ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas has watched the top players in Thursday night’s NBA draft for years. He’ll be busy providing his analysis during television coverage and he took a few minutes beforehand to offer his thoughts on what might happen when teams start making their choices.
Unless they make a trade, the Bobcats have the second pick in the draft. With Anthony Davis expected to go No. 1, what do you think of Charlotte’s options?
Bilas: There’s no sure-fire choice there. They made the move of bringing in Ben Gordon, which makes their backcourt really small. They need a starter at just about every position.
At No. 2, at least the way I rank them, Thomas Robinson will be a starter at power forward and he’ll be a safe pick because he’ll be productive. I don’t know if he’ll be an All-Star.
Bradley Beal is the best two-guard available and he has a chance to be good, especially if he plays with a good point guard.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is great. He can guard. He plays really hard, but he’s not a scorer.
Robinson seems to be the popular choice if the Bobcats keep the second pick. What do you like about him?
Bilas: He’s a horse. He can run. He’s explosive off the floor. His post game needs to improve a little. He can be a better passer and more aware of the floor, but he’ll learn that. He’s the best defensive rebounder in the draft. He’s a really safe pick at No. 2.
Of the four North Carolina players in the draft, Harrison Barnes may be the most intriguing. Do you think he’ll be a better pro player than college player?
Bilas: That’s a possibility. When I saw him in high school, I thought he was a spectacular athlete and had spectacular skills. But he didn’t seem to be as good an athlete the first two years in college.
Then he tested off the charts. He has a 38-inch standing vertical jump. No one his size has that. His speed and agility were spectacular, too. I think it’s fair to say he’s a thinker and in college he was process-oriented. Once he gets to the NBA, the game is a little more wide open. It’s called closer, so players can’t have their hands on you on the perimeter and that will help him.
You don’t think the No. 2 pick is clear cut?
Bilas: It’s not like it’s obvious. From two to six, there’s not much difference. Someone said from two to 14, there’s not much difference. I’m not sure about that. But I don’t think there’s necessarily just one way to go, whether it’s Bradley Beal or Thomas Robinson or Harrison Barnes.
The truth is the Bobcats need everything.
What are your impressions of the two North Carolina big men, Tyler Zeller and John Henson?
Bilas: I like Zeller the best. He’s really solid as a big man prospect. He can really run. That’s his best attribute. He’s going to put a lot of pressure on opposing big guys. He’s a good rebounder but not really a shot blocker. He’s a good post defender who can score. He has a good little jump hook. You know what you’re getting with him.
Henson is a better shot-blocker and maybe a better rebounder. He can face up and shoot, but he’s a little more unorthodox than Zeller. I see both of them going around 10 to 12.
What about Kendall Marshall?
Bilas: He’s a great passer and he’s really good in transition situations. The only questions are his speed and quickness. Is he quick enough to stay in front of NBA point guards? That’s an explosive group. He lacks that quickness and he’s not laterally quick to stay in front of guys. He can hit open shots, but he has to be open.
Duke’s Austin Rivers has gone up and down draft charts. Any sense of where he’ll go?
Bilas: He was up at the start then went down and now he’s back up. Who knows?
They have a body of work with him. No workout should trump what they saw from him all season. He’s the best with the ball of any guard in the draft. He can get his own (shots). He can get to the basket. He can shoot the runner, shoot the floater, he gets to the rim and he shoots it pretty well.
You’ve heard some stuff about what a cocky kid he is and he doesn’t play well with others in the sandbox. I don’t buy that. I think he has a chance to be a good offensive player.
What about his former teammate, Miles Plumlee?
Bilas: He’s got good size and he’s a crazy athlete. He’s going to be a backup, but he’ll be good at his position. He can make the face-up jumper. His problem is he thinks too much on the floor. If he’ll just play instinctively, he’ll be fine. I think he’ll be more productive as a pro than he was in college.
Finally, any sleeper you like?
Bilas: Tony Wroten of Washington reminds me a little of when Rajon Rondo came out. He went 21st in ’07 and everyone said he couldn’t shoot it and he couldn’t. That was fair. Wroten can get to the basket and he’s a fabulous passer. If he improves his shooting, he can be really good.