The NBA Draft, first and foremost, is about potential. The lottery picks especially are about attempting to identify what a player could do for the next 10 years, not what they’ve accomplished already.
That’s why 19-year-olds who had anywhere from average to productive single seasons in college, or didn’t even play in college, find themselves new-found millionaires and pieces a franchise is willing to build around. Jaren Jackson Jr. averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21 minutes per game at Michigan State and was taken with the fourth overall pick because of his potential.
But aside from a few special exceptions whose talent and ability would allow them to succeed in any situation, success in the league comes down to being placed in an environment that allows the potential of a players’ skills to flourish.
Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk are the latest Kansas products to hear their names called on draft night and earn a chance to make a name for themselves at the next level (along with Malik Newman, who secured a two-way contract with the Lakers). They’ve been detailed and broken down as prospects for a while, which is why, now that we know their landing spots, let’s look at it from a different perspective.
Here’s how I would grade the fit between each Jayhawk and his new team.
Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets: A
Devonte’ continued the similarities between he and Frank Mason (last year’s No. 34 pick), by becoming the No. 34 pick in the draft after being selected by Atlanta. Had he stayed, he would have been in a similar situation to Mason; a second-round pick heading to a team that used a top-five pick on another point guard.
Instead, Graham is going back to his home state of North Carolina, thanks to a trade with the Charlotte Hornets. With the move comes a better situation. Kemba Walker is the team’s franchise point guard, but he continues to be linked to trade rumors. SB Nation just published Cleveland’s continued pursuit of the star in order to help keep LeBron in town. But outside of Walker, there’s not much competition at the point guard position.
Michael Carter-Williams continued his downward performance, only playing 16 minutes per game last season while averaging 4.6 points and 2.2 assists. Third on the depth chart is Marcus Paige, who in his first season of competition played just five minutes per game in five games, averaging 2.4 points and 0.6 assists. It’s not exactly a murderers’ row behind Walker at the position, and a trade for Walker could mean more minutes for Graham and others to prove themselves.
Graham’s strengthens as a player will also provide help in several key areas in which the Hornets could improve. Despite shooting 37% from 3-point range last year (eighth best in the league), Charlotte ranked 21st in 3-pointers attempted per game. Outside of Walker and Nicolas Batum, no Hornets player took more than four shots a game from deep. The Hornets were also 21st in the league in assists, while one of Graham’s best attributes is his court vision and passing. There looks to be room for Graham to make an immediate impact coming off the bench in his first season.
Svi Mykhailiuk, Los Angeles Lakers: B
Like Devonte’, Svi finds himself in a strong position as a player with strengths that fit well with the team that drafted him. The Lakers need more outside shooting, and the team has been active about adding more through its young players. Los Angeles was 29th in the league in 3-point shooting last year at 34.5%, and 15th in 3s attempted. Svi is a pure spot-up shooting threat the Lakers need, and his size can also help with the team’s perimeter defense.
The reason I’m giving this a B and not an A is the unknowns surrounding the roster. It’s no secret that the Lakers are linked to several of the NBA’s biggest stars and free agents this offseason, like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. Which means the roster could receive a significant shakeup to make space for the potentially incoming stars. Luol Dang and Corey Brewer make up more than $24M at Svi’s position that the team could part ways with in order to make space. But it’s just hard to say definitively where Svi’s path is or what his competition looks like until the free agency dust settles.
Svi has natural abilities the Lakers need (another plus: that cheap rookie contract), so I think there’s a good chance he’s on the roster in October. Things might open up and he has an opportunity to make an instant impact, or the formation of another super team makes finding minutes on the floor more difficult. The same applies to Malik Newman and his contract with the Lakers, though it’s going to be more difficult for Newman to fight through the crowd of shooting guards.
Either way, there’s a lot to like about where Svi, and Devonte’, are headed going into their first NBA seasons.