CHICAGO -- The annual NBA Draft Combine, a nearly week-long spectacle where some of the top prospects can showcase themselves in front of NBA teams and talent evaluators, has officially come and gone, ticking off one of the most important and consequential pre-draft boxes of the cycle. Now we sit back, marinate, reflect and digest.
Today we'll do that with a look back at the week's winners and losers. If you've been following along in this space throughout the week, you'll already be in the know about, , Isaiah Wong, Seth Lundy, Toumani Camara and some other standouts. So we won't waste space here regurgitating more of the same. You or . This will instead be a high-level overview of what I heard and saw from the week and my impression of players' stock -- either good or bad -- after a long week in the Windy City. Some names in this space may be recurring characters, but this will largely be fresh faces in fresh spaces to fill gaps in coverage unfilled this week.
Let's dive in.
Winner: Amari Bailey shows versatility
The start of the week for Bailey -- a potential one-and-done from UCLA -- was disastrously bad in the team scrimmage portion. Ugly turnover here, bad finish at the rim there. But he flipped a switch and turned it up a notch from there and really didn't look back. In two scrimmages he finished with 36 points and 14 assists, standing out especially as a playmaker and facilitator. Bailey was sparingly used as a freshman with the Bruins and even less so did he have opportunities to run the offense, but he showed serious ability as a combo guard who could create looks with good vision.
UCLA's Amari Bailey had a big platform to showcase himself in an outsized role at the NBA draft combine and capitalized by posting 36 points, 14 assists in 50 minutes of action through two games. Showed his excellent ball-handling ability, pace, vision and creativity in PnR. pic.twitter.com/i5lFXy21bw— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 19, 2023
Winner: Keyonte George stars in pro day
George wasn't a participant in five-on-five work nor did he participate in shuttles, measurements or drills. But he made the most of his time in the spotlight, albeit brief, at his pro day earlier in the week. George showed off impressive athleticism with some above-the-rim finishes and showed off his range -- both literally from a distance perspective and from a variety perspective -- of shot-making versatility.
Keyonte George put on an impressive solo workout in front of NBA execs to close out the LIFT Pro Day.— Jon Chepkevich (@JonChep) May 19, 2023
Has always been a dynamic scorer w/ immense natural talent, but now seems to have taken the next step to get his body right.
Looks to be in the best shape of his career. pic.twitter.com/9wdHu0V2rO
It feels a little bit like George had lost some steam of late in draft circles -- especially after a freshman season at Baylor where he was more of a volume scorer -- but the former five-star, top-10 talent looks the part of a lottery pick. He made a good impression on teams this week.
Loser: Detroit Pistons' lottery fortunes
In a perfect universe, Detroit brass is headed home from Chicago with some stellar deep dish in their belly and the rights to draft Victor Wembanyama to pair next to Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. A perfect universe, this is not. Detroit instead shockingly fell all the way to No. 5 on lottery night despite having the worst record in the NBA last season, the lowest faller from pre-lottery statistical likelihoods. I'm bullish on who the team can get in that spot -- and I think that front office has scouted and drafted at a really high level with recent selections of Cunningham, Ivey and Jalen Duren -- but the tier drop from potentially landing Wembanyama to, say, Cam Whitmore or one of the Thompson twins is a bit of a gut punch for the franchise.
Winner: Brandin Podziemski shines
A year ago around this time, Santa Clara star Jalen Williams -- then viewed as a possible late first or early second round prospect -- had a big week at the NBA Draft Combine and ultimately played his way up to the No. 12 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. This year, it was once again a Santa Clara star shining bright in Chicago, with Brandin Podziemski taking the torch and running. A former four-star recruit who spent one season at Illinois before his one season at Santa Clara, Podziesmki answered a ton of questions about his athletic abilities with a nearly 40-inch vertical and looked plenty comfortable operating on and off the ball in the scrimmage setting. He played so well on day one of scrimmages that it was a bit of a surprise to see him play again on day two, in fact. There's no doubt about his draft status though -- he's 100% committed to the draft and won't be coming back to school. Could have played his way into a top-30 selection in this class.
Winner: Trey Alexander wows
There were plenty of buzzy names this week but Creighton combo guard Trey Alexander -- especially early in the week -- was one of the most buzzy. Once seen as a super athlete who was raw, Alexander at Creighton has blossomed as an on- and off-the-ball creator the last few years, and he separated himself in the scrimmage setting with his ability to get to the rim and create at will. Alexander was already a top-30 player on the CBS Sports Big Board prospect rankings -- and after this week it wouldn't surprise if the NBA, which has generally not been quite as high on him -- comes around to viewing him in a similar light. If he returns to college he could be one of the biggest stars in the game next season, but staying in the draft -- after the week he just had -- may wind up being a seriously viable option for him now.
Loser: Houston Rockets
The Rockets are plenty accustomed to tallying losses these last few years, so this should be familiar territory for the franchise. With 14% odds to win the lottery, they were -- outside of the Pistons -- the most unlucky team in Tuesday's lottery, falling all the way to the No. 4 pick. A lottery win would have netted them Wembanyama to pair next to a young core of Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith, but instead they have that core and are ... Good luck with that, Houston! I'm sure that will go well!
Loser: Combine participation
This might be the final year combine participation is lacking -- the new declined to participate this week. That included the likes of Brandon Miller, Scoot Henderson, Leonard Miller, Jarace Walker, the Thompson twins, Gradey Dick and others, all of whom project as lottery talents.-- but it sure sticks out as a big item this week. Nearly 40 players -- a lot of which project as first-round picks --
Loser: G League Elite Camp's call-up system
Combine week went off without a hitch between drills, measurements, scrimmages and media stuff, so it's difficult to actually lodge any complaint about the event. I really wouldn't change more than one thing. But I would maybe change one thing: the call-up system for G League Elite players to the Combine. As Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman noted, teams who cast votes for players to earn call-ups from Elite Camp to the Combine have no real incentive to be honest. Some teams may be going as far as to purposely not vote for players that stood out at the Elite Camp to limit their exposure or try and keep them hidden. It happens every year. This year it felt like Olivier Nkamhoua, Collin Castleton, and Drew Peterson were all snub candidates that played well enough to earn a Combine invite but did not.