All posts by Troy Jefferson

What now? DraftNasty looks at the NBA free agency landscape after the draft

With the NBA Draft in the rear view mirror and the free agency period set to start at 6 p.m. on Sunday, DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson breaks down some of the compelling storylines and offers his best fits for the scenarios.

Where do the star players of the NBA Finals go next?

Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are all free agents. Durant was the marquee name of the free agency period before he tore his achilles in the NBA Finals. However, the two-time Finals MVP is still a highly sought-after name and will receive a max contract from whoever signs him.  Kawhi Leonard was able to shift the balance of power away from the Western Conference  to the East when he joined the Raptors and won a championship this past season.  Klay Thompson is a five-time NBA All-Star and just barely missed out on the NBA supermax deal because he was not named to an All-NBA Roster.  To make matters worse, he tore his ACL in the NBA Finals and it remains to be seen how much time he will miss next season.  Each of these players are probably future Hall of Famers and will make whoever they sign with considerably better. Leonard and Thompson are both LA natives but I expect Thompson to stay in northern California.  Thompson plays his best when running off screens and setting picks for backcourt mate, Steph Curry, and their synergy is hard to replicate. Thompson was drafted by the Warriors and his skill-set is perfect for the Warriors free- flowing offensive attack.  Leonard could either return to the Raptors, which would put Toronto back in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference, or he could return home to play in Los Angeles.  Both the Lakers and Clippers could offer him a max deal, so it will come down to a matter of preference for Leonard.  Doc Rivers has shown before that he can maximize star talent and the Raptors proved they could put a team together around Leonard.  I think the Raptors or the Clippers are the likely landing spots for Leonard. Durant could miss all of next year but he, too, has plenty of suitors. He could return to the Warriors or leave the Western Conference like Leonard did last year and join a weaker Eastern Conference. The Knicks and Nets have been linked to Durant. The Knicks would probably be a playoff team with a fully healthy Durant but does a guy who spent the last three seasons competing in the NBA Finals want to play the waiting game with a young core?  The Nets made drastic strides last season as a playoff team, but they still need a star. If they are able to sign Kyrie Irving and pair him with Durant, this would probably make them the team to beat in the East. 

Troy’s predictions

Kawhi Leonard- L.A. Clippers

Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets

Klay Thompson- Golden State Warriors 

Does Brooklyn re-sign Russell or sign Kyrie?

As mentioned above, Kyrie Irving -a New Jersey native- has been linked to the Brooklyn Nets.  The Celtics enjoyed some success with Irving but could not make it to the NBA Finals and it seems their time together is over.  Brooklyn has the cap space for two max deals and have a need at point guard. They have a point guard in D’Angelo Russell, who made the All Star team this past season and could re-sign him.  Irving has had the better career to date though. I think Brooklyn would be better served signing Irving and trying to use that second max slot to sign another star player like Durant. However, Brooklyn could be in the same position as the Celtics if they strike out and can only bring in Irving, who would be the lead star.  In his past stints, Irving’s teams have not flourished when he played the role as the “lead dog”, see his early career in Cleveland and the last two years in Boston.

Troy’s predictions

Kyrie Irving- Brooklyn Nets 

How do the Lakers fill out their roster?

The Lakers traded away three players including last year’s first round draft pick, Mo Wagner, to the Wizards in order to free up enough space to sign another player to a max deal.  Right now, the Lakers are comprised of LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Anthony Davis as well as a few unproven youngsters.  General manager Rob Pelinka and the Los Angles Lakers could sign a player like Kawhi Leonard to a max contract and then fill out the roster with players on the veteran minimum or sign a  second tier star like Tobias Harris and then spread out the money to others that would make more than the veterans minimum. I actually think the best case scenario is for the Lakers to look to their past, they have a need at point guard and could bring back Russell. Russell saw his game rise to the next level last season and showed his ability to break down defenses and get to the rim. Signing Russell would allow James to play less at point guard and give the Lakers someone who could push the pace in transition. The Lakers ranked fourth in transition points per game last season and with what figures to be a roster of newcomers in 2019, Los Angeles needs as many easy buckets as they can muster. With the money they save by not using their max contract slot, the Lakers could also target free agents like J.J. Redick or Trevor Ariza, both sharpshooters and the type of players that have enjoyed success with James in the past. 

Troy’s predictions

D’Angelo Russell as well as a few second tier free agents- Los Angeles Lakers

What does Dallas do with their cap space?

Dallas acquired former New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis in the middle of this past season and saw Luka Doncic take home the rookie of the year award. The duo will serve as the centerpieces for the Mavericks going forward in the post Dirk Nowitzki era and they have enough money to bring in a max player this offseason. The Mavericks have a clear need at point guard and I look for them to try luring a guy like Kemba Walker. First order of business will be resigning Porzingis, who is a restricted free agent. I don’t see Porzingis leaving the Mavericks at all. However, I don’t see Walker signing with Dallas because it isn’t a great fit to have Doncic/Walker and Porzingis all on the floor together, there would be a natural overlap in the need for each player to have the ball. I do expect however for Dallas to target a true center because we’ve heard at times that Porzingis doesn’t like playing the 5. Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic is the name I expect to see sign with the Mavericks. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Mavericks target a defensive minded point guard like Patrick Beverly as well. 

Troy’s predictions 

Nikola Vucevic and a starting point guard – Dallas Mavericks 

Who will play alongside of Harden in Houston in 2019-2020?

The Rockets have been on the door step of the NBA Finals the past few seasons but this is a crucial offseason for them. Houston could stick with their same roster from last season and try and take advantage of the Western Conference, which is in flux. The Lakers have star power but will need time to gel and the Warriors have stars but Durant is a free agent and so is Thompson and even if they keep both, they won’t be ready by the start of next year. There are benefits in opting for continuity if you’re the Rockets. However, the opposite argument could be made, Houston couldn’t beat the banged up Warriors this season so why would anything change next season? If the Rockets want to bring in another max contract player like Jimmy Butler, they would probably have to trade center Clint Capela and Eric Gordon, to make the financials work. Butler would bring toughness and a defensive presence to the Rockets however I can’t see him coexisting with Harden and Chris Paul, all three need the ball in their hands to be successful. Paul and Harden already have times where they look like they’re taking plays off when the other is dribbling, Butler would only complicate matters. The best case scenario for brining in Butler would be getting rid of Paul and acquiring a spot up shooting point guard in the mold of former Heat point guard, Mario Chalmers. 

Troy’s prediction

The Houston Rockets should keep the team as presently constructed

Where will Kemba end up?

If Durant, Thompson and Leonard are in the “first tier” of free agents, Walker is not far behind. The former UCONN point guard is a one man offensive weapon that has only missed six games over the past four seasons. Whoever signs Walker is getting someone that can score (averaged 25.6 points per game last season), lead and possesses rare durability. I think the Celtics, who will probably lose Irving to free agency are the team to watch. Unlike the Mavericks. Walker fits in a lot better from a scheme standpoint with the Celtics, who possess a plethora of wings like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Romeo Langford, who can not only mask his defensive decencies but don’t need to handle the ball every possession. 

Troy’s predictions

Kemba Walker- Boston Celtics 

DraftNasty’s 2019 NBA Draft recap: Pick-by-pick

Selection Player/ Position School Draftnasty Take
Round 1 Pick 1: New Orleans Pelicans Zion Williamson/ Forward Duke Williamson was the consensus best player in the Draft and DraftNasty agreed. The former Duke standout should be an instant performer on the boards and on defense.
Round 1 Pick 2: Memphis Grizzlies Ja Morant/ Point GuardMurray StateWith longtime point guard, Mike Conley being traded, Memphis now has its point guard of the future.
Round 1 Pick 3: New York Knicks R.J. Barrett/ Small Forward Duke The Knicks have plenty of holes and work left to do but R.J. Barrett is an immediate contributor offensively.
Round 1 Pick 4: Atlanta Hawks De'Andre Hunter/ Small Forward Virginia Hunter can score without the ball in his hands and should be a great complement to offensive standouts like Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish.
Round 1 Pick 5: Cleveland Cavaliers Darius Garland/ Point Guard Vanderbilt Cleveland now has two small point guards. John Beilein might've wanted to draft his own guy at point guard instead of work with Collin Sexton.
Round 1 Pick 6: Minnesota Timberwolves Jarrett Culver/ Shooting Guard Texas Tech Culver provides Minnesota with a defensive specialist on the wing and can take offensive pressure off Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns.
Round 1 Pick 7: Chicago Bulls Coby White/ Point Guard North Carolina White should bring stability to the Bulls point guard position and allow them to move on from Kris Dunn.
Round 1 Pick 8: New Orleans Pelicans Jaxson Hayes/ CenterTexas Hayes and Williamson will combine to form a stout defensive duo on the low block.
Round 1 Pick 9: Washington Wizards Rui Hachimura/ Power Forward Gonzaga DraftNasty predicted the Wizards to take an international player but not Rui Hachimura. Hachimura is small for the power forward position but has a polished offensive game.
Round 1 Pick 10: Atlanta Hawks Cam Reddish/ Small Forward Duke Reddish was up and down at Duke last season but he is used to playing with top offensive talent. The Hawks should be a place where he can grow into his potential.
Round 1 Pick 11: Phoenix Suns Cameron Johnson/ Small ForwardUNC Phoenix is getting a sharpshooter, who will space the floor for Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
Round 1 Pick 12: Charlotte Hornets P.J. Washington/ Small Forward Kentucky Washington will play alongside last year's first round pick, Miles Bridges. The duo provides toughness and versatility on the wing.
Round 1 Pick 13: Miami Heat Tyler Herro/ Shooting GuardKentucky DraftNasty predicted the Heat would take Washington but they ended up with another Wildcat. Herro is an excellent shooter, who can also put the ball on the floor occasionally.
Round 1 Pick 14: Boston Celtics Romeo Langford/ Small Forward Indiana The Boston Celtics have a lot of wing players already but Brad Stevens is very familiar with basketball in the Hoosier state and must have a role for Langford.
Round 1 Pick 15: Detroit Pistons Sekou Doumbouya/ Small Forward French Doumbouya, Drummond and Blake Griffin will be hard to defend in transition. This pick gives Detroit athleticism on the wing, which they lacked.
Round 1 Pick 16: Orlando Magic Chuma Okeke/ Small Forward Auburn Okeke is coming off an ACL injury but DraftNasty had him as a first rounder because of his ability to score in bunches.
Round 1 Pick 17: New Orleans Pelicans Nickeil Alexander-Walker/ Shooting Guard Virginia Tech Alexander-Walker is best when playing with a traditional point guard and should fit nicely alongside Lonzo Ball.
Round 1 Pick 18: Indiana Pacers Goga Bitadze/ Center Georginan Bitadze joins a crowded room of skilled big men in Indiana which features guys like Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. However, this marriage gives him time to develop.
Round 1 Pick 19: San Antonio Spurs Luka Samanic/ Power Forward Croatian DraftNasty mocked the Spurs grabbing a skilled big man such as Nic Claxton but Samanic fits the mold as well.
Round 1 Pick 20: Philadelphia 76ers Matisse Thybulle/ Small Forward WashingtonThybulle is a classic "3 and D" prospect. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are free agents and the 76ers needed another wing just in case.
Round 1 Pick 21: Memphis Grizzlies Brandon Clarke/ Power Forward Gonzaga Clarke is an athletic prospect, who gives the Grizzlies another scoring punch in the front court with Jaren Jackson Jr.
Round 1 Pick 22: Boston Celtics Grant Williams/ Power Forward Tennessee If the Celtics lose Marcus Morris in free agency, Williams can fill in with his experience, toughness and shooting ability.
Round 1 Pick 23: Oklahoma City Thunder Darius Bazley/ Small Forward N/A Bazley decided to not attend Syracuse but has the physical tools (6'9, 200) to play in the NBA. The former McDonald's All-American is a mystery because scouts haven't seen him play in a competitive game in a year.
Round 1 Pick 24: Phoenix Suns Ty Jerome/ Point Guard Virginia The Suns needed a point guard and DraftNasty had them drafting one in the Top 10. Jerome is used to playing with top level talent and putting them in positions to succeed.
Round 1 Pick 25: Portland Trail BlazersNassir Little/ Small Forward North Carolina Al-Farouq Aminu is a free agent and Moe Harkless is in his last year of his contract. Little fits the mold of a NBA small forward and could provide depth if one of the two leaves.
Round 1 Pick 26: Cleveland Cavaliers Dylan Windler/ Small ForwardBelmont Windler is an efficient scorer who could take pressure off whoever is running the point guard position in Cleveland.
Round 1 Pick 27: Los Angeles Clippers Mfiondu Kabengele/ Center Florida State Kabengele is a stretch big man and should help the floor spacing playing next to Montrezl Harrell.
Round 1 Pick 28: Golden State Warriors Jordan Poole/ Shooting Guard and Small Forward Michigan Poole had an inconsistent season at Michigan but he is talented and should get a chance to develop since the Warriors' depth is unclear at the present moment.
Round 1 Pick 29: San Antonio Spurs Keldon Johnson/ Small Forward Kentucky Johnson slipped in the draft but the Spurs may have gotten a steal because of the former Wildcat's defensive- minded, physical game.
Round 1 Pick 30: Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Porter Jr. / Shooting Guard USC The Porter, Jr. and Windler selections are evidence that Cleveland valued shot makers and shot creators to fill out their roster.
Round 2 Pick 1: Brooklyn Nets Nic Claxton/ Center Georgia Claxton is a rim protector but also has good mechanics on his jump shot. This is a good spot for him to develop.
Round 2 Pick 2: Miami Heat KZ Okpala/ Small Forward Stanford Okpala gives the Heat some size on the wing, where behind Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, the Heat need someone to produce.
Round 2 Pick 3: Boston Celtics Carsen Edwards/ Point Guard Purdue The Celtics point guard position is murky with Kyrie Irving being rumored to test free agency. If Irving leaves, Rozier will be the starter, but Edwards has the potential to compete for bench minutes.
Round 2 Pick 4: Atlanta Hawks Bruno Fernando/ Center Maryland The Hawks drafted a bruiser who is a throwback low post scorer. Fernando's game should complement fellow Hawks big man John Collins.
Round 2 Pick 5: New Orleans Pelicans Marcos Louzada Silva/ Small Forward Brazilian Silva might be able to crack the young Pelicans roster because of his sharp three- point shooting (47 percent).
Round 2 Pick 6: Charlotte Hornets Cody Martin/ Small Forward Nevada Martin can play forward but also showed his ability to play point guard. He is another tough-minded wing, which general manager Mitch Kupchak has shown to covet, by drafting the likes of P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges.
Round 2 Pick 7: Detroit Pistons Deividas Sirvydis/ Small Forward Lithuanian The Pistons went overseas to draft another wing player in the second round. Sirvydis, 19, could spend a few more years overseas before joining the Pistons.
Round 2 Pick 8: Chicago BullsDaniel Gafford/ Center Arkansas Gafford is a rim protector who is best when out in transition. Look for Gafford to get significant playing time in the Summer League.
Round 2 Pick 9: Golden State Warriors Alen Smailagic/ Center Serbian Smailagic, 18, caught scouts eyes in the G-League. The Warriors showed a need for young athletic big men after center Kevon Looney injured his shoulder in the Finals.
Round 2 Pick 10: Sacramento Kings Justin James/ Small Forward Wyoming James has an offensive repertoire that made him worth a selection. How he plays within a team setting at summer league could determine his roster fate.
Round 2 Pick 11: Golden State Warriors Eric Paschall/ Small Forward Villanova His toughness and ability to defend, despite being just 6'7", could remind folks of Draymond Green. DraftNasty had him going in the first round.
Round 2 Pick 12: Washington Wizards Admiral Schofield/ Forward Tennessee Schofield is a physical player but, at 6'5", he doesn't have a true NBA position. Size limitations aside, Schofield can contribute as a spot-up shooter with a high motor.
Round 2 Pick 13: Minnesota Timberwolves Jaylen Nowell/ Shooting Guard Washington The Pac-12's Player of the Year was an efficient scorer, posting 16 points per game on 50-percent shooting and 44-percent from beyond the three- point line.
Round 2 Pick 14: Denver Nuggets Bol Bol/ Center OregonThe Nuggets don't mind taking players with injury risks (see the Michael Porter Jr. selection last year). If Bol Bol is healthy, he could be an impact floor spacer with his shooting.
Round 2 Pick 15: Detroit Pistons Isaiah Roby/ Small Forward Nebraska Roby showed a little bit of everything offensively at Nebraska, with his ball handling, shooting and rebounding skill. However, too many times he was inconsistent. The Pistons put a premium on drafting wing players in this draft and Roby will get a chance to prove his worth.
Round 2 Pick 16: Los Angeles Lakers Talen Horton-Tucker/ Small Forward Iowa StateThe Lakers could trade Horton-Tucker to save money in order to fill out the rest of their roster, but if he is retained, he brings position versatility.
Round 2 Pick 17: New York Knicks Ignas Brazdeikis/ Small Forward Michigan Brazdeikis plays with a confidence and swagger that Knicks fans will appreciate. However, his defense is the reason he slid this far.
Round 2 Pick 18: Los Angeles Clippers Terance Mann/ Small Forward Florida State DraftNasty had Mann going in the first round. His height (6'7") and position versatility could give him a chance to make the Clippers roster.
Round 2 Pick 19: San Antonio Spurs Quinndary Weatherspoon/ Shooting Guard Mississippi State Weatherspoon enjoyed a productive senior season. We've seen the Spurs draft four-year college players and turn them into starters, and former Michigan State shooting guard Bryn Forbes comes to mind.
Round 2 Pick 20: Utah Jazz Jarrell Brantley/ Power Forward Charleston Brantley is one of two CAA players drafted in the second round by the Jazz, Hofstra's Justin Wright-Foreman is the other. Brantley was one of the most productive mid-major players in the draft and was named All-CAA for four years.
Round 2 Pick 21: Boston Celtics Tremont Waters/ Point Guard LSUWaters pushes the pace offensively and will join Purdue's Edwards in competing for a roster spot and potential minutes.
Round 2 Pick 22: Charlotte Hornets Jalen McDaniels/ Power Forward San Diego State McDaniels averaged 15 points and almost nine rebounds per game at San Diego State. He has a thin build but being drafted at this stage gives him a chance to develop his body and overall game.
Round 2 Pick 23: Utah Jazz Justin Wright-Foreman/ Point Guard Hofstra Wright-Foreman was the definition of a "bucket getter" at Hofstra, averaging 27 points per game. I'm interested to see how he performs in the summer league, where he won't be asked to take 20 shots a game to keep his team competitive.
Round 2 Pick 24: Philadelphia 76ers Marial Shayok/ Small Forward Iowa State Shayok is another athletic wing that the 76ers could use depending on how free agency shakes out for them.
Round 2 Pick 25: Sacramento Kings Kyle Guy/ Point Guard Virginia Guy, like former Kings second round pick, Frank Mason, is undersized but confident and has excelled in big moments. Guy will have to play well to distinguish himself on a point guard-heavy roster.
Round 2 Pick 26: Brooklyn NetsJaylen Hands/ Point Guard UCLA Hands is a former McDonald's All American, who got better in his second season after an inconsistent freshman campaign.
Round 2 Pick 27: Detroit Pistons Jordan Bone/ Point Guard Tennessee Bone impressed on a talent- rich roster at Tennessee with his leadership abilities and intelligence in clutch situations.
Round 2 Pick 28: Utah Jazz Miye Oni/ Point Guard Yale The Jazz didn't target players from major colleges in the second round. Oni averaged 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. He got better every year in college and the Jazz hope to see that trend continue in the pros.
Round 2 Pick 29: Toronto Raptors Dewan Hernandez/ Center Miami Hernandez, at 6'10", has terrific length and plays with a lot of energy. The Raptors have been one of the best organizations in player development recently and Hernandez has a chance to crack the roster in the future because of it.
Round 2 Pick 30: Sacramento Kings Vanja Marinkovic/ Shooting Guard and Small Forward Serbian Marinkovic, 22, is a little older than most "draft-and- stash" European prospects. However, he is experienced and can shoot, which gives him a chance to be successful at the next level.

DraftNasty’s NBA 2019 1st Round Mock Draft

As draft night approaches on Thursday, DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson takes a look at how he believes the first round will pan out.

Editor’s note: the mock draft doesn’t necessarily reflect the top 30 players on the DraftNasty big board but takes a peek into how each individual team will draft based on their need(s).

1. New Orleans Pelicans- Zion Williamson 6’7 285 PF-Freshman Duke

Willamson is the consensus best player in the draft and will serve as the face of the franchise in New Orleans now that Anthony Davis has been traded to the Lakers.  Williamson and new point guard Lonzo Ball should be a terror in transition.

2. Memphis Grizzlies- Ja Morant 6’3 174 PG-Sophomore Murray State

With longtime point guard Mike Conley rumored to be on the trading block, it’s time for the Grizzlies to find a new face of the franchise. 

3. New York Knicks- R.J. Barrett 6’7 203 SF- Freshman Duke

The Knicks missed out on Zion Williamson but fans should be happy about his Duke teammate R.J. Barrett.  The godson of former two-time MVP Steve Nash, Barrett is polished and has a number of offensive tools to work with.

4. New Orleans Pelicans (From Los Angeles Lakers)- De’Andre Hunter 6’7 225 SF- Sophomore Virginia 

The Pelicans will use their other top five pick, which they acquired from the Lakers,  to bring in a small forward who can do a little bit of everything.  Jrue Holliday, Ball and Williamson will command the bulk of the offensive load while Hunter can crash the glass and serve as a spot-up shooter.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jarrett Culver 6’7 195 SG- Sophomore Texas Tech

Culver should be able to contribute right away for new Cavaliers coach John Beilein.  The former Michigan coach should be very familiar with Culver, who scored 22 points, four assists and four rebounds against his Wolverines in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

6. Phoenix Suns- Darius Garland 6’2 174 PG- Freshman Vanderbilt

Garland would add to a young core that already features Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.  Garland is a masterful passer who should make life easier on the Suns star players.

 

7. Chicago Bulls- Coby White 6’5 185 PG-Freshman North Carolina 

The Bulls are trying to solidify their point guard position after underwhelming results from Kris Dunn.  Chicago could look to Chapel Hill, which has given them a good return on investment in the past.

 

8. Atlanta Hawks- Cam Reddish 6’8 208 SF- Freshman Duke 

Reddish’s inconsistent play could cause a slight slide to the Hawks with the eighth pick.  Offensively, Reddish possesses enough skill to take pressure off of Trae Young. 

9. Washington Wizards- Sekou Doumbouya 6’9 203 SF- France

Under former executive Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards had  a tendency to draft Europeans.  Names like Jan Vesely (2011 NBA Draft, 1st Round, 6th overall) and Tomas Satoransky (2012 NBA Draft, 2nd Round, 32nd overall) immediately come to mind.   However, in terms of fit, Doumbouya exhibits the ability to defend at a high level and he excels in transition. Washington could use a player that plays hard and doesn’t take plays off.  Doumbouya is that guy.

10. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas Mavericks)- Brandon Clarke 6’8 215 PF- Junior Gonzaga

Clarke is the more NBA-ready forward between him and his Gonzaga counterpart, Rui Hachimura. The Hawks could package this pick for a veteran player, but if they decide to keep it look for them to take a player ready to contribute from the onset. 

11. Minnesota Timberwolves- Nassir Little 6’7 220 SF-Freshman North Carolina

Little will bring grit and effort to the Timberwolves. Little’s offensive game needs polishing, but head coach Ryan Saunders has made his name in player development. 

12. Charlotte Hornets- Nickeil Alexander-Walker 6’5 205 SG-Sophomore Virginia Tech 

If the Hornets lose Kemba Walker in free agency, they will need someone to pick up the scoring load.  Alexander-Walker has a lot of tools in his toolbox and averaged 16/4/4 last year at Virginia Tech.

13. Miami Heat- P.J. Washington 6’8 228 SF-Sophomore Kentucky

Pat Riley likes two things: toughness and Kentucky basketball. Washington fits the mold of a Riley pick and would be an immediate contributor. 

14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento Kings)- Tyler Herro 6’5 195 SG-Freshman Kentucky 

The Celtics have to try and retain Kyrie Irving but whether he leaves or stays, Boston has shown how much they value three-point shooting (finished seventh in the NBA).  Herro (35-percent from the three-point line) fits the bill.

15. Detroit Pistons- Jaxson Hayes 6’11 220  C-Freshman Texas 

The Pistons have an abundance of big men and guard may be a  bigger need. However, Hayes would be the best prospect on the board and hard to pass up.

16. Orlando Magic- Romeo Langford 6’6 216 SG-Freshman Indiana

The Magic need someone who can create on the perimeter and Langford can do just that.  His shooting will be questioned (44- percent overall and 27-percent from the three-point line.)

17. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn Nets)- Rui Hachimura 6’8 230 PF-Junior Gonzaga

If the Hawks decide to take two Zags in the first round, Hachimura would be a great complement to Brandon Clarke and John Collins.

18. Indiana Pacers- Keldon Johnson 6’6 211 SF-Freshman Kentucky 

Johnson could provide another weapon for the Pacers to take pressure off Victor Oladipo.  He averaged 13 points on 46-percent shooting from the field and 38-percent from the three-point line.

19. San Antonio Spurs- Matisse Thybulle 6’5 201 SF-Senior Washington

Thybulle boasts a 7’1″ wingspan and is a terror on defense. Thybulle (35-percent from the three-point line) projects as a “3 and D” wing.

20. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers)- Bol Bol 7’2 236 C- Freshman Oregon

If he stays healthy, Bol Bol can have a productive career.  A 7’2″ center who can shoot and run the floor is hard to find, and if he’s here at this pick Boston could take a chance.

 

21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Bruno Fernando 6’10 240 C-Sophomore Maryland 

Fernando is a bruiser in the mold of Steven Adams. The Maryland big man could provide a low post threat for the Thunder, who have opted to use draft picks on wing players and guards in the past. 

22. Boston Celtics- Ty Jerome 6’5 195 PG- Junior Virginia 

Jerome would give the Celtics another option behind Terry Rozier and could be a solid backup if Kyrie Irving leaves via free agency.

23. Utah Jazz- Cameron Johnson 6’9 210 SF- Graduate Senior North Carolina 

Johnson is an experienced silky smooth shooter.  Utah could look to draft an immediate contributor who can help them take the next step in the Western Conference.

24. Philadelphia 76ers- Eric Paschall 6’9 255 F-Senior Villanova

The 76ers don’t have to look far for depth in the front court.  Paschall can do a little bit of everything and would be good glue guy off the bench for Philadelphia.  His game is reminiscent of Paul Millsap’s (Denver Nuggets). 

25. Portland Trail Blazers- Kevin Porter Jr. 6’6 218 SG/SF- Freshman USC 

Portland could look to stay on the West Coast and add bench scoring from the perimeter with an athletic wing like Porter, Jr.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston Rockets)- Goga Bitadze 6’11 251 C-Georgian

Bitadze is a skilled big man that already has an NBA body. Beilein has been known to value international players and Bitadze is an intriguing prospect. 

27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver Nuggets)- Chuma Okeke 6’8 229 SF-Sophomore Auburn 

Brooklyn has three small forwards that will test free agency this season (DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). Okeke averaged 12 points on 49-percent shooting during his sophomore year at Auburn.

28. Golden State Warriors- Terance Mann 6’7 215 SG/SF-Senior Florida State

With injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, the Warriors will need immediate contributors to start the season.  Mann played four years at Florida State and can play shooting guard or small forward.

29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto Raptors)- Nicolas Claxton 6’11 220 C- Sophomore Georgia

Claxton finished 10th in the nation in blocked shots per game (2.53) in 2018-19.

Claxton is an effective passer who can guard multiple positions, He fits the mold of a Spurs big man.

30. Milwaukee Bucks- Grant Williams 6’7 236 PF-Junior Tennessee

Williams can contribute right way for a team that’s equipped to win now.  He can score in a variety of ways within the three-point line. 

DraftNasty breaks down the ACC’s Top 10 2019 NBA Draft prospects

 DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson takes a look at the ACC’s top prospects.  The conference projects to feature anywhere from three-to-six Top 10 selections. Here’s how we rank and analyze them from top-to-bottom:

1. Zion Williamson  (6’7, 285 lbs) F-Duke

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Has the ability to affect every possession with his athleticism. Williamson is an efficient (68 percent from the field) scorer, who can dish the ball well for his size and position. “The freshman’s motor coupled with his athleticism stands out.  So far this season, Williamson has been able to separate himself with his work on the glass and his finishing ability in transition,” said Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson during his Duke vs. Gonzaga in-game report in November 2018. On the defensive side, Williamson plays with a bulldog aggressiveness and has the necessary athleticism to defend next level wings.  

Weaknesses: Injury concerns. Williamson missed five games with a mild knee sprain. He played last year at 285 pounds, can he excel at that weight for an 82-game season?  As the projected first pick overall, Williamson will be asked to shoulder a heavier offensive load. Williamson’s ability to create his own shot one-on-one and score with more finesse will be key factors in his long term success. Zion was able to bulldoze smaller opponents in both high school and college, but his counter moves will be tested against stronger NBA competition.

Other Notes: Attended Spartanburg Day School (S.C.) and was ranked as a five-star recruit by Rivals.com • Earned South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball and was the runner-up for USA’s Mr. Basketball behind future Duke teammate R.J. Barrett • Mother ran track at Livingston College and father played basketball at Clemson • 2018: 22.6 ppg, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 68 percent shooting en route to first team All-ACC honors • Scored in double figures in every college contest • Scored at least 25 points in 15 games

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Williamson’s size and athleticism resembles former Hornets and Knicks standout Larry Johnson, but even still Williamson is about 30 pounds heavier and more nimble on his feet.  It’s hard to nail down a consensus comparison for the Naismith College Player of the Year.  The former Blue Devil should contribute immediately as a double-double machine due to his motor and freakish athleticism.  His long-term success will be predicated on his ability to add more to his offensive repertoire while controlling his weight.

2. R.J. Barrett  (6’7, 203 lbs) SF-Duke

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Barrett impresses with his smooth offensive game that resembles a much older player. Barrett has the size scouts covet out of the wing and can do everything offensively.  Barrett showed the ability to handle the responsibilities of a top scorer after Zion Williamson went down with a midseason foot injury.  In the seven contests, Williamson missed Barrett averaged 25 points, three more than his season average. Barrett has the most polished NBA-ready offensive game of anyone in the draft and DraftNasty expects him to be an immediate contributor. 

Weaknesses: Takes plays off.  Can be inactive and view the action too often on the offensive end. Settles for a number of outside jumpers.  Becomes a score-first threat and fails to find open men (Gonzaga ’18).  Tendency to try and do too much on the offensive end leads to unnecessary turnovers (3.2 per game). 10 games with five or more turnovers. Shot 30 percent from the three-point line. 

Other Notes: Attended Montverde Academy (Fl.) •Was named first team All-ACC •Earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year and was the winner of Mr. Basketball USA  • Father, Rowan, attended St. John’s and played overseas for 10 years • 2018: 22.6 ppg, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 45 percent shooting • Scored in double figures in every college contest • Godfather is former NBA all-star Steve Nash and has been known to work with Barrett on his game. 

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary):  Barrett will have to build his lower body as he gets older and scouts would like to see his free throw percentage increase (66%), but beyond that the former Blue Devil wing has the traits to excel in the NBA.  Barrett’s one-on-one smooth step-back game and ability to lull defenders to sleep is reminiscent of James Harden’s.  The offensive repertoire and bloodlines are there for Barrett to enjoy similar scoring success in the NBA.

3. Coby White  (6’5, 185 lbs) PG-North Carolina

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths):  Explosive. Can get to the basket with either hand. White has the ideal height for the modern NBA point guard, standing at 6’5 despite having a shorter wingspan.  Willing passer.  Creates and scores for himself in one-on-one situations.  Changes speeds and gets to the bucket with regularity.   Doesn’t need much space to get his shot off and can play the off-guard position and score off screens.

Weaknesses: Can White command the offense as the primary ball handler? That will be the question (his assist to turnover ratio was 3:2).  White could also stand to add to his thin frame. The former Tar Heel  has excellent lateral quickness, which is evident from his offensive prowess but, more often than not,  those traits didn’t translate on defense.

Other Notes: Attended Greenfield School (NC)  • Was named second team All-ACC •Participated in the Jordan Brand Classic, McDonald’s All American game  • Named North Carolina Mr. Basketball • 2018: 16.1 ppg, 3.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 42 percent shooting • Shot 80 percent from the free throw line and finished second on the team in points per game • Earned all- tournament honors in the 2018 FIBA Under 18 America Championship  

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): White will be a problem at the next level when he can initiate the offense from the high pick and roll to get downhill.  His seasoning as a traditional point guard will take time and his defensive capabilities are yet to be seen. The former North Carolina Mr. Basketball possesses the finishing moves at the rim, long range shooting ability and height to excel.

4. De’Andre Hunter  (6’7, 225 lbs) SF-Virginia

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Hunter is a Swiss army knife of sorts, who can do a little bit of everything. The former Cavalier will project best at the next level as a glue man off the bench.  Hunter averaged 11 points, four rebounds and 1.5 assists on 50 percent shooting during his two seasons in Charlottesville. As his playing time increased this season so did Hunter’s production. Hunter was also the best player on a championship team, which says a lot about his ability to contribute to winning. 

Weaknesses: Hunter could be considered a man of many trades but a master of none. He doesn’t project to be a prolific scorer at the next level or a top-level offensive creator.  Doesn’t project as an NBA-level primary ball handler.  Hunter will have to make his name as a defensive stopper early on. 

Other Notes: Attended Friends’ Central School (PA)  • Was named first team All-ACC, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and ACC six man of the year (2017)  • 2018: 15.2 ppg, 5.1 rebounds and two assists on 52 percent shooting • Scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the National Championship victory vs. Texas Tech •Named to ACC All Freshman team in 2017-2018

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Look for Hunter to enjoy a long NBA career as a do a little bit of everything type of wing.  Hunter’s frame and glue guy skill-set is reminiscent of Andre Iguodala.  Like Iguodala, expect Hunter to contribute in a number of ways for any team that drafts him.

5. Cam Reddish (6’8, 218 lbs) SF-Duke

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Smooth offensive game. Can handle the ball well for his size. When Reddish is engaged offensively, he has the ability to take over games for long stretches with his ability to score in bunches. He played two of his best games this season against the Tar Heels during the regular season, posting 27 and 23 points respectively. However, when Zion Williamson returned against the Tar Heels in the ACC quarterfinals, Reddish posted six points. The season series against North Carolina was a microcosm of Reddish’s Duke career. 

Weaknesses: Can be passive at times, as he deferred to both Willamson and Barrett.  Reddish has some of his best moments when Willamson was out with his injury but too many times when Willamson was in the lineup, Reddish would camp out at the three- point line and make himself easy to defend.  Reddish stands at 6’8″ with a 7’1″ wingspan and could conceivably contribute at three-to-four different positions but he must stay aggressive and engaged. His fans will point to his outstanding high school career as a barometer of how good he can be, but his detractors will point to his inconsistent play in college. 

Other Notes: Attended Westtown School (PA)  • On Jan. 19 against Florida State, he scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a game-winning three pointer.  • 2018: 13.5 ppg, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 35 percent shooting • Played in the Jordan Brand Classic and the  McDonald’s All American Game •Rated as the number three overall prospect on ESPN and Rivals.com 

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Reddish is a versatile offensive weapon that can play multiple positions. However, the former Blue Devil will have to stay aggressive at the next level and compete more on the defensive end.  Reddish has NBA length but has a thin frame and in college didn’t offer much resistance to wings that wanted to get to the rim.  Out of the draft’s top prospects, Reddish has the most boom or bust potential. 

6. Nassir Little (6’7, 220 lbs) SF-North Carolina

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Little gets to the rim with aggression and is a strong finisher, who projects well at the next level as a slashing wing. On the defensive end, Little plays with a high motor and is active on and off the ball.  What’s impressive about Little is his ability to power off either leg and get around defenders. 

Weaknesses: Little isn’t a natural shooter and won’t wow scouts with his ball handling. The former Tar Heel will have to make his mark offensively through hustling and bulldozing his way to the rim. His offensive splits left a lot to be desired in his lone season in Chapel Hill, averaging nine points, four rebounds and 0.7 assists on 48 percent shooting and 26 percent from the three point line. Scouts will question Little’s inconsistency in a two-week time frame to end the season, the former Tar Heel scored 20 points on 72- percent shooting vs. Washington in a NCAA tournament win but a week before he shot 33-percent and scored nine points in a loss to Duke in the ACC tournament. 

Other Notes: Attended Orlando Christian Prep. (Fl.)  • Member of the National Honor Society in high school  • Both parents served in the military • Most Valuable Player in the McDonald’s All-American Game after scoring 28 points and was co-MVP in the Jordan Brand Classic •Plays the piano 

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary):  High intensity players can have a lengthy NBA career and Little fits the mold. Little will need more offensive seasoning but should be a Top 15 pick based on his athletic gifts.  Defensively, Little will have to carve out playing time by using his athleticism to stick to NBA wings.  Offensively, rebounding and getting opposing wings in foul trouble will be how he makes his most immediate impact. 

7. Cameron Johnson (6’9, 210 lbs) F-UNC

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Efficient shooter. Johnson brings five years worth of college experience to the table and has a silky smooth jumpshot (shot at least 34-percent from the three-point line in each season).  His tall and lean frame will remind scouts of former Tar Heel Justin Jackson. Johnson’s best hope is to make it at the next level as a “3 and D” prospect, who could hold his own vs. wings and stretch fours.  He has improved statistically each season. 

Weaknesses: Johnson’s draft stock could be hurt by his age (23). Historically, the first round has been reserved for younger prospects with more time to mold.  It will also be interesting to see how the University of Pittsburgh transfer will hold up physically vs. more mature NBA players.  Scouts will also question if Johnson has any other skills besides shooting that will translate to the next level.  Is Johnson a one-trick pony?

Other Notes: Attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Pa.)  •   Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with honors• Father, Gilbert played basketball at Pittsburgh while his mom, Amy played at Kent State. His brother played at Clarion University  • 2018: 16.9 points per game, 5.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds on 50-percent shooting •Two time All-Academic ACC

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Johnson has gotten better in every collegiate season and has a defined skill that translates to the NBA, his sharpshooting. The modern NBA game is played in space with shooters that can spread the floor and defend on the perimeter.  Johnson is good enough at both to warrant a late first round look. 

8. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (6’5, 205) G-Virginia Tech

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Alexander-Walker is a slashing guard who is best when out in transition. The former Hokie will be an asset at the next level with his drive and kick ability. Alexander-Walker doesn’t wow with his athleticism but his smooth in control game reminds me of Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.  Like Beal, Alexander-Walker will be better served primarily working as an off the ball guard. His left-to-right crossover is his main go to scoring move.  It lulls defenders to sleep and gives him the ability to get around defenders. 

Weaknesses: Alexander-Walker doesn’t have blow by speed and will have to score in the lane with body positioning rather than jumping over NBA big men. The former Virginia Tech guard will have to be paired with a more traditional point guard and improve his ability to score without plays being run for him.  At the next level, Alexander-Walker will also have to add strength to his build in order to absorb contact. 

Other notes:   Attended three high schools: Vaughan Secondary School (Ontario), St. Louis Christian Academy (Mo.) and Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Tenn.)  • Cousin is former Kentucky guard and current Los Angeles Clipper Shai Gilgeous-Alexander  • 2018: 16.2 points per game, four assists, 4.1 rebounds on 47 percent shooting •Competed with Canada at the 2016 FIBA Under 18 Championship and help lead the team to a silver medal. He led the team averaging 17 points per game.

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Alexander-Walker will be best served as  mid-first round pick that can provide scoring punch for a second unit.  His quick release and under control offensive game should make him an immediate contributor on the offensive end. Alexander-Walker’s ability to combat his lack of explosiveness when driving to the rim (or on defense) will determine his success in the NBA.

9. Jaylen Hoard (6’8, 216lbs) F-Wake Forest

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Hoard is a heady defensive prospect who can come over from the weak side and challenge baskets at the rim.  Offensively, Hoard can play on the perimeter and drive to the basket, but most of his money is made hustling around the rim as well as getting out in transition. The Wake Forest forward would be best served in a Golden State-type offense that is free-flowing and rewards the extra pass as well as interchangeable contributors. 

Weaknesses: Hoard doesn’t have a specific skill that he does well offensively. The France native makes up for his lack of size with great awareness and length (7’1″ wingspan).  Scouts will doubt if an undersized forward that can’t shoot is worth a high pick, but early in the second round could be ideal for Hoard. The former Demon Deacon also could stand to improve his field goal percentage (45 percent). 

Other notes: Attended Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)  • Born in France and played for France at the 2016 FIBA Under 18 Championship (averaged 22.4 points per game)  • 2018: 13.1 points per game, 1.5 assists, 7.6 rebounds on 45 percent shooting •Father, Antwon played at Murray State before playing professionally overseas and mother, Katia played for the University of Washington • Participated in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit 

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): We’ve seen players like Hoard make a niche for themselves in the NBA.  In recent years, players like former Louisville Cardinal and Los Angeles Clipper forward Montrezl Harrell come to mind.  Hoard isn’t as strong as Harrell, but has a frame that could add more mass.  He plays with the same type of effort, energy and defensive intelligence. 

10. Ty Jerome  (6’5, 195lbs) PG-Virginia

What makes this player NASTY? (Strengths): Jerome has excellent height for his position and guided the Cavaliers to a championship from his point guard position. Most impressively, Jerome was able to initiate the different sets that Virginia used in its half court offense. Basketball is predicated on maximizing possessions and Jerome is one of the more efficient players in the class, boasting a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Jerome also has the ability to push the ball in transition and often gets it deep into the lane to create for others. 

Weaknesses: Jerome has excellent height but doesn’t jump high off the floor.  His ability to finish at the rim against more athletic talent is a question mark.  Foot speed is also a question mark for Jerome.  At the point guard position he will be matched up on a nightly basis against far superior athletic and more agile opposition. The three- year point guard will have to compensate with basketball IQ.  Players may beat him to the spot to deny his penetration. 

Other notes:   Attended Iona Preparatory School (NY)  • Scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and had eight assists in the National Championship win vs. Texas Tech  • 2018: 13.6 points per game, 5.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds on 43 percent shooting •Missed only one game over his three seasons in Charlottesville and played in 105 games total• Named All-ACC second team in 2019 and All-ACC third team in 2018

Time to get NASTY (Our Summary): Jerome projects best as a backup point guard that can spell starters. He does offer a bit of position versatility, but much of that depends on his ability to adapt defensively to the NBA game.  Look for whoever drafts him to get creative with how they use him off ball screens as a shooter (38% percent career three point shooter in college).  Someone with his efficiency, shooting and strong ball handling skill will find a home somewhere on an NBA roster. 

The Barton gene

Cody Barton is a Utah Ute through and through.

The Utah linebacker is the son of two former Utes: his mother, Mikki, played basketball and volleyball. In 1993, she was named the WAC Player of the Year in basketball and led the nation in blocks in volleyball to earn all-conference honors. His father, Paul, played football and baseball in Salt Lake City. He went on to spend a year in the minors with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization.

Paul and Mikki not only passed on the Utes genes to Cody but his older brother, Jackson, and his younger sister, Dani, also donned the red and white.

Cody’s brother, Jackson (No. 70 pictured), is an NFL prospect in his own right after starting 29 games at both right and left tackle over a four-year span.

Dani plays volleyball while Jackson played offensive tackle for the last four years. Jackson finished this season as a first team All-Pac-12 performer while Cody was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

Despite having a brother on the team and a family of Utes, the person on campus Cody Barton might be closest to is linebacker Chase Hansen.

Last offseason, Barton helped Chase in his transition from safety to fellow linebacker.

“We had a strong bond,” said Barton during the week of the East West Shrine Game. “Me and Chase were very close. He’s one of my best friends on the team besides my brother, I stayed at his house a couple nights during the week.”

Barton said he and Chase would compete in everything from lifting in the weight room to running in the hallways.

Utah All-Pac-12 linebacker Chase Hansen, pictured left, working hand placement with fellow friend and teammate Cody Barton prior to the 2018 Holiday Bowl.

The bond translated from Chase’s studio apartment all the way to the gridiron. The pair finished as the team’s two leading tacklers.

Barton finished with 117 tackles while Hansen added 114. Barton also bested Hansen with four sacks to two. He added another piece of hardware to his trophy case during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine game, when he won the Pat Tillman Award, which is given to a player who best exemplifies intelligence, sportsmanship and service.

“Throughout his career, Barton has demonstrated a relentless drive and great awareness on the field, frustrating offenses like the man for which the award is named,” stated a press release from the East West Shrine Game.

The Utes finished 13th overall in yards allowed per contest and that mark could be attributed in part to Barton’s work as the commander of the defense.

“Just about every play we’re communicating with (the defensive line),” Barton said. He also on occasion talks with the back end of the defense.

The communication between the three levels of the defense allows the Utes to run various stunts and shades in the front while timing blitzes between the linebackers.

Barton (No. 30 seen rushing Clayton Thorson in the 2018 Holiday Bowl) posted nine career QB sacks and 23.5 tackles for losses.

The NFL prospect credited Utah Utes defensive coordinator and safeties coach Morgan Scalley for the harmony among the Utes defense.

“We’re always disguising,” Barton said. “Everything we were doing we were always disguising.”

One thing Barton doesn’t disguise is the brotherhood he has with his fellow Utes and the personal competition he has with Chase.

“I hope he sees this and knows I’m faster,” said Barton. It’s worth noting, Barton finished with a 4.64 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, while Hansen didn’t participate due to a hip injury.

Fresno flanker’s NFL family

Fresno State doesn’t have the name recognition of other West Coast powers like USC or Stanford but one thing can’t be ignored, the Bulldogs have shown a propensity for producing NFL wide receivers.

Henry Ellard, Adam Jennings, Paul Williams, Devon Wylie, Davante Adams, Bernard Berrian, Rodney Wright… the list of receivers drafted from Fresno goes on and on.

Former Bulldog great Stephone Paige set an NFL single-game receiving yardage record in 1985 with 309 yards against the San Diego Chargers. The record stood until it was broken by Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Willie ‘Flipper’ Anderson in 1989 (336).

Former Fresno State wide receiver KeeSean Johnson caught 275 passes for 3,463 yards (12.6 YPC) and 24 touchdowns in his career.

The next in the lineage could be KeeSean Johnson and he doesn’t need a history lesson, he knows the guys who have come before him.

“I learned about their stats and learned what they did,” Johnson said during the week of the 2019 East-West Shrine Game. “Those type of guys come back to the school and talk to you and you have to take it all in.”

One person Johnson said he models his game after is Davante Adams, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers before Johnson’s freshman season.

Adams went from Fresno to the NFL and worked his way into a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, producing two Pro Bowl seasons.

Adams and Johnson also both attended Palo Alto High School, where Johnson played both football and basketball.

The 6-foot-1, 201-pound prospect said Adams’ clean release off the line is what stands out to him. Johnson is a good route runner in his own right and says he also likes watching Cooper Kupp (LA Rams) and Keenan Allen (LA Chargers).

“You can learn anything from anybody on the field just by watching them,” Johnson said. “That’s how I learned and that’s what helped me.”

Of Johnson’s 66 career catches on third down, 47 went for first downs.

The film study has paid off for Johnson, who says he can see himself playing in either the slot or on the outside.

“Whatever team I get a chance to play for hopefully I get a chance to make an impact at wherever (position) they play me,” Johnson said.

He finished his senior season with 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns.

Among his other accomplishments include back-to-back nominations to the All-Mountain West second teams.

Over the last three seasons, Johnson has started all 40 games and has amassed 238 receptions, 3,126 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Three things are certain. Death, taxes and Fresno State will produce an NFL wide receiver. And if Johnson can produce like he did for the Bulldogs at the next level, look for him to return to Fresno and groom the next pup.

Utah PK Matt Gay: From the pitch to the gridiron

A football and soccer ball have striking differences but none of that seems to matter to this NFL hopeful.

Former Utah Utes kicker Matt Gay played just one season of high school football but after being named a consensus FBS All-American in 2017, he is preparing for the NFL Draft.

“It’s just a fitting ending to the hard work and the risk that I took kind of leaving soccer a few years ago.…and showing it’s paying off. It just shows the next step in the journey to go in the NFL,” Gay said during the week of practice at the 2019 East-West Shrine Game. “It’s a testament to hard work and I just really appreciate the opportunity being down here.”

Gay (No. 97 pictured) was 3-of-3 on field goals and hit all three of his extra point attempts in the 2017 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

The former walk-on, who has a 71-percent touchback rate on kickoffs, has been able to translate his strong leg to the gridiron but he does note some technique differences between kicking the different balls.

“Kicking a soccer ball at my position of center forward was about trying to keep the ball low and on goal and now (in football) you have to get the ball up and above blockers,” Gay said.

Another difference Gay noted is most soccer kicks vary depending on the situation but in football every kick should be exactly the same.

According to DraftNasty analysis, Gay keeps an erect upper body on kicks that require power and he keeps his head inside of the football and in-between the plant foot and his kicking platform. 

However, the draft prospect still has to shake his soccer tendencies. Gay’s soccer background will occasionally show up and he’ll punch at the ball on some of his longer attempts, like he did on Day 2 of practices during the week of the East-West Shrine game, when he pushed a 58-yard field goal low and to his left from the right hash.

“Sometimes I find myself in a soccer mentality where you punch at it because I’ve done it my whole life,” Gay said. “It’s about getting the repetition in your body to change to certain techniques to make sure the kicks look the same.”

Before transitioning to the gridiron, Gay was a three-time all-state soccer player and a team captain at Orem High School.

From there, he played two years of soccer at Utah Valley, where he earned second-team NSCAA All-West Region honors.

It wasn’t until 2017 when he walked on to the Utah football team during preseason camp that he left the round checkered ball behind.

His acclimation to the oblong ball has been swift. Gay says he is comfortable kicking from 60 yards out and is even confident in himself from as far as 65 yards out.

The relative newcomer to the game of football has also proven he can play in all types of weather conditions.

“Sometimes you get a perfect night early on in the season but we’ve had games in Colorado where it’s raining or the ball is cold and flat. You have to be able to handle it because no one is going to give excuses,” Gay said. “You have to make kicks when it’s snowy or rainy or sunny.”

As he gets more and more comfortable, Gay said he has relied on former Utah Utes and Chicago Bears kicker Andy Phillips.

Phillips was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2014 and was a second-team All-American in 2015 before signing with the Chicago Bears during the 2017 offseason.

Despite being waived by the Bears, Phillips enjoyed a successful career at Utah, where he set the school records in makes (23) and attempts (28) in 2014. However, both of those records have been broken twice over by Gay.

“He’s around all the time, I talk to him and he’s good about giving tips and pointers about staying calm,” Gay said.

Gay missed on just nine of his 65 field goals attempts as a Ute.

The former pupil has turned into a master in his own right. Gay made all 85 of his extra point attempts and was 56-of-65 on field goals during his two seasons in Salt Lake City. The 86-percent success rate ranks him ninth all-time in the NCAA and first in the Pac-12 for kickers who have made at least 50 field goals.

The 24-year-old has also established himself as a team leader and was named a captain for the Utes.

Gay wants NFL teams to know that no matter who selects him they will be getting a kicker who is willing to take his lumps and learn from them.

“Failure teaches you more than success,” Gay said. “In those moments when you fail that’s a big learning lesson. Success is great and enjoyable but you learn more when you fail.”

If his transition from high school and collegiate soccer to winning the Lou Groza Award in college football is any indication, Gay is a quick learner and has the potential to be successful at the next level.

2019 East-West Shrine Practices, Day 1, 1-14-19: Gallery/Recap

DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous takes us inside some of the Day 1 images from the 2019 East-West Shrine practices at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 12-30-18: In-game report

The Steelers squeaked past the Bengals but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs.  Despite a 16-13 victory, a number of midseason disappointments allowed the Baltimore Ravens to walk away with the AFC North division title. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

Steelers spread attack

The Steelers employed the spread attack as its primary offensive set during the regular season and this included the season finale against the Bengals.  It allowed them to get their playmakers out in space but it did leave quarterback Ben Roethlisberger susceptible to increased pressure from four-man fronts.  Cincinnati only sacked Big Ben once, but they were able to get him off his throwing spot without blitzing while still keeping two safeties high.  With Antonio Brown out, Roethlisberger started the game by throwing seven completions to five different receivers.  A majority of these passes were wide receiver screens and slants.  As was my concern early in the season, Roethlisberger did fall back into a pattern of turning the football over, not only against the Bengals but all season long. For the game, Roethlisberger finished with one passing touchdown, one interception and 287 passing yards on 68-percent passing.  James Conner led the team with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries. As the Steelers assess their 2018 season offensively, look for them to carry over their spread principles into next year while also finding ways to cut down on the turnovers. 

Turnover differential 

Pittsburgh ranked sixth in scoring offense and were in the top ten in passing yards and rushing yards allowed.  The offensive and defensive stats tell a story of a successful season but turnovers doomed the Steelers and almost cost them their game against the Bengals.  In 2018, Pittsburgh finished with a -11 turnover differential, which ranked 28th in the NFL.  The other four teams with a worst differential than the Steelers were Arizona, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Tampa Bay, all teams who finished with losing records.  Against Cincinnati, Roethlisberger threw a pick- six to Shawn Williams, which represented the Bengals’ only touchdown for the game.  Defensively, Pittsburgh was not able to force the Bengals, who were missing wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, into any mistakes. 

Cincinnati playmakers 

Cincinnati All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green caught 46 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns despite appearing in just nine games in 2018.

With A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert out, it was evident that the Bengals just didn’t have the firepower to get players open against the Steelers.  Alex Erickson caught all six of his targets for 63 yards and was able to work over the middle but his longest catch was for just 13 yards.  The Bengals next most productive reviewer was Auden Tate, who caught one pass for 15 yards. Joe Mixon ran for 105 yards and finished with 1,168 yards on the season. The 22- year-old running back should be able to be relied upon for the long- term, but look for the Bengals to continue to try and develop their young playmakers like John Ross, a former Top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

2018 Valero Alamo Bowl In-game report: Iowa State vs. Washington State, 12-28-18

Washington State emerged victorious in a back-and-forth thriller against Iowa State.  The Cougars defeated the Cyclones 28-26 to win the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl.  DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson gives his impressions in this in-game report:

16 Gardner Minshew (6’2 220) Washington State QB-Senior

Former East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew’s transition to Pullman culminated with his selection as college football’s 2018 Johnny United Golden Arm Award winner.

The East Carolina transfer put together a season that ended with him winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, which is given to the nation’s top senior quarterback.  Minshew impressed in the Valero Alamo Bowl with his short compact delivery and his elusiveness in the pocket.  Iowa State opted to rush just three defensive linemen for the better part of the game and he took his time with patient reads.  When he is at his best, Minshew can power off his back foot and drive the ball in the short and intermediate passing game.  At the next level, the Cougars quarterback will have to answer questions about his deep ball accuracy and ability to run a less quarterback-friendly offense than head coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense.  The former ECU Pirate finished his senior season with 4,779 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions. 

4 Marcus Strong (5’9 185) Washington State CB-Junior

Marcus Strong showed his anticipation and ball skills when he jumped a slant in the first quarter and ran the interception in for a touchdown. The junior cornerback, however, was called for a taunting penalty and had his touchdown negated.  For the game, Strong finished with seven tackles, one sack and one interception.  He impressed this season -and against Iowa State- with his ability to compete and play through the whistle.  Despite giving up nine inches against Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler, Strong got physical and made life hard on the taller opponent.  The lack of size will concern scouts, but the Cougars cornerback has the right mentality to play on the outside in the NFL. 

18 Hakeem Butler (6’6 225) Iowa State WR-Junior

Butler is physical and not afraid to put his hands on the opposing cornerback to create room in his routes.  He also showed the skills to seal the edge during running plays.  Despite his height, Butler can still get low and get in-and-out of his breaks (see his comeback routes during the first half).  The junior had a productive season, posting 60 catches for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns.  Against Washington State, he caught nine passes for 192 yards.  This included an acrobatic one-handed catch over the middle of the field. 

32 David Montgomery (5’11 216) Iowa State RB-Junior

David Montgomery has the tools to be an every down back at the next level.  He showed soft hands in the receiving game in the Valero Alamo Bowl (4 catches for 55 yards). And like he did all season long, he refused to go down on first contact.  Against Washington State, he ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. On the season, the Cincinnati native rushed for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns.