5-on-5 returning to draft combine

ByChad Ford ESPN logo
Friday, October 3, 2014

After considering a proposal from its competition committee, the NBA will bring back 5-on-5 competition for next year's draft combine, league sources told ESPN.com.

General managers and scouts have been complaining for years that the lack of competition between prospects at the annual draft showcase lessens the scouting value of the combine. Since 2009, the NBA has had the 60 or so prospects invited to the combine run through various shooting and ballhandling drills with some minor simulated 3-on-2 action.

Prior to 2009, the league utilized a 5-on-5 format at what was then called "the pre-draft camp" in Orlando, Florida, and Chicago. However, then-commissioner David Stern changed the format early in 2009 after teams complained that the top prospects were no longer participating in the games. The pre-draft camp had devolved into a series of meaningless pickup games between mostly second-round prospects.

The switch to the new drills-based format opened space for more of the top prospects to participate. However, in the past few years, numerous top prospects have refused to participate even in the drills portion of the combine.

In 2012, 11 players -- Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters, Jared Sullinger, Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers and Arnett Moultrie refused to participate in the drills.

In 2013, the numbers were equally poor. Ben McLemore, Otto Porter Jr., Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams, Cody Zeller, Dennis Schroder and Mason Plumlee all bailed on the drills section.

Last spring, things took a turn for the worse. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid decided to skip the combine altogether. And many of the top players who did show, including Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott, chose to bypass the performance tests and take part only in the portion for physical measurements.

Most of the time, these decisions are made by the players' agents.

With so many top prospects no longer participating at the combine, and the league fearing that the problem will grow, the NBA now believes that it might be better off returning to the old format. Officials understand that none of the top prospects is likely to play in the event. But it gives a chance for teams to get a better handle on the 40 or so prospects who would play in the games.

In an unrelated development Friday, the Kentucky men's program will host an unprecedented scouting combine next week to showcase its talent for NBA scouts. The two-hour practice will be televised live on ESPNU.

Kentucky coach John Calipari dismissed the idea that the combine will make the players consider the NBA.

"Someone said, you'll make them think about the NBA? Excuse me. They all do. Even the walk-ons," Calipari said. "It creates a base for me to build with each individual kid and what I need to do. All 30 teams will be here my first week of practice. Now it's all controlled and organized. How long [can] I keep the [NBA scouts] out? I don't know. It could be weeks or months. I will have all the information I need to help each of one of these kids."

ESPN.com's Andy Katz contributed to this report.

Related Video