Which Kansas prospect will go first in NBA draft no easy call

I conducted an unscientific poll on Twitter, asking: “You’re an NBA GM with balanced roster, no glaring need. Which #KUbball player do you draft first?”

The results:

1 – Devonte’ Graham (31 percent)

2 – Svi Mykhailiuk (30 percent)

3 – Malik Newman (22 percent)

4 – Billy Preston (17 percent)

Not surprised that it was such a close call. A case could be made for all four.

A look at some measurements from the NBA draft combine:

KU draft prospect Height
with shoes
Weight Wingspan Standing
Devonte’ Graham 6-1.5 186.4 6-6.25 8-0 Feb. 22, 1995
Malik Newman 6-3.25 189.2 6-5.5 8-2.5 Feb. 21, 1997
Svi Mykhailiuk 6-7.75 211.6 6-4.75 8-4 June 10, 1997
Billy Preston 6-10.5 222.4 7-2 9-0 Oct. 26, 1997

The pros and cons of each KU prospect:

Graham pros: His personality perfectly suits the position he’ll play in the NBA. You want your point guard to be an energetic, unselfish extrovert who enjoys interacting with people and playing the game. He already has NBA 3-point range, as Miami Heat executive Pat Riley witnessed from a court-side seat in the game against Syracuse in Miami. His long arms will help defensively. Graham projects as a reserve and the last thing any organization wants from a bench player is a malcontent who is a high risk to embarrass the organization by getting into off-court trouble. Nothing to worry about with Graham in those areas. He quickly will become a favorite of the community-outreach staff of whatever organization drafts him.

Graham cons: He wasn’t a great finisher at the hoop in college and it’s way more difficult in the NBA than in college for small players to score at the rim. Some cite his age (he turned 23 in February) as a negative because it means he’s closer to his ceiling than younger prospects. That’s not as important for guards as big men. Guards arrive in college closer to their ceilings. Plus there isn’t a whole lot he needs to get better at. He’s as good as his size and athletic ability will allow him to be and just needs to add NBA experience. His slight frame and how it will hold up against the pounding NBA players take is an issue.

Newman pros: He has a scorer’s mentality, which suits the role that gives him the best shot at establishing himself as an NBA player, which is as a scorer off the bench. His deep range and explosive burst on drives to the hoop give him multiple ways to score. Also, he’s a good defensive rebounder for a player his size.

Newman cons: He does not in any way think like a point guard and does not have the ballhandling and passing skills to play the position, so he’ll have to make it as a shooting guard. His size shouldn’t keep him from playing that position offensively, but becomes problematic at the other end of the floor.

Svi pros: His shooting touch is so soft he has the potential to develop into an instant-offense option off the bench. His already deep range will expand once he becomes stronger and puts in the practice hours. He also sees the floor well and is a skilled passer. The fact that he just turned 21 eight days ago is another plus because he’ll add strength naturally as his body matures.

Svi cons: He plays shorter than his height, which limits him as a rebounder and defender. His short arms are partly responsible for that, but he also thinks like a perimeter player, which is a good thing given his skills until it’s a bad thing in that it limits his versatility. Chances are slim that he’ll ever develop into a starter because teams will target him defensively.

Preston pros: For a player his size, he shoots and handles the ball extremely well. He also has some explosiveness and should develop into a solid rebounder and reliable finisher on the break. Based on his physical qualities and basketball skills alone, he definitely has the highest ceiling of the four players. No KU player is projected to go in the first round, but if there is a draft-day surprise and one of them does, Preston would be the most likely, even though he also may be the most likely not to be drafted at all. An established team picking late in the first round and not having any glaring needs might want to take a chance on him. He’s a loud talent.

Preston cons: Scouts didn’t have a chance to see how he would respond to hard coaching because he never played in a real game for Kansas. Fair or unfair, his motor, maturity and unselfishness reportedly became question marks during the McDonald’s All-American practices.

Twitter does not allow the creator of a poll to vote, so I couldn’t cast one. Had I had the ability to do so, I would have voted for Graham, but not until after giving a lot of serious consideration to Preston.


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