The NBA Draft was conducted on Thursday night, and Big Eat fans saw four players from the conference selected; two coming in the first round, and two in the second.
The first player off the board was arguably its best from the 2015-16 season, as Providence point guard Kris Dunn was selected fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Big East Freshman of the Year Henry Ellenson was next as he went 18th to the Detroit Pistons.
After a brief sequester, the Big East was back in the room. Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead got tab by his hometown team, the Brooklyn Nets, with the No. 42 overall pick. The Boston Celtics had the opportunity to take a Providence player with the No. 3 overall pick, but instead went west to take California’s Jaylen Brown. They did finish the night with a Friar in tow, as Ben Bentil, the Big East’s Most Improved Player from a season ago, was picked No. 51 overall.
All of these players are expected to be given a good shot at making the roster of the team they were drafted by at minimum. Let’s take a look at how each player fits with their given team.
Kris Dunn - Minnesota Timberwolves
Dunn was projected as the best point guard in the draft and he is a perfect fit for the Timberwolves. The T’Wolves are going to be a problem in the NBA (in a good way) as new head coach Tom Thibodeau looks to revamp them into playoff contenders. With players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins around, they have a great young core with role players like Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng around to help carry the load.
Thibodeau will preach defensive stability for this young group and it all starts with the guards. That is where Kris Dunn comes in. Dunn’s size at the point guard position allows him to tower over smaller guards and his wingspan can help him make up space on closeouts. His foot speed is good enough to stay with defenders but he’s not perfect as a defender. Even with that, expect Dunn to become a better defender as you expect Thibodeau to mold a lot of his younger players into better defensive players individually and with his defensive system he will implement.
Offense is Dunn’s strong suit and he can do it all on that end of the floor. Unlike current T’Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, Dunn can score at will and could create a potential deadly pick and roll combo with Towns. Both can shoot from the outside and finish at the rim, especially Dunn who shot 58.1 percent on shots around the basket. He also won’t have to be the number one guy on offense with Minnesota, something that will be very different than his time at Providence. Hopefully for Minnesota, that could help Dunn cut down on his turnovers which were a problem for him in college.
Kris Dunn was the best player in the Big East last year and he carried the offensive load for Providence. He won’t need to be that guy in Minnesota, and under Tom Thibodeau, he may be able to use strengths on both sides of the ball to his maximum potential.
Henry Ellenson - Detroit Pistons
Like with Dunn, Ellenson is joining a very young team in the Detroit Pistons. They also have a good young core of scorers with Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Tobias Harris, and Andre Drummond all playing a part of a unit that made the playoffs last season.
The Pistons have a coach in Stan Van Gundy who is able to motivate players and put them in a position to succeed. However, they have one big hole in their team and that is their ability to spread teams out with their shooting. Granted, Detroit’s system isn’t about outshooting teams and is more about pounding them inside the paint. Still, it would help for the team to be more flexible when playing against different opponents, which is more the reason as to why Ellenson could be a good fit for the Motor City.
Ellenson’s ideal position would be at the 4 and being a stretch 4 at that. He is a project and the good thing is that the Pistons are a project as well. Remember that Ellenson only had one year of college ball at Marquette, so all of his tools and mechanics aren’t the sharpest. He can score relatively easily though and it might help him get on the court. Ellenson can put the ball in the basket with his scoring around the rim and he can also hit his free throws, something that seems to be a rarity among big men in the NBA especially with Detroit. His rebounding could also help as well. He averaged 17 and 10 in college and could be a key contributor for Detroit in the future, but likely not right now.
He is still a work-in-progress due to him being not that good of a defender. Ellenson also needs to bulk up as a defender. Sometimes he may be facing bigger guys that could just post him up and beat him up in the post. Also, to be a good stretch 4 in the league, Ellenson needs to improve his shot from beyond the three-point line. He shot 29 percent from deep and needs to see some uptick in that department if he wants to be a threat when Detroit puts him in that spot.
Ellenson isn’t expected to play much this year as it will take some time for him to adjust to the NBA game and he needs to improve in a lot of areas. He has talent and can be a key player for Detroit moving forward, though, so we’ll see how things play out for him going forward.
Ben Bentil - Boston Celtics
Bentil was drafted in the second round by the Boston Celtics and per reports, he is projected to compete for a roster spot on this Boston team that is on the edge of being a contender in the East. The Celtics have great guards on their roster led by Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. But one area Boston struggles with is when it comes to big men and post scoring. Outside of Jared Sullinger, the Celtics don’t really have a big man that can score. Bentil may not be the biggest power-forward/center but he could easily jump into the Celtics camp and be their best scoring big man. He put up numbers at Providence and can score in the NBA.
Boston will keep Providence's Bentil and have him compete for a roster spot next season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 24, 2016
There is just one big problem with Bentil selected by the Celtics. It’s that the Celtics nabbed two big international players in Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic. Both are first round picks and probably stand a good chance of making the roster.
Bentil will have to prove that he can outplay both of those big men. If Bentil can play like he did at Providence, he surely can outplay both of them. Even if he is not the starter, he can provide scoring off the bench and his shooting will help stretch out defenses and add another dimension to the Boston offense. The only problem is to make sure that he doesn’t take bad shots and runs the offense that head coach Brad Stevens wants to run. If not, Bentil could find himself yanked from some games if he does start to take bad shots.
Ben will compete for a roster spot and he surely can make the Boston roster, but will he see minutes on the court come regular season time? We will have to find out and see.
Isaiah Whitehead - Brooklyn Nets
After leaving Seton Hall, Whitehead won’t be moving far as he was selected by the Brooklyn Nets in the second round. The Nets are in a major rebuild and are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA next season. Outside of Brook Lopez, no other established players are on the roster and will contribute. The team will be extremely young next season and open some opportunities for some players to make the team. Whitehead is one of those players and could find himself as the backup point guard or maybe even at shooting guard.
The Nets starting point guard Jarrett Jack is coming off an ACL injury and has a team option for this summer. Brooklyn will likely let him go this offseason as it means they will only have to pay him $500K for doing that. With the point guard spot opening up, Whitehead will be competing for the spot alongside first round pick Caris LeVert. The Michigan player is coming off a serious injury and problems could arise in the months before the season. Along with UDFA free agent Yogi Ferrell, Brooklyn has options at the point guard spot. That opens up the idea of Whitehead being a shooting guard.
At his size, Whitehead can guard both guard positions and if Brooklyn feels like it could help them, they could move him to the 2 spot. Considering Whitehead’s ability to handle the ball, having two good ball handlers at the same time could open up options for the Nets. A duo of Ferrell and Whitehead would mean having two great scorers at the guard spots.
Although he is a second round pick, Whitehead could easily find himself on the roster and play some good minutes for the Nets.