Transcript of 2019 ESPN NBA Draft Lottery & Draft Combine Media Conference Call

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Transcript of 2019 ESPN NBA Draft Lottery & Draft Combine Media Conference Call

ESPN analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz participated in a media conference today to to recap the NBA Draft Lottery and discuss NBA Draft Combine. Marks and Schmitz will be part of ESPN’s Combine coverage from Chicago this week. ESPN2 will televise the 2019 NBA Draft Combine powered by Under Armour from 3-7 p.m. ET, on Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, live from the Quest Multisport Complex.

A transcript of the conference call follows:

Q. I’d like just to know who would be available for the 76ers at No. 24 in Bobby and Mike’s view.

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think there’s a variety of different guys, you know. It’s hard to say for sure who’s going to be there right now just because still fairly early in the process. We still have a month ahead of us here. But I think that’s the spot where you find a lot of veteran guys who are ready to step in right away, guys who have been good college players who maybe aren’t seen as having as much upside but can have an impact from day one.

I think it’s a wide variety of players, to be honest. The thing about this draft is, after really the top three, there’s not a whole lot of certainty. So, I think you could see some movement for sure, but a lot of really accomplished college players, I think, are going to be guys who are in that range.

BOBBY MARKS: And I think where they’re picking too is that you can get the best available and you can get also need, especially how that roster is with their bench going into free agency. Potentially could have some restrictions based on the cost of your free agents, that whoever they draft could come in and potentially play because that could be one of their big free agent additions outside of their core guys.

Q. One for each, please. Mike, I was going to ask you what you thought of who has the highest ceiling of the guys in Miami’s range at 13, if you look at realistic options like Nassir Little, Kevin Porter, the two Gonzaga forwards, the two Kentucky forwards, Bol Bol. And for Bobby, I was curious if you thought, with the Heat seemingly being stuck another year up against the cap, probably won’t even be able to use their taxpayer mid-level, would you encourage Reilly and the Heat to sort of stand pat and deal with this for another year and await cap space in 2020, or would you be aggressively trying to solve their issues now as opposed to being patient?

MIKE SCHMITZ:
Yeah, in terms of the guys with the highest upside, some of the names you mentioned, Bol Bol has a really high upside with a guy who obviously has incredible length. He moves well, he can shoot threes, he can block shots, and he can handle the ball. So that’s a really unique combination. He’s had some injuries, and he’s not the most durable guy. He needs to improve his motor, no question. I think that’s the only reason why he’s even considered in Miami’s range because, if it’s based on sheer talent alone, he’s probably a top five pick.

So I would say he probably has the most upside, and right behind him, a guy like Nassir Little and Kevin Porter. Those guys are really naturally gifted physically, in Kevin’s ability to score the ball and Nassir’s athletic traits. But I think in terms of upside, Bol has really more than anyone in that range.

Q. Thanks. And thoughts on the Heat’s state?

BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, the likelihood is you’re probably going to punt in the off-season because of where your roster is. You’ll probably be right at tax again. I think the hard part will be waiting until the summer of 2020 because I look at that free agent class as probably being one of the weakest that we’ve seen in a long time here. I think there’s a significant drop-off from this year and also in 2021, when you look at outside of whatever happens with Anthony Davis, it’s really kind of Draymond Green and a lot of players who signed contracts in the summer of 2016.

So, yes, you will certainly have cap space next year. Is there an option for Miami to take some of their expiring contracts like Whiteside and Dragic and maybe go out and get a player that has an extra year that eats into that cap space that can help now. I think that could certainly be an option that you need to look at. It’s hard waiting until the summer of 2020 because, as I said, that free agent class is not like it is going to be this year.

Q. Hi, guys. Just wanted to know what you think of the importance for the Knicks that they got into the top three. Obviously, you talk about the three-person draft at the top. Obviously, it depends a lot on what Memphis does at No. 2, but how do you break down kind of the difference between Ja Morant and RJ Barrett as potential additions to this Knick roster?

MIKE SCHMITZ:
Yeah, I think getting in the top three is critical in the Draft. We harped on it that those three — Zion, Ja, and RJ — are kind of what every team has been coveting. I think there are some players behind them who will end up being really good players, potentially even better than one or two of those guys because you just never know with these young kids.

I think RJ versus Ja is certainly a conversation. Personally, I think Ja has a little bit more upside just in terms of his explosiveness combined with his feel for the game. RJ is going to be a really, really good player. I think he’s going to be an all-star caliber player.

Not every team sees it the same. Some think that RJ, who came into the season at No. 1 on our board, has a chance to be better than Ja for sure because of his size and his ability to score at all three levels and make others better when he wants to. So, I think it’s huge to have that top three pick, and it’s not a clear-cut, like Ja Morant is for sure going to be a better NBA player than RJ Barrett, even though that’s kind of how I see it right now.

Q. For Bobby, how do front offices go about evaluating a player like Romeo Langford, who dealt with an injury that affected his season? Mike, how has Langford’s injury specifically affected his stock and what’s a realistic range for him on draft night?

BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I think it’s what you have seen him do during the summer before he got to Indiana, either through Team USA or Nike Hoop, kind of is there a baseline there before? That’s the big challenge, where you’re basically using a 20-game sample to take a player at pick 16 here. I think his individual workouts will certainly help the process. I think how he interviews, what his medicals come back at will either move him up the board or down the board.

There’s no exact science to the draft process. Sometimes you’re kind of just basing it on dust. He’s not a player who was there for three years where you have a 60-game sample. So, you have to rely on what you saw at Indiana, what you saw beforehand, and a lot of your background, either when you are dealing with the Indiana coaching staff to get more background on the kid.

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, and in terms of how the injury affected his stock, I think it does. You have to take into account the fact that this kid played through this, and having an injury on your shooting stuff is not easy to deal with, especially when you’re a guy who maybe that’s the biggest question about your game is whether or not you’re going to be able to make shots at the NBA level. I think it’s definitely something that teams need to take into consideration, that he played through that, and that it has clearly affected his percentages in some ways.

With that said, he wasn’t a great shooter prior to this season at Indiana, so I think that was a question mark regardless, but I think it’s something that teams definitely have to take into consideration. I could see him going anywhere from kind of like 8 to 14. He’s not for everyone just because I think his motor can be a little bit up and down, but in terms of his talent, I mean, there’s a reason he came into the draft, I think potentially even in our top five, just because he’s kind of a prototype two guard who can score at all three levels and at least has the tools to defend even though he has room to improve there.

So I think teams are all over the board with him, but I could see him going anywhere from 8 to 14.

Q. Hey, Mike, this question is for you. I’m asking about Aubrey Dawkins and Isaiah Roby as a couple of possible second round guys. What do they need to prove in workouts with teams and Isaiah at the combine this week to show teams they’re worth drafting?

MIKE SCHMITZ: I think for Aubrey it’s about teams figuring out whether or not that one tournament performance was kind of an outlier. He had a little bit of an up and down season this year. I think teams like the fact that he can shoot the ball and he’s explosive. I think he had the benefit of playing the majority of this year at 23 years old, which is part of the reason why he was able to be so productive. But I think playing with consistent toughness and showing that he can make the right reads and doing a little more with the ball are things that teams are looking for with him.

And Roby, I think it’s all about toughness.

I think it’s all about toughness and consistency because from a talent perspective he has pretty much everything you’re looking for in kind of a modern big man, a guy who can switch screens, who can protect the rim, who can handle as almost a point forward. I think shooting also, on top of toughness, is important for him. He’s a guy who turns down open threes a little bit too often. So, I think teams want to figure out whether or not he’s confident enough and tough enough to play to where his talent suggests on a consistent basis.

Q. Thank you and question to both men. Can you give a quick analysis on the two University of Minnesota players that are available, Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey, what their chances are, and then also what do you see the Minnesota Timberwolves going for at No. 11?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, in terms of Murphy and Coffey, you know, Murphy, I think, is at the worst going to have a really strong career in Europe. He’s physical. He was productive. I think the key for him is because he’s a little bit undersized, being able to step out and shoot the three, I think, for teams to feel comfortable with him, they’re going to want to see him in workouts, show that he has potential to do that eventually. So, I think there’s a chance he could potentially stick on a two-way contract just because he’s long and physical and he rebounds. So, he’s probably more of a fringe guy.

And then Coffey, you know, he had kind of an up and down showing, I think, at the G League elite camp combine. He has great size. He’s a pretty fluid athlete. He can make a shot. He’s a little bit streaky. But, again, I think because of his size and shot creation, he’s a guy who could potentially get a two-way contract as well.

So I kind of see them in that light, probably not draftable players, but guys who could hang around for a little bit in that regard.

BOBBY MARKS: And then as far as guys who are in their range, I think, when you look at that roster, is there a player like Coby White there? You don’t know the future of Jeff Teague, and you have Tyus Jones as a restricted free agent. Could he come in and play point guard possibly? But you need to look across the board. You’re probably going to lose Taj Gibson in free agency. You need a backup center. You need some depth off your bench as far as with your wings there. I know you drafted Josh Okogie last year, but it’s almost like you’re almost in a holding pattern to see what the teams in front of you do, and it’s your pool of three players that you will rank one, two, and three at that position, and you go from there as far as what is left.

Q. Gentlemen, I was wondering what you think Naz Reid and Tremont Waters, what they have to showcase at the combine. Also, do you think Tremont can maybe sneak into the second round? I know it’s pretty fluid not knowing who’s going to be in or out of the draft, but could he sneak in? And also, if you know anything about Kavell Bigby-Williams, if he’s got potential as a free agent, obviously?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think Tremont is a guy who could help himself playing these next couple days at the combine. I think in this type of setting guys who have the ball generally tend to thrive just because they have more freedom. I think he could certainly get looks in the mid-second round just because he’s so shifty with the ball and he can shoot. Sure, he doesn’t have great size, but I think his skill level lends itself to fitting in today’s game.

Naz, I don’t think he’s going to take the court today, but his is more like what is he going to be like in the interview process? Because he’s had kind of an up and down motor in the past, so showing teams that he’s ready to work hard and ready to put in the time that he needs to maximize his potential.

Bigby-Williams, I could see him as kind of a G League guy that you bring in. He’s an athlete, a rim runner, a shot blocker, and you kind of see what you have with him. So, I would see him probably in the G League, and Tremont with a chance to get drafted, and Naz definitely likely to get drafted as well.

Q. I have a similar question as an LSU guy, except for the Kentucky guys. How do you guys assess Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, and P.J. Washington in terms of what they can do at the combine and what range they’re in?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I can take this one. I think they’re not going to do a whole lot in terms of getting out on the floor and playing five-on-five, obviously, but I think Tyler is in a pretty comfortable spot, whether it’s the mid-teens or even late lottery. I think he’s going to look good in workouts because his ability to shoot the ball. P.J. as well, I think he’s in a very comfortable spot as well, probably likely secured in that late lottery just because he’s so solid and we’ve seen his improvement over the last year.

You know, I think Keldon is a guy who could probably sneak into the mid to late teens as well just because his physicality, his toughness. I think he’s going to impress teams in the interview process, and for him it’s about shooting the ball well in workouts, I think. That’s going to be the key for him. That’s probably one of the bigger question marks about his game. He shot a good percentage this last year, but he just needs to show consistent confidence from three.

Q. And just as a follow, Kentucky had two other guys that entered their names, in Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery. They’re not invited to the combine on the assumption that they’d come back to college. What do you think they’d need to work on and show improvement in in the next season to be in a better position next year?

MIKE SCHMITZ: For E.J., it’s kind of finding his identity. He can do a lot of different things. He’s unique because he’s 6’10” and he can step out a little bit on the perimeter. Obviously, he’s still 19 years old. So, getting tougher, finding his identity, and just kind of figuring out how he fits into all this because he doesn’t really have an elite skill right now.

I think, for Nick, it’s always been about playing with a consistent motor. He has the tools, and he has the physical gifts, but being able to hang his hat on being an athletic shot blocker, lob catcher, staying out of foul trouble, thinking the game at a higher level. I think those things are all important for him.

Q. This can be for either one of you guys, but what do you think the three Michigan guys, Matthews, Poole and Iggy Brazdeikis need to do most at the combine? Do you see any of those three guys working themselves into the first round potentially?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I can take this as well. I think that Brazdeikis, it’s about showing that he can make others better and showing that he’s a consistent shooter. I think, because he’s farther along on the offensive end than he is on the defensive end, I think teams will want to see that he’s a knockdown shooter and that he’s a guy who can make others better around him. He was a perfect fit in John Beilein’s system, playing at that four spot. I want to see what he looks like defensively against more gifted offensive players.

Poole, I was a little surprised that he’s not electing to play. I think he’s a guy that could have helped himself by coming out and making shots and showing his talent. So hard to pick up too much of him. I think, throughout the workout process, he’s going to have to prove that, you know, it’s more so about interviews really, just that his mindset is in the right place and that he’s able to play within a team system and not just out to get his own.

Then for Charles, I think, shooting the ball has always been the key for him. He can really defend. He can handle and pass, but shooting has always been kind of his downfall. I see those guys as — I see Charles as kind of more of a late second round undrafted two-way guy. I think Brazdeikis is maybe a mid-second type of prospect with potential to maybe get into the 30s. And then I think Poole has a wide range. He’s talented enough to be a late first round pick type of guy, but it’s about answering those questions I talked about.

Q. There are four University of Virginia players in the Draft. De’Andre Hunter is supposed to be a lottery pick. Ty Jerome, I’ve seen mid-first round. Do you think those are accurate estimates? And where do you see Kyle Guy and Mamadi Diakite, if Diakite stays in the Draft?

MIKE SCHMITZ: I think Hunter has a chance to end up being a top six or seven pick just because he’s a plug and play combo forward that every team is looking for. I think Ty Jerome, he’s not a guy who’s going to stand out in the measurements testing or the athletic testing, so I think some guys view him as an early second round pick and some guys view him as a mid-first round pick. I really like his skill set and his feel for the game. I think he’s going to end up being a better player than where he’s drafted.

And then Kyle Guy, you know, I’ve always thought he’s going to have a bigtime career as a EuroLeague player, but with the way the game is going with the emphasis put on shooting, I don’t think you can rule out that he has a chance. I’m not sure he’s a guy who gets drafted, but I think that he could definitely go to training camp and fight for a roster spot.

And then Mamadi Diakite, I see him more as a G League flyer guy that you take a chance on because of his athleticism.

BOBBY MARKS: Mike gave you the full dose on Virginia players. But just on Kyle — and I don’t want to put too much stock into the five-on-five play, but I think, if Kyle can show that he can play point guard at a heavy dose over the next two days, I think that’s going to help him out a lot.

Q. Do you think it was wise for Kyle to enter the draft at this point?

BOBBY MARKS: Well, he’s going to be 6’2″ next year also, so I don’t know if it’s, you know, a size thing. Every player has their own reason to do it. Some it’s financially. Some feel they’ve basically accomplished everything. I think where the G League is right now — if you asked me that question ten years ago, I’d say probably not, but I think where the G League is right now, it’s not the end of the world if you get drafted in the second round or undrafted at all based on the way two-way contracts work and how we’ve seen players spend a year there and then are on an NBA roster the following year.

Q. I am curious about Bol Bol and sort of how he sets up, Mike, from a collegiate perspective and, Bobby, from an NBA perspective. Am I wrong with lumping him with sort of the Thon Makers and the Mo Bambas and sort of the longer, skinnier guys who came out of college with sort of uneven results? From a college perspective, how much does he show having an NBA game? And Bobby, in today’s NBA that’s getting smaller and smaller, although stretch anything still are welcomed, do you see that as a risky choice by a team in the first half of the first round?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, he’s one of these risk/reward guys. I think, like some of the guys you mentioned, he’s very unique in terms of his length and his skill set, but you know, he can really shoot the ball. I think that’s the thing that is going to help him kind of stay afloat as he gets stronger, as he improves his motor. It’s just that he’s so skilled on the perimeter. And even more so than some of the guys you mentioned, like he can take a defensive rebound and push off the glass and go create some offense.

So my biggest question with him is just his durability with that high center of gravity and thin frame, and how is he going to be able to make it through an 82-game season?

BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, and I would say for him, I think, if you’re a team where Miami is or in that late part of the lottery, are you comfortable with him sitting out a full year? Are you comfortable with him taking a redshirt year, like we saw Michael Porter Jr., in Denver and waiting until his second year, based on coming off that foot injury? I think the bulk of these players that you are going to draft, unless you are probably in the top five or six, are going to be developmental projects here.

But from a skill set, I agree. I think there is a lot of reward there based on the ability to stretch the floor, his length. We haven’t seen a player like that with his length before. So, yeah, I mean, it all comes down to are you — whoever drafts them, you’re going to have to play the patient game.

Q. Mike, just to follow that up, because I wasn’t sure, how much time is he expected to miss? And is it a Michael Porter situation? I’m kind of curious about that.

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, no, I don’t think it’s a full sit out. I’m fairly certain he’s not doing team workouts or anything like that, but I think that he’s going to be back for the season. It is — I think it’s — I’m not a doctor. I don’t know all the details, you know, in terms of his exact timeline, but, yeah, I don’t think he’s expected to miss his full rookie season. But at his size, any time you have a foot injury, I think you certainly want to take things slow, so I’m sure that that’s their approach with his camp, and I think it’s going to be a long-term play with him, kind of like Bobby said.

Q. Thanks, guys. Bobby, just for you, I know that you know Gersson Rosas well and certainly have had your experiences working with him. I think maybe when some people up here saw they were hiring a Houston guy, maybe they assume it’s a Daryl Morey analytics, mad scientist type of a guy, but he had such a big background in coaching and in scouting and in personnel. As he had been to his first draft here overseeing the worlds, what do you think we can expect? And what you know of him, what’s he going to lean on as he kind of navigates this process of sitting in the No. 11 pick?

BOBBY MARKS: Well, I think he checks the boxes of everything he’s done in his career, especially his 17 years in Houston, from scout to management, kind of behind the scenes, especially working with him, putting together these draft combines when I was with the Nets for four or five years. He is well detailed. There will be a full background on every player here. I think he will lean heavily on the scouts with the Timberwolves there, the ones that are there or whoever he brings in here, and I think that’s kind of what you can hang your hat on going into the draft that here’s a player that — I mean, here’s a GM who hasn’t been out of the league for maybe a couple of years and has kind of fine-tuned as far as who is out there.

So I think, as I said, I think he does check all the boxes as far as what you can have as a general manager, and I think not just for the American based players, but what you see over in Europe.

Q. Guys, you have both spoken extensively on Bol already, but I’ll ask you about Oregon’s three other players in the Draft. Actually, Louis King staying in it, your thoughts on him first. And then secondly with Kenny Wooten and Payton Pritchard, assuming they return to college, what they need to work on to better their chances of being drafted next year.

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I think for Lou — and I know Bobby can speak on Lou as well — but I think for Lou a lot of it will come down to the interview process and medical for him because he’s had some injuries in the past. Obviously, had a great NCAA Tournament. He’s a guy that’s going to workout well. Based on his talent, the fact that he’s 6’8″ and he can make an open three and he can handle a little bit, I mean, he could get looks in the late first, early second. But I think it’s going to come down to interviews and the medical in terms of where he goes.

Then for the other guys, in terms of what they need to work on, Wooten, it’s just being consistent. Some days he looks like an NBA player with his explosiveness and his shot blocking, we saw in the NCAA Tournament, and other days I think he’s just not completely there in terms of being able to handle the physicality or make the necessary reads. So, I think becoming a smarter and a tougher basketball player is going to help him.

Then with Payton Pritchard, continuing to evolve into more of a point guard. He was more of a scorer at a young age, so adding more of that to his game, I think, is important.

BOBBY MARKS: I think, regarding what Mike said, I think it’s going to be critical how he interviews over the next couple days here and then how he handles the team visits here. I don’t think talent is the one thing that teams will question, but it will be as far as from a maturity level, with his injuries that he had in high school, but I think it’s just going to be a matter of teams having a comfort level with him that they can trust him if they were drafting him in either the first or second round.

Q. Hello, guys. I was just wondering with the Zion Williamson pick, how do you think that that affects the New York Knicks as far as what their plans were? And do you guys actually think he is the best player in the Draft, or are there a couple other guys you feel will end up being better than him?

MIKE SCHMITZ: I think Zion is the best player and the best prospect in this draft. He’s kind of the epitome of positionless basketball in this new era that we’re seeing. So, you never know. I think Ja Morant and RJ Barrett are both really talented as well. It’s going to be important for Zion’s body to hold up, there’s no question about that. As far as New York, now that they have No. 3, I think you’re looking at Ja Morant and RJ Barrett, and I don’t think the whole Zion hangover of not getting the No. 1 pick should really affect them.

I think they need to do their due diligence on those two guys, and they’ll end up with obviously whoever Memphis doesn’t select, but I think they’re getting a really good player regardless.

Q. Thank you. One follow-up question. Based on what happened in the combine, but who do you think are your top three sleeper guys that could really come up big in the future that we aren’t speaking about right now?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, I mean, if you want to look at just the combine and maybe some guys who would play, I think Isaiah Roby out of Nebraska has a chance to be one, as an athletic big man who can make a three and block some shots. I think Grant Williams out of Tennessee is a guy who’s really going to help himself just because of his toughness, his feel for the game. And then there’s a kid out of Tulsa who’s had a really good run, DaQuan Jeffries, maybe a mid to late second round guy, but long arms, 6’5″, kind of a three and D wing prospect. He’ll be playing the next few days also.

Q. I was just wondering what you guys thought of Kevin Porter Jr. and what teams around the league are looking at him, especially which team in the mid to late first round do you think would be the best fit for him? And also, Bennie Boatright’s chances of being drafted probably in the late second round?

MIKE SCHMITZ: Kevin is really talented. I’m based out in L.A., so I got a chance to see him quite a bit. I think he’s one of the more talented scorers in the Draft, if you’re looking at sheer talent. Physically, 6’5″, 6’10” wingspan. He checks all of the boxes there. For him, it’s about the interview process, answering why he had such an uneven season at USC, why he got suspended, why he wasn’t able to show much consistency. I think that’s what teams want to figure out about him because some days he looks like a top five pick, and some days he looks like a guy that you don’t want to invest your draft pick in.

So I think for him it’s about going to a situation where he has veterans and he has support and the team is able to help him just stay on a consistent path in terms of getting better every day.

Bennie Boatright, any time you have size and shooting, I think you’re going to get looks. So, he strikes me as a guy who will probably earn a two-way contract, play a lot in the G League, and then kind of go from there.

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Shakeemah Simmons-Winter

I am a senior publicist for men’s pro sports, working predominantly with the NBA and FIBA properties. I’m a Jersey City, NJ native, so I cheer for all New York sports and athletes, win or lose. I began my sports career as a small forward for JCPS #9’s elementary basketball team, and then years later gave up my hoop dreams (sort of) to work as the Public Relations Coordinator for the New York Knicks. Prior to working in sports, I briefly worked as an intern turned production assistant for the Wendy Williams Show. I earned a B.A. in Communications from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, where I met my husband Matthew, and later attended New York University to earn a M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. I am excited to continue my sports journey with some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the sports industry.
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