Last year’s NBA draft was lit up by the spotlight of Lonzo Ball and his family, whose fleeting relevance in the league’s pop culture world flooded Barclay Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
This year is the Phoenix Suns’ night to shine. All minds writing up mock drafts seem to have the franchise using its overall No. 1 pick on Deandre Ayton of Arizona, a 7-foot skyscraper who averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2017-18. The center is considered a foundational piece.
For fans of Maryland basketball and Maryland basketball alone, it might be wise to wait until the 20th pick to start paying attention.
Shooting guard Kevin Huerter is projected to be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick at that spot, foiling the hopes of the Utah Jazz (No. 21), who courted the 6-foot-8 wing during workouts.
He could also follow the same path as Ball. Social media chatter last week indicated that Huerter, who averaged 14.8 points as a sophomore, decided to forgo his junior season because the Los Angeles Lakers promised to make him their top choice at No. 25.
Recent news that Huerter had undergone surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right (shooting) hand, which will sideline him for two months, is is unlikely to affect his position Thursday night.
Another Terps hopeful, Justin Jackson, will have to hope his physicality will win a team over. At 6 feet 7, he has a 7-3 wingspan and an 8-11 standing reach. After a remarkable freshman season, the Canadian small forward stumbled in 2017-18, averaging only 9.8 points a game before revelations that he had been playing through a shoulder injury came to light and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
When the sophomore declared for the draft, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman dubbed it “the biggest mistake” out of the entire pool. Regardless, Jackson — who could return to his first-season prowess when he’s healthy again — might slide into the second round and be on his way to an NBA career.
Freshman center Bruno Fernando kept his word that he would return to Maryland if not guaranteed a first-round spot. His discussions with teams seemed to indicate that he would have been a late second-round selection.
You’ll notice that Philadelphia will be on the clock more than any other team. It’s not deja vu — the Sixers total a draft-high six picks, two more than the Suns and Atlanta Hawks. So there’s a decent chance that a Terp will be riding with Joel Embiid next year and little chance that one will join the Miami Heat or Toronto Raptors, who traded away their picks.
How to watch the draft
Day, time: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Site: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
TV/Radio: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Radio
Broadcasters: ESPN — Rece Davis (host), Chauncey Billups (NBA analyst), Jay Bilas (college basketball analyst), Adrian Wojnarowski (NBA Insider), Bobby Marks (front office insider), Mike Schmitz (scouting analyst) and Maria Taylor (reporter); ESPN2 — Rachel Nichols (host), Brian Windhorst, Amin Elhassan, Zach Lowe, Dave McMenamin, Tim Legler, Fran Fraschilla and Chris Haynes (commentators).
Stream: WatchESPN.com, WatchESPN app or CBSSportsHQ.com