College basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who has been a staple on ESPN’s draft coverage for the last 17 years, spoke to media members ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft. A transcript of the call is available below.
Michigan’s three guys, in your estimation, what makes each of those guys worthy of being a draft selection this season?
JAY BILAS: Well, they’re all good players. I was really sad to see that Charles Matthews got injured because I think he would have been drafted. It will be interesting to see whether that injury affects that. He’s well-built for an NBA player, so he’s got size, a wingspan of 6’9″, 6’10”. Can guard multiple positions. I always saw him as being a solid defender. He can switch. He’s got a good motor, plays really hard.
Also was a pretty good defensive rebounder, I thought. I think he can improve as a shooter. I thought that was more of a strength of his when he first got to Michigan. He didn’t consistently make shots as I felt he would.
I think Ignas Brazdeikis has a good shot of getting drafted. I’ve got him ranked right in the second round. Another guy that’s got talent, tough-minded. I think he has ability to play in the NBA. He can score. He can use either hand. He shot a pretty decent percentage from three.
I think he’s going to continue to get better. One of the things I liked about him a lot is he attacks closeouts, doesn’t shy away from anything. He still has a long way to go. Still a really, really young player.
Jordan Poole would be probably the best prospect of the three, I would say. Maybe saying a little bit with Brazdeikis because he is a good prospect, too. He’s a good creator, I think a good passer. Did a good job of seeing open people off of ball screens. I think he could be a secondary ball handler in the NBA and facilitate at times. But a good, solid shooter. Shot just under 40% from three, makes over 80% of his free throws.
I think he’s got a ways to go with his overall game, which you would expect from a young player. One of the better shooters I think in this year’s draft and one of the skill players you can find in the second round.
What situation do you feel would maybe be most beneficial for each of those guys or do you feel there’s no teams they would be ill-suited for?
BILAS: I don’t really look at it that way as far as styles of play because in the NBA most styles are similar. You’re not going to find something where you say, Hey, this guy doesn’t belong in the situation where they’re a slowdown team or up-tempo, whatever. They’ll all fit in just fine wherever they’re drafted or if they’re drafted.
It’s just a question of where the numbers and opportunities lie. There are places you can get drafted, if you’re one of the 60 players drafted, there are places you can go where you might not have an opportunity, that can set you back.
All these guys are going to have to prove themselves. None of them are no-brainer NBA starters. They each have to find their path. But NBA teams, where those guys are going to be drafted, are looking for the best available player most times, guys that can help them win as opposed to lead them to winning, if that makes sense.
In the second round, you’re not drafting stars, you’re drafting guys you expect to make your team, you would like to be rotation players, perhaps one day starters. But it’s pretty rare that you get to middle of the second round finding a star-caliber player. It’s not unheard of, but it’s pretty darn rare.
With the three Michigan players, with them kind of being in John Beilein’s system, how much does that help them going into the NBA since he’s an NBA coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers?
BILAS: They’ve been well-coached. But you could say that for a number of players. John wasn’t an NBA coach when he coached them. He’s an NBA coach now. It’s not like they got NBA coaching or something like that. I don’t see it quite that way.
I think one of the things that John and his staff do as well as anybody is they coach skill development very well. Their individual skill level I think has gotten better. I’m not one of those that believes, this is not about John or any other coach specifically, but I’m not one of those that believes that coaches and/or programs sort of produce NBA players. I think they recruit them. They recruit NBA-caliber talent.
Coaches at every level help players get better. I would put it to people this way: I actually read an article on this this morning and commented on it, I’ve never heard anybody say, Which NBA team produces the most All-Stars? They don’t say that.
It’s some sort of idea that’s taken hold in college that programs produce pros. I just don’t see it that way. I think it’s more they recruit them. Do coaches help players get better? Of course. That’s what coaches are supposed to do. But I don’t look at it quite that way.
I think these guys have NBA talent, they’re going to have to improve it a lot from here in order to be really good NBA players in my humble judgment.
As far as the mocks go, I had a Sixers related question. You see a lot of names associated with them at 24. Obviously they also have a lot of flexibility since they have four second-rounders. What do you foresee them doing?
BILAS: I don’t know. That’s a best available position, as well. I think most of these are. You might have a need that you draft to, and you can certainly do that in this draft.
I always look at the draft as the ability to not only make your team better but to obtain assets. If you have a player that you think is the best available player, it might not necessarily be drafted to help your team, it could be to help your team by having a draftable asset and a tradeable asset.
But I think towards the end of the first round, Thybulle, may be the best perimeter defender in the draft, I think he and De’Andre Hunter would be there for that.
KZ Okpala from Stanford is I have ranked about that same place because he is long-armed, versatile, skilled, has the ability to get a lot better.
Eric Paschall out of Villanova is another player you could see there. Even though he played locally, started out the Fordham and transferred in. Very good athlete. A guy that can shoot it, pass it. I think he would fit in as a solid rotation player with a good team.
There are a number of ways that the Sixers can go, but look, if you’re asking me, I’m a best available player guy. A lot of that is going to depend on who gets taken in front.
Can you give us a synopsis of Cam Johnson and Carsen Edwards.
BILAS: Cam Johnson, one of the older players in the draft. He started out at Pittsburgh and had a couple injuries there. He’s had some different surgeries, hip, I think he had one other, maybe a shoulder.
One of the best shooters in the draft, if not the best shooter. 6’8″, and gets his shot out, very fluid as a shooter, very quick. I like him a lot. I think the only question that you have with Cam is, one, defensively. You have to concern yourself — not concern yourself, but you have to be able to answer the question, How is his body going to hold up in the NBA?
I think he’ll do very, very well. He’s a great teammate. Unbelievable young man that I think came in and really benefited himself through transferring.
He had graduated from Pittsburgh and was an honor student when he got there, honor student at Pittsburgh, and I think helped North Carolina the last two years to the point where he was a First Team All-ACC performer last year. North Carolina is not a top-ranked team without him. He was terrific.
BILAS [about Carsen Edwards]: Just a tenacious bucket getter. Killer instinct as a scoring guard. Don’t really see him as being a point guard, more a small off guard. Even though he’s small, he’s lengthy. He’s got a wingspan in the 6’5″, 6’6″ range. He can really put it on the deck and get into the lane, go to the rim. Excellent pullup shooter.
I think he could improve his decision making, but gets to the free-throw line. I think you saw against Virginia in the NCAA tournament, if you didn’t see it before, he can make challenged shots.
I thought one of the things that was most impressive in watching him throughout the year was when teams would rotate their best perimeter defender, their biggest guy on him, try to bother him with length, it didn’t really bother him.
The best example of that was probably in the NCAA tournament against Virginia when Tony Bennett switched over De’Andre Hunter onto him. You have a guy in De’Andre who is 6’8″ with a seven-foot wingspan. After an initial adjustment, it did not bother Carsen. He went off on those guys for 40 plus points.
I think he’s a first round draft pick, sort of the last third of the first round. I think he’ll be able to score efficiently in the NBA.
In the Miami Heat’s range of pick No. 13, who is a prospect that has the highest upside in that range? Who is a prospect maybe that would be a safer pick, not as high of a ceiling, but a higher floor?
BILAS: In that range, there probably are going to be some guys that you have ranked above 13 that may drop. Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga is a player that I think could wind up being there that I think would be the best player you may be able to get there.
I ranked PJ Washington of Kentucky at that slot. Not that I’m saying that’s where he’ll be drafted, but that’s where I have him on my list of prospects, irrespective of what teams think of him. He’s a 6’9″ forward that can step away and knock down a perimeter shot. He’s a good athlete. Solid, a solid prospect.
Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga is another guy that could be there. He’s super athletic, versatile defender that can rebound and block shots, kind of can guard positions maybe one through four, I’d say.
Not a guy that is going to really play on the perimeter, facing the basket, all that, like Hachimura does. But very, very gifted athletically.
Romeo Langford and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are two players I would consider there that are both really good guards. Alexander-Walker is the better shooter I think of the two. Langford is better at getting to the rim, better off the dribble, a little bit more explosive athletically.
The guy that I think is kind of mysterious, mystery man is the wrong way to put it, but the kid out of Oregon, Bol Bol, who was injured throughout the course of the year. He is long armed, has a seven-foot seven wingspan, can shoot it. He can step away and shoot it. A good shot-blocker. A guy who is very skilled with the ball, checks every box on versatility.
When you look at his highlights, you’re going, Man, he can do everything. The question is, Does he do it consistently over the course of a 40-minute game, 48 minutes in the NBA? That’s the question. How is he going to come back from injury? But talent-wise, he checks every box. He’s really, really skilled and talented.
Regarding Kevin Porter Jr., some question marks there about what happened at USC, how would you evaluate him as a guard who has an upside in that range?
BILAS: He is super athletic and gifted. Great speed, very good off the bounce. I’d call him a transition athlete. Just an outstanding scorer. He’s got a good release on his shot, tons of confidence. He just can toy with defenders on the college level. When he’s engaged, he can really play.
He’s not a great decision maker. That’s got to improve. I think he’s got to become more consistent, more consistent in every way, both on and off the floor. I think if an NBA team satisfies itself that the issues that he had, he was suspended last year for a time, that they were youth related, things he can overcome, not a big deal.
That’s one thing where I can have my opinions on it. I don’t have to draft him, they do. So they have to satisfy themselves as to issues both on-court ability and then off-court character.
How much did PJ Washington help himself by staying another year?
BILAS: Yes, that’s a good question. I think he certainly helped himself. It doesn’t mean that’s the only way. He certainly is going to be drafted higher this year than he would have been last year. Coming back and working on his game, being a more finished product I think was immensely helpful to improving his draft position.
Now, had he gone pro last year out of college, after just one year at Kentucky, could things have worked out just as well if not better? Of course. There’s no rule book or roadmap for this. I can tell you my personal perspective on it.
If any player is ready to be a pro, irrespective of where they are drafted, I say go. If you want to go, you’ve satisfied yourself that you are prepared to be a pro and accept the consequences of leaving college early when maybe you might not be as prepared to step in right away, but you want to do your developing as a pro and get paid for it, I have zero problem with that.
I look at it as not so much important as to where you get drafted, but it’s important that you’re prepared fully to start your professional career, to be responsible to your talent so that you are best prepared and putting yourself in a position to have a long and productive career in the NBA as a professional.
It’s not just, Hey, this is the best chance for me to get drafted in a high spot. You can get drafted high and not be fully prepared. Those two things are not necessarily the same thing.
Look, everybody looks at it differently. But if you’re looking at it just from improving draft stock, absolutely he improved his draft stock by coming back. I think he is a better player, more prepared to step into the NBA and be productive right away. He still has a lot of improving to do and I think is going to be a good player in the NBA.
What way specifically did he help himself from an on-court standpoint?
BILAS: He became far more consistent. You could tell that he was more assertive, confident, impacted the game in far more ways than he did as a freshman. He’s PJ is a good passer, has a good understanding of the game. He showed that he could step out and knock a perimeter shot down. He could go into the post and be a go-to scorer with his back to the basket.
I think he improved his body, did a much better job of running the floor. He was much better as a defender, rebounding, protecting the rim, things of that nature. He improved in every conceivable way I think and became more of a leader. You could tell just by the way he carried himself, much more confident as a player.
Look, based on what I said before, there’s no right way to do it, in my view. You certainly can’t argue with his decision, that he did everything right.
Of all three Kentucky guys, which do you think will hear their name called first? Which maybe has the potential for the longest career?
BILAS: Who knows about long careers. PJ is probably going to hear his name first, PJ Washington will probably go first. My guess is it will probably be Tyler Herro right after that. Long career has to do with staying healthy and all that stuff.
Herro is one of the best shooters in the draft, really improved his defense. But his perimeter shooting, along with his range, he showed I thought a good frame, really good athleticism, but knocks his free throws down at a really high rate. I think it’s 93, 94 percent and continued to get better.
I thought his improvement as a defender and his toughness was really, really impressive. The best game I saw him play in person was at Louisville. His defense was probably the difference in the game. He scored well, too. Not a super long athlete. His arms are actually shorter than his height, which is not usually the case for NBA prospects.
But because he can really shoot it, I really like him in the league as a guy who can space the floor, knock down shots. He showed his ability to take a bump, too. He doesn’t back off at all.
I like Keldon Johnson a lot. He’s a hard-nosed, physical player that can guard people. I think as a defender, that’s where he shows the most promise, but he can get downhill on offense, hit a pullup jump shot. I think he’ll continue to improve his range as a shooter.
But from the college line, shot a very solid, what, 39%, if I remember right, made almost 50 threes. I think he can improve his shooting and free-throw shooting. That’s the next step. But he has a lot of ability. It just needs to be refined.
I want to ask you about Nick Ward specifically, unique position he ended up in this year with the injury midway through the season, the choice he had to make whether to come back or not. It had to be a difficult choice for him, the fringe of getting drafted. Speak about what he faced, his choice to actually end up going in the draft, whether that’s going to end up being a good choice, even if he had an option to come back.
BILAS: Only he knows whether it’s a good choice or not for him. I don’t know if you heard me before, but I just don’t look at this as being sort of where you get drafted is the dispositive issue. In other words, if you’re going to be a first round pick or lottery pick, you have to go. If you’re not going to be drafted, you shouldn’t go, unless you’re going to be sort of a high second round pick, stuff like that. All that analysis doesn’t necessarily work for each player.
Nick has been in college for a while. He knows what college is about. My guess is he made an informed decision that was best for him.
I don’t see him getting drafted. At his size, he would be an undersized back to the basket player. He’s not a super explosive athlete that plays above the rim, from an NBA standpoint…
The game has kind of been changing while he’s been in the game. It is a perimeter-oriented game now. Guys that are versatile, can step away and knock down a shot, can defend on the perimeter, can switch, guard multiple spots, are and are becoming increasingly more valuable.
I would categorize Nick as a more traditional low-post player. There are not as many of those coveted right now. Can he play in the NBA? Absolutely, he can. Do I see him as being among the 60 players that will be drafted? I don’t. But I could be wrong in that.
He’s a terrific young man and I think whether he’s drafted or not, he’s got a chance to have a long professional career. It may not be in the NBA. Maybe it will be. But you can make a lot of money and have a fantastic career playing overseas. A lot of guys sign two-way contracts, they’re in the G League, in the NBA, all that stuff. There’s a lot of ways to approach a long career in professional basketball.
I wanted to ask about Zion Williamson. When you look at him, his athleticism, everything he brings to the table, is there one part of his game particularly that you feel like will best translate to the game at the NBA level?
BILAS: Yeah, he is freakishly athletic, with a high basketball IQ. His ability to get to the rim and finish both in transition and in the halfcourt is uncommon.
First, his build. There’s never been a player like him that’s ever played basketball at any level, nobody. You can compare certain aspects of his game to certain players, but there’s never been that kind of package of skills in that kind of body with that kind of explosive athleticism.
It’s not just the fact that he can jump. He’s got a 45-inch vertical, but his second and third jump are as explosive as some guy’s firsts. They’re really good athletes.
He changes speed and direction at an astonishing level given his size and weight. Tremendous body control, coordination. I haven’t seen anybody play harder than he does. He doesn’t take plays off. He’s an amazing finisher. Shot almost 70% from the floor this last year, which was the highest ever for a freshman.
His player efficiency rating was the best in the last 10 years. That doesn’t mean 11 years ago somebody was better. They’ve only been keeping that stuff for 10 years. Just an amazing player.
Look, he’s not a great shooter. He can improve there, improve his free-throw shooting. I think he’s going to continue to improve as a defender with his fundamentals. But the things he does naturally, very few players I’ve seen do.
I don’t think there’s much discussion as to who should be the No. 1 pick. I think it should be and will be him. I don’t think it will take him long to adjust to being a big-time player in the NBA.
When you look at the Pelicans at the No. 4 pick, any specific player that stands out to you as being the best fit for that team, style of play?
BILAS: It’s not necessarily a style of play issue. I look at the best available player. There are three or four guys that I think would fit into that.
The fourth player, best available player, after Williamson, Morant and Barrett, which I think will go 1-2-3, in that order, I would put fourth De’Andre Hunter of Virginia, best defender in the draft, good athlete, can step away and knock down a perimeter shot.
Coby White of North Carolina, who is the fastest player, fastest guard, 6’5″, great in transition, can really shoot it. I think he’ll refine his decision making.
Then Darius Garland of Vanderbilt, another guy that can really shoot the ball. Excellent shooting off the dribble. Really good pick’n roll decision maker. Only played five games this last year for Vanderbilt before getting hurt and being lost for the season. But I think he’ll improve his assist-turnover rate, his decision making.
The other guy I would put there that I think could be there is Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech. Culver is a good size, wingspan of about I think 6’10” or 6’11”, if I remember right. Reminds you a little bit of DeMar DeRozan. I heard that comparison made. I’ve never been much on comps, but I agree with it.
Really good defender. I think he’s improved his shot, really fixed his mechanics. I think he’s still got a ways to go to become a more consistent shooter. But rebounds his position, can guard people. The best defender on the best defensive team in the country last year. He can switch off on multiple spots, guard, plays hard. Really good young man. Passes it well. He’s got a lot of ability, but doesn’t shoot it. That’s where he’s got to improve.
Q. My heart sank when I heard you say you’ve never been much on comps. I was going to ask you what players come to mind who could be likened to the three Kentucky guys?
BILAS: Yeah, well, I’m sorry I’m not as good at that. I’ve never been good at saying, This guy is just like that guy, all that stuff.
PJ Washington is going to be a good player for a long time in the league. He’s just solid. With his athletic profile, the fact that he’s very skilled, do I see him being a star in the NBA, an All-Star? Probably not. Do I see him being a starter in the league? I do. I think he’s got the opportunity to play for a long, long time.
Herro is a little bit confounding because I just don’t remember a guy whose arms were shorter than his height in the years I’ve been doing this that I’ve had ranked in the top 20. Him, I do. I have him rated 18th overall. Some people have him higher, some people lower. But I was really impressed with the way he came in and performed this last year.
He has a strong body, can shoot it. His free-throw shooting is incredible. He made 94% this last year. I’m a big fan of Keldon Johnson because of his versatility on both ends of the floor. He’s got a pretty complete game. With his versatility defensively, the fact that he plays hard, can play in transition, they can plug him in just about anywhere, on anybody. I think he just has to improve his perimeter shooting. But I like him very much as a player.
Those are three good prospects in this draft. Not as spectacular as some of the Kentucky players that have come out in recent years, but all very, very solid.
A question about Reid Travis. Is there any chance you see Reid Travis sliding into the second round for the draft or are we looking at him possibly going undrafted?
BILAS: I think he’ll be undrafted. Reid was a great college player, another fantastic kid. Not a kid, he’s a man. A fantastic young man.
But I think the game, the NBA game, has gone away from him being a draft pick. Sort of back to the basket big guy that’s undersized that does not play above the rim, is not a versatile defender. There are a lot of things that he does well. Can he play in the NBA? Absolutely he could play in the NBA. I do not see him being drafted. Just the way the game has gone.
You put him 15 years ago or something, he probably would be drafted. Maybe 10 years, whatever it is. Now it’s a little bit more problematic for undersized low-post guys that play within 15 feet. It’s more of a spread game now. Your ability to switch out and defend on the perimeter, guard, screen roll situations, be able to shoot a three and all that. It’s just not what he does.
The things he does well he does very well, but I’d be surprised if he were drafted.
Asking about Ja Morant, how much of a splash do you expect him to make in his first year in the NBA and where does he need to improve?
BILAS: I think he’s going to make a significant splash because he can really play. I think he needs to improve. He needs to continue to get stronger and improve his body because I wouldn’t say he is slight of build, but not where he’s going to be as he continues to mature.
I think he can improve his shooting. He can shoot it, but he needs to become a more consistent shooter both pulling up and range. But he’s a great creator and an excellent passer. I think everybody knows he led the NCAA in assists last year at 10 per game. I think it was 14 games, if I remember right, he had over 20 points and 10 assists. That led the nation. Again, if I remember right, the next highest was three, and that was Cassius Winston. Cassius Winston is a great guard.
It shows you just how productive and consistent at the highest level Ja Morant was. He can score, he can create for other people. I think, though, as he keeps getting better as a player, becoming more efficient, he had a ton of turnovers last year, but he had so much on his plate, he had to create so much offense for his team.
60% of his team’s field goals were either off of his pass or him scoring himself. That’s a lot of responsibility. So that probably increased his turnover rate. If he can become more efficient with turnovers, his production, his productivity, is excellent. I liken him, he reminded me just sort of athletically of Russell Westbrook. Not the same body type. Some people say he’s more like De’Aaron Fox. I don’t differ with it at all. Holy cow, it’s like watching Westbrook when he was at UCLA as a freshman.
Morant is really good. A really good young man, too. I thought really handled the spotlight extraordinarily well, especially considering that spotlight was really bright and it came on in a hurry. Wasn’t like he had a lot of time to prepare himself for it.
About Ja Morant, you don’t do player comps, but from all the time you spent with college basketball, watching these guys develop, have you ever seen or heard of a story similar where you have that stellar freshman year, then you build on that in the sophomore year, catapult into the NBA? Is that something you’ve seen or can liken to in this experience?
BILAS: Yeah, it happens. Steph Curry was probably the one I would point to. It wasn’t like Ja Morant wasn’t seen in high school. He was seen. Same thing with Steph Curry. They were all seen. It’s almost impossible now if you’re going to play AAU ball, all that stuff. If you get out and play in high school, the circuit a little bit, people are going to see you.
People just didn’t see him being all this. Nobody thought Steph Curry would be all this. I’m not even sure Steph Curry’s dad thought he’d be all this.
I may not remember this exactly correctly, but the word got out on him late, really late in high school. He had other offers really late, which a lot of times players take. He grew up in South Carolina, so South Carolina comes in late and offers him. A lot of times the player that had been recruited by the smaller school oftentimes takes the offer of the last suit tore that comes in.
Morant didn’t do that. He decided to stick with Murray State and had a terrific freshman year. He averaged 12 or 13 points as a freshman. That’s terrific. I watched him a couple times thinking that, Murray State can make the tournament, all that stuff. When I watched, it didn’t jump off at me that here is the next Russell Westbrook or De’Aaron Fox. It didn’t register with me.
Over the summer, you heard that that dude at Murray State is really good. I looked at their schedule. They’re playing Alabama, Auburn. We’ll find out then. We found out. He put 38 on Alabama, was an Instagram sensation, all that stuff, then lit up Auburn. When he got to the tournament, he lit up Marquette and played well. If you look at his numbers against all these big-time schools or big-time teams, he delivered just about every time.
He’s legit. He’s proven it.
Do you see Memphis balking at all? Is there any fluidity with the Pelicans at four? Do they get involved and move around the top five and make things a little crazy?
BILAS: I haven’t heard anything about New Orleans doing anything to move down. I think if you’ve got the chance at Zion Williamson, you take it. I haven’t heard anything about that.
Now, whatever Memphis decides to do with their two pick, if they wanted to trade it and get more, maybe that happens. If I were drafting No. 2, you know that Zion is going to be gone, I would certainly consider RJ Barrett. But I rank Ja Morant ahead of Barrett because he is a legit point guard that has that kind of vision, scoring ability.
Barrett is bigger. He was the presumptive No. 1 pick coming into the season. Morant passed him up a little bit. Both of them are All-Star caliber players, NBA All-Star caliber players.
I’m going to go in a different direction and ask you for a couple guys who aren’t in the draft, Jordan Nwora from Louisville and Ashton Hagans from Kentucky. Where do you feel like they can improve their stock for next year’s draft?
BILAS: Jordan Nwora is a really good player. He can shoot it. He rebounds very well for his size, especially on the defensive end, the defensive backboard. He’s got good size and strength. I think he can improve his decision making, sort of become a more versatile scoring threat. I think he can become a much better defender, and I think he will under Chris Mack and his staff.
I like his decision to go back and continue to mature as a player because I think he can really benefit from that. I would not have quarreled with him coming out because it’s such an individual decision, but I think he’ll be among the top players in college basketball this next year. I think for the sake of his career, working on his game in college I think for him is a very good decision.
Ashton Hagans was one of the best defenders in the country last year. Certainly I would put him among the two or three best on-ball defenders at the point guard position along with Tre Jones of Duke. He’s relentless. Where can he improve? I think he can improve as a shooter. He needs to become a better perimeter shooter. I think he’s capable of improving there and improving his shot consistency. Another guy who is a very good player. Maybe I should be, but I was not surprised that he decided not to come out.
I think he’s got a ways to go to become more of a finished product. That’s not a knock on him. Look how well it went for PJ Washington at the same school. That’s certainly a very good blueprint.
Depending on how things work out, there’s a chance that West Virginia Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter end up on the same team. How does it affect an NBA’s chemistry when there are college teammates on the same team?
BILAS: It depends on how the college teammates get along.
I don’t think it matters all that much. Those guys obviously get along great, know each other really well. They’ve played together. It’s a nice thing. A certain comfort level when you’re coming in with somebody that you know.
But I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I can’t imagine that an NBA team would factor that in making a draft selection. Hey, if you’re weighing Ty Jerome, because De’Andre Hunter is being to be drafted first, if you compare Ty against another player, they played together, to me that would be irrelevant.
Both of them are really good players, are going to do well in the NBA irrespective of whether they play with a former Virginia player. I don’t think that’s a factor at all.
What is the most likely scenario for Kyle Guy at this point?
BILAS: Late second round, I would say. There’s certainly a chance he goes undrafted. Kyle can really shoot it. He’s a really tough competitor. But I’ve got him slated to be drafted late second round.
He’s got pretty good size, 6’5″, 6’4″ shooting guard. He can really shoot it. He moves without the ball. He reminds me a little bit, I don’t think he’s quite as good, but J.J. Redick and the way he competes, the way he shoots it, the way he sort of works as a player to improve working off the ball and moving without it.
I think he’s going to play in the NBA. I think he’s going to make a team. But I don’t see him necessarily as a middle of the second round guy, I think it will be more towards the end of the second round with a possibility he goes undrafted.
The other two Duke guys. You mentioned R.J. was an All-Star caliber player. Do you think any of his shooting issues at Duke give you pause about how he translates to the NBA?
BILAS: Not really because he does so many other things well. I think he’s going to improve his shooting. It’s not a thing where he’s got a broken shot or his mechanics need a complete overhaul. He just needs to refine it, improve there.
His free-throw shooting, what was he 66% give or take, shot 31% from three, which is not great. He needs to improve there, but he will. I think he will. It’s been shown that you can take a guy that struggles to shoot it, make him into a good shooter in the NBA. You can take a good shooter and make him a very good shooter.
He does so many things well. Does he need to improve his shooting? Yes. But he’s got All-Star ability. I think he will be that. I think he’ll continue to improve in every aspect, but I think his shooting will be the one that’s sort of the most glaring improvement.
You’re asking about Cam, too?
Yes. Is it just the consistency with him?
BILAS: He’s a little bit difficult to figure out. There were times when overall he was disappointing last year in his productivity. He shows amazing flashes. He came in with a reputation as a great shooter, and looked to be that in certain games, then other games he was not. Wound up shooting about 33% from three, I think.
I was impressed with his defense. He’s a fluid athlete with length that can anticipate. He got a lot of steals. I thought he did a good job defensively. But his efficiency on the offensive end, I don’t know whether he had a hard time trying to figure out where he fit in. He’s just a freshman. He’s just a kid. But he was not efficient as an offensive player.
He had almost a hundred turnovers. His player efficiency rating was probably the lowest among the potential first round picks. Struggled in catch-and-shoot situations, even though he’s a really good shooter. Really good shooters make more shots. He struggled there. But it’s one year.
I think he’s got more in him than he showed, but I got to tell you the thing that gave me the most pause, there were two games that he kind of checked out of just as the game was about to start. Syracuse, right before the game he was too sick to play. Then the game against I think it was Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament, he was slated to start the game, then tendinitis in his knee I think was sort of the report.
I don’t think tendinitis in your knee keeps you from playing. It’s not my knee, but I don’t know. That surprised me. It certainly made me question things.
If you satisfy yourself as to that, I haven’t interviewed him on that, I know NBA teams have. But, man, he is 6’8″, athletic. Seven-foot wingspan. He’s got a ton of ability. He just needs to put it together. If he does, he’s going to play in that league for a long, long time.
(Question about Nassir Little.)
BILAS: I’ve got him ranked in the top 10. I may be wrong in that. If you look back to him as a high school player, he was a top five prospect. Super athletic. 6’6″ or so with a wingspan that’s over seven feet. Just got terrific athleticism. He can rebound, gets out in transition. I think he can be a good defender with his length and athleticism.
He went into a system where he was playing behind a guy that’s also going to be drafted, older and more prepared, in Cam Johnson. He is battling for minutes with Johnson. Then he was playing in a system that does not sort of give quarter to how old you are. You’re either going to do it or not.
Picking up the defensive concepts and the offensive system, it took him a little while. Man, when he was able to get up and down the floor, he had some really good games and showed his potential.
He rebounded at a high rate, especially per 40 minutes. If I remember right, I think he was a double-digit rebounder per 40 minutes. He didn’t play anywhere near 40 minutes in games. He probably played under 20 on average. But very productive in his minutes when he started really playing.
Among of the prospects in the lottery, he’s going to be a lottery pick, he probably played the fewest amount of minutes of any lottery pick.
He improved off the ball a lot. I think he can improve as a shooter. His mechanics are pretty decent. I think he’s got a chance to be really, really good.