The 2021 NBA Combine took place from June 21 to June 25, and members of the Hoops Prospects staff had the opportunity to interview a multitude of players who participated, as well as take in the action from the four games played at the event. Below are our notes, quotes, and observations from the annual gathering of the top prospects for the NBA Draft.
Top Performers on the Court
Based on our Total Productivity and Efficiency per 40 Minutes metric (TPE), Louisville’s David Johnson had the best rating at 25.3. He played in just one game due to a foot injury, but was productive in his 17 minutes of play. Johnson recorded ten points, hitting on three of five shots, and recording four rebounds, four assists, and a block. He also committed three turnovers and missed on both of his three point attempts. The 20-year-old sophomore has been highly inconsistent during his time with the Cardinals, and it’s very questionable if he did enough to be drafted.
Coming in second in TPE at the Combine was Nah’Shon Hyland, a combo guard from Virginia Commonwealth University, with a score of 23.8. Hyland also only played in one game, but left his mark. In a little over 23 minutes, Hyland scored 17 points, shooting 7-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. He also contributed six rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one steal. He did commit two turnovers as well as five fouls, but overall, he had a very impressive game. During his Combine interview, Hyland carried a winning attitude as well as a confident one. Whoever takes him in the draft will not be disappointed.
In third place is Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp with a 23.1 TPE. The 21-year-old small forward definitely improved his draft stock in the two games, putting up good numbers across the board, especially in the shooting department. In his second game, Wieskamp was a flamethrower, hitting 10-of-14 shots from the floor, including a blistering 6-of-7 on three-pointers. He scored 26 points that game, along with grabbing ten boards and recording three steals and a block. Look for Wieskamp, who also performed well in the athletic testing portion of the event, to be no worse than an early second-round pick at the end of the month.
In fourth place came Houston’s Quentin Grimes with a score of 21.1 in our TPE per 40 metric. If there was a ‘winner’ in the 2021 NBA Combine, it was Grimes. He led the Combine with 15 field goals made on 25 attempts, including a fantastic 9-of-16 from three. He did have five turnovers in two games, but he made some beautiful passes as well for a total of five assists. He shot 40.6 percent from deep last season at Houston, so he is a proven three-point threat. Grimes is also a solid athlete and a good defender, who makes plays that don’t show up in the box score. Based on his NBA Combine performance, he is definitely on the rise on our draft board — going into the event, we had him as an early second-round pick.
Composite Box Score
Richard Harris’ Notes on the Athletic Testing and Measurements
Hoops Prospects’ combine database goes back to 2016 and contains the results of various events, including the G League Elite Camp and the Portsmouth Invitational. This year, six prospects cracked the HP top 25 for overall combine performance: Mac McClung and A.J. Lawson at the Elite Camp, and Scottie Lewis, Yves Pons, Ziaire Williams, and Scottie Barnes at the NBA Combine.
Scottie Lewis — It was no surprise that Lewis was the top overall performer at the Combine; the 21-year-old wing’s explosiveness has frequently been on display at Florida. At this event, Lewis registered the top lane agility (10.45) and three-quarter-court sprint times (2.98), while finishing with the second-best shuttle time (3.03) and the fourth highest max vertical (42’’). Unfortunately, his athleticism did not translate very well on the court, which has often been the case at Florida. In a total of 45.2 minutes of action, he went 0-of-5 from deep, had as many turnovers as assists (3), and registered just five rebounds, one steal, and zero blocks. Even so, teams may still be tempted to draft the sophomore due to his athleticism, plus-seven wingspan, and his ability to defend multiple positions.
Yves Pons — Pons was the second-best overall performer at the event. He may have the best combination of size, strength, and athleticism in this draft, but he, too, is limited offensively. At the Combine, he finished third in both standing (36’’) and max vertical (42.5’’), but did not overwhelm in game action, making just 4-of-11 shots from the floor and grabbing just eight rebounds. He did have four blocks, which is his forte. Overall, I think that Pons did what was expected, and he has a very good chance at being drafted due his defensive prowess and versatility.
Ziaire Williams — A former top-ten recruit, Williams had a disappointing freshman campaign at Stanford. The 19-year-old forward’s season was marred by COVID-19 interruptions and the loss of two close family members. As a result, Williams missed nearly a month of action (a total of seven games), and never quite found his rhythm. Even so, he did flash many of the skills that made him a highly touted recruit, including a solid handle, deep range, a pretty jumper off the bounce, and explosiveness around the rim. Add in the fact that he was fourth best overall performer at the Combine, and you can see why many still consider him to be a possible lottery selection.
Scottie Barnes — If you didn’t already love Barnes’ versatile, two-way game, you may now, after his performance at the Combine. The 6-foot-8 point forward registered a 7-foot-3 wingspan, while posting top-10 times for the lane (10.88) and shuttle drills (2.99), and top-10 measurements for standing (36’’) and max vertical (39.5’’).
Other Top Performers:
- A.J. Lawson was invited to the Combine, and his numbers from the Elite Camp, including tying Lewis for the top sprint time, put him at third overall.
- Greg Brown III finished sixth overall and had the top shuttle time of 2.98.
- Ochai Agbaji finished seventh overall and notched a 41.5’’ max vertical.
- D.J. Steward placed eighth overall, and posted a 34.5’’ standing vertical.
- Keon Johnson finished ninth overall, with a record-breaking max vertical of 48’’ and the top standing vertical of 41.5”.
- Neemias Queta didn’t have great athletic results (most bigs don’t), but he did have the highest standing reach (9’4.5’’) and the longest wingspan (7’4’’).
- Jericho Sims displayed the most athleticism among bigs at the event. The 6-foot-9 center recorded the eighth-best sprint time (3.05) and finished second for both standing (37’’) and max vertical (44.5’’).
- Moses Moody didn’t participate in the athletic drills, but he did register the top wingspan differential (plus-8), measuring at 6’4.5’’ without shoes, with a wingspan of 7’0.75’’.
The 5-on-5 scrimmages are the highlight of the NBA Draft Combine. Fans and scouts tune into these games to help get a feel for how the prospects fit into an NBA rotation. This year’s set of games may have had more attention than in years past, considering the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. For some players, shortened or canceled seasons in their final years of college put them under intense scrutiny during these scrimmages.
Some players had a ton to prove, and showed it. Others may be less than enthusiastic about their performances.
Given the nickname “Bones” for his slender frame, Nah’Shon Hyland came into the Combine with something to prove. The sophomore guard missed out on his national coming out party when VCU had to drop out of the NCAA Tournament due to positive COVID-19 tests. Still, he decided to enter the draft after a season in which he scored 19.5 points per game and won the Atlantic-10 Conference Player of the Year.
The VCU guard made his presence known immediately, scoring nine straight points on three consecutive three-pointers. Hyland finished with a game-high 17 points and played at a high-level in all phases. He showed a tremendous ability to shoot from deep (especially off the dribble), great playmaking skills, and good effort on defense.
Johnny Juzang declared for the 2021 NBA Draft following his outstanding performance in the NCAA Tournament. The UCLA wing averaged 22.8 points per game and shot 50.9 percent from the field in the Bruins run to the Final Four. The former Kentucky guard shot up NBA draft boards as his three-level scoring led UCLA to their Cinderella run.
Juzang’s skill set makes him an enigma for NBA scouts to pin down. He is a steaky scorer and a sub-par defender, but his size and ability to knock down threes make him an intriguing option as a shooting guard. A “cold” Juzang showed up in the first scrimmage, as he finished with six points, shooting 3-of-10 from the field and 0-of-3 from deep.
— Dylan Jespersen
Game 2 featured a beat down by Team 4 over Team 3, led by Arizona State’s Josh Christopher. The former five-star recruit secured a double-double with a game-high 16 points along with 10 rebounds. He showed off his athleticism with a massive transition jam while attacking the glass on both ends.
Quentin Grimes is a bit under the radar as a prospect to casual NBA fans. The former five-star was a projected one-and-done lottery pick when he committed to Kansas, but he mostly struggled as a freshman. Now, he enters the draft as the reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year after transferring to Houston and leading the Cougars to the Final Four.
Grimes finished Game 2 with 12 points, six boards, and three assists. His court vision was the most impressive part of his game, finding open shooters in the halfcourt while making great decisions on the fast break.
— Dylan Jespersen
On June 25th, the last two scrimmages of the NBA Combine were played. On the first day, Team 1 beat Team 2, 76-57, and Team 3 lost to Team 4, 54-94. Instead of letting the two winning teams play against each other on the second day of scrimmages, the NBA had Team 4 face Team 2, and Team 1 faced Team 3 in the earlier matchup.
After trailing big in the first half, Team 3 tried to make a comeback vs. Team 1. Despite their efforts, Team 1 won, 86-76. In this game, the standout players were Joe Wieskamp, A.J. Lawson and Jericho Sims.
Wieskamp was the top scorer in Game 3, racking up 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Sims put up 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 28 minutes for the winning team. The third top performer in game one was South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson who seemed to be involved in everything for his team. He scored 17 points, and recorded seven assists, seven boards, and four steals.
The game was fairly even in the second half, with Wieskamp showing his skills as a shooter, making six of his seven three-point attempts. His versatility in scoring was his big advantage. He scored in transition and on off-ball motion plays, as well as on spot-up threes off the catch.
— Simon Hillinger
The second game of the day was an offensive fireworks display for both teams. Team 4 defeated Team 2 by a score of 101-94, with nine players scoring at least ten points. Team 4, as well as Team 1, ended up being unbeaten in the 2021 NBA Draft Combine.
Team 4’s Quentin Grimes had an outstanding performance, as he scored 27 points. He features a beautiful shooting stroke and seemed very confident with his three’s, as he had seven in 27 minutes. After a solid first game, the former five-star recruit surely helped his draft stock with another great performance on Friday in Chicago. As previously noted after his first game, his court vision was the most impressive aspect about his game, as well as his ball handling, which he can use to create his own shot.
USC forward/center Isaiah Mobley was the second-best scorer on his team, right behind Grimes with 18 points. He had a solid all-around game, making 7-of-10 from the floor, and nabbing five steals. The older brother of Evan, Mobley is an underrated prospect that could move up draft boards after his performance on Friday.
The third player that showed great potential was Maryland’s Aaron Wiggins. He was one of Team 2’s better players, as he thrived as a shooter and scorer on offense, making six of his seven shots. He was aggressive, something that he didn’t consistently display with the Terrapins, and he showed his athleticism in this game. His 14 points kept Team 2 in the game.
After two days of scrimmages, it is very likely that a lot of players will be able to contribute at the next level in the NBA.
— Simon Hillinger
Joe Weiskamp, Iowa: Weiskamp has talked with multiple NBA teams: Cleveland, San Antonio, Boston, and Milwaukee. He talked about how he needed to improve defensively as well as his physicality. He said teams were “surprised” by his athleticism; he posted a 42-inch max vertical (tied for 4th) and the fourth quickest lane agility time (10.70 seconds). Weiskamp studies Duncan Robinson, Klay Thompson, and Doug McDermott. He mentioned how effective a cutter McDermott is, and how he hopes to replicate that at the next level.
Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton: For almost every question asked, Zegarowski talked about how he just wants to contribute to winning, no matter where that might be. He has worked out with Boston, Milwaukee, and New York, and watches film on Fred VanFleet, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and Steve Nash.
Austin Reaves, Oklahoma: Reaves also talked about how he wants to contribute to winning basketball, but the players that he watches really intrigued me. He mentioned Joe Ingles and Mikal Bridges, guys who are committed to their team role and contribute in multiple ways. Reaves said that he believes his pick-and-roll offense will translate to the NBA, and he needs to work on his body and never become complacent. He also touched on a “newfound appreciation” of things outside of basketball because of COVID-19. Reaves has talked to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Golden State.
Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State: Washington Jr. has worked out with Boston, Atlanta, and Minnesota. He knew he belonged at the NBA Combine even before he participated in the G-League Elite Camp. He has “ultimate confidence” in himself and is “taking the [draft] process day-by-day”. His uncle is Derek Fisher, a five-time NBA Champion, and Washington Jr. “soaks up information like a sponge” from him, also learning that “[Y]ou have to sacrifice, work hard, and have open ears” if you want to succeed in the NBA. He also talked about his love for his teammates at Ohio State, encouraging them to reach out to him if they need anything and saying he would, “take a bullet for them.” He loves watching Jamal Murray, and how he works on and off the ball on offense. At the end of the day, Washington Jr. wants to “be in a position to be developed as a player.”
— Bobby Zeffero
Jaylen Johnson — He was very confident for someone coming off a disappointing freshman season. He said that he had no workouts to date, but he had talked to a number of teams at the Combine. On leaving Duke in the middle of the season he said: “I did what was best for me and my family.” I pressed the subject, and he said that preparing for the draft was more advantageous for him than staying at Duke. I’m not sure that type of answer is very comforting to NBA teams. Near the end of his stint at Duke, Johnson’s playing time decreased for multiple reasons; he struggled defensively, and he did the same on the offensive end in the half court as both a shooter and a shot creator. Also, there were rumors that he didn’t like how he was being used. The facts are that he quit on his team, which still had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and the Blue Devils played better without him.
James Bouknight — The UConn star mentioned that he was a former baseball player, who didn’t focus on hoops until high school. I had to leave this interview early, so I didn’t gather much more info. It was clear to me, however, that Bouknight is very confident and has a fun side to him.
Ziaire Williams — The Stanford product said that he had talked to 12 teams so far, including the Wizards, Knicks and Warriors. Though he did very well in the athletic testing, I believe that he would have really benefited from playing against his peers at the event. By not doing so, there are still concerns about his offensive efficiency with the Cardinal. One of the aspects of his game that he feels he can display at the next level is taking advantage of his size in the midrange and the post, and I can envision him being very effective that way, similar to Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan.
Josh Primo — The youngest player in the draft, Primo displayed maturity, and he seemed genuinely surprised by the amount of interest that he was drawing from NBA teams. He had at least 10 interviews at the event, and one prior workout with the Bulls. He was also encouraged by his performance at the Combine, and thought he had a good chance to be taken early in the second round or higher. Primo added that he would probably go back to Alabama if he was going to land at the end of the second round, but a few days after the Combine, he announced that he was staying in the draft.
Ariel Hukporti — The German big man talked to five teams at the event, which was a lower number than most of the other prospects that I spoke to. He also said that he had no scheduled workouts at the time. Despite that, he is staying in draft, and is not interested in taking the draft-and-stash route. He plans to remain in the United States, and is happy to play in the G League if he has to. Hukporti is muscular for his age (barely 19) and displays potential on the perimeter. His focus right now is working on his defense and conditioning.
Ochai Agbaji — At the time, he had talked to roughly 13 teams, but had no scheduled workouts. He has the option to return to Kansas, and no decision has been made. He said that he didn’t have a line drawn in terms of where he’d be picked vs. going back to KU. He is very physically developed, and had the fourth-lowest body fat percentage (4.15) among those measured. He stated that he was working on his handle and attacking with the ball in his hands, adding that he also wants to finish better at the rim. Agbaji admitted that his lack of confidence in his ball handling reduced his aggression as an offensive player at KU, but he also said his role (catch and shoot) was fairly defined as a Jayhawk.
Sam Hauser — The sweet-shooting Virginia senior talked to at least 10 teams at the event. He had a few private workouts before the Combine, including the Celtics. He has more workouts coming up, but he declined to name the teams. Hauser didn’t really talk much about his weakness, which is defense, other than to say that he’s improving. There are not many who are better at shooting and shooting efficiency from all areas on the court.
Greg Brown III — The Texas freshman said that he had talked to “a lot” of teams, and named at least seven. He is pretty confident about his game, and it was difficult to get him to open up about his weaknesses, which are shot creation, passing, effort, and decision-making. He did mention passing briefly, which is something that he didn’t do well or often at Texas. He mentioned multiple times that one of his strengths is his ability to switch and guard multiple positions. He added that teams told him that they want to utilize his size and athleticism on the inside (not as a post player, but as a roller and cutter). Brown also said that the more-open NBA should suit him, which will be true if he can cut down on his turnovers and become a better passer. He said that he had no scheduled workouts at the time, which was surprising. He handled himself well in the interview, which was a positive sign for someone who had some bouts with immaturity at Texas.
— Rich Harris
Scottie Lewis, Florida — Lewis did not have himself the greatest Combine scrimmages, but that did not deter teams from showing interest. He had ten Combine interviews, including Charlotte, Milwaukee, Miami, Minnesota, and Denver, and he has also worked out for Houston. Lewis will be a team player wherever he goes, saying “I want to dive into my teammates (not literally), be there for them, create a brothership. I was so close to my teammates (in high school) and I carried that out to Florida.” When asked what he can do to maximize his athletic potential, Lewis responded, “Being coachable, a sponge, soak up all the information. The mind never stops growing, but the body will stop.”
Neemias Queta, Utah State — Queta has worked out with multiple teams: Dallas, Utah, and Phoenix. Past coaches are simply encouraging him on his journey. He is still working on knocking down outside shots, and he feels that he is a better jump shooter than advertised. Queta believes that he is a modern big since he can pass out of short roll, and the mid-range game is there so the three could be there soon. Queta does not care about Evan Mobley being seen as the best shot blocker in the draft, and he believes he is the best rim protector in the class. He sees similarities in his game with Bam Adebayo.
Sandro Mamukelashvili, Seton Hall — Mamukelashvili said that he studies Toni Kukoc, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Jokic and Nikola Vucevic, who have the stretch-big mentality. He actually grew up playing point guard, and talked about how European youth coaching is about making you a basketball player, not a ‘big’ or ‘guard,’ saying that regardless of size, you learn what bigs and smalls learn. When asked about the difference from playing in Europe versus the NCAA, he said that college is a lot faster, but in Europe, he enjoyed playing with veterans who would teach you different aspects of the game. Mamukelashvili has worked out with Detroit, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, and Utah, and has eight more workouts scheduled throughout July.
— Clayton Conover
Trendon Watford, LSU — Watford did not share where he has interviewed or worked out for. He thinks his facilitation and ball-handling will aid him at the professional level and will translate right away. Watford has been working on his shooting this offseason. However, he didn’t shoot very well in the two Combine games, struggling from three-point range (0-for-3) and the free-throw line (5-for-9). This is a trend from his two seasons at LSU, where he shot 29 percent from three and 66 percent from the free-throw line.
Daishen Nix, G-League Ignite — Nix has interviewed with the Wizards and Nets. He has had no workouts yet, but has a bunch scheduled after the Combine. He indicated that he loved the Ignite experience and would recommend it to prospects as a solid choice. Other than finishing tied for second with a sprint time of three seconds on the dot, Nix did not fare very well in terms of times and measurements. He registered the highest percentage of body fat (11.8) among guards and wings, and weighed in at 226 pounds.
Yves Pons, Tennessee — Pons said that he had worked out for Charlotte, Boston, Minnesota, and San Antonio, and interviewed with Washington. When asked specifically about the Charlotte workout, he indicated that he felt he played very well; he knows the Hornets need rim protection and thinks he would be a good fit. He also said he enjoyed the Charlotte coaching staff. He has an NBA-ready frame at 6’6”, 206 pounds and only four percent body fat. He does not have shot-creation ability, but he is solid on put-backs, in transition, and as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. His defensive abilities are excellent, and that might make up for his limited offensive ability come draft night.
- Texas’ Kai Jones has had 13 interviews, including the Spurs, Pelicans, Warriors, Raptors, and Celtics.
- West Virginia’s Miles McBride said that he can play on or off the ball, but he prefers to be a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He has worked out with the Knicks and the Celtics, and has interviewed with the Nuggets, Jazz, Grizzlies, Suns, and Raptors.
- Virginia’s Trey Murphy said that he interviewed with the Sixers, Thunder, Suns, Lakers, and Spurs, and had worked out for Boston and San Antonio.
— Lee Branscome
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our reports come from Synergy Sports Technology, RealGM.com, and Sports-Reference.com. Combine box scores, measurements, and test results were courtesy of the NBA.