Jay Bilas is a pretty awesome guy. Whether its calling college basketball games for ESPN, calling out the NCAA for hypocrisy, or debating top draft prospects with Chad Ford, you can count on him to have both a strong and reasoned view. So when Dove Men+Care presented the opportunity to discuss the tomorrow's NBA Draft, we were pretty excited. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
I asked him about Kyrie Irving,
a fellow former Blue Devil from Duke University. He had nothing but positive things to say about Irving, calling him a "nice kid", and talking at length about his skill as a player. Irving didn't log too many minutes at Duke, but he clearly loves Coach K, and has spent this summer working out in Miami with Austin Rivers, who also spent a year at Duke.
On Nerlens Noel
While Bilas isn't a big fan of the Cavs taking Nerlens Noel with the top pick, he did have some positive things to say. "He is gonna be a good pro ... He is a big time athlete, plays hard defensively ... he is a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis was, and he gets steals."
I asked him if he thought we judge young bigs coming out for the draft as 18 and 19 year olds too harshly due to their age, but he pushed back pretty hard on that, and I largely agree. He intimated that the critical lens was appropriate because "that's part of the deal" and made it clear that he would like to see better incentives to keep kids in college so that they get that experience.
What does Bilas think about Noel's offensive game? "He can drive it a little bit ... [but] he's gonna be cut off if he can't shoot." This matches up pretty well with our scouting report of Noel. He is a better ballhandler than he gets credit for, but NBA defenses will find ways to take that away pretty quickly. Still, it isn't out the question that Noel can develop a more well rounded offensive game.
On Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo
Bilas is actually on the record saying that McLemore is the best choice for the Cavaliers. While that isn't a view shared by many on Fear the Sword, I asked him to compare McLemore and Victor Oladipo. "McLemore is the more talented player ... Oladipo has a chance to be a great player. Not as skilled or gifted offensively. He's more assertive. He's a power player. The question with McLemore is how assertive is he going to be?" Bilas considers McLemore the top talent in the draft, with mental makeup questions being the primary concern for a team selecting him.
On the quality of the draft overall
"If we started the draft at 8 or 9, we would think it was good. It just isn't a draft you want to be at the top of."
On a potential sleeper draft pick
"I like Lorenzo Brown", (from North Carolina State). He compared Brown's game to Rondo if he reaches his peak and sees him as a second round pick with real NBA potential.
On Jeff Withey
I asked Bilas about Gorgui Dieng and Jeff Withey, guys who might be available for the Cavaliers at pick 19 if they do end up taking a guard first overall. He wasn't totally impressed with Withey. "Withey is not the type that can hold low post position. There is no low base [to maintain position]."
I apologize for not asking him about Alex Len. The conversation didn't last that long, and we had the conversation last week, just as the Len rumors were going into overdrive. I can tell you he sees Noel as a better prospect than Len, and if you want more detail you can check out this ESPN Insider article where he fleshes out his views a bit. But a big thanks to Mr. Bilas and Dove Men+Care for helping us set this up.