Kevin Durant had one of the most unforgettable performances in the history of the NBA combine.
He went to the bench-press, got 185 pounds of metal and… didn’t lift it once.
Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Durant said, as he readjusted his body to get comfortable in his seat. “All the strength coaches were laughing at me and s—. They were giggling with each other that I couldn’t lift 185 pounds, and I was like, ‘All right, keep laughing. Keep laughing.’ It was a funny thing, because I was the only one that couldn’t lift it and I was struggling to lift it. I was embarrassed at that point, but I’m like, ‘Give me a basketball, please. Give me a ball.’ “
Durant also looked relatively unathletic in speed and agility testing, and his jumping tests produced mediocre results. He was probably unlikely to pass Greg Oden for the No. 1 pick, but the combine helped solidify Durant as No. 2.
It has worked out for Durant, who is in the midst of a great NBA career. Soon to cash on another mega deal, as soon as this summer with the Warriors, he won’t miss the difference in earnings from his one-pick fall.
But other prospects have slipped further after the combine and regretted it more – and Durant can still relate.
When asked what advice he would give to a potential lottery pick, he responded without hesitation, “Don’t go [to the combine].”
“… If you’re a top-10 pick or a first-round pick or whatever and you know you might be guaranteed, stay your ass home, work out and get better on your own time.”
“It’s good for guys who are trying to fight their way into the first round, fight their way into the draft … go to play,” Durant added. “But if you’re like a top pick and you know you’re going to be a top pick, just work out. Just work on your game and then they’ll see you in the individual workouts; and they’ve been watching you all year, so your whole body of work is more important than just going there for a couple of days.”
This is sound advice, and agents are wising up. Top prospects have more to lose than gain at the combine. They might work their way up a couple picks, but there’s room to fall dozens of spots.
The draft process is already tilted so heavily in favor of teams. Could you imagine being told coming out of college which single company in your field acquired exclusive hiring rights, that it would pay you a predetermined salary, that you couldn’t solicit other offers? If you were likely to receive one of the highest predetermined salaries, you probably would try not to jeopardize that.
There’s always talk about the league and union “fixing the combine” to get more top prospects to participate. But not much can be done. Draft prospects are not yet NBA employees. The league can’t force rules upon them.
So, for the select prospects with more to lose than gain, they’ll avoid the risk of being the next laughingstock at the bench-press.