June 4, 2012; Westwego, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets general manager Dell Demps talks to the media following a workout with NBA draft prospects at the Alario Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
The NBA combine's probably the most amusing part of the draft process to me. It makes a lot of sense in a sport like football, where things like playing time, system, and role can do an appreciable job masking the athletic tools that translate so frequently and directly into performance.
NBA lottery prospects rising* or falling* based on measurements (*both terms themselves derived of the media echo chamber) is borderline absurd. On the one hand, we have the handful of physical measurements that come from the combine. On the other, we have games and games (and in most cases, years) of visual data on top prospects in a variety of situations - offensive, defensive, against good opposition, against bad - and more pertinently, that visual data informs us how players use their physical characteristics to actually play the sport. The emphasis of the former at the expense of the latter, at least in some corners, is prevalent this time of year (see the Twitter feed of Chad Ford) and is inane.
Physical measurements do matter, of course. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see correlations between things like wingspan and help defense ability, or other such things. But nobody should be jumping 5-10 spots due to "official" measurements of size and length. We've seen (or good draft analysts have anyway) the more important thing - how players used those measurements in game situations. These games weren't, of course, played against NBA opposition, but that's what draft analysis really is in a nutshell - projecting how college performance maps onto the professional landscape. Combine measurements can be useful for that among lesser known entities, but if a writer bumps a lottery target 5 picks because he measured in at an inch longer than everyone presumed, well..
Anthony Davis' 7'5.5 wingspan (6'9.25 without shoes, 7'5.5 wingpsan, 222 pounds) ranks him in the top-50 or so prospects in our database all-time, but it is what he's able to do with his length and size that makes him such a special player.
Another player whose size is often questioned, Jared Sullinger (6'7.75 without shoes, 7'1.25 wingspan, 268 pounds) would rank a fraction of an inch taller than average for a power forward (6'7.66 without shoes) but over two inches below average for a center (6'9.81). Potentially able to contribute at both positions at the next level thanks to his skill level and 268 pound frame, Sullinger is most similar to Kevin Love (6'7.75 without shoes, 6'11.25 wingspan, 255 pounds) physically.
Tipping the scaled at 286 in 2010 and 281 just last year, Sullinger's commitment to losing weight is also worth noting. Though he was the second heaviest player weighed in Chicago this year, the dedication he showed last fall leaves plenty of room for optimism as to how he'll be able to polish his physique.