Transcript of ESPN / NBA Draft Conference Call
ESPN will televise the 2011 NBA Draft Presented by Kia Motors Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. ET from Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Draft will also be available via ESPN Radio, ESPN3.com and ESPN Mobile TV.
Following is a transcript of the media conference call held Thursday, June 16, with analysts Jay Bilas and Fran Fraschilla and ESPN.com NBA Draft insider Chad Ford:
Q. I guess the question I have is with Dallas winning a title here, really all trades and free agency and what the Celtics did with trades a couple years ago and the Heat last summer with free agency, do you get the sense the draft isn't quite the priority it was for GMs anymore or should it still be?
JAY BILAS: I think the draft is really important. I think there are a number of teams, Oklahoma City being one of them, that are built primarily through the draft. Free agency is always a component, but one data point does not make a trend. And I think if you look back when the Pistons won that one year when Larry Brown was coaching them, that doesn't necessarily mean that's the only way to do it.
The draft process is a great way to gather information. There may be guys that you see and interview and deal with during the draft that you don't get a chance to select, but maybe later on you get to know them. You find out it's somebody you really like, and later on there is somebody that you decide to go for in a trade.
This is a valuable process for every team, whether you have a high pick or not, and I think the best people in the NBA really utilize the draft to their advantage.
CHAD FORD: It's interesting. I agree with what Jay said. The Mavs have had a veteran team for a number of years, but if you remember how the Celtics built that team with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they did it by collecting a number of assets in the draft and using those assets including their No. 6 pick in the draft that year to go ahead and trade for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
I think teams look at it a couple of ways. Obviously, the top lottery teams are devoid of talent. They need an infusion of talent and the draft is really the best and least inexpensive way to provide that for teams.
As they move from a lottery team into an 8 seed or a 7 seed, you'll still see a lot of those young players playing a role on that team. But as you move toward a championship team, you do need veterans. But a lot of times those draft picks and those young players can be the chips that allow you to get the elite NBA veterans that you need to win titles.
You don't see a lot of NBA rookies or guys in their second or third year winning NBA championships or leading their teams to NBA championships. But it doesn't mean they're not a very important part of that process.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Lastly, I'll add quickly, very few rookies were any factor at all in this recent playoffs. Only NBA friends of mine I talk to talk about what Chad said – assets, assets, assets, assets.
If Minnesota wants to really improve, is Derrick Williams going to do the job for them or could they trade that pick, that asset for a quality young veteran? Maybe drop down lower in the draft order. I think to me the draft and where you pick is about having a bargaining position and maybe utilizing it to maybe get a young veteran.
Q. My question is about Kyrie Irving. There have been a lot of top point guards taken in the last few years, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, John Wall. How does Kyrie Irving compare to them, and what are your opinions of him as a whole?
CHAD FORD: I think Kyrie's a really good player. He's an elite prospect. I don't think he quite compares to some of the guys that you want to compare him to. I think his game's a little like Chris Paul. I don't think he's as good a prospect as Chris Paul. I don't think he's quite as good a prospect as Deron Williams or Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook or even a John Wall.
That's somewhat reflective in this draft. He's been the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, and I think there are questions about whether he'll be a perennial All‑Star or a franchise player. I think he'll be a very good player in the league, but I'm not sure he does that one thing that sets him apart.
If you look at those other elite point guards that you mentioned, they all do at least one thing that they're the best at in the NBA or one of the very best at.
I think the thing that's intriguing about Kyrie Irving is he doesn't have a lot of holes in his game. He does just about everything well. He plays with a high maturity level for a player of his age.
But most NBA superstars have that one or two things that you can sort of hang on that they do better than anybody else in the league, and I think Irving lacks that. I think that's why people are a little bit more down on this draft, at least at the top of the draft.
JAY BILAS: I think he's a terrific young point guard, and he's a true point guard. That's where he differs from some of the players that were named already. I do liken him to Chris Paul, as Chad says. But he's not quite as good as Paul. But if you had taken Chris Paul out his freshman year, you might say the same thing.
Irving, what he lacks, that a Wall or a Rose or guys like that have, he's not as explosive an athlete. He's not in that class athletically.
He changes pace and direction well. He's got a really good feel for the game. He's a good leader. He's a really mature kid, and I think he'll step in and be a really good point guard in the league.
Now the question will be is he going to be an All‑Star caliber player? Is he going to be a Mike Connolly type or is he going to be a player that makes All‑Star teams? And I think that's still an open question because we didn't get a chance to see as much of him his freshman year as we expected. He only played in 11 games and only eight of those he plays completely healthy.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I'll add. Jay made a point. 303 total minutes his freshman year. Obviously, sample size was small, but when he was on the court, he did some electric things.
I was surprised in Chicago how tall Kyrie is. He's right at 6'3", so it's almost hard to classify him as a small point guard. He's probably one of the best shooters I think I've seen from that position coming into the league as a high pick at the point guard spot.
Interesting thing about him, he's a very dominant left‑handed driver, and something that people don't really recognize with a right‑handed player. He's got holes, but he's a very safe pick whether you take him one or two.
An international guy's not going one or two, because a team does not want to make a mistake on a Kanter or a Vesely. They'd rather make a mistake on a kid that five years from now you could say ‑‑ and I don't think he's going to be a bust ‑‑ but you could say, heck, the kid was practically an All American at Duke, he is a safe pick. He is a safe pick at No. 1.
Q. What do you think of the depth of the bigs in the lottery range and do you think there are two in the draft that can be a go‑to scorer?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: The guy is Klay Thompson. He's 6'6", he's got positional size. He's a very good shooter, a better athlete than people think. You hate to compare anybody, but Landry Fields was a similar type prospect. Not the great outside shooter or the very good outside shooter I think that Klay is, but I think Klay is a really safe pick somewhere in the top 14 as far as two guards.
The other thing I think in terms of this draft, size‑wise, it's kind of interesting that in my mind there is really only one pure center in this draft, and it might be the young kid from Lithuania, Valanciunas, who I think is a long‑term prospect that has tremendous potential.
Then the other guy who, again, is like Big Foot. There have been a couple of sightings, but not many, is Kanter. When he measured out in Chicago, 6'11.5, 262, 5% body fat, that is a pretty good prototype, I think, for an Al Horford type power forward/center. There are not many pure centers in this draft.
JAY BILAS: Of the twos, one of the guys I like is Jordan Hamilton from Texas. He can be a two. He can play a little three. He can really score. He's 6'7, can rebound well for his position, and he's got a scorer's mentality. He shoots it with ease from deep. The question with him is in his maturity and the way he approaches the game. But he improved greatly this last year in his approach.
Another guy that I think can really score it is probably going to be taken middle of the first round or later. Probably middle of the first round is a little high. But Marshon Brooks from Providence is a terrific scorer.
So those two guys in addition to Thompson, that Fran mentioned, I think you would put as twos.
This is not the best draft for big guys. There are some, sort of some fours that are good prospects and have a chance to be really good, but this is not one of the best drafts, really, for anything that we've seen.
But there is a depth of good players. Guys that can come into the league and play and be pieces to good teams and maybe rotational players. But I don't see a ton of guys that really excite you that this guy could be really, really good in the NBA.
CHAD FORD: I think I would add on the two guards there aren't a lot of great ones in this draft. But if you're looking for scorers, they're there. Marshon Brooks averaged 25 points a game this season. Alec Burks from Colorado, we haven't mentioned him, averaged 20 points a game as a sophomore in the Big 12. Klay Thompson, obviously, a big time scorer as well.
Some teams look at a player like a Jimmer Fredette as perhaps more of a combo guard. But somebody that can play the two in a Ben Gordon sort of way, and we know that Jimmer can light it up as well.
So there are options there for teams that are looking for scorers. There are weaknesses to all of those players' games. But that is one thing that all of the two guards do well.
I agree with the guys. On the big guys, every year, the NBA teams reach for size. I'm not sure why the world isn't producing more seven footers who are or coordinated to play basketball, but every year it seems we have to stretch a little bit to find those guys can size.
Teams are willing to project more. So Valanciunas is not ready, but he might be. He's got a 7'4" wing span. He's 7‑feet tall and he's played pretty well in Europe. And Enes Kanter is another guy.
A guy that's really risen, in my mind, the last really month is Nikola Vucevic out of USC. And I think some of that, frankly, had to do with that he measured to be a legitimate NBA center at the Chicago pre‑draft camp. He was 6'11", 7'4" wing span, and he had the standing reach of an NBA center. And there are so many teams creating size that those guys can rise on draft day.
Q. While the Cavs have the fourth pick, and it might come down to Kanter or Valanciunas, what would you think they should go and why?
CHAD FORD: They're both risks. They both have upside. I think if you picked Kanter, you're picking because he is a bit more polished offensively right now, and he has a better NBA body right now. If you pick Valanciunas, you're picking upside. You're picking a guy who I know many NBA scouts feel in five years could end up being the best player in this draft, but he's got a long ways to go to get there.
But he's longer, he's taller, he's got a good motor on him, and NBA centers are so difficult to get their hands on. It's a bit of a risk. I think that given the Cavs and their situation and the fact that they already have the No. 1 pick in the draft, they'll probably take someone safe like Kyrie Irving. They can afford to gamble a little bit more. I would say they'd probably go with Valanciunas.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I would say to use another term, Chad has used risk, I would say throw darts against a board because none of us know, particularly with these two young guys, how it's going to turn out.
I would probably take Kanter because of his size and strength. There are a lot of things I love about Valanciunas. The one thing that bothered me, and again, he was only 18 when he played this year in the Euro League. He was very much man handled by strong, physical, European centers.
I like a lot about both of them. There are things I don't like about each's game. But I've got a sneaky suspicion that because of Kanter's combination of size, athleticism and skill level, and I do think he's a little bit at this stage more skilled than Valanciunas.
And I'm going to go by what John Calipari told me a number of times during the year, that he felt that Kanter could have been for Kentucky exactly what Jared Sullinger was for Ohio State. I think Kanter's a little safer play for me.
But Chad and I do not disagree very much in that both have tremendous opportunity to be solid players, but they certainly are both risky picks, as is basically everybody in the first ten picks.
JAY BILAS: I wouldn't hesitate. I would take Irving No. 1, and Kanter number four if he's still there. They're both 19, Kanter is bigger, he's stronger, he's more physical. He's not afraid to stick his nose in there. He's got the NBA body now. You don't have to wait on him as far as his physical stature is concerned.
If everybody's got risks, then there is not much risk. Everybody's looking at the same risk, I don't see how it's risky, but I wouldn't hesitate to take Kanter for him.
Q. Do you think the buyout situation is going to hinder this at all?
CHAD FORD: Yeah, yeah, it might. I think everyone's confident at the end that something's going to work out. For those that don't know, Valanciunas does not have an NBA buyout, so he's under contract for the next two years. He cannot leave unless his agent is able to negotiate some sort of NBA buyout for his team.
However his team needs the money, and they certainly don't want to wait two years and lose Valanciunas and lose out on potentially a couple million Euros when the team desperately could use the money.
So I think all parties agree that as we get closer to the draft, it's more likely that some sort of buyout will be worked out. If it is, I don't think there will be any concern anymore. If it's not, then he could be a guy who could slip in the draft. It's happened in year's past and you could see him start to fall.
But no way I think the Cavs take him at four unless they clearly understand when he can come over, and I think they'll put a priority on a player that can come over now.
Q. Are there any players who you believe may be available late in the second round who you believe are undervalued? If so, who would those be?
CHAD FORD: That's tough, because this draft has some depth, I think, from 15 to 35 then it starts to drop off again. Where guys go in the late second round, I'm not sure.
But a couple of names that I keep hearing from NBA teams that intrigue me, E'Twaun Moore out of Purdue, a guy who just may be underrated because he does just about everything well, but maybe nothing spectacular.
Another guy, Malcolm Thomas, a power forward out of San Diego State was really not used in a way that highlighted all the things that he can do, but he's been a guy that's really impressed teams that have seen him workout because of his length and his athleticism. You're not typically going to get guys with that athletic ability late in the first round.
Maybe this isn't fair to categorize him as a late second round pick, but continue to hear a number of very, very positive things at Marquette's Jimmy Butler. A guy that's really been a role player even when he was the Star at Marquette. A guy who can do a little bit of everything. He comes really with an incredible background story, and a player who has impressed virtually every team he's worked out for.
JAY BILAS: I had Moore, Butler, and David Lighty. I agree with Chad. E'Twaun Moore and Jimmy Butler both may be gone by late in the second is round. But the other guy that I think is late in the second round that would be a good player to get is David Lighty. He can guard. He's got a good body. He knows how to play, and he's a guy that will come in and do the dirty work for you. Can guard multiple positions, a good athlete, not great, but can make an open shot. He'll come in and do no harm. He's a guy that I think can make a lead.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Great names. Names that I certainly have as guys that could make a team. Another guy I'll throw out there that's had terrific workouts who is probably one of the most improved players in the country is Diante Garrett at Iowa State.
He played exclusively an NBA style this year. Lots of pick and rolls. He has good size for a point guard. Certainly one of the most improved players in the Big 12 and will handle himself well in all these workouts because of his combination of size and quickness.
Q. I wanted to follow up as Fran put it big foot. Just wondering with Enes Kanter, what do teams rely on in trying to make a judgment on him?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: That's a great question. Chad is very much up on the European stuff and knows what I'm talking about here. This is a guy that didn't come out of nowhere. He was playing in the European under 18s. Has always been a terrific player at his level in Europe. Actually one of the youngest players to ever play in the Euro League at 16. Then the next time you heard much about him was his dominant performance in the hoop summit.
So what it comes down to is how well your scouts have identified him, particularly your international scouts, at a young age and have tracked him. There is not a large resume there for Enes. But the resume there is fairly solid, going back to the age of 16.
The other thing is I know a number of NBA people were allowed in to watch Kentucky practice this year and came away impressed. I know our own Mark Gottfried, now the coach at N.C. State, told me during the year he was very impressed with him.
One x‑factor with Enes is keep in mind though he couldn't do much at practice, he worked out every day with a number of guys that had great NBA experience on John's staff. Kenny Payne, particularly, Tony Delk, and Rod Strickland.
So I think that's pretty much what you're going on is you're going to have to rely a little bit on gambling here, but it's not hard to gamble on 6'11", 260, with someone who has at least early in his career a good resume.
CHAD FORD: I was impressed with Kanter. I watched him workout for a couple of days in Chicago with Tim Grover who is Kobe Bryant's trainer, and he's skilled. He's also a highly intelligent young man. He came to this country a year ago, didn't speak a word of English. Got adept enough in the language to enroll in Kentucky, and, yes, I think he went to class and took classes and did well academically there.
My concern is that he has not played at a high level for now really a couple of years. And we're basing this off of an under 18 tournament run in the summer when he was 17 years old, and one game for the Nike Hoops Summit when he was 18 years old. And those are basically two games that you're basing the scouting report on.
You wonder with a player that age who has missed that much game time development, what it does to a player. Clearly he's been working with coaches and in drills and his shooting mechanics and a number of things looked fine and he's very intelligent like I said. But there is a difference between that and getting the experience of a game and having in‑game basketball IQ.
I've covered the international draft for a long time. There are players who come over here and look great in workouts and have all of those skills that have clearly been well schooled, but were not getting a lot of playing time in Europe. And those players struggled when it came to the NBA.
It's a big leap for anybody including the top college players let alone somebody who hasn't been on the floor competitively for a couple of years. That is the risk with Kanter. I like him, but that is a significant risk you have to factor in.
JAY BILAS: Those are all fair concerns. The one thing I would add, here he is drafted number 4 in 2006, 2007, 2008, the team, whoever is picking Kanter is picking against this year's class. So the question is if not him, then who?
So while there may be concerns about him, you're just moving on to another player who you have concerns about as well.
All things considered, he may be the best risk of the players who provide risk in this thing where they're picking. If you're choosing between Kanter and like Fran and Chad said, Valanciunas, there are questions marks about Valanciunas, too, and there are questions about a number of players that you're going to wind up pitting him against.
But when you balance out the different sort of concerns and positives, Kanter's going to grade out pretty well.
Q. Can you run through the top two or three perimeter defenders and the top two or three post defenders in the draft regardless of where you think they'll be taken?
JAY BILAS: One of the best defenders overall in the draft I think is Kawhi Leonard because he can guard multiple positions. I would put him and Chris Singleton as the two best overall defenders in that. Actually, I graded out Singleton as better than Leonard as a defender overall because of his size and his length. But Leonard's probably able to guard out on the perimeter a little bit better.
As far as sort of an interior defender, I think Kanter does a pretty good job defensively from what I've seen. Again, it's really limited because of how well he uses his body and how physical he can be. But outside of that, there aren't a lot of guys.
I think that Tristan Thompson down the line can be a good defender because of his length. But there aren't a lot of guys that you're saying okay here's a big time shot blocker. Biyombo is a good shot blocker, but I've only seen him play one time in a five‑on‑five game, that's at the Hoop Summit that he played in.
We're talking about Kanter and you've only got a limited stuff on. You've really got limited stuff on Biyombo, but he can really block shots and he's long and runs very well.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: To continue on what Jay said, a guy that really is going to create a spot for himself in the NBA, there are things I don't like about him offensively, but on the perimeter press, Iman Shumpert proved to be a really good defender on film this year in the ACC. Long arms, good size at 6'5". I think if he's going to get on an NBA court early in his career, it's going to be as much on the defensive end.
Certainly David Lighty and Jimmy Butler have proven to be solid defenders. I watched Jimmy a lot. I watched him dismantle Marshon Brooks in the Big East tournament this year. He did a great job on him.
As a coach, you can't end the defensive possession without securing the basketball. So although he measured out undersized, I think Kenneth Faried, who we know is a prolific rebounder, certainly fits into that mold as far as a guy that's going to end possessions with his rebounding. So there would be a couple of guys that just come to mind.
CHAD FORD: I would agree with all those names. I'd add UCLA's Malcolm Lee to the mix. A number of teams have been bringing Lee in to go against top draft prospects to see how they can handle an NBA style defender.
The Jazz specifically did that at the other day when they brought in Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker. They brought in Lee specifically because Lee gave Fredette a very difficult time at the UCLA‑BYU game this year. They felt like his length and ability to guard multiple positions would give them problems.
So I think teams are looking at Malcolm Lee. Though I agree with all the other names. I want to point out something about Biyombo and Kanter. Biyombo played in the ACB in the first division this year. And the ACB is probably the best basketball league outside of the NBA and the Euro League, and he led the league in blocked shots playing only 17 minutes a game, which is a pretty amazing feat to do.
So unlike Kanter where we don't really have game film with him playing against men. We do have about 14 games in the ACB to watch Biyombo play against some of the most well known players in Europe, and he was terrific in that time.
I think he has the potential to be the best defender in this draft, a Ben Wallace sort of figure. The problem is he has virtually no offensive game to speak about whatsoever, and that is going to scare some teams away.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: Just to amplify there, he averaged five rebounds as well in 17 minutes, which translates out pretty well over 14 minutes. And Chad and I witnessed what I would call a tornado type jump shot that spun sideways this week in the workout, little unusual.
Q. Looking at the Knicks and their needs list is probably very long for a team with two stars, but they clearly need a center. And I'd argue they probably need a shooting guard and a point guard soon to replace Chauncey Billups. But at 17, is there anybody who fills any of those needs? Obviously youth is a concern, but they need veterans. Is there anybody that matches up at that 17 spot? I guess your best work of who is going to be there at that point?
JAY BILAS: Well, like you said, it depends on who is available. If you've got ‑‑ I think Alec Burks will be gone. If you're looking at scoring guards or two guards or all that stuff. Klay Thompson will probably be gone. Jordan Hamilton could still be there, the kid from Texas who can really score.
It's just a question of, like you said, who is available and do they take the best player available? There are a couple of European players that will probably still be available. That kid Motiejunas will be available, I guess. Do you take somebody like Kenneth Faried who is available, a guy that will come in and bust his tail to get the ball for you. He doesn't have any offense to speak of, but he's going to play his rear end off.
I tend to think that a kid like that in New York would have a lot of supporters, because he'll run through a brick wall. He'll do anything to be successful in the league, and he knows who he is. He's not trying to be something more than a guy who is going to rebound, give energy, defend, and play hard all the time.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: My Knicks need everything. I think if you're Donnie Walsh ‑‑ who I believe is making the decisions here as he leaves, I think Jay said it ‑‑ I don't think you can reach here. You've got a list of guys that you really like through these workouts and evaluations. I think you have to take at this point the very best player that you think you'll be able to put on the floor the earliest.
You mentioned it. They really need help at virtually every spot except you could argue power forward and small forward because of the two superstars.
Even if you find a guy that plays that same spot, you need depth. They still need depth. So I think you can't pass up on what you think is the best player at that spot. Reaching for a position, I think, more often than not, that hurts you.
CHAD FORD: I think you know that there are a couple of guys the Knicks were high on early. As the draft process works out it doesn't look like they're going to be in the range anymore.
If they could get their hands on Klay Thompson of Washington State. He's a perfect fit for what they want to do. They loved him in the workout. I don't think he's going to be there at 17. They've also been fans of Jimmer Fredette all year. Again, I don't think Jimmer Fredette's on the board when they draft at 17.
The thing both of those guys have in common is they're shooters. They can shoot from deep, deep range, and that was something the Knicks were really valuing coming into the draft. I think they have a tough decision now. There aren't great centers available at 17.
The one guy who is a big who might be there who is a legitimate center is Nikola Vucevic out of USC. It might be a reach for him, but so many teams are looking for centers, he may not be on the board. My last mock I have him going at 14 to the Rockets.
I would look out for Marshon Brooks out of Providence. Had a great workout there against Klay Thompson. Has the ability to score the basketball in a number of different ways. Has NBA athleticism and length.
I get the sense that the Knicks are looking for upside here. They understand that a rookie is probably not going to come in and be a major impact player the way Landry Woods was last year. But they also have to build for the future, and I think Brooks would be a good pick there.
Q. Recently you've had Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, both talented players with high character. Wondered if you're noticing a trend with small market teams or in general where NBA teams might be a little less reluctant to take a risk on a guy that has character issues or background issues. It seems a lot of these stars right now especially drafted high are good people that can maybe stay in a small market and have a good background in terms of their character and their foundation?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I definitely think if you look at the last few drafts, and I think it's guys like Kevin love and Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, that's why USA basketball is really on the rise. You have high quality, high character, high talent guys.
Whether small market or big market, I think there has been a trend towards high character here in recent years. It's the old story you better be really good if you're going to be high maintenance.
When I look at this draft and look down the list starting with Kyrie Irving, very few guys as I look at my top 30 or so would I say are not high character guys. You look at Kemba Walker and, you know, Tristan Thompson and guys like that, Derrick Williams, I think it just makes sense.
There is going to be a guy like a Klay Thompson. How much do you discount the fact that he got in trouble during the year with a drug possession? I think there's been a trend recently that a lot of our top college players have actually had the whole package, and that's a good thing.
CHAD FORD: I had an NBA general manager tell me just the other day that in the last decade they've never had as many positive character reports come back from players than they've had in this draft, and it's one of the positives for them. Most teams will hire everything from private investigators and doing a lot of their own legwork to understand who these kids are, what problems have they kept out of the media, whether there are issues they have going on back home or whatever.
Seems like this draft there are a lot of high character players here, and I think does matter to teams. It is something that especially small market teams, as you pointed out, factor in.
When you look at this draft, whether it's Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams or Brandon Knight, a 4.0 student, and Enes Kanter, another bright, great kid, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Chris Singleton, Jimmer Fredette, you go down the list and these are all players that not only can you draft because of their talent, but you feel are going to connect with your community, do the right thing and set the right example on your team.
While this draft may not be filled with the highest level of talent of any draft we've had, it is a great draft from a character perspective.
JAY BILAS: I agree. It's hard enough to win by itself is let alone bring in problem children that you've got to baby‑sit. I know the Boston Celtics for a number of years now have had a saying that they use with their player acquisition, they say character, not characters. It's kind of like the old line about talent. You can lose with guys with good character, but you can't win without them. I think most of the best teams realize that.
You're not going to choose the boy scout that can't play over the guy, like Fran said, that's been arrested once but has a world of talent. I'm not suggesting that. But it does matter. The teams that win, not a big surprise, seem to have guys that can play and can get along with others and have good character as well.
Q. When you're picking 28th and 30th like the Bulls are, you don't have a lot of say in who falls to you. But the Bulls definitely need to address some perimeter shooting needs. Is this draft deep in perimeter shooting? I know it's difficult to speculate end of first round, but who might be available in the first round who can address those needs?
CHAD FORD: I think the Bulls are another one of those frustrated teams like the Knicks. Coming into the season they thought they might have a chance with some of these guys that can really shoot the basketball and they're rising in the draft. They would love to get their hands on a player like Klay Thompson who would fit. I agree with you. That perimeter is the focus. As you get later in the first round though, it gets a lot harder to find those guys that can shoot the basketball well.
A couple names I'd keep my eye on is Charles Jenkins out of Hofstra. Not only was a terrific scorer for Hofstra, but shot 42% from three. His senior year, shot 41% the year before that. He's clearly a guy who can play both positions. They're used to having a 6'3", 6'4" guard that can come off the bench like Ben Gordon. I don't think Jenkins is Ben Gordon, but there are some similarities there in their style of play and how they play.
Another guy to keep a look at, an a international player but wants to come over here now is Latvia's Davis Bertans. He can really stroke the basketball. He's 6'10", has a quick release. Blew away a lot of the NBA scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit with his play there. Recently played very well at the adidas Euro camp in his workouts.
He can really shoot the basketball, and might be another guy that will be available at that spot.
JAY BILAS: Another guy I would add in to what Chad said is Justin Harper from Richmond. He's 6'9", 6'10" guy, a perimeter guy that played in a Princeton style system at Richmond. But he's gotten better every year, a really good shooter. A guy that can serve as a face‑up four man from what people are calling the stretch four now. He's a guy that will probably be available later in the first round in the 20's. I'd be surprised if he got down to 28. I have him ranked higher than that.
But he's a guy that can shoot it very well from the perimeter, and I think would add to any team with his ability to stretch the defense.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I think lastly when you're talking about Chicago and Tom Thibodeau, you're talking about a culture of toughness. So if you can add somebody, that's what I would call and Tom used to say when I was with them in New York, a no‑mistake guy. A guy who sits here is a Nolan Smith, a guy that's not going to win you a lot of games with great athleticism, but he's going to keep your team from losing games because he's a smart player. Solid defensively, solid shooter, winning culture. That is the guy that I think Chicago would not mind getting their hands on that late in the first round.
Q. Could you see anybody besides Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams going No. 1? Also, is Knight hurting himself at all with the working out, not working out? Do you see that affecting his draft or where he might be drafted at all?
JAY BILAS: I don't see anybody but Irving going No. 1. But others could differ on that. I think in today's game, the point guard position has become even more important than it may have been years ago. I think Irving is the best selection in this year's draft at No. 1. That doesn't mean that ‑‑ Derrick Williams will be a terrific scorer in the NBA. But all things considered, I think Irving is the pick there.
As far as the workouts, you'd like to have a kid, a prospect that works out for everybody that says, hey, you know, I'll take on anybody, anyplace, any time. That's unrealistic given the amount of teams that guys have to workout for. They want to be sharp and make sure they're prepared in each workout.
Their agents are helping them make those decisions. Whether a kid plays at the combine or doesn't or works out for this team or doesn't, a lot of that has to do with the decisions that their agents helped them make.
I can't tell, honestly, whether a kid like Knight is hurting himself by working out for this team and not that. I think he's a Top 5 pick no matter whether he works out or not. Those things are all individual decisions. Some guys don't work out and wind up getting taken high. Other guys workout and they drop down. It's hard to get an accurate reading on the right thing to do in every situation.
FRAN FRASCHILLA: If I were Brandon Knight, I would not work out for anybody or against anybody because he's already got people talking about him, as Jay says, in the Top 5. But he's not as physical as a lot of these guys. He does not go left, and he's really not a pure point guard. So to match him up against other guys that may be a little bit bigger, stronger, although he's a terrific prospect, I think it's a very smart move on his agent's part.
Let's face it, we can all talk about the Top 5 or tenor 15, but history shows that at least half of these guys are going to be busts. So the fact that Brandon Knight's agent says no workouts against anybody else, to me it's a very calculated, shrewd move by an agent who knows he's in the cat‑bird seat right now with his client.
CHAD FORD: I don't think teams hold it against him because it's not his decision. Most of these young men would workout if they could. They want to workout.
We were at the Chicago pre‑draft camp watching Kawhi Leonard sitting on the bleachers because his agent told him not to participate in the camp. You could tell by the look in his eyes and grabbing the ball whenever he could trying to do anything that he wanted to play. They want to play. They want to compete.
Brandon Knight's been competing against Kyrie Irving in AAU ball and high school ball for years. He'd love to get on the floor with him.
I also think teams don't put that much stock into individual workouts. I think it's a great story for us to tell and it's exciting to go see these guys matched up. But for example there was a lot of talk about the fact that Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight was not going to workout against Kemba Walker. I'm not sure why you make a big deal out of it when the fact is they played against each other in the Final Four.
If you're going to compare the players, you'd have an amazing game at the highest stakes right before the end of their college season to watch those two guys go head‑to‑head. I'm not sure a workout would tell you anything that that game wouldn't tell you.
As far as the No. 1 pick in the draft goes, I think most of the talk about it not being Kyrie Irving is being generated out of Derrick Williams' camp. They've been trying for the last few weeks to create that sense of doubt. To create that sense of confusion. I think that helps Derrick Williams. I think it's going to be Kyrie Irving.
Q. Looking at the large number of talented European bigs in this draft, just what that signals in terms of the talent that's coming out of here? Also if you thought that any of these guys could eventually merge as an All‑Star or even the building block for a championship team. Can I get your thoughts on the European teams slated to go to the Top 10?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I think the first thing is that the mistakes teams made early, I would say probably 7, 8, 9 years ago is they were automatically assuming that every international guy was the next Dirk or Pau, and that is unrealistic.
There are, and I've said this a million times and get tired of saying it, you can be a draft bust as easily out of the ACC as you can an international player. In many cases it's the teams who are at fault for trying to see a young player from Europe as the next Dirk Nowitzki.
Now the reality of this year's draft is this is the perfect storm for international players because four of the Top 10 picks in this draft decided to go back to college. That would be Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, Sullinger, and Harrison Barnes.
Also a number of these young international players could have been Top 10 or 15 picks a year ago. Namely Jan Vesely who has really helped himself in the last year.
So it is cyclical. Teams make mistakes on these guys, but it just happens to be a year where the stars are aligned. It happens to be a year where five of these young international big guys will probably go in the Top 17 or 18, and I don't see any Dirk Nowitzki in this draft.
I would say that the closest thing in my opinion, and it's like ice cream here, we all have different flavors, I think Enes Kanter because of the combination of size, athleticism, and skill level has that best opportunity to beat Dirk, although it's unlikely to happen.
CHAD FORD: I agree with Fran in the perfect storm analogy. For everything that Fran said and just to put it in perspective, this isn't a growing trend of more and more international players flooding the NBA draft. I've just been putting together my 2012 Top 100 and we have one international player in the top 30, and he's in the late 20s. So next year we're not talking any international lottery picks.
At least right now guys can emerge like Biyombo emerged this year. But nobody's on the radar screen, and it looks like that the next couple of years, so it can be cyclical. The other challenge is to group all international players together is the same like asking what about college players. You have young ones, you have more experienced ones, you have guys that have proven something at the international level. You have guys that haven't proven anything at the international level, and you see that diversity in this year's draft.
Guys like Kanter and Valanciunas are young, they haven't been playing at the highest level. There are guys at a certain level that are projects. Guys like Jan Vesely on the other hand have been playing and starting on a top Euro League team. They play a significant role on their team. You can watch hundreds of hours of game film on them playing against the best players in Europe, and they've produced.
Those are very different sorts of evaluations that you have to go through to look at those international players.
I think Jan Vesely is one of the safest international players we've seen come out in the draft in a long time. I'm not sure he'll be a superstar, but it's easy to see how his athleticism, his motor, and what he's been doing at a high level in Europe and Serbia will translate to the NBA level.
Some of the other guys you roll the dice a little bit on. Then Vesely has his weaknesses like all the international players do.
But I guess the point is that at some point, and I understand that we're not there because most American basketball fans don't follow what's going on in Europe, they're just basketball players and have to be evaluated like anybody else. And the fact that they're international is just one of many factors that you have to evaluate.
Q. Also considering the fact that they have John Wall last year No. 1 pick, how important is it that this year they surround him with blue chip talent? Do they continue to move up to get the best player available or do you like what they have with the 6 and 18 right now?
JAY BILAS: Depends what they have to give up. If you have a target you want to move up for something, it depends on what you give up to move up. I agree with what both Fran and Chad said, especially the last part about the evaluation process really isn't any different for an international player as an American player. You gather as much information as you can, and you make the best decision that you can based upon the information you gather.
There are international players that draft evaluators have seen for years that, like Chad says, you've got a bunch of tape and they come over here and you miss on them. They don't turn out to be as good as you think they're going to be. Same thing with the college player.
You can look at the NBA draft, the NFL draft, Major League Baseball, it's an inexact science. You make the best decisions you can based upon the best possible information. But specifically about whether you move up or don't, those questions are in large measure dependent upon what you have to give up in order to move up.
CHAD FORD: Can I just add though I think it's a critical year for the Wizards because they did add an elite talent in John Wall. Now they've started to remake the team. They've made a number of trades. We mow what direction the Wizards are heading, and this does become a critical pick at 6 and 18.
I'm not necessarily convinced that they need to move up. I think two players that should be there in the range Jan Vesely and Kawhi Leonard, one of those guys will likely be on the board, and both of them are terrific fits for Washington.
I'm not sure that there is that big a difference between the third pick in this draft and the tenth pick in this draft. I think they're flavors of ice cream, as Fran said. Each of them has a fairly equal balance of risk and reward.
Q. It's no secret that the Sixers are looking for a big in this draft. Just wanted to get your opinion on Kenneth Faried. I think he measured at 6'6" without shoes on in Chicago. Do you think that a guy like him because of his size a team like the Sixers that needs a big could use a rebounder or might shy away or be worried because of that size?
FRAN FRASCHILLA: I would say that given the fact that he was a great college rebounder and he did it against a high level of play when he did play against the Floridas and the Louisvilles and teams like that out of conference ‑‑ and I just checked at 6'6" as you mentioned and 6'7.5" in sneakers, and he will play in sneakers, you're looking at a guy who is a Paul Millsap type who is in the league at a similar size.
This kid's probably a little better athlete than Paul. I don't think you ashy away from him because what is the difference between 6'7 and a half and 6'9"? I never figured that out as a coach. This kid plays big. He's got one unbelievable skill, and that is rebounding the basketball. He plays ‑‑ I think Jay might have mentioned it earlier ‑‑ the kid's got as good a motor as anybody in this draft. You don't shy away from the fact that he's 6'7.5" in shoes if you think he is going to grade out as a terrific rebounder for a spot.
What you love about, a former coach because of guys like Kenneth Faried is you never have to run a play for him. You can concentrate on getting the ball to your scorers and let him work both boards. He will be undersized at times inside.
But as I looked at the NBA and the playoffs, there are only five or six real match‑up nightmares in the league at that spot. You start with Zach Randolph and Gasol and a couple others. I just think you grab him and put him on the floor and he's going to get you probably ten rebounds a night if you're playing him 35 minutes. If not, he's a great energy guy off the bench.
CHAD FORD: People make fun of Jay and I all the time for talking about length and how long a player is. But it really is a factor for NBA teams. They don't necessarily look at that measurement of how tall you are without shoes, as Fran pointed out, you play in shoes so he's closer to 6'8".
Then we look at two numbers, wing span and standing reach. His wing span is great. It's 7 feet. His standing reach is 9 feet, which means that's his reach with his hands above his head and the position he'll mostly be playing at power forward.
Blake Griffin who no one would contest is an NBA power forward measured just a little under that with 6'10 with a reach. So you factor in Faried's athleticism, his motor, and his skill for rebounding that goes beyond strength and athleticism, he has a great feel as a rebounder. I think he's going to be fine in the NBA.
JAY BILAS: I agree with all those things. If you draft Faried, you're taking somebody who is going to go get you extra possessions. He is an extraordinary rebounder. Not a good rebounder, an extraordinary rebounder.
But if guarding in the post and having somebody who can provide you minutes at 6'10", 6'11" at the 16 spot for the Sixers, Markieff Morris will probably be available there. And that's probably not a bad selection.
But Faried provides you with somebody who is going to run through a brick wall to go get the ball, and I think that's awfully attractive at whatever size whether it's 6'7.5" in shoes or 6'9" or 6'10", he's going to out-battle a lot of 6'11" guys for rebounds.
And guys aren't going to want to box him out.