ESPN NBA Draft analysts, Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony participated in a media conference call today to preview the Draft.
A transcript of the conference call follows:
I want to thank you all for your interest today. We will be discussing the 2022 NBA Draft which originates from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, tomorrow Thursday, June 23rd Eastern on ESPN, ABC, and ESPN Radio. Coverage details can be found on ESPN Press Room.
ESPN has reached a multi-year agreement with front office insider Bobby Marks. Marks will be part of ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage on Thursday.
Q. Thanks for doing this with all of us. I write about Ohio State basketball for the Columbus Dispatch. I was wondering if both of you would be able to give your takes on the NBA futures for E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham.
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think both guys likely first-round picks. You know, very different profiles. E.J. Liddell, All-American. One of the most productive players in college basketball and really an incredible story to me of a guy that went to the G League Elite Camp a year ago. Did not have a good showing there at all. Was forced to go back to school and really put a lot of work into his game and modernize himself as an NBA prospect. Became a much better three-point shooter, improved his play-making ability, looked like a much more versatile defensive player blocking shots, switching on the perimeter.
He is a guy that I think is very much in vogue in today’s NBA. Even though he is only 6’5 1/2″ barefoot. He has almost a 7-foot wingspan and has a great approach to the game, great toughness, competitiveness.
That ability to be a modern power forward or a small ball center, I think that’s really intriguing. So I think he’s positioned himself very well in this draft class.
As far as Branham, you know, totally different profile. Kind of a surprise, one and done for some people. Didn’t start off the year in our mock draft and really didn’t start off the year as a major contributor for Ohio State either. Really came on as the year moved on.
In my opinion was one of the best players in the Big Ten late in the season. I thought he was the best player on the floor in the NCAA Tournament game against Villanova, and really fits a lot of boxes for what NBA teams look for at that wing position.
Almost 6’6″, 6’10” wing span, 41% three-point shooter. Has the ability to go get a shot in the midrange, rise up over people. You know, really improved as the year moved on with his play-making ability and his defense, and just turned 19 years old a month ago. So upside there is unlimited.
Both guys from Ohio State get rave reviews off the court. Their interviews have been great. Branham, I think he is in the green room, which is a very good sign for him. He is going to start getting looks in that late lottery area. I don’t expect him to last very much longer. Probably late teens, early 20s worst case. I think he is in really good shape.
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I don’t have much more to add. I think with Branham I think he got better as the year went on. He shot 62% in the month of March. He plays a position of premium.
As far as a wing, he measures 6’5″ 1/2, 200 pounds. He is the ideal fit kind of for an NBA team, and I think with E.J. he can play three positions for you. Certainly showed that he could play center. I think it might be a little bit more of a challenge based on who is out there on the court here but can stretch the floor. I don’t see either of these guys lasting. Branham probably in the top 15, top 16. E.J., probably late teens, early 20s.
Q. Sticking to the Big Ten, I cover Illinois and Kofi Cockburn might not get drafted, and that wouldn’t be a surprise, but in the whole pre-draft process, what’s sort of been the buzz about him whether drafted, undrafted just how he might be able to carve out a spot in the league?
JONATHAN GIVONY: He is an outlier in this class. Physically, he is 7-foot tall, 293 pounds, 7’4″ wingspan. He is absolutely huge but he’s chiseled too: 8% body fat. This guy is an absolute beast.
First Team All-American. Back-to-back years All-American, which is rare. I think 20 years ago Kofi Cockburn is a first-round pick. In today’s NBA maybe on the outside looking in tomorrow, but I still think he is going to be on someone’s roster next year.
I think there’s some teams that like him in the late second round, and I think he is going to have a good market as far as two-ways go.
He is a situational player. He is a guy that you throw into a game for five, six minutes at a time, and you just tell him to go put a hurting on the other team’s center, especially if they’re going small.
He is a great rebounder. He is incredibly physical, and he is a guy that the other team needs to account for, and I think that’s interesting in a lot of ways. There’s not a lot of players like him in this draft. He is going to have some challenges. He is going to need a face defensively, especially guarding pick and rolls and stuff like that.
Obviously, he is not any kind of perimeter shooter, but he has endeared himself to teams in interviews. He has this jovial approach. Everybody loves him. He is just a fun guy to watch play and work out, and people say to be around.
I think that’s going to bode well for his prospects of carving out a long-term NBA career.
BOBBY MARKS: I would say that just because you get drafted in the second round doesn’t guarantee you anything, and I think we’ve seen a trend in the past years where players who have gone undrafted and now it’s up to their agent to find the right spot to go to Summer League and kind of stick with that team, whether on a two-way, sometimes is the best resort instead of getting drafted by a team that doesn’t have a roster spot.
You might have to go play in the G League. Who knows if there’s a two-way contract there. I don’t really make much of it if he does go undrafted.
Q. The Pacers can make a couple of moves. How do you think Malcolm Brogdon fits into their long-term future with this No. 6 pick? Do you think he is a guy that’s going to be here when the season starts, or is he a guy that whether they go a Murray, Mathurin, whoever, they have to move on from?
BOBBY MARKS: I mean, I would expect we’re going to hear Malcolm’s name a lot in the next 48 hours leading up to — or the 24 hours leading up to the draft. He has signed that extension. He has $68 million owed. There was a small sample with him and Haliburton on the court. It wasn’t a great sample. I think at 6 it looks like probably a wing, a guard or a wing for the Pacers here. Do I think Malcolm Brogdon is part of the future? I would say probably less likely. That requires certainly a trade to happen.
I think the concern for me is can he stay on the court healthy? That would be my concern if I’m willing to go out and acquire him and what the money is left on his contract.
Q. I have a question about the Knicks. We all know the Knicks are looking to trade up for Jaden Ivey. Do you think he will be worth all the trouble, like the package that the Kings are asking for?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I don’t know exactly what the package is, what it would take. I assume it would be significant. Jaden Ivey has as much star power as any player in this draft. The Knicks need a star, especially in the back court. They were one of the worst offenses in the NBA last year. I think they ranked last in two-point percentage.
Having a guy like Jaden Ivey who can go get you a basket early in the clock, accelerating in transition, getting downhill out of handoffs and as his ball-handling ability improves, playing pick and roll, being a one-on-one guy, I think that’s really valuable.
So I do think he is worth the trouble. I’m not exactly sure what the package would be, but there is a lot to like about Jaden Ivey long-term projecting forward three to five years from now.
BOBBY MARKS: I would say — Jonathan can certainly talk about it. I mean, I think there’s a lot of separation to where Ivey is at 4 compared to guys who are picking at 10 and 11, where those range of players are.
If you feel like he is a difference-maker and potential to have all-star appeal compared to a rotational player you have, it’s a matter of what are you willing to give up? Are you willing to give up certainly swapping 11 for 4 and now what’s next? Is it the Mavericks pick that you have? Is it a first? Is it probably going to cost you one or two players on your own roster? Maybe Immanuel Quickly, guys like that, to try to get a deal done.
I don’t think just swapping picks and giving a future first will get it done here because I think he does have the talent to be a really good player.
Q. I just wanted to ask about Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz. Neither I see on the mock drafts, but I’m wondering how you guys assess them?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think both guys are likely undrafted guys who are going to get invites pretty soon after the Draft ends to come play Summer League. I think they’ll — especially Grady, I think he’ll be in the mix for an Exhibit 10 contract.
He was one of the best shooters in college basketball. He shot 42% for three. His ability to come off screens at 6’6″, I mean, that’s a bankable skill. That’s a very important skill to have.
Now, he turns 25 in September, and so he probably doesn’t have the same upside as some of the guys that will hear their name called on draft night.
You know guys like TyTy Washington and Shaedon Sharpe, like Bobby said, we’ve seen guys make the NBA after going undrafted. I mean, all it takes is one team. He definitely has that one skill that people are looking for, so I wouldn’t rule it out certainly.
I think having more consistency I think would help him. I know the injuries late in the season hurt him, but he was pretty good in that G League Elite Camp, especially the second day. I think he is the guy that is going on have a market tomorrow night as soon as the draft ends.
As far as Davion Mintz goes, I think he is also a Summer League guy. Probably a little bit behind Grady in the pecking order. Not exactly one bankable skill that you could find. You know, as a 6’3″ guy who is not exactly a point guard, not exactly an elite shooter, does bring some real toughness on the defensive end. Played a good role for Kentucky coming off the bench for most of the season, so, yeah, I think he is a guy that people are going to want to have on their Summer League team and we could see in the G League next year.
BOBBY MARKS: Jonathan hit it right on the head. I think there’s the Draft, and then there’s the second draft, which is the players who go undrafted. We’ll probably hear their names around 1:00 in the morning as far as them committing to a Summer League team.
Q. Speaking about undrafted guys, the Heat have obviously a very good track record with developing undrafted players. Just from talking to different agents and players, how much do you think their reputation helps when they’re competing for undrafted players after the draft is over, and what do you think makes them so good at developing those type of guys?
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, of course. You look at what was able — whether it be Duncan or Kendrick in the past, Max, Gabe, Omer Yurtseven, you’re right. There’s proof that if you go there and you buy in and you spend time in Sioux Falls with their G League team, you know, that gives you kind of a little bit of a leg-up.
I don’t know what the secret sauce is as far as from a developmental standpoint, but they identify — they basically identify players that fit, I guess, what their culture is as far as how Erik wants to play.
If I’m an undrafted player or an agent of an undrafted player and the Heat call me saying, we think this player can fit in, but it’s going to take a year or two, I think that certainly gives them an advantage over maybe some of these other teams.
Q. Good morning, guys. Now, I did not cover Nebraska, but being I am from South Carolina, currently reside here, so what are your guys’ opinion on Bryce McGowens in this draft?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think he is one of the most talented, young wings in the draft as far as scoring ability, ability to go get his own shot, create and finish acrobatically around the basket. I think he is a better shooter than what his percentages indicate.
Only 19 years old. Almost 6’7″, 6’9″ wingspan. That’s a good size for a wing in today’s NBA.
You know, broke several records at Nebraska as far as scoring. He is the most highly touted prospect ever to go to Nebraska, which definitely says something. Got to the free-throw line quite a bit. I thought he improved as the year moved on. He was very, very good in Big Ten play.
He is a guy that you’re going to have to be a little bit patient with because he is only 181 pounds. There’s definitely some things to work with on the defensive side of the ball, but he has a lot of upside. I’m not exactly sure where he is going to be picked, but he is going to hear his name called, and he has a chance to carve out a very productive NBA career.
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I think there’s such a depth of wings here in this draft, so I think, as I said, there’s certainly a premium of when a guy is 6’6″ and as Jonathan says, he needs to put on weight. 180 pounds here but can kind of handle the ball.
Certainly has to be a little bit more consistent as far as what he can do on the court. He’ll go in the draft. It’s just a matter of is he the fifth wing? Is he the tenth wing that comes off the board? I think what happens too is when you get to the second — or late in the first round when teams have multiple picks, whether it be San Antonio or Memphis, you’re probably a little bit more willing to take a guy and bet on their upside and a little bit more of a developmental project.
Q. This one is for Jonathan: What values do you see for teams picking in the 20s in this draft? The Grizzlies have two picks in the 20s.
For Bobby, what does he make of the development job that the Grizzlies have done in the last three years with the team getting deep into the playoffs this year? Start with Jonathan.
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think there’s a lot of value. This is an interesting draft because very few players who were projected first round picks or top 40 picks even, decided not to enter their name in the draft, and then really only one or two decided to pull out at the deadline. You have incredible depth of all these young players who a lot of them, in my opinion, should have probably stayed another year in college to really enter the NBA on the red carpet, but there’s a group of 10 to 15 freshmen or young sophomores who could go really anywhere in this draft, starting in the 20s and going all the way through the mid second round.
The Grizzlies with those two picks, 22 and 29, are going to have a lot of options in front of them. This is also a pretty good draft as far as proven college players. These are guys that have really worked their way up in the pre-draft process, have had great workouts. I’m talking about guys like Wendell Moore, Jake LaRavia, like Christian Braun, like Andrew Nembhard. These are guys that have a real chance to go in the first round, maybe even in the early 20s to Memphis at 22.
So I think the depth of this draft is really, really strong.
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, Memphis — certainly Ja is the headliner, but what they’ve been able to do from a draft standpoint when you look at Desmond Bane, certainly Xavier Tillman, Jaren, Brandon Clarke. The list goes on and on that they were able to identify, develop. The goal now is to retain.
They’ve kind of hit the market on kind of building their roster organically, and I think they’re going to be able to get two really good players where they’re picking or maybe those two picks get packaged to move up here.
That’s the recipe for roster sustainability here is to build through the draft, develop those players, become part of your rotation. Eventually there becomes a cost associated with it, but Memphis is — we talked about the Heat as far as being kind of the gold standard as far as identifying under the radar, nondrafted players. I think Memphis is a little bit of the gold standard as far as to be able to draft and turn players into either starters or rotational players.
Q. For Jonathan, I would like to ask how do you view Kai Sotto as a prospect, and do you think he has a place in the NBA? For Bobby Marks, among the four guards linked to the Knicks, Kyrie, Brogdon, Jalen Brunson and Ivey, what’s your prediction?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think Kai had a very good season in the Australian NBL. That was important after his experience with G League Ignite probably did not go exactly as planned. Part of that was because of the pandemic and him joining the Philippines national team during the qualifying window and then really missing the bubble, the G-League bubble in February.
I thought he rebounded very well by going to Adelaide. Showing what he can do as far as being a 7’2″ extremely skilled big man who can — he has great touch around the rim, can shoot the three a little bit, rebounds, solid positional defender around the basket in terms of blocking shots and stuff like that.
As far as where he is going to get drafted, I have not heard his name very much from teams drafting in the second round, but that doesn’t mean that something couldn’t happen on draft night. I know he is only 20 years old. Like Bobby and I keep reiterating, there is multiple ways to make the NBA now. Even if you don’t hear your name called tomorrow.
I expect him to be a guy that teams continue to monitor throughout his career because he was a very highly touted guy early on, and I think there’s still some upside there left to tap into.
BOBBY MARKS: I don’t know about prediction as far as what guard goes to New York. We talked about it earlier. I think when there’s a cost associated with trading $30 million in contracts to go out and sign, Jalen Brunson or Kyrie Irving, them being locked into those contracts. There’s a cost associated with trading for Malcolm Brogdon, potentially a future first or maybe even the 11th pick in the draft here.
For me it kind of goes back, if you think Jaden Ivey is the best and has the most upside out of this group and you have him on an inexpensive contract for four years, why not go out and see what the cost is going to be associated because I think there’s a challenge because when you are moving contracts because the Knicks do not have cap space to go out and sign Kyrie Irving or Jalen Brunson right now. You’re going to have to attach something with that.
Q. Can I follow up on that? Do you think Ivey versus keeping those draft capital for a star down the road is what’s going to be the Knicks’ move between those two decisions?
BOBBY MARKS: I think if you are waiting for a star down the road, you might be waiting for a long time.
Q. What are your thoughts on local guy at least from our area Jake LaRavia. Kind of a late bloomer. He told us this week, actually, that he didn’t even play varsity basketball until his junior year of high school. What do you think of his rise the last few years and specifically the last few weeks because it seems like he has gone from a second rounder to potentially a first rounder.
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think he has always been in that late first, early second range. There’s not a big separation there between that group that’s in play in the 20s and the group that’s going to be there in the 30s. There’s a lot of depth to this draft.
I think he has done a really good job in workouts separating himself from the pack and showing people the role that he can play. As a 6’8″, multi-positional wing forward who can shoot the three, who has a very good feel for the game, who can pass the ball. Brings good intensity on the defensive end. Really smart with the way he positions himself off the ball. Has good awareness getting in passing lanes. Even blocking shots a little bit in a pinch.
I think people look at him, and they say, he was this really productive player in the ACC. He played three years of college basketball, but he is only 20 years old. He is essentially the same age as a guy like TyTy Washington, who was a freshman or six months older than Chet Holmgren, who was a freshman.
People say, hey, there might be some more upside left to tap into. This guy transferred from Indiana state. He barely shot threes as a freshman. They’re still kind of coaxing him into that idea of you need to be a guy that shoots threes every time you’re open. I think that’s going to be a work in progress.
Some of that is because he is such an unselfish player naturally. He wants to play the right way. He wants to make others better. So I think, like you said, he has positioned himself well. I expect him to be a first round pick.
He is late there in the 20s for us right now, so anything can happen on draft night, but I’ve heard he has a lot of fans in the first round.
BOBBY MARKS: You look at teams who are picking in the 20s. You look at a team like Golden State. He would probably be perfect where the Warriors are picking because of that modern day four that can stretch the floor. Shot 38%, can handle the ball here. There’s a need. There will be a fit for him probably somewhere late in the 20s.
Q. Bobby, I was wondering with the team you mentioned Golden State, there’s talk that they might be willing to give up that pick, given their situation with the tax and all that. In your experience what does it typically take to sort of pry a late round draft pick or late first round draft pick from a team that maybe doesn’t really want it to begin with? Is it just future considerations? What do you think the Warriors would be looking for there?
BOBBY MARKS: I think it’s a matter of maybe do you move back to where Orlando is picking at, what is that, 32 and 34? They have two picks in the early second. Does that make sense to move out of that?
That’s kind of what I would be targeting here. I don’t know if the tax is that much of a big of a deal for them considering that they’re probably going to extend Poole and Wiggins and bring back Payton and Looney and pay $400 million this year, when you can have a guy on an inexpensive contract for four years compared to always signing a veteran minimum year after year. Certainly that takes some into consideration here.
Yeah, I mean, moving out of the first, it’s hard to say, you know what, they’re going to get a future one because it’s so late in the first, unless it’s heavily protected, but as I said, can you get maybe a good second in the 30s and maybe a future second or maybe there’s something there where you get two in the early 30s, but you also have 51 and 55 also. Those might be more, do we just sell off on those? Maybe we get cash, maybe we get a future too.
Q. The Pacers have the No. 31 pick, and I think it’s unique because it’s the first pick of the second round. How valuable is it to have that pick where if you can possibly get a first round talent at discounted rates, and then, two, what are some players in that range that you think would fit well with what the Pacers have going on?
JONATHAN GIVONY: That’s a good question for Bobby. Bobby, a lot of teams have treated that pick as a first-rounder in terms of guaranteed money and years, right?
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah. 31 is valuable just because you’re not on a rookie scale contract, so you basically can kind of manage as far as the length and years of a contract that you can use.
Indiana, for example, is a team that we project to have cap space, so you can sign that player to above the minimum — the minimum I think is $1 million. You can sign him to a contract at $1.6 million, $1.7 million and control the back end. We see a lot of teams sign players sign four-year contracts with the third year not guaranteed, and then there’s a team option in year four.
From a financial roster-building, there’s a ton of value there.
JONATHAN GIVONY: There’s 24 players in the green room this year, and they’re not going to go in that order. There’s going to be seven or eight guys that go in the first round that are not in the green room. That’s just what history says.
That means there’s going to be some guys that are sitting in that green room that are sliding to that 31st pick. The Pacers need to make a decision. Are we getting a guy that was at one point considered a top 20, maybe late lottery type prospect that for one reason or another fell, and these are the conversations that they’re having right now, the scenarios.
What do we do if this guy is there? What do with he do if that guy is there? Do we make a trade? Do we punt this pick to next year and get a 2023 late first round pick?
There are going to be teams who covet some of those guys that are falling out of the green room, and so you’re going to have a lot of options at your disposal there at 31.