ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla and ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford discussed the 2013 NBA Draft Combine with members of the media. Fraschilla and Ford will contribute to ESPN’s live coverage of the 2013 NBA Draft Combine on ESPNU and ESPN2, May 16-17. Additionally, ESPN will televise the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, May 21, at 8:30 p.m. ET and the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 27, at 7 p.m.
Here is the replay of today’s conference call.
Q. With regard to four Miami players, in Larkin’s case, what do you guys project him as an NBA player? Does he look like a backup to you or potentially more? Then on the other three Miami kids, what are the chances in your mind of Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott making the league at some point?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I think if this was an NFL Draft, there are so many after Trey Burke, who is the obvious, I think, top pick at that position because of what he accomplished this year, just with an NFL Draft and if these guys were not point guards but cornerbacks, you’d see a lot of trading down to acquire extra picks because after Burke, there is not a ton of difference in my mind between seven or eight guys that play the point guard position.
Now I have seen Larkin, an early second rounder, and what I love about him is how much he’s improved, his quickness, his ability to shoot from deep NBA range. He’s got tremendous pick and roll and has played for a very good coach the last few years. So I see Shane as a guy who is going to be a guy that can make a team, maybe be a third point guard initially, change of pace guy. I was really high on him this year. There are a lot of guys that fall into this category, so it’s going to be a matter of taste when it comes to picking a guy like him.
The other guys, Kenny Kadji, the pick and pop big guys never really showed a desire to play a lot of post-up basketball. But he can shoot it. It’s the wave of the future in the NBA with a lot of these stretch fours and stretch fives. And I think Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott two very good college players, at this point likely D League guys. Two or three years from now, who knows. I think they likely start their careers in the D League or overseas.
CHAD FORD: I may be a little higher on Larkin than Fran. I actually think that after Trey Burke goes off the board, I see a little bit of tiers after that. I see CJ McCollum, Michael Carter Williams are probably the next two point guards off the board. Then I agree that there’s about six or seven point guards that are right there, but I have Larkin right at the top of that group. I think he’s a first round pick. I think that his size works against him. But the fact that he can really shoot the basketball, he’s going to, I think, test extremely well athletically at the combine.
He’s got a great vertical; he’s very quick with the ball. Actually, when you start to look at some of the advanced metric numbers and you look at the point guards in this draft and look at some of those numbers, he tests out very, very well. Actually as a top 10 player in the draft when you look at some of those advanced numbers.
I know that some NBA scouts, especially a lot of the older ones and the older GMs, they don’t pay attention to those, but you’ve got a lot of NBA front offices now that are really looking at those numbers as well, and Larkin shows really well there. He actually showed better than every other point guard other than Trey Burke in the draft. I think that helps his cause of being a first round pick. So I see him somewhere in the late teens to early 20s and think Utah might be a really nice place for him at number 21 in the draft. They’re looking for a point guard. I’m not sure there’s one there at 14 that will excite them. But in the 20s, I think he could be the guy there.
I think Kenny is a guy, like Fran said, that might be able to work himself into the league as a stretch forward because teams are so interested in big guys that can stretch the defense. I think that is the biggest reason he was invited to the combine this week as to see whether he could play that role in the NBA. I think Reggie and Durand Scott probably go undrafted, D League or overseas.
Q. Couple players here in Philadelphia. Khalif Wyatt at Temple, had an excellent year and a tremendous NCAA Tournament. I don’t think there would be too many guys better than him. And Ramon Galloway who had a great career here and also a great tournament. What do you think are their draft prospects and also playing in the league?
FRASCHILLA: Both of those guys a lot, I mean, huge Ramon Galloway fan as a college player; and Khalif, by the way, had a phenomenal year. He had six or seven games over 30 points. Both of those guys are going to be on summer league teams without a doubt. They both potentially can get drafted in the second round. I pointed out during the season that Ramon Galloway and to a similar extent Khalif Wyatt are two guys that may actually, we may see them in the league down the road, if not right away.
Khalif’s issue would be his overall athleticism, but as a pure basketball player in the back court, one of the best in college basketball this year, they both could go in the second round. Both of those guys, I could see some day when they were 24 or 25, being in the D League for a couple of years, and all of a sudden, either one of them pops up on an NBA roster.
Really an admirer of both of their college careers, but I think at this point they’re going to be fighting for an NBA roster spot and it may happen later than sooner.
FORD: I agree with Fran. I think he’s right on with both of those guys. Neither player invited to the combine, which means, just so you know how the combine is put together, the NBA sends a ballot to all 30 teams with about 150 players on that ballot. They ask every team to vote in 60 players that they’d like to see, and they basically tabulate the votes at that time with the aim of getting around 60 players there. They know some of the international players won’t show up, so it’s 60 players minus that.
So that gives you at least a good feel, this list of 60, of what the NBA guys are looking at, who they think the 60 best prospects were in the draft. Neither guy got that invite. Maybe with Wyatt that surprised me a little bit more just because of the terrific season he had, the great tournament that he had, and his ability to do a lot of that against some elite teams in the tournament like Indiana, for example. And I think he’s a player. I think sometimes the problem with the draft is we start to pick apart length, athleticism and very specific skills. There is a good reason why scouts do that, but sometimes there are people who are just basketball players and they overthink that, to me Wyatt is that sort of player.
He reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Andre Miller. I mean, Andre Miller is not a great athlete, and he’s certainly not now. But his basketball IQ, his cleverness with the ball, are so high he can still get it done on the NBA court. And I think Wyatt has a chance to make the NBA because of that.
Q. I’m wondering what you guys think of Archie Goodwin and his potential as an NBA player and what you base that on?
FRASCHILLA: Well, first of all, I can’t wait to start talking to you about next season’s Kentucky Wildcats, but we’ll save that for another day. If Chad doesn’t want to start, I’ll start.
I watched a lot of film of Archie Goodwin. I think that given this draft, he’s a developmental player. If I’m not mistaken, he’ll be one of the two youngest players in this draft. He does a lot of things well for a young player. He’s athletic, terrific end to end quickness. Gets into the lane at will. There is one and he’s actually a willing passer at 6’4″, 6’5″.
The problem with him right now, as you know and you saw this is he has a way below average jumpshot, so that’s going to scare a lot of people off. I think he’s a kid that has really good value for a team that’s looking for a developmental player, kind of like Lance Stephenson a couple years ago, not equating the off the court stuff at all. But this is a kid that’s very much in the developmental stage of his career, but he has NBA athleticism. The jumpshot is the major red flag in this overall game, along with the fact that he’s a very inexperienced young player.
FORD: I agree with Fran on that. I just add, he’s having a rough go right now with NBA teams, partly because the expectations were so high for him out of high school, and that so many of the freshman have been successful and Calipari has had this ability to get the most out of these guys. I think that’s been a huge feather in Calipari’s cap. So when it didn’t happen with Archie, I think a lot of NBA scouts put that back on the player and said if Calipari can’t get the best out of you, and it didn’t feel like he developed much as a player from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, how does that bode for your NBA future playing in the D League or playing on an NBA team?
And I think that is the big question mark, not athletically, but the questions about will he develop as a player when they just didn’t really see it happen at Kentucky this year?
FRASCHILLA: I talked to more teams and we’re seeing this too, Jeremy Lamb, who was a terrific college player spent much of the year in the D League. Archie Goodwin is one of those guys that I can almost guarantee you where and when he gets taken, is going to probably spend a lot of his time playing in the D League in the next year or two, just because a team can work with him, give him minutes.
Chad, I don’t know about you, but it seems like the D League is becoming much more of an opportunity for the teams to utilize their young players and develop them.
FORD: Exactly, I agree, and I think that’s where he’ll go. His potential suggests still he should be a mid to late first round pick. I think the question mark is: Will he take that time; will he have the right attitude; will he be willing to be coached; and will he work on his weaknesses? No one knows the answer to those questions, and by the way, he’s a young player, as Fran pointed out and players can mature and get a better work ethic or what have you, but there are those questions right now about him and his lack of development at Kentucky. If he can’t develop there, will it make any difference whether he’s in the D League or not?
Q. The other question is more generic about what the NBA teams get out of the combine as opposed to running drills, I suppose, and measuring and so on, as opposed to what they see in actual competition in college games or in other settings?
FORD: I think one thing is this is a lot of times the first time that head coaches and coaching staff are really seeing these guys. They are so busy during the season coaching their own teams and scouting other NBA teams they don’t have a lot of time to get out and really scout these players, so this is often their exposure to this. And depending on the NBA team, some coaches have more of a say or less of a say in that drafting process, so that’s big.
Frankly for some of these GMs they are out extensively scouting throughout the year and some of them don’t. So, again, for some of the GMs, this is the first time in the gym with these players and first impressions can mean a lot.
As far as what they learn from an actual scouting perspective, I don’t think there is much there. I think the actual interviews they do with the players are much bigger. This is the first time that they’re allowed to sit down with the players and actually talk with them, they have to bring team psychologists in, and they bring the team doctors there to check them out medically. This is the first time for them to have that one on one experience with the players. And I think if you talk to most NBA teams, that is the thing that they get the most out of it.
Maybe one other thing I’d say is it’s the only time that all of these players are going to be on the floor together, so you get to see relative size, relative athleticism, relative skill level compared to each other on the floor at the same time. But as far as changing scouting reports or things like that, that doesn’t really happen at this event.
FRASCHILLA: I think Chad summarized it, but specific to U.K., two years ago when Enes Kanter came here after not playing at Kentucky the one year that he was there, teams seemed to be very impressed with how good of shape he was in, the way he ran the floor, how hard he worked on the drills.
So it’s kind of window dressing a little bit for those people that have studied these players on a year round basis. But this is just one more slice of the pie, if you will, in terms of putting all the information together that’s going to go into the draft room on June 27.
Q. Arizona State’s Carrick Felix and Arizona’s Solomon Hill, what are your thoughts on them, and how do their draft chances look?
FRASCHILLA: I tell you, one of the things I love about the combine stuff we do on TV, Doug, as an aside first, is we all have different angles. Chad gets great information from the teams as well as having done this for a long time. I look at things from a coach’s perspective, how a guy would fit in. I’ve talked to NBA head coaches this week about particular guys and how they’d fit into their scheme. Both of these guys are what Chad alluded to before, I don’t know. I doubt either guy will go in the first round, but when you’re picking in the second round, you’re looking for basketball players. You’re looking for a Chandler Parsons, a Draymond Green. Both of these guys fit into the role of being really good basketball players, and I think they both have a good chance to make rosters because of what I said.
If you talk to Pac 12 coaches, they’ll tell you that Solomon Hill, many of them told me was the Most Valuable Player in that league to any one team. You saw it for four years; you have an idea what I’m talking about. He’s very, very versatile.
And Carrick Felix, is a guy that I talked to with Eric Musselman, the associate head coach, and I remember Musselman told me back in December, if I were coaching in the D League he would be my first pick because he’s so versatile. Carrick is a guy, because of his length and ability to shoot the ball, his ability to defend, his attitude, he’s got his master’s degree already, he’s one of those serious minded guys that could make a roster and develop into a good role player. Because if you get lucky in this draft and find a role player and a rotation player, you ought to do handstands. I think he’s a guy eventually that both of those guys could make NBA rosters and at some point in their career be useful players.
FORD: I really don’t have much more to add than what Fran said, other than to say of the two, I project Felix to be a better NBA prospect. I really think that he could hang his hat on the defensive end in the NBA. I really think that he has a chance to be this sort of rotation player that can come in and be a lock down defender in the league.
As you get into the second round and look at the more veteran players who have played college basketball for four or five years, you’re looking at guys that can come in and contribute something immediately to fit a major role in the NBA. And Felix, to me, of those two players, seems to be someone who I could point to something immediately that he could come in, hang his hat on and make an NBA roster. And I know a number of teams that are very, very interested in him, even in the early part of the second round.
Q. We keep hearing this is not a very good draft. I wonder your overall impressions of it and how it compares to the draft of two years ago that was also was dismissed as not very good?
FORD: Well, when we say not very good, we have to start at the top. Are there franchise type players at the top of the draft? I think when you look up there, it’s easy to see that we don’t see an Anthony Davis in this draft or a Kyrie Irving in this draft. Interestingly, much like Irving who was injured for most of his college career, we’re going to have another player, probably in Nerlens Noel who is going to be the number 1 pick, despite the fact that he has a torn ACL.
I think teams at the top are frustrated. They’re lottery teams. They need a franchise type of player. They want a guy who has a chance at being a ten year All Star or perhaps a Hall of Famer someday. That’s what you want out of the number 1 pick, and that player doesn’t exist in this draft yet. I do think that there is depth in this draft and it’s a pretty strong international class, for example, and I think there are some good seniors in this draft.
There will be good players in this draft, but I doubt we’ll see a lot of All Stars come out of this draft or franchise changers. To me, that makes it more exciting to cover. Last year there were five really obvious NBA players that you could project on having, if they stayed healthy and they worked hard having great NBA careers. It’s a lot harder to project this draft. You know that there will be, and trying to figure out who those guys are and who are the pretenders, it’s a lot more challenging this year than I think any year that I’ve really covered since 2006 when Andrea Bargnani was the number 1 pick in the draft and that year we had a very similar sort of problem.
I don’t even think it compares to 2010. I think that was a stronger draft or sorry, 2011. I think it’s a stronger draft than the 2013 draft.
FRASCHILLA: I would add quickly, if you’ve got a pick in this draft whether you’re in the early part, middle or late, you’re looking for guys I’ve talked to a number of teams who keep using this word, we’re looking for rotation players in this draft. Even big guys like Jeff Withey and Mason Plumlee, teams need size. They need bodies up front; they need a backup point guard; they need a lock down defender, like Chad mentioned earlier, to guard Carmelo Anthony for a few minutes. And I think this draft, and it may not necessarily happen at the top.
I think there are a lot of guys in the middle of this draft and later on that are going to wind up being good, if not great, solid, NBA rotation players. I think that’s the direction this draft flows.
Q. Wanted to ask you about the two main Indiana guys, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. What do you see in them as they enter the draft and what do you think they can become as they go through their NBA career.
FRASCHILLA: Chad probably talked to the teams about both, so I’ll speak about them individually. To me, Victor is a great story because, first of all, there are certain programs in college basketball that have what I call an execution culture and a work culture, and Indiana certainly has that. I think we all know how much Indiana emphasizes player development.
So in Victor’s case, you’re looking at a guy that’s rapidly improved over three years. A ridiculous athlete, plays with high energy, high motor, low maintenance guy, wants to be not just in the NBA, but wants to be an NBA player.
My only concern or two concerns I have is size. Is he going to measure out at 6’5″, the second concern is although he made more jumpshots this year than he did in his first two years, he was 9 of 39, I think, down the stretch from behind the arc.
But I love him, he’s going to be a good, solid player. With Cody, the thing I’m concerned about with him is he’s a face up post player, who gets pushed off his spot. He only took 24 jumpshots all year, but he’s a great runner like his brother. And his brother was an all-rookie second team. So Cody’s size and his ability to run the floor with energy is I think his biggest strength.
FORD: I’m a little higher on Oladipo than Fran. Part of it is his work ethic, and part of it is the way he’s improved. I think that factors into NBA scouts’ decisions. Have you worked on your game? Are you improving every year? Are you going to be willing to put the work in the gym that’s necessary? And I think no one has those questions about Oladipo. When you see how much he’s improved from year to year, you can start to project that he’s going to keep working on that jumpshot. That he’s going to keep tightening that handle and become even better off the dribble. Then defensively, he’s already arrived. He’s a guy that can defend multiple positions in the NBA.
I’m a little bit worried about the size, but he’s going to have length, and he’s going to have explosive athletic ability as one of the three or four best athletes in this draft. He has a motor. I really feel like that’s an NBA skill, maybe one of the most underrated of NBA skills that he goes hard all of the time.
I was talking to Tim Hardaway Jr. yesterday at a workout, and I was asking him who he would take between McLemore and Oladipo because he played against both players this season and he praised both of them. He said Oladipo on both ends of the floor was a nightmare for him. He was a nightmare on one end because you couldn’t get what you wanted to do offensively done. You just couldn’t do that at the next level. And then on the other end, he was so difficult to guard offensively because it’s not like he’s going to shoot jumpshots or not that he’s going to try to create offense by dribbling and isolation. He is constantly moving without the ball. He’s going to be in there. You have to block him out for offensive rebounds. He’s everywhere. It’s just an exhausting experience for him, and I think that translates to the next level.
So maybe I’m a little bit higher on Oladipo for those sorts of intangibles that he brings to the table. With Zeller, I think the question is how he performs against lane. I think that brings serious questions about his ability to play center. And as Fran said he is being marketing now as a face the basket four at the next level, but you’re talking about a guy that took 24 jumpshots all season being marketed as a face the basket four. I think that’s an area that he’s going to have to improve on.
I think there are some question marks about why he didn’t go back to Indiana and work on that and show that to the NBA guys as opposed to coming to the draft and basically tell people, hey, trust us. I’m going to be able to make this transition at the next level.
Q. I’m trying to see where the Celtics add a 16th pick, their highest pick since ’07 and the beginning of the big three era, but a lot of teams don’t seem very excited about mid first round picks. What kind of player do they get from that pick, and maybe someone who could help like a rotation guy, as you were talking about, or are they going to have to take a developmental guy and hope that he turns into something in a couple of years?
FRASCHILLA: Well, first of all give them credit because, for a team that’s not had a high pick recently, they have done a very good job with those mid round picks. In fact, you could almost say they were able to make those deals, the deal for Ray Allen because they had some assets that they discovered. Then you mentioned guys like Rondo, obviously, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger. I think they’re in a good spot given where they are. They have a whole bunch of other issues that Chad can address with regard to the big three, but their scouting staff has traditionally done a very good job in this range. I think they can go either way. They can go development here with maybe a European kid, a big kid that’s maybe hanging around that they can leave overseas; or I think there are enough of those guys that we talked about, the senior or the guy that can be a rotation player that are going to be staring at him at 16 that I would tend to think that they’re going to do what they’ve always done and find the best fit for them.
I always liked what they do because for the most part they draft basketball players. Guys that you can stick in Doc’s system and they pick things up relatively quickly.
FORD: I’m not sure there are a lot of upside players in this draft. But I know that Danny Ainge is fearless. And he takes players based off of how he projects their potential out in the future, not necessarily what they’ve just done in college. To me, Rondo and Avery Bradley are just the great examples of that. Ainge loved them in high school, saw them in college, and felt like in both players’ cases the systems that they were in did not accentuate the strengths that he saw in them as players. In both cases, he got a player that was much better than where they drafted them, because Ainge, I think, has a great ability to see what a player can do and can’t do and be able to divorce that from what they did and didn’t do in college.
So I tend to lean towards the Celtics taking players who may not have been superstars in college, but had shown something to them as young players that they think they can develop and get out of them. So whether it’s someone like a Kentavious Caldwell Pope, a guy whose numbers weren’t terrific at Georgia, but when we start to look at some of the things that that he brought to the table and what he did in high school and you start to look at that team, you start to see a player that could be a lot better than what he showed in college. I mean, to me, that’s an example of the sort of guy that I could see Danny Ainge taking a swing at.
A player like Jamaal Franklin out of San Diego State, that I think teams are misreading right now because he was asked to play power forward, sometimes even small forward for that team at San Diego State despite being 6’5″. If you look at all the skills he has and all the things that he’s done and divorce that a little bit from the situation here at San Diego State, probably a better prospect than where he’s ranked right now.
Q. I wonder if you could talk about the strength of this draft by position, and it sounds like the entire small forward class is basically Otto Porter Jr.; is that correct?
FRASCHILLA: Interesting, I would probably agree there. That’s not a deep position in this draft. As I said earlier, if this was the NFL and point guards were cornerbacks, you get a lot of people excited, even to the point where you could trade down and pick up extra picks, because I think that’s a deep position. Chad and I have already mentioned guys like CJ McCollum, Trey Burke, Shane Larkin. Then there are guys like Nate Wolters, Lorenzo Brown, Michael Carter Williams, Isaiah Canaan, the German (Dennis Schroeder), so we could go on and on. Obviously, the Cavaliers don’t need another point guard. But I also think it’s a decent draft for big bodies. Not necessarily guys that are going to be good players or great players, I should say.
But I think upfront when you talk about Noel and Len, you could throw Olynyk in there, Zeller, Plumlee, Withey, couple of foreign kids, Gobert, and Nogueira, Gorgui Dieng, Steven Adams. As I mentioned earlier, talking to my coaching buddies, you have to have big bodies up front. It’s a long season. So if you ask me, and Chad may or may not agree, point guards or just big bodies overall are something that teams can find in this particular draft.
FORD: I like the question because I’m pretty sure the Cavs are praying right now that Otto Porter is there on the board when they draft. He is a perfect fit for them. And if he’s off the board, I do think there is a question mark there. I think three is the position they need the most. While we thought three was going to be stronger, we thought Shabazz Muhammad would be a guy that would be a great fit there. I think his play at UCLA has raised major question marks whether that’s the case.
I will say there is another good small forward in this draft and people don’t really know about him, but Croatia’s Dario Saric I think has some of the best upside of any player in this draft. But had he been in college, I think he would have been one of the most dominant players in college basketball. I think people would have gone crazy over him as a 6’10” three who can really pass the ball and rebound and has maybe the highest basketball IQ of anybody in the draft.
Certainly to me it would be a nice fit on a team like the Cavs, because he doesn’t need to take 15 to 20 shots a game to be really effective.
I agree with Fran on the point guard. I actually think the two guard position might be the strongest of any in the draft. You have McLemore, Oladipo, C.J. McCollum who is a combo one two, and Kentavious Caldwell Pope is a guy who I think should be a lottery pick in this draft. And one of the guys who is most intriguing player to me in the draft is Glen Rice Jr., who after a couple tough years at Georgia Tech was dismissed from the team, with the D League by March was maybe the best player in the entire D League, led his team to the D League championship, was the best player on the roster. Averaged 25 points a game in finals and ticks off a lot of boxes. He’s long, athletic, and really shoots the basketball. One of the best rebounders in the D League.
There are questions about his character. He got into a lot of problems at Georgia Tech and there are questions there about that. But talk about a player that’s proven he can play not just against college athletes but players that were older and the cream of the crop in college that did not make it to the NBA, including lottery picks that were playing there. He outperformed all of those guys.
I think he’s an intriguing player and a player that has the size to probably shift to three as well. Then there is the Russian, Sergey Karasev, who can really shoot the basketball, and then there is a lot of depth there at the guard position, and thought they draft Dion Waiters, so maybe that’s not as big a need for Cleveland.
But to me, that is the sweet spot in the draft along with the areas that Fran mentioned.
Q. Fran, can you maybe go over some of the top prospects who are foreign? Then, Chad, can you maybe talk about who you see as a sleeper in this draft?
FRASCHILLA: The only reason I chuckled is because you’re covering the Trail Blazers, so half your team this year are guys that Chad and I have seen basically grow up. I would say it’s a good year for foreign players to be in this draft. So what looked like early on to be a quiet year for international guys, I could look at my list right now and see the potential for nine different players going in the first round.
So I think it’s a good draft. Chad has alluded to a couple of guys already. I’ve studied a lot of tape of Dario Saric who has been on the scene forever. There are things that really concern me about him, but he’s certainly a talented player.
A guy that played really well in Portland – I don’t know if you were at the Hoop Summit, but he dominated the high school guards – was the German, Dennis Schroeder who has an awful lot of Rondo’s characteristics including the speed and the 6’7″ wing span. He’s a guy that’s high on my list. A kid that Chad and I have seen for a long time that’s all of a sudden started to turn the corner. Lucas Nogueira from Brazil who is starting to play better and better in the ACB in Spain.
There is another guy I’m starting to become high on again, a kid that’s very interesting that Chad can fill in the blanks on, Giannis Adetokoubo, a 6’9″, Kevin Durant built like guy who can handle the ball. He’s very, very raw. He’s played basically high school basketball this year in a very poor Greek league. Some people have compared him to Nic Batum, that’s not fair, because he dribbles the ball better than Nic, but he’s nowhere near as experienced.
Another kid who we’ve seen for a couple years that’s probably the most mature and most ready player, a guy that Chad mentioned, Sergey Karasev from Russia that’s already played in the Olympics, already playing at a high level, has a skill that really translates in his ability to shoot the ball and also has a great feel for the game.
I see nine guys, and I also think this is a year where you can draft some of these guys and leave them right where they are in Europe and let them marinate a little bit more and not have to add them to your roster.
FORD: I agree with everything Fran said on the international side. As far as sleepers go, some of them are moving up the draft boards. In Portland as well, you had Damian Lillard a guy out of Weber State who started his senior season not ranked in the top 30 by virtually every team in the league, wins Rookie of the Year last year. To me, that is the definition of a sleeper.
If you can go from one year where you weren’t ranked in the top 30 to being the Rookie of the Year in the NBA, that is a pretty impressive leap.
I think Kentavious Caldwell Pope is maybe one of those guys out of Georgia that can really stroke the basketball. An elite athlete that had no help at all on that Georgia team, which meant he took a lot of bad shots, and his shooting percentage may be off what he really is as far as a shooter and a scorer because of the situation that he was in. I think Shane Larkin may be a guy who will look back on and look at Miami’s run this year and start to attribute a lot of that to the play of Larkin at point guard.
He surprised a lot of people this year with how well Miami played. I think a lot of that had to do with their point guard, and to me, he’s still got a lot of upside there. I think Reggie Bullock out of North Carolina is a guy that got lost in the shuffle a little bit and has great size and can really shoot the basketball. I think he can really defend.
I think he got lost in the shuffle a little bit on the disappointing North Carolina team this year. But often I felt like he was the best player on the court. Then if you want some super sleepers, I think Mike Muscala at Bucknell is a 6’11” guy that put up great numbers this year, but played at Bucknell. He’s a guy that could potentially help himself the most at this combine if he comes in and really shows that he belongs with the other bigs there. Teams are always interested in bigs.
Then a guy that’s not even invited to the combine, D.J. Stephens out of Memphis. I think he is the best athlete in the draft. He’s the most explosive player, and I think he has one of the best motors of anybody in the draft. He’s completely unskilled offensively.
But if you’re talking about rotation players and talking about a guy who could come in off the bench; defend multiple players, be physical, athletic, block shots, grab steals, throw himself all over the floor for 15, 20 minutes a night and energize a team and a crowd, that, to me, could be D.J. Stephens.
FRASCHILLA: I would just add one, what I would call “hide in plain sight sleeper”, and that is a kid I’ve studied and seen in person this year who actually dominated the ACC on a bad team, and that is Erick Green of Virginia Tech. He not only led the country in scoring, but he’s a highly efficient player. He is a kid that makes tough shots. He’s a willing passer, 67% at the rim, 40% from three, nearly 50% from two. And the only major question mark I could see with him is his narrow frame. Defensively he must improve.
But when we talk about all these good point guards, and again, we’re only talking about guys that hopefully will be rotation guys, maybe a few starters. But to me, Erick Green is a guy that dominated in the ACC the last couple years, and the beauty of Erick Green is he averaged two points a game as a freshman.
Q. I wanted to ask if you think that Vander Blue of Marquette will be drafted? And before he made his decision, if you had been advising him, would you have advised him to come out?
FORD: I think he’s one of the best athletes in the draft. I always think he had potential, even back to when he was with that Team USA and under 18s, we saw it there. I think he blossomed this year. That started in Maui and culminated in, I think, a great run for him and Marquette in the tournament. And to me, he’s an NBA player because he has NBA athletic ability and he can guard multiple positions. I think that’s what he will hang his hat on at the next level.
As an offensive player, I think he’s still a work in progress, and we saw a lot of improvement. I was really surprised he was not on the initial combine list. I thought he deserved to be there. I was really happy when the NBA came back and added him as one of three players that they decided to bring in.
Now could he have used another year at Marquette? Of course. I think offensively he’s still got a lot to work on and has consistency on that jumpshot and continuing to improve his handle.
But as far as whether I think he’ll get drafted this year, I actually think he will. I think he’s one of the best 60 players in this draft, and I think he’s a guy that could stick in the league.
FRASCHILLA: Not much I disagree with there. I’ve talked to teams who really have said they’re struggling to find 45 guys they would draft. Vander, to me, is one of those guys with that athleticism of an NBA guard. He’s one of about 30 guys that I think can make a team where he’ll end up in France. His range, I think, is there.
If you told me next November that he stuck with the Utah Jazz, it would not shock me at all. He’s been in a work culture, as I talked about before, with Buzz Williams, so I would hope that he’s matured over the three years that he’s been there.
The biggest concern I have with Vander, quite frankly, and you’ve seen it for three years, he’s got to make an open shot. But as far as athleticism, ability to get to the rim, I’m sure his work, and the work ethic that Marquette has rubbed off on him, easily could be drafted in the second round, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he makes the team.
Q. Hi, guys, I wanted to ask you about a few Canadians. Myck Kabongo coming out of Texas with the 11 games this year, where do you see his prospects in this draft? And Anthony Bennett, what impact do you see the shoulder surgery having on his draft spot?
FRASCHILLA: Okay, well, just quickly on Anthony, I don’t think it’s going to be a factor at all. To me, I actually have him rated at the top of my draft board because of his tremendous rebounding instincts. He’s got two great (skills) – I shouldn’t say great, in this draft there is nobody with any great skills, but shot blocking. He is an above average rebounder and an above average shooter. So I don’t think it’s going to affect Anthony from going anywhere in the top three four or five.
With Myck, I’ve watched and seen Myck since he was 16, coached him at Nike camps. You know, Myck’s greatest strength is that he has great end to end quickness. He’s a developmental guy. You’re going to have to teach him how to run a team, quite frankly, and he doesn’t shoot the ball well.
So, yes, there is athleticism there. There is a maturity evolved in Myck’s game. This year didn’t help him much, obviously. But if you’re drafting Myck Kabongo, and I know some people think even at the end of the first round, I think you’re taking a developmental point guard and you’re going to roll the dice with them. I think there are safer point guards to take in this draft, but there are a number of people with terrific quickness and end to end athleticism.
FORD: On Bennett, I agree with Fran. I don’t think the rotator cuff surgery is going to affect anything. I thought it was a smart move by his agent to go ahead and just do it now. So when the NBA doctors do look at him, they’re already looking at the process of if the surgery’s done and how is he healing, as opposed to sometimes doctors can get very conservative when they see an injury because they don’t exactly know what they’re going to get until they get inside and start doing the surgery. So that can scare them off.
So I think it was a proactive move by his agent to go ahead, have the surgery now, help doctors see that it wasn’t that big a deal and already get a chance to look at how the rehab’s going. I think that means that there would probably be zero hit to his draft stock at all. I agree with Fran that to me he’s a Top 5 pick in this draft, and could very well be the best player in this draft.
Then on Kabongo, I agree with everything that Fran said. I think it’s an unfortunate situation for him. You understand why he left Texas after everything that happened with the NCAA this year. He picked a bad year to do it, given that he didn’t have enough games to prove to NBA scouts that he was better than the freshmen. As Fran said, there is this huge scrum of point guards, some of them veterans, all sorts of different things that bring things to the table. D I athleticism, there is Pierre Jackson, and he’s much more proven than Kabongo is in the same conference.
You start to wonder where does he fit into this whole process now? People really liked him out of high school. Really didn’t like him much after his first year at Texas, and then this whole year was just a wash for him. I think he’s in danger of flipping to the second round, and unfortunately for him, teams seem to be less committed in the second round to really throwing all of their resources behind the developments they do in the first round. So he’s in a dangerous position. He could end up being a good NBA player, but the developmental curve there is still pretty high.
FORD: Just want to hit another Canadian there with Andrew Wiggins right now. Pretty soon these Canadian beat writers could beat their chest. There is a chance in five years the Canadian National Team is going to really be the main competition to Team USA and the Olympics and World Championships. Their talent levels are just off the charts now.
FRASCHILLA: And I’ll throw in, you mentioned Andrew Wiggins and I’ll raise you and mention Trey Lyles who is next. Not quite as good, but certainly Canadian hoops in the States right now is sky rocketing. It bodes well for their future of international competition.
Q. Chad, regarding Michael Carter Williams I was playing with your draft lottery on your website, and you have him going to Sacramento as long as Anthony Bennett and Trey Burke are off the board, but nobody else is going. What is going on with Michael Carter Williams and what are teams going to be looking at over the next couple weeks in Chicago?
FORD: What I’m hearing about the team and particular prospects they like, and what I’m hearing all year, actually the closer I get to the draft, the more NBA teams start to shut up and not talk as much about it because they don’t want to signal their intentions. Part of that is listening to those teams all year and looking for teams in that range that need a point guard.
The interesting thing about Michael Carter Williams is it seems to me that scouts either love him or hate them, and there is very little middle ground. Some scouts feel like with his size, his athletic ability and his ability to see the floor, those are unique point guards that come to the league that have that size and see the floor like Michael Carter Williams can see the floor. And they think he can be a Sean Livingston sort of point guard. And before Sean just decimated his knee many people thought he was the best player in that draft year he was drafted, so that’s a high compliment.
The other scouts may say his decision making can be poor and his body language can be poor. You have to remember he really, really struggled to hit open jumpshots this year. And they feel like the whole point guard Michael Carter Williams thing is a bit of a gimmick.
And don’t even get me started on the guys that really struggled to protect Syracuse players because they play such a unique system there, they struggled to see how those guys translate to the next level.
So you have some teams that need point guards who just aren’t high on him, and don’t see him as a fit in their system. An example of that might be a team like Utah who really wants a point guard who can really shoot the basketball because of the bigs that they’re throwing out on the floor and a point guard that can really space the floor for them.
Other teams that maybe just aren’t as high on them and there are other teams that think he’s a Top 5 pick. So every draft it comes down to does the right team in the right place, and right now we’re trying to figure out what that is for Michael Carter Williams. The talent is there no question. It’s where he fits on the team needs and team preferences for types of players that I’m struggling to find where he fits right now.
I know his agent thinks that I’m insane to have him, I think right now, I have him projected outside the lottery. I think Dallas is a very good possibility for him at 13 and Sacramento is a good possibility for him if Anthony Bennett is off the board. Other than that, I just haven’t identified the other teams where I think he is a fit and they’re high on him.
FRASCHILLA: Let me follow up on one thing about Michael. So much of it is it’s a different game at the NBA level. The spacing is so different, and the pick and roll is so important to that league. I asked one coach this week what do you do with a guy that can’t shoot in pick and roll situations? And he said, it’s tough because the floor really shrinks on you.
That is his biggest weakness right now is keeping defenses honest. If I were Michael Carter Williams, I’d get every video I could of Ricky Rubio because Ricky really can’t shoot, but still finds a way to get into the lane in the NBA. So it’s not so much is he a talented kid? Of course he is. But some coaches don’t want a point guard that can’t make shots and keep a defense honest particularly in screen and roll.
Q. I was hoping that you guys could tell me a little bit about the games of some of the top drafting candidates in this draft. I was also going to ask have you heard any progress of the development of the guy the Warriors took in the second round last year, Ognjen Kuzmic.
FRASCHILLA: He’s a big kid. I didn’t follow him this year, quite honestly. I didn’t think he was a terrific prospect, as I recall. I think if I’m not mistaken, he’s 7’1″, 7 foot or 7’1″, so I did not follow him very much once he got drafted.
This is a tremendous draft and stash year because while I would expect a couple guys get drafted internationally in the first round to stick on rosters, there are some great candidates to draft if you really like him and leave him overseas.
The one kid I mentioned earlier, who I’d love to know Chad’s opinion or at least what teams are saying – the Greek kid, Giannis Adetokoubo, who I mentioned earlier. One of the rawest, but best raw athletes in this draft in terms of nobody really knows the level of play and how good it was. But yet everybody’s intrigued comparing him from Scottie Pippin to Kevin Durant, to Nic Batum. This kid is in the infancy stage of his career, but people are really intrigued by his upside. So he really comes to mind.
I mentioned Nogueira before, who is the ideal draft and stash guy. A 7 footer in the Javale McGee mold who can run the floor, block shots, protect the rim but still needs seasoning. And Alex Abrines who is a 19-year old from Barcelona who is 6’6″ and who reminds me a lot of Rudy Fernandez in terms of the way he plays the game. I think he’s a guy you could draft towards the end of the first round and stash him over there.
Almost all these guys that go in the first round, there is a possibility of a team stashing them and leaving them overseas. Any one of the five, six, seven or eight guys that end up in the first round who are international players are potentially going to be left over.
FORD: Just to follow up on Fran, first of all, on Kuzmic, I followed him a little bit this year. He ended up averaging about 7 and a half points a game, and about six rebounds a game. You know, in the Spanish league, which given his age isn’t bad, it certainly doesn’t scream NBA player, but isn’t particularly bad there.
But he got minutes and he’s been playing over there, and that’s all you can ask about these stash prospects is put them in a situation where they can continue to develop. Fran asked about the Greek kid, Giannis. What the NBA scouts are saying is they throw their hands up in the air and say who knows. He does fit the physical profile of an NBA player and he is quite skilled. But when you talk about the Greek second division of the league, you’re talking about high school level, maybe D III and college level, and even then not necessarily dominant in that league. Playing well but not necessarily dominating.
So it’s very difficult for scouts to gauge talent when there isn’t other talent to compare it to around. They’re not familiar with the second league in Greece. They’re not familiar with the other players or quality of players. They certainly, as you can imagine, not familiar with the athletes that you’d be seeing at the NBA level.
So when you have elite college players who talk about the jump from elite college programs in the NBA, no matter how good they are, they’re blown away by the speed, the power, the athleticism at the NBA level. They’re all blown away.
Having Giannis come from Greece to the NBA, I can’t even imagine what that transition would look like. One NBA GM who I really like said, look, he’s not even ready for the D League right now. He would be blown away if they just stuck him in the D League let alone the NBA.
So a team that drafts him, they’re looking at multiple years probably over in Europe of trying to develop, and get on the first team in Greece and eventually get minutes over there and then to the D League and then to the NBA. Teams, by the way, are also reluctant to bring a guy over and take him on a rookie salary that would be over a million dollars a year to go play the D League multiple years.
One year, yeah, they’ll live with that, but multiple years over in the D League is an expensive proposition to them when their clock is ticking on their rookie contract and they have to make a decision on the player when he hits free agency soon. So these are all complicating issue for him.
Where he goes, I’ve had teams talk about late lottery. I’ve had teams talk about late first round. I’ve had teams talk about he’s an ideal second round candidate to stash and leave over there and you don’t have some of the same contract restrictions when you bring them over there.
He truly is the mystery player in the draft. I wish he was here at the combine because I think that would have helped solve some of the questions for the NBA teams. But I’m not sure that would have been in his agent’s best interest, because it actually helps him right now to be the mystery guy, to be the guy because teams are fed up with all the other players that they’ve overscouted to say, well, maybe, maybe someday this guy will make me look like a genius and they draft him. He truly is the biggest enigma of anybody in the draft.