Purdue’s 2018 NBA Draft Expectations & Prospects
IT’S NBA DRAFT SEASON, FOLKS.
That’s right. Tomorrow, Thursday June 21 at 7pm, one of the most impactful senior classes in Purdue basketball history becomes NBA-eligible. Vince(nt) Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias won 104 games together in black and gold, and three months after capping Purdue’s first 30-win season their dreams are on the cusp of becoming reality.
Because, really – who knows? Successful pairings of player and team in the NBA draft is a wonderful combination of self-motivation, drive, perseverance, luck, opportunity, infrastructure, coaching, and luck again.
Sometimes a player finds a real role in the Association (E'Twaun Moore), sometimes a good player flames out after landing in a so-so situation (AJ Hammons), sometimes a decent player’s strengths are accentuated by a solid system (Brian Cardinal, Carl Landry), sometimes a good player’s body fails him (Robbie Hummel), sometimes a player just doesn’t have the work ethic for the NBA but flourishes overseas (JaJuan Johnson), and sometimes even the hardest working player came into the league a decade or two too late (Caleb Swanigan).
As Purdue fans, we’ve seen every iteration of those circumstances in recent years. All of these players dominated one of the best collegiate conferences in the country, and only three of them (to date) found long-lasting roles in the NBA.
It’s a tough road to travel, and every circumstance is different. Which is why context during the NBA Draft post-analysis grading frenzy is vital – the same destination might be perfect for one player, and disastrous for another.
Just take the 2011 draft for evidence: JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore were both drafted by the Boston Celtics, a veteran-laden roster under a coach that hated playing young guys. Only E’Twaun made it through the benchings and trades to come out with a fourth NBA contract. JaJuan didn’t make it in the Association, due to skillset or coaching or immaturity or some combination. But JaJuan has made an impressive career for himself in Turkey: he just helped Darüşşafaka win the 2018 EuroCup Championship under former Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach David Blatt, made 2017-18’s All-EuroCup Second Team, and is making good money playing basketball in beautiful Istanbul.
E’Twaun “succeeded”, JaJuan “failed”, but both seem to be using their talents to live pretty fantastic lives playing professional basketball.
That’s the warning before we get into full-blown draft mode – we don’t know how these moves will turn out (even though I’ll absolutely be writing immediate reaction posts for each senior), and probably won’t know for a few years. Team fit, player mindset, and NBA style of play all play huge parts in a player’s success or failure in the pros.
But what insight I can offer is probability of fit after the NBA draft/signing period, as both a Purdue die-hard and NBA fan. Here’s what to expect for each senior going into the draft:
Purdue’s most likely draft choice, now that Carsen Edwards is returning to West Lafayette for his Junior year, is the elder Edwards.
A lot of Purdue fan feathers were ruffled after Vince didn’t get a combine invitation, but after four years of high-usage for a prominent Big Ten school, Vince’s draft stock is fairly common knowledge among scouts and teams.
His strength, as has been since 2014, lies in his versatility and frame. Edwards is a 6’8” forward with a 7’ wingspan who can shoot, pass, and defend with the best wings in college basketball. But where his skillset and potential instant-impact off the bench has some teams interested, his lack of above-the-rim athleticism and bouts of passivity might cause him to slip on draft day.
To me, Vince is the only Boilermaker with a shot at being drafted. He appeared in DraftExpress’ Mock Draft from January 2017 until March 2018, off and on the second round board. Same with CBSsports, The Ringer, and virtually every other draft board out there – it’s hard to predict the second round of the NBA draft, and Vince’s stock has been variable. Right now, The Ringer has Vince at #58 to the Denver Nuggets, and Tankathon has him #49 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Expect Vince to be somewhere in the latter half of the second round, and expect him to have an immediate contract lined up if he goes undrafted. NBA teams will want to see if he can defend, as do-it-all wings that can switch onto multiple positions are the rarest commodity in the modern game.
2018 workouts: Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz
2017 workouts: Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans
My favorite Vincent Edwards NBA fits: Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz
Talk about a rough three months.
Haas’ lone full year in the starting lineup produced an impressive 15 points/6 rebounds/1 block season of bullyball…and then everything hit the fan.
He had his elbow broken during the NCAA Tournament’s first round, which limited the amount of work he could do for NBA teams during the draft run-up. He also was accused of knowingly spreading STDs and has generally avoided interviews because woah boy was that a story I wasn’t ready to read.
On and off the court, Haas has had a rough time since March Madness began. All of that adds to the fact that Isaac Haas, much like Caleb Swanigan last year, seem to be NBA stars from a different era. Haas would fit perfectly in the NBA of the 90s or early 00s, where post-play and behemoths who could move with fluidity in the paint were bedrocks of offenses. He had some of the more impressive measurables in last month’s NBA Draft Combine, and embodies the “can’t teach size” coaching mantra.
Unfortunately, things couldn’t be more different in 2018. Shooting, screen-and-rolls, rim protection, and defensive switching are the NBA’s guiding principles, leaving Haas’ solid post play but plodding footwork and agility in another decade.
But they don’t make humans like Isaac Haas on Earth, so he’ll almost certainly get a practice squad contract and G-League opportunity after going undrafted. And if he doesn’t like the life of bus rides to Erie, PA, he will always be able to find a lucrative spot on a European squad with plenty of opportunity to shine. Roosevelt Barnes, Swanigan’s adoptive father, is Haas’ agent and is naturally very bullish on Haas’ fit in today’s NBA, but only time (and opportunity) will tell.
This has been a couple of rough months for Isaac, and that might continue through the draft. But I think his long-term on-court career will work out just fine. (The off-the-court stuff? No bueno.)
2018 workouts: Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons
2017 workouts: Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans
My favorite Isaac Haas NBA fits: Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat
We’ve arrived at the most surprising and fastest-rising NBA prospect on Purdue’s roster.
Since Purdue’s season has ended, Dakota has racked up frequent flier miles. He’s worked out for at least seven NBA franchises, was featured in a must-read Sports Illustrated article for Purdue fans everywhere, impressed scouts across the country, and is being presented with G-League opportunities with improved infrastructure in a league hugely dependent on the three-point shot.
Things are shaping up unbelievably well for Mathias.
As we know, his major selling point will always be his three-point shot with true NBA range. Mathias shot above 45% on high-volume shots during both his junior and senior seasons, which projects extremely well in multiple mathematical models ranking NBA prospects. Feeding into that are his passing instincts, with Coach Painter repeatedly referring to Mathias as the best passer he’s had at Purdue. But his lack of athleticism and an unimpressive frame will undoubtedly hurt his chances for success at the NBA level. Defensive versatility is the what teams are looking for and I think Mathias is stuck guarding only shooting guards, leaving him vulnerable against quicker guards or longer forwards.
Going undrafted but having a handful of teams interested, his most likely scenario, might be the best outcome for Dakota. Fit means everything in the NBA, particularly for late-round fringe prospects, and Dakota will need a perfect situation to adapt at his own pace within a system that allows him to showcase his offensive talents.
Particularly with the advent of two-way contracts, giving NBA teams more investment in players within the G-League would be Dakota’s best path for success. I think, as odd as it might sound, Dakota might see a handful of NBA minutes before heading to a wildly successful career in Europe, and that expectation alone is a testament to how much Mathias has developed over the past four years.
My favorite Dakota Mathias NBA fits: Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Orlando Magic
Go ahead and immediately read Handsome Nathan Baird’s story on PJ’s next steps.
Nice to have you back. PJ Thompson was (until he faded away at the worst possible time during Purdue’s 2018 tourney run) the perfect college point guard. PJ was stocky, smart, selfless floor general with an assist-to-turnover ratio to die for and deadeye three-point shot, a perfect complementary piece as Purdue transitioned from a Biggie-led 2017 offense to a run-and-gun 2018 team.
Unfortunately for his NBA chances, he’s 5’8” without anything close to above-the-rim athleticism and won’t be on NBA radars (outside of some G-League offers). According to Baird, teams from Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, and Spain are interested in signing PJ (for good reason), and he stands to have a great overseas career if he’s interested.
But, just like DJ Byrd's recent movoes, it seems like PJ’s long-term goals are in coaching meetings, video rooms, and in suits along the sidelines. And I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to see PJ rack up his savings account in Europe for a few years before returning to the States to coach. He’s got the temperament, experience, and intelligence to be a tremendous asset to any coaching staff, and I can’t wait until he’s announced as Purdue men’s basketball’s 20th head coach.
My favorite PJ Thompson NBA fit: Real Madrid, Brad Stevens’ staff on the Boston Celtics, following Micah Shrewsberry to his inevitable job as a D-1 head coach, Purdue men’s basketball head coach in 2030.
Feature image from PurdueSports.com