Current Jayhawks talk NBA Draft and which former teammate they'd draft first
Thursday is obviously one of the biggest days in the lives of the four former KU basketball players hoping to hear their names called in the NBA Draft and finally find out in what city their professional careers will begin.
But it’s not just Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhahiliuk, Malik Newman and Billy Preston who will be locked in during Thursday’s draft, hanging on every word from the NBA commissioner and sweating out every pick that’s read at the podium.
“We’ll definitely be watching on Thursday,” KU sophomore K.J. Lawson said during a break at Brett Ballard’s Washburn Basketball camp in Topeka on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. Those guys worked very hard to be in the opportunity they’re in and one day you’ll want guys to cheer you on who were on the team with you. And I hope all of those guys’ dreams come true and I know it will happen.”
Sam Cunliffe, who also spent some time at Washburn on Tuesday, said watching guys he became close with go through the process of preparing for the NBA Draft has been a wild reminder of why he came to Kansas and continues to put in all of the hours and work to become the best player he can be.
“It’s just so humbling because, you know, I was just practicing with Devonte’ and Svi and all those guys and they’re there now,” Cunliffe said. “And it really makes you realize you want to get there, too.
“The thing about it is those are your friends. You were with them every day and you just know them for who they are. But it’s like, ‘These guys are getting ready to go change their life.’ And then you look at it selfishly and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m that close. All I have to do is play well, play the right way, have a good season and this could be a reality for me.”
There’s still a long way to go and a lot of games and days ahead before Cunliffe or anyone else on the 2018-19 Kansas roster can step into the shoes those four former Jayhawks have walked in during the past couple of months. And it’s anybody’s guess at this point how this year’s draft will play out and who from the 2018-19 roster will wind up drafted and in the NBA when their time comes, as well.
But, for now, given their first-hand knowledge of these four players and their strengths and weaknesses, it only seemed right to ask Lawson and Cunliffe what order they would select the four Jayhawks in if they were wearing an NBA GM hat this week and making the picks in New York.
“It’s hard to pick, man,” Lawson said with a sideways smile. “It just depends on what I’m looking for. If I’m looking for the all-around leader that’s going to speak up, I’m going with Devonte’. If you’re looking for an assassin, knock-down shooter, I’m going to go with Svi and if you’re looking for a guy that’s going to score the ball from all three levels, I’m going to go get Malik Newman.”
Cunliffe was willing to step a little farther out on the limb and actually provided an order.
“The thing about Svi is he can shoot,” Cunliffe said. “And I think when you can shoot you can play anywhere. And he’s tall and he’s a good athlete. People kind of sleep on that because he is such a great shooter. So I think I’d go Svi first and then Devonte’s just a great leader and he can fit in anywhere, and then Malik obviously can knock down shots and score. And I haven’t seen Billy. I obviously know he can play and is talented, but we’re waiting to see Billy play a lot of minutes and a whole season.”
— For what it’s worth, Svi is also at the top of my list. I just think his combination of size, elite skill in his shooting ability and his versatility and age make him a candidate to become the perfect role player on a good team — maybe a 7th or 8th man someday — and he clearly has the time and focus to develop into that and not be a boom-or-bust guy right away. —
Regardless of what order these current Jayhawks would select the foursome or what order they really wind up going in tomorrow night’s draft, Lawson said one thing was certain.
“We know they’re all going to play hard because they come from Kansas so it’s just instilled in them,” he said.