Those closely watching the Kerry Blackshear story got some pretty interesting news this week when both the NBA Combine and G League Combine released their list of attendees and the heavily sought-after Virginia Tech product wasn’t on either list.
This came as quite a shock to me as I’m big on the pro potential of the skilled 6’11” big man who averaged 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists last season leading a quality Virginia Tech team to some major wins in a difficult ACC. While the chance exists that he got an invitation but declined it that could be a bit difficult to believe though the notion of him not being invited to at least the G League Combine is also a curious outcome.
There will be 66 attendees at the NBA Combine. Some of the big men in attendance are Charles Bassey, Bol Bol, Jaxson Hayes, Killian Tillie, Daniel Gafford, Naz Reid, Bruno Fernando, PJ Washington, and many more which does show the depth of the big man class in this draft.
40 players accepted invitations to the G League showcase and some of the big men there will be Sagaba Konate, Luke Maye, Ethan Happ, and Tacko Fall.
Is there a chance he was invited to one of these combines and declined? Potentially, but right now it seems like the only players that have received an invite to the combine are lottery-type talents such as Rui Hachimura who announced last week he would be declining his invite. Blackshear declining an invite is possible, but it would be unlike anything we’ve seen for someone like him in a fringe pro position to say no to a combine.
If he truly didn’t get an invitation than that would suggest the powers at be don’t see him as a top 100-ish talent in this year’s class and that could make the chances of him returning to college more likely. While I’m personally a believer in Blackshear as a pro prospect a lot of the frontcourt players that will be at the combine are really talented and would likely be looked at ahead of him when it comes to draft day.
While Blackshear’s omission from the combine list almost certainly means he wouldn’t be drafted that doesn’t mean for sure he’ll come back to college. The back end of NBA benches are full of undrafted talent and I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if a team wanted to bring in Blackshear seeing him as a player that could be a poor man’s Al Horford. The G League salary isn’t great but that is an option he might find enticing and if he wants to start making more money right away he has a skillset extremely suited for European basketball.
Even though he wasn’t invited to either combine he is still going through the other elements of the pre-draft process and that means individual workouts and he has been to a few, most recently with the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately gleaning information from these closed-door is next to impossible so we don’t know for sure how Blackshear is doing but how he performs in these tryouts could mean the difference between whether a team wants to give him a chance or not, and therefore that could mean the difference between him going back to college or going pro.
If he were to return to college I think the fact he didn’t receive a combine invitation would really motivate him. Not getting an invitation suggests he isn’t looked upon that highly from the scouts making these decisions and that means he has a lot to prove.
The biggest issue with Blackshear from an NBA Draft standpoint is his athleticism and in a league that increasingly values run and jump ability over everything with big men he doesn’t have a natural fit. If he returns to college and decides to be a graduate transfer I think Florida needs to try to sell Blackshear on their strength and conditioning program to get him where he needs to be at this exact time next summer. Playing next to Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson could also make for some serious space for Blackshear to operate and he would also be the beneficiary of some easy points off dishes from Andrew Nembhard. From a basketball standpoint the fit really works and that doesn’t even account for the geographic ties Blackshear has to Florida.
If Blackshear returns to college he could very well be the best big man in the country next year no matter where he goes. For those waiting on his decision to return or not the news of him not being invited to a combine makes the chance he comes back much more likely and therefore Gator fans should be keeping a close eye on this one.