One of the highlights during the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft is when DraftExpress.com posts results of the athletic tests performed at the Chicago predraft camp. Sometimes it's the only highlight.
Last year’s draft was billed as being relatively weak, especially when it came to great athletes. But it turned out to be incredibly deep with Darren Collison (21st pick), Taj Gibson (26th pick), DeJuan Blair (37th pick), Jonas Jerebko (39th pick) and Marcus Thornton (43rd pick) earning half of the 10 spots on the NBA's all-rookie first and second teams.
I don't think this year's draft class is going to be nearly as deep as last year's, but there were some surprisingly strong athletes.
The athletic tests don't tell you everything about the draft prospects, but I'll point out that one of the best athletes at last year's predraft camp was French guard Rodrigue Beaubois. At this time last year, no one had heard of the guy, but he was pretty good for Dallas as a rookie.
In other words, it takes more then great athleticism to make it in the NBA. Gibson had a relatively poor vertical leap of 30 inches last year, as an example. But great athleticism certainly helps.
--A couple of benchmarks I look for are the 40-inch vertical leap and the three-quarter court sprint in 3.1 seconds or less, a couple of impressive achievements.
Only one player jumped 40 inches this year -- 6-5 Mississippi guard Terrico White. He averaged 15.1 points last year as a sophomore and might be someone for the Bulls to consider with the No. 17 pick.
Kentucky's John Wall was next at 39 inches, followed by some surprises. Nevada guard Armon Johnson jumped 38.5 inches and was also one of the strongest players, doing 18 reps on the bench press. He'll probably go late first round.
--The other Nevada prospect, Luke Babbitt, was a shocker, jumping 37.5 inches while measuring nearly 6-9 in shoes. Not many guys that size get off the ground so well.
Babbitt is an amazing shooter - 50 percent from the field overall, 40 percent from 3-point range, 90 percent on free throws last season - and may be tall enough to be one of those "stretch fours" the Bulls have been looking for (see Rob Kurz). But I’m hearing Babbitt will be gone by No. 15 at the latest.
--Overall, the big men in this year's draft fell into two extremes when it came to jumping ability. Another benchmark is the max vertical reach above 12 feet, which means a player can get his hand two feet over the rim.
I've often pointed out that Tyrus Thomas had one of the best showings this decade in the max vertical reach (12-3, same as Dwight Howard), but should probably retire that factoid now that he's left the Bulls.
Anyway, there were several impressive athletes among this year's big men. Five guys cleared 12 feet: Derrick Favors (12-1.5), UConn's Stanley Robinson (12-1), Marshall center Hassan Whiteside (12-0.5), UNC's Ed Davis (12-0) and Iowa State's Craig Brackins (12-0).
Brackins was sort of a forgotten prospect, but might have leaped his way back into the first round.
--On the other end of the spectrum were some disappointing max vertical reaches by Georgetown's Greg Monroe (11-5.5) and Florida State's 7-1 Solomon Alabi (11-7).
Kansas center Cole Aldrich measured just 6-9 in bare feet and had a max vertical reach of 11-7.5, although that's just a half-inch below Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, who will be picked early.
--In the sprint, only one player was as fast as 3.1 seconds, Clemson's 6-7 Trevor Booker. As a reminder, Kirk Hinrich ran a 3.1 in 2003 and anything below that is Dwyane Wade-Derrick Rose territory.
A sprint success story developed last season. Arkansas' Sonny Weems, who was drafted by the Bulls in the second round and traded for the rights to Omer Asik, ran a blistering 2.96 in 2008 and ended up playing well at two guard for Toronto late last season.
Three players this year ran a 3.14 -- John Wall, Syracuse's Wesley Johnson and Texas' Avery Bradley. Terrico White checked in at 3.15.
Meanwhile, Solomon Alabi barely beat Aaron Gray's time with a 3.68. That's not good.
--Kansas freshman Xavier Henry definitely helped himself at the predraft camp. He measured 6-6 1/2 in shoes, jumped 36.5 inches and ran the sprint in 3.18. No chance he falls to the Bulls.
There was no info for Fresno's Paul George, another player thought to be rising beyond the Bulls' reach.