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NBA Draft Primer: Five prospects linked to Warriors at No. 28 overall



© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors have the No. 28 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, set to begin at 4 p.m. Thursday. The Golden State front office has hit the lottery in this event throughout the past decade, drafting franchise cornerstones Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

Golden State had only two draft picks in the past five drafts combined, selecting Kevon Looney in 2015 and Damian Jones in 2016. The Warriors bought Patrick McCaw, taken 38th overall in 2016, from the Bucks, and did the same with Jordan Bell last year.

The Warriors have seven free agents entering the offseason, including Kevin Durant, who will assuredly be re-signed. While they could theoretically trade the No. 28 pick, using it to add a contributor for cheap, as the front office appeases their stars eyeing bigger contracts, makes sense.

Several mock drafts have the Warriors choosing a swingman with their lone pick. It would not be surprising if they parted ways with Nick Young, who will become a free agent, to add a more athletic, defensively-competent prospect on Thursday.

Let’s review the names most commonly associated with that No. 28 pick, and forecast how each player would fit with Golden State.

Gary Trent Jr. — SG, Duke

Projected at No. 28 via NBA.com, ESPN

NBA Comparisons: Allen Crabbe, Wesley Matthews

In his lone season with Duke, the former five-star recruit averaged 14.5 points while shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers and nearly 88 percent from the free throw line on a squad replete with NBA talent. Trent was a steady scoring option for the Blue Devils throughout 2017-18, registering double-digit point totals in all but nine games.

Trent spaced the floor and knocking down perimeter shots for a team that centered its attack around its two big men lottery picks. Trent does not jump off the screen as an elite athlete. He bulldozes his way to the rim rather than blowing by defenders, but he can make shots all over the floor.

The 6-foot-6 guard would give the Warriors a younger, more athletic version of Nick Young, who turned 33 earlier this month. Trent is not yet an elite defender, perhaps a result of his mediocre foot speed. He would serve as a bench scorer who provides floor spacing, similar to his time with Duke.

Jalen Brunson — PG, Villanova

Projected at No. 28 via LA TimesBasketball Insiders

NBA Comparison: Chauncey Billups

Brunson, the reigning National Player of the Year, engineered the high-powered Villanova attack that cruised to the 2018 National Championship. Two years earlier, he did the same as a freshman who showed poise beyond his years.

That he ran an offense with spread-it-out, 3-point happy trends that have swept the NBA translates well to his pro prospects. Ironically, Brunson resembles old-school point guards who win with craft, strength, and body leverage, as opposed to sheer quickness and athleticism. He shoots, passes, and defends at high levels. Perhaps his biggest strength is the ability to run a team.

Brunson could step in and contribute immediately as a backup for Stephen Curry. The only potential deterrent is Quinn Cook, currently Curry’s backup along with Shaun Livingston. Cook played well enough in the second half of the 2018 regular season to earn a multi-year extension with the Warriors. Cook is a better shooter than Brunson, but the Villanova prospect seems to do everything else a little better.

Brunson personifies many of the traits that endeared Draymond Green to the Warriors back in 2012. Both Green and Brunson are versatile, proven winners, and leaders with advanced feels for the game.

Jacob Evans — SG, Cincinnati

Projected at No. 28 via CBS Sports, The Ringer

NBA Comparison: Iman Shumpert

The 6-foot-6 swingman was Cincinnati’s best offensive player throughout the past two seasons. In his sophomore and junior years, he averaged 13.3 points on 45 percent shooting and nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

Evans does not specialize or struggle in one area. He makes shots off both the catch and dribble, has enough wiggle to separate in isolation, and enough strength to guard multiple positions. Watch his highlight film, and he looks the part of an NBA swingman. At times, though, Evans disappears and endures long stretches without scoring, which helps explain his middling numbers for a first-round pick.

The Warriors won’t need Evans to score prolifically. He makes open shots and defends well, providing the Warriors with another two-way role player. McCaw is a restricted free agent this summer, and if teams offer him more money than the Warriors are willing to match, they could be looking for replacements.

Khyri Thomas — SG, Creighton

Projected at No. 28 via Bleacher Report, USA Today

NBA Comparison: Marcus Smart

Thomas averaged 15.1 points on 41.1 shooting from 3-point range during the 2017-18 season. With above-average athleticism, a solid spot-up game, and good hands defensively, he translates as a 3-and-D player. His 6-foot-10 wingspan helps compensate for his 6-foot-3 frame.

Thomas struggles to create on his own, scoring chunks of his points via catch-and-shoot looks and in transition. But that’s exactly where the Warriors would use him. Their wealth of world-class shooters would provide Thomas with open three-point looks, similar to what Young experienced this past season.

Josh Okogie — SG, Georgia Tech

Projected at No. 28 via Net Scouts, Sports Illustrated

NBA Comparison: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Okogie posted big-time numbers during his two years at Georgia Tech. As a freshman, he amassed 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He upped those totals to 18.2 points and 6.3 rebounds during his sophomore year, while posting a 38 percent clip from 3-point range in each season.

Okogie needs to round out his game to excel in the NBA. He wins with strength and effort, frequently muscling defenders to the rim. He knocks down open threes. But he does not have a dynamic isolation game, and his shooting release is low, long, and calculated, making it tough for him to score in one-on-one situations.

His main strength is his defensive versatility. Okogie, who stands 6-foot-4 with a 7-foot wing span, has the quickness and strength to guard positions 1-3, potentially giving the Warriors a defensive stopper off the bench.

Okogie and Thomas aren’t carbon copies of each other, but their rangy, two-way skill-sets provide similar appeal to the Warriors.

Two more possibilities:

Donte DiVincenzo — SG, Villanova

NBA Comparison: Tim Hardaway Jr.

DiVincenzo fully exploded onto the national scene in his final college game, leaving quite the lasting impression on NBA squads.

The Villanova combo guard poured in 31 points on 10-15 shooting, including 5-7 from 3-point range in a blowout win in the 2018 National Championship. That game provided a snapshot of DiVincenzo’s potential. He scored from everywhere on the floor, via pull-up jumpers, catching and shooting from deep, his off-hand as he was fouled, and two-handed slams. He added two blocks — one on an attempted dunk — showing his athleticism travels to both ends of the court.

It was the best game of DiVincenzo’s career, but it was not an aberration from what he showed throughout the 2017-18 season. He just consolidated all of his skills into one incredible performance. As a sixth man, averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on a team with Mikal Bridges and Brunson, two potential first-round picks.

At 6-foot-5, DiVincenzo can play either the 1 or 2. He would provide a well-rounded scoring option off the bench, where he was delegated throughout his college career.

Grayson Allen — SG, Duke

NBA Comparison: Eric Gordon

Allen became college basketball’s most infamous villain in recent years due to occasional tantrums, tripping opponents, and his persona as Duke’s poster child.

He would have never experienced that infamy had he not had game. He showed the world his skills as a freshman in the 2015 NCAA Championship, when he added 16 crucial points in Duke’s five-point win over Wisconsin. He went on to produce one of the most prolific careers in Duke history, compiling 1,843 points in the final three seasons of his career.

Allen’s quick release bodes well in catch-and-shoot opportunities, and his athleticism allows him to finish with both finesse and power. Perhaps no player in the draft enters the NBA more prepared or experienced than Allen. He played for one of the all-time great coaches in Mike Krzyzewski and alongside several first-rounders.

Like many of the players mentioned above, Allen’s scoring ability would bolster the Golden State bench.