NBA Roundup: Draft combine preview

Dylan Burkhardt
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Moritz Wagner, DJ Wilson and Derrick Walton will head to Chicago this week for the NBA Draft combine.

All three players received invitations (Walton’s came as a reserve) and are expected to full participate in drills, athletic testing, interviews, and 5-on-5 play. With the NBA Draft just over a month away, this week could be the most important in deciding all three players’ futures.

The NBA Draft Combine runs from May 9th through 14th and players have until May 24th to decide whether to return to school. John Beilein recently reported that he expects DJ Wilson and Moritz Wagner to take their time and wait up until the deadline to make a final decision.

ESPN2 will have NBA Draft Combine coverage on Thursday and Friday from 3:00 p.m. through 7:30 p.m.

Here’s the latest on all three players and what may lie ahead.

DJ Wilson

DJ Wilson appears to have the most impressive NBA Draft stock right now among Michigan players, but his performance at the NBA Draft Combine will be telling. If he excels on that big stage in Chicago, he could have a very strong case to stay in the draft.

Chad Ford notes that Wilson has improved his stock in early workouts.

“Wilson is also testing the draft waters and is slated to participate in every part of the draft combine, including 5-on-5 play,” Ford wrote of the Michigan combo forward ranked 27th on his big board. The early indications from workouts have been positive for Wilson. Don’t be surprised if he stays in the draft, especially if he has a strong combine.”

Sports Illustrated highlighted Wilson as one player who could improve his stock this week in Chicago.

“In the middle of the college season, some NBA scouts saw Wilson as a player to watch for next year. He accelerated that conversation after a good finish for the Wolverines and has offered tantalizing glimpses of the versatile contributor he could become in the NBA,” Jeremy Woo explained. “Wilson needs to gain weight, which won’t happen overnight, but if he shows he’s willing to play physically on the interior and shoots the ball well from three, he could make a strong case for himself. His strengths and athletic ability line up well with where the league is headed.”

Fox Sports’ Aaron Torres explains that most scouts think Wilson is a second-rounder, but his stock is all over the board due to his potential.

Wilson is the other Michigan big man who used a strong March run to help his draft stock, but he enters the draft under completely different circumstances than Wagner. Wilson is more than a full-year older than Wagner and put up less impressive stats than his teammate (11 ppg, 5.3 rpg). But he is also the better athlete and is much more of a “developmental” prospect; he played just 24 total minutes two years ago as a freshman in Ann Arbor.

Therefore, his draft stock is all over the board. Most have him pegged as – at best – a second-round selection this year, and based on his overall skill he doesn’t strike most as the type who will dominate in a setting like the Combine. But because he’s such a developmental project he also has much more upside than most prospects his age, which could convince one (or more) NBA team to take an early flier on him.

Draft Express projects Wilson to be picked early in the second round at No. 38. SB Nation has Wilson projected as the No. 21 pick in its latest mock draft headed to Oklahoma City.  Bleacher Report has Wilson at No. 34 on its draft big board.

Wilson is not listed in Fan Rag Sports’ latest mock and NBA Draft.net continues to project him in its 2018 Mock Draft.

Moritz Wagner

Moritz Wagner, like DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin, has completed a workout for the Utah Jazz (who seem to publish their workouts more than other teams), but this week at the combine should go a long way toward determining his standing. Right now, Wagner isn’t projected as a first round NBA Draft pick by most outlets.

Sports Illustrated notes that Wagner has more to gain from another year in college than his teammate.

“The Wolverines will hold their breath over both their star big men as Wagner weighs a leap to the pros. He’s among the more skilled post players expected to play five-on-five and could certainly stand out in this environment given his near 7-foot height, shooting ability and youth for his class,” writes Jeremy Woo. “Showing there’s more to his game than just scoring will be pivotal, given that he has offered little rebounding or rim protection during his time in Ann Arbor. He arguably stands more to gain from another year of college than Wilson, who’s a year older.”

ESPN’s Chad Ford has routinely been higher on Wagner’s stock than others and brings up the chance that Wagner could be a ‘draft-and-stash’ option for some teams.

“He had a few team workouts already and is slated to participate in all of the combine, including the 5-on-5. A strong showing there could move him up the board significantly,” Chad Ford wrote this week while slotting Wagner at No. 26 on his big board. “He’s also attractive to teams because of his draft-and-stash ability. With several teams owning multiple first-round picks combined with a relatively weak international class, his willingness to play internationally for a year or two could improve his draft stock.”

Fox Sports features Wagner as an important player to watch at the combine and notes that this could be his chance to jump into the draft mix, even if many think he’d go undrafted right now.

That – coupled with Michigan’s Big Ten tourney title – put Wagner in front of pro scouts for a month and probably helped convince a player already on the NBA’s radar to enter the draft to receive feedback.

Teams should find quite a bit to like. Remember, he is young for his class — Wagner just turned 20 in late April — and has the perfect skill-set for a modern NBA stretch-four. He averaged 12.1 points and hit 45 three-pointers last season. Wagner isn’t projected by most as a guy who will be drafted in 2017, but you’d have to think a super-strong performance in Chicago could change that.

Wagner is not listed in the latest mock drafts from Draft Express, SB Nation, Fan Rag Sports.

Derrick Walton

Derrick Walton earned his coveted invitation to the NBA Combine and will have his chance to prove his abilities in front of the league.

The 6-foot point guard isn’t projected in mock drafts right now, but earning one of those coveted 67 spots shows that he has at least an outside chance of being a 2nd round pick. Either way, he’ll have plenty of opportunities in the NBA Summer League in hopes of earning a roster spot.

  • bebopson

    Why do they say Wagner is young for his class? Most kids enter college as 18 y/o as he did. Are basketball players typically a year behind due to this reclassification stuff?

    • Wagner just turned 20. Josh Jackson is 20.2, Lauri Markkanen is 20, Justin Patton is 19.9 — they are freshman. Luke Kennard is almost 21 as a sophomore, same with Donovan Mitchell.

      At this point if you are about the average for your class you are probably ‘young’ by comparison just because so many people are old.

  • bobohle

    I sure hope that the ultimate gym rat Derrick Walton Jr. will make it to the NBA. You will never hear the Iverson quote of “Practice? We’re talking about practice” coming from him.