Veteran Forwards Believe in Benefits of Combine
When it comes to the top talent in a given draft class, the popular move in recent years has been to pass on the primary basketball-related activities at the NBA’s annual combine.
Why the increasing reluctance to participate?
The logic is pretty straightforward. Few of these prospects deem the combine’s scrimmages and / or anthropometric testing to be worth the possible risks posed to their health, draft projections, or both.
For players like Utah’s Kyle Kuzma and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, however, the lay of the land is much different. The combine presents them, and other fellow non-lottery candidates, golden opportunities to competitively showcase their skills to league executives. In doing so, maybe these NBA hopefuls open some more eyes, change a few opinions, and manage to boost their stock on draft boards.
Kuzma and Blossomgame, as it turned out, happened to be two of the standout performers from the 5-on-5 scrimmages that were held last month at the Quest Multisport facility in Chicago. The seasoned forwards reconnected Monday as part of the same six-man workout group with the Sixers.
In hindsight, they agreed – the combine was worth their time.
“A lot of teams I felt like didn’t get to see Utah play front line, front and center,” said Kuzma, a 6-foot-9 big man with length and floor-stretching potential. “We were on the West Coast, and we weren’t really in the limelight like other schools in the country on the East Coast. Once I got to the combine, I got to show my full array of skills, my tool box, per se, what I can do on the floor.”
Kuzma, perhaps the most probable first-rounder of Monday’s attendees, dropped 20 points on 8 for 10 shooting the first day of combine. He connected on 4 of 5 3-point opportunities, too, before choosing not to suit up for the combine finale.
Blossomgame, meanwhile, emerged with the highest scoring aggregate among all combine invitees. He netted 18 points the first day, followed by a 16 point outing 24 hours later.
“I think I benefited a lot actually,” said Blossomgame, who not only was included in the combine field in 2016, but worked out for the Sixers last year as well. He returned to Clemson for his senior campaign.
“I don’t believe in sitting out and not playing. Being able to go there again and play there really good for a consecutive year, obviously it did a lot for my confidence. It gave a lot of teams a chance to see me play some positions I haven’t played.”
Kuzma and Blossomgame each believe they possess the abilities to positively impact NBA rosters. Kuzma, who last season averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 30.8 minutes per game for the Utes, thinks his shooting – especially from NBA 3-point range – is improving, and called his passing ability “pretty darn good.” One of the more productive rebounders in the Pac-12 a year ago, he aims to “attack the glass every time.”
“Just a mindset, really,” said Kuzma, who produced 15 double-doubles in 29 games in 2016-2017. “I feel like every shot is a miss. I may get some, or I don’t, but at the end of the game, I have a lot.”
Blossomgame made defense the focal point of his senior go-round at Clemson. He hopes to one day be as versatile on that end of the floor as former Sixer Andre Iguodala.
“What stands out with him always is his energy – he looks like an NBA player,” said Vince Rozman, the Sixers’ Senior Director of Basketball Operations. “He just plays hard, he’s active defensively, he’s all over the glass. He’s improving skill-wise, he can make shots, he can put the ball on the deck a bit. He had a good day.”
With just a week and a half remaining before the draft, the momentum for Kuzma and Blossomgame seems to be moving forward. Retracing their steps, both point to the combine as being an event that represented a springboard.
“I think a lot of people saw [me] through a different lens,” Kuzma said Monday, when discussing some of the fallout he’s experienced from the combine. “It definitely paid off with a lot more workouts. It helped tremendously.”
Check back later for additional entries to today’s Notebook.