Michigan's Poole stands out, but Brazdeikis, Matthews also 'have NBA talent'

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

It’s still anybody’s guess where — or if — Michigan’s Jordan Poole, Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews will be picked in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The way ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas sees it, all three Wolverines have shown enough over the year to warrant second-round selections.

“I think these guys have NBA talent,” Bilas said during a conference call this week. “But they’re going to have to improve a lot from here in order to be really good NBA players in my humble judgment.”

Jordan Poole

For Bilas, Poole (6-foot-5, 190 pounds) is the best prospect of the bunch and “that’s maybe saying a little bit with Brazdeikis because he’s a good prospect, too.”

Poole, 20, has the tools that come with being a shot-maker who can knock down jumpers off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. He shot 83.3 percent from the free-throw line, 51.8 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range, though his shot selection and inconsistency became a topic at times.

He’s also projected to be the first Wolverine picked by several mock drafts as a mid-second-rounder — at No. 41 to Atlanta by ESPN, at No. 42 to Philadelphia by Bleacher Report and at No. 45 to Detroit by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s a good creator, I think a good passer,” Bilas said. “He did a good job of seeing open people off of ball screens. I think he could be a secondary ball handler in the NBA and facilitate at times. But he’s a good, solid shooter.

“I think he’s got a ways to go with his overall game, which you would expect from a young player. He’s one of the better shooters, I think, in this year’s draft and one of the skill players you can find in the second round.”

Ignas Brazdeikis

As Michigan’s leading scorer last season, Brazdeikis, 20, showed he’s a versatile scorer who can finish through contact at the rim, knock down outside shots (39.2 percent on 3-pointers) and play with a competitive edge.

While Brazdeikis (6-7, 220) faces questions about his defensive fit — his goal during pre-draft workouts was to prove he can be a wing who can guard both smaller, quicker and bigger, stronger players — Bilas said he still has a “good shot” of hearing his name called on draft night.

Both Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report predict Brazdeikis to be taken as late second-round pick by New Orleans at No. 57, while ESPN has him going undrafted.

“He’s another guy that’s got talent, tough-minded. I think he has ability to play in the NBA,” Bilas said. “He can score. He can use either hand. He shot a pretty decent percentage from 3.

“I think he’s going to continue to get better. One of the things I liked about him a lot is he attacks closeouts, doesn’t shy away from anything.”

Charles Matthews

Unlike Poole and Brazdeikis, Matthews, 22, is an older prospect who has a more mature body and hangs his hat on his defense. Matthews’ defensive prowess had generated some buzz before he tore his ACL in a pre-draft workout with the Boston Celtics two weeks ago.

According to his agent Adam Pensack, Matthews had surgery last week in Chicago and is expected to return “sometime during this upcoming season.”

Before suffering the injury, though, the biggest concern with Matthews (6-6, 194) was showing he can shoot the deep ball better than his numbers at Michigan indicated (30.9 percent on 3s over two seasons).

“I was really sad to see that Charles Matthews got injured because I think he would have been drafted. It will be interesting to see whether that injury affects that,” Bilas said. “He’s well-built for an NBA player, so he’s got size, a wingspan of 6-9, 6-10. He can guard multiple positions. I always saw him as being a solid defender. He can switch. He’s got a good motor, plays really hard.

“Also was a pretty good defensive rebounder, I thought. I think he can improve as a shooter. I thought that was more of a strength of his when he first got to Michigan. He didn’t consistently make shots as I felt he would.”

Like every potential second-round draft pick, Poole, Brazdeikis and Matthews all have holes in their game. Yet, Bilas said all three will be able to fit in wherever they land and it’s just a matter of “where the numbers and opportunities lie.”

“All these guys are going to have to prove themselves. None of them are no-brainer NBA starters,” Bilas said. “They each have to find their path. But NBA teams, where those guys are going to be drafted, are looking for the best available player most times, guys that can help them win as opposed to lead them to winning.

“In the second round, you’re not drafting stars, you’re drafting guys you expect to make your team, you would like to be rotation players, perhaps one day starters. But it’s pretty rare that you get to middle of the second round finding a star-caliber player. It’s not unheard of, but it’s pretty darn rare.”

NBA Draft

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York



Twitter: @jamesbhawkins