Two Jayhawks appear on ESPN's initial 2019 NBA mock draft
ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony released his most recent 2019 NBA mock draft on Wednesday morning and it featured a couple of notable names for Kansas fans.
Even though the 2019 NBA Draft is still 10 months away, it’s worth tracking these sorts of things now so we’ll know how certain players rise and fall during the course of the fast-approaching 2018-19 season.
It did not take long for the first KU-relevant name to jump off the page. Listed at No. 7 overall — solidly in the lottery and to the Atlanta Hawks — is freshman guard Quentin Grimes.
Grimes’ status as a likely lottery pick certainly comes as no surprise. He’s been showing up in the 2019 projected lottery for months and his game and the buzz surrounding it have only improved this summer.
One of the most interesting things about Grimes’ positioning — at least in my eyes — is that he’s just one spot behind Indiana freshman Romeo Langford in Givony’s latest mock draft.
Surely you remember Romeo Madness. When the all-world Indiana guard elected to stay home and play for the Hoosiers, a handful of KU fans viewed it as a blow to Kansas. But that was before Lagerald Vick announced his return for his senior season and during the process of Grimes garnering mention by some unnamed college coaches as potentially the best and most complete player in all of college basketball this season.
Sure, landing Romeo would have been a nice get for KU, but it seems clear that they’ll be OK without him.
The only other KU player on Givony’s Aug. 29 mock draft is KU junior Udoka Azubuike, slotted as the No. 53 pick to Philadelphia.
I’ll give you a minute to process the thought of Azubuike and Joel Embiid playing on the same team................. OK. Minute’s up.
By far the most interesting thing about Azubuike’s appearance on the mock draft is that he’s on there at all. The 7-foot center from Nigeria could not buy his way onto draft boards this summer. And after testing the NBA waters and attending the pre-draft combine in Chicago, Azubuike remained on the outside looking in and decided to return to KU for a third season.
Starting on the draft board puts Azubuike in a much better position to not only be drafted next June but also to move up more quickly. He’s still going to have to show a lot and improve a lot to get there, but he certainly figures to have the opportunity to do so as one of the cornerstones of the 2018-19 Kansas basketball team.
Improved conditioning, explosiveness, shot blocking prowess and rebounding, along with continuing signs of development in his all-around offensive game, figure to be high on the list of things NBA brass would like to see from Azubuike this season.
As for the rest of the 2018-19 KU roster, it was a little surprising to not see junior forward Dedric Lawson in Givony’s Top 60, given the double-double Lawson averaged at Memphis along with his overall skill set and the buzz surrounding him heading into the season.
But then again, Givony left Carlton Bragg Jr., off of his initial 2017 mock draft around this same time in August of 2016 and turned out to be way right on that one.
I think Lawson’s a much better prospect now than Bragg ever was and his college career to this point certainly backs that up. So perhaps in time Lawson will work his way onto these types of mock drafts. That should be as fun to follow as tracking just how far Azubuike can move up.
If you’re asking me, I’d put late lottery as Lawson’s ceiling and would imagine the 35-45 range would be about as low as he could go. It all depends on what he does with his opportunity at Kansas, specifically how well he shoots it and how often he shows any kind of explosive athleticism.
If you’re looking for other Jayhawks not in Givony’s initial mock draft who could wind up sneaking on there at some point, think Silvio De Sousa, Devon Dotson and possibly even Lagerald Vick, who has NBA athleticism, good 2-guard size and the shot to play at that level.
But all three of those guys have quite a bit of work to do to prove they belong on this particular list.