Michigan's Glenn Robinson III (1), Mitch McGary (4) and Nik Stauskas (11) all could be taken in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
In what has been deemed one of the deepest drafts in years, the state of Michigan will have a definite imprint.
Between Michigan and Michigan State, there could be five first-round picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft. Three of the selections are very likely — Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are projected to be taken in the first 20 picks.
Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are picked by some experts to go late in the first round. Michigan’s Jordan Morgan could be selected late in the second round and Michigan State’s Keith Appling and Oakland’s Travis Bader likely would be picked near the end of the draft or sign as free agents.
If all five become first-round picks, it would mark the first time that more than three prospects from the schools were taken in the first round. It would also mean that all five of Michigan’s starters from the squad that went to the 2013 title game would be first-rounders, joining Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., who went last year.
“I did not see that; it happens so rarely,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Wednesday on WTKA’s “Michigan Insider” radio show. “We knew we had a lot of talent but as they continued to develop, we realized we had something special.Initially, you never see it until it’s complete. We’re very hopeful for (Thursday) that we do get three that are drafted in that first round.”
The last time the Wolverines had three players taken in the first round was 1990, when Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught and Terry Mills all were picked, a year after the won the national championship. Glen Rice was a first-round pick the previous year.
MSU hasn’t had two players in the first round since Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager in 2006.
Even if a couple of the players drop to the second round, it’s still a statement of the strength of the rosters of the two schools. Michigan won the regular-season Big Ten title and Michigan State won the Big Ten Tournament title.
“Let’s say one or two don’t make that first round — it doesn’t mean they’re not going to have a great career if they’re off that cusp at No. 31 to 33,” Beilein said. “Those are still great places to be drafted.”
Regardless of the outcome, the goal is to have an extended NBA career, which is easier done by finding a niche and getting with a team that incorporates a player’s skill set.
“I’ve always been a big believer (that) it’s nice for your ego to get drafted first, third, fifth,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Wednesday, speaking to a group of Michigan sports editors. “I’m bigger on getting to the right team, because I think so many guys are having a cup of coffee in the league right now, if you look at the last couple of years.
“There’s gonna be more guys that are in and out, or in the (NBA Development) league, or over in Europe, compared to staying in the league. So whenever I talk to a player about leaving early or anything else, I say, ‘Do you want to get drafted in the first round or do you want a career in the NBA?’ ”
Among the first-round prospects, Payne, a 6-foot-10 big man, is the only one who stayed for four years. The other four were sophomores.
Morgan also played four years and was thought to be a longshot to even be drafted. But after five individual workouts — with the Cavaliers, Bulls, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Pistons — Morgan’s draft prospects seem reasonable.
Bader and Appling also had individual workouts but seem more likely to sign free-agent contracts after the draft.
Putting back behind him
Stauskas, Harris and Payne each was invited to New York to be at Barclays Center in the Green Room and shake commissioner Adam Silver’s hand after their name is announced. McGary plans to be at home with his family in Indiana.
McGary was in Ann Arbor on Wednesday night, at an autograph session at The M-Den on U-M’s campus. After being sidelined for all but eight games last season because of back surgery, McGary is working his way back to playing shape. Though he only took part in one workout, with the Bucks, he’s ready to make the transition to the NBA.
“It’s pretty surreal; I still haven’t even thought about my dreams coming true,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty cool to hear my name get called.”
There are rumors McGary, a versatile 6-foot-10 big man, has a draft “promise” from a team that he will be taken in the first round. The Bucks have the first pick in the second round (31st overall), but the speculation is McGary won’t be there by the time they pick.
With questions surrounding his health, some teams could pass on him, much as the top teams are on Kansas’ Joel Embiid, who had surgery this week. With the questions surrounding the status of his back, McGary hoped to extinguish some of the doubt with his workout with the Bucks, when he hit jumpers and did non-contact drills.
“I was a little hesitant the first time getting back on the court but I thought it went well and I showed them what I thought I needed to show them. It went well overall,” McGary said.
“I’d like to be (a first-rounder) but if doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I just want to play in the NBA at the highest level and hopefully get back to where I can be an elite-level player and play with some good teammates.”
Instead, McGary, 22, is looking for the best fit on a team, which could be on a contender — such as the Heat, Thunder or Spurs — at the end of the first round.
McGary’s versatility could tip the scales to getting a team to take a chance on him. Though he didn’t play a whole season with Michigan, the flashes of excellence are enticing enough.
“He takes charges and he understands angles pretty well. He can hedge a ball screen three or four different ways, so he’s very attractive as a power forward or a big man,” Beilein said. “He also can switch out and stay in front just enough; the challenge will be when he’s guarding a stretch (forward) of guarding the perimeter.”
But the injuries limited McGary in showing all he could offer. After rehabbing since the January back surgery, he’s ready to get back into groove.
“One of the main reasons for me not being able to do these workouts is I just wanted to get right,” he said. “If a team happens to take a chance on me, they’re going to get me at 100 percent, rather than 60 or 75 percent. That was one of the main things I really wanted to focus on.”
Great Lakes State statement
Recent NBA drafts with multiple Michigan and Michigan State selections:
2013: Trey Burke, Michigan (No. 9, Minnesota), Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan (No. 24, New York)
2006: Shannon Brown, Michigan State (No. 25, Cleveland), Maurice Ager, Michigan State (No. 28, Dallas)
2000: Jamal Crawford, Michigan (No. 8, Cleveland), Mateen Cleaves, Michigan State (No. 14, Detroit), Morris Peterson, Michigan State (No. 21, Toronto)
1994: Juwan Howard, Michigan (No. 5, Washington), Jalen Rose, Michigan (No. 13, Denver)
1990: Rumeal Robinson, Michigan (No. 10, Atlanta), Loy Vaught, Michigan (No. 13, L.A. Clippers), Terry Mills, Michigan (No. 16, Milwaukee)