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2015 NBA Draft Primer and Open Thread

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Where are Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton going to get selected? Let's find out together.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When and where can I watch this thing?

7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, although there’s coverage before. Many moons ago it was on TNT with Ernie, Charles and the gang and it was the best. Thankfully Chris Berman thinks this is beneath him so he stays away, leaving us with Rece Davis as the anchor. With Bill Simmons in purgatory, Jay Williams takes his spot with Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose.

Two Duke guys?...

Yeah, and Bilas already has Jahlil Okafor as his number one over Towns for…reasons, I guess? Expect Okafor to get a lot of love from Bilas, and if he slips past two, some incredulity.

Where do you think Jerian Grant is going to go?

It seems like a reasonably safe bet that Grant will be going somewhere between picks 17 (Bucks) and 22 (Bulls). I’ve seen Grant projected to all of the teams in between as well (Rockets, Wizards, Raptors, Mavericks), although he’s also a potential fit at 23 (Blazers) and 24 (Cavaliers). There is a chance he could jump to the tail end of the lottery to the Suns or Thunder, but it seems like Murray State guard Cameron Payne has beaten out Grant, Duke’s Tyus Jones (maybe?) and Utah’s Delon Wright for "Point guard everyone fell in love with over the last couple weeks." (Kentucky’s Devin Booker, a two-guard, has also jumped into the top ten of a few mocks as of late, which isn’t helping the cause.) Early in the process Grant was also mocked to the Pacers at 11, but I haven’t seen him there the last few weeks.

Is there anything in particular holding Grant’s stock down?

Two things, one he can control and one he cannot. The first thing is his three-point percentage (31% on 156 attempts). Grant is probably a better shooter than that (it was his worst season in South Bend), but it’s definitely an issue. The second is something that exacerbates any other blemish: his age. One of the pillars of the NBA draft is the ability to dream on potential, and you can’t really do that with Grant, who is what he is at this point. (An incredible shot-creator and leader who finishes around the rim and has the length and athleticism to do work on defense.) That’s a good thing for teams later in the draft that need to add a little polish to their rotations but less appealing to teams at the top of the draft needing to create a bigger splash.

Is there a chance Grant falls out of the first round?

I suppose there’s a tiny one when projections have him in the 20s, but I think we’re pretty safe to have the first Notre Dame first rounder since Ryan Humphrey (19th overall) in 2002. We will definitely be getting the first Irish draft pick since Luke Harangody went 52nd in 2010.

Okay, what about Pat Connaughton?

Things are trending in a positive direction, although not as aggressively as I initially assumed following his breakout combine. My thoughts on Pat’s NBA chances have been made at length here, and I am really confident he is going to be drafted simply because he does so many things smart teams like and smart teams tend to have a bunch of extra second-rounders lying around. Chad Ford had him going to the Jazz at 42 last week, which must seem pretty smart because Draft Express pegged him to the same spot earlier this week. (This might also just be the irresistible pull to project any halfway decent white player to Utah.) In an update late last night, Draft Express moved the projection up to 36th overall (Minnesota), while NBA Draft.net has had him going to the Hawks at 50 and the Wizards at 49.

The point has been made by some smart people (like our own Joe Schu) that a lot of GMs are keeping quiet about Connaughton because they’re hoping they can snag him a spot or two later than if the buzz increased. This could be very accurate or also just us viewing Connaughton through shamrock-shaded lenses. Put on your Batman socks because even neutral hoops writers are now all aboard the Connaughton hype train.

When was the last time two Notre Dame players went in the same draft?

1992! When LaPhonso Ellis went fifth overall (PHONZ) and Elmer Bennett was 38th. The last time Notre Dame had multiple first-round picks was back in 1981, when they had three of the top 25 players in the draft (Orlando Woolridge 5th, Kelly Tripucka 12th, Tracy Jackson 25th).

What is your dream destination for Grant?

I’d love to see him end up on the Thunder simply because he would immediately become the best off-guard on an NBA championship contender. The Rockets would be awesome because Jerian was basically college basketball Harden this season and it would be great to see them do celebratory shoulder bumps together. (Confession: I own this t-shirt.) Grant is such a flexible fit that I would honestly be happy with the Wizards (playing with John Wall and Bradley Beal), Mavericks (DIRK), Bulls (no Thibodeau around to run him into the ground, plenty of Irish fans) or Raptors (great home crowd that would fall in love with him). If he slipped to the Cavs at 24, even better, as again, he immediately is playing minutes on a title contender. I also love the idea of him taking over for Manu in San Antonio (26th). Grant falling into the second half of the first round is definitely not a bad thing if you are interested in seeing him immediately thrust into the rotation of a playoff team.

Same question but for Connaughton.

Man, going to the defending champs at the end of the first round would be so, so cool. The Warriors could use some off-the-bench shooting and they like players who can switch heavily and guard multiple positions on defense. Seems like a fit, but there will be plenty of good players sitting there at 30.

As far as a market that really wants to draft Connaughton, look no further than the Celtics. He’s just so well spoken!

What about Connaughton’s baseball career?

He’s going to have to make a decision in the near future, but it could be a costly one if the Orioles try to get back their signing bonus if he chooses hoops. From the Baltimore Sun:

A baseball source said Connaughton will risk losing his signing bonus from the Orioles if he chooses to play basketball, as the team believes it has the right to recoup the money and would likely pursue doing so.

Connaughton said he will return to pitching if he is not drafted or believes he can't make an NBA training camp roster out of the summer league.

"That's where I draw the line, that's where I would go back to playing baseball and can sleep at night knowing I gave myself a chance to play in the NBA," Connaughton said. "I didn't want to burn a bridge before I saw what was on the other side."

Connaughton said the Orioles, who will retain the right-handed pitcher's rights, have continued to be supportive of him pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA.

"We've had discussions throughout this process and they've definitely been great, which is rare because of how much of a business sports has become," he said.

Does Notre Dame have a chance at having any guys selected in next year’s draft?

Absolutely. Demetrius Jackson is projected as a lottery pick in the way, way, way too early 2016 mock drafts and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zach Auguste work his way into the conversation at the end of the first round. The tape of his game against the sundry NBA players on this year’s Kentucky team is not going to go away and he has the chance to expand his game further over the offseason. When you throw in the skills and potential of guys like Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson – not to mention the incoming Rex Pflueger, an incoming frosh who made honorable mention on this list – and we might be gathering around the TV for a few more drafts to come.

Is there any more Notre Dame stuff in this post?

No, the above pretty much sums it up. The rest of this is just going to be a lot of random hoops stuff from someone who considers the NBA draft one of the best sports night of the year. Feel free to move on with your life and then come back tonight for the open thread.

What do you love about the NBA Draft?

Because when teams are only going eight or nine deep and there are only ten guys on the floor, every player is so much more important and can make or break a franchise. (Just consider what the Timberwolves and the NBA as a whole would be like if they didn’t pass on Steph Curry for Jonny Flynn and Boogie Cousins for Wesley Johnson in consecutive drafts.) And because it’s basketball, the players are so much more exposed in every way compared to some other sports. Every strength and weakness on either side of the court will eventually be discovered and exploited, and on the fun side, you also get to see so much more of the players’ personalities.

There is mystery in the NBA Draft - as even without high school entries you still have the random foreign guys and the mid-major point guard you maybe saw play once in March - but by reading and watching highlights you can get some sense of the personalities and skillsets. Have I ever seen Mario Hezonja play a game? Of course not, but after reading this profile that basically paints him as European Kobe wannabe I am so excited to see where he lands.

I guess most of this applies to the NFL Draft as well, but all of these players are so different, versus the NFL where only the most rigorous studiers of film can tell you the differences between the third, fourth and fifth offensive linemen prospects. The NBA Draft is like the NFL Draft if you only drafted quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs and pass rushers and the whole operation didn’t take itself so damn seriously. It’s the best.

I haven’t really watched the NBA draft before. When will things get interesting this year?

Assuming Flip Saunders isn’t a complete moron (not a guarantee!) and just takes Karl Towns first, things get interesting right away with the Lakers at two. There are competing rumors of "Okafor is a lock" and "Okafor is going to tumble," which is always exciting. Drafting the Duke big man would give them a young frontcourt duo (along with Julius Randle) that could be defensively challenged. They could also go with D’Angelo Russell, the Ohio State point guard who has an otherworldly ability in the pick and roll and has definite Harden potential, or they could swing for the fences with Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. If the Lakers go Okafor then Philly GM Sam Hinkie gets to choose between the point guard his team needs (Russell) and the long, exciting Euro big his heart probably wants (Porzingis). It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Oh, and there are also rumors that the Lakers might be including the second overall pick in a deal to get Boogie Cousins from the Kings. Should that go down, keep an eye out for the mob coming after Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive.

(It's also worth noting that after everyone hyped up last year's draft class, this one is way, way better. There are great players available in the first twenty or so picks. Tons of fun value to potentially be found.)

Wasn’t Okafor the number one prospect for most of the year? I remember announcers saying that a lot during Notre Dame/Duke games.

Yes, he was, but between the ACC semifinal loss to the Irish and a less-than-inspiring tournament (there’s a case to be made Duke only beat Wisconsin because Okafor was forced to the bench and Amile Jefferson was able to play better defense on Frank Kaminsky), people have started to rally behind Towns. I love love love Towns and think there are some serious problems with Okafor, who could easily turn into Al Jefferson 2.0 (Which is still pretty good!).

Here’s the beauty of Towns: He is a capable rim protector who also shoots nearly 80% from the free throw line in addition to showing off a silky three-point stroke in workouts. He can immediately anchor your defense while playing in the post (let us not speak of the Elite Eight) or as a stretch big on offense. Okafor can’t shoot free throws, and history shows with a few exceptions (C-Webb and perhaps coincidentally, Al Jefferson), players don’t get considerably better at free throw percentage over their careers. On top of that, his block rate is not exceptional for a player his size and he was exposed in his pick-and-roll defense. Maybe Okafor’s post offense is so good that it will buy him time to improve his weaknesses, but there are quite a few blemishes there. I might put Okafor sixth or seventh on my board, but I realize that both puts me in the minority and almost guarantees he’ll be a twelve-time All-Star just to show what an idiot I am.

What about Justise Winslow? He was really good in the tournament.

Yeah, Winslow’s fall down the draft boards has been interesting. I’ve seen him as high as four to the Knicks on some mocks but he is usually down in the seven, eight range. I don’t know how a guy who is a maniac on defense, a 41% shooter from three and rained terror on opponents in the NCAA isn’t a good fit in the NBA, but it might just be enough teams falling a little more in love with other perfectly capable and exciting players. But I love Winslow and think any freshman who can guard multiple positions on one end while being at the very least competent on the other is a great investment. It doesn’t seem like he’ll make it past the Nuggets at seven and there’s at least a chance he gets snatched by the Knicks or Magic at four/five.

Should we expect any trades?

Danny Ainge thinks so:

Ainge would know because he’s been trying to move up into the top ten. Boston is in a weird position where they have a bunch of assets but none of them save Marcus Smart are particularly appealing because they rely on guessing how bad Brooklyn will be in the future. (Probably pretty bad, but they won’t go into full-on tank mode if they don’t even have their first rounder.) The two teams most heavily rumored to slide back are the Knicks and Kings, who both would want a young rotation player and another pick in exchange for their draft rights. (Eric Bledsoe and the Suns' 13th pick to the Knicks for the 4th pick was rumored yesterday, but that's fizzled out.) The Jazz, Pacers and Heat were originally rumored to be interested in trading out of their spots, but with the level of talent trickling down their way, those rumors have died down.

Anyone moving up or down draft boards as we get closer to the first pick?

Everyone is loving Frank Kaminsky, including the Knicks, Kings and Hornets, who look at the potential future of the league and see the appeal of adding shooting without sacrificing size. Going the other direction is the man Kaminsky and his Badgers vanquished in the Final Four earlier this year, Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kentucky big  has had some red flags on his medical report (ankles), but man, I love me some WCS. He was a wide receiver in high school, can guard every position on the floor and is a really entertaining interview. There’s a very good chance – barring chronic injury issues – a lot of teams are wondering how he slid that far. (Or he could go in the top six.) I am 100% on board with Cauley-Stein, even if he did stalk Grant up the floor at the end of the Elite Eight game and help end the Irish's season.

Is there a potential semi-sleeper you like?

I'm interested in Texas freshman Myles Turner. Turner was a top-ten recruit coming out of high school and has two valuable skills (rim protection and shooting from a big man). His season in Austin was a mess, but it's not like a year playing under Rick Barnes could damage him that badly, right? He's a bit of a project but if a team could afford to wait on him, there's a lot to like. Also, Seth Davis called him the most overrated player in the draft, which seems like a ringing endorsement to me.

Is there a quote you like to read every year to really get in the mood for the draft?

YES.

"Darko really is one of a kind. He runs the floor, handles the ball, shoots an NBA three and plays with his back to the basket. So you can slot him at the 3, 4 or 5. Okay, a few other guys can do that too; what sets Darko apart is his toughness in the post. You’ve got to love a guy who has the footwork to spin by an opponent but still prefers to lower a shoulder and bang. Fact is, Milicic plays in attack mode at both ends of the floor. The more you push, the more he pushes back." - Chad Ford (who I think does a great job covering the draft but this will never not make me laugh)

Any tips for watching the draft?

If you want any level of surprise, avoid Twitter because the plugged-in NBA reporters will be announcing picks well in advance of Adam Silver. (I think that one point last year Woj was three picks ahead.) My plan is to stay off of Twitter until Jerian is drafted (I’m probably going to post a couple things, but I’m going to stay away from the timeline) for a bit of surprise. NBA Twitter is up there with College Football Twitter in terms of entertaining writers, so it’s a lot of fun to follow along.

Oh, and be sure to join us in the comments as this is also our official NBA Draft open thread. If you guys don’t mind, let’s spend the day posting rumors and the night celebrating Jerian and Pat.