Mock drafts coming to consensus on Furphy’s first-round status; what about McCullar?

photo by: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

NBA basketball draft prospect Johnny Furphy, left, looks at the draft lottery order in front of a draft lottery sign before the draft lottery in Chicago, Sunday, May 12, 2024.

Two weeks have passed since the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline saw Johnny Furphy decide once and for all to forgo his remaining collegiate eligibility, and two more weeks remain until he hears his name called in the draft.

He and Kevin McCullar Jr. are the two members of last year’s Kansas men’s basketball squad who hope to be selected in this year’s edition of the event, and they arrive at the threshold of their professional careers having taken dramatically different paths up to this point.

McCullar has been through the draft process before; he returned to KU for his sixth overall season of college basketball hoping to take a leap forward in confidence and aggressiveness to cement himself as an NBA-caliber player. He did just that early in the campaign, up until a knee bruise kept him out of a slew of games and hurt his efficiency when he did play, ultimately causing him to miss the NCAA Tournament. Now offseason medical work on that knee has limited his availability during the pre-draft process.

Furphy, meanwhile, departs for the pros after just one collegiate season; this time last year he was hardly even on the radar of high-major programs, but a dazzling performance at the NBA Academy Games turned into a late-summer offer from KU, which eventually led to a breakout series of games as a newly minted starter in the winter that made him a professional prospect.

The two were invited to the NBA Draft Combine a month ago and now enter the draft pool alongside many other prospects, domestic and international, with wide-ranging stories of their own. New this year, Furphy and McCullar could potentially get picked on different days because the draft is a two-day event that will take place on June 26 and 27 in Brooklyn, New York.

Here’s a look at how experts are expecting the event to shake out for these two former Jayhawks.

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas guard Johnny Furphy makes a 3-pointer Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, against Texas in Allen Fieldhouse.

Johnny Furphy

After that midwinter run caused him to rocket up draft boards, the Australian’s stock faded slightly when teams started to figure him out down the stretch. As head coach Bill Self, who has said he expects Furphy to be a first-round pick, remarked at a recent event in Topeka, “Johnny shot it unbelievably well the first half of the games in which he started, and then the second half he didn’t shoot it well at all. But we saw that he was a very capable shooter and we need to replace that.”

Furphy certainly demonstrated that at the Draft Combine, at least in one popularly disseminated clip, posted by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on social media, that showed him making 12 straight 3-pointers around the court in a catch-and-shoot drill.

But Furphy has acknowledged he has work to do on his physicality, though he believes he’s shown he can handle bigger players.

“I think that’s something I’ve kind of been able to show and prove,” he said in an interview with NCAA’s Andy Katz, posted on Tuesday. “You look at me, the impression is he’s pretty small, pretty skinny, but I think I surprise a lot of people with how willing I am to take on physicality and not be affected by it, because I’ve been playing against bigger, older people my whole life.”

Furphy is currently the No. 18 prospect in ESPN’s top 100. In ESPN’s most recent mock draft, which features Givony projecting selections based on team need and Jeremy Woo picking the best available player, Givony has Furphy going 18th overall to the Orlando Magic, noting the Magic’s lack of 3-point shooting last season and Furphy’s “multipositional versatility operating in different lineup configurations with some outside shooting potential.” That would unite Furphy with Franz Wagner, a former teammate of Hunter Dickinson’s to whom the center once compared Furphy.

Woo, with the best-available mindset, has Furphy going a pick later to the Toronto Raptors, though notes it isn’t particularly likely given that the Raptors took Gradey Dick a year ago. For what it’s worth, Fox Sports also recently placed Furphy in that slot.

Those sorts of projections are just about the upper bound for the Australian. USA Today on Tuesday mocked him to the New York Knicks at 24th; they also own the next pick, which is where CBS Sports had him on Monday, citing his size and shooting. Sports Illustrated’s NBA Draft vertical put him two picks later with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Ringer, which for a while was one of the most pessimistic publications on Furphy, recently moved him into the first round and also has him at that No. 24 slot, citing him as “one of the biggest risers of the pre-draft process” and a “worthy project.”

SB Nation’s Monday mock draft has Furphy going at No. 28 to the Denver Nuggets, which would bring him together with another former Jayhawk wing in Christian Braun.

That’s very close to the end of the first round, but the consensus is that Furphy will get picked by the end of June 26.

“With all the hard work I’ve put in over the years, it’ll be a true testament to my work ethic and my resilience,” he said in the interview with Katz. “It will just mean the world to hear my name be called out. It would be a dream come true.”

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) brings down a dunk against Houston during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Kevin McCullar Jr.

McCullar’s outlook is a bit less clear. At the draft combine, 247Sports reported that he was not participating in activities, was seen on crutches and said he had recently gotten a knee scope. Self had previously said at KU’s season-ending banquet that McCullar underwent a medical procedure following the season.

The early portion of McCullar’s season, in which he was averaging 20 points per game on top of his usually excellent defense, muscled his way to the rim over and over with solid results and at one point had back-to-back triple-doubles, serves as proof of concept of the value he can provide, even as an NBA role player — at least in theory.

The Ringer has him at No. 46 to the Los Angeles Clippers, citing his defensive skills and the fact that he would bring “some bite” to the roster, but questions whether his “sudden and dramatic progress” might be a blip on the radar.

Other sites, at least among those that have laid out the full draft, have him going much earlier in the second round, such as SI’s No. 33 projection to the Milwaukee Bucks. But his overall range seems much wider than Furphy’s, as The Athletic’s most recent mock draft had him down at No. 51 to the Washington Wizards, the same spot at which former teammate Jalen Wilson went to the Brooklyn Nets — after a somewhat longer wait than expected — last year.

On the other hand, could he possibly slip into the first round, of which SI had put him just three picks shy, and thus go on the same day as Furphy?

It’s not out of the question, even if it looks significantly less likely than it did in, say, mid-January. Givony and Woo had him at No. 30 in their May 31 mock, with Woo writing, “Late-season injuries put a bit of a damper on McCullar’s season at Kansas, but a strong first month helped reframe his NBA readiness and moved him from two-way contract candidate into what will likely be guaranteed money on draft night.” On May 29, Travis Branham put up one mock draft for CBS Sports that put McCullar at No. 28 to the Nuggets — a point of tangency with Furphy, whom SB Nation has in the same location.

With all that wide variation, the NBA Mock Draft Database currently has McCullar at 36th in its “consensus” mock draft, with Furphy at 27th.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) jokes with Kansas guard Johnny Furphy (10) as he leaves the game late in the second half on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug