UK Men's Basketball

Even with UK's ever-presence, NBA Draft no snoozer as Bilas prepares for his 16th

Jay Bilas, right, who was at ESPN College Gameday in Rupp Arena on Jan. 20, 2018, will be working his 16th NBA Draft.
Jay Bilas, right, who was at ESPN College Gameday in Rupp Arena on Jan. 20, 2018, will be working his 16th NBA Draft.

Jay Bilas has been part of ESPN’s coverage of the last 15 NBA drafts. This inspired a gambling website to set an over-under number on how many times he says words such as "potential," "wingspan" and "stretches the floor" during the telecast of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I did see that,” Bilas said on a teleconference Tuesday. “And I would take the over on each one of those, especially "wingspan.'" set the over-under on "potential" at 6.5. Next were "ceiling" and "wingspan" at 4.5. Then "stretches the floor," "basketball IQ" and "upside" at 3.5. The other three words or combination of words the online site expects Bilas to say a lot are "attacks the rim" and "freak athlete" with an over-under of 2.5 and "NBA body" at 1.5.

Bilas spoke lightheartedly about the likelihood of using familiar words again and again in his analysis of the draft. But even with the steady stream of Kentucky players coming on stage to shake the commissioner's hand in recent years, he said working the draft has not become a matter of routine.

"I have certain habits that I follow in the way I prepare," he said, "but every draft has been different."

Bilas’s first draft working for ESPN was 2003, when the Cleveland Cavaliers took LeBron James with the first overall pick.

"So that’s obviously memorable," Bilas said. "That's probably the best one that there's been in that time frame.

"But each one has its own unique feel to it. And this one is unique it itself in that there are so many big guys at the top of the draft. You don’t often see that, especially in an age where all we’re talking about is position-less players and the value of guards who can shoot it and handle it."

'Mystery man'

Bilas dubbed Mitchell Robinson, the on again-off again would-be player for Western Kentucky as a "sort of a mystery man" in this year's NBA Draft.

As such, Robinson has a wide range of possible draft positions, Bilas said.

"He's a top-10 talent who may wind up going in the second round," the ESPN analyst said.

Height, length, shot-blocking and agility for his size make Robinson an intriguing prospect, Bilas said. But choosing not to play basketball last season raises concerns.

"Somebody's going to get a steal if they wind up taking him in the second round," Bilas said.

Sexton the best?

Bilas spoke highly of Collin Sexton, who led Alabama as a freshman last season.

"Best point guard in the draft," Bilas said.

There are questions about Sexton’s shooting. He made 44.7 percent of his shots last season. That included 33.6-percent accuracy from three-point range.

After pointing out that Sexton shot free throws well (77.8 percent), Bilas said, "Often times, when you make free throws, it means you can improve."

Sexton may be "the most competitive kid in the draft," Bilas said. "He is a real fighter."

For example, Sexton kept Alabama competitive in an early-season game against Minnesota in which foul trouble and ejections left the Tide with only three available players.

"If it's three-on-three, I’m taking him ...,” Bilas said. "There isn't any quit in Collin Sexton. He'll fight you start to finish."