ESPN Digital Media in June: No. 1 in Sports Category for 16th Straight Month

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30 percent share of sports category is more than Nos. 2 and 3 properties combined; In third month after launch, new reaches 51 million fans; espnW and Grantland continue growth trend with second-most uniques ever for both sites.

ESPN Digital Media reached 72.4 million unique visitors in the U.S., topping the sports category for the 16th straight month. Fans spent nearly 80 minutes per user with ESPN content across platforms, more time than any of the other top 100 properties in the sports category.

DigitalStats15.6Overall, ESPN accounted for 30.3 percent of all sports category usage on digital platforms, more than the Nos. 2 and 3 properties combined (MLB had 13.8 percent, Yahoo! Sports-NBC Sports Network 10.9 percent).

The new garnered 50.8 million total unique visitors in the third month since launch its April 1 launch, while 37.2 million people visited the site via smartphones and tablets. 60 percent of users in June exclusively accessed the site on a mobile device.

More results from the June comScore Multi-Platform report:

  • The FIFA Women’s World Cup helped espnW notch its second-largest monthly unique visitor total ever with 7.8 million, trailing only the high set in April 2015.
  • Grantland followed a record setting May with its second-highest monthly unique visitor count ever with 6.9 million in June.
  • 8 million unique users accessed ESPN web and app content on smartphones and tablets, which means more fans accessed ESPN content from mobile devices only than any other sports property attracted across all platforms. ESPN mobile visitors generated 3.4 billion minutes of usage.
  • 67 percent of ESPN’s unique users – 48.2 million people – exclusively accessed content on smartphones and tablets. This is the 15th consecutive month that more than half of ESPN’s digital users came only from mobile devices.
  • 58 percent of all time spent with ESPN digital content was consumed by mobile device users, the 14th consecutive month smartphones and tablets contributed a larger share of usage to ESPN’s digital total than desktop and laptop computers.
  • ESPN accounted for the top two sports apps on smartphones and tablets in June. The ESPN app topped the category for unique visitors with 16.2 million, and WatchESPN was second with 5.0 million.
  • ESPN’s portfolio of apps generated 2.0 billion minutes of usage, accounting for 36 percent of all time spent with apps in the Sports Category, 64 percent higher than the No. 2 property (MLB, 22 percent)
  • ESPN reached 11.6 million people per day via smartphones in June, more than the next two sports properties combined (Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network, 4.7 million; Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network, 4.1 million).
  • In the average day in June ESPN web and app properties were accessed by 5.2 million millennial males (age 18-34) via smartphones. ESPN ranked sixth among the more than 6,000 mobile entities reported by comScore, ahead of Pandora (4.7 million), Twitter (4.5 million) and Buzzfeed (1.2 million), among many others.

Additional results from ESPN Research & Analytics:

  • 8 million unique devices streamed WatchESPN and ESPN3 content in June, as viewers spent 989 million minutes with programming across all platforms.1
  • Fans watched 359.9 million ESPN digital video clips in June across all touch points.1
  • 68 percent of all ESPN platform clips (305.7 million) were viewed on computers, 26 percent on phones and tablets, and 6 percent on connected TVs.1
  • ESPN’s top story in June was a report about Kevin Love opting out of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which received 3.6 million views. The top four stories in June were Cavaliers-related, and eight of the top 10 stories were NBA-related.1


  • ESPN networks and ABC sports television content generated 25.2 million tweets in June, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all TV-related activity during the month.2
  • 3 million unique authors wrote tweets about ESPN/ABC Sports content, representing almost half of all those tweeting about TV in June. 2

1 Source: Adobe Analytics
2 Source: Nielsen SocialGuide


Media Contacts:
Kevin Ota, ESPN                      860.766.9581 or
Kristie Chong Adler, ESPN    646.547.5637 or

ESPN to Televise NBA Africa Game 2015

ESPN will televise NBA Africa Game 2015 – the first NBA game played in Africa – live on Saturday, Aug. 1, at 9 a.m. ET. The game will emanate from Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa, and will air exclusively on ESPN in the U.S. The game will also be available on ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.

 Marc Kestecher (NBA on ESPN Radio) will provide commentary on ESPN, alongside analyst Doris Burke (NBA on ESPN).

NBA Africa Game 2015 will feature a Team Africa versus Team World format. Current NBA players from Africa, or second-generation African players, will square off against current NBA players from the rest of the world, including the U.S. Rosters are below.

Team Africa Team World
Luol Deng (captain) Chris Paul (captain)
Al-Farouq Aminu Bradley Beal
Giannis Antetokounmpo Trey Burke
Nicolas Batum Kenneth Faried


Bismack Biyombo Marc Gasol
Boris Diaw Pau Gasol
Gorgui Dieng Jeff Green
Festus Ezeli Evan Turner
Serge Ibaka* Nikola Vucevic
Luc Mbah A Moute X
Nazr Mohammed X
Gregg Popovich (coach) Lionel Hollins (coach)

*will not play due to injury

For more information on NBA Africa Game 2015, visit; and Twitter @NBA_Africa and use the hashtag #NBAAfricaGame.

Note: ESPN2 will re-air the telecast on the same day, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m.


Saturday Night NBA on ABC Launching in January

  • New Eight-game Saturday Night Slate to Showcase Biggest Stars, Marquee Matchups Starting January 23
  • ABC & ESPN Combine to Televise NBA Regular-Season Games Four Days Per Week

Beginning in January, ESPN on ABC will launch a new, weekly prime-time NBA series with the debut of Saturday Night NBA on ABC. The exclusive, eight-game schedule – featuring the sport’s biggest stars and most compelling matchups – will begin January 23, 2016 with weekly game telecasts at 8:30 p.m. ET. NBA Countdown – ABC’s and ESPN’s NBA pre-game show – will precede the games at 8 p.m. The announcement was made today by ESPN President John Skipper and Disney/ABC TV President Ben Sherwood. Game selections will be announced in the coming weeks. (The ABC schedule is below).

As a result of this new prime-time series, ABC and ESPN will now combine to televise NBA games four days per week (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday), January-April, including three in prime-time. ABC had previously aired doubleheaders on Sundays as part of its NBA Sunday Showcase and will now air one exclusive game on Saturday nights and one on Sunday afternoons.  In total, ABC will broadcast 16 exclusive regular-season NBA games, beginning on Christmas Day. ESPN will continue to televise weekly, prime-time doubleheaders on Wednesdays and Fridays, generally at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. throughout the regular-season.

John Skipper, ESPN President:

“The creation of Saturday Night NBA on ABC is an important moment in the long, successful relationship between ESPN and the NBA. The NBA’s massive popularity continues to open doors for new, collaborative opportunities, and this new series demonstrates ESPN’s commitment to showcase the NBA as often – and across as many platforms – as possible. Saturday night games will be highlighted by the NBA’s biggest stars, top rivalries and most compelling storylines. We expect to establish this series as a big-game destination for NBA fans, along the lines of what we’ve accomplished in college football with Saturday Night Football on ABC.”

Ben Sherwood, Disney/ABC TV President:

“Through our great partnership with ESPN, we’re thrilled to be able to bring the best in basketball to our prime-time viewers on Saturdays beginning this January while building on our great Sunday afternoon NBA lineup.”

 NBA on ABC schedule – 2015-16 regular-season

Date Time (ET) Broadcast
Fri., Dec. 25 2:30 p.m. NBA on Christmas Day
Fri., Dec. 25 5 p.m. NBA on Christmas Day
Sat., Jan. 23 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sat., Jan. 30 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sun., Jan. 31 3:30 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sun., Feb. 7 2 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sat., Feb. 20 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sun., Feb. 21 3:30 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sat., Feb. 27 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sat., Mar. 5 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sun., Mar. 6 3:30 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sat., Mar. 12 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sun., Mar. 13 3:30 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sat., Mar. 19 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA
Sun., Apr. 3 3:30 p.m. NBA Sunday Showcase
Sat., Apr. 9 8:30 p.m. Saturday Night NBA

.(Note: NBA Countdown will precede NBA Sunday Showcase games, generally, at 3 p.m.)

Saturday Night NBA on ABC will join the network’s successful college football package – ABC Saturday Night Football – which debuted as the first of its kind in 2006. Saturday Night NBA on ABC will also be available on both the ESPN3 and WatchESPN platforms.

In addition to Saturday Night NBA on ABC and NBA Sunday Showcase, ABC is the exclusive home of the NBA Finals, which was the most-watched in ABC history in 2015. An average of nearly 20 million viewers viewed a thrilling six-game series as the Golden State Warriors – led by Stephen Curry – defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers – led by LeBron James. The network also airs exclusive games on Christmas Day – which delivered double-digit viewership increases in 2014 – and games during the first and second rounds of the NBA Playoffs.

ABC and ESPN are entering their 14th consecutive season as a national broadcast partner of the NBA (since 2002-03 season).The entities will begin a new rights agreement at the commencement of the 2016-17 season.


Media contact: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN).

Tamika Catchings, Chicago Bulls Capture First-Ever Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards

To Tweet: 

Highlights from the Event to be Televised on ESPN July 23 

At a ceremony held Tuesday at the Conga Room at L.A. Live, the Chicago Bulls and Tamika Catchings, (WNBA’s Indiana Fever) were honored for the positive impact they have on their community, taking home the team and individual honors at the first-ever Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards, presented by ESPN and PlayStation®.  The inaugural event brought together various sports leagues and governing bodies to pay tribute to the collective good of sports and to raise more than $500,000 in net proceeds for The V Foundation’s Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Fund, as well as funding various grants.

Catchings, honored with the Sports Humanitarian of the Year, received a $75,000 grant to advance the impact of her charity, Catch the Stars Foundation. Catchings teaches young girls and boys about embracing their differences, building their self-esteem and overcoming obstacles. The Foundation also promotes fitness, literacy and mentoring to youth in Indianapolis. Catchings has served on the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls through Sports and has supported countless programs in the community through her unwavering volunteer efforts and financial support.

“I am humbled and very appreciative of the ESPN family, along with all of the people who voted for my Catch the Stars Foundation and me,” Catchings said. “Winning this award is way more valuable than the monetary donation that comes along with it – it’s about being able to continue to impact the lives of so many youth that aspire to dream and reach their goals. We will continue pouring our efforts into the lives of our youth through our fitness, literacy and mentoring programs. What an honor and a blessing to be able to bless others!”

She was selected from a category that featured other finalists Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers (NFL), John Cena (WWE) and Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (NHL). Each of the finalists received a $25,000 grant to the charity related to their humanitarian efforts.

The Chicago Bulls, which won in the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year category, received a $75,000 grant to the qualified charity related to its award-winning humanitarian efforts. The Chicago Bulls’ work in the community is a collaborative effort among the team’s players, fans, corporate partners, community partners and front office staff. Last year alone, the Bulls organized more than 100 community events focused on youth education, the military, violence prevention and health and wellness. More than 30,000 people were impacted as a result of their continuous demonstration of how teamwork between athletes and the team’s community relations can create a significant impact on surrounding communities and causes. Additionally, the Bulls distributed $2.5 million in cash and in-kind donations in support of local organizations.

Accepting for the Bulls was President of Chicago Bulls Charities Nancy Reinsdorf who said, “It’s overwhelming to see the response of everyone in this room tonight and the outpouring of emotions. To me, it’s so invigorating and reenergizing that we are going to leave here and not just change the lives of the three community partners we have chosen through this grant, but to be able to go back and show that we are recognized for our work and then go out there and do more good work.”

The other finalists for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year were the Portland Timbers (MLS), San Francisco 49ers (NFL) and WWE Community Relations. Each received a $25,000 grant.

Also recognized during the evening were the four (previously announced) Stuart Scott ENSPIRE (ESPN + inspire) Award winners — individuals and causes that utilized a risk-taking and innovative approach to help others in need. The honorees were Pete Carroll, “Like A Girl” Campaign, Bud and Sue Selig and the You Can Play Project and they each received a $25,000 grant.

ESPN will televise a 30-minute special featuring highlights from the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards next Thursday, July 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET.

ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use power of sport to positively address society’s most pressing needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information, go to

About PlayStation Heroes
PlayStation Heroes is an initiative from Sony Computer Entertainment America that enables PlayStation fans to support charities by purchasing digital items, which enter them for a chance to win prizes like playing PlayStation®4 (PS4™) games with celebrities and professional athletes. This month fans can purchase a Fireworks Theme for their PS4 system, with 90 percent of the purchase price going to the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at The V Foundation. Those who purchase the theme and register will be entered for a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to attend the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards and the ESPY awards. For more information, go to: For Official Rules, go to: 

PlayStation is a registered trademark and PS4 is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.


ESPN Contact: Josh Krulewitz at (860) 766-2319;; @jksports



ESPN has Samsung NBA Summer League Covered

  • SportsCenter On-site in Las Vegas with Sage Steele & Tom Penn
  • ESPN3 to Carry Live Summer League Games Beginning July 10

ESPN will provide comprehensive coverage of Samsung NBA Summer League 2015 from the Thomas and Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev. SportsCenter will provide regular on-site updates and segments on ESPN throughout the day at the Thomas and Mack Center from Monday, July 13 through Wednesday, July 15. NBA Countdown host Sage Steele will be joined by ESPN NBA analyst and front office expert Tom Penn to anchor SportsCenter coverage.

In addition, ESPN3 will carry several live Samsung NBA Summer League 2015 games, beginning with a doubleheader on Friday, July 10. ESPN3 will also deliver three games on Monday, July 13, plus an additional game on Tuesday, July 14. The full schedule is below.

Date Time (ET) Game
Fri., July 10 6 p.m. Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Pelicans
10 p.m. NBA D-League Select vs. Houston Rockets
Mon., July 13 4:30 p.m. New Orleans Pelicans vs. Brooklyn Nets
6 p.m. NBA D-League Select vs. Atlanta Hawks
10 p.m. Toronto Raptors vs. Houston Rockets
Tue., July 14 5 p.m. Brooklyn Nets vs. Chicago Bulls’s NBA section will continue to provide breaking news reports, comprehensive analysis of free agency and Samsung NBA Summer League 2015 results throughout the week.


Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or (@Gianina_ESPN).


NBA TV to Televise Live Game Action from 2015 Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League & 2015 Utah Jazz Summer League

 NBA-TV-LogoNetwork To Air Over 30 Games Live from Orlando and Utah Events

NBA TV’s extensive coverage of the 2015 NBA Summer Leagues – the first opportunity to see a number of the league’s leading rookies in action – will tip off with the 2015 Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League on Saturday, July 4, at 9 a.m. ET when the Miami Heat and its first round pick Justise Winslow, who is expected to participate in Orlando, takes on the Indiana Pacers. Live event coverage will feature 25 Summer League games from Orlando, held on the Orlando Magic’s practice court at the Amway Center.

The network will also televise the 2015 Utah Jazz Summer League beginning Monday, July 6, at 7 p.m. with the Philadelphia 76ers and Jahlil Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft presented by State Farm who is expected to participate in Utah, taking on the San Antonio Spurs. In addition, fans again will be able to watch NBA Summer League games live on and the NBA Game Time app via NBA Summer League Live. The subscription-based package will offer a free trial on Saturday, July 4 and Friday, July 10.

The network will also feature comprehensive coverage of the Samsung NBA Summer League 2015 from Las Vegas later this month, with more details to be announced.

NBA TV’s 2015 Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League Schedule


Date Day Time (ET) Teams
July 4 Saturday 9 a.m. Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
11 a.m. Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic (White)
1 p.m. Orlando Magic (Blue) vs. Los Angeles Clippers
3 p.m. Charlotte Hornets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
5 p.m. Memphis Grizzlies vs. Brooklyn Nets
July 5 Sunday 1 p.m. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Detroit Pistons
3 p.m. Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Hornets
5 p.m. Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat
July 6 Monday 1 p.m. Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic (White)
3 p.m. Orlando Magic (Blue) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
5 p.m. Detroit Pistons vs. Miami Heat
July 7 Tuesday 1 p.m. Orlando Magic (Blue) vs. Memphis Grizzlies
3 p.m. Brooklyn Nets vs. Charlotte Hornets
5 p.m. Oklahoma City vs. Los Angeles Clippers
July 8 Wednesday 1 p.m. Orlando Magic (White) vs. Charlotte Hornets
3 p.m. Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons
5 p.m. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat
July 9 Thursday 1 p.m. Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic (Blue)
3 p.m. Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic (White)
5 p.m. Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies
July 10 Friday 8 a.m. 6th Place vs. 5th Place
10 a.m. 4th Place vs. 3rd Place
12 p.m. 2nd Place vs. 1st Place
2 p.m. 8th Place vs. 7th Place
4 p.m. 10th Place vs. 9th Place


NBA TV’s 2015 Utah Jazz Summer League Schedule


Date Day Time (ET) Teams
July 6 Monday 7 p.m. Philadelphia 76ers vs. San Antonio Spurs
9 p.m. Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz
July 7 Tuesday 7 p.m. Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
9 p.m. San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
July 9 Thursday 7 p.m. Boston Celtics vs. San Antonio Spurs
9 p.m. Philadelphia 76ers vs. Utah Jazz


Most-Watched NBA Draft in History

The 2015 NBA Draft was the most-watched NBA Draft telecast in history, according to Nielsen. Thursday’s telecast on ESPN averaged 3,738,000 viewers (P2+), up eight percent from the 2014 NBA Draft. The telecast peaked with 5,131,000 viewers from 8-8:15 p.m. ET.

The 2015 NBA Draft was also the highest-rated ever on ESPN, averaging a 2.4 U.S. household rating. This is up four percent from last year’s event. The telecast peaked from 8-8:15 p.m. ET with a 3.3 rating.

Last night’s telecast also propelled ESPN to win the night across all of television (broadcast and cable) in several key demos, including P18-34, M18-34, P18-49, M18-49 and M25-54.

For information on metered market ratings and local numbers, please visit to view today’s earlier press release.

ESPN has televised the NBA Draft since 2003. NBA Draft television records go back to 1994.


Media contact: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN).

2015 NBA Draft Matches Highest-Rated Ever on ESPN

The 2015 NBA Draft, which aired exclusively on ESPN, delivered a 3.1 overnight rating, according to metered market ratings from Nielsen. It matched last year as the highest-rated NBA Draft telecast ever on ESPN. The telecast peaked between 8 -8:15 p.m. ET with a 4.2 rating.

Local numbers

The NBA Draft telecast delivered a record 8.5 rating in the top-ranked Louisville market, which is the best rating the market has ever produced for the NBA Draft. Additionally, the Philadelphia market delivered its best-ever NBA Draft rating – a 5.0.

Top 10 local markets

Market Rating
1. Louisville 8.5
2. Philadelphia (T) 5.0
2. Greensboro (T) 5.0
4. Indianapolis 4.7
5. Raleigh-Durham 4.6
6. Memphis 4.5
7. Columbus 4.4
8. Milwaukee 4.3
9. Oklahoma City 3.9
10. Cleveland 3.8


Media contact: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN).

Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Draft Media Call with Chad Ford

Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Draft Media Call with Chad Ford

Our ESPN Insider and NBA Draft Expert Chad Ford answered media questions during today’s ESPN 2015 NBA Draft media call. ESPN will exclusively televise the 2015 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 25, at 7 p.m. ET. This marks the 13th consecutive year that ESPN has been the home of the event, which will emanate from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Audio Replay: Click here

More details on ESPN NBA Draft Coverage: Click here

Q.  I wanted to ask about D’Angelo Russell. It was interesting to see some of the analytics that you guys put out and have him as the highest potential superstar rating and the highest potential bust rating. I’m curious how you view a player who’s kind of on both ends of that spectrum and what you’re hearing from people in the league about a guy on both ends of that spectrum?

CHAD FORD:  Yeah, well, look, I think you see the superstar potential in a guy who has incredible basketball IQ, is incredibly skilled.  If you’re talking about the best basketball player, just pure basketball player in the draft, I think you can make a strong argument for D’Angelo Russell, and he’s a spectacular passer.  He can shoot the ball, and when you see the success of guys like Steph Curry and James Harden in the league, you understand the appeal and why even the Minnesota Timberwolves were looking at him as a potential No. 1.

I think the analytics have liked him.  I think where they’re pointing out potential bust is that the analytics models, at least this is the way ‑‑ look, I’m not the expert in this.  That’s Ben Alamar and all the guys who put it together.  But I think the thing it points out on the bust end, and this is something that’s confirmed by scouting, is that D’Angelo Russell is not an elite athlete, and that poses some problems when you start to project out in the draft.  We can talk about Steph Curry and we can about James Harden, but they’re exceptions to the rule. They’re not the rule.

Typically guards that don’t have elite athletic ability struggle to be stars in the NBA, and what the analytics are doing is they`re looking at athletic markers like steals, blocked shots, things like that, that typically translate to NBA athleticism and NBA success at the next level, and that’s where D’Angelo Russell struggles.  And so that analytics are raising red flags about the fact that as great as he is offensively, here are some concerns about him defensively and especially defensive concerns that point to athleticism.  And that’s why you’re seeing that disparity between could be the best player in the draft, the one guy that could be the superstar, could be the biggest bust in the draft, and I do think that is the concern with Russell.

I don’t think he’s a bad athlete, but you look at so many great guards in this league and so many of these guards and what terrific athletes they are, and Russell, that’s going to be a big adjustment for him.

Q.  Do you think it’s at all possible that D’Angelo Russell slips out of the top 5 or past 4 at New York?

FORD:  I do not.  I think the Knicks will be thrilled if he’s there.  I know he didn’t have a great workout in New York, and I know there’s maybe a little bit of anxiety, but I think he goes 3 to Philly or 4 to New York.  I would be stunned if he fell beyond that, and Orlando, by the way, has a smart enough GM that sometimes you just draft the best player available and forget about the rest if he’s still there at 5.

 Q.  What are your thoughts on the type of players that could be available for the Spurs to select at 26?

FORD:  Yeah, look, you’re right.  I’m not going to pretend, either, and I know the Spurs well, that they’re not going to tell me who they’re going to draft.  I don’t think they tell anybody.  I think people disappear off the planet if they leak that sort of information out of San Antonio.

Every year we’re scratching around a little bit.  Sometimes when we get involved with international guys, there’s guys with big mouths on the international side, but it sounds to me like ‑‑ look, where they’re at, at 26, it’s not a great spot in this draft.  The draft starts to fall off pretty badly in the 20s.  It’s a strong draft, but it begins to fall down.  So you’re looking at a guy you hope could be a rotation player, so look, if a Justin Anderson out of San Antonio is there, I think that’s a potential fit for San Antonio.  If a Montrezl Harrell out of Louisville is there, just an energy guy, great rebounder, but may slide a little bit because he’s undersized, it’s a good fit for them.  And then there’s several international players.  The Spurs are going to be about preserving cap space, and they’re going to be about trying to maximize the amount of money that they go into free agency with, and Guillermo Hernan Gomez out of Spain is a guy that gets a legitimate look in the late first round as a draft as a prospect.  Reminds me a little bit of a Zaza Pachulia.  And Nikola Malutinov is seven‑foot center who`s actually very skilled, moves really well, just not particularly athletic and not particularly strong, but a skilled kind of face‑the‑basket big man that could be worthy of a pick at let’s say the 26th pick.

And then Cedi Osman out of Turkey is the strangest player in this draft, but San Antonio seems to do well with strange at times, and he plays with this incredible motor.  He sees the floor very well.  He was a point guard until he had a huge growth spurt, now plays kind of small forward at Turkey.  He’s like a little sort of Boris Diaw, sort of really great feel for the game, can pass, things like that, not necessarily a great athlete, not a great shooter, but they drafted Kyle Anderson to do some of those similar things last year, so I’m not sure they would necessarily go that route.

Q.  Can you give me some of your assessments of the one‑and‑dones after Okafor and Towns and Russell, some of the guys who are kind of taking a chance on entering the draft and might have been better suited going back to school? Do you think some of these guys, the Oubres, the Alexanders, some of these guys made good decisions, or how would you assess the one‑and‑dones past the top 10? 

FORD:  I hear what you’re saying, and you know, it’s hard to assess for one reason.  I mean, I can tell you right now, several of those guys, Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, Rashad Vaughn, Kevon Looney, are four guys that just come off the top of any head, Tyus Jones maybe a fifth, that are going to go lower than they thought when they left college.  So they came in thinking probably all of them lottery, potential lottery to mid‑first round, and all of them are struggling right now to gain traction, and they’re struggling to gain traction because teams look at them in many cases and say they’re not ready.  In Cliff Alexander’s case, in Kelly Oubre’s, in Kevon Looney`s case, or in Tyus Jones’ case, he just doesn’t stack up athletically with several of the other prospects that he’s competing against in the draft.

The only reason that I hesitate to criticize those young people is that there’s all sorts of factors that go into them declaring for the draft that aren’t just I think I’m one of the greatest players in the draft, I’m going to be a top 10 pick.  Cliff Alexander is a great example, right.  His mother is under NCAA investigation for taking impermissible benefits from an agent.  There are questions about when or if he’ll be eligible for the NCAA, and so instead of waiting in that limbo, and you know the NCAA can take forever, he leaves.  And you have several other people that are looking at hardship sorts of situations, like there’s a lot of criticism that Emmanuel Mudiay decided to play at SMU last year.  But when you look at his family situation, you look at the fact that his mother was a refugee from Congo, that his father had died, that she’d been working two jobs, that there were some health issues coming up for her, that you can’t take any money when you’re a college player to help support your family or whatever, and he’s being offered millions of dollars to go play in China and under contract.  There’s other factors besides basketball that factor into some of these kids’ decisions, and then there’s some guys further down that might not even be drafted, and they know that they can play overseas.  And while the NBA is a dream and they’ll hope that they land with a team, they know they can start their professional careers overseas and, instead of playing for free in college, they can go do that and that’s what they want to do.

So I tend to not be critical of the decision except in cases where the players are delusional.  In other words, they believe something that just isn’t true about their draft stock and the only two guys that I think really might fit into that category right now is Kevon Looney and Kelly Oubre.  And in Looney`s case, a hip injury that was discovered at the combine, more than anything else, is hurting his draft stock right now.  Teams are looking at him and thinking he may have to have surgery, that he may be out a year, and that’s scaring them off more than anything else.

Q.  I was wondering your thoughts on the two Syracuse guys—Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough— where you think they might go, and specifically with Chris McCullough coming out early, what you think about that, especially with the injury and how Christmas’s pre‑draft process especially with the combine went?

FORD:  Yeah, on McCullough, it’ll be interesting, he took a gamble but one that he knew, that he was a bubble first rounder when he declared for the draft, that he wasn’t going to be able to work out because of the ACL injury.  But again, for circumstances that I think have less to do with basketball and more to do with life, he felt that he needed to turn pro and that that was sort of the best decision for him in his life.  Will he go in the first round?  I mean, the good news for him is that you’ve got several teams that have multiple picks in the first round like the Lakers and Celtics, and you have a team, the Nets, that seem to be a bit enamored with him.  If he went 27, 28, 29 and a team just basically said, look, I think, had he gone back to Syracuse, he would have been a lottery pick next year, so we’re getting a player like that at 29, and we get to oversee the rehab and we get to make sure that everything is great, I think he’s a good pick there, and if he doesn’t go there, he’ll go in the first 5, 10 picks in the 30s.

Christmas, you know, the skepticism about Christmas is his age.  He’s 23 years old, and when you look at players that age, you expect them to be better than players that are in the 18, 19, 20‑year old range, right, and you look at Rakeem Christmas and you see a guy who took really three years to really develop and he developed into a great player, and he came into the draft combine, and I think he was the best player at the draft combine.

But there’s still this grain of salt.  He is doing this with two, three years’ more experience than a lot of the guys that he’s playing against.  And so while teams will absolutely acknowledge he’s more physically mature than a lot of players in the draft, that he’s been better coached and has more experience than those other guys, they’re trying to ask what was he like at 18 and 19 compared to some of the other prospects therein and what would these prospects have been like had they played four years at Syracuse and how would they project.  That’s the challenge of the NBA Draft.

While I think Christmas could slide into the late first, I think he’s still more likely to be one of those guys that go in the 30 to 45 range.

Q.  Justin Anderson with UVA made a big jump in his shooting this season before the injury. Do NBA teams believe that he’s a capable outside shooter or do they view it as kind of a fluke because of the small sample size? 

FORD:  Yeah, I would say that for most of the season they felt he was the answer, and it didn’t help that once he injured himself and he came back, he struggled to shoot.

But I will say that my feedback that I’ve gotten from NBA teams in his workouts that he’s done individually with teams, is that he’s actually shot the ball really well, and I think that that’s helped him regain some draft status to the point that probably his upper range is something like 17 to Milwaukee, and he’s getting serious looks at 20 to the Raptors, at 21 to the Dallas Mavericks, at 22 to the Chicago Bulls, 23 to the Blazers.  He’s in that mid first round tier right now, and that’s based off the fact that he’s come into these workouts and continued to show that he can shoot the basketball, and he’s a really good prospect if he is, especially the way he shot it at Virginia as a junior.  If that’s how he’s going to shoot it in the NBA, he’s a really good prospect.

Q.  Do people view Justin Anderson defensively as being ready to contribute?

FORD:  Well, physically, yes.  He’s physically NBA ready.  I don’t think he’s necessarily an elite athlete but he’s a good athlete, and I think they think the answer to that is yes, and so there’s this coinage of a word 3‑and‑D in the NBA, and that’s what he projects as is a 3‑and‑D type player.

Q.  If it comes down to Dion Wright or Terry Rozier at No. 24 for the Cavs, what’s the pros and cons of both players?

FORD:  It’s interesting.  I think both of those players are heavily in the mix at 24 for Cleveland.

I sense in talking around that Rozier is in the lead.  They’re at 24, and I think Rozier is a better athlete.  He’s tougher.  He’s a little bit more versatile as both a scorer and as a play maker.  I think Dion Wright is a better natural play maker than Terry Rozier is.  I think he has more experience, probably a little bit more NBA ready, but doesn’t quite have the athleticism/toughness that Rozier brings to the table.

But I get the sense that Rozier is a very attractive prospect to them.  He may not be there at 24, and Dion Wright could be an option as well as Tyus Jones.  I think there are scenarios where Tyus Jones is there at 24.  Don’t also count out the fact that the Cavs are trying to maximize their cap space going into free agency.  That’s where they’re really going to add to their team, and getting that pick off the books is an attractive option for them.  And I could absolutely see the Cavs taking one of the players that I mentioned previously, including a guy named Luka Mitrovic as a draft and stash type prospect at 24, and they can continue to let them develop overseas in Europe.  They’re off the cap for the year, and it just gives them a little extra money to go pursue free agents.

Q.  What do you think the Wizards are doing or could do with the 19th? They have a lot of needs.  What do you see them doing there? 

FORD:  Well, they’re at the end of what I call a draft tier, and so that draft tier in this draft stretches from about 9 to 19, and then there’s sort of a drop‑off and there’s other players.  They may just be sitting back a bit on this and saying ‑‑ I mean, I’ve heard so many teams ‑‑ there’s like 10 guys that they sort of like in this range, and when you’re the Wizards, you kind of take the guy that’s left over because of where they sort of sit in the draft process.

I do think, from what I understand, finding a power forward, with Nene in the last year of his deal, would be ideal.  I think there’s several that they like.  They like Bobby Portis out of Arkansas.  Not sure Bobby Portis will be there, but he’s an all‑around player that does just about everything well, maybe nothing great.  They like Montrezl Harrell out of Louisville, a guy who`s very physical and attacking, like Jarrell Martin out of LSU, a guy who’s very athletic but perhaps a bit of a tweener, between the 3 and the 4.

And then there’s Kevon Looney, who probably is the best prospect of the four, but because of the potential hip injury issue, might choose to go ahead and pass on that there because they actually like a player that they can start to develop this year as opposed to a player that they’d have to wait a full year on.

Q.  What did Josh Richardson to make kind of a late surge here as the draft approaches?

FORD:  I think he’s been helped by the analytics revolution.  With several analytics models, though not certainly all, I think the surprise to some is that even the numbers, the unbiased numbers ‑‑ we don’t always agree on these things, it just depends on the formula and how you tweak it ‑‑ have identified him as a sleeper, identified him as someone that may have been overlooked by scouting and caused people to go back, once he ranked so high on some of these analytics boards, to go back and re‑watch tape and pay closer attention to him.  That’s just part of the process.

There’s a lot of guys to keep track of, and the bigger names and the guys that were ranked highly out of high school or guys that had early success are going to get the bulk of the focus, and with some of these other players like a Josh Richardson, it requires something like, okay, our analytics team comes in and all of a sudden this name pops up, and maybe they’ve scouted him a little bit, but now they’ve got to take it seriously.  They’re going to go back, they’ve got to watch tape and look at him again, and that’s the process that’s going on in late April and May and in June, and I think if the pre‑draft camp, the combine, was held today, and the invites went out, he would have been invited.

I just think that process hadn’t fully happened yet, and I think it’s worked out well.  I think the final thing is he’s gone into these workouts and passed the eye test there.  I do think he’ll be drafted and I think he can go anywhere between 40 and 60.

Q.  Regarding Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas, what position do you think most NBA guys are looking at him to play? And on Chris McCullough, what have teams been looking at? Do they look at those 16 games he played in before the injury?  Do they have to go back to high school?  Are they looking at the measurables like the height and wingspan? 

FORD:  On McCullough it’s all of the above.  You’re absolutely right, they’re looking at what he did in high school, what he did at Syracuse, and as you know better than anybody, he started red hot and then he dropped off a cliff as far as his production goes.  And factoring that in, was that competition, was that Boeheim wanting to hide him after NBA scouts started to salivate over him?  What was going on there?  Was there something going on in the kid’s life?  What’s happening there?  And then absolutely with a kid like that, you don’t have a lot of data to go on, so you’re looking at, okay, what are his physical abilities, what are his measurements, what could he be at the next level?

This is the hardest thing about scouting, is it’s easy to watch a player and be able to say, well, this is what he does well and this is what he doesn’t do well.  You don’t have to be a professional scout; you just have to know some basketball.  And I’m sure every writer on this call who’s been covering basketball could sit there and watch and say, okay, this is what he does well, this is what he doesn’t do well.

The challenge is what will he be like in two to three years, and what sorts of things does he do well that will translate to the NBA, or what sorts of things do we think he could do well in the future, and that’s a much more ‑‑ that’s a process.  It’s not a scientifically process, it’s an art, but the best scouts are good at trying figure out what you could become, and obviously that’s also why there’s misses in the draft.  We talk about upside a lot.  Well, sometimes players don’t reach their upside and sometimes it’s because the player doesn’t work hard or sometimes it’s because the player hit the wrong situation or sometimes it’s just misjudged abilities, but with McCullough it’s all about projecting out.  What could he be in a couple of years, and with his length and with his wing span and with some of the raw abilities we saw to protect the rim, and to go and face the basket, that’s a modern big.  That’s how NBA teams want big guys to play.  He is miles away from being able to do that well at the NBA level, but teams are willing to be patient with the new D‑League, and teams are putting more and more effort into developing young players.  And teams are getting more bullish about taking players like that and not fearing leaving them over in the D‑League for the next couple of years, especially when they have their coaches on the staff and when they have their system of getting them ready.

As for Christmas, he’s just on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s funny that Syracuse has these two players because Christmas, had he declared as a freshman we’d be worried about all those same things.  We’d be saying he was a top 10 high school guy, but he didn’t really do much at Syracuse his first year and can he really play?  Now four years later we’re all convinced that Rakeem Christmas is awesome and that he should play.  But NBA teams look at that and say, yeah, and he played four years at Syracuse and he’s older than everybody else and of course he’s going to start to dominate, he’s a good player.  But how much does he have left, like how much better can he be from what he already is.

And then as far as position goes, I will say that one of the reasons Christmas has moved up on my board since the combine is that his measurements, particularly one key measurement, which is the standing reach, which is the key measurement for a big man, that turned out to be on par with an average center in the NBA.  And so even though he stands at 6’9″ because of his long arms, he’s taller, all right, because it’s all about if you raise your arms in the air, how close does it get to the basket, because big men play with their arms up and guards play with their arms out to the side to control the passing lanes and to control the dribble drives.

That’s what’s helping Christmas right now.  Look, if Christmas had the season he had at Syracuse and he was 19 years old, he’d be a top 10 pick in this draft, and it would be easy, but because he was 23 years old when he did it, that’s what they’re trying to figure out.

Look, analytics give us some insight into all of this, and analytics typically say that players that are in their 22, 23 years old that have a big season their senior or junior season of college, tend to be outliers and tend to be busts in the NBA.

Q.  What are your thoughts on Mario Hezonja, and what risks would a team face taking him so early?

FORD:  Well, he’s got a potent combination of things that NBA teams like.  He has size for position.  He’s 6’8″, can play the 2 or the 3.  He’s got elite athletic ability.  He’s bouncy.  He jumps out of the gym.  He’s quick and explosive, and three, he’s got a lethal three‑point shot with deep, deep range.

You’re always looking at ‑‑ those are the three bigs, right?  You have size for your position, check; do you have elite athletic ability for your position, check; do you have one skill that at least typically translates that you can hang your hat on in the NBA, check.  You go through this draft and there are not that many players that you can check all three of those boxes off on one.  Usually we’re checking one, maybe two of those boxes.  You check all three for Hezonja.

What’s the risk?  I don’t think it has anything to do with him being a European.  He’s playing on the second best league in the world right now on ACB.  It’s better than the NCAA.  He’s playing on a team that`s made it to the ACB Finals, FC Barcelona.  He’s played with pros and that`s ‑‑ his entire career and he’s got minutes there.  The thing about Hezonja is that he has this unusual confidence.  There’s players that are confident and then there’s players that are borderline crazy confident, and Hezonja is right there.  And my comp for him is J.R. Smith because I think he has ‑‑ J.R. Smith checked off size for position, he checked off elite athleticism for position, and he checked off in high school an elite skill, that he can really shoot the basketball.  All that was true in the NBA, it’s just that his decision making, his shot selection and his decision making off the court about what he was going to focus on and whether he was really going to put all this into basketball, that was all the shaky part for J.R. Smith.  I don’t think I have any of the off‑the‑court issues with Hezonja, but I do have some concern about his shot selection, his confidence, and does he think he’s better than he is.  If he’s comparing himself to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, that’s delusional, and you can get into problems when you get into the NBA if you don’t know what lane you’re in.

If he understands he’s in a J.R. Smith lane, and if J.R. Smith had dedicated his life to basketball and stayed out of trouble, we’d be talking about J.R. Smith as an All‑Star, then he’s great.  If he thinks he’s Kobe or Michael Jordan, it’s going to be a rude awakening for him when he gets to the NBA.

Q.  And if a team is looking at Devin Booker and Sam Dekker, what would push a team towards one or the other?

FORD:  I think Booker is so easy because he’s one of the two or three best shooters in this draft, and you know he’s going to hit open shots.  You have a league that is now emphasizing three‑point shooting, and you have several teams in the lottery that are desperately in need of shooters, and so it’s just easy.  Whether he does anything else or not is a bit irrelevant.  I’m not sure that Devin Booker won’t turn out to be a fairly one‑dimensional player like maybe a Kyle Korver, but if he does that one thing really, really well, he’s going to have a long career in the NBA, and I think teams don’t see a lot of risk involved with Devin Booker.

With Sam Dekker, there’s a lot more appealing things about Dekker.  He’s got great size for position, much better than Booker does.  He’s a great athlete, much better athlete than Booker is.  He has more experience, he’s stronger, he’s more versatile than Booker is.  And then the question is, do you believe he’s going to be able to knock down three‑point shots.  He was very streaky at Wisconsin.  Sometimes that shot looked like he was a shooter and other times it didn’t.

He’s had pretty strong workouts, and I think that’s really the interesting thing, and his narrative is ‑‑ with Bo Ryan as your coach, he was incredibly critical of Dekker, he often had a quick hook for Dekker, and that messes with a shooter’s confidence, so every time Dekker was shooting the ball, he was thinking too much about it.  In a more open system with a coach that gives him more leeway, he’ll be more confident and better.  That’s up to every team and coach to decide am I going to buy that, is that true, is this guy saying that I can’t be coached.  What do you do with that?

But if he went ‑‑ look, we’re projecting him to go 8th to the Pistons right now, which is considerably higher than he’s ranked on the big board, but if he went there, I think it’s a good fit for Detroit, and I think it’s a good fit for him.  If he went to Charlotte at 9 or Miami at 10, Dekker could be a really, really good NBA player, there’s just a little bit more of a risk factor with him than there is with Booker.

Q.  Where do you see Aaron White fitting in and does Gabe Olaseni have a chance to sneak in the back end of the draft or is he going to be more in the free agent category?

FORD:  Aaron White definitely has a chance to get drafted.  I’m not sure that he gets drafted.  I would put him as a bubble second rounder right now.  The things that he brings to the table obviously are hustle, athleticism, and the question is is there skill level enough there and is he good enough at those things to warrant a second‑round pick.  Here’s the other thing that people have to understand about the second round.  The Sixers own like five picks in the second round.  There are multiple pick situations.  These teams can’t possibly have all these players on their roster, so you start drafting international players that aren’t nearly as good as Aaron White, but you draft them because you don’t have a roster spot for these other players, and so the second round is often a head scratcher, I think, for a lot of people that follow college basketball, and I think it’s partly where international players get a bad name.  Think of all these busts that were drafted in the second round.  Yeah, teams are essentially flushing those picks down the toilet.  I mean, that’s essentially what they’re doing, like we can’t afford to have this guy on the roster, we need that roster spot for a veteran, we don’t want to pay the money, we don’t have space, so we’ll stash a guy over in Europe and maybe we’ll get lucky.  Maybe he’ll turn out to be Manu Ginobili in a year or what have you.

Gabe is going to be going to Europe.  Not only do I not think that he’s not drafted, I’m not sure he gets a Summer League invite, and if you don’t get the Summer League invite as teams are filling up their rosters there, that’s a pretty good sign to go to Europe.  But I do think that Europe is a very viable option, and there’s going to be some really good players that are going to have a long career in Europe.

 Q.  How many of say the top 10 picks are we going to be talking about for years to come, and is there one guy outside the top 10 that you think is going to be a guy that we’ll be talking about for years to come?

FORD:  I’d say there are seven guys in this top 10 that I’m really comfortable with.  Towns obviously, Okafor, Mudiay, Porzingis, Russell for sure, and then Justise Winslow and Hezonja.  I think all seven of those guys to me are sure things at some level in the NBA.  Whether they’re All‑Stars are not, I can’t necessarily say that, but sure things and that they’re going to be in the league a long time.  They’re at least going to be starters; they’re going to have a significant impact on the team.

And then after that things start to break down and get a little bit shaky because each of the prospects that are left has a significant weakness that if it doesn’t get fixed could derail their NBA career.

If there’s a guy that ‑‑ let’s just project out a little bit and say they’re not an obvious lottery pick.  There’s two players that maybe come to mind, actually three.  One is Rodney Hollis Jefferson out of Arizona.  He’s sliding because he can’t shoot, and that’s fair.  He’s not a good shooter.  He’s a bad shooter.  But he does everything else well.  He checks off every other box.  He checks off size for position; he checks off elite athleticism.  I think he’s the best perimeter defender in this draft and can defend multiple positions, and he’s creative and has the ability to get to the basket.  All that speaks to me that this guy is going to have a long NBA career.

And by the way, shooting can be taught.  I’m not saying that he will learn how to shoot, but if he ever does learn how to shoot, then you’re talking about the steal of the draft.

I think people are not sure what to do with RJ Hunter at Georgia State, are not sure what to do with a difficult junior year where he didn’t shoot the ball as well as he could have, but to me he’s your prototypical NBA 2 guard who is both a playmaker and has deep, deep range on his jump shot.  A lot of the criticisms that were leveled his way were leveled towards Klay Thompson, as well, and I think if he had played in the PAC‑12 or some other league where you’re more able to judge his talent and where he would have gotten maybe more open looks than he got at Georgia State, I think we’d be talking about him differently.

And then finally Kevon Looney out of UCLA, great talent, has a hip injury that teams are nervous about.  Not long‑term that’s going to derail his career, but short‑term that it might require surgery, that it might be that’s going to hold him out for a year, and that’s causing the stock to slide.  But this was a kid that at one point was ranked in the top five by teams and I think has immense talent.  It may take a couple of years, but he might be the guy in five years that you’re like, I can’t believe that kid went in the teens or 20s.

Q.  I was chatting with Kevin Pritchard who said they aren’t afraid to trade the 11th pick, that there’s been a lot of interest, and also indicated they’d prefer not to move back. So given those three things and reading between the lines, what kind of buzz would you suggest applies to moving that pick? 

FORD:  I heard the first two, that there’s a lot of interest in trading the pick, they’re not afraid to do it and they don’t want to trade back.  What was the third factor?

Q.  Those were all three, that he’s not afraid to trade it, he did say there’s a lot of interest, and what he said was trading down is tough.

FORD:  Yeah, because I don’t think they should, because I think there’s talent there at 11 that might not be there a little bit further down in the draft.  And trading up, I do believe is a possibility because I think you look everywhere from the Knicks at 4 to the Kings at 6 to the Nuggets at 7 to the Hornets at 9, all of those teams are open to moving this pick if they can get more asset in return.

So the question becomes for Indiana, is there a guy that we feel isn’t going to be there at 11 that we love and that’s worth moving up.  I’m not sure, again, what sort of asset it’s going to require, how far they can move up in the draft, because I do think at 11, given the way that the draft seems to be playing out 24 hours before the draft, things are unpredictable and things can change, I think there’s going to be several players that Indiana actually really likes sitting there for them at 11.  I think there’s a good chance Willie Cauley‑Stein is going to be there.  I think some concerns about his ankle have caused him to slip a little bit.  I think there’s a good chance that Cameron Payne, a point guard that they really like, is going to be there at 11, and I think Trey Lyles, another guy that they really like, I think there’s a good chance all three of those players are sitting there on the board when they draft at 11, unless they’re going to get in the top 7 and be able to change that out for a Justise Winslow or Mario Hezonja or an Emmanuel Mudiay or something like that, I’m not sure it’s really worth trading up.

Q.  What’s your feedback been on Treveon Graham of VCU, and do you have him as a second‑round guy or a free agent signing?

FORD:  I have him as a free agent right now.  He didn’t crack my top 60.  It doesn’t mean that he won’t be drafted.  A lot of my focus, just being honest, is trying to figure out what those teams are doing with the first‑round picks because it’s so rare that second‑round picks have major impact in the NBA.  I’m still trying to figure out what Philly is doing at 3.

So when you start getting into the second round, I usually punt that down the road a bit.  Occasionally I’ll hear things here or there.  If he ends up going 40s or 50s, that’s possible, but he’ll get ‑‑ he for sure will get Summer League invites, and he’ll make a team that way in the Summer League, and then he’s going to have a chance for a team to fall in love with him.  It’s a nice way to make the NBA, and one of the reasons I actually prefer it to the second round is that he gets to choose his team.  You’re drafted in the second round, you can be drafted by teams that immediately say, look, we don’t really have room for you and we want you to go play overseas and you need to go play in the D‑League for a couple years, and that may not be what the player wants to do.  If you do the free agent route, then you choose the team where you think, look, there’s a roster spot here for me.  If I perform well, if I wow these guys, they could sign me to a roster spot.

I always tell agents, like well, if my player was sliding ‑‑ if I was representing a player and he was sliding out of the early 30s where lottery teams are drafting in the second round so there’s typically opportunities there for players in the 30s to play, I would try to hide him from everybody.  I would try to hope he wasn’t drafted and then try to land him in the perfect spot.  So I think that’s where Treveon Graham, that’s going to be the strategy, and I still think he’s got talent enough to make the NBA on the right team.

 Q.  Do you see him ‑‑ how do you see him fitting as a guard as opposed to what he played in college, which was kind of small forward, a big guard?

FORD:  Yeah, I mean, the NBA is getting more and more position-less that way.  It’s all about who he can guard.  And I think he can guard threes in the NBA.  I think he’s going to be physical enough to be able to do that.  There’s a lot of 2 guards in the league I think that will be a little bit tougher.

But you know, when I think about position in the NBA, the one question you ask is can he guard a position at the NBA; is there a group of players that he can guard.  And for some of these guys the answer is, man, I have a hard time figuring out who he’d guard.  I think with Treveon Graham I think he could guard small forwards in the NBA, so I think he’s got a position.

 Q.  I’m wondering if you could identify some dark horse candidates among the international crop available.

FORD:  So there’s obviously two guys at the top that we all know, Hezonja and Porzingis, and they’re going to go in the top six or seven.  It’s a weak international crop after that.  There isn’t a lot of guys that scream first‑round talent or even draft‑and‑stash talent.  Let me give you a few names of players that I think could end up being in the late first round as a draft‑and‑stash or in the second round.  Guillermo Hernan Gomez, a center out of Spain, actually teammate was the Kristaps Porzingis, got a lot of scouting attention because guys were traveling over to Sevilla to watch him play.  In the mode of a Zaza Pachulia, a below‑the‑rim but very skilled low post player, traditional center, and if you’ve seen Zaza play for the Bucks or for the Hawks, that’s the sort of experience that you’re getting, not only starter but a guy that could be a solid backup and have a meaningful NBA career.

Nikola Milutinov is a Serbian big man who is actually very skilled, face the basket, high basketball IQ, can do a lot of things, runs pretty well, is a pretty mobile big man, not bouncy athletic, not elite rim protector, but somebody with a lot of talent that I think could end up scoring ‑‑ becoming a scorer in the NBA.

Cedi Osman out of Turkey is the most unique, maybe the most unique prospect in the draft.  I don’t even know who he reminds me of.  He was a point guard for years when he shot up in size and plays small forward for Turkey right now, and he sees the floor well.  He’s probably the single greatest motor of any player in this draft, and this kid doesn’t take a second off.  He’s scrappy, he does everything, but he’s not particularly skilled beyond the passing.  He’s just a so‑so shooter, if even that, and just very unorthodox in the way that he plays, but he’s young, he’s contributing to a Euroleague team.  He’s had success in Europe, and I think teams are intrigued.

And then Luka Mitrovic out of Serbia is another guy who’s a 6’8″ power forward that’s going to be a bit of a stretch for ‑‑ maybe will straddle the line between a 3 and a 4.  Not an elite athlete but a guy, again, that’s having some success in Europe overseas.  He’s a 22 year old.

Those four guys are the guys that I think are most likely to hear their name called in the first round or early second round.

Q.  What are your thoughts on a couple Michigan State guys— Branden Dawson and Travis Trice?

FORD:  Branden Dawson has got a chance to be drafted in the second round.  I’ve actually heard really great things about him in workouts, and it won’t surprise you if you’ve covered Michigan State that what he’s been great at is being athletic and being a knockdown, lockdown defender, and I think what he’s impressed teams with is they’ve brought him into workouts against much higher ranked prospects and asked him to go and harass this guy and shut him down, and he’s been able to do that consistently in workout after workout.  That’s one way to get yourself drafted.  We know Dawson is not a great shooter, that offensively he can be challenged, but when he’s motor is running heavy, he’s an elite athlete.  He has an NBA body and he can defend.

The frustrating thing for him at Michigan State was that he never did that consistently over the years, and so now it’s about figuring out can he do that at the NBA.  So I can definitely see him drafted.

And for the other ‑‑ for Travis Trice, I think it’s much more likely that he’s a Summer League guy or probably even more likely that he goes to Europe.

Q.  How much did you see Michael Frazier help himself during the Combine and the workout? How much do you think teams are going to balance that versus his overall college career?

FORD:  Well, he’s going to get drafted for one reason, and that’s because he can shoot the basketball, and he shot it well at Florida.  He’s a specialist in the NBA.  The trouble that teams have with him are much more about lack of size for position.  I think there was some initial enthusiasm over Frazier.  I know some of the analytics models like him, and I think coming into the combine there was a feeling that this is a guy that maybe could sneak into the late first round just because he shoots the basketball so well.  I think a lot of that has died out.  I think as he’s got into workouts and teams have seen him, I think they’re struggling with his lack of size for position and who he’ll guard at the next level.  I think he’ll be drafted, but I think he was one of the underclassmen that had some hopes if he caught fire he might be able to slip into the 20s in this draft, and instead I think he’s probably more in the 35 to 50 range.

Q.  Any chance for Chris Walker at all? Do you see him more as an NBA free agent?

FORD:  It’s so crazy.  I mean, look, when you talk about checking some boxes, I mean, Chris Walker has elite size for his position, and he’s an elite, elite athlete for his position.  He just doesn’t know how to play basketball.  You probably saw that at Florida, and teams want to love him because you want guys with his size and his athletic ability.  They want to be on board with guys like Chris Walker, but his workouts, they haven’t been great, and I think that the most likely scenario for him is that he goes undrafted, will get invites to Summer Leagues, will get invites to training camps, teams will still watch him, but I think the best thing for him is either to get to the D‑League or get overseas and just start getting minutes, start getting regular minutes somewhere and learn the game because the physical tools will always be there, now it’s catching up on the skill side.

Q.  What is one thing that Oubre should work on this summer to take his game to the next level?

FORD:  Well, Kelly Oubre is one of the most fascinating prospects of this draft, because again, he checks boxes.  He checks boxes for size for position, and he has a 7’2″ wingspan and he can be a 2 guard.  That’s freaky.  He checks size for a few skills.  I don’t think he’s an elite athlete but I call him a smooth athlete, and he can shoot the basketball.  He’s not an elite shooter, but it’s clearly one of his skill set, and he has the ability to defend.  He has all the physical tools to do that.

One general manager referred to him as basketball illiterate, and I think that’s the issue with Kelly Oubre right now.  The physical tools are there, and even some instincts of the game are there, but his understanding of the game, his understanding about anticipating what’s happening, especially on the defensive end, and you saw this at Kansas, that one of the reasons Bill Self really struggled to play him at first because he just didn’t have a feel for what was happening on the court, and it’s very difficult to play anything other than on‑the‑ball defense when a player doesn’t really understand what’s happening with the offense.

I just think that Kelly has been able to survive like so many kids are able to in the AAU culture by being a good athlete and being talented physically, and he got to Kansas and all of a sudden he had to understand the game of basketball, and I just don’t think he’d been really coached.

And unfortunately in the college game, there’s just not a lot of time for that.  I think Bill Self did a good job.  I think he forced Kelly to learn how to play defense, but there is so much more that Kelly needs to work.  He’s been working out with Drew Hanlen pre‑draft, and Drew Hanlen has worked out Bradley Beal, he worked out Andrew Wiggins last year, and one of the things I love about Drew is Drew takes tape of players that you’re similar to and he starts to show you the tape so you can start to learn what these players are doing and you can start to learn the game.  And then he takes what you saw on the tape and takes you back out on the court and trains you how to do that.

Drew just released a mix tape of Kelly Oubre.  You can look at it on YouTube or on Twitter, and you can see Oubre is getting better.  He’s starting to figure things out.  The training is there.

So if he keeps working hard and he keeps learning and he keeps hungry, he could be one of the 10 best players of this draft hands down.  But that’s what he’s got to do.  He’s got to continue to be hungry, continue to learn, and continue to grow that basketball IQ because it’s just low right now.


Media contact: Gianina Thompson at (@Gianina_ESPN)

Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Draft Media Call with Fran Fraschilla and Tom Penn

Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Draft Media Call with Fran Fraschilla and Tom Penn

This afternoon, we had ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla and ESPN NBA analyst Tom Penn on a media call to discuss the 2015 NBA Draft, which will be exclusively televised on ESPN for the 13th consecutive year on Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m. ET. During the Draft, Fraschilla will deliver analysis on international players and Penn will provide NBA Draft front office perspective on site at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Audio Replay: Click here

More details on ESPN NBA Draft Coverage: Click here

Q.  What are your thoughts on Dakari Johnson?

FRAN FRASCHILLA:  Well, Dakari is, first of all, given Kentucky’s platoon system this year and the fact that this was Dakari’s second year at Kentucky, obviously he probably didn’t get the reps, the touches in the low post, the exposure that he would have gotten had Kentucky not had such a tremendous team.

Basically the way NBA teams look at Dakari right now, he is a young sophomore, young for his age.  He has the size to be an NBA center, obviously.  He’s done a terrific job in the last 12 months of refining his body, losing weight, adding muscle, and my evaluation of him is that he’s a very safe late‑first‑round to mid‑second‑round pick, in part because this league is ‑‑ although the league has gone to a small‑ball type of game, it’s still about positional size, size at every position.

If you can get a guy like Dakari, late first, early second round, which is where I peg him, you’re hoping to get a young big man that you can cultivate.  He is a project in that he’s probably not going to help an NBA team immediately, but you’d like to have a young big kid like this on your roster and hope to develop him.

Q.  What do you make of the Harrison twins—Andrew and Aaron— and where their stock is at this stage?

FRASCHILLA:  It’s all over the board in the second round.  I think there’s more of a buzz about Andrew, I think because of the fact that teams think he can be a big point guard in the league.  The concern that teams have had about Aaron is his outside shooting.

They both have good size.  I’d be surprised if either player goes in the first round.  They’re both going to get an opportunity to make rosters next year, but things really haven’t changed much since the end of the season.

I do hear more buzz about Andrew’s draft prospects than I do Aaron’s at this point.

Q.  As you know, Kentucky has had a number of first‑round picks over the last few years, and I’m wondering how much of that you think is a developmental thing in particular with Kentucky. How much of it is a tribute to excellent recruiting— bringing in players who would be the type of draft pick wherever they went?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, I think John Calipari would tell you that it’s first and foremost about the recruiting, because he’s been able to do an incredible job since he arrived at recruiting the best players in the country.  That’s a given.  That’s a fact.  There’s no argument there.  But anybody who thinks that he hasn’t developed a lot of these guys then doesn’t realize how good a coach John is.

Each Kentucky team has seemed to have its own challenges in terms of John getting his individual players ready for the NBA.  This team was all about the platoon system, how he was going to keep everybody happy.  As it turns out, I think you’re going to see guys that were under the radar a little bit during their college careers as freshmen, particularly Lyles and Booker, end up being very good NBA players, in part because they were well thought of coming into college, highly ranked, and also because they spent a year practicing against some of the best players in the country and adhering to John’s coaching.

It’s definitely a little bit of both.

Q.  What can you tell us about Porzingis, and if he were to go to the Knicks at 4 how do you see him as a fit there?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, as a native New Yorker, you and I ‑‑ I know the fans will not be happy to see him walk across the stage, because there will be somebody that the Knicks haven’t drafted who’s played college basketball this year or the fans have at least heard about.  But if you’re picking 4, you’re essentially needing to roll the dice a little bit and gambling, and I don’t know how you could come up with a better gamble than a guy that’s 7’1″, on his way to 7’2″, who’s athletic, graceful, shoots the ball from three, blocks shots and is 19 years old.

So I would just say, I get the idea of the bust factor, but after Okafor, Towns and Russell are gone, you might as well gamble and draft a kid who potentially could be along the lines of a Dirk Nowitzki or a combination of Nowitzki, Gasol,or  Kirilenko.

He’s a graceful player, his English is great, he’s a basketball junkie.  There are some things about him that I think are going to translate well to the NBA.  The one thing he is not is a center.  He is not a center.  He is a power forward right now.

Q.  A New Yorker might jump back and say, ‘Oh, my God, is he Bargnani?’ What would you say to that?   

FRASCHILLA:  Well, Bargnani was a No. 1 pick in a, let’s face it, bad draft.  And Tommy will remember this, but those of us who studied Bargnani that year, there wasn’t really ‑‑ now, in retrospect there are probably guys that everybody missed on, but there was no clear No. 1 when Bargnani came out.  And you know, from a guy like me who studies the international players, I did not think Bargnani had any wow factor at all.  He just was going to be a good player, and he’s averaged 15 points a game in his career, by the way, but he’s not ‑‑ he certainly was not a guy that screamed automatic NBA star.

This kid is more athletic.  He can affect the game in different ways, unlike Bargnani, and there’s some bust factor there, there’s no question, because he’s going to have to get stronger.  But it’s hard to find these kind of tools in this kind of size.

Picking at 4, I actually think it’s a safe place for him, I really do.

[Penn joins the call]

TOM PENN:  I was in Memphis when we took Pau Gasol at 3, and this guy presents himself similarly.  I mean, Pau was string bean skinny with the same concerns.  Pau had a different skill set, but I watched the tape on Porzingis and the way he runs and finishes, he’s very similar, and he’s got a great work ethic the way Pau did.

FRASCHILLA:  Yeah, and I might add, if anybody is listening, with regard to Porzingis, the thing about Porzingis that Tom mentions, incredible work ethic, also well coached.  He left Latvia at 15.  He’s been well coached.  In fact, the guy who had the most influence on his playing career, a very famous Spanish coach by the name of A‑i‑t‑o.  When you have one name, you know you’re really good at something.  He’s the same guy who coached Pau at an early age, Navarro, Rubio.  He’s a magician with young players in the Spanish league, and this kid has been well coached.

Q.  Payne from Murray State, what are your thoughts about him?

FRASCHILLA:  I really like him.  Really like him.  I think D’Angelo Russell is the best point guard in the draft, but this kid, if you look at the history of the last 10 years or so in the NBA, high draft picks at that position, go down the list with going back to Chris Paul even and Kyrie Irving and Damian Lilliard and guys, Russell Westbrook, they tend to have an instant impact.

The other thing I like about this kid, and I’ll get into a little more detail, you know, small school point guard, kind of like Lilliard, kind of like George Hill.  He reminds me of a left‑handed George Hill in that he can really shoot the ball— terrific NBA system at Murray State.  They ran a lot of pick‑and‑roll for him.  He’s got really good court vision.  He’s only a sophomore, which tells me that there’s still more room for improvement.

Usually a kid from Murray State is a three‑ or four‑year guy, but this kid has had such a quick improvement in two years in college that he’s made a name for himself.  So I really like him.  He’s a great kid.  He’s got speed.  He can shoot it, really gets into the lane, can make plays for himself and others.  Really, I think, a good pick in that probably 9‑to‑14 range.  I’d be shocked if he slides past 14.  I think he’s in the Thunder’s wheelhouse right now.

Q.  I realize Nebraska Terran Petteway is not on most draft boards, but what have you heard about his workouts and what would it take for him to sneak in as possibly a late second rounder?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, I think the big thing with his workouts is that he shows people he can make shots because he was a volume shooter at Nebraska, almost by necessity, because he was the only guy that I can recall on Tim Miles’s team.  He wasn’t necessarily their best player every night, but he was the only guy that could get his own shot when he had to, which is a valuable skill, especially in college when plays break down all the time.

He can get his own shot, and then he’s got good size at that 2‑guard spot.  But inconsistent shooting, probably needs to be a better ball handler, as well, but I can’t tell you how the individual workouts have gone, but I would tell you that if he proves that he can make NBA threes particularly, then there is a possibility that he’s going to go in the mid‑to‑late second round because he’s a good athlete, he’s got good positional size.  But the inconsistency in his shooting over the course of his career is a concern to teams.

Q.  Fran, you started to mention this earlier, how the league is kind of leaning toward the small‑ball, position-less basketball. How much do you see that affecting how the Draft goes and how premiums are put on certain players? 

FRASCHILLA:  So the evolution of small ball, I think in part, because by necessity, because, you know, it’s funny, as a former college coach we always tried to put our best players on the floor regardless of position because oftentimes you have no choice.  And it seems to me the way the league has gone, and Tom will certainly have a valuable opinion here, but it seems to me that with the dearth of low‑post scoring in the league in years, you can count them on one hand or the most two, maybe seven or eight guys that can really score inside, the game has evolved to a faster, more wide‑open, spread game, because of the talent level, because of the influence of Mike D’Antoni to the league and bringing the European style here.  And also I think to get your best players on the floor, as was evidenced this year with I think the Warriors because they played small, but it was in order to play, I felt, their best players.  Tom, how do you feel about that?

PENN:  Well, it’s the spread it out, just whole notion of things.  Small is one way to do it, but the growth of the stretch 4 position, the power forward who can step away and shoot jump shots and pull the big man away from the basket the way Amar’e Stoudemire did with Phoenix.  That’s frankly the way the Miami Heat ended up playing with Chris Bosh pulling the bigs away from the basket.  It opens up driving lanes for the wings, and this was perfect for Golden State.  That was their style of play most of the year.

Bogut was critically important as a big man to get them through the bigs in the West, but the truth is had they bumped up against the Clippers or San Antonio, we might have had a different result on small ball because the Spurs could play smart power ball.

But you need a bad man in the backcourt or two.  I mean, you have to have star guards if you’re going to win in the NBA.  That’s why D’Angelo Russell is such an appealing prospect as high as 2.  He’s got superstar potential, and you need that.  It used to be unthinkable that you’d think of a combo guard ahead of a big man of the quality of Okafor or Towns, but in today’s NBA, you just need an unstoppable wing with the way that coaches are spreading the floor and opening up driving lanes.

Q.  I just want to know about the one‑and‑dones. Obviously with Towns, Okafor and Russell, they made the right call to enter the Draft, and Winslow, but what about some of the other guys?  How do you perceive their decisions to come out, especially a lot of the Kentucky guys?  And what are your thoughts on the one‑and‑done thing?  Has it been good for the NBA?  Has it been bad for college basketball?  How do you assess the rule so far in the last decade, I guess? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, the way I look at this Draft, I think at least 15 of the 30 picks are going to end up being teenagers, and what that tells you, and we’ve seen it, is that not only is the league younger, but there’s more projection than ever before in the league.  You’re taking guys based on not where they are right now but where you hope they are in two or three years.

Now, it’s a little different at the top of the Draft, but I ask all my friends to think about ‑‑ I say this:  Name a rookie that played in the Playoffs in a meaningful role, and you can’t find them.  My point is that even though teams want to grab a hold of the talent as young as possible, in many cases because they see more upside, it’s going to be more projection, which means more mistakes, and also more guys that come into the league that are not ready to help a good team.

And so I think from that standpoint, it’s a baseball draft.  It’s taking guys that you know when you draft them are probably not going to be ready to help your team for a couple years, a guy that the Celtics took last year was a perfect example in James Young.  I think Kelly Oubre is a guy that has a chance to be very good in two or three years, and the team that drafts him in the teens is going to draft him expecting him not to help them for that length of time.

So I think ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s good for the league, it’s just a reality of where the league is right now that you want to grab talent, whether it’s ready or not.

PENN:  One‑and‑done is better than none‑and‑done for the NBA.  Two‑and‑done would be better.  The more time that NBA teams allow these guys to reveal themselves as to who they are both in their game and their character, the better.  So if you could get these guys at 20, it would be better for the NBA game.

As to the college game, I’m not sure what effect it has had.  I think whether it’s none‑and‑done or one‑and‑done, you’ve still got this idea of the best players not going to college or not being there very long.

The NBA doesn’t care that way, or the teams don’t.  The teams would just like to see a scenario where players have the opportunity to come in when they’re most ready to come in and can help, and it certainly does help if they develop their game and their brand in the college system and then come in as well‑known commodities, the way these guys do.

Q.  I wanted to ask about D’Angelo Russell. I think the term “potential superstar” has been thrown around a lot.  I’m curious as to your evaluation.  What’s the step he needs to take to reach that potential, and if there’s a knock on his game right now, what would that be?

FRASCHILLA:  I would think it would be physical maturity at this point.  He came to Ohio State not expecting to be a one‑and‑done guy.  He wasn’t highly thought of.  He was a top‑25 recruit, but I don’t think anybody really expected the kind of freshman year he had.  I think just the physical aspect of the game night in, night out as an NBA rookie, 82 games, one night guarding Russell Westbrook, the next night guarding Kyrie Irving, the next night guarding Chris Paul and on and on and on, so I think there’s going to be a mental adjustment for him.

Certainly the way point guards have adjusted, the talented point guards, have adjusted to the league, as I mentioned earlier, fairly quickly, I expect him to be a very good ‑‑ or have an impact as a rookie, but I also think there will be a learning curve for him.

I would just simply say he’s the best passer.  You know, maybe Ricky Rubio coming from Spain would be in the same category, but this kid is the best passer I’ve seen in a decade.

He throws passes to teammates who don’t even know they’re open, and that’s hard to do.

PENN:  And he can shoot the ball.  It’s a nice combination in today’s NBA.  He’s just a kid.  He’s just got to ripen up and mature, but he’s got major boom potential, superstar potential.  Here at ESPN we’ve got a very sophisticated advanced analytics group, and they put together a model on the best boom versus bust, best high‑risk, high‑reward type of player, which is really what the top of the Draft is about, high risk, high reward, and he’s got the highest ceiling, according to them.  He’s got the 15 percent chance to be an NBA superstar, which is that elite, rarest of talent.

He’s also got among the top 20 players in the Draft the highest bust potential because of concerns that his numbers are inflated based on the competition that he faced with the team that he was on.

I typically trust these analytics folks, and this is sometimes how advanced metrics come in.  If you’ve got the belief that some of these numbers make sense, you know, when you’re ranking highest risk, highest reward, he’s right there.

You’ve got to swing for the fences a little bit here because if you hit it, it’s a game changer, it’s a franchise changer, and he has tremendous potential to have that happen.

Q.  How do you rank the top perimeter shooters in this Draft? Who are your top three?

FRASCHILLA:  Yeah, you know, I try to talk to my NBA friends all the time about this, because I see way more college games than I get a chance to see NBA games live and in person, and I kind of realize how big the gap is between an ACC game and a Western Conference game.

I would say I’m bullish on Hezonja for sure, his effective field goal percentage on spot‑up jump shots this year was 65 percent, which is outrageous, and he’s got deep range, and he’s got a quick release.  He was 8‑for‑8 from an ACB game this year, so I would say he jumps out at me right away.

Certainly Devin Booker has been talked about as a young guard at that spot with potential to be a good shooter.  He struggled late in the year, but he’s the youngest guy in the draft and he’s got that positional size.

Kaminsky, we’ll see if that deep shooting translates to the NBA because he was such a good shooter at Wisconsin.

You’d have to throw Porzingis in there based on what we’ve seen here recently.  So those guys come to mind right away, and not having a list in front of me, Cameron Payne is an awful good shooter for a point guard.  Another guy that I think about, you know, that’s going to be in the top half of the Draft.  If there’s anybody that you have on your mind you want to ask me about, it might jog my memory.

PENN:  Well, he gave the great list.  The truth is the further you go in the Draft, the more you get into playoff teams that need specialists, and shooting is the number one specialty that everybody needs.  So those guys can play their way into a rotation because they can toe the line and knock down shots and space the floor, especially on the heels of the success of Golden State.  If you can get a shooter at any time, you go get him.  It’ll be interesting to see who surfaces.

[Penn leaves call for a moment, SportsCenter segment]

FRASCHILLA:  That’s why you heard so much about Pat Connaughton.  I think when we did our Combine board back in May I had him 32nd, and that’s a kid with positional size who can also shoot it.

He appears to be as athletic as the Combine results showed.  You know, I would think of Connaughton as one of those specialists that a team is going to grab probably in the second round.

Q.  How much of a dilemma do you think the Lakers are facing if they’re really looking at Okafor veruss Russell with all the things you guys have pointed out about Russell? And what’s your opinion of the two UCLA kids, Powell and Looney, and what kind of impact do you think they can have? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, let’s go to UCLA kids first.  Kevon Looney is a project.  There’s a number of guys in this draft like him, a young big man, in this case a power forward who is not going to play ‑‑ in my opinion, not going to play major minutes for a team early in his career, and that’s okay because the further he slides in the first round, the more likely he’s going to end up on a team that’s already pretty good, a playoff team that can nurture him.

I think what I like about him, rebounding instincts for sure.  There is some possibility of him being able to be a pick‑and‑pop guy down the road.  I was a little surprised he came out early, but he did, and so we’re talking about potential, strictly potential, and a big kid you want to have on your roster.  But he’s going to be a work in progress.

Norman Powell, terrific athlete, could be a defensive stopper, second‑round pick.  Had his best year of his career this year when it mattered most, an NBA athlete, can guard the 1 and the 2.  Outside shooting will be a question mark, but he’s going to try to fight for a role on a team as a defensive stopper at first.

You know, the dilemma at No. 2 is interesting because as Tommy said, although the league has gone smaller, you want to swing for the fences, and I think it’s going to be awfully hard to pass up on Jahlil Okafor.  Given that Towns came sort of out of nowhere this year and is likely to end up being the No. 1 pick, in Okafor you’re talking about a guy that shot 66 percent from the field, had one of the best freshman years in recent years.  When he’s not double‑teamed in the NBA every single night, I think he’s going to be a terrific low‑post scorer.

The Lakers do have a dilemma, but it’s a good dilemma as opposed to not being happy with whoever is there.  They have their choice of two or three guys that could turn out to be grand slams.  It’s a good problem to have if you’re them.

Q.  I know this is probably a difficult question considering the Pelicans don’t pick until No. 56, but they talked about drafting a foreign player, and I was wondering if there were any guys that you think are really good that may slide that far down in the draft.

FRASCHILLA:  You came to the right place.  There definitely will be.  It is not a great foreign draft, quite frankly, outside of the top three that are going to go in the top eight.  It’s not a great year for international players, but there’s definitely going to be some guys ‑‑ and I hesitate to say who they would be.  They would just be names on a dartboard, but the idea with the 56th pick is taking a guy ‑‑ unless you fall in love with a college guy, and that’s doubtful that far down the Draft, but with the 56th pick you’re looking to take a guy, a young international guy, that you don’t have to bring him over right away.  You can leave him in Europe to percolate a little bit, and oftentimes it’s a big guy.

But I can throw names at you from now until the cows come home, but there will be guys.  There will be a couple guys there in the late 50s that the Pelicans will look at and say, here’s a foreign kid we can draft and keep an eye on for the next two or three years.

Q.  LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, has two clients in the draft, Lyles from Kentucky and Harrell from Louisville. I’m just curious on your thoughts for both players, what do you see for them Thursday and then as pros. 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, I think I love Trey Lyles.  I think the fact that you’re not hearing much buzz about him, you’re not hearing anybody say, “sources are saying about Trey Lyles,” means that there are some teams that really like him, and I think his range right now is 9 through 14.  And I do know for a fact that there are teams that like him because when you look at him coming out of high school, he was considered one of the best power forwards in the class of whatever it is, ’14, I guess, but he played out of position this year at small forward, which is what he is not and likely never will be.  But at 6’10” with good size, he’s young, he’s sturdy, he’s got an NBA body, he’s got some ability to make shots from the perimeter, although the field‑goal percentage was not good, I think that he’s a guy that ‑‑ not necessarily slipping through anybody’s cracks but is going to end up being a good NBA player, and probably suffered a little bit being lost in the shuffle.

And then with Montrezl Harrell, you’re looking at the classic undersized, high‑energy, low‑skill inside player that is probably going to go in the late first round and be an energy guy, and he can make his mark in the league because he’s a terrific rebounder and he plays hard.

He would want to fashion his game after Kenneth Faried, which is what the comparison has been since he arrived at Kentucky.

Both of those guys I think are in the first round, and the future bodes well for both of them.

Q.  Fran, where do you think Branden Dawson and Travis Trice will end up in the Draft, and how do you view them as players?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, it wouldn’t shock me if they both go undrafted honestly, but it only takes one team to really like either guy in the second round.  Travis ‑‑ both of those guys finished their careers strongly, needless to say.  Branden unfortunately is in that tweener mode as a player, and he always has been at Michigan State.  He’s played like a 4 man but he’s built like a 3, and you can’t really compare him to Draymond because I’m not sure if Branden made a three in his career at Michigan State.

He’s going to just have to fight for his life figuratively, because he is athletic, and he’s going to have to find a niche, maybe as a defensive stopper.

Travis is interesting because while he’ll either be a mid‑to‑late second‑round pick or undrafted, he’s going to have a realistic chance of actually making a team because he’s going to be on a Summer League roster, and it’s really important to have a good, solid point guard on your Summer League roster with which to run the coach’s offense and get the No. 1 pick shots, if you know what I mean.  He’s going to get looked at closely, and given that every team carries three point guards, that’s 45 point guards in the NBA.

There’s a realistic chance that he’ll definitely be on a Summer League team and then he’s got to kind of fight from there.  But it wouldn’t shock me because I thought he played really well when he was healthy the second half of his senior year.

Q.  I was hoping to get your thoughts on Josh Richardson. Chad Ford referenced the significant buzz about him.  He was a guy who wasn’t invited to the Combine and now you’ll find him around the 45‑ish range on some of the mock drafts.  What went into this buzz and how is he helping himself and what are your thoughts on his chances as an NBA player?  

FRASCHILLA:  Well, the first thing that jumps out at you when you talk about Josh is gradual improvement every single year at Tennessee, and then his senior year, he has to, through no fault of his own, become the Vols’ point guard, which I thought he handled the situation very well, and he’s going to end up being more of a 2 than a 1.  He improved his outside shooting, but because of his size and the fact that he has always hung his hat on being a very good defensive player in the backcourt, that’s where you’re going to see Josh.  That’s going to be his best opportunity to make a team is going to be as a wing defender who can play some point and has the potential to become a good NBA three‑point shooter.

It’s not there yet, but when you look at this Draft and you’re looking at a guy like him who’s been productive over his career, he’s a safe, mid‑second‑round pick because he’s got the things you’re looking for:  Size, athleticism, and one discernible NBA skill, which I think will come on the defensive end.

Q.  Do you get a feel for what Josh Richardson done in his workouts or what he’s done to kind of increase his draft stock, or is it just more people actually getting the chance to see him in person that has helped him out?

FRASCHILLA:  One of the things that helps a guy like Josh is when he goes in and works out against players who are perceived to be picked higher in the Draft, so for example, if he’s gone into a workout and worked out against a guy that a team is thinking about taking in the lottery, it’s a perfect opportunity for him to make his mark, especially defensively.  And having a junkyard dog mentality, which he did have at Tennessee throughout his career.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had good workouts and impressed teams on the defensive end because of that size and athleticism.

Q.  Fran, two years ago you and I both saw a guy at Oklahoma who had a pretty decent offensive game in Romero Osby and I think Orlando took a flier on him in the middle‑late stages of Round 2. I’m wondering if you think TaShawn Thomas could sneak into that same position, another OU guy, on Thursday night? 

FRASCHILLA:  It’s possible.  I watched TaShawn work out in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, and it’s interesting, he’s very similar to the kind of players that Lon Kruger has had at Oklahoma at the power forward spot since he got there, Amath M’Baye, who will be back with the Clippers this summer, Ro Osby, who will be on somebody’s Summer League team.  I think TaShawn is definitely going to be on somebody’s Summer League roster, and he’s versatile enough maybe to impress somebody.  I don’t think it’s a given that he’s going to be drafted in the second round, but he’s definitely going to get a chance to prove himself, and he’s had overall a very good college career.  Teams have seen him a lot, both at Houston and Oklahoma.

His best bet is if he’s drafted, it’ll be terrific.  If he’s not drafted, he’s going to be fighting and scratching in Las Vegas or in Orlando or Utah at the various summer leagues.

But high character, productive career, somewhat of a tweener for the size that he needs to be to be either a 3 or a 4 in the league, and that’s where he is right now.

Q.  I have a question about Mouhammadou Jaiteh, the French player, power forward. You saw him at the NBA Combine.  What can he bring to an NBA team and can he fit the NBA style? 

FRASCHILLA:  I’ve watched “Mom” now for three years, and what I like about “Mom” is how much improvement he has made.  When he came to the Nike Hoops Summit in 2013, he was not particularly impressive, although he was 18 years old.  He was not in great shape.  So there was no real draft buzz about him back then.

He has significantly improved.  He has changed his body.  He is still a 20‑year old 6’11” youngster that has had a good, productive season obviously in French Pro A.  He’s moving better.  He’s running better.  He’s developing some semblance of a low‑post game.  I understand that he would like to come over immediately.

The reality is that he’ll likely be taken ‑‑ he’s probably going to go in the early second round, unless a team at the end of the first round is in a salary‑cap bind and decides they’re going to take a chance on him late in the first round and leave him in France.

But for a 20‑year‑old with the improvement he’s made, if I were a team, from 25 to 40, I would want to have “Mom” Jaiteh’s rights because there is a chance in a couple of years he could be an effective, at least backup center in the NBA.

[Penn returns to the call]

Q.  Tom, can you speak to the draft‑and‑stash issue?

PENN:  Yeah, there’s a smart strategy with NBA teams to draft talent like we’re describing in the second round and then allow that player to continue to develop overseas.  And you retain the rights to the foreign player because he’s under contract and willing to continue to earn a living and develop, really on someone else’s dime.

And so when that player is then ready to come over, he’s immediate help as opposed to being a young development project.

So with the trajectory that Fran just described and with this improvement, 6’11” frame and everything that goes with it, you can clearly see him as a great draft‑and‑develop‑overseas kind of candidate.

Q.  When you watch a player like Mario Hezonja, does he have stardom written all over him?

FRASCHILLA:  I see stardom with, what we say in America, with an asterisk.  If his maturity level increases, and he is a very volatile, mercurial player because he is so intense and he has so much pride, if he comes over to the NBA, allows himself to be coached, I think he has, at the very worst, NBA starter talent, and then stardom will go from there.  But initially right now there’s no question the talent is NBA starter talent.

I expect him to be ‑‑ if it’s a good fit in this draft, I expect him to be a very good NBA shooting guard.  He’s the only player in the draft that could win both the Dunk Contest and the Three‑Point Contest, realistically.

Q.  There’s a lot of talk, of course, about analytics and workouts for teams, and I’m wondering how that impacts teams’ decisions on players, as opposed to actual game performances on the college level.

FRASCHILLA:  Very much depends on which organization you talk to.  Now virtually every single organization involves analytics in the decision‑making process.  It’s some sort of factor for everyone.  On the low end you have some teams that do it just as window dressing to show their owner that they do it, and then on the other end you’ve got some that really rely on numbers.

In my opinion the appropriate place is the numbers are able to validate and verify what you see and hear, so your eyes ‑‑ the player has to pass the eye test first based on his performance and what you see and how you evaluate him from a basketball perspective.  What the numbers will do is either validate what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard about him or cause you to question what you thought you saw.  So it’s not unusual to have the analytics say he’s not nearly as good as you think, and here’s why, that causes you to go back and say, whoa, I think I was wrong.

And by the same token, you might write a guy off, and your analytics guy will come to you and say, I think you’re wrong, take another look at this guy because, and he gives you the data, and you go, huh, you know what, I was wrong.

[Fraschilla leaves call]

Q.  Tom, does anybody come to mind in either one of those categories as somebody that wasn’t viewed as much of a prospect but their numbers convinced a team otherwise and he turned out to be really good or vice versa.

PENN:  Brandon Roy analytically started out spectacularly that we ended up valuing.  So that was one that caused you to take a closer look at the exceptional ceiling he had, and he was one of these four‑year guys from Washington, right, where everybody was ‑‑ in this day and age you can’t have a four‑year player who could be a star, so that comes to mind.

You know, I’m thinking back to some mistakes made in the early part of my career that I was associated with, and I think if we had a more sophisticated analytics department we might have looked at some of these high picks differently.

But that’s ever‑evolving.  The data avalanche is on, and the real key now is just figuring out what to do with all this data.  We now have cameras tracking every single move of every player and the ball at all times and exactly where they are, and the real key is what you do with that.

It’s a fun part of the job, but it can be ‑‑ nothing trumps what you see with your eyes.

Q.  Tom, I was wondering, should the Pistons consider moving up in the draft for a better player, and which player should that be for if they were to move up?

PENN:  Yeah, well, everybody today wants to move up.  Nobody wants to move back, everybody wants to move up, so yes, they should consider moving up.  They need a star player.  It was a big blow last year when they lost that draft pick via the bounce of the lottery balls, and they need more youth, more talent.  I’d love to see them get a wing player.  If they could go up and get a star like D’Angelo Russell, a potential star, somebody like that, or an outstanding backcourt player, it would be great.

That’s easier said than done.  They’ve got the big man in the middle to build around.  They have to decide what to do with Monroe, whether to retain him or not, and they need talent at all levels.

They should draft where they are and/or bump up if they can.

Q.  Tom, I wanted to ask about the New Orleans Pelicans; they have the No. 56 pick and obviously you might not get a whole lot at No. 56, but what do you think they should do? Should they just draft a foreign player and try to keep him over there? 

PENN:  The 56th pick, oh, my goodness.  We drafted Patty Mills at 55 one year, and he ends up being a key role player on the Spurs’ championship team, so you can find talent back in the late 50s.  You’re going to see the opportunity to take a player and stash him overseas.  That happens a lot.  Then you’re just playing the futures game.  That’s when it gets really coach‑specific, right?  That’s when you say, Coach, what do you want.  We’re going to have a minimum salary guy.  Let’s give you whoever you want for whoever reason and we’ll take a swing on it.

So that’s one where if they’re smart, they’re going to say, Alvin Gentry, what do you want, let’s deliver it for you.  That’s a good way to build trust with your coach right away.

Q.  How did you get lucky with Patty Mills? Was it just luck?

PENN:  Well, that particular year, he had come off a big World Championships or Olympics with Australia, so that’s what appealed to us.  Then he broke his foot after we drafted him.  He actually fractured his foot and missed most of his rookie year.  It took a couple years, but the Spurs were smart.  They got him at the right time and made the most of it.  That’s what they do.


Media contact: Gianina Thompson at (@Gianina_ESPN)