ESPN basketball analyst and Brooklyn native Fran Fraschilla — who will be serve as an NBC Sports Olympic basketball analyst working out of Stamford, Conn. — takes a timeout for some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: The Knicks are drafting at Nos. 19 and 21. Who could be available for them in that area?
A: There are going to be those kind of players like a Saddiq Bey who went in the late teens [19th] who ends up being on the all-rookie team. And so there are going to be a handful of guys, depending on what the Knicks need, that are going be staring them in the face with those picks, and have a chance to be good NBA players.
Q: Who are some names in that area who might be appealing to the Knicks.
A: Chris Duarte from Oregon, a 6-foot-6 guard who’s really a baby Klay Thompson. He may be as ready as any player in this draft to play right away for a team, which would certainly appeal to Tom Thibodeau. … The only downside of Chris Duarte, he’ll be one of the oldest, if not the oldest player (24) taken in the first round. Another kid, depending on how he’s looked at from a medical standpoint, Jared Butler is a 6-3 point guard who is a great shooter, who is a playmaker, plays with toughness. That’s another kid who’s a 22-year-old junior who could come in and help the Knicks immediately, if they’re looking for the maturity, let’s say, of somebody that they can count on right away. Otherwise, you’re taking a project who may be a freshman or sophomore like an Isaiah Jackson from Kentucky who’s a not-yet 20-year-old 6-11 power forward-center who’s like a Nerlens Noel type. So when you’re taking somebody in that range, what’s going to be there for you is the older veteran player who the rebuilding teams in the lottery are shying away from, or the kid that is still available and you say, “Listen, we just hope this kid’s going be a good player in 2-3 years.” That would be Isaiah Jackson of Kentucky. One more interesting name for the Knicks is Usman Garuba, who plays at Real Madrid. He’s a Spanish kid of Nigerian ancestry who at 18 and 19 years old the last couple of years, has played in the second-highest league in the world, and he handled himself well. He’s an OG Anunoby- type athletic and a defensive-minded 3-4 man.
Q: Would Tre Mann make sense for them?
A: He’s not my flavor of the month. To me, he’s one-dimensional, but that dimension is pretty good. He’s not a playmaker, he’s not overly athletic, but he does have good size, and he is, I would say, among the top three shooters in this draft.
Q: Ziaire Williams?
A: Ziaire Williams is the perfect example of a kid who you’re projecting 3-4 years out. He’s so skinny, he could slip through a wet straw and come out dry. He’s a 6-9, 180-pound string bean. If the Knicks are looking for somebody to develop for the long term, Ziaire Williams is in their wheelhouse.
Q: Jaden Springer?
A: His dad, Gary Springer, is a New York City high school legend. Jaden is a big, strong combo guard. … He reminds me a little bit of Jalen Brunson, he’s a little bit more offensive-minded as far as less playmaking and more scoring, but coming out as a freshman, he will be one of the youngest players in the draft and essentially will play his entire rookie year as a 19-year-old. Again, you’re looking at player development because the likelihood of him impressing Tom Thibodeau and the coaching staff and playing right away on a veteran team would probably be minimal.
Q: Is there a tenacious defensive player that Thibs might covet? A Davion Mitchell, for example?
A: Unless they move up, he’s not gonna be there for them. The three best defensive players in my mind in the first round would be Davion Mitchell, Keon Johnson and Usman Garuba. The likelihood is all three could be gone, the guy that could slip to the Knicks at 19 would be Garuba. He’s about 6-8, 230 [pounds], and he’s got the ability right now to guard 2, 3, 4, maybe small 5s.
Q: Maybe they try to package 19 and 21 to move up?
A: The hard part about packaging 19 and 21 is you’re trying to convince who might be picking like 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 to roll the dice with two gambles later in the first round compared to the guy who’s usually more of a sure thing.
Q: Would Collin Sexton make sense for the Knicks?
A: Collin Sexton would be a great fit in New York. He’s a talented 22-year-old who believes he’s the best point guard in the NBA. While that is not a realistic viewpoint, being in Thibs’ culture would help his development as a winning player, something that was not the case in Cleveland.
Q: The Nets pick 27th.
A: When I’m picking 27th, unless two guys are exactly equal, I am not picking for position, I am picking for NBA talent. Who is the best NBA talent on the board that may have escaped the first 26 picks? … Ayo Dosunmu, perfect. Chris Duarte, perfect. Jared Butler, perfect. If they need a big guy, Neemias Queta, 7-feet, 250 [pounds], agile, big kid who you can develop, like a young DeAndre Jordan … Quentin Grimes, Trey Murphy.
Q: Some metropolitan locals: Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili?
A: Likely second round but more likely to make a team. He’s too physically gifted, too smart a player, too tough not to make somebody’s roster next year. He’s a versatile 6-foot-10, can play small-ball center, can play power forward. He’s been too inconsistent with his shooting but four years of high-level, intense coaching, good league, big games, pressure games, I’d be shocked if he’s not on a roster and then someday playing in a rotation.
Q: Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl?
A: Villanova guys always get undervalued. This kid is going be in the league 12 years. He may not go in the first round, he’s not overly athletic, but he’s already a very smart, versatile big man.
Q: Why was it a good decision by the Rutgers kids, Geo Davis and Ron Harper Jr., to go back to school?
A: They’re both going to eventually scrap and claw to make NBA teams. Both of those guys are going be grinders who could eventually make rosters.
Q: Pitt’s Justin Champagnie?
A: He’s really an athletic in-betweener. He’s a high-jumping, high-energy, rebounding undersized 4 man. He has some potential down the road to be a P.J. Tucker-type of player. His shooting has to continue to improve. I think he’s going get drafted, but more importantly, he’s going make a team, there’s no doubt in my mind.
Q: Did Julian Champagnie make the right decision to return to St. John’s?
A: I think so, he’s not as polished as the Pitt twin.
Q: What are your thoughts on the St. John’s program?
A: I’ve always been a Mike Anderson fan. St. John’s got a meat-and-potatoes, blue-collar coach that fits what the school’s culture is all about. It’s a school with middle-class kids. It’s a school with kids who are paying for student loans and first- and second-generation college kids, I always felt, which is why I liked my time at St. John’s. There’s a grittiness about the university that fits Mike’s style of play and fits what I’ve seen on the court from his teams in his first two years, and I think the talent level’s getting better and better for him.
Q: Who is one sleeper nobody is talking about who you’re high on?
A: A kid that was off the radar coming into the year — because he was considered a failure at Kansas, then he transferred to Houston to play for Kelvin Sampson and help lead them to the Final Four — is Quentin Grimes. He’s going be taken somewhere in the late first round-to-early second, and he’s definitely going to play in the league because he’s 6-5, he’s a 2-guard, he can shoot, he plays with toughness, he looks the part. Some guys that were hiding in plain sight in November and December were Davion Mitchell, Kai Jones, Quentin Grimes, Jason Preston, but many of the mock-draft guys didn’t figure it out until March along with everyone else.
Q: Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham?
A: Cade Cunningham is not Luka Doncic, but he is a big, physical, power forward-looking point guard. Cade Cunningham was to the Big 12 what Luka Doncic was to the Euro League. He has the IQ of a smart, seven-year NBA veteran, he has great court vision, he can play in any system, he is tremendous in pick-and-roll, he will shoot it in the NBA at a high level. The question mark with him, like Doncic coming in: Is he going be athletic enough to dominate games? And Luka Doncic kind of put that to rest. Cade is the safest of the top four or five picks. It’s hard to see him failing because of his size, his skills and his unique basketball acumen.
Q: USC’s Evan Mobley?
A: He could be Chris Bosh’s little brother. Long, athletic, skilled two-way big man, shot-blocking ability, ability to face up, ability to score inside. The only thing he lacks is physical maturity. He’s 20 years old, he’s 215 pounds and he’s desperately in need of getting to 235. Then you’ll have a 7-foot, multi-skilled, two-way big man.
Q: Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs?
A: Mark Few told me he’s the most competitive kid he’s ever coached at Gonzaga. Jalen Suggs is a big point guard who can play off the ball, he defends, he can run a team, he can make shots. When you talk about mid-to-late career Chauncey Billups, you’re talking about borderline Hall of Famer, this kid has a lot of different areas of guard play to hang his hat on.
Q: Jalen Green out of the G-League?
A: Jalen Green could end up being the best player in this draft. I think he’s going be in that Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, Dame Lillard, Zach LaVine area where he’s going be like a 28- to 30-point scorer once he hits his prime. He’s your classic bucket-getter. He should be an NBA All-Star wing player. There’s a chance for generational greatness here, like a once-every-15- years kind of greatness, but at worst he’s going be a high-level scorer in the league.
Q: The G-League’s Jonathan Kuminga?
A: Looks like Tarzan, but we’re not sure yet whether he’s gonna play like Tarzan or Jane. When they make the prototype of an NBA player, it’s Jonathan Kuminga. He’s athletic and agile, he has a good shooting stroke, the only thing he lacks right now to me is he is not a great ball handler. If there’s a question mark with him, [it] is, can he create his own shot? He has more of the fail factor than the other four, but he also has tremendous upside. He’s a feast-or-famine. Likely more feast than famine, but I wish he was a better ball handler and shot creator and play creator.
Q: Florida State’s Scottie Barnes?
A: One of the best kids you’ll ever meet. It worries me that he’s not a great shooter. I think he’s gonna be a good NBA player because he’s only 20 years old. He’s not as dynamic an athlete as Ben Simmons was, but a similar type of game.
Q: UConn’s James Bouknight?
A: I love James Bouknight, I think he’s got a chance to be a very good NBA scorer. Creating your own shot in the NBA is a skill, even more so than having someone set you up for a shot, because as Chuck Daly used to say: “What will the player do when the play breaks down? Because the play will break down.” And when the play breaks down, James Bouknight’s going be able to get his own shot. He’s going to get better and better. He loves the game, and he’s been coached tough by Dan Hurley, and he’s got a prototypical NBA go-get-your-own-shot type of game.
Q: Australian Josh Giddey?
A: He has literally come out of nowhere in the last 18 months from Down Under. He is a 6-foot-8 point guard, plays with lots of confidence, lots of moxie. He starred in a league that is a grown-up league. I don’t think he’s going be an All-Star, but I think he’ll be a very good play-making guard in the NBA. His outside shooting has to be more consistent, but to do what he did at 18 is very similar to what LaMelo [Ball] did in that league a year ago.
Q: Does Davion Mitchell remind you at all of Donovan Mitchell?
A: Yes. Donovan is a little bit more of a high-flyer. Davion is a little bit more of a speed merchant. But they’re both elite athletes. They both could masquerade as NFL All-Pro corners. Davion has incredible speed and incredible start-stop ability which makes him really effective both defensively and offensively. And he is a gym rat and an off-the-charts kid. Donovan’s a playmaking 2-guard, this kid’s a point guard who can shoot it hopefully like Donovan. He may be as good of a defensive player as we’ve seen in the draft in the last 3-5 years.
Q: Arkansas’ Moses Moody?
A: He has the potential to be a very good shooter, and right now his strength is his ability to score around the basket for a wing. Moses Moody reminds me of a less seasoned, less polished “Iso Joe” Johnson. Ironically, they both played at Arkansas.
Q: Texas’ Kai Jones?
A: The best running big man in this draft. He is boom or bust. He’s more projection than production. He’s a 6-11 string bean, a stretch-4 man who is a terrific athlete. Improving skills, especially away from the basket, and potential to be a multi-positional defender. He’s going to go anywhere between 8 and 20.
Q: Michigan’s Franz Wagner.
A: Jack of all trades, master of none. In the scheme of NBA athleticism, which is the best in the world, he’s an average athlete. He’s a smart player, he’s a reasonably skilled player but he only shot 34 percent from 3. He doesn’t really do it for me.
Q: Winthrop’s Keon Johnson?
A: He’s the second-best defender in this draft. A relentless, high-energy defender. He’s an elite wing athlete with a great motor. A chance to be a good offensive player in time. A lot of long-term potential because he just turned 19 and he also missed his senior year of high school with an injury.
Q: Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert?
A: Plug him in right away from Day 1 and he’ll be in your rotation making shots. I think he’s more advanced than Joe Harris was coming out of Virginia. I think Corey Kispert’s the best shooter in this draft. He’s more athletic than people realize, he’s got a great feel for the game, he’s high-character, great leader. That’s a kid that the Knicks would love to have him drop, but I don’t think he will. I think he could end up being a borderline NBA All-Star.
Q: Alperen Sengun from Turkey?
A: If you watch him play, you see big, slow Turkish kid. There were 30 former NBA players in the Turkish League this year. This was an 18-year-old kid who was the MVP of the league. He looks methodical, but he is a very crafty low-post scorer, has a great feel for the game, and he’s going to be a guy that can stretch the floor some day. If I had to compare him to somebody in the NBA I would say Nik Vucevic.
Q: Duke’s Jalen Johnson?
A: Not a fan, and not because he quit the team at Duke. He’s an NBA athlete, his skill level has to improve and his motor has to improve.
Q: LSU’s Cameron Thomas?
A: High-volume shooter and scorer who in a perfect world for him, he’s gonna be an off-the-bench scorer in his prime for a good team.
Q: Auburn’s Sharife Cooper?
A: An acquired taste. Maybe 6-feet tall. Elite speed, elite passer, maybe the best passer in this draft. He is a non-shooter. He’s got a little bit of De’Aaron Fox and a little Celtics vintage Isaiah Thomas in him. He’s a specialist, he’s a third-down back. A team will love him as an off-the-bench point guard who can create havoc with his speed.
Q: Virginia’s Trey Murphy III.
A: High-character kid, great standstill shooter, good athlete.
Q: Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu?
A: He’s one of those kids that stayed in college three years and will be more ready to play for an NBA team than most of the one-and-done kids in the first round. He is a big guard, he’s an improved shooter, he’s a playmaker, he gets to the basket, he’ll be in the NBA a long time. And he’ll be devalued because he’s almost 22.
Q: How good of a defensive player is he?
A: Very solid. He’s long and lanky, he’s 6-5 about 195 [pounds].
Q: Would he appeal to Thibodeau?
A: Oh, he would definitely appeal. That’s a perfect example of a kid who can be a 6-5 point guard, you can pair him with [Immanuel] Quickley, would be a long backcourt. He’s absolutely in the Knicks’ wheelhouse. Thibodeau would love him, he’s been hard-coached because when you get on him, he’s not gonna wilt.
Q: How would you describe the quality of this draft?
A: There’s no such thing as a “bad” draft. There’s always perceptions of a draft being bad. When I think back to when Giannis [Antetokounmpo] got taken 15th [in 2013], it was the “the Anthony Bennett” draft, nobody was really sure who the No. 1 pick would be. The perception of the 2021 draft is that it’s very good at the top, and that’s deserved. There’s five kids at the top of this draft that nobody would be surprised if someday were five of the best players in the league. There’s going be a bust out of that group of five, but right now it looks like it’s a strong class at the top.
Q: What do you think of Team USA?
A: We’re at a stage in the history of basketball where no matter how good our talent is, without the benefit of a 2-3 week training camp, and an immersion into FIBA rules, it’s just a different game that our great NBA players have to get used to. This USA team is talented enough to still be the prohibitive favorite to win the gold. We just have to face facts that the basketball globe has shrunk. … The Dream Team in ’92 changed the face of basketball around the world. … Nearly 25 percent of the NBA’s players were born outside the United States right now.
Q: Who is the biggest threat?
A: I would say Australia just because of their great chemistry, camaraderie and toughness. They know how to play Team USA. They play the FIBA physical style of play which is reminiscent of NBA circa 1990s, and our Americans are used to touch fouls and two free throws. It’s something I think we’ll figure out by the time we get to Tokyo.
Q: Does Kevin Durant have to carry this team to the gold medal?
A: Probably yes. He’s the perfect go-to player for this USA team.
Q: What do you think of Bradley Beal, now on the COVID list, missing the Olympics?
A: With three Olympic players in the NBA Finals and, now, Beal’s situation, this is disconcerting for a team that is trying to build continuity.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: [Vince] Lombardi, Ulysses S. Grant, Saint Paul.
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Denzel Washington.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Jennifer Garner.
Q: Favorite singer?
A: Billy Joel.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Chicken parmigiana.
Q: How old were you when you became a basketball junkie?
A: As somebody who grew up in Flatbush, I loved every sport in season going back to the time I was 8 years old. But sometime around ’69-70, I became a basketball junkie, so I would have been 12 years old. I knew watching my New York Knicks, and then as a kid that played in every playground in Brooklyn seemingly, I fell in love with the game of basketball. I have thought about basketball every single day of my life since I was about 12 years old. I have not worked a day in my life.