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Barstool Basketball Mailbag: 2018 NBA Draft, Knicks Trading Partners, NCAA PoY Race

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This tends to be the slowest portion of the year for basketball. You’re far enough away from the free agency race in the NBA and just getting ready to start overseas trips for college hoops while the July live recruiting period ends. That was not the case this week. You had news of Mitchell Robinson transferring, Kyrie still in the news about getting traded or not traded and a big name team like Kansas starting the overseas trip. With that said, the weekly installment of the Barstool Basketball Mailbag has a little bit of everything, including trying to predict the future. I’m sure that will go swimmingly.

This is going to be an intriguing story line to watch in terms of the 2018 NBA Draft. If Mitchell Robinson doesn’t play (a possibility) will he go in the lottery? My initial reaction is to say no, but he’ll be a top-20 guy still. Here’s the thing about Robinson, he has what you want in a center. He has good size at 7’1″, he runs the floor well, he has excellent hands and the ability to catch the ball. Simply put he doesn’t look like a deer trying to walk on ice out there, like we see so many bigs. Throw in the fact he can protect the rim and you have what teams are looking for in the modern day center. Now, when you watch him play you can see where he’s still learning the game at an advanced level. He’s simply beating people now with his athleticism and raw talent, not feeling the game. A year off will deter that even more while guys are learning in college. When you’re talking lottery, you’re talking 14 spots. Right off the bat you can rule out 4 of those spots to Ayton, Porter, Doncic and Bamba. A year off, with guys like Gary Trent, Jarred Vanderbilt, Bruce Brown, Miles Bridges and Robert Williams all get better, there’s a good chance he’s not in that next group of 10 (or 9 if Bagley reclassifies).

There are a couple of places (Phoenix, Philadelphia, Indiana) that have some cap space. The original common thought was Portland could possibly take him, especially after shedding the Allen Crabbe contract. My personal belief, is a trade doesn’t happen until the deadline at the earliest. Carmelo only wants to go to Houston, you’re not going to do a 1v1 team trade to bring back Ryan Anderson for Melo, that doesn’t help the future or the salary cap. So you need to bring back someone younger along with a salary cap to make the money work if you’re the Knicks. Ideally they can get a draft pick and a young wing – where they need the most help, because KP should be playing center. My guess though is you see Carmelo as a Knick all year.

My vote is somewhere in the middle. The favorites heading into the year for PoY are Miles Bridges (So.), Jalen Brunson (Jr.), Allonzo Trier (Jr.) and Michael Porter Jr., (Fr.). Seniors that have a chance are Devonte’ Graham and Jevon Carter, but I don’t think either of them are able to win Player of the Year. Unless Bagley reclassifies, I don’t think you see the other freshmen make the push to NPOY like we saw recently. DeAndre Ayton still has to play with Trier, Bamba still is on an unknown Texas team, Kentucky has a bunch of the same guys, Duke I think you’ll see Grayson Allen go back to his sophomore year form. My guess is that Brunson wins NPOY, to go against the grain (Bridges is better), the fact Nova will win 30 games again and Brunson was the best player on Nova during Big East play this year (yes, he was even better than Josh Hart for that stretch).

I was really hoping Nevada would keep Cam Oliver, because that team would be a top-25 team in the country. The Wolf Pack as is will still be a potential top-25 team at some point this year as they return Jordan Caroline, Elijah Foster and bring in NC State transfers Cody and Caleb Martin. Most importantly they kept head coach Eric Musselman for another year after rumors of him going to Cal surfaced. They were an exciting team last year as they got up and down the court, this year should be similar. Other mid majors to watch (outside of the regulars) would be Princeton and Harvard, but I’m really intrigued by Vermont. They have arguably the best mid major in the country in Anthony Lamb, but they also return Trae Bell-Haynes. Throw in John Becker, who is a wildly underrated coach, the Catamounts will be the favorite in the America East. It wouldn’t shock me to see Vermont end up as a No. 12 seed or better again.

I mean anyone that’s not in the Big 12 or Big East. The unbalanced schedule is so ridiculous and annoying. Take for instance the B1G this year. Michigan State is the heavy favorite to win the league while Michigan is expected to compete for second play. They only play once. That’s dumb. That’s insanely dumb. Now, that said, it’s not going to impact these top-10 teams, but rather those more closer to the bubble. We’ve seen teams get wins late in the year because they get to play top-25 teams more than once and have more chances for those quality wins. It’s a double-edged sword at the same time though as you can say you get 5 chances tournament teams down the stretch or five winnable games. It’s impossible to switch unless you go to a million conference games, which no one wants, but it just sucks that the traditional home-and-homes are all but done.

Short and sweet answer here. I’m going:
1. Michael Porter Jr.

2. Miles Bridges

3. Jalen Brunson

Max is correct, there was a release of a God awful top-50 list this week. These three are the correct answers.

I’m willing to chalk up last year to injuries. That said, UConn has been a disaster the last couple of seasons, just unable to put together a consistent group. That’s the key is to find consistency, which stems from coaching. Kevin Ollie needs to figure shit out. I know UConn fans will mention the title he has, but as always that was Calhoun’s team and Shabazz was unreal. Ollie can’t rely on a guy like Napier to get hot to carry him year after year. The key this year lies in the backcourt. Can Alterique Gilbert and Jalen Adams stay healthy and be consistent. They are easily the two best players on this team and when you look at the AAC this year, the talent is mostly in the backcourt/wing. Cincinnati has Broome, Evans and Cumberland, Wichita has Shamet, Houston has Gray. These two need to play like those other guys consistently to keep UConn in the top-3 of the AAC. From there, they need to find a big that score. They haven’t had that recently as they relied on guys like Amida Brimah. I think UConn gets back to the NCAA Tournament this year, but they are still a few years away from being what UConn should be and has been.

Two names that stick out right off the bat are Carsen Edwards (Purdue) and Kevin Huerter (Maryland). Both got the chance to play overseas with Team USA, which we always see a guy make a leap from. Huerter is a knockdown shooter, but has a little Luke Kennard in the sense that he’s a playmaker as well. During the time in Egypt, he didn’t shoot the ball well, but he constantly made passes to get guys open. Edwards can do a little bit of everything and with Purdue losing Caleb Swanigan, someone between him/Vince Edwards needs to make the next jump. Other names to keep an eye on Andrew Jones (Texas), Aaron Holiday (UCLA), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova) and Braxton Key (Alabama).

Does he play to the level of expectation as a top-10 guy? No. But he does play a lot closer to that than he did at Mississippi State. There were a lot of problems with him there, but now that he’s had a year to learn Bill Self’s system and not have to be the guy, he’ll thrive. I actually think you see Newman take a huge step forward, leading the team in scoring despite Devonte Graham being the preseason favorite for most of the awards. The question for Newman will be his defensive intensity and focus. If he can manage to play within the system, he’ll play his way back to being one of the better players in the country.