NBA Draft Confidential: Coaches
As ever, the word “wings” does a lot of work when describing this year’s top NBA draft prospects at the formerly known as small forward and power forward positions.
Yes, the more common image/word bubble when thinking about the modern-day position is a long, lanky, switchable player on defense that uses his length to contest shots. But it’s also a player who also can bury shots from deep, while being able to handle the ball well enough to get to the front of the rim through contact. Think of the patron saint of the cdth Kevin Durant. Jayson Tatum also comes to mind. So do Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram; Mikal Bridges and Miles Bridges; Pascal Siakam and John Collins.
More traditional, taller fours like Evan Mobley are certainly still in high demand. But players who had formerly been dismissed as “tweeners” back in the day have found their calling in today’s league: think Grant Williams, Julius Randle, Lugentz Dort, Terance Mann and others.
The league has adapted, suddenly and completely. And so have the needed skill sets to play in the frontcourt. So, this year’s group of prospects runs the gamut, and will be populated throughout the first round of the June 23 draft.
What this compilation is not, though, is a mock draft. It is my annual cross-section of opinions from people who I’ve come to trust over the decades — people who tell the truth. Sometimes, a harsh truth. But they give that in exchange for obviously desired relative anonymity. It’s been a fair exchange over the years: unvarnished opinions of strengths and weaknesses, comps, how college teams tried to defend them, how they project at the next level – and, when it can be fairly determined, the makeup of a young man. Are they coachable? Do they blend in with their teams, whether they were the obvious, lone star, or part of a collective of future first-rounders on a Power 6 team?
We started with the guards last week; we’ll finish with the bigs next week, just before draft night.
Paolo and Jabari
Picking between Jabari Smith Jr., the 6-10, smooth shooting (42 percent on 3s) 19-year-old forward from Auburn, and Paolo Banchero, Duke’s do-everything freshman who lived up to his substantial hype coming to Durham, obviously is a matter of both preference and existing team roster construction. The two freshmen phenoms are their own two-man tier, at the top of the draft. Either, along with Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, could go first. Neither Smith nor Banchero will be there after three, when Houston picks, following Orlando at one and Oklahoma City at two. Each is a foundational player, though both have vastly different skill sets. But they’re elite, the kind of players around which franchises can soar.
USA Basketball Member: Jabari came out of nowhere. He literally showed up to camp when we picked the team. He had never been invited to the three previous minicamps. That was his first USA experience, the camp in Florida when we were picking the team. That never goes well. Everyone’s first experience, it’s always the ball’s different, the rules are different, the other guys have been here before, so I’ve got to kind of find my way. He didn’t have that. He’s one of the few guys in that setting I didn’t see struggle the first time through. He dominated the first time. That camp was the first time NBA scouts were allowed to come to our training camps for the younger teams. So this is 16 and under, in 2019. Just so happens, Jabari Smith is there, and he killed it. Any scout who watched us for the two days had Jabari in the top two or three guys there. They started their file on him in May of 2019, and three years later, he’s done what he’s needed to do.
He wasn’t like this physically dominant dude. But he made shots. He could handle the ball. He could pass the ball. You could see the other parts that he didn’t have because he wasn’t strong enough, but you could see it was there. His body had to get there. He could move his feet, so you knew he’d be able to switch stuff. He was really good. And you could see how good he was going to be. This long, lanky kid that came in. He could shoot the ball, he could create for himself. It’s just going to be, is he strong enough? It’s going to be physical. But he’s so good. His length allows him to shoot over people.
It looks like, watching Auburn, he’s gotten a lot stronger. His body is starting to fill out. He’s still not where he’s going to be. If I’m playing the Celtics, you’re either going to put Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum on him. He’s got to be able to take the physicality that comes along with that. And now, you’re not always going to be able to use your length to shoot over people; you’ve got to create some space to shoot over people. He’s got the skill set to do it. It’s just, is he going to have the strength to do it? Eventually, he will.
Eastern Conference executive 1: If you asked me that question early in the year, when (Duke) played at the Garden, I would have said Banchero. Now, what you see from Banchero now, he’s about 85 percent of the player he’s going to be. Fine-tune some things, improve the jump shot. But the other kid (Smith) has all of the upside. He reminds me of, in how he plays, and his makeup, Rashard Lewis. Rashard may have had a nasty streak, but he didn’t always play with it. What’s missing with Smith when I went to see him, you’d like to see a guy with an attitude, who’s that skilled, of I’m going to get it. He deferred fairly quickly, when he didn’t have to.
Western Conference executive 1: Arguably probably as good, if not the best, long-range, 3-point shooting prospects with size to come along in a while. Off the top of my head, I’m hard-pressed to come up with someone better. Really can stretch the floor and could be quite a weapon on the right team. He’s not a self-creator. Not a guy you give the ball, and the clock runs down, can get his own. Maybe that comes in time, maybe it doesn’t. But he’s still going to be a big-time player even without that.
Got better on the boards, though I wouldn’t consider him a rebounding machine. He’s growing into his body. It’s sort of a lean and supple one, that’s going to put a lot of weight and strength on. You can see that coming. Good with mobility. Not a big-time shot blocker, but he does move his feet well. Has the potential to be OK guarding out on the floor once he learns the nuances of pick-and-roll, which is a big part of the evaluation of big men these days. And that’s why so many of them fall short. I think he’ll be a harder big man than most to play off the floor during the playoffs. I look for him to be a hell of an outside shooter in the league. Can run the floor on the break. You get it to him; he can dunk in traffic. He can drive a closeout straight line; he’s just not a guy with a whole bunch of wiggle, doing a lot of creating and making a play there. He deserves serious consideration for the first-overall pick.
Going into his senior year of high school, he was a top-10 pick. They knew that. But I don’t think everybody had him where he is today. I (initially compared him with) LaMarcus Aldridge as far as a big guy who’s a jump shooter first, but Rashard (Lewis) is what I really had. But this guy, when he’s on, man, midrange, he doesn’t create his shots, but he gets off the dribble in a real fancy package. He can get, in various ways, where he needs to be with the shot. His size and length is so big, he’s almost always shooting over the top, very clear shooting vision. He’s very hard to alter that shot. He was kind of a non-rebounder at the start of the year, and he got better.
College Assistant Coach 1 (his team played Duke): He was my favorite player in high school. I thought it was a joke he had to go to college. He does everything. Sometimes he settles too much on shooting the jumper, but he’s capable of putting it on the floor, shooting it. He’ll post you. I was in love with him when he was a sophomore at NBA camp. And now he’s all of 6-10 now. I think he’s a stud. He’ll be a longtime pro. He should have gone right out of high school. And he’s young. He’s a physical presence. And I used to get mad watching him on film, and I’m glad he didn’t take advantage of us when we played him. He can impose his size. He is not a small kid. He should dominate — all right, I’m going to the cup. And at times, I think he doesn’t realize how imposing he is. … he’s 6-10, 235, whatever he weighs. He’s solid. I thought he settled at times. I thought that was a little more of the maturation.
He has to figure out, I’ve got the body, I can get where I want to go. He’s not overly shifty with the bounce, but he’s got enough ball skill that if he can get you on his hip or shoulder to get by you, you’re dead. You’re in jail. I think that will get better. I think people are going to be surprised at his ball skills. The game’s positionless, but he’s probably more four/three. He’ll shoot at that level, he’ll shoot more catch-and-shoot, open shots. There are different types of 3s he’ll have to take and make. He’s shooting stepback (in college), they were just different. They weren’t always just the catch-and-shoot variety. He tried (defensively). And I think he can be better at that. I don’t think he was a zero defensively. Where he can make his money at the next level is rebounding and pushing, where he can start the break, he can get it off the defensive glass and go. He’ll be really good at that. He’s good, man. I know at Duke they had to get other guys on the floor and keep everybody happy. But he absolutely could have played more on the perimeter. He don’t mind being a five sometimes. I just loved his whole demeanor — just put me out there. I’m going to play.
Western Conference executive 1: He has a deeper offensive tool kit (than the other top prospects) in that he’s not a great shooter, but he can make shots. He’s a better playmaker than the other two, for others. In the half court, he’s more of a self-creator, setting up the jumper, and particularly the drive, drive and dish. Has really great passing instincts, throws some very impressive passes. And the thing that makes it unique is, I have no idea whether he’s 6-9 or 6-10, he’s what, in the 250 range? He packs a wallop with the body. He doesn’t have to come into the NBA and build a body, just tone it up some. He’s going to come in and be able to, with strength and width, to get some things done off the move and off the dribble. In the lane, he can finish through contact, play on the break, just has a very advanced feel for the game at, what, 6-10, 250? That’s pretty good.
I thought he handled what his role was at Duke well, which was to be the top guy. Look at the success of the team. Very young team, got to the Final Four, had to play with a lot of pressure down the stretch, with the whole Mike Krzyzewski Victory Tour, farewell tour, and handled it with no hiccups. … He has enough passing talent that, if he was a smaller player, without that body, he would still have very good passing (skills). He’ll rebound his position. It’s going to be defense — not so much from a physical standpoint, but just chasing guys his size out on the perimeter, being locked in off the ball. And how good a 3-point shooter is he going to become? If he gets up to the league average, he doesn’t have to become Steph Curry. He just gets up to the league average, with his body and ability to handle and pass off the move, and finish in traffic, it opens an awful lot up.
Nestled just behind Smith and Banchero, and likely to go anywhere between No. 4 and No. 8, is Iowa’s Keegan Murray, the consensus first-team All-America selection who led the Big Ten in scoring (23.5 per game) and was third in rebounds (8.7), while leading the nation in PER (37.8) last season. There may not be a better plug-and-play guy in the top half of the draft than the 21-year-old sophomore.
College head coach (his team played Iowa): Oh my gosh, he was incredible. Watching games all year, my favorite guy was (Purdue guard Jalen) Ivey. I loved him. But I was really impressed with Murray. He sprinted the court. He had an amazing motor. And he’s way bigger than you’d suspect. He’s one of those guys that you just know is an NBA player, the way he moves. Obviously, he shoots the ball really well. The biggest thing I loved about him is some of those guys that glide around the way he does aren’t very physical. It’s more about the skills than it is the physicality. And he sprinted down the court, getting position really quickly. And you have to be willing to use your body to do that. And I thought he was excellent at it. And obviously, he’s got the skill to go along with that. … there’s an upside there. To improve as drastically as he did over the course of three years from high school is pretty incredible.
College assistant coach 2 (his team played Iowa this season): Murray’s elite. He didn’t play well in the NCAA Tournament. He played tired, a little bit soft, was always short on his shots. But he was so, so good the second half of the season and during the Big Ten Tournament. He can make 3s. He’s got great length. Golden State was at every Big Ten Tournament game — (general manager) Bob Myers, (assistant general managers) Larry Harris and Mike Dunleavy. I think they were salivating over him. He obviously won’t be there when they pick. He’s a four man that can put it on the floor, I think guard his position, very good on the boards. His shooting touch is very, very good. Great arc on his shot. The improvement he showed from his freshman year to his sophomore was one of the best in a long, long time — him and (Wisconsin guard) Johnny Davis. Neither one started. They averaged about six points a game. They were over 20 (this year).
College assistant coach 3 (his team also played Iowa): Offensively, he’s like what Shane Battier was probably coming out of college. And I say that from the standpoint that his motor runs high, he’s always moving, and I think he has the ability to score without doing a lot. Somebody passes him the ball, I’m open, I shoot it. You pass it, I shot fake, one dribble, and get to the rim. His efficiency, he would be great with, like, Golden State, because Iowa plays like that — that motion, that movement. They didn’t run a lot of plays. A lot of his stuff was read and react, and he did a tremendous job of doing that.
That superstar’s ability to take it to the next level? I don’t know if he has that yet. He don’t put it down like that. I would liken him to, where he would start, if he could ever develop some of the ballhandling and the movement that (Khris) Middleton has, I think that’s the best he would be. Because he’s efficient … he rim runs, he posts up. … my man isn’t really going to be changing direction and all that — I’m going straight line, I might spin one time. And the other thing I think he does better than like a Harrison Barnes is, he rebounds it. He’ll go rebound on a consistent basis. Not going to get you 12 one night and like six the next; he’s going to get like eight, nine, seven, in that range. That’s where I’m going to be.
Eastern Conference executive 1: Top five based on his ability to score, very efficient. I think he probably is the guy, we met with him in Chicago, and I’m sure as he goes around and works out and in interviews, people will see that he’s a good fit.
The next tier has two college freshmen: Duke’s AJ Griffin and Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan, both likely gone by the end of the lottery. (Point of professional privilege: Sochan may be my favorite guy in the draft — not just player, but guy. You do root for certain guys.) Griffin’s father, Adrian Griffin, was a longtime wing who’s become one of the NBA’s top assistant coaches and potential head coaches in the next few years. Sochan’s a self-described “man of the world” who was born in Oklahoma, where his parents played for the men’s and women’s team at Division II Panhandle State. But he grew up in England and played for his mother’s native Polish national team before emigrating to the States, where he played in high school and at Baylor.
College Assistant Coach 4 (his team played Duke): I had the Duke scout. The first time we played Duke, AJ had not played a lot. Unless you know who he is, he’s barely on the scouting report. And I told them, ‘I’m telling you he’s played well. We have to be ready to guard him. He’s an X-factor. If he gets it going, we don’t have a shot.’ People were likely, really? And he played great against us in the first game, and everybody was like ‘yo, you were right.’
USA Basketball member: He’s quiet. He’s to himself. He enjoys being around his teammates when he is, but he’s not that partier. In Brazil, he was really quiet and to himself. And he actually got us going. We were, this was the very first year, we were following behind Coach (Don) Showalter. Coach Showalter had coached 10 years, won 10 gold medals, never lost a game. I remember the pressure that came with that. In our very first game, we are getting crushed. It’s an exhibition game. We’re literally losing like 22-5. We’re getting blown out.
Aj gets the ball off the rim and drives coast to coast and dunks on three players. It changed everything for us. We’re USA; that’s what we’re supposed to do; that’s how we’re supposed to play. And we wound up winning by 20. That play changed everything for us in terms of our mentality. I don’t know if he ever really got credit for that. In the gold medal game against Canada, we’re playing against Caleb Houstan, Shaedon Sharpe, Zeb Jackson. They had some dudes. AJ goes in the game and guards Caleb Houstan, and Caleb Houstan can’t score. AJ just says he’s not scoring. He’s blocking, he’s cutting him off trying to drive, he blocks his shot. He literally sucked all the confidence out of Caleb Houstan. And at that point, Caleb Houstan was the leading scorer in FIBA, was probably going to be MVP whether they won or not. AJ just shut that all the way down. I think he has that ability too. His level of play will meet whatever level he’s playing (against). At Duke, he raised his level to that level. In the NBA, he’ll raise his level. If he becomes a rotation guy, he’ll raise his game to that level. If he becomes a starter, he’ll raise his game to that level.
Eastern Conference executive 1: I think he can shoot the ball a little bit. I worry about his body, personally. I’ve watched him move. I look at his, his heavily wrapped up knees and all that. He doesn’t move like a quick-twitch guy. He’s got a nice body; he’s got length. The two times I saw him live this year, he never played well in the games I was at. I saw him on television, and he had a good string of games. I’m personally not ready to say he’s this can’t miss guy. Are you banking on he’s Adrian’s son, and Adrian’s pumped some good knowledge into him? And being around a good program, that can be helpful. I think it’s about fit with him. If you can get him around some other good players and athletes where he can make shots and become a defender — I don’t want to just call him 3-and-D, per se — but can he become that? I guess I could see a role in that. But personally, I don’t see a dynamic player.
College Head Coach 1 (his team played Baylor): Played under the radar. Really, really high skill level. Can shoot and has great size for his position. Can defend multiple spots on the floor. Really understands how to cut. Rebounds it well. Not an iso-featured guy in the league, but certainly a guy you can plug and play immediately and feel like it’s going to take three or four years for this guy to develop. He’s going to help a team now. He certainly wasn’t afraid to take open 3s. But he didn’t settle for a ton of 3s. because he knew he was certainly capable of getting to the basket, and at this level, finishing against some of the size or lack thereof in the college game — not going up against real rim protectors like Clint Capela or guys that are more difficult. I think he can get there. It depends on how hard he works and how much he invests in his own game the next six months or so. He’s got some toughness. There are some outliers like Joel Embiid, but no one can guard him, right? But most of the fives in the league are perimeter guys. I think he’ll be fine against most of the more skilled perimeter fives. And he’ll get stronger. He’s a young kid. He’s got a lot of room to grow from a maturity and probably a physical standpoint. … He was a pleasure after games, very respectful. He plays hard, competes hard, wants to win.
College Assistant Coach 5 (his team also played Baylor): Sochan’s probably going to be better two years from now. So will (fellow Baylor forward Kendall) Brown. They’re very similar. Sochan’s a better jump shooter, probably a better offensive player. They’re both athletic. Brown might be more athletic. Obviously in the NBA, they go on potential, and I think both of them, two, three years down the road are going to be better players than they are now. I think both of them would be better with another year of college, because they’d both get reps. But they’re both pros. They both are good. I don’t know if they’re good enough to step up and play consistent minutes in the league now at the three spot.
Western Conference Executive 1: Tremendous defensive versatility. You can make a case for him guarding all three frontcourt positions. Switchability should be there, which is a key factor with the big guys today. To me, (he’s) more of a defense/athlete/energy/versatility guy first, more than offense right now. But the offense can come. It’ll be very 3-point shooting dependent. I don’t see him being a great self-creator, a go-to scorer at any time. But he can be a secondary scorer who’s a primary defender, with size and mobility. He’s coming from an international background. I think he’s going to end up being a lottery pick. He’s a modern player in that sense, except for the shooting versatility and size, what you’re looking for.
Jeremy Sochan works against the Kansas defense. (Chris Jones / USA Today)
First-round grades … but when and where?
The next tier of wings includes LSU sophomore Tari Eason; 19-year-old Ousmane Dieng, who played for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this past season; Santa Clara junior Jalen Williams; 19-year-old Serbian Nikola Jović, who played for KK Mega Basket in the Adriatic League, one of the best pro leagues in the world, and who was voted the ABA’s Top Prospect this past season; Ohio State junior EJ Liddell; and 6-6 swingman MarJon Beauchamp, who was mentored early in his career by longtime NBA star guard Jamal Crawford before playing this past season for G League Ignite.
College Assistant Coach 6 (his team played LSU): High ceiling. Shooting can get better. Can score around the basket. Can make plays. Really long too. They did a lot of switching defensively, so I don’t know how well he defends. But I think he has a chance to be a good defender as well. With them, it was hard to tell, because they played like a lazy, switching defense. We just switch and try to keep you in front. It was hard to get a read on who could play defense for them and who couldn’t. He scores around that basket well. He can palm the ball and move it around. He’s got a nice midrange shot. He’s going to improve his 3. Just concentrate on his game. Handles are coming along.
College Assistant Coach 7: He picks up the ball up off the ground like it was a tennis ball. That’s what helps his finish so well out there; he’s got those huge hands. That reminds me of Kawhi Leonard a little bit, with that frame. A little taller, but that same frame, can handle the ball.
Eastern Conference Executive 2: Eason is going to be a defensive specialist early on. … Shot isn’t great, but that can be fixed in time.
Western Conference Executive 1: Dieng did not play well early in the year. That’s probably an understatement. So you can look at him as half full or half empty. He was coming from lower-level France to the Australian League … It’s a man’s league. The team that won it this year, Sydney, R.C. Buford’s son (Chase) coached. The roster is littered with guys who’ve had NBA associations, American players that are three, four years out of college. So he’s adjusting to living real far away from home, New Zealand, and a huge jump in class. And his team wasn’t very good. So all that’s going on. His overall numbers are not impressive, but if you look at the last 10 games or so, 11 games in snippets, he did some real good things. He’s big. He’s got a good feel for the game. He’s got mobility. He can handle the ball. The shooting numbers aren’t all that impressive, but he’ll go on some tears in games. He’s all finesse right now, lacks physicality. He’s going to have to transform his body. But for a big guy, there’s a handle, a feel, and when you see him at his best, can score.
College Head Coach 2 (his team played Santa Clara): Really good at the pick-and-roll. Able to work the lead lob play if you step up on him. If you go under, he can step up and make the shot. We had to change the way we played screen/roll two or three times in the game, he was so effective at it. High basketball IQ. When he came in as a freshman, he would always guard the other team’s best perimeter player. And that really impressed me.
Western Conference Executive 2: He’s OK. In most drafts, he’s a late first. Maybe he sneaks into the late first, but this year’s class lacks high-end talent to begin with.
Eastern Conference Executive 2: Jović could evolve only (into) a nice role player.
Western Conference Executive 1: Young kids from the Balkans, they get in that Adriatic League, they get a lot of playing time. As you would expect for a European big man, he’s skilled. Not a great shooter now, but he’s good, and he’ll get better. He’s got passing skill. He’s got good feet and overall mobility. Another guy (where) strength and the defensive end will be a challenge early on. But you’ve got size, feel and someone who should end up being a pretty good shooter. So I think that takes him — this is a broad range — he goes in the first 20 picks somewhere. I’d be surprised to see him get to the second round.
College Assistant Coach 3 (his team played Ohio State): EJ’s a dog. He can be like the P.J. Tucker, that Draymond Green type. He’s only 6-5, 6-6. He’s built like a tank, like a linebacker. Those calves and legs are like tree trunks. He’s a man. And every year, I can say he’s gotten better. He’s added something to his game every single year, even now to the point where he can defend on the perimeter. He’s an interior guy, a five man. In a perfect world, people don’t realize that Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler were five men in college. If you can make spot-up 3s and just go and rebound and be nasty guarding people, that’s how he’s got to try and make it and stick long term. If you want to be a superstar in a role, when I compare him to those guys, that’s like the superstar role for them, if they can fill it.
Western Conference Executive 3: Straight wing. We have him in the early 20s, with the Kendall Browns, Peyton Watsons.
G League Coach (his team played Ignite): Early in the year, he was the guy that their staff was highest about. Great work ethic. Probably the best athlete (on the team) Certainly has the length and the dimensions to be a really good defender. As the year went on … you started to see a little, the word ‘quit’ might be hard, but in horse racing terms, he spit the bit a little bit. He didn’t want to compete. Which surprised me. In talking to (the Ignite staff) earlier, they were like, this guy’s got the goods. He’s athletic, has the length, gets in the gym earlier than everybody else, works his butt off. But at the end of the year, he pulled up a little bit. He didn’t show the toughness and the grit that they saw (earlier). … I lean toward the idea that, physically, he just got worn out. Because it’s a long year for these guys, coming from high school into a professional setting. Even though they play somewhat of an abbreviated schedule, it’s still a grind. You’re playing against men for the first time in your life.
He bounced around from Yakima, junior college, bounced around a little in high school. I think someone will take a chance on him in the 20s. The fact that he’s so raw, people will look at him say ‘let’s take a chance on him.’ Because you get to that point in the draft, and there’s nobody that’s an immediate plug and play guy, you may go ‘hey, let’s take this kid, he’s got potential.’ And a nice kid by all reports. (The rebounds) show me there’s a level of toughness there.
MarJon Beauchamp elevates for a layup against the Stockton Kings. (Darren Yamashita / USA Today)
Late first, early second? Depends
It only takes one team to love you, and the next tier of wing prospects will need one to be chosen late first round. Most could go early in the second round too. They include Baylor’s freshman Kendall Brown, who’s raw but has significant upside; Kansas junior Christian Braun; Michigan’s Caleb Houstan, a five-star recruit from Canada entering the draft after one season in Ann Arbor; Wisconsin-Milwaukee freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr.; Wake Forest junior Jake LaRavia; and UCLA freshman Peyton Watson.
College Head Coach 1 (his team played Baylor): Not as skilled (as Sochan), but he’s like a much better athlete. He’s like a freak. I would imagine his testing numbers are in the higher end of all the picks that are available. Doesn’t have a defined skill. He’s a good kid. He was in the USA trials last summer as well with Jabari (Smith). Thought he has a chance immediately to impact a game defensively. He can switch, he’s strong. But offensively, I wonder where he fits right now. He gives me a feel of like a Zhaire Smith. Picked high (16th in 2018). He does some stuff. Can jump and touch damn near the top of the square. But how does it translate into an actual game, offensively? You know who was like him coming out of college? Zach LaVine. I don’t know if he’s that, but he’s not far away athletically. Zach’s learned how to play, and that’s the reason it’s worked out a little better in Chicago. But (Brown’s) athleticism jumps off the page.
Western Conference Executive 3: His size, his offensive skill set and his ability to shoot, even though he didn’t shoot it great at Michigan this year, he has in the past at many other events. So, he has that to hang his hat on. … I saw Caleb at USAB events. There’s no reason why he could not (shoot better on 3s in the NBA). He has size, and he knows how to play. I don’t think he’s going to get worse, because he’s going to be playing with and around better players to get him even better shots.
College Head Coach 1 (his team played Kansas): The thing about him you appreciate is that every year he’s gotten incrementally better, made significant progress in his game. And he’s really, really competitive. More athletic than people probably give him credit for. We always worried about him just as much as Ochai (Agbaji, Kansas’ star guard), because we knew our guys would be locked on trying to stop Ochai, but maybe not as in tune to Christian. And he was more than capable. He can shoot it. Really good size for his position. He’s smart. He understands how to accept a role on a team. I think he’s going to have a chance to have a good career here, because he’s got some of those intangible things that really translate.
They play a lot of DHO (dribble handoff) offense in general, and he was a big, big part of it, more so than in his first two years, because so much attention was given to Ochai. Credit to Ochai. He embraced that, allowing his good friend and teammate to shine. A lot of DHOs, they played in transition incredibly well. That’s probably the best thing they did. They played with pace offensively, which gave them an opportunity to have some easier looks before the defense got set. He’s not an isolation player at all, but he’s a guy that can come off of screens, make good reads. He’s got a pretty good feel of when to get off of it and space the floor. He wasn’t a guy who we said ‘man, you’ve got to be careful when he’s guarding you.’ But, he certainly was capable (defensively), and that’s where his competitiveness kicked in. He understood his limitations, and he played within those. He didn’t gamble a lot. He wasn’t a guy who was trying to pressure guys all over the floor. He played good, positional defense. He’s a capable defender because he’s got good athleticism. He’s an intelligent kid who really understands who he is and plays to his strengths.
College Assistant Coach 8 (his team played Wisconsin-Milwaukee): He’s a capable shooter, but his feet have to be set. Coming off a ball screen, as far as offensively, he is active without the ball. He’s a smart player. You can tell he’s a coach’s kid. He knows when to cut and not to cut. You turn your head, he’ll go backdoor. He doesn’t get to the rim going left at all; he’s pulling up if he’s going left. If he’s going right, he can get to the rim. If he goes left, he’s trying to get to a one-dribble pullup. He’s 6-9, so he can shoot over the top of guys that are guarding him. He’s like a get-to-his-spot type of guy. Off ball screens, he’s not bad. He’ll come off of ball screens and turn them into post-ups. Coming off, he’ll get a switch and just turn his back and post up. He’s actually pretty good at that, which I think translates to the next level. … He doesn’t shoot it well, which I think is really, really going to hurt him. He’s going to have to become a more consistent, just spot-up shooter in general. I don’t think he’s a 3-and-D at all. Those guys are valuable, and I think that’s probably what he’s going to have to be at some point, and I don’t think he is yet. He has to get bigger and stronger, but he is young. They have him listed at 220; there’s no way. I think he’s probably closer to 205, 210, unless he’s put weight on since the season. He’s not thin, but he doesn’t resemble those NBA guys. His biggest thing is he’s a smart player.
Defensively, we were going to attack him. We didn’t think he was great laterally. They played some zone, played some man, they did some different things. And part of it was, I think, he wasn’t interested in being there that much. They weren’t very good. He was playing for his dad. He was susceptible to quicker guys, so we were going to put him in some pick-and-roll situations. He will rebound. He’s a capable and willing rebounder. I think it’s because he’s trying to rebound and push the ball up the floor. He’s one of those guys where it’s like, if I can get the ball off a rebound, I can go. He’s not a shot blocker. I do think he has the ability to guard guys that are bigger than him, because he’s strong and he’s wiry. My worry about him at the next level would be guarding pick and rolls. If he switches onto wings, I don’t think he can do it. … He’s not like a tremendous lateral athlete to me. … he’s going to have to prove he can guard.
College Assistant Coach 1 (his team played Wake Forest): Some people like him more than me. I like him. I’m not in love with him. But he’s a confident, hard-playing, can shoot the ball wing. … He’s got some stuff to him. He’s got a little shit to him. He’s confident in who he is. We tried to get him out of Indiana State, and he kind of big-timed us, was like, no, I’m gonna go somewhere where I can get off. But he’s good. I don’t see him as a first-round guy. He’s confident without the cockiness, if that makes sense, which I think you have to be to make it to that level. And you’ve got to have damn near a little bit arrogance. You’ve got to be borderline, people can’t stand you.
Western Conference Executive 3: Long as the day, and athletic as heck. He looks the part and then some. … When Peyton had the opportunity to play, he had those ‘aha!’ moments. And you’re like, you see that in an NBA game. … his ability to play four positions, his ability to defend four positions. He looks like a gazelle when he runs the floor, and when he finishes, his armpit is above the rim. And he’s 19 years old. And there were moments, and they weren’t all the time, when he made a move or shot a 3 or made a move and pulled up or he got all the way to the rim, and his waist was at everybody’s head. And you’re like, what will this kid look like after he puts on 15 to 20 pounds of muscle? His athleticism isn’t going to get any worse. That’s an NBA wing. And in some cases, if those guys really take off, they’re starters.
Longtime NBA Executive: Watson has the potential to develop into a solid player. Framework and physical gifts are there along with talent level. The long-term upside is there but his actual game impacts were limited.
Best of the Rest
One-liners (or more) on several second-round possibilities, including NC State’s Dereon Seabron; Colorado State’s David Roddy; Ignite’s Michael Foster; Marquette’s Justin Lewis; Memphis’ Josh Minott and Connecticut’s Tyrese Martin.
College Assistant Coach 1 (his team played NC State): He can’t shoot. He cannot shoot a gun. But I love him. He can get downhill, I’m talking open floor, transition. I think he’s really good pushing the pace, getting downhill, attacking the rim, can finish either hand. He just can’t shoot. I don’t think the jumper’s broken. But he doesn’t take many and he’s not confident in it. Part of that is he can get wherever he wants to on the floor, and he doesn’t have to settle for the jumper. But at the next level, he’ll have to take and make some open ones. But he’s really good with the ball in his hands. … He’s probably more point guard at that size, ’cause he’s good in pick-and-rolls. He’s not a shooting guard, ’cause he just doesn’t shoot it. I think he’s more, surprisingly, like a big point guard.
College Head Coach 3 (his team played Colorado State): I actually love him. I didn’t love playing against him. … I just thought he had a good way about him. He’s got a tremendous body, first off. He’s got really good size, he’s got really good strength, he’s got really good feet. His feet are excellent. He can shoot the ball. He’s a confident shooter. He can demand a double, and at our level, on the block — if you wait until the block (to body him), it’s too late. He’s going to overpower you and score. You get outside that area, and he can make skilled plays to get shots off.
He was big in important moments throughout the season. When they needed a basket or need someone to make a really big play, he was right there and not afraid to do it. And defensively, sometimes these kind of guys, they don’t do it at the other end. I felt like he was committed on the defensive end to really try to guard and impact the game at that end as well. I feel like he’ll get drafted. You never know who else is out there. … A Grant Williams-type player. A similar kind of player. Has a big body but is more bouncy than you would expect. Can shoot it. And Grant had to work his way into that. Roddy seems to have a pretty natural J. I certainly think he can play at that level. Will he be a star? I don’t know about that.
They would screen him to his spot to get a catch. They run good offense — you know, five out type of offense. Pick-and-pops, he’s good at. It wasn’t like they just force-fed him. They had other players; they were a pretty well-balanced team. So the other guys made him better too. They would screen to get him the ball at certain spots, whether it’s that middle of the court, the elbows, or whether it’s the mid-post area. We did not want him shooting 3s. That was one of our things. You’re going to have to dribble to shoot. We started switching, which was pretty effective. … To me, he’s going to be P.J. Tucker, Grant Williams, he’s got to be that kind of guy — they’re going to space the court, but they can also put it down a little bit. But they’re not going to be the main guy doing that. Which I think will be good for him. I think he’ll fit that well.
David Roddy works in the paint against Utah State. (Rob Gray / USA Today)
Eastern Conference Executive 3: He rebounds, and he plays hard. He probably shot it a little too much last year, but he was trying to show people that he could shoot.
G League Coach (his team played Ignite): Undersized five. I wasn’t sure if he was good enough, the way the game is now. He’s going to have to become a better facilitator. What he did best in our game won’t translate as much in the NBA game. He wasn’t afraid. But he doesn’t shoot the ball well from 3, and he’s just an old-school five. The best thing he’s got going for him is he’s tough as hell. He’s not going to back down from physical confrontation. And he’s young.
College Assistant Coach 9 (his team played Marquette): Absolute nightmare for us. … He was a nightmare. He was. He kicked our ass every time we played him. He’s tough, he’s 6-7. And this year, he improved his perimeter game. His freshman year he was mostly playing inside. Then he expanded his game, he started making 3s, he can go off the bounce, he’s explosive. He’s got long arms. I don’t know anything about his DNA, work ethic, what kind of kid is he? I don’t know any of that. But as a player, he’s a pretty talented kid. In today’s game, watching the NBA, yeah, he’s pretty good. Like him a lot. He was physical (defensively), he moved his feet. They played him at the four, so it’s not like he was guarding athletic wing guys or anything like that. But he tried. He competes.
College Head Coach 4 (his team played Memphis): Unique. Unique. Was a baby. … This kid was really active. For me, he didn’t really pass the eye in terms of high energy and motor, but he got stuff done. He was just long, he was athletic. He was relentless getting to the glass. He’s a good player. If he stayed in college another year, really hit the weights, really lock in on getting better. He’s a clear top-10 pick (in 2023). He passed the look of a prototypical NBA player now — everybody’s just long. I thought their most talented guys didn’t touch the ball enough, him being one. He didn’t start because they had older guys. … I can’t say he did one particular thing well. I can’t say he shot it well. I can’t say he was a force, being able to go get his shot. But he did it for them when they needed it. He got a key rebound. He got a key shot. He got a key block. He’s going to have to identify what his role is if he plans on being in the NBA for a long time. … for me, right now, I think he’s more of an energy guy, more of a defensive presence, like a (Mikal) Bridges. He doesn’t shoot it as well, but they’re comfortable with putting him on the top offensive players, with his length. I think if (Minott) can carve out a role like that, his offense will catch up with him later on.
College Assistant Coach 9 (his team played UConn): Legitimate wing player. Strong. Doesn’t shoot it great from 3. He’ll make a couple — enough to keep you occupied. But he’s strong, though, he’s explosive. Reminds me a little bit of like Josh Hart. But I think he rebounds really good for his position. Not overly skilled with the ball; more of a straight-line guy. We played off of him a little bit, arm’s length, because he’s going to bring it to you. But he’s really physical, really finishes around the rim. But I didn’t think he had the perimeter skills to be a no-brainer at the next level. But he’s tough. He can defend. He’s a really good college player.
不同球员的用词还是有很大差异的。有些人主要用very good，really great，very impressive，来形容，有些人则可以用到incredible，amazing，elite等词汇。