Where to expect Bama players to fall in tonight’s NBA Draft
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Sam Thornton
TUSCALOOSA-Alabama men’s basketball could be in for a monumental evening of celebration as the NBA Draft gets started at 7 p.m. When Nate Oats took over as head coach in Tuscaloosa, Alabama redefined its stature as one of the nation’s most renowned programs for professional development.
Since 2018, the Crimson Tide has had three players selected with first-round lottery picks. Over the last two seasons, Alabama has had more lottery selections than traditional blue-blood programs like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas. Those numbers are likely rising tonight, as three Tide players wait to hear their names called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Another historic night for Oats would only raise his stock not only in the SEC, but the entire nation.
Brandon Miller will carry the torch coming off an unprecedented season in Tuscaloosa. The reining SEC Player of the Year is projected to be taken second or third overall, according to most major sports analysts. Those picks belong to the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trailblazers.
NBA experts and insiders have debated between Miller or NBA G-League star Scoot Henderson owning the second overall pick to Charlotte, as have odds makers in Las Vegas.
Miller would fit better as a molded wing threat in Charlotte over Henderson as a back court pairing with All-Star Guard Lamelo Ball. Experts have noted Henderson’s ceiling might be higher than Miller’s if his shooting efficiency can increase.
However, Miller owns the current ability to shine as a prospect comparing his game to dominant wing talents in the NBA.
In fact, one player Miller models his game after is Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George who he recently deemed his “NBA goat” over current Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
“Working out in front of Michael Jordan, I think a lot of people would think that I’d be pressured because he’s Michael Jordan. But Michael Jordan was never the guy I grew up watching, I kind of grew up watching Paul George so he was sort of a regular guy to me in the gym,” Miller said.
Despite friendly trash talk, there’s a glaring hole in the Hornets system that Miller would fit right into as an impact player even under looming new ownership. Last week, Jordan announced that he would be selling the team to new ownership, but has been overseeing their second overall selection closely.
Either taken second or third, Miller would be the highest selected Alabama player taken in the NBA Draft since 1995.
Freshman forward Noah Clowney is the other Alabama standout hoping to sneak into lottery pick stature. Arguably a more fascinating player than Miller, Clowney skyrocketed past his expected production this year under Oats. He became an assertive player on Alabama’s roster early into the season despite being an overlooked high school prospect.
His impact on multiple areas of the hardwood made him a vital player this season, and he will use those tools to enhance his game at the next level. Clowney elevated himself as a two way player with his production on the offensive side while continuing his strength on the boards and as a valuable defender.
Clowney’s selection will be less predictable than Millers, which will be entertaining to follow throughout the evening. Notable projections have him falling anywhere between 14th and 26th picks belonging to the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers.
Clowney worked out with both respective sides in pre-draft routines, but the Pacers might be the team to watch in selecting the SEC All-Freshman 18-year old. During his training session with the organization, he mentioned to team scouts that he studies players like Pacers center Myles Turner for defensive guidance.
The Pacers also have multiple selections in the first round, holding the No. 7, 26 and 29 picks.
However, Clowney also conducted a workout with the Pelicans where two former Alabama players are enlisted on their roster in Kira Lewis Jr. and Herb Jones. An invitation to the NBA Draft “green room” could lift his status as a lottery selection, although it would be a stretch according to most mock drafts.
Whether a mid or late round first round selection, Clowney has noticeable confidence stepping forward. “I’ve got a high ceiling,” Clowney told Pacers personnel. “Whatever you need. I guard, I shoot. Whatever you need me to do is what I do.”
The final Tide player that could hear his name called tonight is former Sophomore center Charles Bediako. Alabama fans and local Tuscaloosa outlets were caught aghast when Bediako announced his decision to remain in the NBA Draft after maintaining his collegiate eligibility.
Despite hearing conflicting feedback from draft scouts at the G-League Elite Camp, Bediako will aim to begin his professional journey this season.
What’s mostly concerning about Bediako’s game at the NBA level is his one dimensional play as a rim protecter and glass cleaner. Most centers have transcended into stretch bigs who can contribute offensively in various ways, and Bediako doesn’t fit that model.
His professional promise strives through his play in the post season with Alabama, where he averaged six points and six rebounds with nearly two blocks a game. A ceiling could be seen for him as a true rim protector that comes off the bench during valuable concluding moments of contests.
Unless his game revolutionizes to other pockets of a modern NBA center, his value could be limited.
Perhaps developing as an undrafted rookie in the NBA’s G-League could further that hope for Bediako. A team could always see promised upside at the tail end of the second round.
There’s been a slew of players who enter the NBA on two-way deals and find growth with exposure at the next level. Despite being absent from mock drafts, Bediako can find his way in an proving manner.
All three talented players will be remembered this evening in their own direction. One thing is certain, Alabama has arrived as one of the top tier programs for player development and is ushering in their own “Bama in the NFL” fraternity to the NBA.