Here’s the weird thing about the NBA Draft: It’s substantially shorter than it’s mega-hyped and bloated cousin, the NFL Draft. The top players are more instantly recognizable than their NFL counterparts — the result of smaller rosters, the NCAA Tournament industrial complex, and the lack of, well, helmets. And the impact of one player on a basketball team — even if franchise NBA players are rare — can be dramatically larger than one player in the NFL. At least, that seems to be the case.
And yet, the NBA Draft may not get one-tenth of the coverage you see during the three-day NFL Draft avalanche. (The takeaway: The NFL is king, of course, but the NBA Draft may actually be better television. Matter of opinion, we suppose.)
Anyway, the NBA Draft begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. And it could be a historical one for the University of Kansas.
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is a lock to go No. 1 to the New Orleans Hornets. But KU All-American forward Thomas Robinson still has a chance to be the highest drafted Jayhawk since Danny Manning went No. 1 to the Clippers in 1988. (The second highest draft pick from Kansas: Raef LaFrentz, who went No. 3 overall to Denver in 1998.)
The Eagle already caught up with former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor, who is hoping to sneak into the first round on Thursday night. And we’ll have more on Robinson on Wednesday.
But we also spent a few minutes on Tuesday discussing the draft with former NBA small forward Wally Szczerbiak, a former All-Star who spent 10 seasons playing for Minnesota, Boston, Seattle and Cleveland.
Szczerbiak now works as an analyst for the CBS College Sports Network, and we asked his thoughts on Robinson — some of which will come out in a story on Wednesday — and Taylor and the rest of the draft.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
The Eagle: Let’s start with Robinson … his most definable skill, of course, is his rebounding. I believe he was the most efficient defensive rebounder in the country last year. Is that something that NBA execs will be more attracted to — the fact they know they’re getting someone who can be productive without touching the ball on offense?
WS: A guy like that, you know what you’re gonna get. You can count on him to bring it every single night. And if he gets paired up with the right point guard, and the right system, he could be very successful, like some of those other names I just mentioned. (Szczerbiak compared Robinson to Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand).
More and more, the great teams have guys that really fill certain roles. And you can’t just have a guy that’s just a rebounder anymore. He’s got to be able to score. He’s got to be able to make a 10- or 15-foot jumpshot.
If he has a mismatch, he’s got to be able to make a move with his back to the basket and score over a smaller guy, and I think he’s capable of doing all that; on top of the fact when he’s out there, he’s gonna get you extra possessions, he’s gonna really work the defenses often.
The Eagle: How much did you watch Kansas last year? What did you like about Robinson and Taylor?
WS: A lot… I really liked Jeff Withey, too. I thought (Withey and Robinson) made a great tandem, a high-low combination. I think Jeff Withey is gonna be a pretty good pro in the years to come, with his length and his athleticism, his ability to run the floor and shot-blocking.
Tyshawn Taylor, I love him. He’s like a poor man’s Russell Westbrook. He can get his shot at anytime, he can score. Obviously, he’s a point guard for the runner-up to the national championship, so obviously he can run a pretty darned good point-guard position.
Whether he’s a little reckless with the ball, turns the ball over a little bit … a lot of the great point guards do. I mean, LeBron James has had his share of seven- or nine- or 10-turnover games, same with Dwyane Wade. So all the great ones have games like that. But I just think he’s wired to make big plays at big times in big moments. And I think his game is gonna be taylor-made for the NBA.
And we’ll see if he’s gonna be able to break through and prove that. At the same time, there’s a lot of guards that can do those things. A lot of guys can score, shoot — and I think he’s gonna have to incorporate the playmaking side into his game a little bit more at the next level.
The Eagle: You say his game is taylor-made for the NBA. About that… do you think the style and rules of the NBA game play into the hands of a speed guard like Taylor?
WS: The rules can benefit really quick, fast, explosive guards. Because you can’t touch them. And if you can get to the foul line and cash in at the free-throw line, that can be a huge asset to have at the next level.
The Eagle: Last question: Who’s the number two pick? That seems to be the big question heading into draft night.
It’s a tough spot to be in if you’re (Charlotte Bobcats owner) Michael Jordan. I think – I’ve said on our draft shows that I think Jordan should go for (UConn center) Andre Drummond. I think he should shoot for the stars, the potential’s there. You know, put your nose to the grindstone, get the right coach to work with him and realize the potential. And he can be a big-time-caliber pick.
In my opinion, kind of the safest pick at No. 2 is (North Carolina sophomore) Harrison Barnes. He measured legitimate, I think, at 6-8 or 6-7. I just think you know what you’re gonna get with him. He’s got legit NBA size. He’s got an improving jumpshot. He’s gonna be a pretty solid, successful player at the next level. I don’t think too many people can debate that.