by Jim Buzzerd
The 2018 NBA Draft Combine was held last week in Chicago and two West Virginia University players were invited to participate. That is news in itself as the Mountaineer program has been fairly successful in recent years, but it has not been known for putting players into “The League.” As such, appearances by WVU players at the combine have been scarce. Guard Jevon Carter and center Sagaba Konate each had productive workouts and seemingly helped themselves in the process.
If you’re a WVU fan like me, you likely have mixed feelings, one of them being anxiety, about how this year’s NBA draft plays out. First, I’m comfortable speaking for almost all Mountaineer fans that we want Jevon Carter to be picked as high as possible in the upcoming draft. By most accounts Carter solidified himself as late first, to mid second round pick.
He didn’t impress with the measurables like standing reach, lane agility, height, shuttle etc. Carter did show up in the top five guards tied for first in left corner shooting and tied for third in top of the key shooting. According to reports Carter made his impression where it counts most, on the court. He stood out in a pair of scrimmages. None of us who watched Carter’s career in Morgantown should be surprised to learn that it was Carter’s defensive tenacity that garnered the attention.
Here is the observation of Mike Schmitz of ESPN.com. ‘One of the most known prospects at the combine, Carter unsurprisingly changed the game with his defensive intensity, as he locked down a host of opposing guards and went 2-0 in Chicago. Carter defended 94 feet and did a number on guards like Tony Carr and Devonte Graham among others. His combination of physicality, lightning-quick hands, anticipation and intensity is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory, and he’s far and away the best point guard defender in the draft.’
Unlike Carter who has no college eligibility remaining, Konate has two more seasons available and the question of what the native of Mali decides is of great interest to WVU fans. One measurable that won’t enhance his stock as an NBA center is that Konate measured just 6’ 6.5” without shoes. However, his standing vertical leap of 31.50 was the best of the centers and his ever improving shooting landed him in the top five of four of the six shooting disciplines for centers at the combine.
This one is hard to gauge. At his height most NBA teams would likely want Konate to develop more perimeter skills so he can play more of the forward position at the next level. Schmitz calls Konate a mid to late second round option and commented on his lack of maturity.
‘The 20-year-old shot-blocker was a mixed bag in Chicago, altering everything around the rim and playing with tremendous energy, while also showing his offensive limitations and lack of maturity at times. On one hand, Konate’s motor and instincts as a rim protector are a major plus, especially for a potential backup big at the NBA level. He attacks every shot at the rim with force and has the type of on-court energy that could be channeled positively in the right system. On the other hand, he can’t help himself with all-out screams after big plays and has trouble calming down in certain situations.’ Schmitz wrote. Konate has until May 30 to make his decision. There are only two rounds in the NBA draft, so being labeled a late second rounder becomes an iffy proposition for a guy with two years to become lottery pick worthy. If Schmitz’s assessment is accurate it would seem Konate’s future is better served by at least another season at WVU.