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Notes from ESPN’s NBA Draft Conference Call

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ESPN held its annual Pre-NBA Draft Combine media conference call today. Fran Fraschilla, former coach and current ESPN basketball announcer, and Jeff Goodman, ESPN basketball reporter, took questions from media members and gave their takes on quite a few draft prospects. Fraschilla took the lead, but Goodman also chimed in with some insightful comments throughout.

Here are some of the questions and answers that Fran and Jeff fielded:

 

On LaVar Ball impacting Lonzo Ball’s draft stock:

Fraschilla: “Everyone I talked to, from the strength coach to the team managers, said Lonzo was an absolute delight and a great teammate.” Fran also said that according to his NBA sources, teams are not at all concerned about LaVar Ball. LaVar’s presence at most would be a tiebreaker for a team that has Ball exactly equal in evaluation to another prospect, but said that’s unlikely.

Goodman: Every GM he’s talked to said they’re not worried about LaVar “at all”

 

On Prospects Skipping Combine & Medicals:

Fraschilla: Fran said the agents have the power. They can make influence the draft in ways agents couldn’t just a few years ago. Players now don’t really need to get their medicals done. The one top player that said he’d get the medical done is Markelle Fultz, and he hasn’t signed with an agent yet. Fran predicts that once he does, he won’t be going anymore.

There isn’t much of a difference between Fultz and Fox are doing by going to the combine and not participating and what Ball and Jackson are doing by not going and working out instead. Fultz and Fox will be at the combine, but they’ll be more spectators than anything.

 

On Malik Monk’s NBA Role:

Fraschilla: Ultimately, Monk’s role will be a lead bench scorer. Jamal Crawford is a player that Fran mentioned as a model for what Monk can be and how effective that role can be in the league.

 

Draft Tiers:

Fraschilla: Tier one is Ball and Fultz. Tier two is players three through nine or ten.

Goodman: Tier one is firmly in place and is comprised of Fultz, Ball, Jackson, and Tatum. Tier two is Markannen, Fox, Monk, Smith, and Isaac in some order.

 

On Modern Defensive Centers Available in Draft:

I asked about which draft prospects later in the draft have the ability, or potential ability, to contain guards in the pick and roll and be the modern NBA defensive centers that are so important in today’s game.

Fraschilla: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky) and Tony Bradley (North Carolina) are two guys with that ability. There’s a chance both will be around late in the first round. Bradley is a player that has been hidden in plain sight all season at UNC, burried in their forward depth. There’s no way he doesn’t get taken in 1st round. He’s young for his age, is very strong, has great hands, and has good mobility. He’s a player that could contain guards in those pick and roll situations.

If Bam Adebayo is around in 20s he’d also be a solid option given what the current NBA needs from big guys. He runs the floor, can screen and roll, and also can defend guards in the pick and roll.

Ike Anibogu is another player that would potentially have that ability in the future. He’s a long way from being an NBA player, but he’s as good of an athlete as anyone in this draft.

Goodman: Harry Giles is another player that has that potential. How his medical exams will go will have a large impact on where he goes in the draft, but when healthy he was very athletic at Duke. Giles can move his feet and plays hard. The big question with him is his knees.

 

On Jonathan Isaac:

Fraschilla: Isaac has as much potential as any player in this draft. He’s a young, mobile big that can play away from the rim and space the floor. He has a high IQ and great character. He’s also a very willing defender and can be as good of a defender as any player in the draft above 6’7″. He’d be a great fit at the sixth pick, if he’s still there, with what the Timberwolves have on their roster.

 

On Sindarius Thornwell:

Fraschilla: Thornwell played so much as a power forward this season he’ll have to make a larger transition than most players so that he can be a perimeter player. He shot the 3 and got to the free throw line well. He should pattern his game after Malcolm Brogdon as a big strong guard who is a reasonably good outside shooter, is a high IQ player, and is a good defender. Teams will love his toughness and versatility. The big question with Thornwell is that he’ll have to prove he can guard quicker NBA athletes in backcourt or wing spots.

 

On the D-League:

Fraschilla: In past, being sent or having to work your way up through the D-League was like a curse. But with all of the young talent that’ll be infused into it next season, the now G-League will become like AAA baseball. It’ll, for the first time ever, be a very viable route to a career in the NBA. Over half of this season’s 1st round picks played in the D-League at some point this season. It’ll be a great place to develop some guys who are one step away and a couple years of maturity away from being ready to play in the NBA.

 

On Caleb Swanigan:

Fraschilla: Swanigan dominated basketball this year. He was great in the paint and as an elite rebounder. But he struggles to score over length and will need to get better in the post to have any effectiveness as an NBA post player. One area he has proven is that he can be a good pick and pop guy. He may be able to expand his range to the NBA 3-pointer on those pops but is currently a solid mid range pick and pop player. His projected role would be a 2nd unit power forward or small ball center.

Goodman: Swanigan hasn’t yet fully committed to going out for the draft, but he can’t really do better than this year’s performance if he decides to return to Purdue. Yes, next year’s draft is weaker, but this one has dearth of bigs. Swanigan should go in the 25-45 draft range according to NBA sources. He won’t be able to improve his draft stock too much at the combine, because NBA teams already know he can play vs college players.

 

On Donovan Mitchell:

Fraschilla: Mitchell needs to develop a better shot selection. He is similar to Terry Rozier in terms of being an athletic guard that can turn into a defensive specialist. Mitchell is great off the dribble and can create his own shot. He’s more of an athlete than a basketball player right now, but has that athleticism is needed in league and this isn’t necessarily a knock on him.

Goodman: There aren’t a lot of guys like him in this draft that can be knock down shooters and defend. He also showed his ability to initiate an offense this season when Snyder was injured. Mitchell will go in the 1st round somewhere in the 20-25 range, maybe higher.

 

On OG Anunoby: 

Fraschilla: OG is an elite defensive prospect that can guard 4 positions. He’s strong enough to guard small ball 5 man as well at the 2, 3, and 4 positions. It looks as if someday he’ll be a good NBA 3-point shooter and he has great athleticism. His other skills are below average and he’ll need to develop those and improve upon his very raw offensive game. He has the chance to be the ultimate 3 and D guy. A comparison for OG is Kawhi Leonard, but he doesn’t have ball handling ability of a Kawhi just yet.

Goodman: He’ll definitely go in the first round somewhere.

 

On Hamidou Diallo:

Fraschilla: It was smart for Diallo to decide not to play five on five in workouts or at the combine. His other skills will need to improve, but he’s one of the most athletic players in the draft, has high character, has great size as a 6’6″ shooting guard, and can shoot. Diallo will most likely go back to Kentucky if he doesn’t get a guarantee from a team at some point before the draft that they’ll take him, but the 20-30 range in the draft is historically a crapshoot, so there’s a good chance a team will take a chance on him.

He can probably go anywhere from the 22-45 range. This is as wide of a range as any player in the draft. The big knock on Diallo right now is that he doesn’t have a great feel for the game yet. This should develop over time and isn’t a long-term concern. At the Steph Curry camp recently he was every bit on the level of Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr, so there’s a chance a team is getting a top 10 talent 15 spots later. He may not be ready for the NBA just yet, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have him in your system to develop.

 

The draft combine will begin at 3PM Thursday and will go throughout Thursday and Friday this week. Coverage will start on ESPN 2 and will also be on NBA TV.

 

For more NBA news and draft coverage, follow me on Twitter @T1m_NBA.