20130126_mjr_su5_020

There is something to be said about a bunch of rich men sitting around, watching, taking notes, poking/prodding and analyzing which of the many options will be the best asset for them. What is the best investment or which will make them the most revenue?

Having said that, the NBA Draft Combine is basically just that as NBA hopefuls walk around the fields of the hardwood for the cattle ranching NBA decision-makers looking for the best.

The NBA Draft Combine services as a stock assessment for a prospect as those invited are selected by NBA teams specifically. They get a ballot of a few hundred names and select 60 of them to come to Chicago, Illinois to workout for three days with them in attendance. This year the list actually ballooned up to 63 total prospects with three extra invitees getting the last minute call to join the group due to a miscue.

Over the past four years the NBA Draft Combine has shown some semblance of consistency to the draft itself.

Since 2009 the NBA Draft Combine has provided 85.4% of the picks in the draft. That is 205 of the 240 total draft picks. Not a slam dunk, but those invited are typically the ones that hear their name on draft night from either David Stern or Adam Silver. The 14.6% that are not invited (or the 35 players) are in most cases the European stash players picks that we all know and love or international prospects that are not able to attend because of scheduling conflicts with their teams overseas.

This year only Rudy Gobert (France) and Dennis Schroeder (Germany) were invited as non-college prospects. They are not the only top level international prospects this year as Sergey Karasev (Russia), Dario Saric (Croatia), Mouhammadou Jaiteh (France), Livio Jean-Charles (France), and Lucas Nogueira (Brazil) are all first round talents.

Here is a full list of the participants that will be updated with measurements as they are released:

2013 NBA Draft Combine Participant List

Logistics:

Thursday: ESPNU from 7am-2pm local time

Friday: ESPNU from 7am-2:30pm local time

It is not just the international talent that will be noticeably absent from the Combine as three Top 10 talents will not be able to do more than general measurements. Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, and Alex Len all had surgery to repair injuries that will keep them off the court for the Combine.

Does that matter?

No, it does not. The Combine is not competitive by nature from an athletic standpoint and is basically a dog and pony show for prospects to talk to the media, teams, and get their official measurements.

The only way prospects can have a bad Combine "performance" is if they do not measure out well for their position or insert their own foot into their mouth. See Travis Leslie for that one from back in 2011 when he was insulted with a Tony Allen comparison. The same Tony Allen that became a vital member of the Boston Celtics NBA Championship in 2008 and this years Defensive Player of the Year runner-up. Where is Travis Leslie today?

What matter? Size matters.

A few prospects to keep an eye on to see how they measure out in the NBA's game of inches are Victor Oladipo (listed at 6-5), Trey Burke (listed at 6-1), Shane Larkin (listed at 5-11), Isaiah Canaan (listed at 6-0), Andre Roberson (listed at 6-7), and Cody Zeller (listed at 6-11) to see if they lose and inch or two.

Losing an inch gives up a mile in the NBA, especially for point guards like Burke, Larkin, and Canaan. The gap between finishing at the rim in college and finishing in the NBA are spread about as far apart as possible. Playing the point guard position at 5-10 or 5-9.75 is immensely more difficult than at 6-2 or 6-4 as the position has trended more towards over the past half decade.

Lottery Picks in Attendance

Despite the lack of four potential lottery picks due to injury and international team responsibilities; the top prospects will be in attendance for the most part. They will only do their due diligence with measurements, but Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, Shabazz Muhammad, Cody Zeller, and Mason Plumlee will all be in Chicago.

Because of the few that will not be in attendance others will have a chance to make an impression on teams to take them in the lottery.

Potential Risers

Fringe lottery talents like Jamaal Franklin, C.J. McCollum, Gorgui Dieng, Kelly Olynyk, and Schroeder all have a chance to rise up. Franklin, Dieng, and Schroeder are terrific athletes that can open eyes while McCollum and Olynyk can silence doubters about their perceived limitations athletically.

Late first rounders for Suns fans

As of today I have the Suns taking Victor Oladipo and Lucas Nogueira in the most current Mock Draft that was updated today. Depending on how the team handles their lottery pick there will be a nice allotment of talent at No. 30 for them to choose from.

If they go small (Oladipo) early then some potential big men for them to consider are Nogueira (C, Brazil), Steven Adams (C, Pittsburgh), Richard Howell (PF, N.C. State), Jaiteh (F/C, France), and sleeper Colton Iverson (C, Colorado State). All could be groomed to replace or back-up Marcin Gortat.

Say they go big early, then Allen Crabbe (SG, California), Brandon Paul (SG, Illinois), Lorenzo Brown (G, N.C. State), Tim Hardaway Jr. (G/F, Michigan) and sleeper Nemanja Nedovic (G, Serbia) become the targets.

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20121214_mjr_su5_038

Marcin Gortat was outstanding in 2011-12, his first full season as the Suns' starting center. The Polish [insert noun of choice here] put up a double-double with over 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and was a devastating finisher in the pick-and-roll alongside Steve Nash.

With Nash's departure, a drop in production was to be expected. However, I don't know how many of us expected to see his numbers decline across the board. Gortat was still effective and his numbers aren't bad by any means, but due to a combination of a couple different factors, he was not the difference maker he was the year before.

THE NUMBERS

Gortat saw a decrease in points, field goal makes, field goal attempts, field goal percentage, rebounding and PER from a season ago. He put up his lowest true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage since his rookie year. He put up career lows in win shares per 48 minutes, total rebound percentage and offensive rating.

Some of this drop-off in play can be attributed to losing one of the greatest distributors in the history of the game. However, Gortat is a good player and more than simply a product of Nash. There has to be more to his decline than simply getting a new point guard.

Grading Gortat with respect to his peers

There are 34 centers that played at least 20 minutes per game in at least 40 games this season. Among those, Gortat ranks 24th in points per 40 minutes (14.5), 19th in rebounds per 40 (11.0), 14th in field goal percentage (52.1) and 10th in blocked shots per 40 (2.1). That averages out to about 17th out of 34 regular rotation centers. Right in the middle gets him a C.

Grading Gortat with respect to expectations

Gortat's per 36 averages of 13.0 points, 9.9 rebounds and 52.1 field goal percentage were below his career averages of 13.9, 11.1 and 54.7. However, those are still pretty solid numbers for an NBA center, and he did lead the Suns in rebounds, blocked shots and field goal percentage.

Considering expectations and Gortat's ability versus actual production, I'd give Gortat a C-.

Grading Gortat with respect to improvement

I think it's pretty clear from the above numbers that Gortat did not improve, and in fact took a step back in his play. That gets him an F.

GORTAT'S ROLE

Gortat had a very clear role last year. With Nash at the point, Phoenix spread the floor with shooters and ran the pick-and-roll on almost every single play. Gortat's role on offense was to set good screens and roll to the rim, and he did it very well.

However, this year's team was very different. Instead of pick-and-roll maestro Nash, Gortat had the more aggressive Goran Dragic running the point. Instead of sharp-shooting Channing Frye spacing the floor at power forward, he had Luis Scola whose range only extends out to about 18 feet. Instead of the likes of a more effective Shannon Brown, Michael Redd and Grant Hill, Gortat had the likes of Michael Beasley and P.J. Tucker on the wing; guys other teams don't respect nearly as much.

When Gortat set screens, Dragic came off looking to shoot far more often than Nash did. When Gortat did roll down the lane, he often found one or two extra defenders clogging the lane instead of staying home on shooters. Often enough, Gortat didn't even attempt to roll, knowing that Dragic was either going to shoot himself or that he wouldn't find much room to operate anyway.

Grading Gortat's fulfillment of his role

The truth is, Gortat and the rest of the roster did not mesh. The composition of the roster did not allow him to play his game. However, as Gortat said back in April, that shouldn't matter.

"I learned from a great great coach, Stan Van Gundy," Gortat said. "I learned one thing it doesn't matter what going on around, you got to come out every single night. If you don't do that, there's a 1000 kids behind you ready to get your spot."

Gortat didn't do that this year. There were plenty of games where he didn't show up and was a complete nonfactor. He struggled to finish plays on a regular basis. He didn't give it his all.

Gortat was put in a difficult situation and he by no means failed, but he definitely did not play as well as he should have. Splitting the difference between failing and excelling, he gets a C for having a very average season.

CONCLUSION AND OVERALL GRADE

Marcin Gortat just didn't fit on this team. He also has one more year on his very affordable contract. At 29 years old, he is in the tail-end of the prime of his career. Considering these three factors, and the fact that as a quality center Gortat should have solid value on the open market, it is probably time to trade him for assets to help in the Suns' rebuild.

However, there is no need to just give him away. If the Suns can't find a deal that gives them solid value in return, it's not the end of the world. With a few new players on the wing, a new coaching staff and more time to build chemistry with Dragic, I would expect a better season next year from Gortat. He's not a great fit for this roster, but that doesn't really matter as this roster is not good and should be shaken up as much as possible. Perhaps the new coach can better utilize his strengths. Then when his contract is up, the Suns can re-evaluate. Gauge the market, decide whether or not they want to keep him around, and move on from there. Worst case scenario, the Suns get some more cap space for 2014-15 when the team may be ready to make a splash in free agency.

Averaging together his grades, it gives him a C-: a below-average grade for a below-average season.

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