By LARRY VAUGHT
If ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford is right, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray could go anywhere from No. 3 to No. 8 in Thursday’s NBA draft.
“He’s in the mix literally with every single one of those teams with maybe the exception of the Suns. The Celtics are looking at him at three, Wolves are looking at him at 5, Pelicans like him at 6, and Denver even likes him at 7 as a nice backcourt made to Emmanuel Mudiay, and it’s a little bit fluid there because he’s battling guys that are in the same tier,” said Ford.
“All of them are very different at what they do, and I think it’s going to come down more to team need than it is on necessarily ranking talent. I think as far as talent goes, Murray has the ability to be the best perimeter scorer in this draft. I think he’s going to be a 20-point-per-game scorer in the NBA and one of the best shooters in this draft. Defensively I think the concerns are there.”
Boston has the No. 3 pick if it does not trade down and has something Boston needs.
“Murray brings shooting, which is something the Celtics could use a lot more of and they need, as well. His defensive abilities, though, are very questionable, and I think that’s the concern there,” Ford said.
He says he sees little difference between Murray, Kris Dunn, Marquese Chriss and Jaylen Brown for the No. 3 pick.
“I think they’re all similar types of prospects. It’s not you take the best player available. They’re in a tier of the best players available, and then you take the guy you think is going to fit the best need, and the Celtics may not know that until draft night, depending on the other sorts of deals that they do,” Ford said.
Of course, Kentucky coach John Calipari recommended that Philadelphia pick Murray with the No. 1 pick. Ford said that is not going to happen.
“What John Calipari does is have huge influence all season because of the way that he plays his players, the system he runs them in, the access that he gives the NBA teams. He does help players get drafted. There’s no question if my kid was an elite prospect, I would send him to Kentucky because I think he’s got the best — that would give him the best shot to go high in the draft,” Ford said.
“You look at the terrible season that Skal (Labissiere) had and the fact that he’s going to be a lottery pick is amazing, and that has a lot to do with John Calipari. But going to a team and saying, you know what, you ought to take him over Ben Simmons, I don’t think that that’s going to carry a lot of sway.
“As far as Jamal goes, I don’t think anybody is actually going to debate John, that if you’re talking offensively, this kid is special. He can shoot it. He can score off the bounce. He has a scorer’s mentality and instinct, and he’s not afraid to do his job, and that’s a huge plus.”
But Ford goes back to the defensive concerns some NBA teams have about Murray.
“There were issues in college, and I think those issues will be compounded in the NBA, and I think that may hurt him via a Kris Dunn, for example, if you’re trying to compare those two guys together or Marquese Chriss or Jaylen Brown, all those guys, very elite athletes, and just that questioning, does Jamal Murray have the lateral quickness?” Ford said.
“I think he’s okay vertically and explosively, but does he have the lateral quickness to defend his position in the NBA? And I know that’s what every general manager from 3 to 8 is trying to figure out right now, how good is his offense versus his defense?”