NBA draft day has finally arrived and while players will live out their dreams of getting selected by a team, some questions still remain unanswered.
On the latest Crossover Podcast, Chris Mannix and Jeremy Woo dive into Zion Williamson, potential sleeper picks, players with red flags and more.
(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Chris Mannix: Give me some of your sleeper guys in the draft?
Jeremy Woo: Yeah, I really do like Goga Bitadze. I have him as the top international guy ahead of Sekou Doumbouya. I think he's a pretty safe pick. Granted, I haven't seen him play in person but I've watched a lot of tape on him. He was so productive at a high level in Europe. Not a lot of teenagers are starting in the Euroleague and producing. He’s doing that and I think that's a huge indicator just in terms of his readiness and I think he can get stronger. I like how physical he is. He can shoot threes. To me, he's the best center in the draft and I would take him—his range starts at 10. I would probably take him at 10 but I think it's more likely he falls in that next group. He's a guy who I think might be a little bit undervalued but we’ve seen European centers like him kind of succeed.
Nic Claxton is a name that comes up a lot. I like him too. He's grown on me from Georgia. He was good at the combine. Apparently he's been working out really well for teams and if you look at how Pascal Siakam really changed the game for Toronto in the playoffs as a sort of a big guy who can handle the ball and can defend. I think that's the idea with Claxton and not that he is going to be that good—but you know how often are you gonna find a 6’11” guy who could actually handle the ball? And I think in his workouts he's starting to convince teams that ‘hey maybe I can be a power forward and not just be a center and really expand that skill set’. So I think you'll see someone take a chance on him. I think that's an interesting thought to take because he can guard so well and you know on the perimeter for his size and I think he's just really tapping into what he can be. So to me he's one of those interesting mid first-round projects.
Mannix: So when it comes to guys that have the biggest question marks: I know Bol Bol kind of fits that category. But are there any other guys out there that particularly scare you with the question marks or red flags they have?
Woo: So we talked about Bol Bol. Romeo Langford is a guy who I have been worried about for most of the season. I know he has a strong pedigree dating back to high school and I respect that but you know for him I've always just had concerns. I know he played hurt—his right wrist was banged up and they're saying that effected his shooting but I never thought he was a great shooter going into the season. I think that was a question mark. With him you know, I question how skilled he is off the dribble. I think sometimes, I wrote this earlier like last month, It's like soon as we look at a big athletic wing—we just kind of assume that's going to be a valuable player For example like Stanley Johnson four years ago—he's had a tough time in the NBA. He’s another guy who probably ultimately was not as a skilled as we hoped and that ended up being a stumbling block for him.
Langford is a guy I'm concerned about. Kevin Porter Jr. comes up a lot as one of those big you know interesting risk guys and he's a guy who I do have some optimism with and I'd probably do it if I had multiple picks if I could chance it in the teens or whatever but those are some of the guys who I think you know are going to have potential to fall or you know end up being stable in the back lottery. But those are two names that I would look at to finish kind of back at the top of the draft.
Mannix: When you look at Zion do you see like a can't miss guy? I mean there are some guys that come along whether it's LeBron or Anthony Davis or I mean there's a handful of others that that just look like can't miss types of guys. Do you look at Zion in that same vein?
Woo: I think yeah with the caveat being you know if he can stay healthy for his whole career then yeah. The counterpoint may be well we never see anyone exactly like him. Like how do we project that? But I just think that Zion—the intangibles factor is so strong. He's a smart player. I don't think people have talked enough just about his ability to sort of play with others and he enjoys that. You know he's not a selfish player. He just produces he doesn't necessarily need to be fed. He just produces and you know I think particularly now that we know where he's going to go and we know that New Orleans is going to be armed with a ton of assets they have a ton in their pocket they have smart people making decisions now for the team.
I think we should be even more optimistic about that marriage just knowing that every decision they make is going to be aimed with how do they maximize this guy and how do tget get the most out of him because the talent is not a question. With any player there's risk and I think you hope that they'll be able to keep him healthy and at his size, I think you can probably expect him to get banged up. You know he plays so hard and I think that he's gonna have to at some point figure out the right balance right. That's one thing as he's always playing balls to the wall. I love it. But also you know come on man be careful. You don't need to jump that high all the time. He's like one of those guys like Derrick Rose and as you'd watch him and he'd just go up and you'd worry about him like landing and then ultimately he got hurt. So I guess I'm not saying it's going to happen but it's just for me I get some of those flashbacks. Just like you grit your teeth. But I do believe in Zion wholeheartedly for sure with that team.
Mannix: That team if nothing else is gonna be really fun to watch next year with Alvin Gentry coaching it and Lonzo Ball running the point guard and Zion and whatever else they add in the draft and they're going to be entertaining to say the least.