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What is the NBA Draft Combine and how to train for it?

Updated on May 17, 2024
8 mins read

The average pay of an NBA athlete was $8.2million for the 2020/2021 season. When a team is willing to pay that much to a player, they only expect the best performance and nothing less. To evaluate an athlete’s fitness, practice, and playing level, the NBA Draft Combine is held.

The combine is a multi-day event where everything regarding the players from athletic evaluation to physical fitness testing. If you are a player looking to compete in the NBA combine or a coach preparing your basketball players for it, this article covers everything you need to know on the topic in full detail.

It’s Not Like the NFL Combine

The NBA Draft combine is very similar yet vastly different from the NFL Combine. The respective league officials are invited to a central location in both of these events. The officials have a look at the players and evaluate them physically and medically.

However, the NBA draft consists of just two rounds as opposed to the seven smaller rosters of the NFL combine. The number of players competing in the NBA draft is also typically lesser than NFL. For example, there were 69 attendees in the 2021 NBA draft and more than 300 in the NFL combine.

The NFL draft combine event consists of drills and athletic testing, whereas in the NBA combine, the players also compete in 5v5 scrimmages, making it more of a public event.

What is the NBA Draft Combine?

The sole purpose of the NBA draft combine is to evaluate and rank prospective players according to their fitness and ability. The event is typically held in May, before the NBA Draft in June. The process can be divided into three parts, drills, scrimmages, psychiatric evaluation, and physical fitness and athletic performance stats.

Dividing the Players

The first step is to divide the players according to the responsibility they are going to have in the game. The groups of players formed at this stage are:

  • Point guards.
  • Shooting guards.
  • Small forwards.
  • Power forwards.
  • Centers.

The instructors then run specific drills in each group corresponding to the players’ responsibility in that group. These drills are just like the ones done in basketball camps but at an advanced professional level. The most popular ones of these include:

  • Three-man weaves.
  • Two-on-one fast breaks.
  • Stop-and-pop at the cone.

The goal of these drills is to test the players’ comfort level while they perform their duties.

After the drills, the players are tested and evaluated based on how they perform in the game and their physical fitness and athletic performance stats.

What Type of Testing Happens During the NBA Combine?

The testing in the NBA Combine Test can be divided into three parts:

The ‘Eye Test’ and Scrimmages

This is the most high-profile part of the NBA Draft Combine. The players are divided into groups of 5, and scrimmages are arranged. While it is entertainment for basketball fans worldwide, it is the ideal opportunity for the team managers to judge and evaluate players’ performance in the real game. These things cannot be otherwise tested or reflected in stats.

Physical Athletic Testing

The final round of the combine is all about stats. The physical fitness level and the athletic performance of players are tested using quantitative measures.

The athletic evaluation consists of:

  • No step vertical jump
  • Max vertical jump
  • Bench Press
  • Lane Agility (lateral movement, stop-start acceleration, etc.)
  • 3/4 Court Sprint

The physical testing measures include:

  • Height without shoes
  • Height with shoes
  • Weight
  • Wingspan
  • Standing Reach
  • Body Fat
  • Hand size/width

Psychiatric Evaluation

The goal of psychiatric evaluation is to determine the ten core dynamics of the players. These are:

  • Team identity
  • Mental toughness
  • Awareness
  • Dominance
  • Internal motivation
  • Leadership potential
  • Adaptability
  • Influence and presence
  • Accepts instruction
  • Resistance to burnout

How to Build a Basketball Training Program for the Combine?

Suppose we have a critical look at the procedure of the NBA Draft combine. In that case, the test mainly focuses on the following core abilities of the players:

  • Visual-spatial processing.
  • Reaction time.
  • Decision-making under pressure.
  • Agility.

So, when making a basketball training program, you need to incorporate drills that focus on improving the efficiency of the players in these areas. The thing to note is that the competition is among the best players in the nation, so the basketball training program devised needs to be nothing short of perfection.

Drills for NBA Draft Combine Preparation Training Program

The drills we are going to discuss do not include playing basketball. That’s because those drills are already a part of your basketball training program. We are focusing on the improvement of core skills of the players that will ultimately make them better players and help them perform better in the NBA combine test.

Visual and Spatial Processing Drill

Visual and spatial processing is a person’s ability to process visual stimuli to develop an understanding of the spatial relationship between different objects. The cognitive functions required for this skill are perception, memory, attention, language, motor skills, and executive functions.

This drill can help players improve this aspect of their game.

Drill Setup:
  • Place ten cones in a self-devised pattern.
  • Place one Blazepod pod on each of the cones.
  • The player starts at one end of the arrangement of cones.
  • All pods are set to different colors.
Drill Execution:
  1. The player starts tapping the pods after the signal from the trainer.
  2. At the end of the cones, the player has to tell the sequence of the colors of the pods.
  3. Repeat this drill 4 to 5 times.

Reaction Time Improvement Drill

Reaction time is the time taken by a player to detect an external stimulus and consciously react to it. As basketball is a fast-paced game, reaction time is very important to perform well in it. Here’s a simple drill with Blazepod pods that can help improve the reaction time of players.

Drill Setup:
  • Place five Blazepod Pods on the ground in the shape of the five on a dice.
  • The player is stationed at the center of the shape formed by the pods.
Drill Execution:
  1. Set the pods to light up randomly around the player.
  2. The player has to tap any of the pods that light up.
  3. Continue the drill for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Note the stats from the Blazepod app and see how the players are improving over time.

Decision-Making Drill

To perform in a competitive sport like basketball, the players have to make decisions quickly and under a lot of pressure. To make that easy for the players, it is a must to incorporate decision-making drills in your basketball training program. Here’s a drill that can help your players improve on this.

Drill Setup:
  • Place four blazepods in a line, 6 inches apart from each other.
  • Position two players, facing each other on opposite sides of the pods.
Drill Execution:
  1. The pods are set to light up in random colors.
  2. The players are instructed to tap a specific color that appears every time.
  3. The player to tap that color first wins.
  4. Continue the drill for 10-12 minutes.

Agility Improvement Drill

Agility can be defined as the ability to rapidly change the direction of the body with speed and accuracy. It is probably the single most important skill to have to be great at basketball. Luckily for players, this skill can be learned through practice and drills. One simple drill that can be very useful to improve agility is as follows:

Drill Setup
  • Place 4 Blazepod pods on the ground, 4 feet from each other, to form a square.
  • Name each corner of the square, for example, A, B, C, D.
  • Position the player at the center of the square to start the drill.
Drill Execution:
  1. The instructor commands the player to move to a specific corner and tap the pod when the drill starts. For example, shuffle right to A, or run back to B.
  2. The drill should be carried out for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. The performance stats and improvement of the player can be calculated from the Blazepod app.

Three-Ball Dribbling Drill

After all, it is basketball, and the training program cannot be complete without a typical dribbling drill. Here’s an advanced dribbling drill that will benefit the players during the scrimmages and the ‘eye test’ at the combine.

Drill Setup:

All that you need for this drill is one player and three balls.

Drill Execution:

The only instruction for the player is to dribble all three balls so that none of them bounce twice without them touching. It might seem simple, but it is a tough drill and will help the player improve in the dribbling area.

Tips based on NBA Combine Results and Stats

If you have a detailed look at the NBA Draft Combine stats for the 2021-22 season, five key takeaways can help the players train and prepare smartly for the competition:

  1. Even though the least lane agility time was 10.45 seconds by Scottie Lewis, most of the players are under the 11-second mark, so you’ll be better off preparing just to beat 11 seconds rather than investing your energies to break into the lower 10s. It would be a smart choice to use your time and energy to improve in other areas.
  2. The shuttle run and three-quarter sprint times are the most competitive. The lowest time was 2.99 and 2.98 seconds, respectively, and the maximum was just over 3.5 seconds. This is an area where you need to improve as much as you can.
  3. The body fat percentage of players ranged from 4% to above 17%. It is not advisable to go for 17%, as that affects other performance areas; pursuing 4% is not the ideal choice either.
  4. Many players have 100% accuracy in different categories, but no one is 100% accurate in all of them, or even half. That means you need to focus on what you specialize in and try to get 100% in that rather than going for a lot of categories and not performing perfectly in any of them.
  5. The maximum vertical leap stands at a whopping 48 inches, but that is not an act you need to follow. The very next player is at 44 inches, and the number sharply declines to 29.5 inches. Here, again, you do not need to go for the maximum numbers. Anything over 40 inches is excellent.

In Conclusion

The NBA Draft combine is an event where players are tested and evaluated before the teams bid to have them on their side. This multi-day event consists of screening the players according to their physical, athletic, and mental fitness.

We have listed some of the drills and some stat-based tips to help the players perform well in the combine and get a better rank. If you are an athlete or a coach, consider using Blazepod pods to keep track of your performance or that of your players.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a combine for the NBA?

Yes, there is a combine for the NBA. It is called the NBA Draft Combine and consists of up to one week of testing various aspects of prospective players’ fitness and athletic abilities.

What does the NBA combine consist of?

The NBA Combine divides the players into categories, psychiatric evaluation, 5v5 scrimmages, and physical and athletic testing.

How do you get into the NBA Combine?

You need to start playing basketball from high school level. If you are on your high school basketball team, you can get into the college team, which would be your entry into the NBA Combine. Most of the players are selected from colleges. The NBA sends invitations to distinctive athletes, and only they can attend the combine.

How many players get invited to the NBA Combine?

The NBA Combine usually invites less than 100 players every year. In the 2021-22 season, 69 players were invited to the event.

What is the NBA combine vertical jump record?

Keon Johnson currently holds the NBA Combine vertical jump record. He recorded a jump of 48 inches in the 2021-22 season.

What is the NBA combine bench press record?

The NBA bench press record currently stands at 27 reps @ 185lbs, held by Jason Keep. This record was set in 2003.

Is there an NBA draft combine every year?

Yes, the NBA combine is held every year in May, before the NBA Draft typically happens in June.