Gold: Pac-12 winners and losers from NBA Combine
The NBA’s best and brightest draft hopefuls descended upon Chicago last week for the NBA Draft Combine, hoping to leave lasting impressions that quickly shoot their names up draft boards.
The Pac-12 had just a half-dozen players invited, including a quartet of UCLA players who could leave Mick Cronin empty-handed come June. Overall, it was a letdown for the league, which isn’t assured to have a 1st rounder. The last time the Pac-12 was shut out: 1988.
Here’s a look at the Pac-12’s winners and losers from Chicago …
Winner: Amari Bailey (UCLA)
Forget the Pac-12 — Bailey might just have been the biggest winner of all at the combine.
In just about every metric, the hometown hero — he hails from Chicago — overperformed expectations. He was lauded as much for his passing — 14 assists in 2 games — as he was for his outside shooting, hitting a reported 24-of-30 off-the-dribble attempts during shooting drills. He also scored 36 points combined in 2 scrimmages.
“I just wanted to show NBA scouts my playmaking ability and just improvement to my overall game,” Bailey told Yahoo Sports. “I really enjoy getting others open and just being able to showcase that in the pick-and-roll.”
UCLA's Amari Bailey had a big platform to showcase himself in an outsized role at the NBA draft combine and capitalized by posting 36 points, 14 assists in 50 minutes of action through two games. Showed his excellent ball-handling ability, pace, vision and creativity in PnR. pic.twitter.com/i5lFXy21bw
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 19, 2023
UCLA’s top prospect coming into the season, Bailey averaged 11.2 points per game and 2.2 assists and was primarily an off-ball player with the offense flowing through Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. But anyone who watched him play — particularly late in the season — saw a confident alpha who was comfortable taking over a game when Campbell and Jacquez took a breather.
He showed little ill effects of a foot injury that cost him a month, scoring in double figures in his first 4 games back, including a 24-point effort in a 62-47 win at Oregon Stat on Feb. 9. But he really look off in the postseason, which he opened with a 26-point performance in a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal win over Colorado. In NCAA Tournament play, he averaged 16.7 points and doled out 6 assists in both the 1st and 2nd-round wins.
According to Yahoo, he met with the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Loser: Adem Bona (UCLA)
Always enjoy a good measurement debunking, but for couple years ESPN/Biancardi been touting Adem Bona's wingspan between 7-4 and 7-6. Measured 7-0.25 at combine.
— fendo (@dancingwithnoah) May 17, 2023
I hate that we’re here once again, parsing over wingspan instead of performance and clear ability, but there was a marked difference between the book on Bona and actual reading material.
Yes, he plays much longer than his 7-0.25 wingspan, but measurables are measurables. Already a fringe draft pick in the first place, this may just have him reconsidering a return to Westwood.
“I say to myself, it’s a good problem to have,” Bona said, according to the Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe. “If going back to college is my second option, I think UCLA is a good one to have. I see myself in the NBA. It’s my No. 1 goal. I’ve gotten this close, so why turn back around?”
Winner: Mick Cronin (UCLA)
Well, isn’t it convenient.
There may be no team in a greater transition period than the Bruins, who are in a state of flux for the first time in Cronin’s UCLA tenure. Getting Bona back would be a massive boon for the Bruins, as he would be instantly become the team’s best defender and emotional leader.
He would get a run for his money, though, were Jaylen Clark also to return to Westwood. The Naismith Defensive Player of the Year retained his college eligibility, along with Bona, though he’s getting more 2nd-round run than Bona.
Winner: Jaime Jaquez Jr. (UCLA)
Despite not playing in live action, Jaquez did himself a favor by jumping out of the building. Not particularly known for his athleticism or his hops at UCLA, Jaquez boasted a 34.5-inch vertical leap that ranked 3rd at the combine. Those kind of bunnies, combined with some of the best offensive savvy and scoring ability in the draft, could push him into the 1st round.
And what a pick he’d be. He’s the kind of player who’ll be able to contribute instant minutes to either a late-1st contender seeking grit and firepower off the bench or an early-2nd bottom-dweller who needs foundational pieces.
Loser: Tyger Campbell (UCLA)
UCLA’s other senior leader was relegated to the G-League Elite Camp, essentially the combine for the NBA’s little brother. Campbell regressed a bit as a shooter last year, falling to 37.8% field goal shooting and 33.8% from 3 after shooting 44.4/41.0 as a junior.
Not getting the combine invite had to hurt.
His passing remains elite, but given he had another year of eligibility, I wonder if he’s reconsidering leaving.
Winner: Mouhamed Gueye (Washington State)
The Washington State big man was a repeat entrant into the NBA Draft waters after announcing his candidacy last season before withdrawing his name and returning to the Palouse. After a fine sophomore season, he’s again testing the waters, but apparently they are warm.
Source: Washington State's Mouhamed Gueye is staying in the 2023 NBA Draft.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 19, 2023
While Gueye is still rehabbing from some late-season injuries and did not participate in live scrimmages, he performed well in skills events and had solid measurables. He could go in the mid-30s.
Washington State's Mouhamed Gueye showed off his fluidity and improving skill level at his Pro Day at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. pic.twitter.com/gHXORsjoPa
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 18, 2023
Loser: The Pac-12
In 2022, Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin went 6th overall and Dalen Terry 18th. In 2021, the league had 3 go in the top 12, including USC’s Evan Mobley to Cleveland at No. 3, Stanford’s Ziaire Williams to Memphis via New Orleans at No. 10 and Oregon’s Chris Duarte to Indiana at No. 13. The year prior, USC’s Onyeka Okongwu went 6th to Atlanta and Washington’s Isaiah Stewart went 16th, eventually landing in Detroit.
This year, the league will be lucky to get one 1st-round pick. What a drastic fall.