ESPN Draft Analyst Jonathan Givony
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Maybe as good of a scenic backdrop we've had here that this get up. Yes. PIN Sudodo's here with the right on the river. Until they kick us out of here until we they kick us out of this guest office. But obviously Jonathan the discussion around Zion Williamson here over the last couple of days has been it. Listen, it's been all Zion. All the time since preseason. A college basketball the knee injury against Carolina has sparked this conversation again about early entry in the age limit and. Not much has really changed where the NBA and the players association stand which is both have been proponents of lowering the NBA has come around to want to lower the age, the player cessation has been there all along, but has never really fought it in their collect last collective bargaining agreement or talks didn't really go to war over it to try to change it. But they would change the rule outside of the CBI. They both have to agree to it to to the lowering of the of the age limit. And obviously now with Zion Williams's injury to his brought up the issue of player choice. And and you know, some obviously thank you should have. He shouldn't be in college should've just shut it down. There's a lot of reasons to in terms of his value as a player has only increased at Duke and we've seen that. But but let's start here. Zayn williamson. Walked into Duke when they went on their summer tour of Canada. I remember Jay Bilas was there ESPN was broadcasting the games. And you saw Jay's reaction initially. He was going to dukes practices and he was watching that team play up in Canada. And you saw just how absolutely blown away he was initially in at that time. RJ Barrett was for a lot of people consensus almost a consensus number one overall pick in the two thousand. Nineteen NBA draft. And I think from that point when Duke went on that tour and people started to see Zion plank differently healthier in better shape than it cinnamon in high the conversation started a change about not only potential number one overall pick, but potentially as marketable player who's come out of the draft since. I don't know who maybe Blake Griffin. Anthony Davis may be Anthony Davis. Yeah. It's been an interesting road for for Zay on we've actually done now nine mock drafts project in the twenty nineteen draft. And I went back in looked at the very first one we did which was in the fall of twenty seventeen after we had watched Zion play at the data's nations tournament a camp in Los Angeles. And at that point we had RJ Barrett number one and Zion. Williamson number two, and he's fluctuated. Up down the board by for people to come out now in say that Zion. Williamson should never played one game for Duke. You know, should have I can understand if the ruler different and he were allowed to go in that were his choice. But. I think that he's benefited tremendously from this platform that he's had playing for Duke being on ESPN every single night. He's obviously helped himself incredibly by getting into phenomenal shape and playing his heart as he has an playing as smart as he hasn't being as good of a teammate as he is all those things are to his credit, but he's taken advantage of the situation that he's in and he's himself a huge amount of money. And I think people say that he should just shut it down right now. I think that there's still more money left for him to be made not, you know, in the draft, obviously. Because he's he's a clear cut number one pig. There's no question barring something cut a straw, fix that. He's going to be number one. But just in terms of the endorsement money, the marketing, you know, he's gone from a guy who, you know, maybe gets a million dollars his first. I in his first year to who knows. I mean, one hundred one hundred twenty five he might get the biggest rookie Shunde veal of all time. And so and and blowing out the shoe on the night of the biggest most anticipated college game of the season and only made him more famous. Yeah. And it made the shoe the shoe element to it. Even more is some people are gonna reflect people are going to focus even closer on the shoe deal based on that one moment. No question. And and then it's going to be his comeback. You know, which we're gonna cover wall to wall here on ESPN and every other network is going to do the same because he's a he's a generational talent. And he's one of the most entertaining players to watch that we've seen in college basketball since I started doing this fifteen years ago. Maybe the most entertaining guy so good on him. And he's made himself a lot of money, and he's going to keep making himself more money. If he goes deepen the tournament goes to the final four that endorsement money marketing, it's only gonna get bigger and bigger that that pile. I think people have to separate when you when you're looking at what the value of playing Duke is or playing it, you know, if you've gone somewhere else, maybe do not if he was a Kentucky this could be happening. It people have to separate this. What they think about the college system, and how it structure toward athletes because you're saying he has benefited from Duke, and that platform being there that doesn't mean you can also say the system is. Fundamentally flawed and that he should be compensated in a different way for what he's doing. Those are two separate issues to me. They both can be true. And I think people have a hard time accepting if you say all college basketball's bad for any top player will that's not true because it's an ability to build your name, your reputation, your marketing value and improve the bass brewers employer all of these battles that he's in every single game are making him a better player than the one. He wise coming into Duke. And you know, he's enjoys benefited from the coaching at Duke has benefited from the facilities, and I agree that he should be compensated at it, it sucks that he's not getting his shit fair share of the pie. I'm with you on that. But let's not pretend like he isn't has benefited from this tremendously. Right. And I think that or however long this injury is he comes back. He said he'll have the comeback will be chronicled and he goes into the draft. As as you know, the the draft lottery is going to have as much dramas any. We can remember. I mean who gets number one is it's gonna look like it. It's probably when we think of that podium when patchy always think of the the Dave the butcher reaction with Patrick Ewing frozen. Envelope frozen envelope. Right. When the butcher reacted, and you saw the the relief and the excitement they'll probably be that kind of a moment on draft lottery night with with him because beyond the basketball. He's going to sell tickets, and he's going to sell sponsorships, and he's going to create a lot of interest wherever he ends up going and whatever team gets him is going to be on national TV three to four times more than they were this season. I mean, I can. Phoenix, Chicago, New York, whoever people are going to wanna watch Zion Williamson from day one in the NBA, which is which is great for the league. Yeah. You know? And it's funny as much as anybody you in my Schmitz discuss this last year, people should've felt the same way about Luca Danni rich last year, and as a as impactful as we think. Zion. Williamson will be in the league next year. And he'll be spectacular in other ways. Not sure he can make a bigger impact Luca Donncha Chas. But look dodgers was playing again, he was flying in a Spanish ACB. He was playing the second best league in the world. He was playing in a better league in the ACC and people didn't necessarily want. Some people didn't wanna believe what they were seeing with him there or they just weren't looking closely enough because this was a player with great star quality. He ends up not going at the very top of the draft. He's traded in a you know, a third to fifth from the third fifth to the third slot and the draft. But but Zion Zion comes into this draft with with with all of that. And now, of course, what we're looking at is a league in a players association. That are talking about lowering the age the league has been there for some time. Now about lowering the age to eighteen. They want some concessions from the players association players association. Have not been inclined. So far to agree to what the league wants to in particular issues have stood in the way of an agreement on the lowering to eighteen that would go into effect in two thousand twenty two one being participation the draft combine on some level among players that they have to show up, and and that's to be negotiated. They don't expect all these guys are gonna play, but to show up and go through, you know, whether it's go through some interviews with teams get weighed get measured do some basic medical stuff meet with the media. Some players have not gone at all some have gone done limited that one's easily negotiable. I felt people on both sides of told me we can get that one done. The bigger issue is the medical is the league wants and a teams really want this. And they're the teams have really pushed Adam silver on finding away that that every team can get. Some level of medical information on any player they want in an ideal scenario you have a player come in. Your doctor's got to give them a physical, your doctors get to really examine them you get to know who you're drafting and and their body, and and and what the risk reward is on a player at the at the least they would like even if there was a league wide physical player does. And then the teams the teams would have access to that. What goes on? Now is agents are able to keep medical information from certain teams that they would prefer to stare team away from there's a team in the top of the draft or somewhere around whether picking who they don't want their player going to for lots of reasons usually it's built around the quality of the organization the belief that whether it's front office player development coaching ownership if they feel it's a bad situation for their player that he's not going to prosper in it. They want to keep them away. It's less to do. I think and. I think it's less to do than ever with market size. I think people want their players to go where they have the best chance to blossom an aging can't keep a team from drafting a player, but he can make a little harder for them to pull the trigger on it. That's the in the agents do not want to give up that leverage. They have they feel. That's the only control the draft process. They really have. And so they've had the the in the union has stood up for them. That's the one that has to. And I think eventually they're going to get there and some level. I think we're going to get the eighteen, but that's kind of where this things stand right now. One hundred percent. I still think that it's going to be a process. So getting there just because I'm not sure how on board all these different parties are with the fact that going back to eighteen is good for them, for example, the players themselves. I don't hear that. They are feel like this is some hot button issue that they are really passionate about that. They oh my God we need to get all these teenagers in the league right now to to come take our jobs. So that's gonna be one problem that the union has. So they're not going to be very inclined to make any concessions at all. Because we already know what the NBA stance is the NBA is said we wanna limit the age limit. So it's hard for you to say that on one hand and then come to the unions. Okay. We wanna do this. But we need you to to do A B C and D first unions going to say, no, you know, if you want to eliminate the age limits. Eliminate the age limit, we're not giving you private medical information. There's no chance for that. We're not giving you more control over player future than you already have. And on the other hand, you have the teams who from what they're telling me at least in the assistant GM director of scouting director player. Personnel realm. Even GM's, I talked you tell me we're not all that enthusiastic about going back to high school gyms. We'd like college basketball right now the way it is where we can evaluate a player for six months can. Go to practices. We can see how he does against high level competition. They're worried that players are going to shut down their highschool senior year to try and steer themselves to certain situations. Two and teams. And so I wonder you know, how much how unified the teams are with the league office itself in, you know, whether something happens the board of governors meeting where the owners come to adamantly. Hey, we're not unless the union really makes these concessions that we want. We're not interested in eliminating the age role. So I I agree with you. It will get resolved dementia. But I do think it's a little bit of a longer path than than the conversation is indicating right now. Right. And the league has changed. I mean, I'm silver has changed course on this. The league has you know, there was talk. Listen, it was just a few years ago. They were still talking about wanting to make the league older and wanting to push instead of lowering it. You know, we couldn't go you couldn't go on your freshman year. Essentially they wanted to push it another year, and you'd have to stay for two years. It's not a bad system. That's in place right now for the NBA teams because this is a farm system for them. And and the cream rises to the top and mistakes avoided year after year because we see. Okay. Well, this guy who was a top ten recruit is not quite as good as we thought. He was maybe he needs to stay two or three years and and become a better player. And so I don't know how quickly they're going to want to change it. Today's episode of the woes pot is brought to you by seeking getting tickets online can be far too complicated with hundreds of sites and varying levels of reliability it simply hard to know who to trust seek pulls millions of tickets in the one place so you can easily find the seat you want for price. 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Whoa, jr. For ten dollars off your first seek purchase. Seek life's in event. We have the tickets. The NBA has not changed. They have not changed their stance and decided to lower it based on. It's the right thing to do for young men to allow them to go make a living. It is. Now, they'll talk some of that they'll talk a lot of that. It has nothing to do with that they care about the best interest of the NBA. And what they have come to believe is in the best interest of the NBA is. They want to be up the G league. And you've had a lot of organizations a lot of owners who are pointing a lot of money into their minor league teams, and they would like to get TV deals beyond the game's being on Facebook live. They would like to have some stars. Come through town, some recognizable names that come through these teams that would put people in seats and make it if not profitable at least not a money loser. And some work innovations would like to have you know, they would love to get a player in their organization a year sooner than have them in college basketball, something that's a benefit for them. Some don't, but this is largely about because most of the guys who are going to come out of high school and go right into the league. They're going to the G league. They're not ready to play in the NBA. You know Zion. Williamson is once in a decade. How were we wanna most guys will be physically they will not be? Able to play the NBA. And a lot of them are visiting Bill playing the G league. A lot of them physically at eighteen years old are going to be overmatched by the guys in their twenties. And guys who played in Europe comebacker guys who bounced around are physically who are men and they're going to struggle there. And so that's the reality of it. But the yeah, the league wants this isn't about. This isn't about freedom of choice and everybody has a right to make a living. Like, there's age limits on everything there's age limits in the NFL, there's age limits on getting your driver's license. I mean like you just and there's about money like everything. Yeah. At the end of the day, and there's going to be strings attached to it. And we'll see if they can come to an agreement because the strings that they're going to attach to eliminating the age limit might not work for the union. And so there's going to be back and forth there, and so they've submitted the official proposal, but this is not going to get resolved from today. Tomorrow, it's going to take some time, and you and you touched on it. A little bit of the dirty little secret of. We're the union stands on early entry. Listen, Michelle Roberts has been from time. She took over felt she's been vocal in like her predecessor was an executives in the player. Socio has been that players. Young men should have the opportunity to come right out of high school and they're going to take that stance. And. But they also know this and the players in the league. No, this when you start allowing guys into the league, it's going to cost guys who are current players in the league, it's going to cost them jobs. They're going to lose. There's a lot of players in the NBA right now who aren't asleep as well at night knowing that if we're letting high school players in these are going to become developmental spots on the team's roster where you know, we have to roll the dice on the potential talent of this young person. We saw it in two decades ago when players could come out and that guy who's thirty two thirty three thirty four who is that veteran leader who still has a role on a team can be ready to come in and play, but has also good influence around that guys out of the league now, and they know that in so while everyone loves to beat up on the NCAA and trash it and the NCAA gets everything it deserves. And then some it's and say they shouldn't have to be a part of that system. Like they're going to be the the players in the league. Now, there are consequences for opening this door, and the consequences are going to be young players flooding back into the NBA and taking up a lot of jobs of players who are productive veteran players on rosters because GM's are going to chase the upside and the potential of some untested teenagers. No question, and it's gonna I it could hurt the quality of the league as well. I mean will. So the fact is it will. These are all things that earned after talk about and figure out I think in we haven't talked much about it. We reported on it in the preseason with you know, the NBA created this pathway to go from high school to the G league. Now, you could already go from the high school to the G league. But you're getting paid to G league salary which is anywhere from twenty five to thirty five thousand now there's a hundred and twenty five thousand dollar slot. That isn't available to everybody. It's available to players that the league agrees have socially. I like real NBA potential and first round potential in those players if they want to skip college can come into the G league. They're not in the NBA draft. They're assigned to a team. That's the one thing. They're still trying to figure out how weird we assign them who gets those players because they're going to be in the NBA draft the following year, but financially I think the NBA's hope is rod stricklin is is one of the people running helping to run. Program identify players, they hoped there might be three or four, and it could be players who could be a guy who academically is having trouble getting eligible, it could be a guy who gets jammed up in one of these FBI investigations in his taken money and a lameta ball who is not eligible, amateurism wise to go to college. Yeah. And and and it could just be a player or two who thinks I just don't want to go to college. I wanna do this path. I want to go to the G league this year. But they didn't anticipate there'd be a lot of them. And it'll be interesting to see how many are in this first group, and that is that is available to players this year. The lowering of the draft age will not come before two thousand and twenty two. But in this coming draft players can do that G league route. And actually they won't be in the draft. They'll just go from high school get assigned to a G league team in and get one hundred twenty five K. Yeah. It's interesting. There hasn't been talking to players and families in their decision maker is coaches. The you don't hear people jumping up raising their hands saying I'm dying to go to the G league right now. I think people are worried about. Am I going to be a Guinea pig? You know, how is this going to go this experiment? They're worried about being the first one. So there's going to be have to be a proof of concept. I someone showing that they can do this and be successful and get drafted before others aside to join in. I do think it's a good idea for the right player. You know, you're not gonna get the same exposure that assigned Williamson gets Duke. But there, you know, there are numerous guys who were top ten recruits last year that aren't doing that great in college Quinton Grimes Nasiri little, and so there's always a flip side to that too. Where college doesn't always work out perfectly for everybody. And so, you know, maybe in NBA type offense with better spacing and more of a willingness to develop a player as opposed to just trying to win games. Maybe these guys would have looked better. It's hard to say. I mean, we're all you know. In hindsight geniuses. But so it'll be interesting to see how how this is gonna play out. I do think it's it's a long term play for the NBA. And like you said they're not gonna freak out if they only get a couple of guys as first time around they're going to target the right guys. They wanna make sure they get the right type of human being as well and someone doesn't embarrass them. And you know, so there it's gonna be a long term play for the NBA. Jonathan how much of a difference. Do you see if any between? You were just starting out in these guys were already in the league, but in this business, but when you think of the last crop of high school players to come in the maturity level from basketball side, and then the maturity level handle everything that comes with being in the NBA at eighteen versus the generation. Now is there been an evolution our guys? More prepared to handle all the other stuff that comes with being the NBA or never mind physically being able to compete has that grown with time. Have we seen even a regression based on like, where do you think the game is in terms of these guys being able to handle this like are they more prepared than Kobe, and Jermaine O'Neal and Lenny Cooke, and Kevin Garnett the group that we saw in the in the nineties. I do I think that a you has improved dramatically over the last ten years. Here's what Nike has done with you. I b Al and also under armor and Adidas making games more competitive. And then USA basketball has done a phenomenal job of getting players in earlier and earlier, and you know, instilling the right the fundamentals of the game in them teaching them how to play unselfish basketball. And so, and then you kids are smarter. Now, you know, like, they're they're more prepared is they're not as goofy. As as a worth, their all they understand the value. They have branding and marketing social media. So and then I do, and I think that the trainers of I've played a significant role in this to you know, all these guys are getting up hundreds of extra shots every every day, and they're coming in more polished than they're taking care of their body. And so I do think that players are more prepared now for for college in eventually the NBA than they were ten fifteen years ago. I do wonder the thing that has changed used the word. Brand. And I hear it all the time players coming out who barely even have a game yet who barely even have an identifiable skill. That leaves us convinced they will have a career in the NBA and the and and as much the people around him parents. Any number of people who might be around the player are there is such a focus on the marketing aspect. There are very few players who still really make an impact in marketing. I it's still a handful and yet they so many more come into the league thinking that's coming with it. And there's a long way to go for a lot of these guys than I do think that has become a an issue for like the agents trying to recruit these guys and make promises that many of them can't keep and guys getting to organizations and thinking like you're getting in the way of my branding getting the way of my marketing, and it's like no you've got to learn how to get into a defensive stance. You're not getting into a game here. I do think that's changed a lot. Yeah. I mean, YouTube Instagram Twitter as as has changed everything. It's it's changed. The priorities of guys you go to go to high school games. Now, you know, for example, Brewster academy every time they play their thirty guys lined up on the baseline, filming waiting for jail Lecue to to have a breakaway dunk, which will immediately put on social media and YouTube and get you know, hundreds of thousands millions of of hits. And and I think that's difficult for the players because the amount of attention that they garner. Now, you know, the followers on Instagram and everything that comes along with that fame. It can be it can be tough to handle for a kid who's sixteen seventeen eighteen years old. And then it is hard for a coaches, you know, you have to play defense, you know, like I said well defensive and get me on Instagram. Nobody makes a highlight reel of other than Mike Schmitz of a guy, you know defense. Slides, and so, but I do think that once guys get to the NBA they realize what it really takes to to to make it a part of that is being competitive winning games doing all the little things. And so I I think guys grow out of that eventually. Today's episode of the woods pot is brought to you by Harry's. There is nothing like a Harry's shave. Closeness the smooth feel on your skin that comfortable glide of the blade. Harry's separates it self from every other razor you're going to use. There's nothing like a Harry shave. Do it the way I've done it. Join the ten million who have tried Harry's. 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But this isn't this you I think you anticipated this over the last couple of years as you're evaluating class. And it's getting closer. This is not a class with a lot of depth. I felt at the trade deadline. There are lots of teams willing to put their picks in trades this year that if they were going to get out of the draft. This was a year to get out of it. Yeah. I think we're missing some depth is in that five through ten range, and maybe, you know, two three four it's not quite as star power heavy as as as you might hope I do think that whoever, you know, whoever gets into one pick, obviously be very happy. And then whoever follows two to three four you're going to be hearing a lot of trade conversation because it's not what you know. There's no one guy that you can point to besides maybe RJ. You can see. This guy's comment from day. One enrolled change the the future of my franchise. And even RJ has has some question Mark, some even though I'm personally a huge fan of his. Yeah. So I it's not. But I do think that it's it's understated how much overall depth or is this draft. I look at like the the mid to late first round the look at the second round. There's some really good players in this draft. In a lot of guys have emerged over the year. And I think he was going to be quite a few quality role players guys that, you know, don't go in the lottery, if you were going to say, well, how did that guy fall? I mean that guy he's gonna play ten fifteen years in the NBA easily. And he's going to you know, he's gonna make it all defensive team, and he might end up thirteen mile NBA or whatever. And so, you know, the rising stars in in a year or two from now is going to be filled with which which it is every year. So I do think overall it's a pretty good draft. Just you wish that there were two or three more names there in that in that top ten that you could ROY. To you you mentioned RJ Barra and I've loved about him and his dad Rowen Barrett who played at Saint John's back his college days, and it has been a key figure in Canadian basketball over the last decade. Plus what I've loved about what he's done with RJ as he's put him in a lot of really high level competitive situations with the Canadian national team his age group has done very well. He's played in a lot of big games international games. A lot on the line more than probably any other player in college basketball. You know, he's not just rolling in off of the AAU circuit where you're playing four or five games at a day at times are different events. He's Ben in situations with a lot of meanings. Also put him, you know, he would take them and bring them into cities and play brought a lot of toughness to his game. A lot of definition to it. And I think listen RJ Barrett wasn't playing with John Williamson. You might be seeing if. He was playing somewhere else you might. It would be built around him. You might be seeing him even more. But I wonder with Williamson out for however long. He's gonna miss with Duke. Is it more camera tish than our Barrett? The one who can start to remind people of all the things he might be able to do. And and maybe in prove you know, he's he's had to play off of Zion. And is there more reddish Pachuco with Zion out that that might? Improve the way people look at him. He can and that process started in do Carolina game. I mean reddish had one of his best games of the season. But I don't wanna make excuses for him. I think he should have been showing things all year long. I mean, the fact that he's shooting thirty nine forty percent from two point range. I mean, you that's on him. You know? And so I I would like to see him be more aggressive, and let's see now how you know playing a college basketball for three months. I mean, what is he take from that? And how how much is he able to show over the next few few weeks going to the SEC tournament. But you know, that he still has a lot left to prove. But his talent is is is really high. I mean, he's he's six nine. He's he can handle the ball. He can pass it. He can shoot off the dribble. Great instincts on defense. You know, is he the athlete we thought probably not in terms of own shot finishing around the basket. Everything's off two feet. And so there's. You know is he going to be your best player from day one in the NBA? I mean, I think that's pretty clear that he won't be. But he's got he's he's he's a ROY talented kid and he fits the NBA right now. And there's I'm the hope is he continues to get better to better. And I think we'll see more from him. Like, you said it was I on out. He has no choice now, but to step up in which you should have been doing all along. But definitely this is a chance for him to improve his stock Jonathan the level. We'll we'll be talking a lot more Zion. Williamson a lot more cameras RJ Barrett and host of others between now and the June draft. But glad we got together today. And I know I know see assuming thanks for which is great. Thanks for listening to this episode of the woods pod. A big. Thank you to our guests today. ESPN's NBA draft analyst Jonathan Cavani. Remember, you can subscribe and listen to archived episodes of the woods pod. Wherever you get your shows, you could find us on apple podcasts radio dot com or wherever else you listen to pods. And of course, a big thank you to our sponsors Seekie Carey's, ZipRecruiter and wicks dot com. Be sure to support them the way they support us here at the willows pod will catch next time.