NBA Draft combine takeaways: Williams, Eason stand out originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The 2022 NBA Draft Combine gave us new insight on the prospects in this year's class. Here are five observations from the week that was...
1. Mark Williams is huge
Duke big man Mark Williams is considered to be one of the best rim-protectors in this draft and his cause was likely helped significantly by his combine measurements. He measured in as the tallest player at the combine (7-foot-2 with shoes), with the highest standing reach (9-foot-9) and the largest wingspan (7-foot-6 1/2). The standing reach is particularly noteworthy, as it's the second-tallest only to Tacko Fall (10-foot-2 1/2!) among combine participants in the last 22 years (as far back as NBA.com's database goes). Rudy Gobert, for instance, has a 9-foot-7 standing reach.
Height and length will not alone guarantee Williams will block shots at the NBA level, but it should only help him leading up to the draft. He was already rising draft boards after an impressive NCAA Tournament run where his paint defense was a big reason why Duke made it all the way to the Final Four. Williams averaged 2.8 blocks per game this past season as a sophomore for the Blue Devils, along with 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. He had four tournament games with three blocks or more. Williams is projected to go in the middle of the first round.
2. Standout measurements
Williams wasn't the only player to turn some heads in the measurement portion of the combine. LSU's Tari Eason also recorded a big wingspan, at 7-foot-2, an excellent trait for a 6-foot-8 forward known for his defensive versatility. Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell posted a wingspan of 6-foot-11 3/4, a max vertical leap of 38 inches (8th-best at the combine) and a 35 1/2 standing vertical (1st this year), all positives for a 6-foot-7 tweener who may regularly go up against taller players. Some other noteworthy measurements would be G-League guard Dyson Daniels, who at 6-foot-7 1/2 is taller than he was listed this season, and his Ignite teammate MarJon Beauchamp having a 7-foot 3/4 wingspan despite being a 6-foot-6 guard.
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In terms of max verticals, there were several players worth highlighting. Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler topped the class with a 41 1/2-inch vertical, a great sign for him considering he's undersized at 6-feet. Baylor's Kendall Brown was second with a 41-inch vertical, attaching a number to his explosive athleticism on the court. Kansas wing Christian Braun was third at 40 inches, which may convince teams he can be more than a glue guy at the next level. And Ochai Agbaji, also of Kansas, was not far behind at 39 inches, which suggests some upside for a guy who played four years in college.
3. Jalen Williams is getting attention
Santa Clara's Jalen Williams may have solidified his status as a first-round pick with an all-around impressive showing at the combine. After a breakout junior season, Williams turned heads with a whopping 7-foot-2 1/4 wingspan while measuring in at nearly 6-foot-6 in shoes. He also posted a 39-inch vertical, 5th-best at the combine this year. According to USA Today, Williams is only the second player in combine history to meet a set of wide-ranging thresholds for standing vertical leap, speed and wingspan. The other player was Donovan Mitchell, who became a draft steal in part because of those traits.
Williams also fared well in the 5-on-5 action, especially as a creator off the dribble. He has an interesting case as a late-bloomer who doesn't hail from a major college program. But Williams is athletic, has NBA length, great feel as a ball-handler and the shooting percentage trajectory teams are looking for. Williams averaged a well-rounded 18 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 39.6% from three last season.
4. Most top prospects didn't do much
It has become increasingly common for top NBA Draft prospects to forego some or most of the combine, including measurements and media interviews. This year, though, it was even more than usual with nearly all of the expected top-10 picks essentially sitting out the entire event aside from interviews with teams. Memphis big man Jalen Duren, for instance, is likely to go somewhere in the second half of the lottery and he didn't address the media or go through measurements. Compare that to Scottie Barnes, the fourth overall pick in 2021 and last season's rookie of the year, who did the opposite a year ago.
The highest-rated players who did talk to the media were Keegan Murray (Iowa) and Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona). Murray actually did some live drills, according to ESPN. The other top players likely didn't participate because their agents told them not to, in fear they would say or do something that would hurt their stock. Those same players did talk to national outlets, however, and ironically still made news. Potential No. 1 pick Chet Holmgren, for instance, said he is going to be the best player in the NBA as a rookie.
5. Wizards not linked to many
There was essentially zero news about the Wizards at the combine, which is probably how their front office would prefer it to go. Players are often asked who they have interviewed with so far and only one top prospect was linked to Washington. That was Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis, who is expected to go somewhere between No. 5 and the backend of the lottery, so in their range. Other players who have a good chance of being the Wizards' first round pick did not mention them when listing the teams they have talked to, including Mathurin and Daniels.
That definitely does not mean the Wizards won't end up talking to those guys. In fact, it's highly possible both will be in D.C. at some point for pre-draft workouts at the Wizards' practice facility. The Wizards will host a lot of players in that setting, most of which will be reported and announced publicly and some that they will do their best to keep private.