The morning after the 2019 NBA draft, I had a conversation with Elan Vinokurov, the president/owner of basketball scouting and consulting service, EV Hoops. His Scout U program is currently running a sale on a scouting course through the weekend; e-mail ScoutU@evhoops.com and mention LB for a discount.
Sean: Before we dive into Sixers-related items, what was your biggest surprise coming away from [Thursday] night’s NBA Draft?
Elan: There were obviously way more trades than I expected, but that’s a pretty boring surprise. I would say Rui Hachimura going as high as he did [9th to the Wizards] was surprising. I definitely thought he had a promise, but I didn’t think he’d go where he went.
So other ones that were probably more guys going the other direction, like Bol Bol falling as far as he did, Kevin Porter Jr. falling as far as he did. Even like Nassir Little falling. I think that speaks to where the league is right now, on anybody that doesn’t kind of have like a stellar reputation coming into the NBA.
So you think those guys falling was more speaking to personality red flags that sprung up with them in the draft process?
Yeah, for sure, especially with Bol Bol and Kevin Porter Jr., on a lesser note I think with Nassir.
Who among undrafted players do you think will be most likely to have a long NBA career?
Luguentz Dort, who went undrafted and then ended up getting a two-way with Oklahoma City Thunder. I definitely thought he should have been drafted. I think at some point in the second round, these kids get in a situation where teams call them and they decide ‘I’d rather just control my own destiny and pick a team that I like when the draft is over. So I’m going to just turn down anybody who calls me to get drafted.’ It happens.
That’s also why you see players that get drafted, and you’re like, ‘wait, what?’ That’s because those guys are the guys that don’t anticipate being drafted, but then a team calls them and likely has a conversation that says, ‘Hey, if we draft you, will you agree to a two-way?’ So they draft them with the pure intention of them not taking up a roster spot and being a two-way, which pushes down guys like Luguentz Dort, who are also saying no at that point.
But I think Luguentz Dort is the one guy that really pops as someone that should have been drafted. And I think Zylan Cheatham, another Arizona State guy, that’s pure coincidence, is another guy that really should have been drafted. It’s surprising, but another guy that maybe didn’t do the best when people did their background checks.
That’s interesting. So these guys actually have some degree of leverage with where they end up. I don’t think that’s something a lot of people are really aware of.
Oh yeah, I guess you could call it leverage. I guess at the end of the day, a team could still say, we’re still gonna take you. It’s not a conversation that has to even go that way. But I think just the whole relationship with agents in this business, and I think teams reach out at that point. It’s probably more agent-driven than anything, but it does kind of work out. Kenrich Williams is an example of a guy that did that. Wayne Selden is an example of a guy that did that. Fred VanVleet is an example of a guy that did that.
So at that point, it’s just kind of like, why not see where the dust settles. You have confidence that you’re gonna be better than a slew of guys who only got drafted because they had no leverage and they’re willing to take two-ways. And you can try to find the teams that maybe didn’t have enough picks, maybe didn’t walk away from the draft with what they wanted. You probably knew going into the draft, ‘this team is interested in me if they’re able to get a pick or whatever.’ And then you kind of can quickly make that phone call and set up that agreement in advance with the exec or the organization.
Shifting gears to the Sixers, Matisse Thybulle went 20th overall. They traded up to get him. Do you think that was the right range for him and what do you think about his fit with the Sixers?
I had Thybulle ranked 13 overall. I love him. I thought it was a great value play in terms of where they got him. I think he’s a great fit for the team. He really gives them someone who can be versatile defensively, can cause deflections, can be disruptive. He’s like everything you’d want in this team in terms of somebody that can defend, that can switch, that can mask for other people’s defensive inabilities at times.
And then offensively, the real question mark is the jump shot. But we talk about that because it’s a talking point, but I also don’t think it’s this gigantic elephant in the room where it’s like, Thybulle can’t shoot. I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here. I think it’s just the obvious swing skill for him, and it’s probably gotten a little more attention than it needed. I think the monthly shooting splits are jarring, in that he would go like 18 percent in November, then 40 percent in December, back down to like 19 percent. If you look at them, they’re really jarring.
But there’s nothing mechanically wrong with him. He’s a high release point, so he doesn’t have that perfect 90-degree, parallel to the ground in terms of tricep, elbow bend. He kind of shoots off of his palm, instead of his fingertips. And I just don’t think he’s somebody that’s totally comfortable shooting off of a move, like at faster speeds, or like really off the dribble. But I don’t think this team needs him to be, and I think he’s someone that can very easily grasp if the Sixers coaches were like, ‘Hey Matisse, stand in that corner, you need to stand in that spot, and you need to be able to hit that shot 40 percent of the time. He’ll work on it. He’s not gonna think ‘I thought I was brought here to be a scorer’. That’s not who Matisse Thybulle is.
I think he really has a sharp role player IQ. He kind of knows who he is and who he’s not. And as long as you can polish up, buff up, get that 3-point shot to be NBA-ready at a clip where teams aren’t sagging off of him, then I think you have a guy that’s playable immediately. Plug-and-play type, who really has some 6-5 Robert Covington, along with some Danny Green, upside. It’s gonna take time, just like it took Danny Green and it took Robert Covington, but I do think he’s ahead of where both guys were at the same age.
You mentioned he’s a plug-and-play guy in your mind. Do you think he’s ready to step in Day One for a Sixers team that’s looking to contend and be a rotation player right away?
I mean, I do think that. Now, what does that mean? I don’t think he’s ready to start. Like if they were to lose Redick, I don’t think it’s like, ‘Well, we got Thybulle, so we’re fine.’ I think we often overestimate how much rookies should be playing right away, and how much they wind up playing. But I think he can play. I think he can play rotation minutes. I think he can defend. He’s gonna probably pretty quickly pick up on the weight room system and how to pack on positive weight. He doesn’t need a whole body change, but you also don’t want it to be someone like Timothe Luwawu who gets onto a pro court, or Korkmaz, and it’s very quickly like, ‘this guy’s not nearly strong enough.’ I don’t think Thybulle’s gonna have that type of problem.
But I do think defensively he’s ready to go. Offensively, you want to clean some things up, but it would not surprise me if he’s rotation-ready right away. But they also might be in a situation where they sign some depth, they sign a starter if they lose a guy like Tobias, maybe lose a guy like Redick, and that forces Thybulle to not have to play right away.
You mentioned you love Thybulle, but with the guys that were kind of sliding there in the first round, was there anyone that was still available at 20 that you thought it was crazy the Sixers didn’t grab that guy instead?
No, I mean, I really thought Thybulle was the best combination of best player available and best fit. Highest-ranked guy on our board that fit both of those blocks. There were other guys we liked, but maybe just didn’t make the most sense. I actually really like Kevin Porter Jr. a lot. I think his talent is sky-high. I don’t know if he makes sense on the Sixers.
So, to me, when you take both into account, best fit, best player available, Thybulle was a no-brainer.
Marial Shayok went 54th overall to the Sixers. Some boards barely had him in the top-100. What is your overall view on him as a prospect?
I personally would not have drafted him. I’m not a huge fan. I think his game is pretty bland. He can get hot a little bit and make some 3-point shots, kind of purely off a very, very slight bounce or off of catch-and-shoots. But I don’t think he can really get by anybody, I think his athleticism is just average, at best. Defensively, he’s, again, average, and it doesn’t really get him going. I think he’s more motivated by shooting.
(Elan reiterated that the following is pure conjecture.) I would not be surprised if Shayok is an example of a guy who didn’t expect to get drafted and got pushed up, or he’s a guy that they simply flagged and said, ‘let’s take Shayok and just get him on a two-way.’ When they drafted him, my immediate gut instinct was they drafted him for a two-way. So, in that sense, if you think he’s a good fit for Delaware, do your thing.
One final question. Coming away from the draft, which team did the most with the moves they made, or getting guys at great value, to improve their team in your opinion?
I thought the Pelicans draft was phenomenal. Every time they showed what they were doing, we were just very impressed as a staff. I mean, obviously, Zion’s a no-brainer. To be able to get Jaxson Hayes, I think he’s a really, really good fit. I think he makes so much sense as a lob threat there. He’s gonna be great with Lonzo. To be able to [Nickeil] Alexander-Walker, that just gives you another guy who’s smart and can make decisions with the ball, can play in pick-and-roll. I’m really curious what their offense is ultimately gonna look like with the guys like Lonzo and Jrue, Nickeil and Zion, and then you have a rim-runner like Jaxson Hayes. I really thought they had a very good draft.
And I like what Cleveland did, in the sense that I like the guys that they got from a strictly value standpoint. To put able to walk away with [Darius] Garland, to be able to get [Dylan] Windler where they did, to be able to get Kevin Porter Jr. where they did, it’s great value. And I think they’re in a position where you just want to take best player available and figure it out, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They might look at Sexton and Garland and say, ‘we like Garland over Sexton.’ And then they might look at Kevin Porter Jr. and Sexton and say, ‘we like Kevin Porter Jr. over Sexton.’ At that point, you have a decision to make. Or maybe it’s like what happened with Phoenix when Phoenix had Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas, and you decide, ‘there’s something electric here with these three guards. Let’s just see where it takes us.’
So I personally think that’s the team that got best players available and there’s something good to be said for that. And then I think New Orleans is the team that just walked away with a really, really nice core moving forward. You knew you were gonna get Zion, to walk away with your hopefully center of the future is tremendous. And then to be to get Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a steal, and if at some point you decide Jrue Holiday isn’t in your long-term plans, you hopefully have Nickeil Alexander-Walker as your long-term shooting guard of the future.
Thanks to Elan for taking the time for this conversation. You can follow him on Twitter @ElanVino.