Whether or not former Syracuse Orange center Rakeem Christmas hears his name called in the upcoming NBA Draft is still very much up in the air. Some experts believe he'll be a mid-to-late second round pick. Others believe he won't be drafted at all.
But Christmas almost certainly helped his stock on Thursday, scoring a game-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting in a 5-on-5 scrimmage at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Here are a few more observations on the big man's performance in the scrimmage:
As his stat line indicates, Christmas played as well as -- and probably better than -- any player in the scrimmage. He was highly efficient, as his 20 points on 10 shots prove, and showed off an ability to score in an array of ways. He got to the basket with ease, finishing with eight points in the paint and nine free throw attempts. He also knocked down three midrange jumpers, arguably the most encouraging part of his day.
Strong on the glass
In the game's early minutes, Christmas failed to secure a few rebounds that he got his hands on. After that, though, he consistently crashed the boards, finishing with a team-high six rebounds in 29 minutes. For a center, Christmas was a pretty average rebounder at SU, pulling down 9.1 boards per game during the 2014-15 season. He'll likely never be the high volume scorer in the NBA that he was as a senior at SU, making his success on the glass that much more important.
Doing the small things
Throughout the scrimmage, Christmas successfully ran high pick-and-rolls, something that is undeniably a big part of the NBA game. He also helped free up a number of open shooters by setting screens, resulting in several made jumpers and 3s.
Again, Christmas obviously won't be the star in the NBA that he was at Syracuse. Thus, it'll be his ability to do the little things -- like setting screens and running pick-and-rolls -- that will help determine his NBA fate.
At times Thursday, Christmas showed why he landed a spot on the ACC All-Defensive team at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. As was often the case at SU, his presence in the lane altered a number of shots. But he also had trouble guarding Mouhammadou Jaiteh, a 6-foot-11 center from France. On a couple occasions, Jaiteh backed down the 6-foot-9 Christmas on the block and scored without much trouble.
A concern among many scouts is that Christmas lacks the necessary lower body strength and is too undersized to defend NBA centers in man-to-man situations. Some of the results from Thursday's scrimmage won't do much to alleviate those particular apprehensions.
Despite his inconsistent man-to-man defense on Jaiteh, Christmas might have played his way into the second round today. He'll have a chance to further impress the scouts tomorrow, when he plays in another 5-on-5 scrimmage.
You can catch Friday's combine action on ESPN2, beginning at 3 p.m.