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Neemias Queta could be rising up NBA draft boards after excellent Combine performance

Utah State center Neemias Queta looks back at an official
Utah State center Neemias Queta looks back at an official during USU’s 94-56 win over San Jose State on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Spectrum in Logan.
Jeff Hunter, For the Deseret News

Two years ago, Utah State center Neemias Queta participated in the NBA Draft Combine after an excellent freshman season, but he didn’t perform very well and ultimately returned to school.

Back at the Combine this week in Chicago, Queta was excellent, and was among a select group of players who could see their draft stock rise with just over a month remaining until the draft on July 29.

NBA Draft Combine measurements

Before players hit the court for 5-on-5 play, they were measured and went through drills on Tuesday. Queta came out very well, as he was measured as the tallest player in attendance at 6-foot-11.25 without shoes (7-0.5 with). He also had the longest wingspan at 7-4 and tallest standing reach at 9-4.5 and tied with Duke’s Jalen Johnson for widest hands at 10.5 inches.

Can Neemias Queta shoot?

After measurements but before 5-on-5 play began Thursday, players went through some informal game situations, and one that was caught on film showed Queta with perhaps an ability to pick and pop effectively, as he made a jump shot.

During his time at Utah State, Queta was an excellent defender and showed the ability to be a good passer for a big man, but if he can develop the ability to shoot, that would open up his game a lot more in an era of the NBA in which big men are often asked to make shots from the perimeter.

“Utah State’s Neemias Queta had an awesome first day at the NBA Combine, shooting the ball well, making some nice passes and showing terrific timing and instincts defensively,” ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony wrote on Twitter. “Definitely one of the standouts of the day.”

NBA Draft Combine 5-on-5

Finally, Thursday brought some formal 5 on 5 gameplay, and Queta absolutely thrived, scoring 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting (plus 3 of 4 from the free-throw line) with eight rebounds (five offensive, three defensive), a block and a steal in less than 21 minutes.

That performance had draft observers raving.

“Queta’s energy at his size is really impressive,” wrote longtime draft guru Chad Ford. “He played as hard as anyone on the court. I still think he has a shot at 1st round.”

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie wrote that Queta, along with VCU’s Bones Hyland and Arizona State’s Josh Christopher, were players he heard directly from NBA team executives had strong first days of 5-on-5 play.

“Queta, particularly, makes me happy to hear,” Vecenie wrote. “Last time he was at the NBA Draft Combine in 2019, he really struggled with Tacko Fall and ended up having to pull out of the draft. Great to see him come back two years later and do his thing.”

Queta didn’t have as good of a day on Friday but still scored seven points with six rebounds, two assists and a steal in almost 23 minutes.

Afterward, Vecenie tweeted that Queta was among the players who helped himself most during the Combine.

Where could Neemias Queta get picked in the draft?

There are seemingly countless mock drafts and prospect rankings on the internet, but the three experts mentioned above — Givony, Ford and Vecenie — had Queta in the following spots before the Combine:

Ford: Prospect No. 42

Vecenie: Mocked No. 55 to the Oklahoma City Thunder

Givony: Undrafted