Thanks to Tony Bennett, the NBA Draft is a lot more interesting than it used to be from a Virginia fan’s perspective. From 1997 to when CTB took over in 2009, Virginia basketball saw two guys — Roger Mason (2000 second round, pick 31) and Sean Singletary (2009 second round, pick 42) — selected. During the Bennett era, we’ve already seen more guys drafted (Mike Scott, Joe Harris, and Justin Anderson), with Justin even landing in the prime time first round before things descend into tedium and two carving out niches for themselves in the League (assuming Mike resolves his legal issues). People can talk all they want about how our style of play detracts from development (and they will so long as we’re still good and Twitter is still a place to go scream nonsense into the void), but the best rebuttal for those claims is to keep rolling prepared, coachable young men off of the assembly line and into the NBA.
2016 almost guarantees us another draftee, as Malcolm Brogdon has been widely lauded as the winner of the pre-draft interview process and has fascinated teams with his ability to defend three perimeter spots (and switch onto some fours), hit corner threes, and create for his teammates. He frequently comes up as someone who *could* sneak into the first round, but I’ve yet to see a mock draft with the balls to forecast him there. I have seen three mocks from reputable sources, and all have Malc going in the first half of the second round. While I’m OK with that from the perspective that the second round offers some financial freedoms, it worries me because a.) a second rounder needs to prove themselves just a little bit more than a first, who is expected to automatically make a team and contribute, and b.) because the top of the second round is littered with bad teams and potential minefields where a guy can get lost, whereas I think a guy like Malc — 23 years old, mature, fully rounded as a player — fits best on a veteran team with a system in place.
Here’re the projections:
1.) DraftExpress: 44th to Atlanta.
On the court, I like this a lot. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is a disciple of Gregg Popovich, and brought a lot of the movement-heavy, pretty Spurs offense east with him when he arrived. The Hawks are facing the offseason free agency of Al Horford and Kent Bazemore, and a guy like Malc who fits in schematically and will arrive cost controlled for a few years seems like a natural choice. The Hawks weren’t the same without Demarre Carroll this season, and Malc and Carroll fill a very similar bill in today’s NBA.
Off the court, Malc’s a good fit anywhere, I just hope he never catches a ride to Virginia with the Scott brothers.
2.) CBS: 40th (Sam Vecenie) and 39th (Gary Parrish) to New Orleans.
New Orleans was an object disaster this past season, as they struggled to adjust to Alvin Gentry’s uptempo system with a roster ill-suited to run and then saw even those attempts torpedoed by injuries to practically everyone important. They return Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter and are almost definitely going to grab a guard in the lottery, but Malcolm could conceivably help steady a second unit that’s been one of the worst in basketball in recent seasons. I don’t like this as much as I do Atlanta, but I don’t dislike it. Malcolm fits into what Gentry is trying to do, and potentially offers a similar skill set to what they’re pursuing in Jared Dudley at a far cheaper price (albeit with less professional success and a less proven jumper, but I don’t claim to be unbiased).
3.) NBADraft.net: 33rd to the LA Clippers.
Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Wesley Johnson are all unsigned for next season and Paul Pierce could possibly retire after appearing to partially disintegrate during this past season. If they all leave, it means the Clips’ roster is basically wide open after Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick, and that there’s conceivably playing time to be found for a young player with a veteran mindset like Malcolm.
I’m excited for Malc’s next step. I think he enters the league with an exemplary skill (his perimeter defense) at an opportune time following a Finals where the value of a player that can switch from smalls to smaller bigs without missing a beat (Andre Iguodala, for example) was shown to be higher than ever. He’ll probably go in the second round, but I don’t see a tough acclimation period for him. More soon.