Second-Round Candidate: Devonte Graham
ID CARD: 6-foot-1½ point guard, Kansas, senior, 23 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 43rd on ESPN.com, 39th by SI.com, 24th among guards by NBA.com
SCOUTS LOVE: Four years of experience at the highest level of college basketball with Kansas has Graham about as prepared to battle for a rotation spot as a second-round prospect could be. Graham played more off the ball while teammates with Frank Mason, a second-round pick of Sacramento last June, but took over as the full-time point guard as a senior and saw his assists rise from a healthy 4.1 to an outstanding 7.2 per game. Graham also got to the free-throw line a ton, averaging 5.2 attempts a game. Tough, smart, competitive – Graham was indispensable for Bill Self’s team, best evidenced by the fact he played 38 minutes a game. Graham, voted Big 12 Player of the Year, can shoot from deep and off the dribble. He hit over 40 percent from the college 3-point arc over his four-year career and shot .406 as a senior on nearly seven attempts a game.
SCOUTS WONDER: Size is a concern for Graham. While he showed the ability to run the offense as a senior, perhaps because he played more off the ball for his first three seasons there’s still a sense among some that he might be more combo guard. And that’s fine on offense, but it makes it tougher to pair Graham with another point guard when it comes to the defensive end. He’ll be challenged and it will limit his ability to be effective when he inevitably gets switched on to bigger wings or even big men in pick-and-roll situations. The only real concern on offense will be the challenge Graham faces as a finisher at the rim. He’s quick and exhibits good feel in pick and roll, but Graham didn’t shoot very well overall at Kansas (.392) on 2-point shots despite his accuracy from the 3-point line.
NUMBER TO NOTE: 142 – That’s how many games of college experience Graham will bring to the NBA. He’ll be about as good as it gets as far as drafting a known quantity. There’s upside with Graham; if he can grow into a true lead guard, he could be an effective second-unit point guard who could play alongside the starter when teams look to put a more dynamic playmaking unit together. But it looks like, at minimum, whoever drafts Graham is going to get someone with more chance to stick than most drafted in his expected range.
MONEY QUOTE: “From a one and done, they get the potential aspect of it. But as far as experience and being in real-game situations and playing at the highest level against better competition, I think that favors me.” – Devonte Graham at the NBA draft combine on the importance of four years of college experience to prepare him for the NBA.
PISTONS FIT: Ish Smith will be playing out the final year of the three-year free-agent contract he signed with the Pistons in July 2016. If the Pistons were to pick Graham and he hits his mark, they’d feel a lot better about Smith taking his chances on the open market and not having to commit to $6 million a year – Smith’s average annual value on the three-year deal – for their backup point guard. The Pistons have decisions to make this off-season on Dwight Buycks and Kay Felder, the former signed to a non-guaranteed contract for next season and the latter about to be a restricted free agent on a two-way contract.
BOTTOM LINE: If your life depended on jotting down five names and needing one of them to be the Pistons pick at No. 42 in the June 21 draft, Graham would be a pretty good bet. It’s about where he figures to be available, he plausibly fills a need and he’s not a purely speculative pick in a year where the Pistons have no No. 1 pick and thus might be more inclined to go for a safer option in the second round.