There were a grand total of zero (count ‘em, zero) Golden Eagles selected in last night’s NBA Draft (though Andrew Rowsey did agree to play with the Toronto Raptors for NBA Summer League), making 2018 the second year in a row with no Marquette players being taken and the fifth time in the last six years. Sad. While this assuredly won’t be the case forever, it does beg the question “Who will be the next Marquette player taken in the NBA Draft?”
As we look at the current roster, there are quite a few guys with at least a bit of NBA potential, but it’s all a matter of development or timing of course. Take, for example, one of our beloved sons, Jimmy Butler. He had a freshman year statline pretty similar to Greg Elliott’s this season (although he was also four inches taller and 50 pounds heavier), but exploded as a sophomore and junior, enough so that the Bulls took him with the last pick in the first round in 2011 and now he’s among the NBA’s elite defenders and a perennial All-Star.
I’m not saying Greg Elliott is going to be a future NBA All-Star. What I am saying, though, is that he’s one of the numerous players on Marquette with the tools to make it at the next level. I’ll dive into these players a little bit and what their realistic chances to get drafted is. Keep in mind, I’m not going through every Marquette player, but the ones I don’t go in-depth on, I’ll at least provide you with some notes at the end. It’ll be fun, I promise.
Howard is both the easiest and hardest player to project at the next level. On the one hand. He can flat out score the basketball. Obviously, he’s one of the best 3-point shooters in college basketball, but he really developed from midrange and getting to the rim as well in the past year. On the other hand, though, is his size. This isn’t anything new with Howard, so we don’t need to spend too much time on it, but his size and athleticism (or lack thereof) limits him in so many ways, mostly defensively, but offensively as well. It’s just biology. So, he’s got an interesting case.
He’ll get drafted because…He can score effectively and efficiently at every level of the court. And there’s room to grow too. His step-back is vicious, but he can certainly work more wrinkles in there. He’s also competent enough at drawing fouls that his automatic free throw stroke is a big plus as well.
He won’t get drafted because…He’s probably too limited defensively to ever be a league-average contributor on that end. If he can make huge strides on D, he can work himself into a Jevon Carter-type role of being a pest, but that seems so far off. Carter’s also quite a bit bigger (6’2”, 205 lb.) and stronger than Howard. Howard’s ball-handling and passing aren’t great, which requires him to play off-ball (though we’ll see if that changes next year), and he’s way too small to be an NBA shooting guard.
Biggest thing to improve: His handle. The defense could very well just never come, so smoothing out his point guard game is likely his best ticket to the league. If he can refine his dribbling and passing skills, he could find himself getting his name called in the second round.
NBA comparison: It’s somewhat lofty, but Isaiah Thomas got himself a job simply by being creative and dynamic enough offensively. While he lacks the same creativity with the ball, Howard is a much better shooter already. I don’t think Howard becomes the star Thomas is, but Thomas worked himself into the NBA after being the last pick in the draft. Anything’s on the table at that point.
Like Howard, Hauser’s NBA future is somewhat limited due to his physical presence. But at a listed size of 6’8” and 225 pounds, he’s tall enough to defend at least wings. And working with NBA trainers, I don’t doubt that he can get his speed up to be able to keep up with NBA athletes. I suppose we should talk about what he can already do. Sam Hauser can shoot. Sam Hauser can pass. Sam Hauser can rebound. Sam Hauser can do a lot of things well enough that I think he can absolutely carve out a future in the NBA. The offense, of course, is the highlight, as he shot 49 percent from behind the arc this year and proved himself worthy of being a super-efficient roll man (but more often the pop man) in pick-and-roll situations. That’s super valuable in today’s pace-and-space NBA. He’s also a really tremendous passer for someone who was never labeled as a passer. And it’s not even that he’s a great passer, it’s that he’s a smart passer, and that makes for great passes. Hauser has a lot of interesting tools that, after this coming season, could get him some love from scouts.
He’ll get drafted because…He takes on more of a scoring load yet continues to be as efficient as he is now, while also taking on some of Andrew Rowsey’s ball-handling load. Or at least passing load. He’s an extremely smooth and smart player that almost always plays calm and under control. He’s about as solid a rebounder as they come. He won’t jump over guys for a putback, but he can establish position and has really strong hands.
He won’t get drafted because…His efficiency drops with more volume and he doesn’t show any signs of progressing as a defender. He also shoots only slightly better from 2 than he does from 3. So, his game around the rim needs to be a bit more consistent. They’re all fixable things, but they’re also all very fundamental things, so if he can’t show improvement in this coming year, he’ll likely be packing his bags for Europe.
Biggest thing to improve: His defense. 3-and-D players like Robert Covington and Trevor Ariza were massively important in the playoffs, and this is simply the best chance Hauser has at finding a role in the NBA. He’s got the height and a little bit of the length, if he can get his foot speed up to par, we’re cooking with gas.
NBA comparison: Joe Ingles without the handle. Funny enough, Joe Ingles wasn’t actually drafted, coming from overseas to join the Utah Jazz. And I hate to make the white guy-to-white guy comp, but Ingles fits the bill pretty well. They’re roughly the same size (Ingles has slightly longer arms), excellent shooters, smart passers and relatively unathletic. Jingles (lol) competes hard on defense, though, an intensity Hauser will have to match. I say without the handle because the Australian is a genuinely good point guard when the Jazz need him to be, which I don’t really see Hauser ever adding to his repertoire.
The redshirt sophomore came on quite well towards the end of the 2017-18 season, scoring double digits in eight of his final 15 games. A lot of those scores were on dunks or cuts to the basket, but those are always fun, so maybe they should be worth extra points. Speaking of extra points, hitting the 3 is something he can’t do quite well is might be the biggest key to unlocking his potential. He’s already a tough defender, albeit sometimes inattentive, and an explosive athlete, so adding a bit of nuance to his game will do Anim a lot of favors. Enough to get him drafted? Eh, we’ll see.
He’ll get drafted because…He becomes a solid 3-point shooter and continues to lock down guys on defense. He also shows a willingness to pass. So many times, I watched this guy take on two defenders at the rim in hopes of a highlight reel lay-up or dunk, while passing up open shooters in the corner or on the wing. Honestly, you have to respect the determination. But seriously, a guy who can shoot OR flash to the basket and yam on dudes? Yes please.
He won’t get drafted because…Quite simply because he does none of the things above. Becoming a good shooter is hard, and some guys just don’t have it. Anim may not even try to develop his shot because it’s just not a part of his game, and that’s fine because he brings a lot to the table as a cutter/defender. And maybe he still tries to posterize everyone all the time. But coming into the modern NBA where if you’re under 6’10 and can’t shoot, what are you even doing?
Biggest thing to improve: If it wasn’t already, it’s the shot. I don’t need to spend more time on it. He shot slightly better towards the end of the year (7-for-18 from January 31st onwards) or at least became less shy about shooting it. Keep the trend going and then let’s talk.
NBA comparison: As a Philadelphia 76ers fan, this one is readily available to me, but Justin Anderson physically and stylistically seems like a good fit for Anim. First of all, I in no way see Anim becoming the player Anderson was his last couple years at Virginia. But they’re similar defenders with similar builds, and Anderson has been a slightly below-average shooter in the NBA (and if Anim shoots well enough to find a spot in the NBA, so will he). Plus, Anderson’s nickname is Simba and our own Ben Snider is trying to get Scar going for Sacar. This stuff writes itself, people.
The Cain Train was probably the most pleasant surprise of last season, although the stat sheet didn’t always show it. His workload fluctuated over the course of the year; some nights he would need to step up big time, and other nights he’d barely touch the floor. But when he was called upon, he was often Marquette’s fourth or fifth-best player, which I guess isn’t saying much, but it’s not nothing! Maybe I’m crazy, but of anyone who played for Marquette last year, I think Cain has the highest potential as a basketball player by a significant margin, so I may go a little long here. He just has to put it all together. There were moments when he flashed it, like against Georgetown and St. John’s, but it needs to become a consistent thing quickly. Of course, the trouble here is that maybe he doesn’t have the opportunity or the playing time to really find his consistency, and next thing you know he’s 22 and is “too old” for the league. But he has some serious skills and physical tools that could reroute him to the NBA in the next couple of years.
He’ll get drafted because…He’s a great 3-point shooter, and I know it’s low-volume, but he showed enough that it’s not a fluke. He (probably?) won’t shoot nearly 48 percent for his career, but he can and probably will be at least slightly above average. His shot gets off a little slow, but he can shoot over pretty much anyone. His defense is also well over par for a freshman. While Anim is a tough, hard-nosed grinder, Cain is a long, athletic freak who also suffers from lack of attention sometimes, but really can stay in front of anyone. There’s a world in which he becomes 11-7-2 guy shooting 40 percent and playing great defense in a year, and sometimes that’s enough for NBA teams to take a swing if the right scouts attend some Marquette games this year.
He won’t get drafted because…His 3-point shooting comes back to Earth a bit, and he doesn’t develop his game much outside of that. He also doesn’t bulk up much. I noted in his season review that he has decent touch around the basket but gets pushed around by other dudes. That’s an easy fix, provided he spends time in the weight room. But it doesn’t solve everything. There’s certainly a path to being a one-dimensional player, and not even a good one. That world I mentioned just a bit ago? There’s also a world in which he never becomes more for Marquette than what Sandy Cohen was.
Biggest thing to improve: Continuing to shoot well and continuing to play good defense aren’t necessarily ways of improving, but it doesn’t hurt. Same with bulking up, you’re not really improving a basketball skill. The biggest thing Cain can do to help himself, and this is somewhat out there, is becoming a shot creator. I want to use the Celtics as an example. Part of the reason they were so good even with injured superstars is because they had wings that could shoot, defend and create. Particularly Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. I’m not saying that Cain can and will be those guys, but if he can become more than just a spot-up guy, that’s massive for his NBA potential. And I don’t mean a dribbling wizard who has the moves to get around anyone, I just mean confident enough to take a guy off the dribble, get to the rack or pull up really quickly. Doing that forces defenders to sag off just a bit along the perimeter, enough for him to get a shot off, or attack a closeout. In two years, if he’s doing that, *chef finger kiss.*
NBA comparison: I know he hasn’t played an NBA game yet, but Mikal Bridges should be exactly what Jamal Cain should be gunning for in his development. Bridges was nothing more than a role player in his first year at Villanova (and Cain is already a way better shooter), but he steadily improved his shot and his defense and launched himself into the lottery. It helped that he had the exposure of playing in and winning two national championship games, but Cain can play a similar role for this Marquette team that, in Cain’s junior year, should be competing on a national stage. Bridges is being drafted because he can shoot consistently and play solid D, despite the fact that he’s “old.” Cain may not be able to vault himself into the lottery like Bridges did, but he can absolutely get himself on NBA radars. I don’t want this to sound like I’m sold on Cain being an NBA player. All I’m saying is that when you look at the type of guys being drafted, getting playing time and making big differences on the biggest stages, the 6’7” Cain is the Golden Eagle with the greatest potential at hearing Adam Silver call his name.
The freshman showed his freshman season why he’s, at the very least, interesting as a pro prospect, flashing some tools that will certainly make him a valuable contributor for Marquette as well as a potential NBA player. The best example of this is the Chicago State game, in which he had 7 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists in just 23 minutes. Elliott has the most potential to impact the game without scoring of any member of the squad, and this game is the best example. He’s naturally a lead guard, though the ball wasn’t often in his hands last year. It should be going forward, because those 9 assists are what he can do with it. It helps, of course, that Marquette has oodles of strong shooters to convert his passes. From a physical standpoint, like Cain, he has a lot of muscle to pack on, as he’s only 170 pounds and as wiry as they come. But his long arms and legs are enticing for pro teams, and he knows how to use them.
He’ll get drafted because…He bulks up and improves offensively. He’s a little bit short at 6’3 but his wingspan and legs make up for that, and he’s got a decent jump shot (he hit 37 percent this year). He’s a little bit frail and can’t make much happen inside, but that’s where the muscle comes in. He’s a good passer but somewhat lacks elite court vision, which obviously you’d want in a point guard, but he’s got time for that!
He won’t get drafted because…he becomes good at a lot of things, but not great at everything. If Elliott stood out at one particular thing, like passing or shooting or defending, his skills I other areas and physical presence could get him a look, but if he just becomes a solid contributor across the board, it’s probably not enough. He’s already fighting an uphill battle simply by not being as talented as other guys in his class, so if he doesn’t do anything eye-catching, he likely won’t get a second look.
Biggest thing to improve: His point guard skills. Yeah, he’s already a good passer and a solid ball-handler, but being a long, pass-first guard who can shoot a little bit is a fantastic role to play in the NBA, and Elliott throwing behind-the-back dimes his junior or senior year would be beautiful.
NBA comparison: Dejounte Murray with a shot. I love Murray and think he’s a lot more developed at his age than Elliott ever will be, so this is somewhat of a ceiling for GE. But they’ve got a similar frame and use it the same way defensively. That’s largely why Murray’s found a large role on Gregg Popovich’s team. He’s a great rebounding guard, which Elliott showed flashes of simply by being faster than guys and getting himself in position, as well as floating toward the basket as soon as a shot went up. Murray is still working on his shot, so Elliott may be ahead of him there, but should look at what Murray does well as a model of success.
That’s obviously not everyone on the team, but it’s at least the guys I think have any semblance of a chance at going pro at the end of their Marquette career. That’s not to say that no one else has a chance, it’s just a very small chance OR we haven’t even seen them hit the floor for Marquette yet. Here they are:
Matt Heldt: Despite being the 2nd most efficient offensive player in college basketball last year, according to KenPom, The Milkman is just not built for the NBA. He’s not a rim-running center or a skilled pick-and-roll player, he’s just a tough-as-nails, gritty rebounder. And it’s probably best that Heldt doesn’t play at the next level. If he were to leave the state of Wisconsin, it would be like when LeBron left Cleveland.
Theo John: John has a similar prognosis as Heldt. He’s just not built to be a modern NBA center. He’s certainly more athletic than Heldt, which gives him some upside, and plenty more time to work on his shooting, but his 50 percent free-throw shooting tells me it may not be in the cards for him. He’s also only 6’9, which is miniscule for an NBA big, unless you’re Draymond Green. Theo John is not Draymond Green.
Ike Eke: We haven’t seen Eke play yet due to his redshirt season, but he does have at least some potential. He’s tall and long, but built like a stick, so throw him in the weight room with Cain and Elliott. He flashed a little bit of shooting potential in high school, as well as the ability to be the roll man. Let’s give him a year and see what happens!
Ed Morrow: Morrow doesn’t do much outside the paint, and at 6’7, that pretty much doesn’t work in the NBA. He’s built like a tank and plays like one too, but unless he drastically changes his game, he doesn’t seem to fit.
Joey Hauser: Hauser #2 is veeeeeery interesting, but I didn’t want to make any definitive statements before we watch him on the court. Based on high school, Hauser’s quite good at almost everything offensively. He can shoot it, he can pass it, he can post guys up, he can pass, he’s got an impressive bag of tricks for his age. The kicker will be what position he primarily slots at. Is it a ball handling spot? His handle will be slightly subpar for a guard. Will he be a forward? He’s a tad undersized to an NBA big. He fits on the wing just fine, so if that’s where Wojo decides to play him and where he decides to run his offense through, we could be in business. I don’t expect him to be a One-and-Done guy, but only time will tell.
Koby McEwen: Unless you’re a huge Utah State fan, you probably don’t know much about McEwen. He’s got a pretty good amount going for him. He’s extremely aggressive, a great rebounder for a guard, he can get to the foul line and a high-energy defender. His shooting took a big dip his sophomore year, so who knows how consistent he’ll be in a couple years when he’s eligible. He’s got some valuable tools, but doesn’t have great size for the league. I’m excited for his Marquette career though!
Joseph Chartouny: If Chartouny hasn’t garnered NBA attention by now, I don’t think he will, but maybe Marquette can provide a different stage. He’s unimpressive physically and athletically, but he makes up for that in IQ and passing. His one-year pit stop at Marquette will have to be mighty impressive if an NBA team needs a reason to draft a 24-year-old.
I’d like to follow all this up by hedging and letting you all know that I’m not a professional NBA scout and likely never will be. But I’d like to see some more Golden Eagles permeate the league and talked myself into finding reasons to get these guys drafted. So, when Jamal Cain hears his name called at pick #17 next year, congratulate me. When no Marquette player ever makes the NBA again, forget you read this.
Who’s the next Golden Eagle to be drafted?
This poll is closed
Someone else on the current roster
A future recruit