Draft hopefuls and NBA talent evaluators descended upon Chicago on Wednesday for the start of the 2014 NBA Draft combine. Business picks up Thursday and Friday with the on-court portions of the league's most notable pre-draft gathering. Here's what you need to know about this year's combine:
WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT
The big story is how the draft's top three prospects -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid -- are skipping the event. A total of 60 prospects are still expected for the combine, though many of the bigger names will sit out certain drills to protect their draft stock.
Each team can hold up to 18 30-minute interviews with draft hopefuls over a three-day span starting Wednesday. This might be the most important aspect of the gathering, allowing teams to really get inside prospects' heads for the first time. The on-court portion begins on Thursday with athletic testing and group workouts over a two-day span. Typically, players are broken into groups by position before being measured (height with shoes and without; weight; wingspan; hand size) and going through the athletic testing (bench press; vertical jump; lane agility; 3/4-court sprint).
YOUR TICKET TO THE COMBINE
ESPN2 and ESPNU will televise a total of 10 hours of live combine coverage from Quest Multi-Sport Complex on Thursday and Friday. Both days, ESPNU will televise three hours of coverage from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., before ESPN2 provides coverage from 1-3 p.m. The NBA Draft Combine will also be available via WatchESPN. Hop HERE for more info on the TV coverage.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he doesn't put much stock in the athletic testing that takes place at the combine and that Boston often leans instead on its own testing performed when draft picks visit the practice facility for pre-draft workouts. So what will Ainge be watching for in Chicago? "Body language, attention span, mechanics," said Ainge. Most of the draft hopefuls have spent recent weeks prepping for both the interview and athletic testing portions of the event and will be ready for those moments. It's how they perform when they don't know what's coming (or that they're being studied from afar) that might be key in Ainge's evaluations.
WHO TO WATCH?
With the top three names out of the event, the spotlight is likely to fall heavily on Australia's Dante Exum. The 6-foot-6 point guard doesn't turn 19 until two weeks after the draft. ... Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are the other top names on Chad Ford's Big Board that will be trying to make a case to be a top selection. ... Noah Vonleh is a Haverhill product and, sitting at No. 7 on Ford's big board, there's a chance he could be one of Boston's potential selections if the team doesn't vault into a top spot at next week's lottery. ... From the Celtics' perspective, there will be a lot of interest in guys that might still be on the board for their second first-round pick at No. 17. ... Shabazz Napier, who played his high school ball locally at Charlestown and Lawrence Academy before leading UConn to a national title, is trying to continue his climb up draft boards.