Several local prospects are expected to hear their name in the two-round NBA draft on Thursday.
Ryan Blake, the NBA’s draft consultant, gave an evaluation of the local prospects.
Mohamed Bamba, Westtown School
7-0, Freshman, C, Texas
Bamba is considered the top defensive big man in the draft. At the NBA combine, he had the longest wingspan – 7 feet, 10 inches – and, at 9-7 1/2, the best standing reach. His offense is still a work in progress after he averaged 12.9 points in his only season at Texas. He also averaged 10.5 rebounds and was second in the nation with 3.7 blocked shots per game. Originally from Harlem, he turned 20 in May. In this day when even centers are shooting from the perimeter, he hit 14 of 51 three-pointers (27.5 percent) and has worked since his college season ended at improving this part of his game. At 225 pounds, he will also need to get much stronger. Despite any deficiencies, it would be a surprise if he is not selected among the top seven players.
Blake’s comment: “I am not too worried about his offensive games. I think he is a guy who will develop. He doesn’t have to be Dirk Nowitzki, nor do you want him to be. I know the game has changed, but he has shown the ability to spread the floor a little bit. His size and wingspan is ridiculous. He has unbelievably good instincts, and those things at a young age are very difficult at a high level to teach. If he turns into DeAndre Jordan, that is worth it. He has huge upside, and you know how smart this kid is. I think he is going to be great in the locker room and a coach’s dream.”
Mikal Bridges can score, but his defense is what will get him drafted in the top 10.
Mikal Bridges, Great Valley H.S. and Villanova
6-7, Junior, G-F
Few players in college basketball showed more improvement during their career than Bridges, who is projected to be a top-10 pick. He averaged 6.4 points as a freshman on Villanova’s 2016 title team. As a sophomore, he averaged 9.8, and this past season, the Great Valley High grad averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. He shot 43.5 percent from three-point range this past season, after shooting 29.9 percent as a freshman and 39.3 percent as a sophomore. What has helped vault Bridges’ stock is his defense: He is among the better perimeter defenders in the draft.
Blake’s comment: “I think he is a top-10 player. He provides great versatility on both ends of the floor. I would like to see him rebound more, but maybe that is getting picky. He is somebody who can play two positions [shooting guard, small forward], and we think he can defend even more. … I consider him an above-average athlete who can have a good burst.”
Jalen Brunson, Villanova
6-2, Junior, PG
Brunson won several national player-of- the-year awards, and it will be interesting to see whether his game translates to the NBA. He is among the more cerebral players in the draft, but there is a question whether he has the athleticism to defend NBA point guards. His father, Rick, played in the NBA for nine seasons, and Jalen’s basketball IQ is off the charts. He was a starter on two national-championship teams. This past season, he averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 1.8 turnovers and shot 40.8 percent from three-point range.
Blake’s comment: “I really like this kid. I still think he is a late first-, second-round guy, but I think he is going to be a guy at the very least can be a T.J. McConnell player. … T.J.’s biggest strength is his grit and will to win. With Jalen, he is too smart not to win. He has proven it. He is somebody who can shoot pass, defend. He will need improvement on defense. That will to win and IQ is attractive to a lot of coaches and NBA executives.”
>>READ MORE: Scouting Jalen Brunson, and upgrading him
Tony Carr, Roman Catholic H.S.
6-4, Sophomore, PG, Penn State
He averaged 19.6 points and 4.9 assists and shot 43 percent from three-point range for the NIT champions. Carr was known much more as a scoring point guard.
Blake’s comment: “I have him as a late-first-, second-round pick. Most likely a second. I think he is an offensively gifted player, has size for the position, and can shoot extremely well from deep. His shooting form is a little weird, but he has been able to do it consistently. His shot selection can be questionable at times, and he likes to get his shot instead of involving his teammates. However, he can make that shot. His lateral quickness is questionable, he is not especially explosive, but I think he has NBA upside.”
Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
6-4, Sophomore, G
DiVincenzo will always be known for his signature performance – scoring 31 points off the bench in Villanova’s 79-62 NCAA-title win over Michigan. He shot 10 for 15 from the field, including 5 for 7 from beyond the arc. This season, he averaged 13.4 points and shot 40.1 percent from three-point range. He is among the top athletes in the draft. At the NBA combine, he had the best standing vertical leap (34.5 inches) and tied for the best maximum vertical leap (42 inches). He is expected to be a first-round lock and might not last past the 21st pick.
Blake’s comment: “There are a lot of intangibles we really like. He is a winner, he plays his role, he is a team player, he is a guy when you have his size, [and] his ability to play off the ball and on the ball, he can shoot it from deep, love the size, can play defense, but he has that green-light mentality without saying it is all about me and he does so with an inner passion that you sense when teammates and coaches are around him. … There are always questions and maybe minor things, playmaking to better defense, little things like that. From an athletic standpoint, there are too many good things to like.”
Omari Spellman, Villanova
6-9, Freshman, PF
He averaged 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds and shot 43.3 percent for the national champions. At the NBA combine, he was measured with a 7-2 wingspan. In six NCAA tournament games, he averaged 11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds and shot 40 percent from three-point range.
Blake’s comment: “He is going to be interesting. I think he competed extremely well at the combine and played well, played within himself. I am sort of impressed with his outside shooting and then I am scared to death. There is absolutely no arc on his distance shot, but you see he has the ability to shoot it. He is so aggressive in the paint, and then he can step out and spread the floor. He has lost weight and is doing the right things. He is a legitimate shooter and, with floor spacing in the front court, is really valuable. He is a late-first-, second-round [player].”
Lonnie Walker, Reading H.S.
6-4, Freshman, SG, Miami
His numbers in his only season at Miami were underwhelming: 11.5 points per game and 34.6 percent three-point shooting. Walker was hurt early in the year and played better toward the end. In his last six games, he averaged 13 points and shot 36.4 percent from three-point range. His greatest asset is his athletic ability. His stock has apparently risen after his predraft NBA workouts.
Blake’s comment: “This is going to be interesting. He has an NBA body and good size for a shooting guard and he is long, strong and an explosive athlete. He is a good ballhandler and can score. He wasn’t able to prove it this year, and I think that is kind of tough. … It is hard to ignore somebody like that, but you can’t ignore the lack of production. Defensively, he has to prove himself.”