NBA Combine Athletic Testing Analysis

NBA Combine Athletic Testing Analysis
Jun 12, 2012, 03:29 pm
Though the conclusions that we can draw from the vast majority of the athletic testing data is extremely limited, we'll nonetheless try to take something away from the information we've been presented with.

Trying to pinpoint a player's athleticism based on their combine testing is akin to trying to get a feel for their basketball IQ by watching them play one-on-zero –it simply doesn't make all that much sense. It does help us get a very general idea of where a player is at in terms of physical conditioning and strength, which often speaks to their work ethic, but rarely sheds much light on what it really aims to portray.

Unlike the NFL combine, all parties involved realize that few people put much stock in these results. Players aren't trained in running 40-yard dashes from their days in high school like most gridiron stars and simply aren't well versed in many of these tests. Raw athletic data can be useful in a football setting where certain properties manifest themselves more completely on the field, but for the NBA's purposes, a player's lane agility time ultimately means very little.

In basketball, where anticipation and coordination play major roles in how players perform on the court, combine numbers will always take a back seat to how a player uses the tools it aims to measure in actual games. Scouts have done their homework, they have a good feel for who the fastest players in the draft are, and know which athletes are the most explosive as it related to what they offer in game-settings. The combine only provides them with a standardized metric for particular athletic traits that often fail to live up to and remain consistent with what they already know.

Despite our reservations about the data, it still exposes some players who land at the extremes of each test, and gives us the chance to draw from some historical perspective on certain marks. At the end of the day though, the numbers these players posted at the combine are only as valuable as their ability to use them on the floor, and no matter how many times a player runs or jumps beyond his perceived means on test day, if he doesn't “play to his numbers” in games, he's not going to magically change his ways at the next level.

Athletic Testing Composite Rankings
Out of curiousity more than anything else, we've compiled our own Athletic Testing composite rankings. These were made by assigning players points depending on where they graded out compared with the other prospects in each of the tests done in Chicago. In a perfect world, this composite ranking would tell us who the best and worst athletes are in this draft class. Unfortunately, it's far from perfect for the reasons we described above.

1Darius Johnson-Odom
2Harrison Barnes
3Jordan Taylor
4Marcus Denmon
5Jeff Taylor
6Quincy Acy
7Miles Plumlee
8Orlando Johnson
9Bradley Beal
10Marquis Teague
11Perry Jones
12Arnett Moultrie
13Damian Lillard
14Darius Miller
15Moe Harkless
16 Jae Crowder
17JaMychal Green
18Tony Wroten
19Festus Ezeli
20Kevin Murphy
21Andre Drummond
22John Jenkins
23Meyers Leonard
24Jeremy Lamb
25Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
26Terrence Ross
27Tyshawn Taylor
28Scott Machado
29Thomas Robinson
30Tyler Zeller
31Draymond Green
32Tony Mitchell
33Austin Rivers
34Quincy Miller
35Tu Holloway
36Drew Gordon
37Terrence Jones
38Doron Lamb
39Mike Scott
40Hollis Thompson
41William Buford
42Kevin Jones
43Robbie Hummel
44Bernard James
45Kris Joseph
46Fab Melo
47Will Barton
48Khris Middleton
49Andrew Nicholson
50Jared Sullinger
51Henry Sims
52J'Covan Brown

Top Prospect Athletic Testing Analysis

-Harrison Barnes performed exceptionally well in the athletic testing on the whole, and some of his marks would likely even surprise those who are familiar with his work ethic and training habits. Barnes registered a 38 inch standing vertical leap, which would rank as a top-5 all-time mark in our database. His max vertical jump was not quite as outstanding, but still well above average at 39.5 inches. Barnes was above average across the board, pushing off 15 reps on the bench and ranking in the top quartile of essentially every test. Although he was maligned for his ability to get to the rim off the dribble at times during his college career, Barnes is a smart and savvy worker and his all-business had him prepared to compete here.

-Bradley Beal did not test off the charts in any one area, but his 39 inch maximum vertical leap was well above average, and the rest of his marks were all ahead of the middle of the pack. Beal may not be a freak physically, but his athleticism works well with his perimeter skill set, and translated pretty smoothly into a combine setting.

-Andre Drummond was the biggest winner of the measurements portion of the combine, and posted a solid performance in the athletic testing too. Drummond's 31.5 inch standing vertical leap helped him reach as height of 11'9, the highest mark at this year's combine. His 10.83 second time placed him in the top-10 of the lane agility drill standings as well –a fairly incredible feat for a player weighing 279 pounds. For reference purposes, Nene posted a time of 10.73 in the same event at 253 pounds in 2002, one of the only times quicker than Drummonds recorded by a player weighing over 250.

-Jared Sullinger was not a standout in the athletic testing among top prospects, which was the expectation coming in. Sullinger had the slowest lane agility and ¾ court sprint times among players in attendance and a bottom-5 maximum vertical jump of 31 inches. No team selecting Sullinger will be expecting him to get ahead of the break to score in transition, and with continued work on his frame, it isn't unlikely that Sullinger will become a bit more polished athletically at the next level given how he trimmed down this season.

-Terrence Jones posted marks below what one would expect from the explosive forward. He seemed to struggle with the lane shuttle drill, posting unusually slow reaction times, which hurt his overall time and ranking. Jones's 34.5 inch maximum vertical jump was solid, but not spectacular. He was among a number of top prospects who jumped well, but otherwise did not stand out in any particular test. Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb, Moe Harkless, and Quincy Miller all fall into that category as well.

-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was among the quickest players in attendance and ran the 3rd fastest ¾ court sprint in a time of 3.2 seconds. His maximum vertical jump of 35.5 inches was just average, but the UK product's speed was impressive.

-Thomas Robinson also mustered a 35.5 inch maximum vertical leap, and managed a solid 15 repetitions in the bench press. Robinson, like Kidd-Gilchrist, had a few strong performances, but didn't stand out for the most part on paper.

-Damian Lillard fared well in the vertical jump testing, posting the second highest no-step vertical jump with a mark of 34.5 inches. Lillard was fairly average across the board, though he did toss up 13 reps on the bench, which is not bad consider he only weighs 4 more pounds than the 185-pound load he was moving.

Player Notes
-Moving away from the top prospects, Darius Johnson-Odom and Miles Plumlee were the clear winners of the athletic testing portion of this year's NBA Combine.

-Johnson-Odom's 41.5 inch maximum vertical leap is a top-20 mark all time in our database, and across the board, Johnson-Odom excelled in each and every drill, not ranking below the mean in any test administered in Chicago. For that reason, he finished as the top player in our composite rankings, which takes all of his finishes at the combine into account.

-Miles Plumlee's 40.5 inch maximum vertical jump is nothing short of outstanding for a player standing a shade under 7-feet tall with shoes on and sporting a 252-pound frame. We had to look all the way back to Shaquille O'Neal's 36 inch jump in 1992 to find the next best leap from a future NBA player weighing over 250 pounds at the time of their respective tests. Plumlee's maximum reach of 12'2 ranks among the top-20 measurements in our database, places him an inch behind Dwight Howard's 2008 mark, and ties him with Greg Oden and Josh Smith. To top off his performance, Plumlee posted a lane agility time of 10.64, placing him in the top-5 in that event as well. If there is such thing as a “workout warrior” at the NBA Combine, Plumlee likely takes that crown.

Individual Testing Results and Analysis

Standing Vertical Jump
Ten Best
Harrison Barnes 38.0
Damian Lillard 34.5
Festus Ezeli 34
Miles Plumlee 34
Marcus Denmon 33.5
Darius Johnson-Odom 33.5
Arnett Moultrie 33.5
Jeff Taylor 33.5
Bradley Beal 33.0
Perry Jones 33.0
Darius Miller 33.0
Jordan Taylor 33.0

Five Worst
John Henson 25.5
J'Covan Brown 26
Henry Sims 26.5
Scott Machado 27
Mike Scott 27

As we noted earlier, Harrison Barnes walked away with the event, even edging Iman Shumpert's terrific 36.5 inch mark from last year. Just how tremendous Barnes's mark is only makes Nick Young's 39.5 inch jump in 2007 seem that much more absurd.

Festus Ezeli and Miles Plumlee are the top big men on our list, though they go in completely different directions in the maximum vertical test, with Ezeli being the only player jumping higher without a step than with a step at this year's combine and Plumlee jumping to the top of the heap.

Marcus Denmon deserves a mention here, as he was rock solid across the board in pretty much every test. He may not have fared quite as well as Darius Johnson-Odom overall, but he had a similarly strong overall performance in Chicago.

It isn't surprising to see the likes of Jeff Taylor or Perry Jones here, as each has been lauded for their respective athleticism over the years.

John Henson may be a prolific shot blocker, but he did not test well in this setting ultimately missing some later drills as a result of an apparent ankle injury. Obviously, his length is the biggest factor in his defensive presence, whether this is representative of his explosiveness of not.

Scott Machado operated one of the most high-octane transition attacks in college basketball, but he was seldom the one exploding to the rim to finish the break.
Henry Sims and Mike Scott had terrific seasons in the Big East and ACC respectively, but neither was known for their ability to elevate and make plays above the rim.

Maximum Vertical Jump
Ten Best
Darius Johnson-Odom 41.5
Miles Plumlee 40.5
Marquis Teague 40.5
Jeff Taylor 40.0
Marcus Denmon 40.0
Tony Mitchell 40.0
Harrison Barnes 39.5
Damian Lillard 39.5
Orlando Johnson 39.5
Bradley Beal 39

Five Worst
Henry Sims 29.5
J'Covan Brown 29.5
John Henson 30
Robbie Hummel 30
Andrew Nicholson 30.5

-Darius Johnson-Odom claws his way to the top of these rankings, finishing just a half an inch behind Josh Selby and Iman Shumpert's 42 inch jumps from last season and placing him in the top-20 in our database all-time. Standing 6'1.5 without shoes, Johnson-Odom may have to answer questions about his position, but his work ethic and athleticism leave room for optimism.

Marquis Teague also jumps into the top-3, beating his brother Jeff's 36.5 inch leap from 2009 soundly and tying Miles Plumlee's incredible jump.

Jeff Taylor, Marcus Denmon, and Tony Mitchelll round out the players posting 40 inch or better vertical leaps, with Mitchell making the biggest improvement from the no-step test to this one (+8.5 inches).

Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, and Damian Lillard once again show well here, and have impressive explosiveness for a group mostly known for their perimeter skill-levels.

Sims and Henson are again among the worst leapers in this test too, and are joined by J'Covan Brown, Robbie Hummel and Andrew Nicholson. Clearly, their lack of explosiveness didn't prevent the latter three players from being among the most dangerous scorers in their respective conferences.

185 Pound Bench Press
Ten Best
Jae Crowder 20
JaMychal Green 19
Meyers Leonard 19
Festus Ezeli 18
Darius Johnson-Odom 17
Scott Machado 17
Kevin Jones 17
Tyler Zeller 16
Miles Plumlee 15
Jeff Taylor 15
Harrison Barnes 15
Thomas Robinson 15

Five Worst
Tony Wroten 0
Tyshawn Taylor 0
Will Barton 0
Austin Rivers 1
Terrence Ross 2
Doron Lamb 2

Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder took the top spot in the bench press, though his mark would not place him among elite company historically. Crowder, and teammate Darius Johnson-Odom have clearly spent their fair share of time in Marquette's weight room. Meyers Leonard and JaMychal Green join Crowder in the top 3. Leonard has come a long way from the first time we evaluated in depth when he was a gangly teenager attending the Nike Hoop Summit a few years ago.

Tony Wroten, Tyshawn Taylor, and Will Barton all join Kevin Durant in the 0-reps club, which includes more than a few players seeing significant minutes in the NBA.

Lane Agility
Ten Best
Quincy Acy 10.48
Jordan Taylor 10.57
Kim English 10.59
JaMychal Green 10.63
Miles Plumlee 10.64
Marquis Teague 10.65
Tony Wroten 10.75
Darius Johnson-Odom 10.76
Marcus Denmon 10.82
Andre Drummond 10.83

Five Worst
Jared Sullinger 12.77
Will Barton 12.5
Festus Ezeli 12.35
Henry Sims 12.33
Fab Melo 12.14

At last year's combine, this drill was dominated by guards. This year, Quincy Acy takes the top spot, and is joined by JaMychal Green, Miles Plumlee, and Andre Drummond. Considering Plumlee and Drummond are among the biggest players here, the tide has obviously turned in favor of the big men.

Jordan Taylor and Marquis Teague represent the point guards here, along with Tony Wroten and Darius Johnson-Odom. Last year we saw Jon Leuer place among the top players in this event, and considering Taylor is not often lauded for his athleticism, it is interesting to see Wisconsin represented near the top of these rankings for two straight seasons.

We find two Missouri Tigers in the top-10, with Kim English and Marcus Denmon posting solid times.

Jared Sullinger is joined by fellow centers Festus Ezeli, Henry Sims, and Fab Melo in the bottom-5, which follows with the logic that bigger players should be a slower of foot and take marginally longer to change directions.

3/4 Court Sprint
Ten Best
Harrison Barnes 3.16
Thomas Robinson 3.17
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 3.18
Perry Jones 3.19
Marcus Denmon 3.19
Marquis Teague 3.19
Jordan Taylor 3.19
Tyshawn Taylor 3.2
Darius Johnson-Odom 3.21
Arnett Moultrie 3.22

Five Worst
Jared Sullinger 3.81
Andrew Nicholson 3.67
Kevin Jones 3.6
Will Barton 3.6
Kyle O'Quinn 3.53

No player at this year's combine placed particularly well in the ¾ court sprint historically, but Harrison Barnes taking the top spot is worth noting. He would not have been in the top-10 had he run the same time last season, but this capped off a strong performance for Barnes overall. He's joined in the top-3 by likely top-5 picks Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It is interesting to see a player with a powerful build like Robinson's so high here as this list is usually dominated by rangy wings and smaller guards. Arnett Moultrie and Perry Jones fit the rangy category while Denmon, Teague and Taylor represent this year's guard crop.

Jared Sullinger clocked the slowest time here, along with Andrew Nicholson. These tests are not typically kind to big men. Will Barton is the only wing in the bottom-5, and he may be a good example of a very fluid athlete not testing well in these drills measuring explosiveness.

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