Tyrese Haliburton takes a shot vs. Oregon

NBA virtual draft combine: Pair of projected lottery picks interview

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Although Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton indicated Wednesday that he “has no clue” which NBA team will pick him Nov. 18, draft analysts are confident that he and Israeli forward Deni Avdija won’t be on the board long. Haliburton and Avdija – projected to go seventh and fourth overall, respectively, in NBA.com’s updated consensus mock draft – spoke to the media Wednesday on Day 3 of the 2020 virtual draft combine. Updates from those sessions, as well as that of projected first-rounder Theo Maledon, currently listed No. 16 to Portland on NBADraft.net’s board:

Haliburton believes shooting numbers speak for themselves

Watch any highlight reel from Haliburton’s two college seasons with the Cyclones and you’ll likely immediately notice how mechanical and unconventional his shooting form appears to be. When asked specifically about his awkward-looking perimeter shot, Haliburton had a quick response: just look at the results. During his sophomore season at Iowa State, the 6-foot-5, 175-pounder was excellent from everywhere on the floor, shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 41.9 percent on threes and 82.2 percent at the foul line.

“I think it’s so overblown, the stuff about my mechanics and range,” Haliburton said. “Because I don’t think film lies, or numbers lie. If you go back and watch me at the college level, I think I shot the ball really well both years. If people watched, they know (shooting) range is not a problem for me. But if that’s what people want to talk about, then go ahead, but we’ll see. We can revisit that question in a couple years and see what people have to say.”

As a freshman, Haliburton was a sliver under 70 percent on free throws, but topped 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on treys. Last season, he averaged 15.2 points and 6.5 assists.

Avdija deflecting comparisons to Mavericks star

Slovenia native and Dallas two-year pro Luka Doncic has been so outstanding that it’s now common that any promising international guard or wing will be compared to him. For Avdija, who is from Israel, it’s a comparison he’d prefer people not make.

“I think what Luka did, and what he’s doing right now, are great,” Avdija said politely Wednesday, in reference to a question about being compared to Doncic. “I think he’s a great player. We came from the same league, basically, and I understand why people see familiar things. I just want to make it clear that he’s a great player with his own path and skills. I have my own path and skill. I have my own abilities, the good and the bad. I just want to be the best Deni Avdija I can be. I just don’t want to be compared to anybody.”

Asked about the significance of possibly being the highest-drafted Jewish player ever, Avdija said, “Any time you can make any kind of history to represent the Jewish community and the state of Israel, that’s an honor for me. I’m going to try to do the best I can to make everybody proud. It’s exciting.”

French point guard could be draft's third international pick

Avdija and point guard Killian Hayes (France) are universally considered locks to be taken in the early lottery. Maledon likely will come next among international players.

Maledon fielded a particularly blunt question about how his draft stock seemed to be higher in 2019 than it is currently, with an international media member pointing out that “a year ago, you were considered a top-five, top-10 pick in the mock drafts. Right now you seem out of the lottery. How do you feel as a person and as a player when you see that some teams that believed in you in the past, now don’t feel (the same)? Do you want to prove them wrong?”

Maledon: “For sure. That kind of stays in my head. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder for that. (But) I think the most important thing is to be drafted by a team that’s really interested in you (playing for them). On the court, it’s not helpful to (think) about stuff like that, but it’s only on the court that you can prove yourself. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

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