Naturally, we are rather Big Ten-centric here when it comes to basketball. We’re concerned with our own league first because that is our primary competition. The league as a whole was supposedly in a down year last year, but three teams still made Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. We also had our fair share of draft picks last night.
Of the 60 picks in the two rounds of the draft, four were from Big Ten teams. Several other guys were undrafted free agents.
17th Pick: D.J. Wilson – Michigan – Milwaukee Bucks – The first Big Ten player picked was a bit of a surprise, but Wilson shot up draft boards after the season. He is an example of a player that finished the season strong in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments and was able to cash in. The 6’10” forward should fit in nicely in Milwaukee, as the Bucks are a strong, young team that will be very good in the near future.
23rd Pick: OG Anunoby – Indiana – Toronto Raptors - I have never been impressed by Anunoby, but I will happily admit I was wrong if he becomes a solid NBA player. He does have freakish athleticism that will make him a solid defender and slasher to the basket. He’ll also be on the shelf a bit as he recovers from a knee injury. The biggest problem I have is the insane Kawhi Leonard comparisons for him. Yeah, he is good. There is no question he is an NBA player. But let’s pump the brakes on that a little first. Leonard was a MUCH better player in his two years at San Diego State, but Anunoby was a better three-point shooter at Indiana. We’ll see. This could be the steal some project, or the Raptors just got a solid contributor.
26th Pick: Caleb Swanigan – Purdue – Portland Trail Blazers – I think we’re pretty familiar with this guy and his story. As for how he fits in with the Blazers, I don’t know. Their frontcourt is a bit of a mess so it seems like a good fit as a rebounder. He’ll have to improve his defense, but his ability to spread the floor from the four spot will help.
42nd Pick: Thomas Bryant – Indiana – Los Angeles Lakers – Bryant is a bit like Swanigan-lite. This past season he worked harder on his 3-point shooting and he is at least a weapon there. He shot 38% for the season and he can be a banger down low if he feels like it. I like and respect Bryant because he is a versatile player. His skill set should do well in the League.
Undrafted Free Agent Signings
James Blackmon – Indiana – Philadelphia 76ers – Blackmon has long taken a beating from Purdue fans for his lack of defense, but the kid can shoot. If he gets hot at the right time it can mean a roster spot. Stick him on a team where all he does is get open looks and he can be deadly. He can’t defend a chair, however.
Peter Jok – Iowa – New Orleans Pelicans – It is a crime that Jok didn’t get drafted, but any time you can get a project European that may never come over to the U.S. over a polished 4-year college player you have to do it. Jok should have a good chance to make a crappy Pelicans team.
Derrick Walton Jr. – Michigan – Orlando Magic – This is reportedly a summer league deal, but it is better than nothing for Walton.
Nigel Hayes – Wisconsin – New York Knicks – Hayes will play for the Knicks in the summer league, but playing for the Knicks at any level is more of a punishment than a reward. He might have been one of the more disappointing players in the Big Ten this year.
Bronson Koenig – Wisconsin – Milwaukee Bucks – Koenig won’t have very far to go to find his summer league team. He’ll be an interesting addition to the Bucks.