Second-Round Candidate: Malik Newman
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ID CARD: 6-foot-3¼ guard, Kansas, sophomore, 21 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 47th by ESPN.com; 54th by SI.com; unranked by NBA.com
SCOUTS LOVE: Shooting range and speed in transition are Newman’s best traits. A five-star recruit generally regarded as a top-10 player in his class, Newman stayed home in 2015 to attend Mississippi State. While he enjoyed relative success for a freshman – Newman averaged 11.3 points in 28 minutes a game and shot 38 percent from the 3-point arc – it wasn’t quite the one-and-done season expected of him. Newman transferred to Kansas, sat out 2017-18 and emerged as an NBA prospect as the 2018-19 season progressed in a perimeter-oriented offense. Newman averaged 14.2 points, third behind fellow draft candidates Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and shot .415 from the 3-point line in 32 minutes a game. While Graham isn’t a classic point guard, he can serve as a secondary ballhandler – he’s not limited to being a spot-up shooter, in other words, and shows some flashes of being able to play in pick and roll. He’s a scorer in an era where there’s a premium on players who can make plays and produce points.
SCOUTS WONDER: Newman measured a little less than might have been expected at the NBA draft combine. And he didn’t exhibit quite the athleticism that his reputation suggested. Newman’s maximum vertical leap was 33½ inches, a middling result. That casts doubt on Newman’s ability to defend effectively against anything other than NBA point guards. Can he transform himself into a legitimate point guard option? If not, that might limit his ceiling to bench player, but the Pistons are picking 42nd; the odds say they’ll be fortunate to land someone who contributes in any form.
NUMBER TO NOTE: 6-foot-¼ – That’s what Newman measured without shoes at the combine, which means he got a 3-inch boost from shoes – an unusual disparity. The only other player at the combine who had more than a 2-inch disparity was Kansas teammate Udoka Azubuike, who was 6-foot-10 without shoes but 7-foot-¼ with shoes.
MONEY QUOTE: “I think that’s one of my biggest strengths is I’m able to play on the ball or off the ball and still be productive. I think that is one of the things that teams are looking at. I can make plays for other guys” – Malik Newman at the NBA draft combine last month.
PISTONS FIT: As with other guard prospects, Newman would find a crowded backcourt were he to be the pick at 42. As a second rounder, it’s virtually a given that Newman would spend a good deal of his rookie season in the G League – perhaps testing his ability to transition to point guard – while Ish Smith plays out the last year of his Pistons contract. It’s possible the Pistons will lose Smith and Reggie Bullock in free agency after the 2018-19 season, at which time a combo guard with Newman’s scoring ability might find his way into the rotation.
BOTTOM LINE: Newman was a 2015 McDonald’s All-American generally regarded as the best guard in that year’s recruiting class. While that doesn’t carry a lot of sway with NBA personnel evaluators, it at least means that Newman’s been on their radar since his high school days and quite possibly that one or several scouts saw something from him in those days that they believe can be resuscitated in the right NBA environment. Newman’s ability to knock down shots and his potential to score in transition are increasingly coveted assets. A front office that sees Newman for what he can do and feels his shortcomings can be effectively masked might find him among the best options once the top 25 or so prospects are off the board.