If you're anything like me, you've spent so much time over the last couple of weeks following the Golden State Warriors' championship run that you've almost entirely ignored the fact that the 2015 NBA Draft is coming up on Thursday.
And as I'll discuss a bit later today, I'm among those hoping the team can package the pick as a sweetener with David Lee to clear some cap room as Basketball Jonez discussed in a post yesterday.
If you've been following this team for as long as I have, it might even be a relief to feel like the draft is not the most anticipated day of the year for once.
What happened to the two months I usually get to take off between the end of the Warriors' season and the NBA draft?
— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) June 23, 2015
So today will be the beginning of my "catch up" process and I'll start with a look at two players that have been mentioned by folks at GSoM on occasion: Syracuse teammates Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough.
During ESPN's pre-draft conference call yesterday, draft analyst Jay Bilas spoke at length about both and since they're generally expected to be available around the Warriors' 30th pick his discussion of them caught my eye.
McCullough is someone who caught Conrad Chow's eye earlier this season and is generally considered to be the higher rated prospect in that he's younger and has that much-sought after "upside". Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress highlighted McCullough's potential as the rare player who can both space the floor on offense and block shots, but Bilas was very clear that he might need some time in the D-League.
He's got ability. I tend to think that coming out is kind of a mixed bag, and they're going to rightly feel like we don't know. And you have others that say, no, what we saw, if his knee is round, he's got some potential and some area to improve. A late first round pick or an early second‑round pick, let him mature; stick him in the D‑League for a while, all that kind of thing could be really beneficial down the road.
Obviously, the Warriors have the infrastructure in place to develop a player who might need some time in the D-League; unfortunately, we've seen a guy like Nemanja Nedovic never really make it despite that and the jury's still out on the likes of Justin Holiday and James Michael McAdoo, though both have shown signs of promise.
Meanwhile, Christmas is a far more refined ball player and better physical specimen by all accounts and could be a player that is a bit closer to contributing to a NBA team. Perhaps most impressive is his improvement over the course of his career at Syracuse, though he is still plagued by the same question that follows all Syracuse players to the pros: can he pick up a man-to-man defense?
Bilas responded to that as well.
I anticipate him going in the second round, high in the second round. You know what you're getting. He's mature, and he's ready to step in and play right away. I think he's going to be able to perform man‑to‑man defense. He played zone his whole college career, which is always a question with Syracuse guys.
It's just the way it is. They play zone in games and they play man a lot in practice. But Christmas had a great year. He improved his post moves. He's a rim protector, a good rebounder, he's long. He's not the tallest guy as a five. But he runs the floor, and I think he performed at a really high level in the Combine and opened a lot of eyes even further that had been opened during the season. So I like him a lot. I think he's a valuable pick in the early second round.
Bilas' point about a guy like Christmas — a potential value pick — being available in the early second round is why trading down and getting out of a guaranteed contract if there are multiple guys the Warriors like wouldn't be a very bad idea.