What you might not know about the NBA Combine

The NBA Combine is anything but straightforward. Richard Stayman discusses what he learned about the marquee event after attending it for the first time in Chicago. Listen to the full episode on risers after the NBA Combine on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: What was the experience like? Was it just like you're walking around and you're watching essentially workouts, or is there like a schedule of how it goes? How does it work?

RICHARD STAYMAN: A little bit of both. There's-- so they have organized stuff, like the everything you see, the scrimmages, the testing, the shooting, the shooting drills, all that, they're all on display. You can be anywhere on that. You can be floor level, there's really unlimited access.

The only area you couldn't be in, they had blocked certain areas off for just the NBA teams and their personnel, other than that-- it was like two sections-- other than that, you could be everywhere. I saw a lot of Pro Days. Got to see a lot of guys' mechanics up close.

The big takeaway for me was, in addition to just meeting a lot of people, was on these Pro Days, like, these guys who I'd never could have seen up close in person throughout the season, like, just because there's too many players, I got to see almost every player I wanted just to see their mechanics because on video, you can't tell the tiny things.

Like Cason Wallace, for example, his thumb on his left hand on his guide hand, kind of gets in the way of his shot, and you can't see that on film. Like, there's just no way to see that. But when you're that close, you can see all of it. I don't know, I just thought it was fascinating.

AMIT MANN: Who decides what competitions or what events they participate in?

RICHARD STAYMAN: Agents. I think players have some say, but the agents ultimately protect a lot.

AMIT MANN: That can be a double-edged sword.



AMIT MANN: You don't want to show how they do in this because maybe you're not sure how they're going to perform, but then at the same time, another GM is like, well, I want to see them do this, and if you're not showing it to me, then I'm going to assume that they can't do it.

RICHARD STAYMAN: Yeah, and I mean, just calling one out. I mean, not really calling one out, just pointing it out. Klutch, for example. They had one person do anything at the entire combine, and it was Chris Livingston did all his testing. He didn't play in the scrimmages. That was the most any one player from Klutch did was measure and test.

AMIT MANN: No kidding. Was there a combine stand out for you, from what you saw?

RICHARD STAYMAN: Yeah. I mean, I think I think Jordan Walsh is one. Brandon Pierzynski is one. I think those are the two guys that absolutely popped for me. I think-- I think Pierzynski got to the first round for him. Like, he was definitely one of the big winners.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. So he was a person that, I want to go in all the competitions, you're going to see what I can do, right?

RICHARD STAYMAN: Yep. Yeah, he didn't duck the second day either, which I really liked. He didn't play well on the second day, but he didn't need to. He was probably the best player in the first day, and he just kept playing in the second, even though he had probably already gotten some first round conversations.

AMIT MANN: So that's where it is now? Do you think he's a first rounder?

RICHARD STAYMAN: I think he's the end of the first, yeah.

AMIT MANN: Cool. The Raptors reportedly, again, we're just going off of Maxwell Lewis posting a photo on his ID Stories where he's wearing Raptor shorts. So eh, but it seems like maybe he did a workout for the Raptors. And as more of these happen, like, it's fun to see the players, like, which ones they select. Actually, I'm curious what you think about this. Is there anything to the players that get workouts with teams first versus a few weeks down the road?

RICHARD STAYMAN: So I found this out recently. The way that stuff-- if a player met at the Combine with a team, it was set up by the NBA. It wasn't something where the agents-- like, every team is required-- or every player I think is required-- I forget, I think it's a two-way street, but I'm pretty sure every team is-- it's like a lottery for them. They get drawn into random meetings with random players, essentially. It's like the quick version.

So if, say, Cason Wallace got a meeting with the Mavs. It wasn't set up by either party. The NBA facilitated it. It's like speed dating, pretty much. They go around and they start talking to all these other teams, and it's all consecutive throughout the week. They talk to, like, 10 teams probably, and then by the time the media days come and they're about to leave, that's when they start saying, hey, yeah, these are the teams I talked to.

But so the ones before, generally the players at the Combine aren't doing pre-Combine workouts. That's generally for the undrafted guys. But when you get to after, like, now and on, if they met with them, that actually does mean more because that is truly each side worked to set that up.

AMIT MANN: Final one for you now. Just things that you learned at the NBA Combine that you didn't know.

RICHARD STAYMAN: That's a very tough question, that's a great question. I mean, I'll say there are two things. One, I think we always underestimate how hard every single player works, even the guys who-- and there were a couple of guys where I heard people talking about the work ethic being questioned, and it's incredible still how hard these guys are working on both ends. Even the low work ethic guys still work hard, and then the high work ethic guys are just unbelievable. They're addicted to basketball, like that kind of stuff.

And then just kind of a little less. Yeah, there's a lot of politics in basketball. You could see some of it. I can't really go into a ton of detail, but even going into the-- even going into the-- yeah, sources. Like, even going into the Combine, like, there's a lot of politics of who gets invited. There are guys that, like, in both the G League camp and the NBA camp, that got there because of ties and things like that.

So you really kind of see it a little bit more in person. I think those are the two things. It's a little bit the downside, but it is true, like, who you know in basketball actually does matter in a way where these guys are going to get drafted better because of whether it's their representation, who they know, anything like that, it really does exist. So for better or worse, it happens.

AMIT MANN: And then Nikola Jokic happens.


You just need a chance, right? You just need a chance. You just need a chance to show your stuff. And there have been so many players, especially with the Toronto Raptors, I mean, undrafted players. Marc Gasol, I remember during the championship year, he was asked a question about the amount of players that were on the Raptors in that championship year that were undrafted or late picks. He's like, well, it says what we know about the draft, right?

That is not a reliable way to necessarily accurately look at where the talent is or stack rank the talent in a given year. And some of it's probably just like the politics also. It's hard to know with so many different aspects, like, you know, what team are you on, how much are you being seen, what's your role on that team? Those are all things that matter to how a person is evaluated. But yeah, I love seeing the undrafted guys get their due. It's always fun.

RICHARD STAYMAN: Yeah. I mean, there's a reason-- I mean, Fred VanVleet was the first undrafted all-star, I think. And obviously, like, Toronto fans know firsthand just how valuable that is, but I mean, just speaking as a Mavs fan. I mean, I've seen them bring in so many undrafted guys, Dorian Finney-Smith, JJ Barea. I mean, those are two staples of role players that have just stuck and become fan favorites.

If you can-- and the second round, I think is a lot-- like, that's something also where politics come in where guys are like, oh, I don't want a two-way, I want to play for a contract. And a team will be, like, well, I'm only drafting for a two-way. So there's a lot of behind the scenes where that stuff does happen. So what happens on draft night really does not actually determine what the career for these guys will look like.