Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NBA GM: ‘You could almost cover the lottery by seeing Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas & Kentucky’
NBA GMs and scouts will be flocking to see a handful of loaded college teams during the 2013-14 season.
Kentucky and Kansas games figure to be heavily populated by NBA scouts, with several other schools also getting major attention.
“You could almost cover the [bleepin] lottery if in the preseason you go to Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas Kentucky,” one Western Conference NBA GM told SNY.tv. “I mean you basically almost got the lottery covered.”
Well, maybe not quite, but seven of the projected first 14 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft according to DraftExpress.com are currently at three of those four schools.
Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins is No. 1, Kentucky’s Julius Randle is No. 2, Kansas’ Joel Embiid is No. 6, Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison is No. 8, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson is No. 12, Michigan’s Mitch McGary is No. 13 and Kansas’ Wayne Selden is No. 14.
Just for good measure, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein also chimes in at No. 16, Michigan State’s Gary Harris at No. 17, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne at No. 26 and Kentucky’s Alex Poythress at No. 28.
In fairness to Duke, they also have Jabari Parker at No. 7 and Rasheed Sulaimon at No. 27.
“Out of that top 10, you’re going to have a couple guys that are All-Stars,” the NBA GM said. “You’re going to have a couple guys that are starters on bad teams and that’s why they get drafted that high, and you’re going to have a couple of busts.”
Still, going into it, Kentucky and Kansas figure to get an inordinate amount of attention.
One veteran NBA scout said the average NBA team would see both of those schools 10+ times in person and 20+ times including video, starting with the Champions Classic Nov. 12 in Chicago that features Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Duke.
“They’ll receive a tremendous amount of attention because they have product,” the scout said. “They have players who will play for years and years in the NBA, and potentially the best player to come out of college in a number of years in Andrew Wiggins.
“Both teams will be seen double-figure times and [with] the video of the games, you’ll see 20+ [games] of the teams in video and in person.”
Said the NBA GM of Kentucky and Kansas: “No matter where you’re picking, they have guys in your range, right? You may be sitting next to a guy who’s there to see Julius Randle and somebody else is there to see Poythress. It doesn’t matter because they have seven guys who are going to get drafted in the first round, and whether you’re the Miami Heat or whether you’re the Philadelphia 76ers, you need to see Kentucky. And because there are so many guys, you need to see them multiple times.”
The NBA GM said he thinks the 2014 Draft will be similar to the 2007 Draft in which Greg Oden and Kevin Durant went 1-2 and the 2008 Draft in which Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were the top two picks.
This year’s version will be Wiggins (a Kansas guy) and Randle (a Kentucky guy).
“It’s going to be a two-player draft,” the GM said. “There’s going to be a conversation and even if Julius outplays him the way that Kevin Durant outplayed Greg and the way that Beasley to be honest outplayed Derrick…You’re just not going to have the [stones] to do it because no GM is going to get fired because he left Andrew Wiggins on the board and the guy turns out to be [bleepin’] Michael Jordan.”
The GM then amended his thoughts slightly to say that it could be a “four-player” draft that also includes Australian guard Dante Exum and Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, projected to go 3-4 behind Wiggins and Randle.
“I think Aaron Gordon has a chance just because he’s Blake Griffin and he’s an unbelievable kid,” the GM said. “He’s off the charts as a person. His motor never stops.
“I think it’s a four-player draft. I think where you’re really going to have a conversation is between Exum, Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon when it’s all said and one. I think Jabari Parker is another Duke guy. He’s articulate, but I’m not sold on him.”
He added: “If you’re a GM and your job’s on the line, you don’t have to take risks in this draft the way that you have in past drafts. You don’t have to take the flyer on Dion Waiters at 4, you don’t have to take a flyer on [Hasheem] Thabeet or we’re going to take Bismack Biyombo because there are so many sure things.”
You just have to do your homework by attending a lot of games at Kentucky and Kansas… and a few other schools.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.