Julius Randle (left) and Noah Vonleh should be taken in the first eight picks of the NBA Draft Thursday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When all this NBA Draft chatter started several weeks ago, one of the bigger debates on the board was this one:
Which guy will be selected first – Julius Randle of Kentucky or Indiana’s Noah Vonleh?
Draft week is finally here. Sixty names will be called on Draft Night Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and even the injured Joel Embiid are all contenders to be selected first overall.
But Vonleh vs. Randle remains one of the top debates. Which guy will hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver call his name first?
DraftExpress.com has Vonleh going fifth to Utah and Randle seventh to the Lakers (checkbook win for Vonleh; lifestyle win for Randle).
Sports Illustrated says Vonleh to the Lakers and Randle joining DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, which has the eighth pick.
Two mock drafts at CBSSports.com favor Vonleh and one says Randle will be drafted ahead of the Indiana freshman. NBA.com says Vonleh sixth to Boston, Randle seventh to the Lakers.
Opinion has definitely tilted toward IU’s Vonleh.
I asked my favorite NBA scout for his prediction.
“I think it’s a tossup,” he said.
Sorry. No ties. This is the NBA Draft, not the World Cup.
“Myself, I’d take Randle,” he said.
“He can put points on board,” the scout said. “He’s strong and tough so he can play right away. I think down the road, Vonleh could be better. For right now Randle is better.”
Randle’s numbers were certainly better as a college freshman. Randle averaged 14.5 points and 10.1 rebounds. Vonleh countered with 11.3 points and 9.0 boards. I asked the scout what he likes about Randle.
“To me, he’s a top five player,” he said. “He’ll definitely go from five-to-seven.
“He’s relentless. He’s strong. He’s tough. He’s left-handed, which I always think gives a player an edge because it’s different. He’s got a great motor. I think he’s a terrific competitor.”
What about the occasional issues Randle had during the season with cramps and conditioning?
“I think it will be taken care of,” the scout said. “It could drop him one or two spots.
“Didn’t LeBron (James) miss some time during the NBA Finals with cramps? I think it’s all part of it. Guys who are well muscled and put everything into it, that can happen. I’ve seen good players cramp up for a lot of years. I don’t think any of that is a major problem.”
So Randle, 19, steps in at power forward and contributes?
“He’s a little bit of a combo which we’re having more and more of today,” he said. “He’s a power forward and small forward.
“Derrick Coleman (the former Syracuse star) is a decent comparison. Randle is a little more mobile than Derrick, but Derrick was a little taller.”
And what about Vonleh, who is still only 18, one of the youngest players in this draft?
“He has tremendous upside,” the scout said. “You look at his numbers, very good field goal percentage (52.3). He led the league (Big Ten) in rebounding. He was a year young for the grade.
“Imagine if that kid was coming out of high school this year. I think that’s a major reason why he’s climbing. He’s moving up. He’ll go 5 to 10. He’s a very good kid. He’s built for the game. He has a proto-typical NBA body.
“I’ve never heard a negative thing said about him.”
There have been some questions about his ability to score in the low post, while creating his own shot. He’s got a solid stroke from the perimeter and he’s solid at putting back offensive rebounds.
But dumping the ball to him on the block did not always result in two points at Indiana. Randle has that signature spin move. Vonleh needs a go-to move, too.
“He needs to improve his post game,” the scout said. “Most of these kids do. One of the things that’s disappeared some in the game is the whole low post offense. It’s disappeared. He can get the money and he’s going to be a high draft choice.”
Both of them are. On Thursday night we’ll finally discover which one gets drafted first.