NBA Draft Reactions: Purdue’s Edwards to the Rockets, Mathias to the Cavaliers, Haas to the Jazz
The NBA draft, one of the more fun nights in the pit of despair that usually is Twitter dot com, happened last night, with three out of the four Boilermaker seniors walking away with NBA opportunities. PJ Thompson is reportedly weighing overseas professional options in Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, and Spain, so it’s a safe bet to say that all four of our beloved Class of 2018 will get money to play basketball, and that’s truly the best thing in the world.
As I wrote yesterday, situation means everything in the NBA, and all three of Vincent Edwards (Houston), Dakota Mathias (Cleveland), and Isaac Haas (Utah) ended up in very intriguing spots to showcase their talents. Below are quick reactions to their NBA dreams coming true:
Vincent Edwards - #52 pick, Houston Rockets
(via trade with the Utah Jazz)
I’ll make a confession right off the bat: I initially had 14 teams listed in Vince’s “Favorite NBA Fits” section when I realized that was nearly half of the NBA, and Houston was the last cut I made from that list.
I shouldn’t have cut Houston, because this is a tremendous situation for Edwards.
Vince is joining a 65-win Houston Rockets team led by likely-MVP James Harden and Point God Chris Paul, under the direction of offensive wizard Mike D’Antoni. The 2018 Rockets came closer to dethroning the Kevin Durant/Steph Curry Golden State Warriors than any team over the past two years, with Paul’s unlucky Game 5 hamstring injury proving too much to overcome despite holding a 3-2 series lead over GSW.
Houston has a series of fascinating offseason moves ahead, with three names in the forefront of GM Daryl Morey’s mind: Chris Paul, Clint Capella, and LeBron James. Paul, one of the best point guards in NBA history largely responsible for Houston’s leap from good to great team, is an injury-prone 33-year-old free agent eligible for an absurd 5-year, $200 million contract extension. Capella is their high-flying center, one of the best role players in the league, and a free agent the Rockets need to bring back. Houston is also on every reported short-list for LeBron James, but any move for LeBron would take a level of salary cap maneuvering that might stretch even Morey’s abilities.
All of these moves make Houston's cheap veteran signings and rookie contracts even more valuable, which is where our man Vince steps in.
Morey needs to surround Harden (and Paul and Capella and maybe LeBron) with as many instant-impact, cheap, 3-point shooting, defensive wings as possible. Vince is a perfect fit for that mold.
Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Trevor Ariza, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are Houston’s productive wing players that might need to be replaced next year, and Vince will get an instant opportunity to prove his worth on the league’s highest stage, alongside multiple Hall of Famers, and under one of the league’s most influential coaches. Not every rookie gets to fall into a championship situation, and Vince has found himself in an enviable position.
Read any “draft grades” column populating the interwebs at this moment and you’ll hear glowing reviews for this pick, for all the reasons mentioned here. Size, experience, instant-impact, high-floor reliability. But what’s still unknown, aside from Houston’s offseason, is Vince’s effort.
We know he’s got the tools, we know he’s got a fantastic basketball IQ, and we know he’s got the experience to help any contending NBA team right away. But we’ve also got a huge sample size of Vince games where he disappears for entire halves, where he doesn’t go all-out for every rebound, and where he seems a step slower than he should be defensively. Role-playing rookies on championship-caliber teams can’t sleepwalk through even one minute of play in high-pressure games, and Vince will need to show that passivity is behind him.
But, if I’m making a bet? I think Tourney Vince is the Edwards we see for the Rockets. If he’s still on Houston’s roster by the time the season starts, (because you never know with wheeling-and-dealing Daryl Morey), I’ll bet Vince is a key cog in the next few years of the Rockets’ contention.
Dakota Mathias – Undrafted, Cleveland Cavaliers (Exhibit 10 contract)
He’s coming home, he’s coming home. Tell the world, Dakota’s coming home.
Dakota has his NBA shot, and it’s as close to home as he could get. The Cleveland Cavaliers offered Mathias one of the newest contracts available to rookie free agents, an Exhibit 10 deal:
In simple English, Exhibit 10 deals are partially-guaranteed contracts for high-priority late-round players that goes hand-in-hand with the NBA’s effort to build up the G-League (formerly the Development League).
If Dakota makes it through Summer League and the Cavs still like him, they’ve got exclusive rights to extend his deal through the 2018-2019 year. The expected progression for Exhibit 10 players is playing through Summer League, getting a Two-Way contract (basically, a higher-paying G-League contract where Cleveland has his exclusive rights), and getting called up to the NBA roster when the need arises.
Basically, this is (potentially) the most lucrative non-fully guaranteed contract a rookie can sign with a team.
And that alone is an amazing accomplishment for Dakota Mathias, who will certainly want to prove he’s enough of a deadeye shooter to belong in the NBA. As noted yesterday, his shooting and playmaking abilities make him stand out in almost every analytics-inclined rookie projection system, including ESPN’s Kevin Pelton:
The Cavs are at the center of the biggest story in the NBA: LeBron James’ free agency decision. If he decides to stay in Cleveland for another year, the Cavs will use virtually every lever available to keep their roster at a championship-level (despite, you know, a roster of the most inconsistent players in the league aside from LeBron and Kevin Love). If LeBron leaves…it’s back to the drawing board for the Cavs, who will almost certainly offload most of their veteran contracts and open up a ton of playing time for their rookies.
Mathias’ fate, along with fellow rookie Collin Sexton’s, is tied inextricably to LeBron’s decision this summer. The unfortunate part for Mathias is that, despite his shooting prowess, what the Lebron Cavs need is perimeter defense to match up with Philadelphia, Boston, and Golden State…and that’s where Mathias falls short. His playing time might be better suited for a rebuilding situation, even though a LeBron-less Cavs don’t necessarily provide the best foundation for success.
Either way, Dakota has his shot in the pros, and it’s a homecoming shot any undrafted rookie would gladly take on.
Isaac Haas – Undrafted, Utah Jazz (Summer League contract)
It looks like Isaac Haas is getting an expected Summer League deal after going undrafted, with his opportunity in Utah for Quin Snyder’s Jazz.
Utah is building around two franchise-pieces in center Rudy Gobert and budding star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, and is potentially losing frontcourt depth this summer. PF Derrick Favors is a free agent, and backup centers Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh are both 31-year-old backups on nonguaranteed contracts.
Haas would likely be competing with Utah’s 2017 first round pick Tony Bradley during summer league, with Bradley having the upper hand on account of his guaranteed 2018-2019 contract. Haas’ lingering elbow injury won’t help his NBA prospects, despite being cleared to play in Summer League, but Utah presents Isaac with an NBA opportunity in one of the most stable organizations and best coaching staffs in the league.
(I know, I’m as stunned as any college basketball fan that Quin Snyder is a sure-fire top 6 coach in the NBA.)
The NBA’s style of play has seemingly passed Haas by, with his dominant post play devalued in favor of lob-catching and rim protection. But, given his gargantuan size, the NBA will be curious to see of Haas can gain any traction during Summer League, and professional franchises overseas will be lining up to give Haas a healthy amount of money to leave the States and play professional basketball. On-the-court, I don’t think we’ve got to worry too much about Isaac at all.