The NBA Draft is less than two weeks away and that means this week is the pre-draft combine in Chicago where college seniors and players from small schools look to impress the NBA scouts and improve their draft rankings. Generally, players thought to be lottery caliber selections skip the camp and choose to work out individually for any team interested in them. In the past, no name players such as Ronald "Flip" Murray, Steven Hunter and Jeryl Sasser have used this camp to shoot up the draft board and land in the first round.
The NBA also uses this opportunity to invite many of the players they believe will be drafted in the first round to Chicago so they can take their league sanctioned physicals and the teams can get accurate height and weight measurements. A matter of two inches can be the difference between being a first round pick and a second round pick. This in turn, can be the difference between millions of dollars in guaranteed money. First round picks automatically receive a three year guaranteed contract with a player option for the fourth, while second round picks are not even assured a roster spot. A lot can be learned by who was invited to participate in the physicals and who was not. You can see the full list of invited players here.
One prominent omission from the league office was Coney Island native Sebastian Telfair, fueling rumours that his stock is sinking. Could Telfair be in for an Omar Cook like free-fall on draft night? Cook, the mercurial point guard from St. Johns left the Red Storm after his freshman year in 2001 thinking he would be a first round pick but ended up being taken in the second round and didn't catch on with an NBA team until this past season. Ironically, if Cook had stayed in school all four years, he would be eligible for this year's draft.
The current rumour du jour regarding Telfair has the Portland Trailblazers selecting him at 23. According to a recent column by Peter Vescey of the NY Post, Portland has committed to Telfair in the first round, in part because Telfair has a $10 million endorsement contract with Adidas. Vescey reports that the Portland-based shoe company has agreed to purchase a luxury suite and season tickets at the Rose Garden, along with a promotional campaign for Telfair in the state. The Blazers, however, deny any such pact is in place.
Scrimmages at the Chicago combine began on Wednesday and according to reports players such as Texas Tech's Andre Emmett, Nate Robinson of Washington and Andre Brown of DePaul have been impressive while bigger names like Duke's Chris Duhon, Xavier's Romain Sato and Tony Allen of Oklahoma State haven't exactly been lighting it up. The combine wraps up today but players will continue their individual team workouts until draft time is upon us.
Of course, when you get a bunch of NBA GM's in the same room scouting prospective players, some trade talk is bound to pop up. Some of the rumours currently floating around include the Clippers trading the #2 pick to Atlanta for their first round picks at #6 and #17 so the Hawks can select hometown prep phenom Dwight Howard. The Bulls are also listening to offers for the #3 pick so a deal sending that pick and Scottie Pippen to Indiana for Al Harrington and the Pacers first round pick isn't totally out of the question.
The NBA Draft will be broadcast on ESPN live from the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, June 24th at 7 PM.