Transcript: NBA Draft Media Conference Call with ESPN NBA Draft Analysts Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony
ESPN NBA Draft Analysts Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony answered questions on Friday following the 2023 NBA Draft Combine. The 2023 NBA Draft Presented by State Farm airs exclusively on ESPN platforms, Thursday, June 22, at 8 p.m. ET. For more on ESPN’s coverage of the 2023 NBA Draft, visit ESPN Press Room.
Q. First question, a little off topic. I saw the call, so I wanted to ask. Just kind of wanted to get what both you guys thought of the Knicks’ direction this off-season and kind of like where they are with what you guys would do and just kind of — I know they have a lot of assets, especially with Bobby, just would love his thoughts on kind of the Knicks off-season.
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I mean, I said all along I thought they’re in a better spot than they are after 2021 when they lost in the first round. I think with these new collective bargaining rules that are going to come in this summer they’re in a terrific spot. They have got — certainly they don’t have draft picks in June, but they have got, what, 11 first round picks in the next seven years. You’ve got no player that’s on a max contract. Three or under making under $30 million here. I think it’s just a matter of certainly assessing what happened in the Miami series, are you content moving forward with some of your pieces, whether it be Julius Randle, but I think a lot of it is going to be about patience with them.
There’s always going to be that next disgruntled All-Star that becomes available here. I don’t know, we don’t know when it happens, but they’re in a really good position, probably better than they were last off-season when they went through everything with Donovan Mitchell here. But I think their foundation is really good. They just need another kind of another year of development. Jaylen’s great player to build around.
But, yeah, I mean, as I said, we always look at what happened in Game 6 in Miami as that doom and gloom, but I think if you take a backseat when you win 10 more games and you get to a conference semifinals for the first time in 10 years, that’s a positive way to go into the off-season.
Q. Couple questions. To follow on that with the Knicks, do you — the Knicks were all at the combine. They obviously don’t have a pick. Do you suspect they will make a trade so they can get a first-round pick or are you hearing anything on whether they could add a pick by trade?
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah. Just because you don’t have one at the end of May doesn’t mean that you won’t have one come June 22. Like, the ability to buy into the draft, we have seen a lot of teams do that. There’s so many teams that have multiples, right? And Kevin Pritchard in Indiana has been out front saying, “We’re not going to keep five draft picks here.” They have got three first and two seconds. One is really good in the early 30s here.
So, from the Knicks’s approach, I think the combine, the five-on-five, what’s happened this past week, kind of plays into it. Eventually they’re going to put their big board together and they’re going to see, hey, if there’s a guy still on the board at 28 that they have maybe ranked in their top 15, does it make sense moving one of their future firsts, whether it be — I’m just throwing hypotheticals, the Detroit one or the Wizards one here, to get into this draft here.
Yeah, if you ask me right now, I would say I would probably be more inclined that they would walk away with maybe something come the end of June as far as a draft pick. The hard part, as you know, is where their roster is. There’s not many free agents on this team. Derrick Rose is really going to be — he’s got a team option here, but on the other end, the two-way rules have expanded, so now have the ability to add a third two-way spot, so now you can have three on your roster here. So that’s where kind of the second round comes into play here.
Q. Derek Lively, you know, I talked to him the other day. He says he’s going to be a different player in the NBA than he was in college. He can guard all five positions. He had to do a lot of the grunt work at Duke. What’s kind of the thinking on him and what kind of player do you think he’ll be in the NBA?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think he’ll be a different player in the sense that he’s 19 years old right now, he’s at a very early stage of physical development, his offensive game is a major work in progress. So, for him to have the kind of NBA career he wants to have, yeah, he’s going to have to develop different parts of his game and just put some weight on his frame. That’s going to be the big thing for him. He got pushed around a lot at Duke, especially early on in the season.
But you can’t argue with the shot blocking that he brings. He’s probably the best rim protector in this draft, five blocks for 40 minutes. Like you said, the ability to cover ground on the perimeter and to be that switchable big man that everybody’s looking for, that’s really intriguing, so yeah.
Q. He says he can shoot, and we just didn’t see it at Duke. Do you think NBA people will see that?
JONATHAN GIVONY: He made threes earlier in his career. I remember watching him at the Nike EYBL in 2021. He would make threes at times and consistently. If I’m an NBA team, and I’m looking at his free throw percentage, I’m saying, okay, he’s a 60 percent free throw shooter this past year, so he has work to do on that part of his game before that becomes consistent.
I mean, I’ve watched him practice at Duke, I’ve watched him in pregame warmups this season. I think he has that ability. It’s not there yet, I think in games yet. I know Jon Scheyer, I know the way he wants to play. If Derek Lively could stretch the floor consistently for him, he would have given him that freedom to do it.
But I think he showed that in very minor flashes this year. So, I think that’s the big thing that a lot of players get better at. Once they get to the NBA, they don’t have to go to class anymore, they can focus on their body and their game full-time, there’s unlimited resources for development. So, yeah, everybody says great things about him as a worker and as a person, so it wouldn’t shock me if he developed that part of his game, but is it there like from day one in the NBA? I’m not sure about that.
Q. Jon, I wanted to ask you about the Miami kids. How do Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller stand at this point? Does either have much of a chance to get into the second round? And does Nijel Pack have any chance to be drafted if he stays in this group?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I spoke with Coach Larrañaga yesterday, one of the best guys in this business. He was watching the combine intently. He was living and dying on every possession, and in between games, he wanted to talk and say, “How are my guys doing? What are you hearing?”
So, I thought Isaiah Wong had a really good first game, just really showing his scoring ability, his ability to thrive in chaos. I think that’s what he does best. He’s got this kind of playground game where he can really create his own shot and get to spots on the floor to make things happen.
Second game he wasn’t scoring as effectively, but he was showing some of his passing ability. So, I thought he had a solid two-day stretch here at the combine. I think he’s probably in the conversation for a two-way contract. Would it shock me if he heard his name called later in the second round? No, definitely not. I mean, in that part of the draft it’s beauty in the eye of the beholder. I mean, really anything is possible.
Jordan Miller, I think he helped himself. Like, he has some fans in the NBA. There are people that just like the versatility he brings. They like just his ability to contribute to winning. He’s a great passer. He’s a versatile defender. He does a lot of things on both ends of the floor. He actually looked pretty decent shooting in the drills. That was something that we didn’t see a ton of in college. I think that’s going to be the big key for him. He measured six-four-and-a-half barefoot, 192 pounds, and he does have a big 7-foot wingspan, so that’s going to help him.
But I think for him to carve out a career in the NBA he’s going to have to really become a consistent outside shooter, and I think he showed that he’s on the path to doing that. So, I see him also in the conversation for a two-way contract. Like I said, if somebody drafted him 48 or 57, like, would that shock me? No. But I probably see him more in that two-way range right now.
Q. It seems like the consensus out there is that at 7 it makes sense for the Pacers to get one those defensive-oriented power forwards, someone like a Walker or a Hendricks. Does that make sense to you guys? Is there another direction you think they should go? And, Bobby, you mentioned all the picks that they have, and that Kevin Pritchard is looking to move them. What kind of value do you think they could get? Obviously, you can’t be specific about what player or pick, but what kind of value do you think they’re working with just with all those assets that they are looking to move?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Oh, I mean, I spent some time with Kevin Pritchard and Chad Buchanan this week and they were disappointed not to move up. They were telling me it’s just like they were incredibly close with their lottery combinations or whatever. I saw them the day after the lottery, and so they were still kind of picking up the pieces from that.
But, yeah, I don’t know that — you know, we talked about — it seems like they’re looking at a lot of different things. They’re looking at guards, they’re looking at wings, they’re looking at forwards. I think that they’re at the stage of their rebuilding right now, where they can go in a lot of different directions. I don’t think that they’re going to be hamstrung by position. Like, knowing KP for a while now, I mean, he’s always been a guy that is focused on talent. He wants to make sure that five years from now he’s coming away with the best player he can in this draft because rosters change, guys come, guys go, but you want to make sure that you’re getting the best player possible.
So, I think that there’s going to be a decent size group there with guys like the Thompson twins, I’m certain that they will be looking at them, Cam Whitmore, Anthony Black, Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks, Gradey Dick. I mean, I think there’s not a lot of separation in that 4 to 10 range. I think that’s kind of where people look at like the drop-off in this draft. Like, you have the first tier, which is Victor, the second tier, which is Brandon Miller, Scoot Henderson and then that third tier is pretty wide with the Thompson twins, Whitmore, Jarace Walker, Anthony Black, Hendricks, Gradey Dick.
So, I expect the Pacers to explore all of those guys and just select the guy that they think is going to be the best player for them five years down the road because they have a lot of versatility. When you have a guy like Tyrese Haliburton you can do a lot of things with your roster. So, I think they’re in pretty good shape here.
BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I mean, the flexibility they have with all those picks, I mean, 26, 29 and 32, I mean — yeah, so there’s a lot of different options here. Is it moving one of those, you can pick up something in the future. A lot of it is going to be what their board says. Does 26, 29, 32 move you closer if you see somebody that’s still there at, let’s say, for example, 20?
55 is probably less of value just because, A, there’s only 58 picks this year and is a team willing to probably buy that pick, knowing maybe that they could get that same player undrafted, you know three or four once the draft is over here.
But, yeah, I would be stunned if they walked away with five picks the night of the draft because you just look at kind of where their roster is. They really only have three free agents with about Brissett and Johnson and George Hill, and you’re not going to be able to — it’s almost like the quality over quantity approach as far as what they’re probably going to be looking at.
Q. One of the big story lines on lottery night was that the Mavs got to keep their pick, and so I’m curious, what do you think that they should do at number 10? Obviously, a lot of talk about trading or do you see taking somebody that has a lot of upside and can grow with some of their young guys or be a trade asset down the line is the better way to go?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah, I think that they’re right in that sweet spot of where the talent level drops off. I would still put Mick Smith in that conversation, but most immediate teams seem to think that right around 10 is where it breaks down in terms of the tiers. So, I think they have to look at all those players, the Thompson twins, Whitmore, Jarace Walker, Anthony Black, Taylor Hendricks, Gradey Dick. One of those guys is going to be there on draft night and, honestly, any of them could be a fit on the Mavs roster next year.
So, I’m sure that if there’s a great trade for them, a guy that’s available to help them win significantly more games next year, they will probably look at that. But history says that that’s not really the case, and so I think you’re better off drafting because top 10 pick doesn’t come around every year. And so, I could see a guy like — Anthony Black, I think, would be a phenomenal fit on their roster just with the way he defends and how unselfish he is, does so many different things on the floor. I think that he would be a great pairing with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Erving.
I think Taylor Hendricks is very interesting for them. They don’t have a lot of size there at that forward spot, and so having a versatile player like Taylor Hendricks who can guard all over the floor, who can make an open three, who plays with great energy, I think they’re missing that right now. So, he would be a guy that I think that they might want to target.
So, if Jarace Walker, for whatever reason, fell to them at 10, I mean, that’s a home run pick, I would think, for them. I’m not sure he’s going to be there. So, I think that they — there’s players for them if they want to stay in this draft, they want to keep that pick. There’s a guy there that could help them as soon as next year.
BOBBY MARKS: I’ll just add in too, especially if the intent is to bring back Kyrie, there’s a focus with the new rules as far as the draft is a major focus here because of players that are on rookie contracts, on low salary cost here, and when you have two players that could be making close to hundred million dollars, it’s harder to build out your roster outside of your own players. I mean, that’s kind of the message that the league has sent as far as messages to kind of retain your own.
And the rules moving forward are just going to be harder to make a trade or maybe even re-sign a player that maybe you acquire in a trade that’s going to cost you, I don’t know, 25, 30 million, for example. But depending on where their roster is with Green and Hardy, the draft in Dallas aren’t kind of hand in hand as of late here of late. So, it is important to kind of build that next layer of foundation players here with young talent.
Q. We know that Detroit fell to number 5, and they’re going to be looking for high-quality wing there at that 5 position. How would you rate — I know you mentioned it earlier, but how would you kind of rate those wings and which one best fits in Detroit and at what point does Detroit kind of say, okay, we have enough young talent, will we trade this pick.
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah, no, I think that obviously Detroit will be disappointed to fall from 1 to 5, but I talked to their folks here and they recovered from it pretty quick. They’re pretty excited about the caliber of player that’s going to be available to them at 5 with the Thompson twins, with Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker, Anthony Black. I would think that that’s going to be the group that Detroit really looks at.
All of these guys have significant physical tools to offer, defensive versatility. They’re all guys that know how to play with other players, specifically the Thompson twins, Anthony Black. So, I think that any of these guys could complement their roster very well and be guys that contribute right away. Are they at the stage right now where they need to turn the page and start winning? I mean, you go from 17 wins to making the playoffs, winning 40-plus games, that’s not easy. So, if there’s an incredible trade there for them, I think they would do it.
But like the NBA’s in such a win-now mode right now, I don’t know how many teams are looking to take a step backwards. But, yeah, I mean, if they — so I think that they’re actually in pretty good shape here and I really think any of those guys could fit their roster really well.
Q. A quick follow-up. What were your impressions on Emoni Bates and how he performed this weekend and his interview session last night?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I was not there for the interview session, so I can’t comment on that. But I think that Emoni did a good job this week trying to play a little bit of a different style than we had seen from him at Eastern Michigan, which was not the most winning style.
He really showed his shot-making ability in the scrimmages. I think he went — he hit some really, really tough shots off the dribble. That’s what he does. He’s a scorer. I think you look at his measurements, not really ideal in terms of 179 pounds, a wingspan that’s shorter than his height in shoes, athletic testing, didn’t test particularly well. I think we knew that about him. He’s not the most explosive athlete out there.
So, I think he’s going to have to really continue to build on this week that he had and have some great workouts, have great interviews. I see him as a guy who is a second-round pick at best. I’m not sure that he’s guaranteed to hear his name called. But he’s 19 years old, so there’s a long road ahead of him. I think he’s a guy that NBA teams are going to kick the tires on, and he showed glimpses of his talent this week.
Q. For both of y’all. What do y’all like about Maxwell Lewis and what team do you think he would be a good fit for him?
JONATHAN GIVONY: So, Maxwell Lewis, just a prototype for what the NBA’s looking for. 6’6” barefoot, 7-foot wingspan, 207-pound frame, just a talent. You watch him in a workout setting, the game comes naturally for him with his shot-making ability, his ability to create his own shot. He’s got a wide array of hesitation moves and off the dribble shot making. He’s creative around the basket. The upside there is huge long-term.
So, he’s one of the guys — I was sitting with some NBA people yesterday. They were talking about polarizing players in this draft, guys who have a really wide range with where they could be picked, and I think Maxwell Lewis is one of those guys. You could start to look at him, start to entertain the conversation late in the lottery, even. I think teams that are later in first round, there’s that expectation that he might be there on the board. Part of that is because of the season he had, very up and down, especially later in the year, the last two or three months. They did not win a lot of games, he did not really play winning, efficient basketball, especially on the defensive end.
So, I don’t think that we necessarily learned a whole lot from him this week. He did not play in the scrimmages. We didn’t see him in the drills. So, workouts are going to be huge for him, interviews, and so — I mean, but like you talk about upside, there’s not many wings who have more upside in this draft than Max Lewis.
Q. This question goes out to any one of the fellows. The Trailblazers are looking to constantly build around superstar Damian Lillard as he’s been extremely vocal about his loyalty to the organization. With that being said, how important is this year’s draft class to the organization and how does a third pick benefit the team in the future?
BOBBY MARKS: I’ll start and then you can come in about the value of pick 3. I mean, my question all along was: Does the roster timeline fit Damian’s? That’s the reality of it here. When you’re looking at your third pick in the draft and you’re looking at another young player to come along with Shaedon Sharpe, who you drafted last year, and you already have Anfernee Simons here, is it going to push this team into a top six? It’s probably unlikely considering that your flexibility in the off-season really is to retain Jerami Grant and Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish.
So that’s going to be the — because at this stage, I would say probably no franchise-level player where they’re picking at 3. That certainly could change a few years from now here, and so that’s the big question is that, you know, it’s been like this all season as far as how does this — does this roster fit the timeline of Damian Lillard? That’s the reality.
I just have an uneasy feeling that a year from now you might be asking me the same question. I mean, that’s the reality of it here. Like, how are things going to change in Portland. We have seen two years in a row basically kind of played out the string. We have seen two years in a row going to the lottery with top six or top seven picks. Fortunately, they moved up from 5 to 3, because I do think there’s a difference there as far as who they’re picking.
I think if they stay and if a player like Scoot Henderson is staring at them, you probably go in the best available — you take the best available no matter if Damian’s on your roster or not, and then you kind of figure it out from there here.
But they will certainly be active. I mean, they will be active as far as to see what the value of that, what the value of some of their players are here, but the hard part is that — you know, I always say, there’s only 450 players in the league. It’s not like there’s thousands that you can pick from here, and kind of upgrading where they are certainly getting better defensively is going to be a priority here. But as you know, it’s a challenge, it’s a big challenge as far as finding impact players now instead of a 19- or 20-year-old that’s probably going to be really good two years from now.
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah, I think it’s exciting for them having started this process at 5 and to move up to 3 on lottery night. I mean, that’s a great stroke of luck for them considering where they started the season. And a lot of people after Victor, I mean, they look at this as a three-player draft, so they’re right there in that conversation at 3. They’re going to be staring at either Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson, and I’m sure they would be excited about either one of them.
Also, it opens up a lot of trade opportunities. There are a lot of teams around the NBA that would be very excited to pick either of those guys. So, you’re right there in the mix. You’re going to be fielding calls from pretty much every team in the NBA, and you just have a lot of flexibility now to either draft a player or to make a trade or to do whatever you want. So, I think that, yeah, they have to be excited to have moved up on lottery night.
Q. Bobby, wondering what you make of this coaching carousel and specifically how Detroit fits into it in terms of how attractive of a job, I guess, it is, especially now that they didn’t win the lottery.
BOBBY MARKS: Well, I think it’s probably attractive because you probably know you’re probably going to be three or four years, unlike some of these other spots where you’re almost in a win-now mode and what’s your lifeline as a coach there, three years? What’s the lifeline in Phoenix or Philly or Milwaukee here where you have MVP-type players that you’re expecting to get into a conference Finals or an NBA Finals here.
Yeah, I think it’s appealing because you’ve got — certainly with Cade and Jaden you’ve got a young backcourt here that you can kind of mold, you have your imprints on, it’s an extremely young team. I think certainly the fifth pick in the draft is appealing. I know they have took a little bit of a step back here from a win total here, but if you build it similar to what Orlando has done and put yourself in that — I think the goal for them is to be in a spot where Orlando is right now. To go from 17 to in the 30s and show some type of development and everything. But I see it as an appealing job, just because I really like their backcourt. Their backcourt’s got to be on the court healthy though. And then they do have a ton of flexibility to continue this build.
Q. Just to follow-up, I wonder if Kevin Ollie, who was one of the finalists at least reportedly the last couple weeks, if it were him, does that influence do you think at all the draft, especially with the Thompson twins?
JONATHAN GIVONY: I think it influences the draft in the sense that nobody knows the Thompson twins better than Kevin Ollie. So, I spent a lot of time around him and he’s very, very high on those guys, so I think he’s going to chime in with his two cents. That’s just like an incredible resource to have just all of the pros and the cons of both of those kids.
So, I think — but I don’t know that it necessarily means that you have to take them at the same time. If you don’t feel like that’s the best option for you at that point in the draft, then I don’t think that you’re hamstrung there, and I think that they will look at the Cam Whitmores and Jarace Walkers and maybe even an Anthony Black at that spot. So, but I do think the fit in Detroit is very strong, especially for Ausar Thompson, just the defensive versatility that he brings. 6’7″, 7-foot wingspan, incredible athlete, much improved shooter, can really pass the ball at the same time. The upside is off the charts with Ausar Thompson. So, yeah, I think that that, I mean it could be like a marriage made in heaven.
But even if you don’t hire Kevin Ollie, Ausar Thompson is still a very interesting spin on this roster in Detroit.
Q. Just with Adama Sanogo and Oscar. Obviously, these guys are dominant rebounders at the college level. Are we just going to see these guys end up on two-ways and free agent situations and can they help a NBA team? Can you kind of talk about each one a little bit.
JONATHAN GIVONY: Sure. I thought Adama Sanogo was one of the big winners of the NBA combine scrimmages. He showed there’s a little bit more to his game than you might initially think. You look at him, you say, okay, he’s not really the most modern big man. He’s a back-to-the-basket big, he’s pick-and-roll finisher, he’s an offensive rebounder. But he made some great passes these past two days and just played with the type of freedom that I didn’t personally expect to see. So, I thought he really helped himself actually. There’s always going to be some question marks about him defensively, just in terms of his versatility and how his mobility stepping outside the paint, but I thought he did a great job for himself. I think he really helped himself. I still look at him as probably a two-way candidate, but I think he moved himself up. I moved him up my top 100 yesterday when I updated it. So, I think he’s he did a great job. Listen, you look at him you say, he was the MVP, he was the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament and, I mean, this is a guy that is 258 pounds, 7′-3″ wingspan. He’s ready to come in and give you a couple of minutes here and there just off his energy and so I thought he did a great job for himself.
As far as Oscar, I mean, is he going to stay in the draft? I don’t know. I mean, that’s something that he’s going to have to weigh. But he was incredibly productive at the same time. I’m going off his numbers here. 13 points, 13 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. That’s pretty impressive. I don’t necessarily know that he showed us anything that we hadn’t seen from him already at Kentucky. I was watching the pro day for a little while. He did a nice job there. It’s a one-on-zero setting, you take that with a grain of salt. But Oscar is the guy that is going to be appealing because of his productivity and just how hard he plays and the way he rebounds the ball. Yeah, he showed, he showed that to NBA teams front and center here these past two days in Chicago.
Q. Wanted to ask about Trayce Jackson-Davis and Zach Edey. Those guys have some questions I guess about how they will fit and translate at the next level, wanted to see what you guys thought about how they did or did not help themselves at the combine and where you think each of them stand going in.
JONATHAN GIVONY: So, Trayce Jackson-Davis didn’t play in the scrimmages, so I don’t think that he necessarily moved the needle either way. He shot the ball in drills, and it was about what you would expect. He made some, he missed some. I don’t think that’s a huge part of his game, I don’t think that he made a three in college. He was a 70 percent free throw shooter. So, that’s a part of his game that he’s going to have to continue to work on. So, he has a pro day today with his agency, so we’ll see how he looks there. I was out yesterday watching them kind of do like a run-through for that. To me, like Trayce Jackson-Davis is a five-on-five player. I think the best thing that he brings to the table is his passing ability. So, I don’t know you’re necessarily going to see that in the drills or in a pro day. But there’s so much film on him, he played 32 games this year. He had a fantastic year. He was an All-American. He was one of the best players in college basketball. So, I think the book on him is pretty well known at this point. So, the other question was about Edey?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah. So, he also did not play in the scrimmages. Same thing I said about Trayce you can say about Zach. Best player in college basketball. Probably the most interesting thing that I think we got out of this week was his measurements. 7’3″ barefoot, 306 pounds, 7’10” and a half wingspan, 9’7″ standing reach. I mean, holy cow, like that’s, there’s, you can count on one hand the amount of human beings on this planet who have those type of measurements. And game too. He was incredibly productive this year. 22 points, 13 rebounds a game. Purdue was the No. 1 team in college basketball for much of the season. They were a No. 1 overall seed. He decided not to play in the scrimmages, his agency probably made that decision, I kind of understood that, just because you’re kind of exposing what is probably his biggest weakness, which is his pick-and-roll defense. They’re really ask a lot out of the big men here in terms of like hedging out to the perimeter, switching, there’s some drops mixed in here and there. But I think that’s the big question that NBA teams have about Zach Edey. My understanding is that he is just testing the Waters right now, he’s looking to see can he get some type of assurances that he’ll hear his, that he’ll, both be picked and in a favorable enough spot to get a guaranteed contract. So, if he doesn’t get those assurances, I think we could see him back at Purdue next season at the same time.
Q. Trayce, do you think he’s sort of safe to get drafted and what kind of role do you see for him at the next level?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah, I have Trayce at number 34 on my top 100 now, so right outside of the first round. So, I would be very, very surprised if he didn’t hear his name called on draft night. I think the fact that he sat out the scrimmages, I think that tells you that they’re pretty comfortable with where he’s projected to be picked right now and he’s probably just going to handpick some teams that he wants to go work out for and give them a better look and try and tailor his game to an organization that makes sense for him in terms of their roster and their style of play and all that. So how does he fit? Like, he’s not like a prototype because he’s 6′-8″ barefoot and he’s kind of in between the 4 and the 5 and he doesn’t shoot threes. But I think any time you have a guy like him who has that type of passing ability, that type of feel for the game, the ability to grab a rebound and push it off the defensive glass, I think that’s a guy that you can find a role for in the NBA. So, I think it’s a great story. He went from like a year ago probably wasn’t going to hear his name called if he stayed in the draft to he comes back for a senior year — I don’t think he even wanted to do that, but he had COVID and he was kind of basically his, he was forced to go back to school. Now he might be a first-round pick. So, I think that’s, guys that are testing the waters I think need to look at that and say like, okay, like maybe this might not happen as quickly as I would like it to happen, but there is some benefit to going back to school, to having a great year. I spent some time with him during this pre-draft process. He had a tremendous college experience. So, he’s going to come into the NBA ready to help someone from day one.
Q. Curious about what you think about Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard. I know both of their participation was limited this week, but especially with Bufkin, he talked a lot about his play making and how that will translate, but how do you view their transition to the NBA?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Kobe Bufkin did not participate in the scrimmages, and I don’t think we saw a whole lot of him in the drills either. But probably the thing that moved the needle the most for him were his measurements. 6’4″ barefoot. 6’8″ wingspan. That’s great size for a guy that is projected to play point guard in the NBA. He’s not a natural, he’s not a full-time point guard right now, but like just being 6’5″, 6’8″ wingspan you can play him over the ball too. He’s a tremendous defender. I think that’s the number one thing that he brings, just the toughness and the physical tools. And just, you look at the ascent that he had as the year moved on in Big-10 play he really just started to take on more on himself as the year moved on and it was just huge for them down the stretch. And his shooting improved significantly, his decision making got a lot better. He just started to become more of a playmaker, a shot creator. And you just look at the jump that he made from his freshman year where he really barely played and wasn’t a factor at all to being a 19-year-old sophomore who is younger than several of the one-and-done players projected in this draft and like there’s a lot of upside there. So, I think teams in the late lottery are looking at him, teams in the late teens, I think early twenties, it’s probably kind of like the basement for where he goes. So, I think he’s positioned himself very well.
Q. Jett Howard?
JONATHAN GIVONY: Yeah, so with Jett we, again, did not get a whole lot of new information here, he did not even measure. So, I think we’re waiting to go see the pro day which will be in a couple days from now in L.A.
I think the big question NBA teams have is how healthy was Jett Howard this season. What version of him did we see in that second half of the season. I thought he started off the year tremendously well. 21 points in his first game, 5-10 from three. I was at that game at the Barclay Center against Pitt, they beat them by 30 points. The game just comes to easily for Jett Howard. Every team in the NBA’s looking for a big wing who has a good feel for the game, with dynamic shooting ability, with size. But as the year moved on, he had some of those ankle injuries. I talked to him when he entered the draft, he told me already at the Kentucky game is when he suffered that. That was early December. And he was, he never looked healthy after that. So, I think workouts are going to be huge for him. Hopefully we see a different version of him there, NBA teams do. I think he has a lot to offer a NBA team.
Q. Wanted to ask both of you guys if you thought the Thunder could move up into the top 10 or top 8 from 12 with all the draft capital that they have and add to their kind of young core with another star player.
BOBBY MARKS: Well, they certainly got the capital, as you said, to do it. I think it’s a matter of what of that capital are you willing to give up. I don’t think it’s going to be any of those Clippers unprotected firsts that you still have. But they have got a, they have got a ton of draft assets in the next seven years and at the end of the day it takes, as I always say, it takes two to tango here. So, you would have to find a willing partner here. It’s all a matter of kind of what their board says. If they’re comfortable that someone’s going to be there at 12 then you sit tight and then you kind of move, you kind of wait until the regular season or next off-season, if the, to capitalize on your draft assets here. But I don’t think they have to go all in just to go up into a top 7 or top 8.
As Jonathan said, there’s probably little separation, but they’re probably outside of that. They’re probably in that, they’re outside of that 4 to 10 range or 4 to 9 range here. But I just don’t know if it’s worth it to give up multiple 1s or another 1 to move up. But we saw Sam active last year, certainly moving a bunch of draft picks to, you know, in multiple different deals. So, I think they will certainly explore, but I just think it’s going to be a matter of what their board says.
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