For the past few weeks, former Kentucky center Bam Adebayo has been teetering back and forth between the first and second round in this year’s DraftExpress.com NBA mock draft.
After an appearance at the NBA Combine in Chicago last week — Adebayo showed up for interviews and measurements but did not play any basketball — opinions still vary on where he might go in next month’s draft.
DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 32 pick, but the North Carolina native could be selected much higher than that.
“There’s really no consensus about him at all,” DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony told the Herald-Leader this week. “Some teams really like him. I’ve heard some teams say they see him in that 15-25 range. Whereas other teams say they have him more in the second round, maybe the first few picks of the 30s.
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“I think the real challenge that we’re seeing is it’s just such a crowded draft for bigs.”
NBA teams will indeed have plenty of big guys to choose from.
Of the 30 players slotted between 11 and 40 on DraftExpress.com’s Top 100 prospects list, 19 are considered true power forwards or centers.
Givony pointed out that there is a relatively small market for big guys right now in the NBA to begin with — “Every team has like three or four guys on the bench that never play,” he said — and wondered aloud whether teams would just decide to pick the best available talent (likely a big) in those spots, or try to fill other needs by drafting a guard, wing or hybrid forward a little earlier than they normally would.
That would send players like Adebayo deeper down the draft list.
“It’s not just strictly Bam,” Givony said. “There are tons of other guys in that range that are facing the same thing.”
Harry Giles, Caleb Swanigan, Thomas Bryant and Tony Bradley are among the other prospects slotted within a few spots of Adebayo on the Top 100 list.
NBA teams have questions about Adebayo’s game, too.
“It’s mostly the fact that he’s an undersized center, who isn’t an exceptional shot blocker or rebounder,” Givony said. “He doesn’t stretch the floor.
“Can he improve in that regard? Can his basketball IQ get better? Can his awareness get better? Those are the things teams are going to be asking themselves.”
Adebayo averaged 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds as a freshman at UK, but — at 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan — he doesn’t have great size for an NBA center, doesn’t have that quick-trigger jumping ability as a defender and hasn’t yet proven himself away from the basket offensively. DraftExpress.com has also noted that — while his offensive rebounding numbers were solid this past season — his 6.5 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes at UK ranked near the bottom of all centers on the Top 100 prospects list.
But there’s obviously plenty to like about Adebayo’s attitude and his potential — and plenty of time for the 19-year-old to improve — and that all adds up to a lack of consensus on his draft stock.
“He is a freak athlete,” Givony said. “There’s no question that a guy that chiseled and so fast and so quick (has potential), but it just hasn’t necessarily translated yet to the defensive and rebounding side. And it’s not like he’s a highly skilled offensive guy, at the same time.”
Some players avoid the five-on-five — aka “actual basketball” — portion of the NBA Combine so as not to expose their flaws and lower their stock with a subpar showing.
UK guard Isaiah Briscoe, ever the competitor, was the only Wildcat to take part in five-on-fives last week, and he did nothing to hurt his standing going into next month’s draft.
“I thought he played well. I definitely think he had a positive Combine,” said DraftExpress.com’s Jonathan Givony. “He scored very efficiently in transition, he moved the ball fairly well. He didn’t make a lot of shots, and that’s one of the concerns teams have. Not a whole lot different than what we already knew, but he definitely did not hurt himself.”
Of course, Briscoe was not projected as an NBA pick going into the Combine.
DraftExpress.com ranks him at No. 90 on its Top 100 prospects list, but his invitation to last week’s event — and the typical unpredictability of the draft’s second round — means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him selected late. He’s certainly expected to have an opportunity to latch on to an NBA team, whether he’s drafted or not.
As far as making it to the league and sticking there, a player like him needs to do at least one thing really well. For Briscoe specifically, Givony said, that would be defense.
“He gets after it on defense. He’s got really, really long arms (a 6-9 wing span). He has a very strong frame. And he’s tough. He’s a tough dude. The fact that he can guard multiple positions, I think that’s going to be what he hangs his hat on.”
Going back home?
UK sophomore Isaac Humphries, who — like Adebayo and Briscoe — has already signed with an agent, was not invited to last week’s NBA Combine.
That’s not encouraging for a future in the league.
“If you’re not invited to the Combine, it’s not a good sign for you,” said DraftExpress analyst Jonathan Givony. “It means you’re not in the top 75 on most teams’ boards, and there’s only 60 (draft picks). Has it happened before that a guy that was not invited to the Combine got drafted? Yeah, it’s happened. Has it happened very frequently? No.
“But I’m almost certain that when he signed with an agent and left Kentucky, he could not have thought he was getting drafted, based on what he had shown NBA teams.”
Humphries is a native of Australia, and pro scouts from that country attended some of UK’s practices this past season to see how he’s progressed over the past couple of years. Givony said if Humphries intends to go back to his home country and play out a pro career there, he’d have ample opportunity.
“Absolutely. He’s 7 feet tall, he’s fairly skilled and he’s very young,” he said. “He was the best player in his age group in Australia, so if they’re not going to sign him, I don’t know who they’re going to sign.”
Humphries is No. 100 on the DraftExpress.com Top 100 prospects list.