CHICAGO — Two days in the middle of May can go a long way in making or breaking the NBA dream for several players across the NCAA.
The 2018 NBA Draft Combine will take place in the Windy City on May 16th and 17th, and 69 of the top prospects from around the NCAA have been selected to attend. It gives players from all levels of college basketball the chance to showcase their skills for NBA scouts, general managers, and executives alike from all 30 teams in the league.
In terms of the top spots in the draft, it’s no secret as to who the top prospects are in this year’s field.
Sports Betting Dime says that the battle to be the no. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has, realistically, been whittled to three names: center DeAndre Ayton of the Arizona Wildcats, power forward Marvin Bagley of the Duke Blue Devils, and Slovenian guard Luka Doncic.
While Ayton is the favorite to go first overall, it will depend which team wins the draft lottery. Phoenix has the best odds and, with Devin Booker in place in the backcourt, has a greater need for a skilled big. However, if Memphis lands the top pick, Doncic may hear his name called first. It’s not that the Grizzlies don’t need a dynamic center like Ayton, they just also desperately need better guard play. You could say similar things about both the Magic and Hawks.
As things stand, Ayton is the favorite to be selected with the top pick (1/2), followed by Doncic (4/1) and Bagley (7/1).
At the combine, you won’t see Ayton or Doncic among the 69 players in attendance. Instead, you’ll see several guys who are considered fringe selections, and they’ll be looking to put forth impressive showing to help improve their draft stock come June’s draft.
Here are four names to keep an eye on over the two-day combine in Chicago.
Melvin Frazier – Tulane Green Wave
2017-18 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 spg; 55.6% FG, 71.2% FT
You may not know who Melvin Frazier is right now, but he’s a player who you should get very familiar with between now and the 2018 NBA Draft. The junior wing but together an impressive season at Tulane despite the Green Wave struggling as a whole in the American Athletic Conference.
Frazier will undoubtedly turn heads at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine with his athleticism and defensive play, not to mention his 7’2” wingspan. He was highly effective from two-point range last season, connecting on over 62% of his field goal attempts from inside the arc. Frazier also led the Green Wave in scoring and steals per game, while finishing second in terms of rebounding.
Many already have Frazier as a lock to be selected, but it’s now a debate as to whether or not he’ll crack the First Round. Given the fact that he’s flown under the radar for most of the season, the potential is there for him to stand out from the start at the combine. He could very well become a late first round selection when all is said and done.
Alize Johnson – Missouri State Bears
2017-18 Stats: 15.0 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.8 apg; 43.0% FG, 75.9% FT
As a junior in 2016-17, the 6’9” Johnson burst onto the scene for the Missouri State Bears. His play over the course of that season propelled his name up draft boards all across the country as he asserted himself as one of the top forwards in the nation. He returned to school for his senior season, and despite the Bears not being able to live up to the preseason expectations that surrounded the team, Johnson is still among the best big men in the country.
Over his two year career with the Bears, the native of Williamsport, PA combined to score 982 points and pull down 735 rebounds. He recorded 20 double-doubles as a senior this past season, giving him 37 such performances over his career at Missouri State. Johnson has the ability to stretch the floor with his three point shooting, but is also an interior threat around the rim.
His rebounding ability and effectiveness on the glass on both ends of the floor will set him apart from other forwards at the combine. Many have Johnson tabbed as a late-second round selection as of now. If he can perform well in the drills and five-on-five game action in Chicago, he could climb to the early parts of the second round or higher.
Tyus Battle – Syracuse Orange
2017-18 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.5 spg; 39.9% FG, 83.9% FT
After leading Syracuse to the Sweet 16 with wins over the TCU Horned Frogs, Michigan State Spartans, and Arizona State Sun Devils in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, guard Tyus Battle is set to turn heads at the NBA Draft Combine. The native of Edison, NJ was arguably the best player on the floor in Syracuse’s win over the Spartans in the Round of 32, and he’s looking to carry his momentum and continue to turn heads next week in Chicago.
On a short-handed Syracuse team, Battle averaged 39.0 minutes per game this past season while playing in all 37 games. His durability is second to none in the country, and he is able to impact the game on both ends of the floor. His 19.2 points per game were a team high, and he recorded double digits in three of the team’s four tournament games. At 6’6”, Battle would add size to a back court rotation.
Battle needs to develop a more consistent three point jumper before he makes the leap to the next level. He has yet to sign with an agent, thus keeping his collegiate eligibility still available. While it’s likely that Battle returns next season to Syracuse, a strong showing at the combine would prove invaluable for him as he progresses through his basketball career.
Kevin Hervey – UT Arlington Mavericks
2017-18 Stats: 20.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg; 44.6% FG, 33.9% 3PT
While the 2017-18 season didn’t go as planned for the Mavericks, forward Kevin Hervey had himself a career season as his collegiate career came to an end. He was one half of one of the top inside-out tandems in the country, alongside guard Erick Neal, and both played massive roles in making the UT Arlington program what it is today. Now, after a tremendous career with the Mavericks, Hervey will look to open some eyes at the combine.
At 6’9” and 230 pounds, Hervey is a big body in the paint. He averaged at least 6.0 rebounds per game in each of his four seasons in Arlington, and he posted a career high 9.0 rebounds per game in 2015-16 as a sophomore when he burst onto the scene. A threat to go for a double-double each night, Hervey has the ability to stretch the floor with his three point shooting, while also being able to finish at or around the rim.
To the casual fan, Hervey’s name is one that most won’t recognize. But, don’t be surprised if you hear his name called come draft day. He looks like a late-second round selection at this point in the process, but strong workouts and a strong showing at the combine could very well move him up draft boards before the draft on June 21st.
– T. Bennett