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2018 NBA Draft: Here are six players who can make some money by improving their stock at the combine

For the 69 players invited to the NBA Draft Combine, the next few days could be important. From Wednesday through Sunday, prospects will gather in Chicago to be scrutinized by scouts and representatives from the front office of each NBA team.  At stake is millions of dollars.

So who has a chance at standing out in Chicago? It’s an unpredictable errand, trying to project who will perform best (but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun and try.) Let’s look back to verdicts in recent years. In 2012, we reported that Damian LillardDion Waiters, Royce White, Perry Jones III, Meyers Leonard and Andrew Nicholson were the most impressive prospects. Reports from 2013 had Cody Zeller, Ricky Ledo, Steven Adams and Shane Larkin as winners. Two years ago, in 2016, the likes of Cheick DialloJaron Blossomgame, Key Felder and Joel Bolomboy stood out. 

Bear in mind that some of the players invited will not participate in all combine activities, and in fact some who have been invited might wind up skipping the event altogether. Arizona superstar frosh Deandre Ayton is conspicuously absent from this list because he and his agent already made it known that he would not be attending the event. Texas A&M’s Robert Williams is in the same boat as Ayton. 

As some players drop out, others who missed the cut will probably get an RSVP. The overall value of the combine remains a point of debate among NBA scouts; it’s seen by plenty as much less vital than the NFL‘s combine, and even that spectacle has grown into something so much more media-driven than what it set about to be all those decades ago.

But the NBA combine does provide critical opportunities for NBA teams to run medical tests on prospects, get updated measurements (with and without shoes!), see up-close athletic testing and conduct interviews. For certain players, it’s a pivotal opportunity to make a lasting impression that could pay off more than a month later: draft night. 

Six players who could be combine surprises

There is no one type of prospect that is sure to blow scouts and general managers away, but here are some players — guys projected outside of the lottery — to keep an eye on when the combine kicks of May 16.

2017-18 stats: 13.1 ppg | 4.8 rpg | 2.5 apg | 48.2 2-pt% | 35.9 3-pt %

If you put up the numbers Alkins did and are considered an underachiever, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Alkins’ athleticism is going to get him drafted, I think. He’ll shine in that regard at the combine, and his drill work could separate him from a lot of prospects in that 45-70 range. Arizona was led last season by Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier, so Alkins was somewhat overlooked. He’s got the ability to go from fringe pick to surefire second-rounder if he aces the combine. 

2017-18 stats: 15.9 ppg | 5.6 rpg | 2.9 apg | 2.1 spg | 62.3 2-pt% | 38.5 3-pt %

A junior wing who played for a bad team in the American. Yep, you probably have no idea who this guy is, but guess what? He’s got a shot at going in the first round. Frazier boasts a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is a top-20 defender and athlete in this year’s draft crop, engages on both ends of the floor and has developed a reliable jump shot. He’s got a great shot at standing out at the combine because there’s plenty for him to prove — yet he’s already viewed as a lock to be picked. He’ll probably go through all the drills and five-on-five play, and if shines, it could bump him into the low 20s. 

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2017-18 stats: 14.8 ppg | 5.0 rpg | 3.4 apg | 60.0 2-pt% | 41.4 3-pt %

Since about midway through his freshman season I thought, Huerter would wind up being the best pro to come out of Maryland on that team or last season’s squad. The Terrapins’ sophomore trio of Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan was a stable, but still inconsistent, group last season. Jackson suffered injury, while Huerter made a big jump in production and efficiency. Athletically he’s not going to blow scouts away, but Huerter is a good example of someone who can “win” at the combine without jumping 40 inches or acing the shuttle run. He’s a borderline great scorer and shooter, someone who could wind up a sleeper pick in this year’s draft if he plays up to his skill level in Chicago. Plenty of prospects help themselves at the combine outside of how they jump, run the lane and bench press. 

2017-18 stats: 10.8 ppg | 7.6 rpg | 3.2 apg | 51.0 2-pt% 

A distinct shot-blocker. There has been no one to come out of college in the past seven or eight years who can so carefully, and yet so forcefully, block shots at the rim like Konate. Physically, he’s going to impress. Has a great chance to surprise at the combine in a lot of the athletic drills because of where he’s from: playing for Bob Huggins in that Press Virginia scheme could work out well for Konate. He’s not an offensive option, so a ceiling is absolutely above him in terms of where he could get picked, but Konate is such a specimen on defense that he could become a high-level rim protector for a decade in the NBA. With him, it’s all about acing the drills. Otherwise, he could return to college and be the frontrunner for national defensive player of the year. 

 Shake Milton, SMU

2017-18 stats: 18.0 ppg | 4.7 rpg | 4.4 apg | 46.2 2-pt% | 43.4 3-pt %

Milton missed the final 11 games of SMU’s season due to a hand injury, but the fact the junior got an invite to the combine is a positive development. At 6-6 and approximately 205 pounds, Milton is a bit off the radar at this point. He didn’t play for a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season, and injuries kept him out of the picture in February and March. So in a lot of ways, he’s got a great chance to surprise. Milton could thrive in five-on-five play, and his playmaking ability combined with natural scoring instinct will probably ensure he goes top-40. But if he shows up with something to prove and winds up completing drill work to the best of his abilities, the first round could be in his future. 

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 2017-18 stats: 15.1 ppg | 4.4 rpg | 2.8 apg | 63.2 2-pt% | 41.6 3-pt %

A top-three two-way player in this draft, Thomas can surprise at the combine in this regard: if he charts so well in drills, and opts to play in five-on-five, he might well push himself into the lottery. For a player who was ranked 326th in his high school class, that’s a great coming-of-age basketball story. Thomas has an NBA body, athleticism for the league and can shoot reliably from 22 feet. His wingspan is 6-foot-11. He’s perhaps the most promising prospect, currently, who’s not projected in the eyes of most to go in the top 20. That could easily change by May 17 or 18. 

Combine expected attendees  

Players with an asterisk are still eligible to return to school. 

Original Article on CBSSports.com: https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/2018-nba-draft-here-are-six-players-who-can-make-some-money-by-improving-their-stock-at-the-combine/