Michigan's Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske unlikely draft targets, but NBA teams show interest
Michigan has had at least one player selected in the NBA Draft each of the past four years.
The Wolverines will have two shots to extend the streak Wednesday night with Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson, the program’s all-time winningest players. But the odds of making it five years in a row appear to be long.
Teske's and Simpson's names haven’t appeared in any two-round mock drafts by major outlets, including Bleacher Report, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Athletic. And when it comes to draft big boards, Teske barely makes the cut on ESPN’s and The Athletic’s top 100 prospects lists at No. 94 and No. 96, respectively.
Those projections don’t mean the two Wolverines aren’t popping up on the NBA’s radar. Simpson is a productive pick-and-roll passer who can run a team, while Teske is a massive player who can protect the rim and stretch the floor.
According to Simpson’s agent Brian Jungreis, the point guard has interviewed with 13 teams: Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.
“There are some teams who like his ability to be a pass-first guard,” Jungreis said.
Simpson originally signed a deal with German club Science City Jena in September, but his stay in Europe was short-lived. According to the team, he left “at his own request” before the season started last month and Jungreis declined to get into specifics.
According to Teske’s agent Aaron Turner, the big man received overseas offers but his focus has been on the NBA. Teske has spoken with at least eight teams, including the Cavaliers, Clippers, Jazz, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs.
“There's definitely teams that are interested,” Turner said. “He definitely has teams that I think are going to want to bring him into camp and give him a shot. I think he's in good shape with that, for sure.”
Of course, both Simpson and Teske have their question marks. While the two are solid position defenders, neither are dynamic offensive threats or high-percentage 3-point shooters, which doesn’t bode well for a league that puts a premium on shooting and spacing. Teske shot 27.1% and Simpson 31.4% from deep in their college careers, though Simpson shot a career-best 36% last season and had a strong showing at the NBA G League Elite Camp Combine (shot 80% on 3-point star drill and 74% on spot-up 3s).
That’s why both are viewed as prospects who could potentially land a two-way deal or Exhibit 10 contract with an NBA team and work their way up from the G League.
“(Teske) has done a great job really getting his body right,” said Turner, who added Teske spent most of the pre-draft process working out in Miami. “He's probably dropped about 20 pounds of bad weight and has worked on getting more athletic. He's also done a good job of working on shooting his NBA 3. That's the key for him.
“I think he's got a real good shot. I think he's got to have a little patience around here that he can make. Honestly, he just has to make NBA 3s at a good clip. If he does that, I think he'll make it.”
Even though Teske and Simpson are likely to go undrafted, it’s not the end of the road, as former teammate Duncan Robinson has shown.
If they do, it’ll allow them to pick what they feel is the best situation and right fit as they start their professional careers.
“Players don’t want to hear this, but sometimes not getting drafted isn’t the worst thing in the world, because then you get to choose where you go as an undrafted free agent,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said.
“You get drafted, they own your rights and you gotta stay there till you get cut. And if you do get cut, depending on when it happens, it makes it a lot harder to hook on somewhere else.”