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Hawkeyes shine in NBA Combine

Joe Wieskamp & Luka Garza’s performances last week boosted their draft stock

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NBA: NBA:Combine David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Joe Wieskamp & Luka Garza participated in the NBA Combine. While the event does not necessarily lend itself to huge leaps or falls on draft boards, it does provide the public insight into what many teams do when prospects are brought in for private workouts.

Both Hawkeyes did well, with the two turning heads with their measurables. Garza missed the two scrimmages due to a groin injury but did tick some boxes that may have been missing this time last year.

Notable measurements

Joe Wieskamp: 6’7” with shoes, 6’11” wingspan, 4% body fat, 42 inch max vertical (4th highest), 10.7 second lane shuttle (4th of 55 tested)

Throughout his time at Iowa, Wieskamp demonstrated pretty good athleticism but it always felt like there was about 10% missing when he would finish at the rim. With his impressive max vertical, that 10% was found. Former teammate Tyler Cook, perhaps as explosive an athlete to come through Iowa in Fran’s tenure, provided a bit of context:

So whatever questions Joe’s doubters (me among them, from an athletic perspective) had going into last week sure were quieted.

Luka Garza: 6’11” with shoes, 242.8 lbs, 7’1.5” wingspan, 11.9 second lane agility

The big news from Garza is the 22+ pound loss from his 2020-21 playing weight. He also ticked the footspeed box by outperforming, most notably, Evan Mobley with the lane agility time. Obviously Garza leaves something to be desired from a verticality & straight line perspective, but never bet against hard work. Garza’s weight & drill time showed he’s going to do what it takes to stick in this league.

Scrimmage recaps

As mentioned above, Garza tweaked his groin so he was unable to show his pick & pop game in a live setting. There was, however, plenty of drill time where he showed scouts what he showed Hawk fans for over a year: kid can get buckets.

He also talked with ESPN about his transition to NBA training:

So that allowed Iowa fans to turn their attention to Wieskamp during Thursday & Friday’s scrimmages and he performed quite well, including leading the scrimmage in scoring on Friday with 26 points and 10 rebounds. He hit 6/7 threes, which is reminiscent of plenty performances in the black & gold. Mike Hlas noted that there’s still work to do defensively as he got beat off the bounce a number of times, but there is for 90% of NBA rookies.

So what’s next?

Joe Wieskamp has until the end of July 7th to announce intentions to return to Iowa but his week in Chicago showed that was as dreamy a pipe dream as exists. He belongs in the NBA and indicated his intentions (WITHOUT FORMALLY ANNOUNCING EITHER DIRECTION) to Chad Leistikow:

“I feel like I’m ready for this next step. I feel like I’ve proved that I can compete and excel in this league. At the same time, I’m going to continue to gain information and feedback.”

Both Garza & Wieskamp will participate in private workouts with NBA teams. Wieskamp has already participated in them with Boston, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and San Antonio.

They’ll also look to become the first Hawkeye drafted since Aaron White in 2015 and many draft boards have them in the mid-to-late second round range. Did Wieskamp do enough in Chicago to elevate into the end of the first round?

The case for Wieskamp is pretty straight forward: in a league looking for shooters, Wieskamp brings that immediately better than almost anyone last season - according to KenPom ($) only one player shot a higher percentage on a higher volume.

There are plenty of comps to the player Wieskamp will be in the NBA and many of them are lazy but they’re fair: Duncan Robinson, Joe Harris, Pat Connaughton, etc. etc. His college numbers compare favorably to each of them not that it really matters.

For Garza, he’s always going to have questions and he “welcomes it.” He also views the NBA as Plan A with no Plan B. Once again, a reminder to never bet against hard work.

Lingering “what ifs?”

I can only speak for myself but seeing an explosive Wieskamp & slimmer Garza certainly opened my eyes about what was lacking on last season’s team but really, as the Hawks #1 & #2 options, they were rarely the weak link, especially when it mattered most against Oregon. Iowa’s hobbled backcourt could do nothing against the Ducks so does Wieskamp & Garza being in their June form in March really change that outcome? Probably not.

However, I have absolutely no doubt that Wieskamp and Garza were where they wanted to be from a fitness perspective throughout last season. It’s perhaps the clearest indicator of how the Big Ten’s physical brand of basketball does little to enable it’s best players demonstrate their athleticism. Athletes must be able to absorb contact in a way you just don’t see in other conferences which feels uniquely Big Ten and requires heft which is not needed in the NBA.

If both are drafted in 2021, it would provide this final bit of closure. Here were the teams in 2019 who had multiple guys drafted alongside their tournament performance:

  • Duke (1, 3, 10), Elite 8
  • Florida State (27, 48), Sweet 16
  • Gonzaga (9, 21), Elite 8
  • Iowa State (46, 54), First Round
  • Kentucky (12, 13, 29), Elite 8
  • Michigan (28, 47), Sweet 16
  • North Carolina (7, 11, 25), Sweet 16
  • Tennessee (22, 42, 57), Sweet 16
  • Virginia (4, 24, 55), National Champions
  • Washington (20, 43), Second Round

So yeah, just two out of ten teams didn’t reach the Sweet 16. UGH!

Let’s not sully a really positive week for a couple Hawkeyes with that ending.

Garza & Wieskamp performed quite well at the Combine. They’ll have the next month or so to continue their climb up the draft board and either’s selection would be the first in six seasons. If Wieskamp sneaks into the first round, it’d be Iowa’s first since 1998 (Ricky Davis).

Even if they’re not selected, Tyler Cook has shown there’s a path to catching on without that first step of being drafted. Bet against them at your own peril.