ACC NBA Draft Notebook: Sort of final thoughts heading into Draft Day

Zion Williamson is not the best player in the 2019 NBA Draft pool. How’s that for a hot take?

And actually, I’m not trying to be provocative. Nor am I saying that New Orleans shouldn’t take Williamson #1 overall. You don’t want to swim upstream there.

But, no, not the best player.

The best player in the 2019 draft is his Duke teammate, R.J. Barrett, who will likely go third, to the New York Knicks.

Hey, Michael Jordan was the third pick in the 1984 draft, which worked out OK for the Chicago Bulls, as I recall.

Barrett, to me, has as his ceiling James Harden. Like Harden (6’5”), Barrett is a big guard (6’7”) who can get into the lane at will.

Which means he’ll get fouled a lot, which means a lot of points with the clock not running, once he buckles down on his shooting stroke.

Ah, yes, the shooting stroke. Just 66.5 percent from the line, and just 30.8 percent from three.

Keep in mind that Harden shot 75.6 percent from the line and 35.6 percent from three as a sophomore at Arizona State before he went into the draft back in 2009.

The shooting will come. Shooting stroke is repetition.

One thing you can’t teach is ability to get to the rim.

This is what I would worry about with Williamson. Also 6’7”, Williamson dominated in college because no one at the college level could match physicality with the 285-pound phenom.

He won’t have that kind of decided physical advantage over the guys matching up with him in the NBA, which would make me worry about the fact that 72 percent of his shot attempts this past season were at the rim.

So much of what Williamson was able to do came from his work in the post, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to wonder how a 6’7” guy is going to dominate in the post at the next level.

Explosive as he obviously is, his ability to get to the rim is predicated largely on his strength.

We’ll see how much of a strength advantage he has on defenders night in and night out in the NBA.

Williamson could be Charles Barkley 2.0. He could also be the second coming of Zach Randolph.

Thoughts on other ACC prospects

The UVA kids

De’Andre Hunter is a legit top-5 guy. Sometimes you hear his ceiling comparing with Kawhi Leonard, which of course is preposterous, if only because Leonard might right now be the best player in the world.

(Calm down: LeBron is 34 going on 50, in terms of wear and tear; Kevin Durant is, for the next year, at least, damaged goods.)

The comparison to Leonard, as a college prospect, is more than fair, though. Leonard declared after his sophomore season at San Diego State in 2010-2011, in which he scored 15.5 points a game, shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 29.1 percent from three.

Hunter, a redshirt sophomore, scored 15.2 points a game in 2018-2019, shooting 52 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three.

Both profile sheets would rave about them being the best defensive players in their respective draft classes.

The knock on both would be questions about their ability to create their own offense.

Leonard eventually figured that part of the game out. Hunter will have some work to do there, obviously, but the skill set is there.

The knock on Ty Jerome is athleticism. Remember when that was also the knock on Malcolm Brogdon?

Jerome can have issues going up against aggressive man defense. We saw that in both N.C. State games, and the Florida State ACC Tournament loss. Guys who can get up under him can knock him off his line.

But at 6’5”, he can still see over the smaller defenders who are the ones more likely to give him fits, and what he lacks, relatively, in athleticism, he seems to more than make up for in floor smarts.

Jerome didn’t seem to have much trouble touching the paint to create shots for himself and teammates on the perimeter when help came over to slow him on his way to the rim.

I keep thinking Shaun Livingston when I see Jerome in the NBA.

Kyle Guy is the best basketball player of the three. There … I said it.

Guy is small (6’2”, 168), and that is a big point against him with front offices.

OK, so, he’s small, but Guy can ball.

He sets up his guy to run through screens as well as anybody in this draft, and whether you believe in the concept of clutch or not, dude is clutch.

Seth Curry (6’2”, 185) is a small shooter. I’d take Kyle over Seth any day of the week.

The Carolina Kids

My favorite of the Tar Heels’ prospects is Cam Johnson. Coby White and maybe Nassir Little will go in the lottery, and Johnson is looking like a later-first-round guy, but I don’t care, I just like him.

I like big (6’9”) shooters. Johnson shot 45.7 percent from three-point range in 2018-2019.

He can D up just enough – ranking third on the UNC team in defensive efficiency this past season.

I’m thinking Klay Thompson-type guy when I think of Cam Johnson.

(Others, admittedly, think more … Kyle Korver. Either way. He’s an NBA guy.)

With Coby White, he’s got good size (6’5”) for a point. His shooting needs work (42.3 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from three), and he seemed a bit turnover-prone (2.7 turnovers per game).

White could take over a game, though, and as he matures as a player, his upside includes assuming that will happen more and more often.

Comparison player for me: maybe Kyrie Irving?

I can’t speak to Little, because I didn’t see him play that much, and what I did see, I don’t remember any of it.

That might be saying something, actually, along with the fact that Roy Williams didn’t feel compelled to throw Little out on the floor as much as you’d expect a one-and-done kid to get out there.

The Virginia Tech kids

I don’t get the love for Nickeil Alexander-Walker. I seriously … just don’t. He just seems to me to be … a guy.

(I have the same opinion of Duke’s Cam Reddish. There; got his name in.)

The player from that team that I love is Justin Robinson. Problem for Robinson: he’s tiny (6’2”, 195), and old (relatively, for a draft prospect, at 23).

What I like about Robinson is that he gets into the lane – 43.8 percent of his shot attempts in 2018-2019 were at the rim – and he gets to the line.

And: he can shoot (52.4 percent on twos, 41.8 percent on threes, 81.1 percent from the line).

I see Robinson being a solid backup point. I think Derek Fisher when I see him.

Column by Chris Graham

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