A breakdown of Alabama basketball's three NBA draft hopefuls
NBA draft picks have been a rarity for Alabama basketball in recent years. Sure, the Crimson Tide saw Collin Sexton selected No. 8 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018. However, the last Alabama player drafted before the star point guard was Richard Hendrix, who was selected in the second round by the Golden State Warriors in 2008.
Last week, three Alabama players tested the draft waters as Kira Lewis Jr., John Petty Jr. and Herbert Jones all declared without hiring agents. That leaves the door open for each member of the trio to return to the Crimson Tide as long as they withdraw their names by the June 15 deadline. The general feeling around the program is that Lewis and Petty will leave for the draft while Jones is likely to return to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for his senior season. Here’s a breakdown of each player as they prepare for the NBA draft which is scheduled for June 25.
Kira Lewis Jr.
Lewis is Alabama’s best chance of having a player selected as he is currently projected as a first-rounder in several mock drafts. The speedy sophomore earned first-team All-SEC honors this past season after leading the Crimson Tide in scoring (18.5 ppg), assists (5.2 apg), steals (1.8 spg), minutes (37.6 mpg) and field goals made (206).
Lewis, who will turn 18 next week, is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. Listed at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, the point guard is a little light for the next level. However, he is one of the quickest players in this year’s class and made significant strides in his overall game.
While Lewis played the point guard position at Alabama, he will need to demonstrate a better handle on the ball if he wants to stay at the position in the NBA. Playing in first-year head coach Nate Oats’ fast-paced system this past season, Lewis averaged 3.5 turnovers per game, up from 2.2 the year before. Despite shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc, he isn’t a spot-up shooter, so he’ll need to get his ball-handling under control to find a role.
Overall, Lewis’ ceiling is higher than a lot of other prospects who are slated to fall in the middle or late part of the first round. While he’s still somewhat of a project, that potential will likely be too hard to pass up.
Mock draft roundup
The Athletic: No. 24 overall (first round), Utah Jazz
Bleacher Report: No. 15 overall (first round), Orlando Magic
CBS Sports: No. 28 overall (first round), New York Knicks
ESPN: No. 33 overall (second round), Philadelphia 76ers
NBC Sports: No. 22 overall (first round), no team listed
SB Nation: No. 22 overall (first round), Philadelphia 76ers
John Petty Jr.
By the sound of things, Alabama is expecting Petty to depart this offseason. However, unlike Lewis, the 6-foot-5, 184-pound wing player is not certain to hear his name called in this year’s draft.
Petty was one of the best shooters in college basketball this past season, ranking No. 9 in the nation with a 44 percent average from beyond the arc. Under Oats, the former five-star swingman showed improvement in his overall game, leading Alabama with 6.6 rebounds per game while demonstrating a better ability to get to the rim. He also saw his steals total double.
“Petty’s obviously more late second to not drafted, but shoot, there might be a team that wants a 6-6 shooter that guards the way that Petty guarded this year, and they may be willing to take him early second,” Oats said during a teleconference last week. “We can’t tell. Petty’s one of those guys that can go into a workout and make 90 out of 100 3s — he shoots it that well. And a team falls in love and they want to take him early second. I think it’s really hard to say until they get a chance to go through the workouts.”
Mock draft roundup
ESPN: No. 54 overall (second round), Golden State Warriors
Jones was viewed as a potential NBA draft prospect at the beginning of the season but was limited by multiple injuries, including a fractured wrist which caused him to wear a cast on his dominant left arm over the final eight games.
Jones, who was named to the SEC’s all-defensive team last month, led Alabama with 593 Blue Collar Points — the metric the team uses to measure effort and hustle plays. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward also topped the team in charges taken (22), deflections (84) and floor dives (31) while averaging 7.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and shooting 48.4 percent from the floor.
Jones is limited offensively put plays elite defense which could make him a specialist at the next level. He’s also shown an ability to handle the ball and has served as a point forward for the Crimson Tide at times. While he’s unlikely to end up in this year’s draft, Jones’ athleticism makes him a viable candidate for next year’s draft.
“I think Herb, with all the injuries he’s had, I think he needs to come back and have an unbelievable year for us,” Oats said, “and then I think he can play his way into something really good.”
Mock round up