Eaerlier today, ESPN analyst and college basketball Insider Jay Bilas discussed the 2014 NBA Draft on a media conference call. Bilas will join host Rece Davis and ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons on ESPN’s exclusive telecast of the 2014 NBA Draft presented by State Farm on Thursday, June 26, at 7 p.m. ET. 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.
Q. If you held the fourth pick in Thursday’s draft and you were the Orlando Magic, would you select Joel Embiid? If so, why? If not, why?
JAY BILAS: The answer is I would. If he were available at 4, I think that’s a steal. Now, that’s based upon the idea that every doctor I’ve spoken to, and none of them have actually examined Embiid, but have said, look, these injuries are not career threatening, unless there’s something that they don’t know.
Michael Jordan had the same foot injury his second year and missed a fair amount of time in that season, but I don’t think anybody would say I’m not going to go near Michael Jordan because of this foot injury. I think the same thing about Joel Embiid – that he’s a special type of prospect, a player. I think he’s the best overall prospect, if healthy, in this draft.
Because of some of the big guys in the past that have had injuries, whether it be foot injuries or other injuries, does it give you some pause? Is there a tinge of fear? Yeah, there is. But unless a doctor or a medical staff were to back you off of the pick, I think he would be a steal at No. 4.
Q. Jay, having talked to NFL Draft people, whether it’s [Mike] Mayock or [Mel] Kiper or [Todd] McShay, the amount of prospects that they look at is a really remarkable number. Sometimes it gets into the 500s or so. When you are prepping for the NBA Draft, what are you comfortable with in terms of the number of prospects that you want to have a good feel for?
JAY BILAS: I’d like to have a good feel for all of them. I see these prospects from high school on. Most of the players that get drafted are identified in high school. There are some exceptions to that like Louisiana Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton. I didn’t hear about him until he was a freshman in college. Started watching him then, really towards the end of his freshman year and when he got involved with USA Basketball.
I watch them all in person. You see them in high school. You watch them in college in practices. I’ve seen them in camps. And then you certainly watch them in their games.
And then now it’s so much easier, I would imagine, for the NFL guys and certainly for us now with how all of our film scouting, it used to be we’d have to search for these DVDs and get coaches to send us their practices and things like that. Now there’s so much that you can do online with Synergy Sports technology.
I can go back, and if I wanted to watch Noah Vonleh’s last 20 turnovers in the post, I could watch them ten times over, or watch his last ten jumpers. You can watch whatever you want. Film study has become so much easier and so much more efficient. Sometimes you can overdo it, but it’s certainly a lot easier than it used to be.
Q. Jay, is there a number that you can sort of just throw out in terms of you feel like you’ve seen 300 potential draftees this year, 200?
JAY BILAS: You know, I don’t think there are that many potential draftees. I think you’re looking at a list of, internationals included, of no more than 100, and that’s probably generous.
But I usually have a list that I keep of the top 125 prospects. I think, once you start getting over that, you start worrying about players that aren’t going to be drafted. Really, the analysis that you wind up having to deal with in the Draft are players that are actually going to be drafted.
We don’t spend a lot of time on guys – maybe we should, but we don’t – on guys that could make a team that don’t get drafted that may be a specialist. A couple guys I would say like Travis Bader of Oakland, a kid I’ve watched since he was a freshman, may very well be the best shooter the Draft. He’s unlikely to be drafted, but a guy as a specialist could make a team.
The other guy would be a guy like Josh Huestis of Stanford, who’s a superior defender, I think could be drafted in the second round. It’s possible for Bader, too. They could be drafted. But they’re guys, as soon as the Draft ends, their phone will start ringing with NBA teams that want them in their camp because they could make a roster and be a contributing piece to a team.
Q. The Thunder with two late-first round picks are in need of a shooting guard. Is there somebody who could help them in that category right now, or should they try to trade up and try to move up and maybe get somebody better?
JAY BILAS: Well, I mean, you can always try to trade up. I think everybody would like to do it. It’s a question of what you’re giving up. But down near the bottom of the first round or the end of the first round, I should say, one of the guys that I don’t see a whole lot of some of these mock drafts have up there that I do is Joe Harris of Virginia.
I think Harris would be a tremendous pick for a team like the Thunder or the Spurs, that could come in. I mentioned the word “specialist”. He can really shoot it. He’s got size. He can run all day, come off screens, and you can’t bump him off his pass. He’s like a bigger, stronger, more athletic J.J. Redick in a way.
He’s played in a system where he didn’t have to be the guy. He took mostly good shots. He broke his nose not too long ago. I don’t know whether it was a week ago. He got injured. He hasn’t been able to actually work out for some of the teams at the end of the first round that are likely to pick him, or would be likely to pick him, whether it’s the Thunder or the Spurs or somebody like that.
A couple guys like Glenn Robinson III from Michigan, I would put in that category. I think he’s a really good shooter. He hasn’t made shots on a consistent basis, which you’ve got to. I mean, I can imagine people doing a double take, saying, wait a minute, you just said he’s a good shooter, he doesn’t make shots. I think he’s a really talented, athletic kid that is probably better than he has played thus far. Maybe he came out a little too early.
But the other guy that can really score, I wouldn’t necessarily put him in the category of a deep shooter but a guy that can really score, is the kid from UCLA Jordan Adams. I could see him going sort of at the end of the first round, that type of player.
Q. Overall how do you rate the quality of the Draft?
JAY BILAS: I think it’s outstanding. I think it’s one of the deepest drafts and one of the most talented that we’ve had in maybe a decade. It is full of players that can not only come in and contribute, but guys that could be starters and potential stars. It’s deep with that. So you can go deep into the second round and get good players. That’s not always the case.
We’re one year removed from what I thought was a really bad draft. We all kind of said that last year that, hey, you may be able to find value in this draft, but it’s not a very good draft. I remember people saying, well, so and so’s the guy. They had to trade out of this pick. This team should trade out. They can trade out. I remember saying you can’t trade out if nobody wanted to trade in. Last year nobody wanted to trade in.
So I think a lot of teams got stuck with picks that they didn’t want, especially Cleveland. I don’t know if they wanted that first pick, but they had to take it.
Q. I do think they’re a little happier having this Number 1 pick than last year. Who’s your Number 1 pick? With them choosing between Wiggins and Parker, is one or the other better suited for them?
JAY BILAS: That’s a really good question. I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to it.
Your first question was sort of “who’s your Number 1?” I still think Joel Embiid, the big guy, is the best prospect in this draft. I understand the reticence because of his recent injury, but I think I would have a medical team tell me, don’t take this guy, this is a bad medical risk, for me to say no to him.
Assuming that were the case that your medical team said, you know what, we are waving red flags before you, don’t do this, and I got that kind of advice, I think Jabari Parker is the safest pick because he’s NBA ready on the offensive end right now. He’s not nearly as good of a defender as Andrew Wiggins is.
Wiggins is a superior athlete. Long, excels in transition, pretty decent shooter, but can get in the lane any time he wants. He’s got a second jump that is unequaled in this draft. Nobody gets – a few guys get off the floor the first time as well as he does, nobody in this draft gets off the floor the second time as quickly and as explosively as he does.
The only sort of problem you have with Wiggins, if you want to call it a problem, it’s just a question, really – is he the type of guy that’s going to have a killer instinct and be a superstar? Like I think he’s a really good player, and I do not see him failing in the league. I’m not saying that. But is he going to be the type of guy that’s going to lead your team and go out there and not settle, and he’s going to be the best player on the floor? He has a burning desire to do that? And I think that’s still an open question with him.
But athletically, he’s the guy. So I would pick Wiggins if Embiid was out of the picture, but Parker’s safer.
Q. You just hinted about it, but the idea that neither one of these guys was really a killer on the floor last year in the NCAA Tournament in particular, would that be a little bit of a red flag if you were an NBA GM?
JAY BILAS: It would be a question. I would have a question with it. I think the one thing that I still have – I try to keep in mind is that, if you went back and you said, all right, Michael Jordan or some of these other guys, what would you have said about them as freshmen? Michael Jordan averaged 12 or 13 points a game as a freshman. He didn’t always have great games. He did hit that shot in the NCAA Tournament final that everybody remembers his freshman year against Georgetown.
He didn’t have the kind of game that Parker had against Mercer or that Wiggins had against Stanford. But Wiggins was averaging like 27 points a game in his last six when he came up against Stanford. Then he gets 4 points. I think he was 2-of-7 in that game, and he was totally shut down, not only by the zone Johnny Dawkins threw at him, but also Josh Huestis, who’s one of the best defenders in the country.
You do have a question about that. I think those are legit. You kind of think, hey, if these guys stuck around to be sophomores or juniors, would we be worried about the last game they played their freshman year? I think we would. We just don’t have as much data as we have on guys in the past. It’s a hard thing. You want to factor it in, but you don’t want to get stuck with it or stuck on it.
Q. Just wanted to say, you talked about the Spurs picking, and one of the names you threw out there was Glenn Robinson. They’re a really unusual team to take so low, and they obviously look overseas. Do you see maybe one or two or three guys from the college level over here in America that they need to take a look at?
JAY BILAS: Oh, I’m sure there are a bunch of guys that they’ll be looking at, and there are a bunch of different ways that they can go. They can bring in players that they can wait on a little bit. They can bring in guys that may be a specialist.
I think they’re going to look for the best available player rather than somebody that’s necessarily just going to fit into the team that they have now.
Boy, if only we could all think like the Spurs think, because I think they’re one of the smartest, if not the smartest, organization in sports with the way they handle things. And the way they go about things. They have a confident approach to things, and it’s a together approach, but it’s also one of humility that I really, really respect.
Q. How about them moving up or possibly even getting out of the first round because, obviously, maybe they may not see a player that they like? Do you see them maybe possibly doing that?
JAY BILAS: I think they could. It just depends on what they’re going to get out of it. I think every team sits by the phone and has scenarios, what would we be willing to give up to move up? Who do we want? What would we be able to part with? Would we consider trading out of this pick, and what would we be willing be able to accept with that?
You look at the history of that team, drafting toward the end of the first round, they have really good values. So on some things where you think, oh, what are you going to get there? They’ve gotten starters at the end of the first round, and they got a Hall of Famer – they got two Hall of Famers in the first round and the second. Parker and Ginobili, those are your Hall of Famers.
Even though that was years ago, I think the league is way better at gauging international talent now than it was back then. But what did they get? Ginobili in the 50’s, and they got Parker at the end of the first round. It’s extraordinary to have two Hall of Famers in those spots.
Q. If Robinson did fall to them, how could he fit into this team? I remember that you said he wasn’t as good of a shooter. He doesn’t make shots, but he’s a good shooter. Do you think he might be a perfect fit for that team if he is available at that pick?
JAY BILAS: I think there’s a bunch of guys that would be a really good fit there. K.J. McDaniels is a guy that’s not a shooter, but he’s an athlete. He can defend multiple positions. He’s got a 6’11” wingspan, so he can guard out on the perimeter. He’s a perimeter shot blocker. He’s almost like – remember Josh Howard from Wake Forest, played for the Mavericks for a lot of years? He’d be kind of like that. And I do think he can make an open shot.
Joe Harris would be another guy. I mentioned him before from Virginia. I think Harris is actually, I think, a better shooter than Robinson III, much better shooter, but he’s not the same kind of athlete. Like Robinson is a better athlete and probably has a little bit more long-term potential and hasn’t realized that potential yet.
Q. Patrick Young’s stock seems like it’s on the rise a little bit. I saw where Chad Ford had him 30th this week. What are your thoughts on him as a pro prospect considering what you’ve seen from him the last few years?
JAY BILAS: Big strong body. Obviously, he can hold his position. I think he’s an excellent post defender. Not a great rebounder. His rebounding numbers won’t wow you, but a good rebounder that can hold his own, hold his position. He doesn’t really rebound out of his area like you would hope.
I think, as an offensive player, good, not great. So I have him further down. I have him later in the second round, but a guy that you can put in there to be physical, set screens. He can play pick and roll, and he’s a roll guy, not a pop guy. But what a great kid. Had a really good college career and did everything that was asked of him and then some.
Q. Wilbekin and Prather, obviously not seeing them much. Are they pretty much summer league guys in your mind, or are they guys that can catch on a team? I know Scottie was obviously SEC Player of the Year, but doesn’t seem like he’s getting much attention in terms of his workouts or much feedback.
JAY BILAS: I think Wilbekin is one of those guys that can make a team. I don’t think he’s a guy that will necessarily be drafted. Just a terrific college player and had an amazing year. I think he was absolutely the MVP of the Southeastern Conference and led his team to the Final Four, did a great job.
But it’s kind of like Aaron Craft or something. I think Wilbekin is probably a better pro prospect than Aaron Craft, but just because you’re a good college player, it’s a tough transition at that position to get to the NBA. He’s not as quick or explosive or quite as good of a shooter as some of the other guys who are out there or as big.
Q. There seems to be a really good depth of shooters in this draft. Do you agree with that? Which ones do you think become a value pick if they get into the middle or the teens of the draft?
JAY BILAS: I do think there’s some really good shooters in this draft. I think the best shooter is Nik Stauskas from Michigan. Then I put Doug McDermott right there as a shooter as well. I think you can put up with those two guys. I don’t think he’s going to get drafted but Travis Bader of Oakland, senior, broke J.J. Redick’s three’s record, is really, really talented as a shooter. He’s like 6’4″, 6’5″, and has the ability to hit from deep. As a specialist, could he make a team? Absolutely, I think he could.
I mentioned him before, and I’m a big — I don’t know if fan is the right word – but kind of a believer in Joe Harris. I think Joe Harris has a really good opportunity not only to make a team but to really be successful in the league.
And then the other guy I think you mentioned middle or late first round, C.J. Wilcox of Washington. He was a senior, can really, really shoot it. Really good range, long arms, high release. He’s an older kid. He’s over 23 years old, I think. But good catch and shoot guy, and I really like his ability to shoot it as well.
Q. What do you think [Rodney] Hood’s role will be on an NBA team?
JAY BILAS: Yeah, I think he’s a 6’8″ lefty and a guy who’s going to be probably a three man, maybe a big two. I’ve seen some things kind of critical of his defense, and I think it’s fair criticism because he was not always in the right position, not always engaged and things like that. But I actually think he’s a pretty decent defender, you know, long arms, and he’s not the type of guy that you put the ball in his hands and he’s going to create shot after shot, but I think he’s a good player, and I think he’s a starter in the NBA. I think he’s one of those guys that will be right at the end of the lottery, if not in the 12 to 16 spot.
Q. Can you explain briefly the transition for Dante Exum and Dario Saric and their ceilings in the NBA?
JAY BILAS: Exum is a really good prospect. He’s really young. I don’t think he’s even 19 years old yet. I actually played against his dad. His dad was at North Carolina when I was in college. He graduated in ’84. So his dad played at Carolina.
The kid is long armed, he’s athletic. Very good in transition. I watched him at the Hoop Summit, and I thought he was terrific. The tape you see of him, he played very well at the World Championships, the under 19s.
I haven’t seen – there hasn’t been much on him lately. So how he’s done the workouts and all that stuff, each team knows that. He’s not a great shooter, but I don’t think he’s going to have a problem in correcting whatever shooting deficiencies he’s got. He just needs to be more consistent as a shooter.
He shoots kind of — he doesn’t have a lot of arc on a shot, and that’s something he can fix. But, boy, he gets in the lane whenever he feels like it, and he’s really good on the open floor.
I hear some of my colleagues say he’s a combo guard, and that may be the case, but I think his future is as a point guard. He’s going to be a point guard in the NBA. He’ll play the one. I think he’s got a nice future ahead of him.
I happen to like Marcus Smart a little bit better. So I have him rated ahead of Exum.
And I think you mentioned Dario Saric. I’ve only seen him on tape. Boy, what I’ve seen, he’s really impressive. His size alone and his skill level, and he’s got a competitive spirit to him that’s really impressive. He can rebound. He can pass. He can handle it, and he seems like totally unafraid – unafraid of failing, unafraid of any matchup.
But I just don’t know how it’s going to impact things that he just signed a contract in Turkey, whether that means that he goes a little bit lower, whether he’s got a deal with somebody. I have no idea exactly how that’s going to wind up. But he’ll probably wind up, it seems like anyway, that he could get picked lower than his talent would suggest he should go.
Q. Jay, just want to get your general thoughts on Julius. I know he’s not in the 1 to 3 range, but he’s in 4 to 10 on most mock drafts. What are your thoughts and what does a team get who lands him in that range?
JAY BILAS: You’re going to get a big time rebounder that can take people out around the goal. I think left handed, the most physically imposing big guy around the bucket in the Draft.
He and Jarnell Stokes are probably the two best rebounders. I would put Noah Vonleh up there as well, as far as guys that are volume rebounders and really go after the ball, especially on the offensive end. He’s a really good offensive rebounder.
He’s not a shooter, though. Steps away to 15, 18 feet, and he’s not reliable. He got to the point where I don’t even remember him taking a jump shot in the NCAA Tournament. If he did, I don’t remember it. So he kind of shortened up his offensive menu there and started just kind of taking the ball to the basket and working off the post and around the glass.
When he drives it, he’s going to find a way to spin back to that left hand. He’s going to have to improve his offensive game and his skill level and be able to score in the post a little bit better with jump hook, turnaround jumper, things like that. I think a lot of people, myself included, have compared him to Zach Randolph, who came out of Michigan State years ago and has had a really good NBA career. I don’t think he’s as good as Zach Randolph, but that’s who he reminds me of.
Q. Jay, yesterday the new co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, Marc Lasry, said at a press event that Milwaukee’s decision got, “a lot easier” because Embiid hurt his foot and he discounted taking him at 2 if he’s available. And he said, I think for us today, we’re going to want someone who’s going to help us on day one. Do you think he was premature in making that judgment about Embiid, given your earlier comments? You seem to be supporting Embiid a lot. You see the upside for his game and if his foot’s okay and all that. And if it came down to it and that was the only measuring stick, that someone is going to help the Bucks on day one, would Parker or Wiggins fit that better?
JAY BILAS: Last part first. I think Parker would fit it better, that he’s the most prepared to step in and help right away although it depends on what you mean by “help”. If you mean score, it’s Parker. If you mean come in and defend and be a great athlete and all that stuff, Wiggins can come in and defend right away.
Parker’s behind defensively. Wiggins is behind offensively. At least he’s behind Parker. He’s got to tighten up that handle. He’s got to refine his shot and his footwork on how to get a shot and coming off screens and things like that. A lot of guys need to do that, but he’s one of them.
Parker is not near the defender that Wiggins is, but he’s better on the offensive end, and he’s a more dynamic scorer. He’s going to go in there and demand to score right away. And when I say that, I don’t mean demand in the tantrum sense, but kind of he’s going to demand the ball in a good way and be a threat to score from a variety of different spots on the floor.
As far as the owner, I kind of like people that speak their minds. So not necessarily to forecast what you want to do, if it’s going to hamstring them in making a decision or being able to make a trade or something like that, that may be a little bit different, but I like him speaking his mind on it. I think it’s completely reasonable to say, you know what, we’re not going to mess with somebody that’s got an injury history like that. We don’t want to take that risk. That’s fair. That’s absolutely fair.
I would absolutely agree with that if I had some information – maybe he’s got the information I don’t have on his medical report. I don’t see those medical reports, and you usually just hear things. So if I saw a medical report that told me he was a bad risk, then I would absolutely agree with that. If there was no such medical report, if the doctors were telling me what I’ve been told by doctors who have not examined him, hey, listen, this is not that big of a deal. It’s kind of like a torn meniscus in your knee, something like that, something you recover from, Michael Jordan had it, that kind of deal, then I would say, you know what, he would be worth the risk for me.
But it’s easy for me to say. I haven’t invested $550 million in a team.
Q. When you look at the Timberwolves and see that Kevin Love is on the trading block, do you see that he gets moved before the Draft? Do you think that’s a good time for Flip to move him, if that’s what you think? Then if they don’t move him, where do you think the best place for them to go at 13 is?
JAY BILAS: Well, obviously, at 13 there are a lot of ifs in the Draft as to who gets taken and all that stuff. So you don’t really know. I’m kind of a best available player believer. So rather than go for a position or something like that, I think you go with the best available player and the guy that’s going to be the best player long term because you have the most value in that.
If you can, if Kevin Love is indeed going to be moved and you can package him with draft picks to move up to get more picks, to get more picks in another year, I think you do it. I think you use whatever assets that you have and you get the best possible deal.
So, yeah, I do think you look at if he indeed is on the block and they’re looking to do something, I think you absolutely leverage that and try to get the best possible deal for the future of the franchise because it’s been a long time since, at least it’s been a while since Minnesota has been really good. I think you have to – sometimes you have to be creative. When you’re a smaller market, you have to use some creativity, and I think Flip Saunders understands that, I think.
Q. Could you assess for me the draft prospects and the NBA potential of two guys, James Michael McAdoo and Andre Dawkins?
JAY BILAS: Sure. When McAdoo came out of high school, I thought he was a certain first-round pick, I really did. I felt like he was going to continue to get better, that he could run the floor and was super athletic and could rebound.
He’s been a very good college player. He had a really good college career and did a lot of really good things, but he never really came around to what I thought he had a chance to be.
I think he’s a second round pick. I’ve got him rated in the 50s. I think he’s 57. It would not surprise me if he went a little bit higher. It would surprise me if he went much higher. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t get drafted. If you had told me that when he was coming out of high school, I would have said no way, come on.
But he did a good job, and he’s a really good kid, but I’m not sure that the NBA transition is going to be difficult. I think he can make a team. I think he can carve out a niche in the league, but he’s got to be in the right situation because it could he could miss out on it, too.
Andre Dawkins is going to have to make the NBA as a specialist. The NBA needs shooters. Everybody needs shooters, and he can shoot it. But I think you do have to do more than that, and he’s not a great athlete, and that’s sort of the limitation that he has is defensively he’s not a great defender, but he had a nice year and can really shoot the ball, especially when he gets hot. He can really, really hit. That’s his value in the NBA is as a specialist.
Q. Real quick, I did notice that you didn’t really include him among your top shooters, though. So he’s somewhere below the first tier of specialists, in your opinion?
JAY BILAS: Yes, yes. Like I don’t think Andre Dawkins will be drafted, but he can go to somebody’s camp and make a team. If they need a shooter, I think he’s got to get into the right situation, but you leave him open, he’s got really deep range and he makes a couple of them, he’s going to make a couple more. So I do like him as a shooter.
But that’s what he is. I mean, he doesn’t do much else. Some of these other guys do other things, like Joe Harris is more of a complete player, I think, than Andre.
Q. Just wondering if you could break down a couple of Michigan State guys for me in Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, and where you see their full potential.
JAY BILAS: I think Gary Harris is a top-12 pick. I’ve got him rated No. 10, I think, on that best available list that I do. He is a terrific all-around player. He’s got skills in a number of different areas, excellent defender, tough kid, he’s good in transition. He can put the ball on the floor. I think he needs to improve his handling ability. If he can play the point, that would really help him.
Good passer, not great. And a good shooter, not great. But can put the ball on the floor and attack. Pretty good mid-range, but he’s small. As a two guard in the NBA, he’s 6’4″. That’s really small for a two guard. So he’s going to have to guard bigger guys, which he’s capable of doing.
He went through this last season just about injury free. He had some injuries the first part of his college career, but I liked him as a player. I think he’s a very good player.
Payne is one of those guys that’s kind of a stretch four. He can make an NBA three. He runs the floor very well. Put him in the post, and he can operate out of there. But he’s I don’t know that you see him necessarily as a starter. He can start certainly for some teams. I don’t know long term you say, okay, that’s a starter. I’ve got him ranked, I think, 20, in that range. But he’s had a really good college career, and just a terrific kid. So I really hope he does well.
Super athletic, but, boy, he really changed his game throughout the course of his four years at Michigan State. I think he did a really good job there.
Q. Follow-up on Julius Randle, what do you make of the situation with his ankle or the foot, the screw, whether he should have surgery? He doesn’t think he wants to. Teams, it sounds like, may want him to. And then after that, just your thoughts on the pro prospects of UK’s James Young and Louisville’s Russ Smith.
JAY BILAS: First on Randle, kind of another medical issue. I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I’m not a doctor. I don’t know what to do about that. You’d have to have a medical professional tell you what the best thing to do would be. So if there’s a question mark on that, I could see you passing.
But completely healthy, there are reasons to take him and reasons not. So I could see him going as high as 4 or 5, and I could see him being in the 10 range. It’s absolutely possible that that could happen.
With regard to James Young, Young’s another lefty who’s a really good athlete, good catch and shoot guy. I think he can put the ball on the floor a little bit and attack the basket. I think he’s an athletic finisher, too. But he, this year with that team, he relied more as a catch and shoot guy.
I think he’s a pretty good defender. He’s active and can get steals. Athletically, he’s very impressive. So he’s probably like I think he’s a lottery pick. Top 16. But you could see him falling out of that. It just kind of depends who likes him. But I like him.
And then Russ Smith is probably a second round pick. He’s small, and he’s got a two guard mentality, but at that size, he’s going to have to be a point guard, and I think he got better as a distributor, but it’s not his strength, and it doesn’t seem to be a natural ability that he has.
His natural tendency is to score. Like he doesn’t see defenders, he sees openings that those defenders leave. So sometimes he can make a decision that you might not think, sitting on the sidelines, is the right one. He’s fearless, and I would not be surprised to see him play in the NBA for a long period of time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t either.
Q. How’s it going? I wanted to ask about Devyn Marble and see what may be his upside, best location would be, and what you think of him as a prospect.
JAY BILAS: He’s a skilled player. I saw a lot of him last year, and he’s one of those guys – I don’t think he’s a great shooter, but he can make shots. Because of his size and his skill level, I think he can certainly play and play well in the NBA. He just has to find the right situation. And then I think he’s got to become a better, more focused defender.
But he’s certainly got the ability level to play in the NBA, no question.
Q. And then Iowa State has a couple of guys in DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim that are probably low to second round guys. What kind of situation do you think would fit them both?
JAY BILAS: I think both of them can play. It’s kind of like in the second round you want to get with a team that needs you. Kane is a big guard that can pass. He’s good in transition. He can finish. He had a great year this last year.
But it’s hard to believe we’re kind of in this time period, but the knock on him is he’s too old. It’s as if he’s going to walk on the floor on a walker or something. But like long term, he might not be a guy that necessarily gets drafted. I definitely think he should get drafted.
I’ve got him ranked in the top 60, but I think there may be teams that in the middle to late second round decide, you know what, let’s take a flyer on a kid that’s younger. We know what DeAndre Kane is, we can get guys like him, but let’s take a shot on somebody that we think has a chance to blossom into something more. You can see that happening, maybe take a foreign kid or something like that. But he’s got NBA skills and NBA ability.
Ejim is, he does everything well. I love him as a college player. He does everything well. Canadian kid, rebounds his tail off, plays really hard. But he’s a small power forward, and undersized. Undersized in the frontcourt in the NBA can give you some problems. So I can see him getting drafted in the second round, and I can see him not getting drafted because of that.
Q. Wanted to ask you about Doug McDermott. So many people talk about him needing the right fit, and I wanted to ask you, first off, what is the right fit for him? Second, what did he do to kind of help his stock by coming back his senior year?
JAY BILAS: You know, I don’t know what the right fit means for him. That guy can play for anybody. He can play anywhere for anybody. He can play.
When you can shoot and score like he can in a variety of different ways he can post. He’s big and strong. He’s got unbelievable footwork. He might be – he’s definitely one of the two or three best shooters in the Draft, but I can make an argument he’s the best shooter in the Draft, and far more athletic than he gets credit for. He’s a darn good athlete.
The question mark I think some people have is, who does he guard? Is he really good defensively? But I think he can hang on the defensive end. I think he’s going to be in the league for a long time. So the fit is whoever takes him. He knows how to play. He’ll fit in with whoever he’s with.
On coming back, I think it was helpful for him to come back. He’s had three straight years where he’s averaged, what was it, 24 more points? Just a remarkable college player. If he never played a minute in the NBA, he’d be one of the best college players of all time. He’s really had an extraordinary career, but I think he’s going to play a long time in the NBA.
I don’t know the right answer to this, like if he had gone after his junior year, I think he would have been a first round draft pick last year, and I think he would have been a coveted player. Would he have been a top ten pick? Probably not.
Maybe, but probably not. So coming back, I think, helped him. I think it made people realize like, look, this guy has seen every possible defense come and hit him and teams trying desperately to stop him, and they can’t stop him.
He’s got a phenomenal senior year. He’s just terrific.
Q. Jay, I was just wondering, three Syracuse guys, Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, and C.J. Fair. Where do you see them in the Draft process and your evaluation of them and where you think they’ll fall?
JAY BILAS: I think Ennis is the top pick of the crew. I think he’s a lottery selection. I’ve heard folks talk about, well, maybe not the best athlete, but he’s as athletic as he needs to be given the situation. Unflappable. Kid never changes expression. Makes big plays, totally unafraid.
Played in the top of that zone that Jim Boeheim runs, so there are always some issues and question marks about how guys can defend man to man, but I think he’s a good man to man defender. Good with the ball, very good passer. Makes open shots and is crafty with changing speeds. So he’s able to get around people and by people, not necessarily with sort of his explosive first step, but by changing speeds.
So I really like him. I think he’s a top 15 or top 20 pick for sure.
You mentioned, I think, Jerami Grant. I think he’s more of a latter part of the first round guy. Undersized at the four man. I think he’s a four. I don’t think he’s going to be a three because he doesn’t shoot it, and he doesn’t put the ball on the floor. Like he’s not an ultra-skilled player right now. That’s something he’s really got to work on.
His shooting ability, he’s got to be able to face up and hit an 18-footer, but he can really rebound. He’s explosive around the basket to finish plays, and he can challenge and block shots around the goal, too. I really like him.
And C.J. Fair is probably a second round pick, but a guy, a left-hander, can post, but also you can put the face up, put the ball on the deck. Not a great player, but a good one, and a guy that can certainly play in the NBA.
Q. I was wondering what you thought of the Chad Ford report yesterday on Parker supposedly tanking his workout with the Cavs. That kind of sounds out of character for him. Do you think his weight is an issue for NBA teams?
JAY BILAS: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know anything about tanking, if he didn’t perform well in a workout, whether that meant he’s tanking or just didn’t play well. These guys work out, and sometimes you do well in a one on one or sort of a solo workout, sometimes you don’t. I don’t really know about that. I’ll defer to Chad on that.
As far as his weight, since he got hurt in high school, he’s always been a little bit – he’s not a guy that’s got this kind of ultra-tight body. So that’s something he can improve upon in his conditioning in that regard. So I think maybe he might be carrying if he’s weighing in at what I heard he is at 250, that’s probably ten over what he’d want to be, but I don’t think he’s one of those guys where you’re worried about him blowing up or anything like that. That’s never been a part of who he has been.
I think he’s, if not the best, one of the best offensive players in this draft. I don’t see him going lower than 3 in any circumstance.
Q. Do you think he’d fit in with Kyrie Irving?
JAY BILAS: I think anybody that can play would fit in with Kyrie Irving. Yeah, absolutely. I think he fit wise, he’ll fit in anywhere, but you put a guy at that skill level, that size that can attack in so many different ways, he’s going to fit in, and he’s you know, he’s kind of an unassuming star. He doesn’t demand a lot of headlines or doesn’t demand he wants the ball, and he’s a very talented, good player and knows it.
But he’s got a humility about him that’s refreshing. I think people enjoy being around him. So I think he’d fit in really well with Kyrie Irving.
Q. Good afternoon, Jay. Just a couple of follow-ups on the Kentucky guys. How hard do you think it will be for Randle to improve his offensive game? And then could you kind of rank Young from a shooting ability standpoint. Has it surprised you at all that he’s climbed maybe into the lottery in this draft?
JAY BILAS: First off, Randle, I don’t know how hard it’s going to be for him. It’s not like he expanded his game during the course of the season. I think he got better at recognizing double teams and dealing with them and making quicker, more decisive moves when he got the ball so that he couldn’t get fouled or people couldn’t get the ball out of his hands that he’d just catch and attack.
But it’s not like he improved his jump shot during the course of the year. He didn’t. He got to the point where he just didn’t take it. I think I mentioned it before, I can’t remember a single jump shot he took in the SEC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament. If he did, I just don’t remember it because I watched every minute of every game, and I don’t remember one.
You know, his post-game needs to be refined and needs work, but he’s just a beast on the glass, and that’s something that’s hard to teach and something that translates very well to the NBA.
I think you mentioned James Young as well. Young is one of the better shooters in the Draft. I wouldn’t put him up at the top of the list of shooters, but he’s not far off, and superior athletically – he’s a really good athlete. So that’s certainly going to help him wherever he winds up.
Q. Has he surprised you that he’s climbed as high in the mock drafts as what he has?
JAY BILAS: No, because before the lottery was done, I looked at him as kind of a top 10, top 12 pick. So it doesn’t surprise me, no. I think he’s really talented. Before the season, when you saw him play, a lot of guys rated him really high.
Q. What has impressed you about him that maybe you saw on film? Again, I know it’s borderline that he may or may not get drafted, but do you think there are any teams that would maybe be a good fit for him?
JAY BILAS: Well, he’s a small guard. What is he, 6’2″, 6’1″? And had a nice season, but not a great passer. He’d have to be a point guard in the NBA. I don’t see him getting drafted. You’re talking about the kid that went to Shaw, right?
Yeah, I mean, good player, but I don’t see him getting drafted. I think he’s going to have to go to camp as an undrafted free agent and pick the right situation to make a team.
I’d say there are a lot of guys in his position, and I’m not sure that Chris does anything that would really stand out among this draft class such that he would be taken, and he’s going to have to go in and scrap and prove himself.
I wouldn’t count anybody out in doing that, but it’s a difficult road.
Q. Hey, Jay, earlier you mentioned K.J. McDaniels. Just wanted to know how you think his game would translate to the NBA and what his rapid rise may mean for the Clemson program.
JAY BILAS: Yeah, I like him a lot. He’s a talented athlete and a guy that has superior length. His wingspan is up in that 6’11” range. He’s a really good shot blocker. He can block shots on perimeter guys, around the goal. He rebounds his position, and I think he can really defend multiple spots, which because of that ability, he can find a place in the league.
He can make an open shot. I think he needs to work on his mechanics. He kind of leads with his right side as a shooter. He’s not always squared up. And you don’t have to be necessarily always completely square. I’m not saying you have to be, but you want to attempt those points at the rim, and a lot of times he’s kind of sideways on it.
But he makes open shots, and he’s really good in transition, really good finisher. I like him a lot. I think he’ll be drafted in the first round, late in the first round, and I think he’ll play in the NBA and have a good career because he can do some things that not a lot of guys can do. He can guard multiple spots.
And if his offense comes around, he can really be a valuable piece.
Q. And about his, I guess, what it would mean for the Clemson program being in the ACC, one of the overlooked programs, but have a guy leave early and potentially go in the first round, what could it mean for that program?
JAY BILAS: I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s nice, but it’s not something. I think over the course of time everybody tries to say, hey, look, we developed this NBA player and developed that NBA player. Clemson has had NBA players before. This isn’t the first time.
But you try to make the most of it, but I don’t think it’s that great of a selling point. I think what’s a better selling point is they’ve got Brad Brownell, who is a really good coach, and they’ve got opportunities there where you can get in there and play and play against really good competition.
I’m a believer that NBA players aren’t necessarily developed, they’re recruited. Reasonable minds can differ on that, but I don’t think some of these guys were developed by their coaches as much as they were recruited by them.
Q. Hi, Jay, just to follow up on a couple of the Syracuse guys, on Tyler Ennis, the knock on his game seems to be that his athleticism doesn’t stack up with some of the other guards in this draft. I think you even mentioned that he’s a player that can get around that. I was wondering if you could address that point. And with Jerami Grant, it seems that he’s slipping down some draft boards. Are you hearing that? And do you see him as a player that could slip into the second round during the draft on Thursday?
JAY BILAS: I suppose, that last part – I suppose that Grant could drop into the second round. It’s possible that, if you want to take a foreign player and park him overseas or something like that, but Jerami’s a four man. I don’t see him as being a three. He’s not a skilled player, and he doesn’t make a face up shot, and he doesn’t put the ball on the deck. He’s more of a cutter and slasher, kind of offensive rebounder type, finisher and transition guy. So he doesn’t have a refined post game that you throw the ball to the block and he’s going to make a bunch of post moves, but, boy, is he a pogo stick jumper that’s super athletic and long armed and all that. So he’s got that stuff down.
Ennis, you know, I think it’s fair to ask how good of an athlete is he? Can he stay in front of people on the defensive end? How will he guard? One on one, playing man to man? Because they do play 99.99 percent zone.
But I’m not worried about his athleticism because of how smart of a player he is and how well he changes speeds. Look, he played against a lot of athletic guards in college. He got by all of them. And when he needed to get a shot, he got it.
I think he’s a guard that knows how to play, and I think that counts for a lot.
Q. I think everyone loves Marcus Smart’s intangibles, but there’s some disagreement as far as, I guess, how his game actually projects. Just what’s your take on that? And what team or teams do you think he could be a good fit for?
JAY BILAS: I think he’s a good fit anywhere. That kid is a stud. Terrific athlete. I think he’s one of the three best defenders in the Draft. Big, strong, he’s like a linebacker with point guard skills. Really good passer.
The only thing he doesn’t do, he’s not a shooter. He does not shoot the ball well. But part of that, in my judgment, is he takes bad shots. He’s been trying for the last year to prove to everybody that he can shoot it. He’s taken some shots that have kind of caused people to question whether he can shoot. I think he shoots it a little better this year than last. But that’s just something he doesn’t do well, but everything else he does well.
I think he’s a winner. Like I really like the kid. And I think he’s going to be a good NBA player. I actually like him better than the Exum kid, even though he’s a little different kind of player and he’s a little bit older.
But if you talk to any coach that has coached him, whether it’s international basketball or what, they rave about him. You just don’t hear them talk about players like his coaches talk about him.
Q. Out here in Utah, there’s a lot of buzz recently about the Jazz possibly trying to work a deal with the Cavs, throwing in names like Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and some draft picks to get to that top spot. In your educated opinion, is that too much? Is that a deal worth doing for the Jazz?
JAY BILAS: Well, if you really want a player, I think it’s worth doing. It depends who it is. If it’s Jabari Parker, I could see that happening, or Wiggins, whatever, Embiid. Yeah, I can see that happening.
But the question is, if you’re Cleveland, do you give it up? Sort of if you’re – one team’s willing to part with it, does that mean you’re willing to take it? If you’re willing to take something that another team is anxious to get rid of.
So I don’t know the answer to that, but a lot of things get thrown up against the wall this time of year and they don’t come to fruition, and then other things that aren’t even being discussed, at least discussed publicly, wind up happening on draft night. So it’s hard really to tell.
This is kind of the silly season for disinformation too where stuff is thrown out there that doesn’t wind up happening.
Q. And just real quickly, I know you’ve got a relationship going back quite a ways with Quin Snyder, the new coach with the Jazz. How do you think he’s going to fit in here in Utah and in an organization like the Jazz?
JAY BILAS: I think Quin’s going to do great. I’ve known him for these 30 years. We were teammates in college. He’s a close friend, a lifelong friend. I think he’s one of the smartest basketball people I know.
I don’t think you’re going to find anybody that’s sort of more pure of heart and dedicated. He’s coming in there with his sleeves rolled up and ready to do sort of what’s necessary. I think he’ll do great. I’m not only a big believer in Quin Snyder, I’m a big fan as well, always have been.
Q. To the Suns, I know that they have four picks in this draft, three in the first round. They have a lot of flexibility money wise. One, I’m curious how impactful you think this off season can be for the future of this franchise. Second, I know you have some familiarity with the McDonough family, at least some of them on the golf course. But I’m wondering what you think of the job Ryan has done with the Suns so far.
JAY BILAS: Well, Ryan’s the one McDonough I really like. No, I’m just kidding. Obviously, Sean and I are best friends.
But Ryan’s a really smart basketball man, and I think he’s done a great job. You know, Sean, every time there was a promo for the Suns for an NBA promo, we were doing a game together, he would immediately say, “America’s Team”. He called them America’s Team, which I thought was great.
But Ryan’s done a great job. They’re in a very good position, having draft picks in this draft and having some cap space. It gives them some flexibility to make some decisions and to do some things that they may want to do. Not everybody has that, and that’s what you strive for. So I think it puts them in a really good position.
Now, ultimately, what they’re going to do, I have no idea, but having three first round picks in this draft is really good because it not only means that you have the chance to get three really good pieces, but it means your phone’s going to be ringing with other teams that are interested in taking – you know, getting something that you have and they’d be willing to give up something for it. So it gives you some options and some different ways to go. I really like where they’re sitting.