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Observations from the NBA draft combine in Chicago, including Scotty Pippen Jr. balancing expectations and a legacy – Chicago Tribune

Scotty Pippen Jr. knows the power that comes with a name — especially at the NBA combine this week in Chicago.

In his early days playing basketball at Highland Park, Pippen said it was a challenge to carry the family name of Scottie Pippen, the other half of the legendary duo who lifted the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships.

Every time he lined up on the court, Pippen said parents pointed him out to their kids, encourage them to bring their toughest game against the Hall of Famer’s son.

“Growing up, I’ve always had the name,” Pippen said. “It was always a pressure on me, even being a little kid growing up in Chicago. I’m just used to it. I’m my own person. … I go out there and I compete. My dad’s not out there with me. At the end of the day, it’s my own legacy.”

Pippen isn’t the same player as his father — at 6-foot-3, he stands 5 inches shorter, playing shooting guard rather than small forward — but he said his father’s guidance has been a key as he prepares for the NBA draft.

And Pippen still feels a connection to his father’s legacy despite potentially becoming a second-generation NBA player.

“We were both underdogs,” Pippen said. “Even though I led the SEC in scoring, I’m still not highly scouted (and) I wasn’t highly talked about.”

With plenty of attention on his family lineage, Pippen declined to dive into the most common debate for casual and die-hard NBA fans alike — who is the greatest player of all time?

Despite the longtime partnership and rivalry between his father and Michael Jordan, Pippen said his favorite player has always been Kobe Bryant. But without seeing the Chicago legend play in person, Pippen said he couldn’t offer a verdict on the GOAT debate.

“I can’t answer that,” Pippen said. “I haven’t seen Michael Jordan play.”

It’s becoming increasingly common for players projected to be selected in the top tiers of the draft to opt out of the combine to avoid the risk of injury.

This year’s opt-out list included some of the top talent entering the draft: Paolo Banchero (Duke), Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn), Jaden Ivey (Purdue), Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky) and Ochai Agbaji (Kansas).

The combine began Wednesday with a series of workouts to test players’ physical capacity. Here are the top athletes from measurements and drills.

Height: Mark Williams, Duke, 7-foot-2

Wingspan: Williams, 7-6.5

Maximum vertical leap: Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee, 41.5

Standing reach: Williams, 9-9

Standing vertical leap: EJ Liddell, Ohio State, 35.5

Lane agility test: Julian Strawther, Gonzaga, 10.3 seconds

Shuttle run: Dyson Daniels, Ignite (G League), 2.81 seconds

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Three-quarter sprint: Ryan Rollins, Toledo, 3.07 seconds

With top players opting out of scrimmages, Thursday and Friday allowed players surrounded by less hype to make their case to jockey for spots in the draft. Here are a few players to watch after impactful outings at the combine.

Terquavion Smith, North Carolina State: Smith did enough on the first day of scrimmaging — scoring 17 points on 6-for-17 shooting — to feel comfortable sitting out the second day. His shot-making and decision-making in the pick-and-roll showed promise, which paired well with measurements such as a 38.5-inch vertical leap.

Trevion Williams, Purdue: It’s easy to get lost in the mix when playing next to Jaden Ivey, who is projected as a top-five pick. But with Ivey opting out, Williams excelled at the combine. Despite struggling with shooting — going 6-for-24 in two days of scrimmages — Williams racked up 23 rebounds and 13 assists with a facilitating style that could fit well in an NBA offense.

Jalen Williams, Santa Clara: At 6-6 with a wingspan just over 7-2, Williams’ length creates an intriguing prospect as a versatile player who can switch between guard and forward. He scored 19 points in Friday’s scrimmage with decisive playmaking that popped.

Christian Braun, Kansas: Despite being labeled as deceptively athletic when he entered the draft, Braun showcased strength and bounce in Wednesday’s drills. But the scrimmages allowed him to stand out, creating a profile as a utility player who can score from anywhere on the court while providing a defensive boost.

Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga: Despite sitting out Thursday with a quad injury, Nembhard made the most of Friday’s scrimmages with a 26-point, 11-assist performance.

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