CRAWFORD | The good and bad from NBA Draft
By Eric Crawford
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Another NBA Draft night has come and gone. At just past midnight, a look at some of the good and bad from area players.
Good for Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, the ninth player taken overall, by the New York Knicks. Sure, he got the traditional boos from Knicks fans in Brooklyn, but Knox is mentally and physically ready to play in the NBA.
“They booed [Kristaps] Porzingis [on draft night] and look where he is now,” Knox said of the crowd reaction. “That’s the same mindset I’m going to have. They can chant Michael Porter all they want. But they got Kevin Knox, and I’m willing to work and I’m willing to get better.”
The New York Post called Knox “a gamble,” but the 6-9 forward was a pretty safe choice for any team picking in the lottery.
His offensive game was good when he got to Kentucky, and kept coming along over the course of the season. That will only accelerate now that he’s in the NBA. He’ll need to develop a little more edge to his game, but he’s unquestionably deserving of his top 10 draft status.
And he did get the blessing of one of the Knicks’ fans with one of the largest platforms:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went two picks later, by the Charlotte Hornets, then was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. His length (6-11 wingspan), defensive ability and professional temperament should position him for a successful stint in the league.
“I was ecstatic to be going to Charlotte, to be going to the NBA really,” he said. “It's a great feeling, and whoever I got drafted by, I was going to feel really good. And then figuring out I was going to go to the Clippers was even a better feeling. I feel like I fit really well with them and had a great workout and dinner with those guys and feel really comfortable. I guess I feel like I'm on top of the world.”
He certainly was at the top of the Draft night fashion list:
Also in the good column, with two more one-and-done lottery picks ,Kentucky coach John Calipari’s NBA Draft roll continued. He’s now had 26 first-round draft picks at Kentucky, a mind-boggling run.
And I’ll put Louisville native Ray Spalding in the good column. He was taken with the 56th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, then reportedly his draft rights were traded to Dallas. Spalding was ready to turn the page to the next chapter after some tumultuous years at Louisville, but as time passed and he didn’t advance to a higher projection in the draft, I couldn’t help but wonder if he couldn’t help himself with another season of college basketball.
Regardless, Spalding impressed enough teams that he was selected, and he could blossom into a pretty good professional player if his offensive game improves and he gets physically stronger. He turned into the kind of Type-A player everyone hoped he would be over the course of his junior season, and if that progression continues, he’ll have a good pro career.
Spalding didn’t come to Louisville with lottery-type projections. Like some others from Louisville, he’ll just need to make the most of his opportunity now that he’s in the league.
His selection continues a good recent run for Louisville, and for former coach Rick Pitino, who has had Donovan Mitchell, Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell and Chinanu Onuaku, among others, taken in recent years. U of L remains the only school in the NCAA to have players drafted in football and basketball every year since 2013.
I don’t know, if you’re Jarred Vanderbilt or Hamidou Diallo, and came to college with the expectation that you’d become a first-round draft pick and potentially a lottery pick, to slip to the second round to me says you needed to put in a little more work at the college level.
There’s no questioning the ability of either player. You wonder if Diallo might’ve gone higher had he declared a year earlier, when he wowed onlookers with his vertical leap at the NBA Scouting Combine. And Vanderbilt was a bit of a mystery all season at Kentucky, but sure looked as if he could be a game changer once he got himself healthy and up to speed, for what few games that lasted. Still, he becomes Calipari's first one-and-done player at UK not to go in the first round.
Diallo was taken No. 45 overall by the Brooklyn Nets, which had to have been a rush for the Queens, N.Y., native, only to be traded shortly after to the Charlotte Hornets. Another reason it’s tough to put his draft in the “good” column.
Vanderbilt was taken 41st overall by Orlando, then traded to the Denver Nuggets.
Others weren’t so fortunate. Wenyen Gabriel went undrafted. As did Deng Adel. Anas Mahmoud of Louisville went undrafted but didn’t declare early.
Adel and Gabriel made head-scratcher decisions. Neither was ever in a good position to go in this draft. They’ll have to fight through the free agent route. Mahmoud no doubt will get a shot, because of his size and defensive ability. If he can flil out his frame and get stronger, he could find a spot.
The list of top college players who didn’t get drafted was a long one. For those who did, wherever they went, it was a dream kind of night. For those who didn’t, they’ll have to keep working to achieve the dream.
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