MULAY: Evaluating Virginia’s 2019 NBA Draft Prospects

Four Cavaliers have declared for the Draft and hope to pursue NBA careers

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Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter is a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

After a magical run in the 2019 NCAA Tournament that ended with the program’s first national championship, the Virginia men’s basketball team has seen several players declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Junior guard Ty Jerome and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter declared April 15, while junior guard Kyle Guy followed suit the next day. Junior forward Mamadi Diakite rounded out the draft news for the Cavaliers when he declared April 17. 

Let’s take a deeper look at each player and evaluate their NBA potential.

De’Andre Hunter

Main Selling Points: Defensive versatility and elite physical tools

While Hunter has improved several aspects of his game over the last two years, his defensive ability is still his greatest strength. The 2019 NABC Defensive Player of the Year is already an elite multi-positional defender, able to guard players in the post and on the perimeter. With a 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame and a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Hunter has all the physical tools to excel in the NBA. Hunter’s defensive skills seem poised to translate well to the next level and offer instant value to NBA teams.

Areas of Concern: Lack of ball-handling and passing skill

As good as Hunter is defensively, his offensive capacity is limited due to a lack of playmaking ability. While Hunter has a solid jumper, his passing and ball-handling abilities still leave much to be desired. Accordingly, he struggles to created space for himself or opportunities for his teammates, which limits his value when he has the ball in his hands. 

Pro Player Comparison: Forward DeMarre Carroll, Brooklyn Nets

Projection: Top-10 lottery pick

Hunter was a projected lottery pick before the season even began and his NBA stock has only risen since then. Over the last year, the Philadelphia, Pa., native has emerged as one of the best players in the country. His multi-dimensional value as a do-it-all defender and high-efficiency scorer makes him an attractive prospect. Hunter has all the tools to be a 10-year starter at small forward in the NBA and his high floor will certainly be appealing to teams.

Ty Jerome

Main Selling Points: Elite playmaking ability 

Over the last two seasons, Jerome has clearly demonstrated his value as Virginia’s chief playmaker on offense. Jerome is an extremely capable floor general and led the ACC with 5.4 assists per game. His elite handle, touch and vision allow him to make high-level passes and create space for his own shot. Jerome has an extremely high basketball IQ which helps him run plays smoothly and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Moreover, Jerome shoots well from inside and outside, defends with toughness and has great size for a guard with his 6-foot-5 frame.

Areas of Concern: Subpar athleticism and explosiveness

As good as Jerome has been with Virginia, his athletic limitations will be his greatest obstacle at the NBA level. On offense, Jerome’s limited lateral quickness inhibits his ability to beat defenders one-on-one and finish at the rim. Given this limitation, the New York City native tends to settle for floaters and contested jump shots, although he has proven to be adept at making these. On defense, Jerome struggles to keep up with more explosive guards and that weakness will be problematic in the NBA.

Pro Player Comparison: Guard Greivis Vasquez, Brooklyn Nets

Projection: Late first round selection

Jerome has arguably improved his draft stock the most out of all the Cavaliers, going from a relative unknown to a legitimate NBA prospect. Jerome has all the potential to be a staple in the NBA. Most NBA analysts and experts predict that Jerome will be selected late in the first round or early in the second. However, considering his ideal size and high basketball IQ, it's unlikely teams will let Jerome fall out of the first round, regardless of the gaps in his athleticism.

Kyle Guy

Main Selling Points: High-volume three-point shooting

Guy is best known for his three-point shooting, averaging 42.6 percent from beyond the arc this past season, while taking 7.4 threes per game. With a lightning-quick release and smooth shooting mechanics, Guy has the ability to sink tough shots over and over again. Guy excels at hitting shots off of screens and handoffs, as his off-ball movement is already elite. Outside of his technical prowess, Guy’s shooting is aided by limitless confidence. Regardless of the situation, Guy trusts his shot and ability, never hesitant to take advantage of a scoring opportunity.

Areas of Concern: Poor athleticism and size

As good a shooter Guy is, his lack of NBA-ready physical tools could prevent him from being a valuable contributor at the next level. Standing at just 6-foot-2 with athletic limitations, Guy could be both a defensive and offensive liability in the NBA. The Indianapolis, Ind., native may struggle to score in the lane on offense and keep up with bigger, faster guards on defense.

Pro Player Comparison: Shooting guard JJ Redick, Philadelphia 76ers

Projection: Second round prospect

In expert mock drafts, Guy has been picked as high as the middle of the second round to as low as not drafted at all. However, his combination of elite shooting range and strong intangibles makes Guy not only an NBA-caliber player but a lethal scorer who can contribute immediately given the right situation. Many players like Guy — such as JJ Redick — have been able to carve out a role for themselves in the NBA, so there’s certainly precedent for a player like him excelling in the league.

Mamadi Diakite

Main Selling Points: Strong interior defender

Diakite has taken great strides this year alone in becoming a more polished and well-rounded prospect. The forward embraced the role of enforcer in the paint for the Cavaliers in 2019 with his shot blocking and rebounding ability. Diakite has taken advantage of the length of his 6-foot-9 frame and his explosiveness to consistently alter shots. The Guinean can meet driving players at the rim, block shots from behind and defend players one-on-one in the low post.

Areas of Concern: Underdeveloped offensive skill set

As greatly as Diakite has improved this season, it’s difficult to imagine him being a reliable scorer at the next level at this moment. With the NBA increasingly valuing versatility on offense, Diakite’s lack of a diverse and advanced skill set will initially put him at a disadvantage. That said, he has already demonstrated his ability to grow immensely as a player, so he may be able to overcome these flaws in his game.

Pro Player Comparison: Power forward Cheick Diallo, New Orleans Pelicans

Projection: Undrafted

As of now, Diakite hasn’t been picked in many mock drafts. Admittedly, this may be due to the fact that few expected Diakite to declare for the Draft. Regardless, Diakite is still viewed as a raw player and needs some time to improve his game. Additionally, Diakite has yet to truly fill out his frame — this is a concern because NBA big men will likely be able to overpower him, making the transition to the next level even more difficult.

It is extremely exciting and a real testament to the quality of the Virginia men’s basketball program to see so many Cavaliers enter the Draft and pursue NBA careers.

The 2019 NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 20, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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