It seems as if the international player has lost his luster. Why don’t there seem to be as many top international prospects.
Ryan Blake: We get these questions a lot. Not just this year, but in the past where we had several who went in first round. It is not a trend, but just the way it happens to be. I’m ready for a surge and always ready for that. You may be surprised by some this year who aren’t mentioned as much.
Who are some of the international players you like?
RB: There is 6-10 Marko Keselj, 22-year-old from Belgrade, I like him. He’s long and energetic and kind of like a Matt Barnes type. He can shoot from the outside, is a grinder, can rebound and does intangibles. He is not a go-to guy but somebody who makes everybody better.
There is Miroslav Raduljica, who plays for Zeleznik in Belgrade. He has upside. He is 22-years-old, 7-0, 7-1 in shoes and 250. He has a good package in the low post, he has to up it in the rebounding department and he can be one of those really tough big men. He was a guy I thought had a lot for a first round and then he had a brain hiccup a few yeas ago and now is working his way back. If you can get him in the second round, it could be interesting.
A guard I like is Antoine Diot of France. He is 6-3, but just hurt his back playing in the playoffs. He is 21, an early entry guy and a good point guard.
Donatas Motiejunas may not be a lottery guy but few teams have a multiple picks and if he could be interesting for them.
What type of NBA player do you think Ricky Rubio will eventually be?
RB: His team won the European Championship and he played extremely well. (Juan Carlos) Navarro was MVP and Rubio was the facilitator and continues to improve and I think he will be one of those really special kids. I don’t think he’s ready for the NBA yet. I would like to see him in an NBA summer league. Rubio is a special player at a young age and does things that you see with people with a lot of experience.
How would you rate this year’s draft?
RB: It’s deep. I like it and for me and anybody who is a draft nut trying to find where players will be picked, you don’t know what will happen after the second pick. Is New Jersey going to take Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins or Wesley Johnson? My guys like to see all the changes from the beginning of the year in mock drafts until now, but I say I don’t want to see mock drafts. This is a draft where you could have guys in the second round or some not drafted who end up playing in the league. Look at last year guys like (Chase) Budinger, (DeJuan) Blair, Wesley Matthews and Sam Young who did well.
How about your thoughts on John Wall?
RB: He will be a special player. Whoever you want to compare him to, the big thing with him is his maturity, his versatility, the way he can deliver the ball and the way he can make a difference on both ends of the floor either in up tempo or half-court. He has great size, length, quick speed north to south and is improving his decision-making. He is somebody who will have to improve as a shooter.
What about Ohio State’s Evan Turner, the projected No. 2 pick?
RB: He can probably play three positions. I can compare him to a different version of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade where they are able to play three spots, from point guard to small forward. He is a guy who can get his own shot. He can slash and shoot, pass, rebound, set screens and has court awareness and looks like he can be a leader. Those other intangibles are important. I think John Wall can be a special guy like (Derrick) Rose and Chris Paul, but I think Evan Turner can be like a Dwyane Wade.
The prevailing wisdom is that Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins could be the biggest gamble of the draft, high risk/high reward. How do you see him?
RB: It does seem that way. I don’t think his representatives did a good job in Chicago. He could have made a difference if he decided to play. That said, if Cousins comes up, I am taking him. For me he has to prove it. He did improve so much this year in his maturity on the court from rebounding to offensive ability to recognizing double teams in the post to passing out. He showed good court awareness and can dominate.
Can Cousins play center in the NBA and what do you like most about him?
RB: He can play five in this league. Of course he has to prove it and show that he can be a professional, but what I like is that he is 6-11, 270, has great footwork, is an offensive rebounder, can score, establishes position well and accepts contact. He is versatile in the pick-and-pop. He has a nice jump hook, has long arms and runs the court well, but he has to get in better conditioning. If I’m thinking of drafting him, I want to get in deeper and want to know what he is really like.
What are your thoughts on Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors?
RB: I think Favors will be interesting. He has a load of talent, great size, body, hands. He is not a major offensive threat and is going to be a garbage guy. He wasn’t able to do it early in the season at Georgia Tech and didn’t show he wanted the ball and it may have been the system, but he played with no complaints, which was a plus. As the year went on and the games got more important, his confidence rose, he showed better footwork and more energy and played within himself and didn’t try to do anything outside of what he can do. The fact that he is 18 is a big plus. As far as whether teams like Favors or Cousins, they are both good. There are going to be choices in that area.
Give me another player you like.
RB: I like Xavier Henry and he can really shoot the ball. His in-between game needs to be polished, but his size is great. He is a safe pick and I like his attitude and how he presents himself in a professional manner, work ethic on and off the court.