Transcript: 2018 ESPN NBA Draft Media Conference Call with Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz


Transcript: 2018 ESPN NBA Draft Media Conference Call with Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz

This afternoon, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (front office insider) and Mike Schmitz (scouting analyst) spoke with media on an ESPN conference call to preview the 2018 NBA Draft. ESPN is doubling up its coverage of the 2018 NBA Draft presented by State Farm on Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m. ET by producing two unique, simultaneous telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2.

To listen to the media call, click here.

Below is a transcript from the call.

What kind of player can the Celtics get at 27, and how would you characterize the depth of this draft?

Can you get a Kuzma like last year at a 27? And secondly, why has this been? This has become the draft of the big man.MIKE SCHMITZ: I think as far as the bigs, it’s just a really good group of bigs. Clearly watching the Playoffs, things have trended away from the more aircraft-carrier style bigs, but I think the majority of these ones fit really well in the modern NBA. Most of them can switch and block shots and shoot threes. So I think a lot of these guys really fit in the modern NBA, and it’s a good crop, and maybe some of the wings are combo forwards that you would generally think teams would cover more in today’s era aren’t quite as intriguing.

As far as the Celtics, I think it’s a fairly deep draft. I think there are a lot of guys in that 20 to 40 range who can really play, and to me, there’s always going to be a guy like — not every draft, but there’s guys like Kuzma and Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen who you didn’t expect, so I think there are some of those guys in this draft, whether it’s guys who can shoot or protect the room or really facilitate. I think this is a very deep draft in that range.

BOBBY MARKS: Well, I agree with Mike. I think when you look at it, and it’s almost broken up into kind of three tiers. We’ve talked about the bigs, and then there’s that next tier, which is that 8 to 11 range, which is the Collin Sextons, the Trae Youngs, Michael Porter, Jr., Kevin Knox, but in that 13 to 35 grouping, we’re probably going to see a flurry of 2s and 3s come on the board in that range, and if you’re a team like Boston who probably doesn’t have much flexibility salary cap wise, or more Minnesota, Portland, teams like that, you’re probably going to get a pretty good rotational player if you want to get a wing. It’s like ordering off the menu, it’s just a matter of kind of which ones you want.

Just like to get to your impressions on the 76ers and they’re picking at No. 10, and who do you see them focusing in on, or who do you think will be available for the Sixers at the No. 10 pick? They also have a pick at 26, as well, but give me your thoughts on the Sixers at No. 10.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think Mikal Bridges is a name who’s made some sense so far throughout the pre-draft process. I think the Sixers could use a two-way wing who can defend multiple positions and make a shot. Obviously with the Villanova connection, and then his mother working for the team, I think it makes a lot of sense there. You know, especially with Brett Brown having an influence in this draft, and I’m sure hoping to get a guy who can play right away and fit with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. I think he’s certainly a name that’s in play there that makes some sense.

I think Lonnie Walker is a guy who will probably get some looks there, as well. He’s an explosive guard from Miami, can really shoot the ball, gets up-and-down in transition. So he’s a guy I could also see fitting with their current roster.

MARKS: And I think if you take — besides pick 10, they also have 26, and they’ve got four second-rounders. I think 26 is something to probably pay attention to because it has a cap value right around $1.7 million that would impact what Philadelphia does this summer. You’ve already got 12 players under contract. I know two are non-guaranteed, but is that pick — is there a player there that maybe a team wants, and if you’re looking to try to get off that Jerryd Bayless expiring contract.

And then the four picks in the second round, I think the one thing you have to remember is that Philadelphia cannot accept cash in any trade up to the night of the deadline, so if there’s a deal in place, that’s not going to happen until after the July 6th moratorium. And unfortunately this isn’t the NFL Draft where you can kind of keep on loading up on picks. There are some roster issues here. But I think it’s important to watch maybe Philadelphia trade out of the second round. Teams certainly have a lot of value where they are in the late 30s, but there’s not a — I don’t see a realistic scenario where they’re keeping all four second-round picks.

What is the future of the big man in today’s NBA?

SCHMITZ: I think for me, you want a big who can switch, who can protect the rim, who can shoot threes and think. Ideally, every big man prospect would be able to do that. I think that’s the way it’s trending. But as you continue to see the teams that are winning play Clint Capela or even a PJ Tucker at the 5, I do think that the smaller lineups are here to stay in some regard, until a guy who’s able to check all those boxes that I mentioned comes along and changes that.

But as I said, I do think that the bigs we’re talking about in this draft are playable in the modern NBA. We’re not talking about six Jahlil Okafors or Al Jeffersons. I think these are guys who fit for the most part in today’s game.

MARKS: You’re right, Mike, and Jeff, just in talking with teams, the one thing that kind of stands out is that the bigs up top, we know who they are, are really not pigeonholed. We don’t label guys, they’re a 5. Their comfort level is that they can play — some can play 4 and 5. The ability from a footwork standpoint, the athleticism that they can guard multiple positions, that based on how the game is going, that come the fourth quarter that you do not have to take them off the court based on what kind of lineup you have.

I don’t know if we’ll ever revert back to the Ewing and Olajuwon type era where we had that traditional — Shaq, of course, that traditional 5. But I guess these players are now your modern 5 based on their athleticism. Now most of these players have the ability to kind of stretch out their game a little bit.

Just wondering what ultimately led to Kevin Huerter’s rise in draft conversations and on draft boards, and if you think it’s overall indicative of sort of how shooters are viewed and valued in today’s NBA.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, for me I think Huerter had a lot of fans in the NBA throughout the process that were maybe hoping he wouldn’t get this type of buzz. I think he had a lot of kind of quiet fans hoping that he would enter or keep his name in, maybe not play at the combine and they could get him at 25 or whatever. But then just seeing him play at the combine really opened some eyes to maybe some of the people who weren’t as high on him coming in. Maryland underwhelmed a little bit throughout this past season, and I think seeing him with other players who can really play, seeing his passing ability, seeing his size and shooting is really just a perfect fit.

And then also I think the interview process, too. He’s blown teams away with just his basketball IQ, his feel for the game, his intangibles. He’s off the charts in all those areas. So I think with the combine and the interview process, he’s really helped himself.

MARKS: And I think it’s hard for teams to find shooting, either in free agency or it will likely cost you, or in the trade market where you have to give up something, and to find value in the draft, if it’s in the 20s, on a player that’s going to make $2 million for the next four years and you’ve got him on a controllable contract. I think that outweighs a team that wants to go out and spend $5 or $6 million on a veteran shooter.

You mentioned Lonnie Walker in passing; I’ve seen mocks that have had him at 9 to the Knicks to 15 to the Wizards. Wondered if you could assess his game and how things might shake out for him.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, he’s one of my favorite kind of non-consensus top 10 picks in the draft. I think he’s the type of guy who’s going to look much better in the NBA than he did in college. He has positional size. He’s long. He’s explosive. I think he had a little bit of a slow start to the year just because he had a knee injury heading into the summer. But that Miami team had some struggles. They had a bunch of different guys who were kind of learning how to play with each other, and I think you could see that at times with him. But his game really pops. Every move he makes in the perimeter is an NBA move. He can really shoot it on the move, he can get shoot it off the dribble, can get out in transition. He has to improve his defensive intensity and his ability to kind of make plays for others and think the game at a high level. He’s not quite Donovan Mitchell, but you watch that type of player pop in the NBA, and I think it’s easy to get excited about a guy like Lonnie, who’s explosive and can really shoot the ball in a variety of ways.

MARKS: Yeah, I think he’s a player that’s taken advantage of the draft workouts. We saw him out in LA a month ago, and he’s somebody who’s tested well, although I’m not a big proponent of three-on-three workouts to kind of give a player a grade. But I think there was some uncertainty with Lonnie coming into the draft process as far as where he could fall, and originally we were thinking teens, maybe now it’s likely he’s going to crack the top 14. I think the individual draft workouts kind of confirmed what a lot of teams thought of him before he got to Miami.

When you look at a guy like Donte DiVincenzo, a guy who before the NCAA Tournament, most people thought he’d be back at school another year and now it seems like he’s going to be a first-round pick. Is there something about performance, stellar performance, especially unexpectedly stellar performance in the NCAA Tournament that biases front offices towards players, and do you think that’s a good bias, if so?

MARKS: Well, I agree. I think there are times when we all — and I think it’s just human nature, that we get caught up in the NCAA Tournament and a player goes on a deep run, and you look at that body of work, and that stands out. Maybe an owner starts to chime in here.

I think in the case of Donte, certainly had a strong tournament, a good year, and then when he went to the pre-draft camp, really stood out playing five on five, and that kind of clinched it there as far as him coming out.

I think you can certainly make the argument, well, would he have come out if he was a second-round prospect. I think he would have, based on where — it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get drafted in the first round these days just based on where your contracts — how you construct your contracts here, but yeah, there is some bias towards players that have a strong — we saw it with Malachi Richardson from Syracuse a couple years ago; had a strong tournament and then he gets picked in the first round when a lot of us probably didn’t know where he was going to fall. But there is some type of bias that it’s just — I think it’s just human nature.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I agree with Bobby. I think it’s hard to evade that bias. In Donte’s case, I do think that he had some buzz coming into the season. He played at Adidas Nations in the summer in Houston with Mikal Bridges and Robert Williams and Michael Porter and a lot of really good prospects, and he fit right in. And I think it was really at that point you said, okay, this kid really has a chance to be in the NBA.

And I think we kind of had him as a fringe first-round guy even prior to the NCAA Tournament stuff. So he’s built a case for himself not just off one big game, but I think that certainly has earned him some fans in front offices because people like prospects who can shine when the lights are bright, and he’s proven he’s capable of doing that.

I was wondering about Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins, if you think they’ve made any progress in the workout scenario this spring, especially — I’ve heard that Alkins maybe is helping himself a little bit, but I haven’t heard a thing about Trier and just wondering if you have.


SCHMITZ: Alkins I think has helped himself. I think he is a guy you can look at in that mid second round. He’s powerful, he can make a shot, he’s explosive in space, pretty competitive defender. I think he’s a guy you could — I would be surprised if he doesn’t get drafted.

And then Allonzo, I think he really helped himself at his pro day, and that’s a good setting for him. Showed off some of his explosiveness and his scoring ability, and I think teams left that wondering if he’s a guy they should take another look at, and I think he’s probably going to get some looks in the 50s. I wouldn’t say it’s a lock that he gets drafted. I would be surprised if Alkins went below Trier, but I think he has a chance to hear his name called in the 50s.

Do you figure he is a two-way contract player, regardless of whether he gets picked or not?SCHMITZ: Yeah, that’s kind of my thought with him, yeah.

I guess I’m wondering with Allonzo, is there any reason why he’s kind of hanging there? Is it because he is what he is kind of thing, he’s an older junior, or because a lot of guys can do what he does? What do you think is kind of holding him back?

SCHMITZ: I think there’s a lot of guys — some guys in the G-League like him, some guys in Europe like him. I think he just needs to continue to prove that he can make other guys better around him. You know, there is value in scoring, no doubt about that, but just becoming a more well-rounded player defensively, making his teammates better, and then being consistently coachable. I think that’s important for him, too.

As a former GM, just how difficult do you think the job Kobe has to try to make this pick without knowing what LeBron is going to do? And then the question for both of you guys is if you look at all these mocks, the selections for the Cavs are kind of all over the place, I’m just maybe interested in maybe the three guys you think maybe have the best chance of landing there at 8 with the Cavs.

MARKS: Yeah, you’re kind of — I guess you’re walking into the wilderness of the unknown where you are at 8, and how do you block out the draft compared to LeBron’s decision eight days later, and how do you try to separate it. I think the hard part for Kobe would come where what happens when there is a potential trade that is presented to him and he can bring back players, NBA-level players, if that’s the case that maybe happens Thursday night, and how do you go about doing it without a commitment from LeBron, and how do you get him — what’s the communication line between the front office and LeBron to run a scenario like that? And I think there has to be some type of communication with that where they go at 8, and I think Mike will probably chime in there, but you are looking at players that can come in and help you now probably with a player like Collin Sexton or a player that could probably help you two years from now in Michael Porter, Jr., who if he’s still there, it’s probably going to take him a little time coming off that injury. But yeah, this is not an easy draft for Kobe, because retaining the pick is basically your selling point to LeBron going into the off-season, as well as maybe something you can do with some of those — the Kyle Korvers, the JR Smiths, George Hills, players that have some small guarantees, and how do you move that around.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, and I think for the Cavs, it’s really going to depend on where Porter goes. If Porter goes higher than expected, is he going to push a guy like Wendell Carter down to them, who I’m sure they would like to have at 8, and Bobby mentioned two other guys that are probably in the mix there with Sexton and Porter. I think they’ll probably give the other two point guards looks in terms of Trae Young and Gilgeous-Alexander, if they’re on the board.

One name I wouldn’t rule out is Kevin Knox. I think he’s a guy who’s really helped himself in this pre-draft process. With Kentucky guys you kind of want to see them away from that setting at times. We saw it with a guy like Devin Booker, who’s really popped with freedom in the NBA. He played such a specific role at Kentucky, and I think with Kevin, people are seeing an 18-year-old 6’9″ kid who has length and can score in a variety of ways. I do think that he’s another guy who will probably get a long look there.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the obsession that Bulls fans have with Michael Porter, Jr., here in Chicago, but for some reason they love this kid. I was wondering if you’re aware of that, and where do you think that comes from, that obsession?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I have been made aware that you can go on the internet and see it, and I think the team also has been high on him for some time, as well. But it’s just really a matter of the medical stuff with him. You know, obviously he’s working out. He spends a lot of time working out in Chicago. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is based there. But yeah, I just think it’s a product of being enamored with his talent more than anything. He’s a kid who was at one point, before Marvin Bagley re-classed, was the No. 1 player in his class. He was an absolute stud on the UIBL circuit; he was outstanding at Nike Hoops Summit, McDonald’s All-American. I mean, this is a guy who people really thought had a chance to be No. 1 — the No. 1 pick in the draft. But there are clearly a lot of question marks with him in terms of his health, in terms of his durability, his toughness, his ability to play with others. But yeah, I mean, he’s an interesting guy — I think we’re all enamored with him just because we don’t know where he’s going to go in the draft. I think he’s really the wild card here to me.

With the Leonard situation, the Spurs have a lot of variables in play. What do you guys think they should do, especially in terms of getting the most out of this year’s draft, or maybe should the focus be on future picks?


MARKS: Well, I think for one thing, I think they are going to take a conservative approach when it comes to Kawhi. I don’t anticipate them rushing into anything, even with what broke on Friday. The hard part would be — we all know Kawhi’s situation on an expiring contract, content as far as the receiving team as far as if he is moved, he is a comfort level, and that dictates as far as assigning to — as far as to bring him back as far as what you get in a trade. I think where they are at 18, there are a lot of teams in that — Atlanta at 30 that has multiple picks. They’ve got — Atlanta has got 19, also. Is there a scenario where maybe you move back in the draft to get multiple picks just to build up some of your younger players? But in San Antonio there’s a lot of decisions besides Kawhi. We don’t know yet with Rudy or Danny Green. I would say the likelihood is that probably Green opts in and Gay probably opts out, and then with all your free restricted agents, so the cupboard is starting to be a little bit bare, so if you can pick up more picks, I think that’s a — certainly a scenario you should look at.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, and I think you can get quite a bit of value at 18, too. Like I said before, I think this is a fairly deep draft, whether it’s another guard or a bigger wing. There’s a lot of those type of guys out there who could fit the Spurs’ system, as well. Very skill-oriented players, Kevin Huerter, Jerome Robinson, those guys potentially on the board at 18. So I do think you can get some value there to add to Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, some of those young names.

With the Mavericks having the fifth pick, what are the chances that Luka Doncic could fall to the No. 5 spot, and how would he fit into the Mavs? And also, are the Mavs a team that could be a candidate to move their picks to take on a bad contract to get another moderate pick, or how do you see them working in the trade market?


SCHMITZ: Yeah, I can touch on Doncic. I think it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he’s there at 5, which is pretty crazy to say, just given everything he’s done, but if Porter does kind of leapfrog and go higher than people think, that could push him back. It would surprise me if he got past Memphis, but there’s also the question of does his camp want him there in Memphis. You know, I do think it’s somewhat of a possibility, and I really like his fit there, I think, with Rick Carlisle and his ability to use multiple ball handlers, get creative on the offensive end. He does benefit from having some explosiveness next to him in the half court, so I think a guy like Dennis Smith, if he can learn to play also without the ball at times, that could be a fit there. And then just the veteran presence, too, having a Dirk, internationally-born guy who’s been through this transition, having a J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews and a Harrison Barnes, to me Doncic with Dallas is one of the more natural fits for him in that top five.

MARKS: And I think where Dallas — they still have $14 million in cap space. I think you are — that will go to waste when the new calendar year starts July 1. If you can take back contracts and get first-round picks to do so, I think that’s certainly something to look at, especially if it’s — even if it’s going to eat into where you are with 18-19 flexibility. Just based on this is not a great free agent class outside of the main players up top, the LeBron Jameses, the Paul Georges, the Chris Pauls. This is a — I guess I call it a tier B free agent class, and then maybe you roll over your room to ’19. So I think there could be an opportunity for Dallas. There’s teams like Denver. We’ve heard the name Ken Faried, where that’s an expiring contract that could help the Nuggets based on the Jokic likely max contract that we’ll see eventually. But yeah, I think you have an opportunity if you do have the room based on what type of contract that’s going to come back.

I wanted to ask you about Mitchell Robinson, just what do you like about him, some things he needs to work on? And also just his decision to not play a year of college ball, how much does that affect him and if you think that’s something we’ll see more often down the road from other guys?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, to me he’s one of the more intriguing prospects from a physical standpoint, 7’1″, 7’4″ wingspan, unbelievable agility for a player his size. We’ve seen him not look out of place alongside some of these guys at the top with Deandre Ayton, with Mo Bamba, whether it was at the Jordan brand or McDonald’s or even on the UIBL circuit, I’ve seen him play against those guys and more than hold his own. He was unbelievable at the AAU circuit.

The questions with him are not what happens on the court. I think it’s his approach to the game and continuing to be consistent with that, also being able to, I think, retain all the defensive schemes or offensive sets and pick things up quickly. Those are all questions for him, and obviously the route he took maybe didn’t completely help him in that regard.

To me, he’s a guy, it might take him until his second team or something like that to — maybe even third, to fully maximize his potential. But if he lands in the right situation with veterans and a really strict schedule and, hey, this is what you’re doing, this is how we want you to play, then he has a chance to be really impactful in the NBA.

The way Oklahoma finished the season, do you think there’s any chance that would cause Trae Young to maybe fall to the Cavs? And the other thing was they do seem to have such a need at point guard. Do teams draft for need anymore?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I do think that — you have to take Oklahoma’s struggles toward the end of the season with a grain of salt, I think, especially in relation to Trae Young. I mean, teams were face guarding him almost 94 feet, and the level of talent around him was not great. We’ve seen it with Ben Simmons and with Markelle Fultz. Teams value winning, there’s no doubt about that, but if they see a talent they’re enamored with, they’re not afraid to go get him if he didn’t win in college.

With that said, I do think some of his struggles in terms of efficiency, in terms of making winning plays consistently really dropped off toward the end of the season, and just the physical aspect of holding up over an 82-game season I think is certainly a question with him.

But I don’t put — I don’t write him off because his team didn’t go deep into the NCAA Tournament.

MARKS: Yeah, and the rule of thumb is usually you draft best available. The common theme is that you go into the night of the draft with your big board that’s ranked 1 to 60, and that is how you are drafting. I think where things change a little bit is based on if you are in need of a point guard and that player is at No. 9 and you are at No. 8, and that player who’s still at No. 8 is on the board, how much of a difference is there? How much of a separation is there between the two picks that you can justify picking a player like Collin Sexton instead of a player like — let’s say Michael Porter, Jr., for example. Is there enough separation there, and if Porter, Jr., has the talent level where there is, then you take the best available, even though there is a need there.

Could you talk a little about whatever is going on with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going off the grid, and in connection to that, does it matter to NBA teams if players decide not to do workouts these days?


MARKS: It shouldn’t matter. I mean, I think there’s enough body of work for players in college that we’ve seen, either in one year, if they’ve been healthy, to get a clear evaluation than bringing a player in and having him go one on 0. I think where we probably miss out a little bit if a player does not come in is that the kind of — you let your coaching staff kind of touch that player, where you feel — you can see how coachable he is, get him on the court, and have him walk through with your coaching staff as far as from sets, get him out to dinner, get a good interview if you haven’t done it yet in Chicago. You already have the background on him, you already have the medical on him. And I’ve been in New Jersey where we’ve drafted players that never came in for a workout.

I don’t know if you’re an organization if you can hold that against the player.

In regards to Shai, I think the mindset is that his agent has a list of players that he wanted to work out against, the Collin Sextons, the Trae Youngs there. Those players did not — from what I understand did not do any workouts against another player, and that’s where it comes in. He wasn’t going to send him, and no offense to Aaron Holiday, players like that, who projected to go in that 18 to 30 range, he wasn’t going to send him in with that type of group.

So I wouldn’t probably make too much into it that he’s got a guarantee somewhere. But that usually is the mindset. You line up certain players that you want to work out against, and if they’re not — those players will not work out against you, then you usually kind of pull back.

So you do not think that there might be a promise in the background of this?


MARKS: I don’t. I don’t think there is a promise. Now, don’t hold me to that.

If I heard you right, you said earlier that with Kentucky guys, you want to see them away from Kentucky, I guess in another setting, and I wondered what you meant by that.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I just think most Kentucky guys, they have so much talent that Cal puts them in a very specific role. With Karl Towns, you see him now, he’s a stretch big. You can probably count on one or two hands how many threes he took at Kentucky. So unless you saw him in high school or went to a workout, you didn’t really see him in that setting. Same with Devin Booker. They had other ball handlers there, the Harrison twins and Tyler Ulis; they had other guys who could handle the ball, so Devin Booker’s role was to catch and shoot, sprint off screens and probably not put it down more than one or two times in a possession, and then you put him in a spot like Phoenix where they’re a losing team and they need him to have the ball in his hands, and he blossoms into the player he is today, playing pick-and-roll and creating his own shot. I think these Kentucky teams are so loaded that it’s really beneficial to see these guys in a different environment.

It would seem like, of course, Kentucky has had so many guys drafted very high that just because — I don’t know if this is overstating it, but you could say, well, their games are stifled to a degree, yet it doesn’t seem to hurt their draft stock. What do you make of all that?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think teams have seen these guys prior to Kentucky a lot of times, as well. Kevin Knox played heavy minutes on the USA Basketball circuit, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played at Nike Hoops Summit. People have seen these guys in different settings, as well. And there’s usually a reason why they’re at Kentucky, because they’ve the measurables and they have the talent. So I think teams have a good feel for what they can do, also, going into their season, but it’s just — from their perspective maintaining the idea that there probably is a little bit more there than they were able to show at the collegiate level.

Now the NBA have came up suggesting that they may be making some changes with it down the road. Will that have an impact on just on this draft, but will teams look at differently how they will make decisions? And then just has the draft changed to the point where there’s no longer need but there’s almost potential, where they’re looking long-term and therefore some teams miss out sometimes?

MARKS: I think in regards to the potential of drafting high school players in a couple years, I think that will weigh heavily on teams trading future draft picks, kind of not knowing if the next big star is going to be a 14-year-old kid who’s playing high school basketball right now, and to do that where — to take that chance, I don’t think teams are going to do that because we don’t know what the rules is going to be. So yeah, I think it’s going to impact how teams approach trading future draft picks or how they approach putting a type of protection on the pick.

I have a two-part question about Michigan big man Mo Wagner. What type of situation do you think would be the best fit for him? And aside from his ability to stretch the floor, what else is it about his skill set that’s alluring for NBA teams?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think he’s going to be good in a situation where he has versatile defenders around him and a point guard who can put him in position to succeed. I think that’s probably the biggest question for him is his ability to defend in space. So having other guys who can kind of pick up the slack there I think is going to be important.

You know, teams really like his competitiveness, his moxie. He’s a guy who every time you see him working out in the gym he’s drenched in sweat. He goes hard all the time. He has kind of a very magnetic personality to him, and he’s near seven feet tall and he can shoot and he can actually put the ball down a little bit, as well. So I think teams like that aspect of him. It’s just a matter of how many minutes is he going to be able to give you because he is a little bit limited on the defensive end.

I just wanted to get your overall evaluation of Collin Sexton and whether you think his body type can with stand the rigors of an 82-game season and the Playoffs.


MARKS: Yeah, me personally, I don’t have any questions about his body type. You know, maybe he doesn’t weigh 200 pounds, but he’s strong and he plays strong, and he’s maybe the most competitive player in the draft in terms of being a willing defender. He doesn’t shy away from contact. I mean, he got to the free-throw line over 10 times per 40 minutes, which kind of speaks to his aggressiveness and his yearning for physicality. Yeah, he’s not 6’5″ with a 6’10” wingspan, but I do think he plays strong and he’s very competitive.

Who do you think the Pacers will be selecting at the 23rd pick? They’ve been linked to a bunch of different guards so far.

SCHMITZ: Obviously grooming a young guard is probably a priority for them. I think you can look at a guy like Aaron Holiday, who plays both ends. He’s really tough. He can shoot it. I mean, if he’s somebody who’s available, I think he’s a guy who would make a lot of sense.

I think it’s really going to come down to who’s in the mix there. Even a guy like Kevin Huerter, who I think can play some point guard, same with Jerome Robinson; those are kind of potential no-brainers for them if they’re on the board. And then you can also go with a kind of a more seasoned guy if you want to take a Jevon Carter type who’s tough and competitive and can really defend, and there’s also a Jalen Brunson, who’s maybe not the most athletic guy but has high intangibles, high IQ, can shoot it, tough-minded kid.

So I think point guard makes sense for them at that spot, but it’s all — when you’re in that 20 to 25, 30 range, to me it’s kind of dependent on who’s available.

MARKS: Yeah, I agree with Mike. Even though you do have Darren Collison and Cory Joseph and both guys will be expiring contracts, will be free agents in 2019, so you usually draft for the future, even if there’s not a need right there, and if it’s not point guard, that’s kind of going back to that point where you have — you’ve got a bounty full of 2s and 3s in that range where Indiana is.

As an executive, how much do you measure when you talk to these college kids who are not one-and-done but just age 21 versus 18, like when you look at, for example, a Knox versus a Mikal Bridges? How much difference in potential do you see a guy developing in that age? Do you see 21 still with potential? Do you see 18 as you’ve got to project?

MARKS: Well, I think you get into that tendency where everyone is looking for that 18- to 19-year-old kid that can be the next Giannis, that you can kind of mold into how you want that player to be instead of maybe taking the next — and I’m not saying Mikal Bridges is Draymond Green or where you’re taking a player that has been in school, is maybe a little bit older there where maybe the upside is not there. I think that’s where you get in trouble a lot, when you start looking at an age, maybe an older player that you bypassed based on you know what he is instead of a Kevin Knox that maybe you think you do but are projecting out.

Do you see when you’re judging these guys a big difference in that small age gap there?


SCHMITZ: A big difference from like the veteran guys to the younger guys?

Yeah, a guy who’s played two, three years versus a guy who’s a one-and-done or even a player who only played a couple college games.

SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think it depends. Some guys develop at a much slower rate. Like Mikal Bridges, we wouldn’t talk about him as a sure-fire top-ten pick last year. He really needed three years to get stronger and to improve as a shooter and do those things, whereas a guy like Marvin Bagley can come in and just put up 20 and 10 no problem, all right, let’s go to the NBA and do this. So I think it’s dependent on every single player. Even you look back at like a Kyle Kuzma. We all want to say, oh, his situation was poor and screw him and yada-yada and they played him a certain way at Utah, but the reality is he wasn’t ready to be a one-and-done; he was a late bloomer who needed his time at Utah.

So for me, it’s very dependent on each and every kid.

Question about Jeran Jackson at Michigan State. Just wondering how you project him, if you see him as somebody who can contribute as a rookie or if he’s going to take a little bit longer to be a major contributor in the NBA.MARKS: Yeah, for me I think he’ll be able to impact the game in his rookie season in terms of bringing energy and blocking shots and switching screens and making an occasional three. But if you look, he’s one of the youngest players in the draft. He played only 20 minutes per game at Michigan State, and he struggled with foul trouble. So I think you’re going to have probably some wow games where he hits three threes and blocks five shots and guards on the perimeter against a Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum and then other games where he picks up three fouls in the first six minutes and gives you a goose egg. I do think it’s going to take him a little bit of time to kind of maximize who he is, but that’s what you get with 18 year olds.

I wanted to ask you about Dakota Mathias out of Purdue who had some buzz the last few weeks about maybe being a second-round pick. What have you heard about him, and do you think there’s a chance he gets drafted in that second round?
SCHMITZ: Yeah, for me, I think he’s probably a guy who would go undrafted. If he’s going to make it to the NBA, it’s going to be probably more in the TJ McConnell route, 61, choose your situation, go to camp, improve yourself there. A lot of these second-round guys, you’re looking at guys with length and upside and some intrigue, potential two-way candidates in the 50s. So to me, he seems more like a guy who’s going to be an undrafted training camp guy. But I mean, he’s proven himself at the NCAA level. He can really shoot the ball. I think he’s probably a better defender than people think. He has a good feel for the game. So probably at the very least a future Euroleague player. But not someone I would expect to get drafted in the second round.

Following up on Mo Wagner, do you guys see him as a first-round pick, and is there a team that you think he would fit in well with?

SCHMITZ: You know, I think he’s probably a fringe guy. It wouldn’t shock me if he want in that 25 to 30 range. We have him more in the mid-30s. You know, I think he’s going to fit with most teams, unless they’re a team that switches every ball screen and needs their big man to be that type of guy. But you know, I do think with his experience, and he has an NBA skill, he’s going to be able to play a role during his rookie season wherever he ends up.

MARKS: Yeah, and I think his range is all over the place. He’s been in Washington twice, working out for the 15th pick. But he’s also worked — he’s kind of filled the board with workouts in that 25 to 30 range, also. I would be surprised if he goes to Washington at 15, but I agree with Mike; I think he is a fringe first-round pick.

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

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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