The NBA draft is upon us. Yet, several questions remain. Basketball beat writers Kenzo Fuduka and Jane Kenny share their draft-day predictions.
Which prospect has flown under the radar for you?
Kenzo Fuduka: Victor Wembanyama has gotten all the hype, but his teammate Bilal Coulibaly is quickly rising in the wake of the Metropolitans 92’s playoff run in France. His biometrics jump off the charts: He is a 6-foot-8-inch man with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan and it translates in his prowess as a defender. He and Wembanyama had a tendency to obliterate jumpshots in the corner on their closeouts. Scouts were concerned with Coulibaly’s shooting, but he’s made noticeable strides on that end. And for a prospect who turns 19 in a month, he has a very mature hoops IQ. He’s likely going to be contributing meaningful minutes sooner than people think.
Jane Kenny: 6-foot-4-inch Santa Clara guard Brandin Podziemski. Slated anywhere between picks 25 and 40 in various mock drafts, Podziemski may not have the speed and athleticism to be a lottery pick at face value, but he holds the potential to thrive in the long run. The WCC Co-Player of the Year shot 43.8% from 3-point land at Santa Clara and is one of the best outside shooters in this draft class. Scouts also consider him a creative playmaker, with quick handles and impressive court vision. If Podziemski could land in a complimentary role and continue to develop in the league, his name may become more known in the coming years.
If you are the Hornets with the second pick, who would you take: Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson?
KF: Scoot Henderson, but it’s not because Stephen Curry’s taken him under his wing. I understand the league is trending towards these lengthy wings who can shoot and defend, which is the mold Brandon Miller fits, but I think Henderson is a generational player. When you think of Henderson, you think of explosive dunks, lightning-fast speed and masterful navigation in the pick-and-roll, but what stands out to me is his character. Scouts applaud his work ethic, his teammates love him and he’s in the gym all the time. And maybe most importantly, he believes in his own greatness.
“I think I have the ability to go No. 1 — I believe in myself as any competitor should.” Henderson said to members of the media in a press conference back in March.
JK: There is no shortage of NBA-ready talent between these two players, but they are certainly very different. Brandon Miller would be a better pick for the Hornets — he pleases a trifold of Charlotte’s needs. The 6-foot-9-inch forward shot 38.4% from beyond the arc during his single season at Alabama, and Hornet’s bottom-of-the-league 3-point shooting performance last season indicates a reliable deep-range shooter would be an asset. Miller also has the size and strength to contribute immediately in the Hornet’s rotation, particularly as a rebounder and multi-positional defender. Finally, in terms of rebuilding their franchise, the Hornets already have a franchise point guard in LaMelo Ball, so the addition of Miller would complement their existing pieces.
Should we expect any big trades on Draft Night?
KF: Nothing blockbuster like the Bradley Beal-Suns trade but we should expect some shuffling around here and there. The top half of the first round is where everyone wants to be and with a new collective bargaining agreement coming into effect soon, teams want players on rookie-scale contracts to ease the salary cap issues that will arise in a CBA that penalizes spending. Look to teams like the Warriors, Lakers and Heat to try and move up to get a NBA-ready prospect. The only ticking time bomb is the Blazers at No. 3. They could easily trade that pick to pair Damian Lillard with some proven NBA talent or they could trade Lillard and start fresh with draft picks and one of Miller or Henderson. Portland’s the domino that may or may not fall this draft.
JK: All eyes will be on the Blazers in terms of possible big trades on draft night. At this point, Damian Lillard is not necessarily interested in waiting for young, inexperienced talent to develop, but rather the Blazers are in search of veteran talent to boost Lillard via trade. The Mavericks are also a team facing some urgency in terms of supporting their star talent Luka Dončić. The addition of Kyrie Irving midseason was with this effort in mind, but now Dallas desperately needs to make a more defensive-minded decision, and acquiring a proven multi-position defender via trade might be on the Mavs’ radar.