Earlier today, ESPN analyst and international basketball expert Fran Fraschilla and ESPN analyst and front office expert Tom Penn discussed the 2014 NBA Draft on a media conference call. ESPN will exclusively televise the 2014 NBA Draft presented by State Farm on Thursday, June 26, at 7 p.m. ET. Fraschilla will offer expertise on international prospects throughout the telecast while Penn, a former assistant general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, will provide front office analysis. The NBA Draft is also available on WatchESPN and ESPN Radio. For more details, visit ESPN MediaZone.
Here is the replay of today’s conference call.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Just a couple quick comments, guys and ladies. The big question obviously is going to be the health of Joel Embiid. With the foot surgery earlier in the week, that probably turns this into a major mystery at the top of the draft. That’s probably the number one topic on our agenda.
I think the second thing about this draft, it’s like similar drafts in recent years, a very young draft. There’s a good chance that 13 players taken in the first round will be under the age of 20 on draft night, and we project six one-and-done players to be drafted in the first ten picks. That’s something that’s been more and more common in recent years, obviously.
So with that, we’ll open it up, and you fire away.
Q. I just wanted to ask, based on how you were saying that the Embiid injury might change the way the top of the draft looks, how did you guys in Portland go about trying to do the background on Greg Oden, and how difficult is it when you’ve got potentially a franchise changing 7-footer there, how difficult is it to kind of weigh the question marks about guys of that size versus other talented wing players that are more and more common in today’s league?
TOM PENN: The disturbing trend, with Greg obviously in the middle of it now, over time has been that there’s this perception, and then a lot of data that backs it up, that big guys are more prone to get hurt. So you have that fundamental sort of belief. Then you have to really peel back – is it true? And then the challenge in any injury situation is that every “body” reacts differently – and you heard the way I said it. It’s every single individual person and their DNA makeup and their ability to heal and whatever else – it’s an independent, one-man sample.
So you hear from your doctors’ percentages, and they give you the risk factors, and then you have to just clearly communicate that within your organization to your head coach, most importantly, to your ownership, as to what the real risk factors are as to how your experts tell you and everybody knows you put five doctors in a room who are experts, you might get four different opinions.
So you have to get into your decision-analysis mode, remove the emotion from it, and then make your best pick. In the case of Greg Oden, this was very different because Greg did not have a significant injury history. He had a broken wrist, which was the only preexisting condition. He had never had ankle problems or knee problems of any kind, and we had a very cooperative Greg Oden in the process, who agreed to have MRIs taken of all his joints. We had pristine MRIs on him, and this body of information that was really unprecedented in drafting a player.
So we were able to clearly assess what the risks were, and then sadly, six weeks later, when you put the MRIs side by side, you see a divot in Greg’s cartilage that had occurred post draft.
In this case, Embiid did not do a physical at the pre-draft camp. His agent, Arn Tellem, is controlling all of that information, and therefore you could get into a void as a decision-making team, depending on what access you’ve been given to the true facts, and now you’ve got a fresh, new injury where you’re just trying in real-time to get data and talk to your doctors about it.
Sorry that’s such a long answer, but I wanted to just kind of drop that out there as just a backdrop for how these things happen.
Q. Would you say that it is typical that these guys are asked for more information than maybe a typical wing player is because of, like you said, that perception that they get hurt more at a higher rate than guys closer to a normal and average NBA height? Are they asked for more from most teams because of that and because of those concerns?
TOM PENN: No, I wouldn’t say ask for more from a big versus a small. What you ask for more from is from a hurt guy versus a healthy [guy], which makes sense.
So I don’t think there’s anything different in the process with bigger players. What typically happens is you get baseline blood work. You get baseline orthopedic history. You get all that sort of thing, and then you follow up accordingly depending on what the early indications are.
But, again, in this case, Embiid did not participate in the overarching NBA physical. So it’s all managed and controlled by his agency.
Q. I have more of a local question. In the first round, there are a lot of teams with multiple picks. Do you think the Knicks and Phil Jackson have a good shot at maybe buying or trading for a pick late in the first round? Do you think it’s worth it, or is it best to maybe buy a pick in the second round? As you know, the Knicks don’t have any picks.
TOM PENN: So one challenge with any team going to five picks is you only really get one crack at it now. In the old days, you could spend $3 million in every transaction. So [when I was] in Portland, we were able to aggressively spend Paul Allen’s money to get multiple assets. A change in the new collective bargaining agreement caps the amount of money you can spend the entire year at just over $3 million.
So they’re going to get one crack at this. I don’t know if they have the assets to get into the first round because I think the asking price is going to be $3 million plus a future pick, and the Knicks are handicapped with their future picks as well. They’ve given them all away, along with Brooklyn.
So those picks are encumbered or they don’t exist. So then you start throwing in other sweeteners like a second round pick, and the Knicks don’t have that either. So I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to buy into the first round, because others will be doing the same thing and others will have more to offer.
And I hate to say it, but the same logic applies to the early second round. There’s a lot of competition to get that done. So it’s not as easy as it used to be.
Q. Just following up – the Knicks have still worked out a lot of players. One guy that they were targeting was Hairston. Discuss the impressions of Hairston in terms of his character and his readiness for the NBA.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I would say, much like an injury, they’re going to do a lot of detective work on P.J. Hairston’s character based on the incidents that occurred at North Carolina that led to his being ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
He played this year in the D League for Dallas with the Texas Legends. My assessment of him is he’s an excellent shooter with long-range accuracy. There are some concerns about his body type and being in or out of shape. He’s kind of a tweener in that regard. He’s more of a spot-up shooter, but he does have range. He does stretch a floor on an NBA court, which is vital nowadays if you’re putting together a playoff type team, in terms of creating room for your superstars to operate.
Q. What is your opinion of Dante Exum?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Well, it’s very good. I’ve had a chance to watch him maybe more than most because I was one of the few people that took in the Under 19 World Championships last summer in Prague. And while he was very impressive in that tournament and he finished with a flourish, he also struggled against Marcus Smart, Rasheed Sulaimon, and USA early in that tournament.
To me, he has the same fail factor that Parker and Wiggins have. I think the overwhelming probability is he’s going to be an NBA starter, which even in a draft like this, you’d have to be happy with. But here’s the big thing with Dante: While he possesses terrific skill level at 6’6″ and can play both spots, the way the NBA is right now, guard play is really like Baskin Robbins – there’s 31 varieties. He’s very much a guy that can do a lot of things in the backcourt.
He is only going to be 19 in July, so he’ll play his rookie year in the NBA as a teenager, and that will be problematic early on. I think he can play with Oladipo in the backcourt. I think his shooting is good, and it’s going to be above average by the time he gets settled into the league. At number four, he makes sense, depending on the Embiid situation and how far Embiid falls.
Q. Tom, given that you’ve seen Greg Oden. Would you select Joel Embiid at either three or four?
TOM PENN: Yes. If my doctors tell me what I think they would tell me, and, you know, this is a huge asterisk by my answer, but he has a foot fracture, and bone tends to heal.
Now, what’s the risk beyond that long term? But he’s a prototypical big of the future. He’s light and lively and covers space the way Serge Ibaka does. He can shoot the ball. He runs, and he’s only been playing basketball for four years. So you’ve got this chance to get a 7’1″ guy with 7’5″ or 7’6″ wingspan with those other skills I just described; they don’t come along very often.
This is one where you really have to push your doctors to get, not cover your butt answers, but to get real projective answers on what they think. It’s kind of an unfair question because, based on what I know, I can’t give you a definitive answer, but he certainly is still in the discussion based on that rationale. At one, he should still be in the discussion. What’s the difference if you take him at one or you take him at four? It’s the same analysis, same risk, same reward.
Q. A lot of draft nights, there’s probably going to be several trades in the first round, and I think what the casual fan who tunes in to watch these broadcasts gets a little confused by or even frustrated by is you’ll see a team pick player A. The player will come out, will put on the cap of the team, maybe even do an interview talking about going to Orlando or wherever, and then get traded an hour later, two hours later.
I’m trying to explain the process from behind the scenes of why it takes so long for these kinds of deals to come together on draft night. If you could, take us behind the scenes a little bit from a front office perspective on what needs to happen before these deals get completed. And then do you think there is any awkwardness that you have to deal with in that time before deals get done?
TOM PENN: Yeah, I would – I think we need to change this process on draft night to clean up the awkwardness as you described it because it’s terrible, and it gets worse every year because of our connectivity and the social nature of things and the fact that facts leak out in real-time now.
The history of this is that the league doesn’t want to announce trades until they’re official, and in order for the trade to be official, it’s kind of a drawn out legal process where you go through this conference call and read the contracts and make sure everybody consents on all this stuff and checks and balances, and then once it’s done, then it’s announced, and you agree who announces it and when, and the league cracks down on everybody and the league doesn’t want anybody announcing it until they do.
So as it turns out, Chris Broussard gets to announce it or you’ll get to announce it on your reporting via Twitter, and we lose control of it, and it creates this confusion. I think we need to do sort of conditional trade announcements. If one of these things does fall apart on a technicality, everybody will understand it and just undo it. It would be a more honest way to do it, so I can get off my soap box.
In terms of the process, because up until, I think, 2:00 or 3:00 ET on draft day, you’re able to do trades, consummate them via conference call, and then it’s over, and then you’re locked into your draft position until the draft starts. So what you get into are conditional deals, gentlemen agreements. And I’ll give you an example in Memphis.
We were trading Shane Battier to Houston for the seventh pick in the draft, and we had a conditional owner-to-owner agreement that, if a category of players was there, we had a deal. And the category of players, as I recall it, was Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge. I think those were the three.
Lo and behold, Rudy Gay was there. So we had a deal. They picked Rudy for us, and then word leaked out, and we weren’t able to confirm that it happened. So those things happen all night. And then when picks start trading hands, you don’t even know who has what pick, it gets even more confusing. So, again, sorry for the long answer.
Q. Can that kind of thing also hurt teams? You know, I’m based in Minnesota here, and there are still pictures you will see of Ray Allen wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves cap the night that he was drafted, but they ended up trading him for Marbury. I would imagine that teams would like to see some kind of streamlined process just so you don’t have that public image that’s out there forever, and fans will look back and maybe not remember the circumstances behind these deals and say, well, we could have had Ray Allen. We could have had so and so, and it kind of ends up looking bad for everyone involved.
TOM PENN: Agreed. Some of it can’t be avoided, but my 12-year old daughter could photoshop a new logo there now these days, and we could do that.
There’s got to be a more authentic way to tell the story of who drafts who. That’s something I would think that Adam Silver, as he implements changes, could consider making.
Q. Tom, I was hoping to get your take on Jarnell Stokes. I heard time and time again people talk about how he’s a big hit with the analytics crowd for his rebounding rate and his age. He’s only 20. Just wondering if you could share some insight on why he appeals to that crowd and some of the reasons as to why that might have helped him kind of increase his draft stock here late.
TOM PENN: Yeah, so in general, two things translate in the NBA, size for position and physical, are you ready for the man’s game that is the NBA? That’s number one.
And number two that translates is rebound rate. The ability to rebound the ball over time, analytically, think of Paul Millsap and others, it’s going to translate. Rebounding comes. And when you have both of those things, then you get really excited.
So I really like Jarnell Stokes as an NBA-ready body, and then that rebounding expertise on top of it gets you excited.
And in general, bigs rise in the draft, and you can be big and tall, and you can be big in body, and he’s that.
Q. Fran, if I can ask you for your opinions of Jarnell and Jordan McRae.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I know Jarnell moreso than Jordan because Jarnell has played internationally as well for Billy Donovan.
I echo what Tom says. I talked to teams about Jarnell. Analytics certainly help him, but he’s all over the board. I would say from 20 to 45. Because for all the great attributes – he’s a beast. I’m surprised they didn’t get him out on a football field because he’s such a good runner and moves so well.
He had trouble scoring against length in his career at Tennessee. So that’s a little bit of a factor. He’s not going to be a guy you throw it into and he can score over people. But the Millsap comparison is outstanding. We know what Paul Millsap has done in the league.
Also, you mentioned something interesting about Jarnell: He’s 20 years old, and he’s played three years of college basketball already, which really helps him because he’s used to the grind and he was coached hard by Cuonzo Martin.
I say that in a positive way. So he’s mature and grown up for a 20-year old.
Jordan McRae, there’s a lot to like about him, but he will have to improve his outside shooting. As I analyzed him during the work up to the Combine, he has a flying elbow, which keeps him from shooting accurately from long distance, but he’s got a scorer’s mentality. He’s likely a second round pick. And even if he goes undrafted, you will definitely see him on a Summer League team with an NBA club with an opportunity to show people that he can create his own shot and make offensive plays, because that’s what he does really well.
Q. My question is would it be smart for the Pistons to trade up in the Draft from No. 38? If so, how high should they go, and who should they target?
TOM PENN: I think they’re going to get a good player at 38. So plan A is to just sit there and see who falls.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: What’s their position now at Detroit?
TOM PENN: They have cap space starting next year, and this is Stan Van Gundy’s first chance. Obviously, it was a crusher when eight went away. Talk about bad luck, but to have the eighth pick just disappear like that because of the way the lottery balls fell was a crusher.
So, yes, they should try to aggressively move up. However, it’s really hard to do. It’s really hard to get up using 38 as an asset. They’d have to – usually the cost of doing business there is a future first-round pick if you’re going to get into the first round, and I don’t think the Pistons can afford to do that kind of thing.
The other way you can move up is to take a contract off of someone’s roster into your cap space. So they can do that. However, in a vacuum, it’s just hard to see something like that happening based on what I do know about the situation.
Q. You must have looked at a bunch of different mock drafts. The one I was looking at this morning, I just want to run off a few names to you if I can, starting with 25, Kyle Anderson, and going to Jarnell Stokes, Jerami Grant, Jordan Clarkson, K.J. McDaniels, and Mitch McGary. And I realize all those guys won’t be around at No. 28, but hypothetically, of those guys, who do you think the Clippers might pick? Who do you think they should pick?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Tom will tell you too they’ve got a draft board that’s set up so that as they evaluate the top 60, let’s say, as each guy comes off the board taken by other teams, their list shrinks. By the time you get to 28, there’s still going to be five or six guys they really like.
And it may not be those guys you just mentioned. They’re all in that category. I’m partial to Jordan Adams, the other UCLA player, who not only is great analytically, but he knows how to play basketball. Any of those guys – he can really shoot it, which for that team comes in handy. He’s got a great IQ on both ends of the floor.
But the point is, especially because you mentioned mock drafts, they’re going to take the best basketball player they can, and if it happens to be a position of need, they’ll do that too, but you’re trying to get a good player at 28. There are only going to be four or five guys, by the time they get to 28, that are still in their wheelhouse.
They’re not going to take a guy – let’s say Jordan Clarkson, for example, who they had 45th on their board. And that’s how they’ll do it, in my opinion.
TOM PENN: Well, this is a team in 100 percent go for it mode, get past San Antonio and Oklahoma City into the Finals and win a championship. So Doc Rivers, the main decision maker, will want a player who can help him in training camp day one.
So you need to look at shooting and size or the specialty assets. So think of what Norris Cole offered to Miami, just that burst of athleticism helped them win a championship. You can get those assets when you’re a great team picking in the 20s like that.
Q. I’m sure you guys heard about the Miami Heat needing to add to their roster. I just want to get your thoughts on do you think they can find somebody at that spot at 26 to help them right away, or do they need to make a move to kind of go up in the Draft? Is that even possible with the roster they have, of making a trade like that?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: There’s some guys they’ll like for sure. It seems like they want to upgrade at the point guard position. There’s a lot of point guards in this draft, a lot of different varieties of point guards. I doubt Elfrid Payton will slip.
They’ve been mentioned with Shabazz Napier. He may not be there for them. Maybe they trade up. They obviously are going to be overhauling that roster in one way, shape, or form.
Tom could probably speak more on how they do it based on who’s on their roster right now.
TOM PENN: Kind of could combine my last two answers. So what I said about the Clippers obviously applies to Miami. So just change the team, and it’s the exact same answer, in terms of what they’re looking for.
And then I feel like Miami’s likely to draft a player rather than tinkering and moving around.
They need players. There’s a lot of depth of talent of immediate help in this area. They’re going to want immediate help. And it’s one easy add that can be part of the story that Pat Riley tells LeBron James for the reasons to stick around.
Q. The Suns have three picks, as you know, and they’re probably not going to keep them all. So an international draft and stash would make sense. Who would fit best in that 14 to 18 range and if not then, who maybe at 27?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: It’s a good question. At 14, they might be targeting two guys. Obviously, Dario Saric, who’s a 6’10” power forward who has some playmaking ability. He’s a tremendous passer and a great team guy.
He reminds me, there’s so many comparisons, but think Boris Diaw right about now at the end of his career, in terms of his athleticism. Toni Kukoc, a fellow Croatian. He’s a playmaking forward. He might be there at 14 because he just signed a two-year deal with a Turkish team Efes, and my understanding is he wants to fulfill those two years and come over here as 22 year old, a more mature, ready NBA player.
The other player is Jusuf Nurkic, a 6’11”, 280 pound young man from Bosnia, who is 19 years old. Think Marc Gasol, but he’s not quite as big, and he’s certainly not polished.
And then towards the end of the first round, while I’m not as high on Clint Capela from France, as I see the mock draft guys are, he’s your perfect, athletic, long, young, running big who would be an ideal draft and stash guy.
The wild card at 27 would be Walter Tavares, a 7’3″ young man from Cape Verde who comes to basketball late. He’s 22 years old, and he now is playing productive minutes in the Spanish ACB League, and my understanding is he’ll stay two more years, and he is one of the biggest human beings you’ve ever seen with some athleticism and ability to become a real defensive presence someday.
Q. They had Klimenko in early for a workout. Would he be a stretch at 27 to do that with?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: For me, it would be, but there are teams that like him. He’s an athletic, 7’1″, strong. He reminds me of a young Timofey Mozgov. The problem with Klimenko this past year is he did not play at the highest level in Russia. He played in what essentially would be their B division, where there would be a lot of young prospects. So he didn’t get a chance to go up against some of the more physical players that play both in the Russian league and those teams like CSKA Moscow who play in the EuroLeague.
So he’s more of a college prospect in that regard because of the level of play this past season. He is athletic, big and strong, and would be viable there although I don’t have him that high.
Q. Yes, Tom, you referenced the Knicks situation a little while ago. The New Orleans Pelicans are sort of in the same shape without a draft pick in either round. What would be their best course of action, do you believe?
TOM PENN: Sorry, let me gather my thoughts. I wasn’t ready to go down the Pelican mine shaft here. I think it’s more of a macro picture with the Pelicans in terms of getting their core players healthy and finding something to complement every decision has to complement Anthony Davis, right? Every decision has to complement building around that brilliance and the emergence of – he’s on track to be an MVP candidate kind of talent.
And so I think the Pelicans would be smart to find some bulk around him, a player who could complement and take some pressure off and bang around a little bit. The kid from Tennessee that we talked about, Stokes, is somebody that could run by his side.
I think the damage that Dell Demps is going to be able to do is going to be trade or free agency.
Again, there are eight teams without a first-round pick, five without a pick at all, in one of the most anticipated drafts in decades. So the competition will be fierce to get in that space, and the cost should be high. And as the Pelicans organically grow their youth, I think their opportunities to improve come in those other aspects.
Q. What guys do you expect to fall to the Spurs? Obviously, they’ve been known to pick guys and stash them overseas. One name I’ve been hearing is K.J. McDaniels. Would he fall to the Spurs, and would it be a good fit for them? If not, what other guys would they get and maybe stash right away?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: They have the option – we think of them as draft and stash guys because of the history, but I think they’re also smart enough to think about taking the best player at that spot.
If it’s a guy that maybe they have on their board at 18 that falls to 30. It seems to me that right now the formula for San Antonio is ball movement, shooting. K.J. is a unique guy because his major asset is going to be on the defensive end. I’m not saying they won’t take him, but he doesn’t seem like a fit, of course, if Chip Engelland does the job with him, he’ll get a raise, maybe another raise.
I love K.J. because he’s got to be in the right situation. Seems to me right now that shooting has been so important to them because of the way they spread the floor and move the ball, but yet they’re going to be mentioned with enough they’re going to see some foreign guys they like, depending on – Tom can answer better where they are with cap space and whatnot.
But if they see somebody that they like that they can stash overseas for another year or two, they play the long game. They played the long game with Tiago Splitter. They certainly played it with Ginobili, who matured during his career in Italy. I don’t think they’re in a situation where they have to be desperate.
TOM PENN: Rather than call it draft and stash, for them in particular, it’s draft and develop. And they let that player develop on somebody else’s watch, yet because they’re relationship geniuses, they get into the life and the world of that player and help shepherd his development overall.
So it’s no accident that the Spurs who get drafted and develop overseas come back ready to play in their system. So there’s a systematic approach to that aspect of player development that, frankly, is as good as it gets in all sports.
Q. What challenges do they face in free agency this season? Obviously, they have a few guys out there, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, the one guy who will attract a lot of interest. What’s the market for him? What’s the challenge they face in free agency and bringing everyone back as they try to repeat?
TOM PENN: I think it’s that fundamental challenge of do you bring everybody back, or if you’re going to tinker, who are you going to tinker with? It’s the old saying, nothing fails like past success. A key component of their success this year, maybe the key component, was that razor edge they had all year because of the pain and heartache of the loss the year prior. They’re not going to have that. They’re going to have the joy and the comfort of the year prior.
So I would expect that Pop would want to make a few changes around the edges to bring a fresh edge in there. But the two players you mentioned for different reasons have been critical.
Boris Diaw was just masterful in what he did, and then Patty Mills evolving into that difference making spark plug burst of energy and performance was incredible. The biggest risk is they lose those core guys, and the biggest challenge is who to provide a fresh energy and a spark and a different look.
Q. Do you see a guy out there, a free agent out there, who could be good for the Spurs? I know Pau Gasol was mentioned.
TOM PENN: I don’t know. Whatever I mention there is not good enough because you know they’ve got their list and it’s perfect. I don’t know.
Q. What about Pau? Would he be a good fit down in San Antonio?
TOM PENN: He’d be perfect. He’d be terrific. But Pau is likely to command and want a much more significant salary worthy of his talent, and the Spurs will not have the flexibility to offer that this year.
Q. Any other face out there? Vince Carter?
TOM PENN: Sure, if Vince is available, that’s a good fit. Those kinds of savvy, proven basketball players who can perform under pressure. And the Spurs, like the Heat, are going to get the best of the minimum salary guys, and they’ll get, they’ll add players that get waived by other teams because they’re in bad situations.
So the kind of savvy veterans that are hunting the jewelry will look to San Antonio, the way they do Miami.
Q. Their cap situation this fall season, is it pretty good for them, the Spurs?
TOM PENN: They’re the best managed salary cap over time, again, maybe in the history of sports. They have the dynasty type performance that they’ve had and not ever really being too seriously into the luxury tax.
They’ve had to give away assets over time that probably could have helped them get more championships, and they’ve gotten that incredible sacrifice from Tim Duncan. This whole thing of him opting in for $10 million and we’re talking about other players having to settle for mid 20s, it’s sort of laughable that Duncan is not getting what he should be getting, for all that he means to that franchise.
But he’s given back. The others have followed his lead. So their cap situation overall is very well managed and well positioned for the long haul where the older guys’ contracts expire at the same time. So they have the chance to overhaul the team. That’s not next season, this season, but it’s coming.
Q. Hey, guys, the Lakers are kind of in a position they’re never in where they have a high draft pick, and like everything else with the franchise, there’s rumors all over the place what they might do. They might trade the pick. They might go with Elfrid Payton and surprise everybody or Marcus Smart. Do you guys have any kind of handle on what they’re looking to do? I know they want to make a home run pick because they want to avoid getting back in the lottery. Is that going to be available to them at seven?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I think at seven they’re going to have options. I think at seven you’ve got to start thinking about in my opinion, and Tom will certainly have one, they want the best player available. The seven pick could be an asset in a trade, get back a veteran player, maybe particularly on a team that’s trying to rebuild a little bit.
They’ve got to balance out who’s available in a trade versus how much production they’ll get out of the 7th pick in the draft.
Like you, I’ve heard Marcus Smart. I’ve heard Julius Randle. Both of those guys would be good pieces to a long term future. Neither one of them may end up being a star. They might reach a little bit, take somebody like Payton at 7, although I think that’s very high because, as much as I like him, he’s going to have to shoot the ball at the point guard spot.
So I think they’ve got flexibility there to potentially trade that pick for a proven player.
TOM PENN: The conundrum with the Lakers is how to build a team around Kobe’s timeline. And trading seven for a veteran makes a ton of sense if you can do it. However, pick six is in play. Pick eight is in play.
If you’re going to try to get a player like, let’s say, Kevin Love, you need to be able to offer other assets to Flip Saunders that can help him right now, and the Lakers, as you’re well aware, do not have any other significant assets under contract. That is a clean slate, and the cupboards are bare, and they don’t have future first round picks to offer.
So the challenge for Lakers management is how to turn seven into immediate help for Kobe. If they’re looking for a player who can run with him right away, I think Marcus Smart’s a great choice because he’s one of the most – he’s probably the most competitive kid in the draft, which Kobe’s going to like. He’s physically mature and ready to go bang with any guards in the league, and he’s got upside for the future that the Lakers could build around.
Q. There’s also been talk of the Lakers trading down with teams like Chicago, who have multiple picks later on in the first round. Do you see them doing something like that and maybe taking a guy like LaVine out of UCLA, who may still be available, or a draft and stash player, instead of trying to hoard as many assets as they can?
TOM PENN: I do not see them as a candidate for that kind of trade. Typically, you don’t want to go back in the Draft. You want to go forward. So they’re hunting moving up, not going back. When you slide back with the scenario you just described, you have to have great confidence that who you want will be there, and I doubt that Zach LaVine is there, and it’s hard to make a contingent deal. You need to draft somebody at seven, and then if LaVine is there at 16, maybe the Bulls like who you took at seven, so you make that deal.
But logistically, what you just described is very challenging to pull off on draft day.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: That sounds more like an NFL deal where you trade seven for 16 and 19, but there’s just so many more players in the talent pool, and I’m not sure that any of us feel that, once you get to 16 to 19, if there are difference makers, we don’t know who they are yet.
TOM PENN: What you describe does not sound Laker like. Laker like is get blue chip talent no matter what. So they need to use seven to draft blue chip talent or to trade for it some other way.
Q. Fran, could you talk a little bit more about Julius Randle. You just mentioned you thought he might not end up being a star. Just your overall opinion on him.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I’ve been watching Julius – you don’t even know how far back I’ve been watching Julius because I watched him grow up in Dallas.
Julius is – there’s one thing about Julius that’s definitely going to translate to the NBA. Well, not one, but a package of a few things wrapped into one. And that’s going to be his intensity level and his body, in terms of being able to be a man from day one.
I could pick Julius apart in a number of ways skill-wise, but those are all things that are going to be addressed by his NBA team. I will say this. It’s very rare that you see Julius Randle take a night off, and I think it’s going to serve him well in the league. He’s been knocked down a few pegs on these mock drafts, and I do think that, while I thought he was overrated coming into college – and only slightly, by the way – I think he’s underrated coming into the league.
Yes, he has trouble with length at times. We saw that against LSU and Baylor, but he’s a high motor guy. He had 22 double doubles this year. He’s a relatively young player, and he’s got the type of temperament and intensity that I think is going to serve him well in a man’s league.
So I like Julius to end up being a good, solid NBA starter.
Q. For both of you, James Young, a guy that’s not being talked about a lot, and yet you look, and there’s a lot of mock drafts that have him maybe in the lottery. What do each of you maybe think about him?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Well, I think James – he’s definitely a projection pick. He’s the 18 year old high school pitcher who throws 96 miles an hour, but he’s going to have to spend time in the minor leagues, and I don’t mean that as a negative.
I think James Young’s athleticism is certainly at an NBA level, but his overall game, strength, physical maturity is not yet. So he’ll get drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round, maybe a little later. He might slide. He’ll spend probably a lot of his first year in the D League, but if you’re willing to wait for him, in my opinion, there are NBA attributes there.
He has to tighten up his handle and be a more consistent jump shooter and physically mature, which you really can’t put a time frame on right now. I believe he’s one of the four or five youngest players in this draft. He’s actually the third youngest player in this draft.
Q. Tom, just your opinion on James Young.
TOM PENN: What Fran said. You know, a young player. He’s a dynamic wing that has tremendous upside, but you got to wait. You got to wait on him a little bit.
Players like him tend to excel in the NBA game, in the wide open, more possession, more minutes. And it really depends on where he gets drafted as to how much he’d be relied on now versus later. If he goes to a crummy team, he’ll get minutes. If he goes to a good team, he can develop in the system.
Q. Hi, I was wondering with players like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James becoming free agents and Kevin Love maybe being tossed around as being traded, how does that affect teams going into the draft?
TOM PENN: It should create velocity of movement of players and picks. It should fuel the engine to create cap space to maneuver to make offers. We should see teams that have a legitimate chance to make their pitch for those players clearing cap space in order to demonstrate that they have the financial money available to do it.
Houston is the perfect example of how to do it because the Rockets are pretty much over the cap, yet we all say they could be the home for these guys. They need to trade away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, and they’re likely going to have to give up the 25th pick and maybe another young player to do it.
So if we start seeing those deals happening, that means that the Rockets are hunting one of these big prizes. This is very similar to what Miami did in 2010 when they cleared the decks by trading away their pick and Michael Beasley in order to attract the Big Three on July 1.
Q. Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins? Who do you see as a franchise player, and who do you see going first in the draft?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Well, it’s been said many times, I think that Andrew Wiggins’ athleticism is – he’s an elite athlete, even by NBA standards, which we don’t really say much about a college player coming in.
But the NBA is about scoring right now in many ways, and I’m confident that Jabari Parker has the kind of overall skill package that he’s going to be able to score in a variety of ways early in his career. And while Andrew Wiggins certainly has room for improvement, so does Jabari Parker.
I think really we won’t know – I’m not smart enough to know. I would take Jabari Parker, but I’m not smart enough to know that in five years that Andrew Wiggins won’t be one of the best players in the NBA. I’m more comfortable taking Jabari Parker because I know, as a coach, I know I can put him in various spots on the floor and create scoring opportunities for him.
TOM PENN: Yeah, if I’m forced to make a decision, it’s Wiggins. Wiggins has the superstar upside potential that you just asked about. When you draft at one, you’re swinging for a perennial All-Star who could be an MVP candidate and can lead your franchise.
Now, he doesn’t have the makeup. He hasn’t demonstrated the consistent alpha dog makeup that you want to see from somebody with his talent, but he’s so young with so much talent that he’s number one worthy talent. You get the tingles when you see the things he does. You get the wow factor when you look at your guy next to you, and when you’re drafting at one, you want to go “wow”.