Chicago — Earvin “Magic” Johnson is busy this week scouting players, but he’s always got an eye on those wearing green and white.
Now the president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson is at the NBA Combine this week along with the rest of league’s teams and executives in preparation for next month’s draft. The Lakers have the 25th overall pick overall and they’ve got their eyes on a handful of players, even Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges.
Odds of them being available when the Lakers pick are long, but that doesn’t mean Johnson doesn’t love the two likely lottery picks from his alma mater.
“(They’re) both in the top 10, no question about it,” Johnson told Michelle McMahon of the Big Ten Network. “They’re skilled, they’re athletic, they can run the court, they can score, block shots.
“One thing about Coach (Tom) Izzo, he always gets his guys prepared for the NBA so both of them probably will be ahead of a lot of players when it comes to understanding the pro game and the discipline it takes, the hard work, the work ethic, all those things that Coach Izzo drills his players on.”
Johnson didn’t limit his praise to just Jackson and Bridges. He made it clear he was a fan of several players from the Big Ten, but didn’t want to start naming names in fear of overstepping.
However, it was clear he was fond of both Michigan’s Moritz Wagner, Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ.
“There’s some more players from the Big Ten that we’ll be looking at as well,” Johnson said. “Michigan has a guy that’s pretty good. Ohio State has a guy we’ve already seen. When you go down … Wisconsin has a guy we had in our camp as well. I can’t name a lot of names. I don’t want to get in trouble. But I would say that the Big Ten will be represented in the NBA Draft.”
Bridges and Jackson are used to the regular interaction with Johnson, who has always been one of Michigan State’s biggest supporters.
“He’s a legend,” Jackson said. “Go green to him and all that, but he’s a legend. Hearing any praise like that is just great. We talk to him a little bit so we get advice from him as well. That’s great to hear.”
Added Bridges, “Magic Johnson — he’s the greatest to ever come out of Michigan State. He’s definitely a big brother. He won the first championship (at MSU). Magic is a great person.”
Porter: I'm No. 1
Most mock drafts have DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic rated as the top two players in the draft, however, Michael Porter Jr. isn’t so sure about that.
“They had me as the No. 1 player in high school and I wasn't 100 percent. I'm still the best player,” Porter said. “I played against all these guys, they're all great players but I'm the best player in the draft.”
The 6-10 Porter, of course, played just three games at Missouri because of a back injury that that kept him sidelined for most of the season.
“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside down like a lot of these players,” Porter said. “But this is a step in my process to be the best player I can be. It's a little different but I'm more ready than ever. I've been dreaming about this NBA stuff forever, I feel like I'm ready.”
Tale of the tape
Jackson and Bridges didn’t take part in on-court activities at the Combine, but they did go through the standard measurements.
Not surprisingly, Jackson’s were impressive. He was measured at 6 feet, 11.25 inches and had a wingspan of 7 inches, 5.25 inches while having the longest hands at the Combine at 10 inches.
Bridges was notable in the fact he measured a bit shorter than the 6-7 he was listed at in his two years at Michigan State. At the Combine, he measured 6 feet, 6.75 inches with shoes on and 6 feet, 5.25 inches without.
Wagner checked in at 6 feet, 11.5 inches in shoes and had the widest hands at the Combine, measuring 10.75 inches. One interesting note, the smallest hands belonged to Jaylen Hands of UCLA.