Transcript: 2017 ESPN NBA Draft Media Conference Call with Fran Fraschilla

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Transcript: 2017 ESPN NBA Draft Media Conference Call with Fran Fraschilla

ESPN college basketball analyst and International basketball expert Fran Fraschilla previewed the 2017 NBA Draft during a media conference call this afternoon.

ESPN will exclusively televise the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 22 at 7 p.m. ET. Fraschilla will be a part of ESPN’s extensive coverage (more details will be available on ESPN Media Zone next week).

Below is the transcript from the call.

Q.  What are your impressions on Isaiah Hartenstein?

FRAN FRASCHILLA: Best way to describe him is he is a work-in-progress. He’s over seven feet tall. He’s very young. I believe he’s turned 19 now but he’s going to be a very young NBA rookie if he decide to come over. Good athlete.

Biggest thing is teams are going to want to make him a stretch big man and while he looks like he should be able to shoot the ball better from the perimeter, that is not his forte right now. He’s likely to still be taken in the first round in part because he’s got a very good combination of terrific size, some athleticism and he’s very, very young and you can mold him.

It would not surprise me if a team drafts him and leaves him to play overseas another year or two. He’ll make an adaptation to the NBA very easily when he does come, because as some people know, he was born in Eugene, Oregon, spent the first 11 years of his life there, because his dad, a German player played at the University of Oregon.

He’s going to be very comfortable when he does come over. He’s just not ready to make an impact on an NBA roster yet.

Q. With how much the draft has become so much potential focused — are we at the point that if nothing is wrong with you, you’re a college sophomore or freshman and just gradually developing, are you at the point that you can’t stay in school anymore for fear of missed opportunity? Has it gotten to that?

FRASCHILLA: It has. The simple fact is this NBA draft will probably feature 14 or 15 freshmen and one, two, three international teenagers in the first round. And it has become what I said five years ago, and is now cliche: It’s a baseball draft. You’re drafting, for the most part, teams are drafting on potential and for the future.

But there are outliers. A guy like Buddy Hield needed to spend all four years in college. Denzel Valentine did the same thing. Malcolm Brogdon spent five years at the University of Virginia.

So you still have to look for the mature player that can have an impact on your NBA roster sooner than later, but by and large, the way the pool has been determined in recent years, teams are likely to have to draft more potential versus production, and that ensures that most of these young players are not ready to make an impact in important NBA games.

Brogdon turned out to be a terrific outlier this year for Milwaukee in part because he developed his game, he was a very bright guy, and he made a seamless transition to playing with veterans.

Q. You mentioned five years. It seems like this has been the trend for a while, but if you had to take a guess, when would you say there was a shift for drafting for immediate help to drafting for the future?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I think it started with the CBA that went into effect about 11 years ago that determined that the outstanding high school players had to spend at least one year in college.

You know, simply put, there are a lot of good reasons for these young guys to come out early and start their NBA clock vis-a-vis contracts. But once the one-and-done rule was put into place and it just pretty much ensured that a talented young college player was going to spend as little as time as possible in so that he could get to the league as quick as possible — and not just — and more so to start his contract clock and less to become a valuable NBA player.

You know, so I think that this whole idea of these freshmen coming out and being one-and-donees is just a byproduct of the fact that they couldn’t leave after high school.

Q. You talked about it changed over the years from going for potential but what things do you see in this year’s draft that we should be looking at because it seems like it’s like a two-person draft so much and then after that it just goes into obscurity in some respects.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, you know what, it’s a good question. I never get excited 12 months out when someone says, draft since because you learn that it’s very hard for these young players. I don’t care who it is that’s going to go in the Top-10. Very few of these guys are going to have an immediate impact on the NBA because as I’ve said so many times, we watch at the college level is AA baseball compared to the NBA, which is really the Major Leagues.

So what I would watch for in this year’s draft is, yeah, to me, the two top guys still remain Fultz and Ball, very mature young players who are going to have an impact I think. And then from three down to nine or ten, you’ve got a combination of three more point guards, a couple of outstanding wing players in Jackson and Tatum, and then after nine or ten, you’re going to see a run of young, talented but incomplete young big men starting with Zach Collins, John Collins, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton, right on down the line.

So the biggest thing I think that we all have to understand right now is it’s very hard for any of these kids that are going to be taken in the first ten picks — they will have an impact on their team if they go to a bad team but there’s very few players in this draft. And most drafts nowadays because of the youth of the draft, there are very few players that are going to impact winning.

And in Minnesota, you see that clearly, because Karl Towns is an outstanding player, and so is Andrew Wiggins, and so is Zach LaVine. But they haven’t yet been able to crack through and impact winning like I’m sure they’d like.

Q. You did mention about Minnesota. What do you see them hopefully looking for to complement the three that they have right now and the youth that they have?

FRASCHILLA: Yeah, it’s a really good question. They can go in a couple different directions. They can wait to see if Tatum or Jonathan Isaac falls to sixth, in which case they will get a terrific small forward-type player, either one of those guys would be a really good fit.

Jonathan Isaac is a terrific young talent that doesn’t have quite the exposure maybe as some of the other guys that played at Duke and Kansas.

And then I think they might still be in play for which ever point guards may be left there, although you and I both know Ricky Rubio had probably his best year as a pro and they are still high on Chris Dunn.

So it’s going to be very interesting. If I had to guess, I would be looking at Isaac or Tatum with that pick. Each brings something different to the table from the small forward spot.

Q. You mentioned Malcolm Brogdon. Do you think the Pelicans pick at 40? That’s their only pick slated. Do you think there’s a chance that a team in a win-now mode, like they are, gets any four-year guys?
FRASCHILLA: Well, when you’re picking 40, basically you’re rolling the dice. If everybody knew that Draymond Green or Khris Middleton, for example, or guys like that — Draymond more so than Khris. If everybody knew that, those guys, the Malcolms, the greens, the Middletons were going to turn out to be the players they were, they would have gone in the first round. There are definitely guys in that 40-range that have a chance to make rosters and make teams and maybe even make an impact like Brogdon did.

Guys that come to mind would be Josh Hart from Villanova who has been compared to Brogdon as a wing player who can defend and make open shots. Jaron Blossomgame from Clemson who is a terrific athlete and could play both the three and the four spot. Maybe a backup point guard like Monte Morris who has had a terrific career at Iowa State and doesn’t make mistakes.

So there will be, you know — there will be players around 40 that the Pelicans will have a shot at, but when you’re picking 40, you pretty much are flipping a coin and you’re just hoping that you’ve evaluated correctly a guy that has kind of slipped through the cracks already.

Q. You mentioned how the draft is getting younger and a lot more projects and things like that. Does it help a team taking in the second round; that there are more four-year guys maybe available that in earlier drafts may have gone earlier because they could help, you know, sooner?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I think so. I definitely think so. I think this is a particular draft that does have a lot of depth in it. I know we say different things every year about the strengths of each draft, but it’s been proven in the league, and you go down every roster, every team’s got two or three or four guys that slip through the cracks and have become good players.

Allen Crabbe in Portland makes 18 million coming off the bench. Khris Middleton, I mentioned from Milwaukee, makes 15 million, is a good player. They are out there. There’s no question they are out there. And the more young guys that come out early, that are going to be scooped up at the early part of the draft, means there is room for the Josh Hart or Wesley Iwundu from Kansas State to slip through the cracks.

It’s just a matter of you’ve got to do a heck of a job of evaluating, as was been proven just by sheer numbers. You have to be lucky.

Q. As you know, the Blazers have three first-round picks. What are your thoughts as far as them dealing at least one of those, and you mentioned Hartenstein. Is this a guy maybe they pick now and then stash in Europe for a couple of years?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I think given their situation with three picks, and given the amount of money they have been doling out, they probably are going to be trading those picks or drafting and stashing somebody to put overseas. And so Hartenstein is a perfect example of a guy that not only has to the local flavor, obviously, being the son of a former Duck, but he’s the exact type of kid taken in his 20s, with his size, age and athleticism, that could easily continue to develop across the water and then come back over when he’s 21 or 22.

So I think Portland is going to be in a position where you might see them take at least one draft-and-stash guy if not more than one, because of the roster makeup right now. But on the other hand, with three picks, I think what you do if you are Neil Olshey, you get into this draft and you just hope a guy that you really like, that you think may be gone or should be gone by the mid-teens, is still there when you start to pick, when your turn comes up. Well, let’s say it’s 15; it’s a guy that you targeted as a Top-10 pick, but slides to you.

Q. Wondering about Lauri Markkanen from Arizona, if he’s one of those guys in that top nine or so that you can see making an impact, or do you think it could take him awhile?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I think he’s certainly going to be gone in the first ten picks because of his unique combination of size, age and his ability to really shoot the ball. He has to go to a place that values what he’s going to do, and that is stretch the floor from the perimeter.

Physically, he’s not going to be ready to bang with NBA veterans inside. So I would think that you are looking at a guy that is somewhat of a project but only from the standpoint of had he stayed around for two, three, four years like he would have 15, 20 years ago, he would be more ready to help a team but it doesn’t mean he isn’t going high. He will go high and especially because his particular skill set suits the modern NBA, a big man that can stretch the floor and make shots.

As you know, he showed a willingness to go inside a little bit more at the end of the year at Arizona, but I always try to caution people. There’s a difference between playing in the Pac-12 and playing in the Western Conference, big difference.

So he’ll have his adjustments, but the team is going to be excited to get their hands on him for what he might be two, three, four years down the road.

Q. Arizona has a couple of guys; do you see any of those guys getting a chance of being drafted or two-way contract maybe?
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I think Kobi is the perfect example. Kobi Simmons, top-20 high school player, terrific athlete, good size. You know how well he played early in the year when they were shorthanded. He’s a guy that could very well find himself in the mid-to-late-second round with the idea that a team is going to give him a two-way deal.

I think Kadeem is going to be a D-League team player, Kadeem Allen, but with his combination of size in terms of his strength, his toughness, his no mistake-ability, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he can’t be on of those guys that’s in the D-League for awhile and then finds himself on an NBA roster some day.

Q. I guess the consensus is that Fultz is the best point guard and then Ball and then Fox. I’m wondering why that is the order, and Fox seemed to out-play Ball the second time they played in the Tournament. So why hasn’t that elevated him?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I think it has to the extent that he’s in the conversations now as far as these top-three picks, so if anything, De’Aaron has helped himself. I thought he not only outplayed Lonzo in the second meeting, but as you remember, outplayed him at least in the first half of the first meeting in Lexington, although that game was won by UCLA.

I would just caution anybody to, as much as — I watched that second game probably three times, and a lot of De’Aaron baskets came against the zone. It came in switches. It wasn’t all 39 on Lonzo. But there’s no question that he was the better player that day.

So I think teams are looking at somebody’s body of work over the course of their entire career, and will discount maybe a great performance even at a head-to-head matchup. But, having said that, while I have the order Fultz, Ball, Fox; De’Aaron has certainly created a buzz, not only because of his speed and the way he played this season, but as you know, he has a magnetic personality that at worst is going to sell a lot of shoes if he becomes a good player in the NBA; and at best, it’s going to make him one of the elite point guards in the NBA some day.

Q. At the other end of the spectrum, Isaiah Briscoe, a guy that as you know, played two seasons of college, been through the war, so to speak. Kind of has a winning presence on the court, yet I don’t see him anywhere really in the projections. What value is the going through the wars and having maybe some intangibles, how does that factor in?
FRASCHILLA: Well, it will help him, and where it will help him most will be if he isn’t drafted, which I think now is a flip of the coin that he will or won’t; there’s no doubt that he will be on an NBA Summer League roster soon after the draft.

And when he does play in the summer league with a particular team, he’s going to have every opportunity to prove that the experts were wrong, and because he played at Kentucky, because he played in big games and because he came in with a good reputation, teams have not forgotten about him necessarily but maybe they value him — I jokingly called somebody the other day a third-rounder, and by that I mean, yeah, someone like Isaiah Briscoe could get drafted in the second round.

But even if he doesn’t get drafted, he’s going to be on an NBA Summer League roster and trying to prove that all of us experts were wrong and if he plays himself on to an NBA roster, you know, then he’s going to be able to thumb his nose at everybody. So it’s not like he’s going into oblivion. He’s going to get the opportunity.

Q. You talked earlier about kind of only really having two guys who can make an early impact with good teams and maybe help elevate teams but in terms of Minnesota picking seven, is this one of the better years to pick six, seven, eight and still have an opportunity to get a player with the potential to one day be an All-Star?
FRASCHILLA: I think so. I think there’s absolutely no doubt when you look at seven, you might have anybody — you might have — I’m a huge Jonathan Isaac fan from Florida State, 6-11, freshman, can play three, four, and eventually five in the modern NBA. Can defend, shoot from outside, great kid, and also has a good IQ for the game. Perfect example of a guy that could fall to seven and become an All-Star and potentially the best player in this draft.

You may have a Malik Monk, instant offense off the bench; in my opinion, a scoring machine. You could have Dennis Smith there if they want to go guard. The French kid, Frank Ntilikina, who kind of fits in Minnesota because he’s not pigeonholed. He can play more than one guard spot and can defend like Thibs likes, can shoot, knows how to play.

I think this is a really good draft for Minnesota because a lot of the decisions are going to be taken out of their hands by virtue of who goes in the first six, and when they pick seven, there will be three or four guys they really like, and then they have to decide which of those guys fits in with what they are building as they build around a good, young core.

Q. You talked a little about how they have kind of seen the troubles of younger players not being able to find a way to win yet. A lot of people think the team is too young and adding another young piece will not help the equation. What’s your stance on: At what point are you too young as a team and at what point should you continue to add young pieces?
FRASCHILLA: Well, this is the age-old question in the NBA right now. Let’s say, for example, do you trade the pick for a veteran, which is still in their wheelhouse, so that it speeds up the process of getting good, sooner. Or as you’re looking at getting good sooner, do you say to yourself: In our conference, we’re not catching Golden State for the next couple years anyway, let’s continue to build around a young core.

Knowing what I know of Thibs, having spent time with him in New York with the Knicks, my sense is that he wants this team to be as good as possible as soon as possible. So among the young players they may draft, it may be somebody who he feels is more ready to help versus long-term potential.

And at the same time, if you’re picking six, seven, eight, nine, trust me, that you are on the phone with other teams around the league seeing if you can do better by trading for a young veteran than making that pick.

So I’m sure everything is in play for them because of where they sit in terms of having this young nucleus.

Q. Just wondered what sleepers you had maybe dropping out of the Top-10 that you wanted to keep an eye on?
FRASCHILLA: That’s a good question. I think the guy whose stock was high early and it dropped and now is going back up is Bam of Kentucky. Bam is the modern NBA high-energy big. You’re looking at 6-10, strong, athletic, runs the floor, can guard pick-and-roll, can ball screen and run to the rim and catch lobs, and he’s young.

So Adebayo comes to mind as maybe someone that slipped in the so-called mock drafts that might be a good really good value.

A guy that’s a mystery to a lot of people is Terrance Ferguson who is the first American player to spend his first year out of high school in the Australian league. It wasn’t long ago that he was considered one of the top 20 high school players in the country, and at 6-7, highly athletic, with range and a good defensive IQ, it could be out of sight, out of mind, to many people. So that’s another guy that comes to mind.

And then you know, I would say a guy that has moved into the first round that not a lot of people knew about until about three weeks ago, and I love saying this, Anzejs Pasecniks, 7-2 kid from Latvia who played this year in Spain, who all of a sudden, you know, is popping up on all the mock draft, first-round boards. So those are three guys that I think come to mind fairly quickly.

Q. Would you say those guys are probably in the 20- to 30-range right now, if you had to estimate?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I think Bam is going to go higher. I think Terrance Ferguson should go higher, inside 20, and Pasecniks is one of those guys that would be perfect for a team with multiple picks.

And I think Brooklyn’s got multiple picks, Portland, and maybe even Utah may have multiple picks. He’s one of those guys that you could draft him, although he’s 22, and he’s anxious to get over here and start his NBA career.

Q. Phoenix obviously has a lot of concerns or a lot of needs but if you assume that Fultz goes one, Ball goes two– who do you think would be their best option at four?
FRASCHILLA: Well, given where they are with their team as far as the way the backcourt played this year, they could be, you know, depending on how they feel about — we’ve talked about this before. They are going to have a great opportunity at either Josh Jackson, Justin Tatum or Jonathan Isaac, and I think all three of those guys would fill a need. Tatum and Jackson are most ready to play right away at the small forward spot, and I think Jonathan Isaac has huge upside potential.

So those seem to be three logical guys. I don’t buy that Lonzo Ball is falling. I think Philly would be ecstatic if he falls to three. So I think that given Philly may take either De’Aaron Fox or Josh Jackson or Tatum, Phoenix winds up sitting there in a good spot because they will have their choice more than likely of a couple guys they really like that they can plug in right away on that young roster.

Q. Looking at Tyler Lydon, wherever you may have him, later first or early second, who are the other stretch fours that are in that same range? And how would you compare Tyler to the other guys, whoever they are and how would you rank them?
FRASCHILLA: Good question. Right off the top of my head, as I look down the middle of the first round, guys that are going to be stretch forwards: TJ Leaf is going to fit into that mix. The Latvian kid, although he’s a stretch five at 7’2, but he can shoot the ball. Jonah Bolden, the Australian that went to Serbia this year after playing at UCLA; another kid who has terrific stretch four potential because he’s an athlete and can really shoot it. Luke Kornet from Vanderbilt who is 7-1 and more of a stretch five but has made the most threes in NCAA history for anybody over seven feet tall.

They all are in that range. And so when I look at them, I think Leaf will be a first rounder, I think Bolden will be borderline first round, I think Tyler Lydon will be borderline first round and I think Luke Kornet will be early second round.

So that to me is kind of the mix he’s in. And as I evaluated him throughout the course of the year, and seeing him a few times late in person, you know, in this draft, I would evaluate him as a guy that’s going to go in the 30 to 40 range. But when you have 30 teams, it only takes one general manager who is picking 25 to say, you know what, I don’t care what anybody says; Tyler Lydon is perfect for us.

I don’t think he’s a super athlete. I thought he struggled with his confidence at times this year but he’s still a young, big man and he still has the ability to play away from the basket, which is important nowadays in this NBA game where you’re trying to put four shooters on the floor and a big man rolling to the rim.

Q. For a team like the Heat — doesn’t have both of its picks until 2022, do you think they should take a high-risk, high-reward type prospect like Giles and try to make the most of the pick, or maybe a safer route like a Justin Jackson where you kind of know what to expect.
FRASCHILLA: Yeah, I think at 14, when you’re picking at 14, it’s my feeling that unless you have valued two players almost equally, that you’re best taking the best player possible, regardless of the position.

Even if they are stacked in the backcourt, let’s say, for example, I just think at 14, it’s not about — to me it’s not about safe or risk. It’s about who you value that you think long-term is going to be the best NBA player.

Because like Justin Jackson, for example. Okay, he’s safe because he played three years, except two and a half of the three seasons, he shot 30 percent from three. Only the first half of his third year did he shoot near 40 percent.

So safe is an operative term here. I would just take, at 14, given who is going to be there, a couple young bigs, potentially Terrance Ferguson, maybe — Justin Jackson, I think you just take the best possible player that you think is going to play in the NBA and don’t worry about what position he is; figure it out later.

If you reach for a safe guy, you know, to me that’s when I think you can make a mistake.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Peter Jok of Iowa, I have a feeling he’s one of those third rounders you talked about, but does he have a chance to be drafted and if not, what does he need to do to make some team as a free agent?
FRASCHILLA: Well, he’s got one NBA skill, and that is his range and his shooting. His body type, his ball handling, are the two major negatives.

But again, one of those guys that will likely go undrafted and be playing in the Las Vegas Summer League for somebody, and when that happens, he’s got to just — he’s got to make open shots and he’s got to prove that he can be a great teammate and he’s got to give the team that puts him on their Summer League a reason not to cut him, and then decide, you know what, we like this kid, let’s see if we can get him on our D-League team.

I think he’s one of the guys that’s going to be in the D-League, and with some development, all of a sudden, a couple years later, you go, bam, Peter Jok, he’s playing for the Washington Wizards. But as of right now, I think he’s a third rounder.

Q. He’s a guy that went through the draft process last year and came back to school. Would he have been better off based on the — you talk about teams drafting for potential. Would he have been better off coming out last year?
FRASCHILLA: I don’t think so, because I think teams saw him last year exactly like they saw him this year. Although obviously he had a stellar senior year at Iowa, putting up prolific numbers, and a number of coaches in that league really were impressed with him.

But no, I don’t think his stock was any higher last year than this year. All he did was become one of the highest-scoring players in Iowa history, which hopefully he enjoyed that. But now he starts his pro career and he’s going to start in obscurity, and that’s the beauty of our game is that you have got guys in the league like Isaiah Thomas, Jeremy Lin, that come out of nowhere and make teams. Peter is going to get that opportunity because he can really shoot the ball from deep and that’s something NBA teams value right now.

Q. The Wizards are picking 52nd, deep second round. They have had some guys, players that may be able to come and help right away like Frank Mason and also looking at guys that seem completely deep off the board. Anybody that jumps out at you from that range — somebody that can help right away or take a flyer and see what happens?
FRASCHILLA: First of all, they have got an outstanding scouting staff led by Tommy Sheppard. I see them everywhere during the season. They do their homework.
But no, they are taking a flyer there and hoping for the best. You know, you mentioned Frank Mason, could be someone like Edmond Sumner from Xavier who missed the second part of his season with an ACL injury who could be a good NBA point guard someday. He’s got good size.

It could be somebody like Devin Robinson from Florida who is 6-8, long, athletic, and has improved his defensive ability. You know, Sterling Brown from SMU is a lockdown defender who kind of flew under the radar in a really good team this year.

Given what I know about the Wizards, even though they are picking 52, they do their homework and in that spot you’re just trying to find a guy that first can make your roster and then eventually become a rotation player. But the odds of the 52nd pick being a quality NBA player historically are not high but doesn’t mean you don’t swing for the fences.

Q. Thoughts on Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak?
FRASCHILLA: Well, I think Rodney Pryor is a sleeper. I just watched him — I’m out here in L.A. and I watched him work out yesterday. I know at his pro day a couple weeks ago, he impressed a lot of teams because he’s very athletic and he can shoot the ball. You know, he plays like an NBA guard. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Rodney gets drafted in the second round.

LJ [Peak] is a good, solid player. I’m not as enamored with him as I am Rodney. Not a super athlete but wouldn’t shock me if he goes in the second round but of the two, I would say that Rodney prior, because he’s somewhat of a kid that is still improving, given his background: Evanston, Illinois, Robert Morris, JuCo, hurt in JuCo. He’s kind of a sleeper to teams, and he helped himself at his

Media contact: Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or [email protected] (@Gianina_ESPN).

Gianina Thompson

“Never wish for it more than you work for it.” My dad has told me this ever since we watched the New York Yankees win the World Series in 1996. Living by those words has brought me to ESPN as their Senior Publicist for NBA, MLB, FIBA, and Little League. Working for the World Wide Leader in Sports, it comes naturally that I have a competitive nature. Competing on a Division 1 college rowing team and receiving both my master’s and bachelor’s degrees before turning 22 years old, further illustrates that. Sports are more than entertainment; it’s hopes for something bigger than yesterday.
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