ESPN college basketball analyst and International expert Fran Fraschilla and ESPN college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman answered questions to preview the 2017 NBA Draft Combine during a media conference call.
ESPN2 will televise the NBA Draft Combine powered by Under Armour from 3-7 p.m. ET on Thurs., May 11 and Fri., May 12. Both Fraschilla and Goodman will be part of ESPN’s coverage. Further details are available on ESPN Media Zone.
Below is a transcript from the call.
Q. Could you give me a sense of the Thunder picking at 21?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Well, the Thunder are always in a position in recent years because of their success of trying to find a guy that winds up — I think when you talk about picking 21, you’re really happy if you find a rotation guy because the likelihood initially of finding a starter is probably not as high, obviously, as it is in a first round.
So there are going to be plenty of guys, young big men — by the way, there will probably about 15 or so freshmen, Jeff may have an opinion on this — but I have 15 guys that will probably go in the first round, so you’re looking at potentially a young big man there, a lot of them available. Obviously, the Thunder have always done a nice job of finding international players. There will be a few guys there, as well, and to me the tier is — the first tier is — well, after, to me, Fultz and Ball, the next tier drops off at around 9 or 10, and then really what you’re looking at is a lot of future projection players because of the age of this draft, and given Sam Presti’s success in past drafts, there’s probably going to be a good player available, and wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a young big man.
JEFF GOODMAN: Listen, I think certainly when you watch them, they need scorers around Russ. I mean, like Fran said, there’s some good young bigs, skill bigs, a guy like TJ Leaf could be on the board. I think you look at a guy like Luke Kennard, not a big but certainly a guy that can score, I would think that’s a priority for Sam Presti. You know, watching that team and how good they are defensively, but how they need somebody that can certainly help Russ out, and maybe McDermott with a year under his belt or half a year under his belt is able to take a little bit of pressure off next year. But I would think they’d look more offense than defense.
Q. What are your thoughts on Montay Morris from Iowa State?
GOODMAN: Yeah, I love Montay. I don’t think he’s a first-round pick, but I think he’s a guy who can stick in the league for a long time as a backup or as a third point guard. Look at what he’s done over his college career, taking care of the basketball, making good decisions. You know, NBA guys want people like him, too, somebody you don’t have to worry about, who’s going to kind of bring it every day, who’s not going to be an issue, who’s going to come off the bench and just be a solid player for you. You know, he’s different than a guy like this, but I think of like the role of Sheldon Mac has had in his NBA career being able to go from one NBA team to another, have success at a place like Utah now. Again, he’s a pure point guard. Sheldon is not a natural point like Montay, but I think Montay will be in the league for a long time. The key for him is obviously who he gets drafted by, right, being in the right situation where he has a chance to make the team right out of training camp instead of being on maybe a roster where they’ve already got three good point guards.
Q. What about the fact that he’s got so much of a knowledge of Fred Hoiberg’s system and vice versa, Fred has got so much of a knowledge of Montay.
GOODMAN: Yeah, the only problem with that is Chicago has got about four point guards already on their roster. I don’t know their contract situations off the top of my head. I know they want to re-sign Rondo. They’ve got Jerian Grant, they just traded for Cam Payne, who wasn’t great, they got Michael Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan who’s not really a point, but is playing a point in the Playoffs, so that’s five actually. So I think that would be a tough spot for them to bring in a kid like Montay Morris and him make the team. I think there are better situations for him elsewhere, even though Fred loves him.
FRASCHILLA: I would say the thing where Fred really has helped Montay out is he’ll walk into an NBA Summer League, NBA training camp, he already understands spacing, pick-and-roll basketball. He reads the coverages well because of Fred’s NBA influence, and that’s going to help, and I’ve always said, he’s got the Flint chip on his shoulder that he wears well, and he’s a high-character guy that any coach or GM is going to love having as part of his roster.
Q. I just want to get your thoughts on Maryland’s Justin Jackson, whether it was surprising for him to get an invite to the combine, and at this point where his stock kind of is in you guys’ view.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, just watched a lot of tape of him last night. You know, he had a very good freshman year. He’s kind of always reminded me of Boris Diaw, a young Boris Diaw, not the guy that you see out there now. But Justin has to get more athletic. I have a sense that he’s not going to stay in this draft. We used to say he was a tweener, but the way the NBA has evolved, he’s a guy that can play — he’s really an NBA 3 man. I’m sure at Maryland he played the 4 some. But he shot it really well this year. He’s a good play maker. But the thing that I think he needs desperately is to go back to school, be a little more athletic, work on his lateral quickness, and become more of an NBA wing player. So that would be my two cents, just based on what I’ve seen, not only on tape, but also what I’ve seen during his days in AAU and high school player.
GOODMAN: I talked to like three NBA guys yesterday about him actually, and they all said he should definitely come back, and he could play his way in a year into — where now they felt like his range is — tell me if you’ve heard the same — like 25 to 45. He could sneak into the end of the first round maybe, but if he comes back, he could solidify himself with a really good year next year into being a first-round pick.
Q. I wondered what you think of Hamidou Diallo. As you guys know, he practiced with Kentucky this year for half a season, but that was it. He didn’t play in games. I understand he’s got playing in the five-on-five games at the combine. How do you get a feel for what kind of prospect he is?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I’ll be happy to start. I love the kid. I’d like to see him play at Kentucky for a year, but there are at least three teams that I know of that have multiple picks in the 20s. He’ll be one of the most athletic guys in the draft. I know he doesn’t have an agent, but whoever is counseling him not to play five-on-five I think is playing it correctly, and if you did your homework on him as an NBA scout during his high school career and Summer League career, then you know he’s one of the most athletic guys in this draft. He is a high-character kid. He’s a 6’6″ 2 guard. He obviously can shoot it better. His skill level will have to improve, but given the fact that from 20 to 30, and that’s assuming he stays in, and I doubt he’ll stay in if he doesn’t have a guarantee from a team, given the fact that 20 to 30 historically is a total crapshoot, I would personally take a chance on him, if I were a team and there were a couple of guys that I really liked that had already gone off the board. So I’m a fan of his, and I think his long-term potential down the road is sky high.
GOODMAN: I had one NBA guy tell me that him not playing doesn’t mean — not that he’s a promise, but that he feels pretty good about the fact that he’s going to go in the first round somewhere. I agree with Fran, I think it’s a very, very smart move for him not to play at the combine, just do the testing where he’ll excel. To me, you would think Kentucky would kind of want him to play in a sense, if they want him back, because the knock on him from NBA guys that saw him in practice, they said he doesn’t have great feel. Great athlete, doesn’t have great feel yet. Obviously I’ve seen him a ton, I’m sure Fran saw him a ton in AAU, not a great shooter. So it’s going to be interesting to see whether it’s — what he does, does he go there, blow people away with the testing, and then does he go do some workouts and blow people away, maybe he makes some shots in workouts from people that haven’t seen him a ton and they take a shot at him. But I think his range, again, is probably somewhere, from talking to NBA guys, somewhere from 22 to 45. It’s probably as wide as just about anybody.
Q. What do you guys think of Briscoe and Bam and De’Aaron Fox?
FRASCHILLA: Let me add one thing to Diallo real quick. We had him at the Steph Curry camp two years ago, and there were guys like Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith comes to mind was there, and Diallo was every bit at the level of those guys. In other words, he may not go in the top-10, but he did not take a backseat, especially athletically, to any of the guys that are being considered top-15 picks. So what you’re getting with him, if you take him in the 20s, it’s the equivalent of the Lexington Catholic baseball player who’s throwing 99 miles an hour. He may not be ready for the major leagues, but you don’t mind having him in your farm system, and that’s what an NBA team would be doing drafting him.
Of the guys you mentioned, I just would say quickly that obviously De’Aaron Fox’s speed and athleticism, given the way the NBA game is at the moment. That’s going to trump the fact that he has to continue to improve his shot. But I’m sure Jeff has talked to the same type of scouts who say, you cannot, in this modern NBA, teach his speed and athleticism, and unlike some of the non-shooting point guards in the league that are — actually hurt their team, he is probably — you could safely compare him to a young John Wall because of the same attributes. But it’ll help him — it’s not in his DNA to be a great shooter, because he’s never had to be, but it certainly helps him in his NBA future down the road if he continues to figure out a way to make some shots, but the speed and athleticism will get him drafted, obviously, in the top five or six.
GOODMAN: To add to that, I think he’s only helped by his character, too. I mean, high-character kid, shined when it mattered in the NCAA Tournament, for the most part. I think you’re looking at a guy who’s certainly going to go in the top-10 and could go as high as 5.
FRASCHILLA: With Bam, I would say that draft experts, draft blog guys had him too high coming into college, and now they have him too low. I don’t know if he’s going to measure at 6’10”, but given the NBA right now and the dearth of low-post scorers, when you put a great play maker out there with three shooters like a lot of teams are doing in the Playoffs, Bam has to show that he can run the floor, which we give him a check for, that he can rebound, that we give him a check for, and that he can screen and run to the rim and catch lobs, which we give him a check for.
So if he can do all three of those — if teams are convinced that he can do those things, then he’ll have a place in the league for a long time.
Q. Frank Ntilikina, what do you guys think of his game and how he projects to the NBA?
FRASCHILLA: Well, the broader view here is there’s likely to be five point guards drafted in the first ten. It’s going to be interesting. And most likely because of the fact that people don’t know him like they know the four college kids, he’s going to go fifth. And what I love about him — and by the way, I think he’s going to be able to show you — I hate to say this because I’m not a fan of the triangle, I think in the modern NBA the spacing doesn’t work as well as it did in the old days, but he’s a triangle kind of player, simply because he’s not really a 1, and he’s not really a 2. He’s a guard. He can make decisions well. He shoots it well. He’s athletic. He could be a good defender. And you’re also looking at a kid who’s still 18 years old. His long-term potential as an NBA player is very good. I watched him last summer at the Jordan Gym in New York City, and he made 27 out of 30 NBA threes. I think people who didn’t know him early on — the obligatory line when you don’t know somebody is, he’s a really good athlete, but he’s not a great shooter, and he’s dispelling that this year in France shooting over 40 percent from the international three.
He doesn’t have the polish of a Fultz or Ball or the speed and athleticism or raw athleticism of Fox or Smith, but he has the look and feel of an NBA guard when he grows up.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I was at the same workout that Fran was at, and the knock on him was that he wasn’t a great shooter, and shot it extremely well. He’s a great kid, quiet, but again, like Fran said, the thing is there’s so many point guards at the top of this draft, could he slip a little bit because — now, you do have a bunch of teams that probably are going to be in that top ten that do need a point guard. You know, that’s the one maybe benefit to some extent for him, but he could slide because of that. He could slide if he goes behind those four guys and teams feel comfortable with their point guard situations and decide to go with other guys.
Q. Fran, you mentioned Frank being a good fit for the triangle; do you or Jeff feel the same way about Fox? Does he fit that prototype or not as well as Frank does? What do you think?
FRASCHILLA: I think you have to have a certain type of versatility and skill level to play in the triangle. De’Aaron is going to be able to fit most systems because of his speed. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to walk the ball up the court in the modern NBA into a half-court triangle set, so he’s going to be able to adjust. But you do have to have a certain type of versatility in my opinion to play in the pure triangle because everybody is interchangeable, you have to play multiple positions within the triangle, and that would cater to Frank’s versatility versus De’Aaron’s speed in the NBA game. But again, if you’re not running in the NBA and trying to get easy baskets, you’re probably not a playoff team.
Q. Fran, just thoughts on the fact that a majority of the top eight or nine guys aren’t going to Chicago even for medicals. With the trend continuing, what’s your take on it?
FRASCHILLA: Agents have the power. I mean, that’s just the bottom line with these top kids. The agents control — they have the ability to control the draft. That’s just how it has been in recent years. You know, if you’re a team and you don’t — if you’re uncomfortable about a medical situation, I can’t see in the first eight, nine picks, as I look at my roster, that anybody has had a major injury. Jeff might know better. But, you know, you’re rolling the dice, and hopefully teams have scouted these guys well, which I believe they have. They do due diligence on their background as to the kind of people they are, and agents are just — it’s a power play that they control the market. I think Jeff could speak to that because he speaks to more agents than I do.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I mean, they’re the ones — these kids are all saying they want to go, but once they sign with an agent — there’s a reason Markelle Fultz is going to be there, because he hasn’t signed with an agent yet. When I talked to his guy last week, I said that to him, what are you guys doing. He said, “we’re going to be there,” I said, “yeah, but you haven’t signed with an agent yet,” so if he signs with one before then, who knows if you’ll have the choice, the option to even go.
But you know, listen, whether they go or not, great. Markelle Fultz is going there. He’s really not doing anything there. De’Aaron Fox is going, he’s going to stand there and watch, but he won’t do anything. Really there’s not a whole lot of difference between what they’re going to do going and what Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson and Jason Tatum are doing, which is just not showing up at all and working out each day.
Q. I’m out here in Provo, Utah, and wanted to ask about a couple guys with local ties who are underclassmen who have declared but haven’t hired agent, BYU’s Eric Mika and Duke’s Frank Jackson, thoughts on them and where they’re standing at this point?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, two Alpine High School kids. Mika is an interesting kid because he’s not your typical sophomore because he’s really a senior age-wise, so you kind of get it. He came off a really good year. I watched him play, I talked to people out in the conference and even Mark Few compared him to the type of player that Domantas Sabonis was. I get why he would put his name in, and I get why — even if he was a second-round pick he might stay in, because he’s really an older sophomore. There’s no doubt about that.
And I like him personally. I like him as a second-round pick. I think he’s going to be an NBA player. He does struggle to score over length, but most of these big kids in this draft do, because of the league they’re going into. But he’s got toughness, he’s got great hands. He’s an excellent rebounder, plays with a mean streak, which you need in that league, so I think he’s going to play in the league.
I’m a Frank Jackson fan from this point of view. First of all, there’s a dynamic there that Jeff can really touch on, too, with Duke this coming year with Trevon Duval goes on and signs with Duke, which it’s heading in that direction. But Frank played — actually played really well in the second half of the year in what I would describe as a dysfunctional Duke season because of the injuries, particularly and the suspension to Grayson Allen. Frank is a kid, because of his athleticism and shooting ability, that will be eventually, in my opinion, a good NBA player, not necessarily an All-Star, he may not go in the first round, but I personally like his long-term opportunity to play in the league because he’s such a young freshman and because he’s showed glimpses of the player he was in high school and on the AAU circuit, when many of us said he’s one of the top-10 players in the country. Both of those guys I think will be NBA players, if not later than sooner.
GOODMAN: The NBA guys I talked to felt like Mika would be a mid-second rounder. Almost all of them said he should come back to school, but like Fran said, he turns 23 in January, so that’s probably the issue. If there’s an issue of him leaving now, it would be that, and he was super productive last year on, as Fran said, a dysfunctional Duke team. BYU is fairly dysfunctional, too. Does he want to come out now? I think he comes back. And Frank Jackson is a tough decision, because as Fran said, Duke is probably going to get Trevon Duval. He’s the best point guard in the country, he’s a scoring point who’s better equipped to play the point than Frank. If they get him, how worrisome is that for Frank Jackson, and also the other part is does Grayson Allen coming back to school, did that hurt Frank Jackson’s decision to come back to Duke, because it’s going to be Grayson’s show again to some degree, and now Frank is probably worried about his role, will it expand at all potentially next year with Grayson back, with Duval, with the freshman class that they’ve got coming in, which is, again, very, very good. Most NBA guys, almost all of them told me Frank should come back. He’s a second rounder right now who has a good chance to become a first-rounder in time. May not be next year, he may be a four-year player, but don’t worry about rushing out of there, he can become a first-round pick, a guy that’s a guaranteed first-round pick for the most part, if he’s patient and works on his game.
FRASCHILLA: And I would take the flipside of that and say that a year ago Frank Jackson was one of the most coveted recruits in the country, and he does — he’s got three things going for him: He’s athletic, he’s got a long wingspan — that’s in the same thing there, athleticism. He’s young because he played the entire season, and he hasn’t even — I think he just turned 19. And then the one thing teams will covet is he shoots the — I was going to say the wrong thing, but he shoots the ball really well. If you take him with the 43rd pick, you have a 19-year-old shooter in a league that covets athleticism and shooting, and even if he’s up and down with your D-League team for a couple years, I think that kid, when he’s 24 or 25 years old, is going to be a solid NBA rotation player.
Whether he goes first round in three years or out this year as a mid-second-round pick, it wouldn’t shock me if he starts his NBA career sooner rather than later because of the dynamic at Duke.
Q. Is there anything that either of those guys can do at the combine that would help themselves?
FRASCHILLA: Jeff, is Frank playing? I know Mika is playing.
GOODMAN: I think Frank is going to play. We don’t have the official list yet of who’s playing and who’s not. We’ll get that, I think, tomorrow. But if Frank plays, correct me if I’m wrong, but if he plays and plays the point well, that could certainly help him because he didn’t play at all that well this year at Duke. Everybody knows he can shoot the ball — and really, the point guard position has changed so much in the NBA anyway that, as long as you’re able to initiate offense, and as Fran said, he’s got the speed, he can shoot it, so I think if he can play it fairly well, that could help him for sure. I don’t know how much Mika is going to really be able to help himself to where NBA guys would change their perception of him. I think he is what he is, and he’ll do what he does well. I don’t think he’ll try to do anything outside his comfort zone and all of a sudden start jacking up threes.
If you put Eric Mika on Gonzaga, he might be a good first-round pick.
Q. It doesn’t seem like Malik Monk is going to do anything this week, but what are concerns with him entering the draft workouts coming up?
GOODMAN: I would say Malik Monk to me had such a good year. And the biggest question mark for him coming into the season was consistency with effort I think as much as anything else. I watched him a ton in AAU ball, and you’d see him go for 40 one game and then the next game come up with four points. He rarely did that this year. That’s what I think a lot of NBA scouts were really impressed with was consistent effort. He’s got to get better on the defensive end, but most kids do, unlike his backcourt mate De’Aaron Fox who’s a terrific defender. But I think with Malik Monk, it’s not being a volume guy. You know, being able to handle picking your spots in the NBA a little bit because who knows where he’s going to go and how many shots he’s going to get. He had a long leash in a sense for Kentucky because they needed him to score the ball, so I think it’s going to be different for him, most likely, in the NBA, he’s not going to come in and get 20 shots every game. So I think for him, it’s just going to be consistency with his effort and with his production.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I see him — I wish he was 6’5″ and not 6’3″ with an average swing span because for me the poster child for Malik Monk is what Jamal Crawford has done in his career. I think Malik, once he settles into his NBA career, is going to be a scorer off the bench. I know he probably wouldn’t want to hear that, but he is a — he is still a volume shooter. He had the ultimate green light in high school. He had a green light at Kentucky. It actually hurt them at times. He can put the ball in the basket. There’s no doubt about it.
But the fact that he’s undersized, with a below-average wingspan for the position, he is going to have to become what I call a technician. He is really going to have to work on NBA footwork, creating space and separation. It’s all there for him because when you draft these guys nowadays, for the most part, they’re NBA silly putty. You get to mold them with your coaching staff.
You know, I like him. His NBA future to me is a lead off the bench scorer.
Q. Obviously one of the guys that has a great story in this combine, Derrick White. What’s your thoughts on, first of all, his game, what he’s going to bring to the table for a team, and then kind of his chances of going in the first round?
FRASCHILLA: He’s sneaky. He’s really sneaky. I talked to the Colorado coaching staff, a couple guys, the last couple days, and first of all, I love the improvement he made. He had seven points at Arizona early in the year. I think it was his third conference game. He ended up, as you know, with a monster performance against Arizona, which has a bevy of potential NBA players on it, with the 32 points in the tournament. He has great — he reminds me of an NBA player. He’s not really a point, he’s not really a 2. He’s got terrific basketball IQ. He sees the floor well. He’s got good size. The size helps him become a good defender, and that’s particularly apparent in his shot blocking. He’s a shot maker.
The only knock on him that I can see is he’s a little older, because he sat out, and at this point in time, he is no better than an average NBA athlete for the position, which is like saying you’re only the second or third best-looking girl on the Ole Miss campus, you know? It doesn’t mean he’s a bad athlete, it just means that he’s certainly not an elite athlete. But I like him. I think, Jeff, that if he did really well in workouts, there’s a chance somebody in the 20s could take him, but he’s comfortably ensconced in the second round and has a real good chance to make a roster, even as one of the — what do we call those two-way guys?
GOODMAN: Yeah, two-way guys.
FRASCHILLA: He’s definitely going to be playing professional basketball in the D-League or an NBA team because he really knows how to play the game, and he fits what the NBA is looking for, a shooter who makes good decisions, who’s a great teammate, who’s got great character off the court. Sorry about that long-winded answer.
GOODMAN: He’s the best story. He’s honestly — he’ll be the best story there. Anybody that played three years of D II like he did and transfers to Colorado, has to sit out a year just with a year left, and has the season he had this year, I think it’s the best story there. And then has to get in, via Portsmouth, which as you know, that’s not easy to do these days. They’ll take four or five guys from Portsmouth and get them in the combine. He’s done it the hard way, but I think a lot of people if they know his story will be rooting for him.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant from Indiana. First off, what kind of feel do you guys get for their prospects, and what they can get out of their combine, out of the combine experience, given their current circumstances?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, well, in OG’s case obviously he won’t get much out of it, other than interviews, and as you know, he’s a relatively quiet kid. Where OG is going to have the most value to an NBA team, assuming that his surgery is coming along well, is he is an elite defensive player. He’ll be capable in a league that covets versatility right now, both offensively and defensively, of being able to guard probably four positions because he’s strong enough to guard a small ball 5 man. So he’s going to hang his hat initially on this elite defensive ability, and I’m trying to think, what was the play he made, it was in the NCAA Tournament last year against Kentucky. But anyway, teams know he’s an elite defensive prospect.
He looks to be able to someday become a good NBA three-point shooter, although his consistency wanes. The other skills are below average. What makes him a guy that is going to be drafted in the first round is just the athleticism, the rawness of his game, because he came out of nowhere, and the fact that he could be the ultimate 3 and D guy. He doesn’t have the ball handling ability of a Kawhi Leonard yet, but that’s the comparison. But 3 and D for sure. And then with Thomas, I mean, he’s going to have to show that he’s an athlete. He’s got to know what he’s going to do at the combine that can show people that, but he’s going to have to show that he’s athletic enough to be able to guard on the perimeter, as all big guys have to do in the league right now. It helps that he shot the ball well. He didn’t have a good year scoring inside, in my opinion, didn’t play with the kind of toughness that I think Indiana expected from him. But he’s a young — I think he’s a young kid, too, as I recall, and he’s a big kid who’s reasonably mobile, and from all indications he’s got a high character and is a worker. So that bodes well for him.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I think OG, like Fran said, is fairly firmly entrenched in the first round somewhere. He’s probably going to be out through maybe training camp next year, so I don’t know when he’ll be back, and I think teams are going to take him for the future. But I think Fran covered him pretty well. Thomas, I was surprised that he’s decided to sign with an agent, to be honest. I’m never going to say whether a kid should or shouldn’t do something because we don’t know their individual circumstances. So to me, somebody that says, hey, everybody should do this if they don’t get invited to the combine or everybody should do that, I’m not buying that. But I do think to me Thomas Bryant’s stock was high going into this year, and because of what Indiana did or didn’t do, and because of what Thomas Bryant did or didn’t do, it’s fallen a bit, and this is a very strong and deeper draft than next year.
So I was a little bit surprised he didn’t come back and play a year under Archie Miller. I think he could have benefitted from it, I think his NBA stock could have benefitted from it, and right now almost every NBA guy I’ve talked to says he will not go somewhere in the first round, he’ll go somewhere in the second round. But second rounders now get guaranteed contracts, a lot of them, so that’s the difference these days is some kids just feel like, hey, if I’m going to go from 30 to 40, I’ll get a guaranteed deal, and that’s good enough for me.
Q. James Blackmon recently made it official, of course he’s not a guy who got an NBA combine invite, but a lot talked about is his shooting ability and that sort of thing, but what do you each feel is the biggest thing he needs to prove to NBA teams in this pre-draft process?
FRASCHILLA: Grow, but he can’t. You know, in all seriousness, and I don’t mean to be cute about that, but James is stuck as a 6’2″ scoring guard, and I understand the decision. He’s got his degree. He wants to move on. He’s a guy that you could see in the D-League. You could even see him as a two-way player. Somebody might be willing to take a chance on having him under contract. Because, let’s face it, he really can shoot it. There’s some things that he has to show teams what he can do, which one of them would be guarding and staying in front of athletic players, but in a league that really, really right now is valuing shooting, you know, that’s going to be his calling card. Brent Forbes played in the NBA this year, had 29 in a game, and he’s 6’2″. You know, I get James leaving, and he can shoot the cover off the ball.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I think with him, it was more of he graduated or is graduating, and maybe he felt like his stock is what it is at this point, and that may be the case from people that I’ve talked to. You know, he probably doesn’t improve his stock all that much, because like Fran said, it’s not like he’s growing overnight from this year to next year. But he can shoot the ball. I would anticipate he’ll be on somebody’s Summer League roster and maybe he can catch on as one of those two additional two-way players that they’ve added this year for the NBA. That’s certainly going to help a lot of these kids that some people are criticizing for making those decisions. They’ll be making more money in the D-League this year, which is good. I mean, that’s the way it should be. They shouldn’t be making 20 grand, which is what a lot of them were making over the last few years. Now they can make 75, $100,000.
Q. You guys already talked a little bit about Mika and Frank Jackson. I want to ask about two other guys with Utah ties, Kyle Kuzma from Utah and Caleb Swanigan from Purdue. What do those guys have to do this week in the combine in order to improve their stock?
FRASCHILLA: I think Kyle has got to make outside shots. He’s athletic enough. He had a good year. I’ve had him at camp before at the Under Armour All-American camp. I’ll tell you what he does: He rebounds and he plays with really good energy, but for him to stick in the league, he’s going to have to show that he can be a stretch 4 and be a combination of a stretch 4 who can make jump shots, and also be what we call an energy big man. You know, that’s — and I believe he graduated, which is probably another reason he’s coming out.
And then with Caleb Swanigan in my opinion, you know, it’s really interesting about Caleb, he dominated college basketball this year, and he obviously is an elite rebounder. He does struggle to score over length, and he did again this year, and there are things that he needs to do better in the low post in order to have any effectiveness as an NBA player.
But what Caleb has proven that he can do is make jump shots, and if he can be a pick-and-pop guy or even stretch his range out to the three-point line, then I could see him being what I would call a second-unit power forward or small ball center. That’s how I look at it. There might be a team that likes him in the first round, but if he hangs his hat on a couple of skills to get in the league, it’ll be his rebounding, and it’ll be his ability to make outside shots, as crazy as that sounds, because he dominated the paint in college basketball.
GOODMAN: The NBA guys that I talked to all pretty much said Swanigan should just come out now, he hasn’t officially signed but he’s also got Roosevelt Barnes as his guardian, adopted father, who’s a football agent, so my guess is he’s just handling the process the intelligent way, which is, what’s the benefit of putting it out there that he’s already signed, if he gets hurt or has a change of heart. But I think the odds are he probably leaves, from everything I’m hearing, and most NBA guys feel like he’s not really going to improve on the year he had last year. How do you do better than that? Now, again, the only benefit would be next year’s draft is a little bit weaker, but this year’s draft isn’t loaded with bigs. Can Swanigan sneak into the end of the first round? Maybe. I think, again, the range for him is probably 25 to 40, 45, and Kuzma is — very intrigued by Kuzma. A lot of guys I’ve talked to are very intrigued by him because of the way the game has gone, like Fran mentioned. I don’t know if he’s a first round. I think he’s somewhere in that middle second round as of right now, but it’s so hard to tell. When you try to give these projections and they’re giving them to me and you just don’t know yet who’s staying in and who’s not, so a lot of these can change.
FRASCHILLA: The second round now is not — we used to say D-League was almost like a curse, but the D-League, especially next year with the plethora of young talent, the D-League is going to become AAA baseball, and for a guy like Kuzma who has to improve his outside shooting, to sign with an NBA team or go to the D-League or whoever else, James Blackmon or anybody else, I mean, that is going to be a viable route to the NBA. And I think over half of the first-round picks this year played in the D-League. A guy like Kuzma, Eric Mika, Frank Jackson, these guys are one step away and a couple years of maturity from being NBA players, and there’s not that much difference between Allen Crabbe going in the second round and making $18 million a year right now or Chris Middleton with the Bucks and a guy that goes 21st. It’s proven.
Q. After Donovan Mitchell decided officially on Friday, not all that surprising, to stay in the draft, just wanted your kind of updated evaluations of him as an NBA prospect and how you think teams view him.
FRASCHILLA: Well, you know what, he’s small. He’s a small 2 guard. I know he played the point this year, but ultimately he’s going to be a small wing player. Highly athletic. Interesting thing with him is, boy, Coach Pitino gave him the green light, and he took a lot of tough shots this year. He has to shoot the ball better from the outside. I’m looking — I just got done watching more tape of him. He’s going to make the league. He’s going to play in the league. He kind of reminds me of Terry Rozier, not in terms of being a point guard, but in terms of being an athletic guard who could turn into a defensive specialist.
He’s really good off the dribble. He can create his own shot. But he’s got to become a better decision maker with his shot selection. But he can shoot the ball and he can defend, and despite the fact that he’s 6’2″, I think he’s got a long wingspan, and I think he’ll play in the league. But he’s what I would call more of an athlete than a basketball player right now, and that’s not necessarily a negative connotation because the last I checked, you have to be very athletic to play in that league, and he has that kind of athleticism.
GOODMAN: There aren’t a lot of 2 guards in this draft, so I think he will go in the first round, and that’s why he decided to make the decision before the combine. It was certainly heading that way. But if you look down the list of guys eligible for the draft, there just aren’t a lot of guys like Donovan Mitchell. He shot it so well in league play, and a lot of the NBA guys I talked to were impressed when Snyder was out with the injury, Donovan actually did a decent job — actually did a very good job of running the point, and they feel like, with that, he can initiate offense in the NBA. He’s not going to be a primary point guard, but he could help in that regard.
I think, again, Donovan Mitchell is a guy that I’d be surprised, from what I hear, if he doesn’t go somewhere in that 20, 25 range, maybe even higher.
Q. What are your thoughts on the local kid here, Ojeleye? It sounds like you guys don’t think that any of those guys skipping the combine will be negatively impacted. I’m curious also about a guy like Ball. Does he have any impact whatsoever if the wrong team ends up at 2 or 1 and how that will be perceived going into the draft?
FRASCHILLA: Well, let’s take the Ball situation. It’s just my own opinion that I hope, for Lonzo’s sake, he’s drafted by a team that’s not the LA Lakers.
GOODMAN: I agree.
FRASCHILLA: But I don’t think that teams are going to be particularly concerned about his father’s involvement. That’s the sense I get from people I talk to.
Now, if everything is exactly even, like if you really love Lonzo Ball and you really love Josh Jackson, maybe your personnel staff says, well, we don’t want the headaches of LaVar Ball. But I doubt that will happen, I really do. The kid seems to be a great kid. I talked to a couple people at UCLA in the last couple of days, and from the strength coach to the team managers, everybody that I talked to, unless they’re lying, said that the kid was an absolute delight to deal with and was a great teammate. So that’s not going to be, I don’t think, a big issue.
Jeff, do you want to jump in on that?
GOODMAN: Yeah, I’m actually going to write a story about this probably next week, and every NBA GM I’ve talked to, and a bunch of them are in that range where they might draft Lonzo, they say they’re not worried about him at all. They feel like LaVar was somewhat enabled last year and has been, because Steve Alford had to. His job was on the line a little bit, and Lonzo kind of took the program to a level that it hadn’t been. Where I don’t think NBA guys — I think they feel like, and I don’t if they can control LaVar, but they feel like they can control LaVar a lot better in the NBA. They’re not worried about LaVar ball at all. That won’t affect them drafting Lonzo at any spot.
FRASCHILLA: And I think with Ojeleye, and I have not heard whether he’s seriously thinking about coming back or going, he obviously has graduated already. He obviously had a phenomenal season as the Player of the Year in The American. What he has to go show, I think, is that he can be a version of Draymond Green, not that he’ll ever be an All-Star, but with his size, strength, ability to shoot the ball, his toughness, his versatility and the way the NBA game is going, he needs to have a team say, you know, we think you could be a guy that could guard some of the smaller power forwards in the NBA, and that is the way the game is going.
In a sense, this is a good time for him to check his draft stock because he’s got everything else buttoned up, from graduation to a great season at SMU, and now he’s playing with house money to go see what his NBA stock is.
Again, the way he plays is the way the game is evolving, so that could very well help him with a lot of teams.
GOODMAN: Yeah, a lot of guys I talk to feel like he’s got a legitimate shot if he stays in to be a late first-rounder.
Q. Do either of you go to Portsmouth? I was curious, I heard different things about Kadeem Allen.
GOODMAN: No, I didn’t get to go. Kadeem has been working out, there was a workout Sunday I was invited to, but I didn’t go see him.
FRASCHILLA: I didn’t, either.
Q. Did either of you guys hear anything? I know defense is his calling card, and wondering if you heard anything about that, and if he has a chance to actually create some attention now that he got invited this week, as well.
FRASCHILLA: Well, here’s how I would evaluate him. Unfortunately he’s a little bit older. He might even be turning 25. Could that be right?
Q. Yeah, I think he’s 24 — yeah, 23 or 24.
FRASCHILLA: So that will help him. But given the kind of kid he is and the kind of career he crafted for himself at Arizona, he’s definitely a D-League level player and potentially higher. He’s got speed. He can make open shots, and he defends, and he’s a high-character guy. He’s one of those guys — there’s 450 different stories in the NBA, and there’s 30 stars, and everybody else is a role player, and so for me, what I see from Kadeem, if he doesn’t go overseas, is playing professionally, likely in the D-League, and it’s just a matter of — he is the prototypical backup or third point guard in the NBA because of his toughness, defense, make a shot, handle the ball, and what seems to be low maintenance off the court. The age is against him. He didn’t put up big numbers, averaged about 10 points a game because of the kind of team Arizona had, but it’s not going to shock me if you turn your TV on, if not this year, in two or three years and you go, hey, how about that, Kadeem Allen is playing for the Milwaukee Bucks or the Brooklyn Nets. He’s definitely, I think, on people’s radar because of what he’s accomplished. But he is swimming upstream. I don’t know how you feel, Jeff, but he is who he is, which is an effective, solid point guard prospect.
GOODMAN: Yeah, he’s probably going to have to go undrafted, get into a camp, and either blow somebody away and they need a guy — again, he could be a two-way player that they draft, try to make him even more of a point guard. But he’s athletic, he plays hard, he defends. Listen, when I talked to Sean, I’m not sure Sean has raved about anybody as much as he has about Kadeem Allen in years.
FRASCHILLA: I would add one more thing. I know we throw that term around, late first, early second, undrafted. I talked to my friends in the league, you get to 45 and 50, and you’re just looking for one guy you really like. It wouldn’t shock me at all if somebody with the 51st pick takes a kid like him, just because it’s a total crapshoot when you get down — Jeff may be right, he goes undrafted, and there’s a good chance that could happen, too. But you get to 51, 52, 53, and someone says, let’s take the kid from Arizona because he’s a great kid, he’ll make practices great, he’ll guard the heck out of Isaiah Thomas every day, that’s how that stuff works.
Q. What do you guys think about the two other guys from Arizona that are going to be there this week, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins, who still has the option to return, of course.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I’ve been around those guys at camps. You know, I really like Rawle. I think Rawle is going to play in the NBA, it’s just a matter of where does he want his draft stock to be now or in the future. But he’s kind of like — I don’t know if this is a good comparison, but he reminds me an awful lot as a player of Lance Stevenson. I don’t want to infer at all that he’s got the same stuff that Lance occasionally has off the court. But he reminds me of Lance, and Kobi fashioned himself as a point guard coming into college, and I don’t think he’s a point guard, and now that he’s in, you might not hear from him for a couple of years, but the kid does have athleticism and talent, and let’s not forget, when PJC and Trier weren’t on the court, he wasn’t bad early in the season.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I think Kobi–
Q. Such a weird finish to the season for him and the kind of bigs we saw out of the rotation and does this raise questions going into this process?
GOODMAN: He had questions. That’s the thing is I think he came in with questions. The interview process will actually be very important I think for both those guys, but Kobi especially. You know, Rawle has got a chance certainly to be a second rounder. I don’t see him getting in the first round this year. Most NBA guys I talked to said he should come back. But it’s further complicated for him of Cam Johnson coming in and what happens with Bowen and Trier is obviously back for a full year, so if you’re Rawle Alkins, again, you’ve got to stay patient, and it may not be after two years. It could be after four years, then you’re a first-round pick. But if he’s patient, that could happen, or he comes out now and ends up bouncing back and forth between the D-League. Who knows.
Q. Just asking about the two Kansas guys that will be in Chicago this week, Svi Luke and Mason. Are you surprised that Svi Luke has got the invite to the combine and what are you hearing about his return to KU and what can they do this week to move up?
FRASCHILLA: You know, my gut feeling Svi is going to — my gut feeling is that he’s going to stay in and hope to be a draft pick. He does — he’s got two things in his favor: Wide open, he’ll be as good a shooter at the combine as just about anybody, which, again, is coveted. He’ll measure out at 6’7″ instead of the 6’8″ that was part of the Kansas roster. And the fact that he will be one of the youngest guys there, because, although he’s a junior he does not turn 20 until June. My sense with him is he’s not going to come back. I have nothing to base that on, and he’s a draft pick, and then he’s fighting for his life like everybody is. If he’s drafted.
With Frank, 18 players in the NBA this past year were six feet or under, so Frank is still an outlier, but given the size, excuse me, given the speed, strength, competitiveness, ability to make outside shots, which was incredible this year, Frank — I’ve heard — I haven’t heard anybody say that he won’t be in the second round. Frank will probably be a guy that is going to be a backup in the NBA, but could have a long career if he finds the right places to land.
Q. I just wanted to get your sense of the Michigan trio, Derrick Walton, Senior, along with Mo Wagner and D.J. Wilson. What can they do at the combine, and again, the two underclassmen not signing with agents, maybe the look for them to come back for their senior seasons?
GOODMAN: Yeah, the NBA guys I talked to said, Mo Wagner, come back. Great that he played well at the end of the year, but it was a small sample size, and they said, he’s got good upside, come back, become a better rebounder, become a better defender, but go back to school. D.J., same thing for the most part, but they felt like he did more to justify what he did and testing the process. They felt like he could be a 25 to 40 type guy at the end of the day, but again, almost everyone I talked to said both should come back, Wagner 1,000 percent, and Wilson, if he comes back, they felt like he could really play his way into the first round for sure next year.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I would agree with Jeff on both counts. Neither one of those guys is physically ready for the NBA. And to Jeff’s point, if you take away the 26 points versus Louisville and the good game against Minnesota late in the year, he did not play great the rest of the postseason. D.J. is really interesting because he is the quintessential 3 and D big guy right now. He shoots threes, and he’s got great length to defend. But even he got bullied inside. So both of those guys are not physically ready in my opinion to be in the NBA right now.
D.J. could get drafted in the first round late, but he ain’t playing in an important NBA game for at least a couple years. Kudos to Derrick Walton. He had a monster season. He’s probably likely a D-League player, but boy he shoots the absolute cover off the basketball, and when you look at all the guys that are point guards in this draft after you get past the first five, I mean, I just watched him give Jawun Evans fits, and some people think Jawun Evans is a first rounder, and he could not guard D.J. Walton.
Q. Question about Alec Peters from Valparaiso, what are your assessments on him and how much will the injury hurt him leading into his first year?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I would say this: In watching Alec Peters late in the season, I was struck by the fact that he just didn’t look as athletic as he did as a junior, and something was missing. I couldn’t tell if he gained weight or what it was, but he looked slower, and then when the stress fracture was revealed, it made sense to me. If you look at Alec early in the year, I remember one particular game against BYU, he struggled at times against Kentucky because of the length inside, which is not going to play in the NBA. He’s going to be a stretch 4. I think Alec Peters right now is a little bit hidden in plain sight because he’s going to have to show teams that the stress fracture is not a long-term issue, but a lot of people before the season were talking about him as a late first-round pick. He actually could be a steal for somebody being completely healthy, because you’re looking at a guy that was a career 40 percent three-point shooters, and going to be interesting to see, not so much at the combine, but how the draft goes and how the summer goes, because lots of teams really liked him coming into the season.
GOODMAN: A lot of teams have seen him for years. That’s the good thing for the last couple years, NBA guys knew all about him. They’ve got a lot to base it on with him, but I don’t think they have to see him at the combine to evaluate him. Every team has been down to Valpo or seen Valpo on the road to be able to kind of see what he’s all about. I don’t think that’ll hurt him that much. But I agree with Fran, I don’t think he’s a first rounder, especially coming off the injury. I think he goes somewhere in the second round, and for him, again, can he get a guaranteed deal in the second round, can he go to the right team, have a chance to fit. Certainly he’s a guy that’s shown the ability to step out and really, really stretch the floor, and guys in the NBA, they love that. I mean, they do. That’s what they want right now. If he can do that, I think he’s got a chance to certainly make a roster and stick.
Q. Question about the Pistons have talked about their need to improve offensively. Who are some of the players that you think might be there at No. 12 that could help them that you haven’t discussed already?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I would say a guy that’s going to be staring them in the face right off the bat is Terrence Ferguson, who is not yet — I’ve got to check, but I think Terrence is just about to turn 19, and he’s your ultimate spot-up three-point shooter, highly athletic, loves to defend, and spent a year in Australia, where, by all accounts, people I checked with down under, they absolutely loved him. This is a kid, as Jeff remembers, he made six straight threes in the Nike Hoops Summit a year ago. He’s a little bit like Caldwell Pope in that regard, but he is definitely a shot maker.
Another guy that I think would be too high there, but another guy that really helped his stock is Justin Jackson from North Carolina, who made a ton of threes this year, although he struggled in the last part of the year, ironically, they win the national title, but I think he shot 27 percent from three down the stretch of the season. If you’re looking at guys that can score, those two guys jump out at me on my list. And then if you’re looking for a young big guy that could potentially score, Zach Collins could be still in play there, although there’s a good chance he could be gone.
But the rest of the guys I have in that range are all young big kids, minus Luke Kennard, the Duke youngster Jeff mentioned earlier who shot 44 percent on three this year. I think 12 is too high for Luke there, but it’s a matter of what the Pistons need to add to that roster.
GOODMAN: Yeah, does somebody fall, does somebody slip? What we’ve got is kind of a top ten. Does a kid like — who we talked about earlier, the French point guard, Frank Ntilikina, does he slip a little bit to 12. I know they’ve got Reggie Jackson, but he’s kind of a combo. But I think Fran brought up Zach Collins, Jarrod Allen, Justin Jackson, Terrence Ferguson, those are all guys, Luke Kennard could be a stretch at that point. Justin Patton, another big guy with a ton of potential, redshirt freshman from Creighton. I’m not sure he goes that high.
But it’ll be interesting to see where Detroit goes because I think there is — I think Fran would agree here, there’s a pretty good drop-off maybe after the top nine or ten until the next ten, maybe from 1 to 10, and then there’s a gap from 10 to maybe 20.
Q. I’m going to ask you about Tyler Lydon. But what do you think about Andrew White?
GOODMAN: Tyler is an interesting one, right? He didn’t have the year that I think people thought he’d have. Some NBA guys love him, they think he’s going to be a first rounder. Other guys that I talk to think he’s going to be a second rounder. I don’t know what — his range is a little bit different than a lot of guys right now just because you’ve got guys differing. Can he guard at the next level? He didn’t shoot it quite as well as some people thought he would in his career. You know, he was effective really in the middle of the zone defensively more than on the wing. So I think he’s a guy who can go 25 and he could go 40. And from what NBA people are telling me, I wouldn’t be surprised with that. Andrew White, I think he’s probably undrafted, from everything that I’ve been told. Obviously can shoot the ball, got good size, in addition to the red flags of defensively and putting the ball on the floor, you’ve also got the fact that he transferred three places, and the concern from NBA guys with that on a fringe guy. If he was that good, they wouldn’t care. But being a fringe guy that might or might not be drafted, I think teams are going to look at somebody like that and say, well, what’s this all about.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I would say that I get why Tyler came out. He was highly regarded playing for USA Basketball a couple years ago. A lot of the guys he played with are now in the NBA. His whole future is going to be based on whether he can make NBA three-point shots, because he showed an aversion to being able to score in the paint. He’ll be an average NBA athlete, both in terms of his athleticism and length. You know, he’s not a guy that elevates or plays through contact inside. And so the best — and we don’t know what the defensive liability is going to be because he sat in the zone for two years.
The guy he ought to model his game after is Ryan Anderson from the Houston Rockets, or Channing Frye from the Cavaliers, because what he is is a stretch big guy. But he was only 8 for 27 from three at the end of the season, and so it behooves him in the combine and the individual workouts with teams to make a lot of outside shots in the drills.
Q. I wanted to get your take on Jerome Blossomgame. You saw him at the combine last year, he returned to Clemson even though he graduated, didn’t shoot the three as well as he did last year, but a little bit better at the end of the season, probably his ball handling is a little bit of a concern. What can he do to elevate his draft stock, and where do you see his game in comparison to last year?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, surprising that he didn’t shoot the ball as well as last year, but I also think, watching him, he tried to show everybody that he was more of a perimeter player than I think he really was. There are teams that like him. They liked him last year.
What I see of him is a wing or small ball forward defender, because he is a very good defender and obviously a very good athlete. He plays well around the basket, and I think he shot 40 percent the year before, if I’m not mistaken. He has to make shots. If he can defend and make open threes, he’s got the athleticism to play in the NBA.
You know, unfortunately, guys like him, and there were a lot of them, have to play — his most effective college position is inside, but his most effective NBA future is going to be defending wings and small ball 4 men, and he has to make shots, otherwise he becomes a major liability in this NBA game right now because of the importance of outside shooting.
GOODMAN: A lot of NBA guys I talked to last year were talking a lot about him. He was a guy who had such a good year and shot it so well and they were worried whether it was an aberration or not. He decides to come back, doesn’t shoot as well, and now you don’t hear as much from them about him. They’re not calling and asking me about him. When I ask about guys, they’re not really talking about him. So I think he has lost a little bit of his luster. Like Fran said, he didn’t shoot it well. If you’re not shooting it well like that, you’d better be Andre Robertson as far as a defender to get on the court in the NBA and stay on the court. I think he’s got to buy into that, buy into his role of just being a great athletic defender, and make enough shots, and I think certainly there’s a place for him in the NBA, but he’s going to have to earn it now, and it’s going to be a little bit harder than I think maybe even a year ago if he had left.
Q. Devin Robinson’s stock, I’m curious about your thoughts and if he can help himself this weekend and how you feel also about John Egbunu going through the process with the ACL injury.
FRASCHILLA: Well, Devin finally lived up to the potential based on the guy I saw in high school. He obviously had his best season. Here’s what I think he is: He’s, again, a classic 3 and D guy, willing defender with a 6’11” wingspan, obviously athletic enough to guards 2s and 3s, some 4s. And let’s face it, if he makes 39 percent of his NBA threes, like he did this year, then he’s your prototypical NBA wing defender, role player. You know, he could stick on a team.
And most of these guys, even Devin Robinson, if he gets drafted, let’s say early second, for example, he’s not going to play very many meaningful minutes right away in the league. But going back to his high school days and the fact that he started to improve and take the game seriously and he’s got to overcome the talk about his stress fracture earlier in the year, there’s going to be some teams that really like what they see from him, because they do see improvement.
GOODMAN: Yeah, everything I’ve heard from NBA guys say he’s going to be a second rounder. Where, I don’t know, but I think they love his upside. We’ve always liked his upside, and finally, you’ve started to see the progression a little bit, again, with — he’s never been a go-to guy, but in the league, that’s not going to be him, either. He’s got to be a guy who makes shots and defends. He’s versatile. That’ll help him. So I think he goes somewhere in the second round from what they’re telling me.
Q. The Dallas Mavericks probably have the No. 9 pick next month in the NBA Draft. If they select a power forward, who do you think will be there with that ninth pick, and what can you tell us about that player?
FRASCHILLA: Well, the guy that they’re probably staring at hoping that he falls to 9, and for a number of different reasons, would be Lauri Markkanen from Arizona. Now, Lauri has — it’s a major trade-off with him, because offensively, at seven feet tall, and I think he’s going to turn 20 at some point in the next six months, his ability to shoot the ball is off the charts. He’s an absolutely 10 plus kid. People I know have just watched a workout earlier in the week, and they’ve raved about him. But the defensive issues are going to be prominent. But he is a kid — he cares. So the comparisons to Dirk are going to be unfair, but he’s going to be there.
It’s possible that Jonathan Isaac slips. I doubt it. If that were me, he wouldn’t slip that far. But that’s another kid that could slip who’s got enormous potential, as much as anybody in the draft, and if they’re looking bigs right there, they’re two safe, logical guys before you start gambling a little bit with guys like Zach Collins and Jarrod Allen and Justin Patton, who will probably all be there when the Mavericks pick.
But if you’re going bigs right now, those are the two guys — and keep this in mind, too: As you know quite well, our guy Carlisle loves outside shooting, and that’s what Markkanen, and I think to a lesser extent Jonathan Isaac bring to the table for young big guys.
Q. Just curious your thoughts on Swanigan decision not to go through the competition at the combine, and maybe you could speak, just in terms of all big men, if you think that’s a prudent decision.
GOODMAN: Yeah, I do. Listen, bigs are scared of a combine, because they’re scared of not getting the ball. And if you’re Swanigan, you’ve proven at the college level pretty much everything that you needed to prove. So for him, I actually think the testing is more important. I don’t know if you agree with that, but he’s lost so much weight in his life, gotten in great shape, if he can do well in the testing, also, people know he can play. People know his deficiencies and his strengths against college players. That’s not going to be the issue. I don’t know how much it would help him even dominating against the group that’s going to be out there, because if he does, people are going to still say, well, he should dominate against those guys.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, and as we saw last year and in previous years, the group that’s playing five-on-five are basically either second-round guys or undrafted guys, so you know, I think Jeff is right on the money. You know, with Caleb, the conditioning is definitely one thing that’ll stand out, assuming he’s in the shape he played in this year. The second thing, again, is I’m very high on his ability to shoot the ball, which is going to come in handy for him, and then the third thing is his likability, how will teams like him when they sit down and interview him. You know, given what he’s accomplished in two years at Purdue, I think he’s making the right decision, and he’s got ways to help himself at the combine besides just playing five-on-five.
Q. Obviously the Timberwolves have a stellar group of young talent that hasn’t quite meshed into a winning team yet. Who do you see as the best fit right now that could help them immediately?
GOODMAN: I mean, they’ve got three or four really good young players. I mean, obviously you build around Thames and Wiggins and Zach LaVine when he’s healthy. To me it would be a point guard still. I don’t know if Zach LaVine is really a point, and I know they’re trying to move Rubio if they can, and they’ve got Kris Dunn, who didn’t play well. I don’t know what you can do there, but there’s so many good point guards that are going to be on the board, or do you take — listen, you probably just go best player available. When you talk to all the NBA guys, they’re not drafting for need when they’re drafting that guy. Really most of them aren’t drafting for need, period. Does a Jason Tatum slip? Markkanen on the board? I just think you take the best player available if you’re the Timberwolves and figure out a way to mesh him with Towns who is versatile and Wiggins who is talented and Levine is pretty versatile when he’s healthy, so I think they go best player available.
FRASCHILLA: I think a guy they should really hope is there at 6 and would fit right in with the youth movement, although that’s probably not what the Timberwolves would want me to say, but I think Jonathan Isaac at Florida State. You’re talking about a young, mobile big guy that can play away from the basket, space the floor. He’s got a great IQ for his age. He’s a high-character kid. And he’s a willing defensive player. Could end up being as good as defender as anybody in this draft over 6’7″.
He’s a guy that, if I were Minnesota, I would hope that — because you can’t add a point guard who can’t shoot right now, so last thing you need is another non-shooter on the floor. And so if you don’t take Markkanen that high and you’ve got Jonathan Isaac there who’s an elite athlete, he would be, to me, a guy that has a great NBA future if everything falls into place and he physically matures and gets stronger.
Q. My question is about centers and the draft who have that modern NBA containing guards and the pick-and-roll ability who are some guys that are like in the 20 to 30 range like Bam Adebayo and Tony Bradley. Who do you think are centers or power forwards that fit this archetype?
FRASCHILLA: If you’re talking 20 to 30, there’s a chance that Bam and Bradley will both be around. I love Tony Bradley. I don’t see any way he’s not a first-round pick. He was hidden in plain sight this year for obvious reasons. They had two seniors, and he played just enough for people to get a taste of what he can be. And at 6’10” and young for his age and the fact that he is strong, great hands, good mobility, he would be, I think, terrific there.
And I think if Bam is around — Bam was not as highly — they put Bam too high on the initial draft blog, mock drafts, but if he’s there in the 20s, given what the NBA needs from big guys right now, as I said earlier, run the floor, screen and rumble and then defend pick-and-roll, I think he would be solid there.
And then to me, Anigbogu, who is more raw than both of those guys, you’re looking at a kid that won’t turn 19 until October. He’s a long way from being an NBA player, but he’s as good an athlete as any big kid in this draft. All three of those guys I think would be solid in the 20s.
GOODMAN: I’ll add one more, and I can’t believe — if you told me a year ago that we would get an hour and 28 minutes into the call and we wouldn’t have mentioned the name Harry Giles I would have said you were out of your mind, but obviously with his injury history, that’s why we’re talking about him in the 20s and maybe not in the 20s. It’s going to depend on the medicals for him. This week he’s going to the combine, and he’ll get the medicals, and that’s going to really determine where he gets drafted. But when he was healthy, I mean, athletic, could move his feet, played hard, all of the above, there’s just a lot of question marks right now with his knees.
Q. Fran talked earlier about tiers and being a cut-off at 9 or 10. Do you feel like there’s a group there that you see as potential stars that kind of separate themselves down the line; and also, you mentioned Monk, his role. Is he purely a shooting guard, or do you think he can convert to point guard in the NBA?
FRASCHILLA: I personally don’t think he can convert. You know, the way I look at the NBA now and the way I talk to my friends in the league, it’s about play makers, wings and bigs. You know, to me, he’s more of a wing scorer. That’s just me. So I wouldn’t want the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll at the end of the shot clock 15 to 20 times a night. I’d be more comfortable with him off the ball, making open shots, and playing a little bit in isolation.
But as far as decision making at the end of the shot clock, which happens 100 times a night, that wouldn’t be, to me, playing to his strengths. That’s just how I feel about him, but obviously he’s got the ability to put the ball in the basket, so I like that. But as far as tiers, I wasn’t sure — Jeff may know more about how teams are tiering these guys right now.
GOODMAN: I mean, I think there’s four at the top right now that have separated themselves a little bit, and that’s Fultz, Ball, Josh Jackson and Tatum. And then there’s probably the next tier of four or five, which is some order, Markkanen, De’Aaron Fox, Isaac, Malik Monk, Dennis Smith. And then there’s another group after that. Talking to the NBA guys, they feel like, again, those top four are pretty firm right now.
Q. Where do you see Ivan Rabb from Cal stacking up, and how do you evaluate him based on his second season, deciding to stay in school? Do you think that was a good choice for a bad choice for him?
GOODMAN: You know, for me, Rabb, NBA guys were saying he was going to go somewhere in the probably 10 to 15 range last year. He probably won’t go that high this year. But I think he’ll be more prepared to hopefully stay in the NBA and make an impact after two years in college rather than one. He’s a really bright kid. He’s halfway to getting his degree now. I don’t think it’s a wash, as some people will try to make it out to be, for Ivan Rabb. As long as he goes in the first round, goes to a good situation with a good team that he can kind of grow with, then he’ll be fine.
Q. On two guys from South Carolina, what’s the assessment of how ready PJ Dozier is for this, and coming off a sophomore season, and where does Sindarius Thornwell play in the NBA? Is he a point guard, a combo guard? Where does he fit?
FRASCHILLA: Two good questions. Two great college players. PJ’s big thing is going to be can he make outside shots. It’s going to be very difficult for him to prove himself in the NBA as a non-shooting point guard. He obviously had a very, very good season. He’s got good size. He plays with toughness, but the simple fact is you can’t — it’s hard to be on the floor when you’re a career 30 percent three-point shooter and a 60 percent free-throw shooting. That has got to be his No. 1 concern, or at least point of emphasis, moving forward. I’m sure he’s already started to do that.
And good luck to him because he’s a great kid. I’ve been around both he and Sindarius a lot.
Sindarius, to me, because he played so much as a power forward this year — no, he’s not a power forward but he played like one, he’ll have to make a little bit more of a transition to the perimeter, but he shot the three well. He got to the foul line a lot. He was a high — he made a lot of free throws. The guy I would pattern myself after if I was Sindarius is Malcolm Brogdon, big, strong guard, reasonably good outside shooter, good defender, high IQ player. People are going to love Sindarius’s toughness and his versatility, and so that’s what he’s got going for him. He’ll just have to prove he can guard a little bit quicker type of NBA athlete in the backcourt or at the wing spot. But he’s going to certainly — both of those guys will be getting a great long look from NBA teams.
Media contact: Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or [email protected] (@Gianina_ESPN).