NBA Draft

Which NBA Draft prospects have most on line at this year's combine?

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2017 NBA Draft Combine (Getty Images)

The 2018 NBA Draft Combine will take place from Wednesday through Sunday (May 16-20) in Chicago with 69 players initially invited and expected to participate in at least some aspect of the event. North Carolina's Theo Pinson Ray Spalding are reportedly late additions to the field.

A little under two-thirds of those players will play in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the end of the week with the rest of them using the time to meet with NBA teams for interviews, conduct medical evaluations and complete physical measurements and/or athletics testing.

Here are the storylines to follow at the combine...

A few top prospects won't be at the event

If you're planning to tune into the combine to see Arizona's Deandre Ayton or Real Madrid's Luka Doncic - the two favorites to be the No. 1 pick on draft night - prepare to be disappointed. Ayton was one of two college players, along with Texas A&M's Robert Williams III, to turn down an invite to the event.

Doncic's European season, meanwhile, is still ongoing, which means he and the other top European prospects in the class won't be in attendance. Expect several NBA decision-makers to actually forgo the end of the combine in favor of heading to Serbia to see Doncic play in the EuroLeague Final Four on Friday.

A handful of mystery men will be in action

For a variety of reasons, quite a few of the prospects invited to the combine didn't actually play much, if any, college basketball this season. Most NBA fans already know Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. missed most of the season with a back injury, for example. However, there are several other participants who flew under the radar this year worth noting as well.

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South Carolina's Brian Bowen II, USC's De'Anthony Melton and Auburn's Austin Wiley all missed the college basketball season due to eligibility issues stemming from the FBI's probe into the sport. They've spent the season tuning their game without actually playing competitive basketball.

Kansas's Billy Preston also didn't play in 2017-18 due to eligibility concerns. He left the Jayhawks midseason to play for BC Igokea in the Adriatic League, but appeared in just three games before leaving the team to have a shoulder injury evaluated in the United States.

Top prospect Mitchell Robinson was once slated to attend Western Kentucky. He had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Hilltoppers over the summer that saw him flirt with leaving for Kansas or LSU before he decided to skip college all together. He spent the season training in Dallas.

High schooler Anfernee Simons will also be at the combine. This will potentially be the first chance NBA personnel have an opportunity to see him compete against this level of competition.

Between meeting with teams, participating in drills and potentially playing in the 5-on-5 games, the combine could be an opportunity for these players to re-establish themselves in the minds of NBA front offices.

Several prospects still have a decision to make

Seventeen of the 69 players invited to the combine are early entrants who have yet to make a decision on their future. Although individual team workouts and other variables will help shape their final choice, these five days in Chicago will factor in as a major piece of the puzzle. The combine can serve as a proving ground for undecided prospects or function as a wake-up call that highlights their need to improve.

Here's a look at some of the most intriguing decisions facing those still testing the waters.

Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas

Age: 18.7 | Height: 7-0 | Weight: 280

Azubuike is one of the more difficult to peg prospects attending the combine. Fifteen years ago, there's a good chance he would have been a lock to be a first-rounder. Now, there are legitimate questions about if he's even capable of playing in a league so enamored with pace and space.

The 7-footer led the nation in field goal percentage last season, is an impressive lob target around the rim and has the physical tools to be a quality rim protector. On the other hand, routing offense through big men in the post is going the way of the dinosaurs, and he struggles to keep up on the perimeter defensively, a death knell for modern bigs as the 2018 NBA playoffs have emphasized.

Azubuike's already worked out for the Lakers, and he could travel for individual sessions with several teams after the combine before making his decision ahead of the May 30 withdrawal deadline.

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Age: 21.3 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 205

The NCAA Tournament is almost always a boon for somebody's NBA stock and this year - the recipient of that boost was DiVincenzo. The Villanova reserve won Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four en route to the Wildcats' national championship.

The 6-5 shooting guard could be an interesting NBA piece. He averaged 18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per 40 minutes last season while shooting 40.1 percent from behind the arc. His ability to create his own shot is a valuable skill.

Still, his game isn't without flaws. He's a below average defender despite being a quality athlete, and it's not clear his shot creation will translate at an NBA level.

If DiVincenzo returns to school, he'll have a legitimate shot to be the National Player of the Year on a preseason top-five team, but there's a good chance his NBA stock will never be as high as it is now given his age.

Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland

Age: 19.7 | Height: 6-7 | Weight: 190

Huerter seems to be this year's beneficiary of the annual postseason review that causes draft analysts to look back on the season that was and say, "Oh! He was pretty good!" The 19-year-old Maryland sophomore averaged 17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per 40 minutes last season. He shot better than 60.0 percent on 2s and made 41.7 percent of his 3s.

Huerter's shot diversity is an attractive trait. He finished 84 possessions coming off a screen last season, tied for the 31st-highest number in Division I, per Synergy. He is also a capable spot-up shooter and ranked in the 80th percentile pulling up off the dribble, per Synergy.

Questions exist about his ability to hang physically in the NBA as he's on the skinnier side for his height, but the importance of wings in the league has never been greater. He'll face a tough decision after the combine.

Omari Spellman, C, Villanova

Age: 20.8 | Height: 6-8 | Weight: 255

Like DiVincenzo, Spellman benefited immensely from Villanova's tournament run. His ability to knock down shots from behind the arc - he shot 43.3 percent from 3 last season - and attack closeouts off the bounce made the Wildcats' offense virtually impossible to stop in March.

Those offensive skills will be attractive to NBA teams looking to stay big while playing small, but whether Spellman can offer value defensively remains a question mark. At 6-8, he'll be undersized at the center position. That's concerning given his size has limited his ability as a rim protector. He blocked just 2.1 shots per 40 minutes last season.

Spellman could return to to school with the potential to end the year on an All-American team, but similar to his teammate, his stock may never crescendo again like it has this season.

Jarred Vanderbilt, SF/PF, Kentucky

Age: 19.1 | Height: 6-9 | Weight: 214

Vanderbilt's in a weird position. He entered his freshman season in Lexington as a top-15 recruit in his high school class, but promptly missed the first 17 games of the year with a foot injury. Then, he missed the SEC and NCAA Tournaments with an ankle issue. All told, Vanderbilt played just 14 games for Kentucky.

In those contests, he was one of the best rebounders in the country, posting a 27.9 percent defensive rebounding rate while grabbing 23.2 percent of his team's offensive misses, per KenPom. However, he rarely got to show the playmaking that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of high school, as the Wildcats powered their offense through Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Vanderbilt has the potential to be a playmaking power forward in the NBA, but returning for a healthy sophomore season could be a boost to his draft positioning.

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