With the unveiling of the 2019 NBA Draft recently taking place, the BTPowerhouse staff got together for a roundtable discussion about the league and what some of the Big Ten’s drafted prospects might do at the next level.
See the full discussion below.
1. Well, the 2019 NBA Draft took place on Thursday night and the Big Ten was fortunate to have a handful of players selected. What was your biggest takeaway from the evening with regard to the Big Ten?
Thomas Beindit: The talent deficit for the Big Ten is still very real. While I think the one-and-done players are routinely overrated at the college level, the Big Ten still continues to struggle to get players selected in the top five and in the lottery. It’s not exactly rocket science to think that’s one of the key reasons why the league hasn’t won a national title in nearly two decades, either.
Andrew Michael H: Looking at the lottery picks in this year’s draft, it’s clear the Big Ten is still nowhere near the ACC and SEC in terms of landing the best talent in the country. Since Michigan’s program is in flux, the top programs in the next few years look to be Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State. Of those three, Michigan State and Purdue have more or less eschewed the one-and-done style of roster development. They’re trying to win championships following the Virginia and Villanova model, not the Duke and Kentucky model. If anybody in the Big Ten is going to rely on top draft picks to lead them to the promised land, it’s going to be Ohio State. That’s nothing new, as Gren Oden and Mike Conley nearly led the Buckeyes to a national title back in 2006.
AJ Duncan: I think overall it is clear the Big Ten didn’t have the highest graduate/leave early talent pool of the power 5 conferences. However I do think the Big Ten still had great talent with good NBA upside drafted. I’m actually really intrigued to see how this Big Ten draft class of 6 players ends up developing in the league.
2. Who ends up being the most productive NBA player from the Big Ten taken on Thursday night?
Beindit: Give me the safe bet. I’ll go with Carsen Edwards. While I don’t think Edwards has the potential to be an elite player in the NBA, I do think he’s a good bet to be a solid backup point guard at the next level. He’s a fantastic scorer and is more than capable of creating his own shot. Those skills should allow him to stick at the next level for quite some time.
AMH: My head says Romeo Langford, because NBA GMs are way better at assessing players than I am, and he was the first Big Ten player selected. My gut says Romeo doesn’t have shooting ability or killer instinct to stick around in the league. I’ve always liked Isaiah Roby’s physical tools, and though he was only ever brilliant in flashes at Nebraska, I’m not sure whether that was more because Tim Miles wasn’t using him to his potential or because Roby wasn’t willing to work to get his game to a truly elite level. If it’s the former, Roby’s my pick. If it’s the latter, I’ll listen to my head and say Romeo.
Duncan: I think Romeo has way too much upside for me to not go with him. I’m very tempted to pick Carsen Edwards because that is where my gut lies. His offensive ability is hard to ignore. I just don’t know how well he will fit in defensively though. He certainly has a lot visible passion and drive compared to Romeo. However, I’ll trust the NBA experts and stick with Langford.
3. The league’s most successful program in putting players in the NBA over the last few years has been Michigan. Are you concerned this run could end with John Beilein heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Beindit: Do I think Michigan will still get players into the NBA? Absolutely. Michigan’s too good of a program at this point to simply disappear off the map. However, it’s absurd to think the Wolverines will be able to match what Beilein’s done recently in terms of producing NBA talent. Since that first run to the national championship game in 2013, MIchigan might have the most impressive performance in the NBA Draft for anyone not named Duke or Kentucky. Perhaps somebody can surprise and pick up the slack for the Big Ten, but things don’t look encouraging.
AMH: If Michigan continues to send players to the NBA, they won’t do it the way that Beilein did it. Beilein was great at taking underrecruited players and developing them into NBA talents, particularly ones whose game was “weird” in some way. Nobody else in college basketball had anything like his track record. There’s zero chance Juwan Howard will continue with that approach, but his strong connections to talent-rich Chicagoland means that it’s still possible that Ann Arbor continues to produce draft picks. They might land the next Derek Rose; there’s zero chance they land the next Mo Wagner.
Duncan: I’m absolutely concerned. A completely new coach that is inexperienced at the collegiate ranks has taken over. Will he know how to recruit and get through to high school kids? Who knows. I will say that Howard has a few things going for him as he pursues elite level players. He spent years playing in the NBA and then years coaching in the NBA. That’s life experience that’s tough to match. It’s possible he can convert his own experiences into a connection with the most elite high school players in the country that dream of making it to the league. Its easier said than done. Overall I think Howard will be able to recruit very well the first couple years. However his teams will need to perform well on the court for him to keep that going any longer.
4. Despite not being drafted, a number of Big Ten players are expected to get a shot in the Summer League and/or G League in the months ahead. Do you see any Big Ten prospect who wasn’t drafted landing on a roster next season?
Beindit: Give me Charles Matthews. Before he tore his ACL in workouts leading up to the NBA Draft, he was trending upward. He might be the best wing defender to come out this year and I think he has a solid shot at landing a roster spot, once he gets healthy. For my money, I think he would have been drafted if he hadn’t been injured. None of the other options can say that.
AMH: Guys who don’t get drafted rarely make it onto an NBA roster. Maybe they land a 2-way deal that puts them as the 15th man on the bench for ten games, but meaningful minutes in the league aren’t likely to be forthcoming. If I had to pick one guy from the Big Ten I could see making it, it’d be Amir Coffey, with Josh Reaves in second, but I’d be surprised if either of those guys ever score more than 50 career points in the NBA.
Duncan: I can’t see anyone that was undrafted being on a roster next season. And if so it would be a brief visit.
5. Who do you see as the league’s best prospects for the 2020 NBA Draft?
Beindit: This falls in line with what I was talking about above, but there aren’t a whole lot of options to choose from here. Though Ayo Dosunmu and Jalen Smith look like safe bets, there really aren’t a whole lot of other choices. Xavier Tillman could be a sleeper out of Michigan State and Joe Wieskamp got some attention with the Hawkeyes, but neither are guarantees. Other sleeps are Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Nojel Eastern, Jerome Hunter, Lamar Stevens, and Jon Teske.
AMH: 247 says that there’s not a single 5-star recruit coming into the Big Ten next season. So the answer has to be Jalen Smith of Maryland. Illinois fans will insist I’m shortchanging Ayo Dosunmo, and Dan Dakich will tell me not to sleep on Aaron Wheeler at Purdue, but come on. Stix has the height and the length and the talent, and with Bruno Fernando gone he will option 1 and 1A for Maryland in the post. He’ll put up monster numbers next year, and he’ll have plenty of time to work out with NBA teams after Maryland flames out in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Duncan: I have four names in mind. Nojel Eastern (Purdue), Joe Weiskamp (Iowa), Joshua Langford (Michigan State), and Jalen Smith (Maryland). Smith is probably the most obvious to me because of his length, size, shooting ability, and athleticism. If he works on his skill a little bit more into this season he could be a lottery pick. Langford is coming back from injury for his senior season. I could see him as a 3 and D specialist that the NBA loves. I see him as a late 1st rounder at best but probably 2nd round. Weiskamp is a very skilled and long guard with decent athleticism. He shot the ball great his freshman season. I think he will take another step this season and have a great chance of being drafted late 1st round/early 2nd.
Lastly, Eastern of Purdue will be the best defensive player in the Big Ten this season. He has the strength and ability to guard four positions, and sometimes even the fifth spot. He will have the ball in his hands a little more this season offensively and this will allow him to show off his passing abilities a little more. He his already a tremendous rebounder for his size. These attributes combined will make him a late 1st round/early 2nd round pick. If he is able to consistently penetrate and finish on drives along with having any kind of jump shot ability this season than he will be a mid to late 1st round pick. Those are my top four at this very moment.