We sat down with an NBA Draft expert to learn more about the draft stock of a few current Louisville basketball stars and one who is signed to join the program next season.
Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch both made the decision to put becoming professionals off by a year last summer when they decided to return to play for Chris Mack and the Louisville basketball program rather than commit to the 2019 NBA Draft.
Both players saw their stock rise after breakout seasons in 2018-19 in their first season playing for Chris Mack and looked to be draftable prospects. Coming off of a season that saw him win the ACC’s Most Improved Player of the Year award, Nwora looked like a late-first to mid-second round who could rise with a big performance at the NBA Combine, while Enoch still had a bit of work to do.
An injury to Nwora and feedback from the NBA that pointed towards going back to school for a year for Enoch led both players to return to Louisville giving the Cards a team more than capable of winning a National Championship. Both players received feedback that an extra year of college would help their draft stock, and thus far that seems to be true.
The two were joined this summer by Samuel Williamson a five-star recruit out of Rockwall, TX who just so happened to be the Cards first McDonalds’ All-American since V.J. King. As a 6’8 freshman with a game hailed as being similar to former Duke star and now Boston Celtic star Jayson Tatum, Williamson came to Louisville with one-and-done potential and even with a lack of production could be a project that attracts NBA Front Offices.
Chris Mack and Louisville basketball fans also will be watching closely as star2020 recruit Jay Scrubb will make a decision on whether to enter the NBA Draft straight from junior college or attend college. The 6’6 wing has been seen on NBA Mock Draft’s for a good chunk of the year due to him being the first freshman to be named to the NJCAA team last season and was also the first JUCO player to be invited to compete with the U-19 Team USA.
With more than half of the 2019-20 season behind us and the NBA Draft around the corner, we sat down with an NBA expert to talk about the Cards’ NBA Draft stock in 2020. Matt Babcock, a former NBA Agent and Sports Illustrated writer and the founder of Babcockhoops.com, answered a few of our questions about Steven Enoch, Jordan Nwora, Samuell Williamson, and incoming junior college star Jay Scrubb’s, draft stock and potential upcoming decisions. You can find Matt’s latest 2020 NBA Mock Draft here, which includes one current Cardinal.
From your experience working in the NBA and around the Draft, what is your evaluation of Jordan Nwora and how he fits at the next level?
Matt Babcock: Nwora has positional size and, thanks to being a coach’s son, he has a high basketball IQ and a good overall feel for the game. However, the most important part of his game is that he is an extremely good shooter. In a day and age where stretching the floor is of the utmost importance, Nwora has the potential to be able to do that at a high level from two different positions in the NBA. Due to the lack of creators in the backcourt currently at Louisville, Nwora has to do more to create his own shot than he will moving forward. This transition should allow him to simplify his game at the next level, allowing him to be an even more efficient shooter.
The concerns with Nwora are simple. First of all, although he is explosive finishing at the rim, he doesn’t have the quickest feet. This could hurt his ability to defend quick, athletic perimeter players at the next level. My second concern is that I question if he is willing to accept a complementary role, as I get the impression that he wants to be a dynamic scorer as a perimeter player rather than be a hybrid forward that’s primary responsibility is to stretch the floor. All in all, I really like Nwora as a prospect. I fully expect him to be a first-round pick come June.
My comparison for Jordan Nwora has always been a combination of Kyle Kuzma and Doug McDermott. Is there a guy (or two) that Nwora most resembles in the current league or in year’s past?
Matt Babcock: I apologize for piggybacking your comparisons but I think those are pretty good! Although the hype around Kuzma has cooled off, he is still a good player and versatile like Nwora. In regards to McDermott, I have a lot of respect for his shooting ability, but I think Nwora has the potential to be on an even higher level in that area. From an effectiveness standpoint, I’d expect Nwora to be somewhere in between being a good rotation player like McDermott or a solid starter like Kuzma (although he hasn’t been a regular starter for the Lakers this year).
You have Jordan Nwora going late in the first round of your mock draft. Where do you think his draft stock currently sits and what does he have to do before the season to see his positioning rise?
Matt Babcock: I see Nwora’s draft range being anywhere from the mid-to-late first round. However, last year UNC’s Cam Johnson had a similar projection prior to the draft and was selected with the 11th pick by the Phoenix Suns, which serves as proof that it only takes one team to finalize a player’s market value at the end of the day. Also, keep in mind that players with positional size, high basketball IQ, and shooting ability with no apparent skeletons in their closets generally go on the high side of their ranges. Cam Johnson and Jordan Nwora both fall into that category perfectly.
Steven Enoch, much like Jordan Nwora, put the NBA on hold for a year, even after graduating college at 22 years old. He’s lost a ton of weight, improved his conditioning, and has been a better defender and scorer this season. Do you think he’s a draftable big man?
Matt Babcock: I do think Enoch is draftable. Although he is older than other prospects in the draft, Enoch will be a serviceable big man the first day he steps foot on an NBA court. He’s a solid big man that can also step out and shoot the ball. I had hoped he was going to elevate his outside shooting from last year when he shot 35.9% from three-point range, but disappointingly he’s seen his outside shooting dip to 23.8% this season. However, I still have confidence that he is capable of stretching the floor enough, which is an important attribute considering all of the other typical big man skills he possesses.
In your mind, where is the best fit in the NBA for Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch?
Matt Babcock: I think Enoch could be plugged into just about any NBA team’s system. However, for Nwora I’d like to throw out one hypothetical situation that would be a good fit:
I’d like to see Nwora on the Milwaukee Bucks as he could stretch the floor allowing Giannis to do, well, “Giannis types of things”. He would likely be able to step in and play solid minutes right away on one of the best teams in the league, as he could back up and play alongside both Giannis and Khris Middleton.
Jay Scrubb has been the most electrifying junior college basketball player in quite some time, already sparking interest from NBA general managers. There’s a lot of talk about him skipping college, where he is currently committed to Louisville, to jump straight to the pros. How do NBA GM’s evaluate JUCO players?
Matt Babcock: I’d be surprised if there is a large contingent of NBA general managers that have seen Jay Scrubb at this point. However, I’m sure many NBA scouts and personnel other than general managers have checked him out. If he decides to test the waters the NBA pre-draft process would be crucial for him. I would expect him to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine. From there, he would need to impress.
Is Scrubb a draftable player in 2020 or do you see him needing just a year of college to get used to playing at a higher level before making the jump?
Matt Babcock: This is a bit of a loaded question because a player being draftable and needing another year of college are two completely different things. In regards to Scrubb, yes, he is draftable. He has good size for a shooting guard, jumps out of the gym, and has a sweet stroke from outside — he has major upside! However, based on my evaluations and the homework I have done on him, I think a year at Louisville would be very beneficial for him. Personally, I would like to see him go to Louisville for a year, increase his basketball IQ, work on his body, and just have one year at a big school to mature.
Samuell Williamson was a five-star high school recruit and McDonald’s All-American who had one and done hype coming into his freshman season. What is your overall evaluation of Williamson and his NBA potential?
Matt Babcock: I saw Williamson a lot at various high school events prior to him attending Louisville. When he is rolling he is a pure scorer. He’s playing on a really good team at Louisville right now. I think he is just going through some growing pains and is struggling to find his groove. I think next year once Nwora goes to the NBA, Williamson will thrive once he steps into being the team’s primary scorer. He certainly has NBA potential and I’m confident he will get there sooner than later.
Williamson has struggled to get off the bench for a good chunk of the season under Chris Mack and really hasn’t shown much to make you believe he’d leave after one year. In your opinion, would NBA teams be willing to look at him as a project somewhere in the first round or do you see him being a guy that they tell to go back to school?
Matt Babcock: If his name were to be in the draft he would generate some interest. However, I’d be surprised if any NBA personnel with any kind of decision-making authority would give him the assurances he would need to comfortably keep his name in the draft. Long story short, he needs to go back to school.