The NBA draft stocks of Australia Post Boomers squad member and Cairns Taipans star Nathan Jawai have soared since the 208cm big man arrived in the US, with ESPN expert Chad Ford now ranking him as a mid to late first round pick.
Ford watched Jawai put through his paces in Las Vegas by noted pro trainer Joe Abunassar, and came away clearly impressed by what he saw. Jawai’s efforts saw Ford adjust the Australia’s likely draft position from a late second round possibility to the number 26 pick of the first round.
Were Jawai to be drafted at that slot, he would be selected by the San Antonio Spurs, becoming Australia’s next instant NBA millionaire and receiving a guaranteed NBA contract.
Ford was clearly impressed by Jawai, as he made clear on the ESPN website.
“He arrived from Australia on Sunday night and was going through his first workout in Vegas alongside Alabama's Richard Hendrix and fellow Aussie Aleks Maric,” Ford wrote.
“What I saw was encouraging.”
“Jawai has the size of a NBA player. He's a 6-foot-10 big man with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and weighs roughly 270 pounds. He is very strong and a good athlete for someone that size. Despite his size, he's pretty light on his feet and shows the footwork of a former soccer player.”
“What surprised me were Jawai's skills facing the basket. He has a very soft touch and great range out to about 18 feet. He showed an excellent understanding of the game and went through the workout like a seasoned pro.”
Ford noted that Jawai had already shed some kilos in his off-season workouts.
“Jawai has been criticized for his poor conditioning in Australia. He's already lost some weight training in Australia and expects to lose another 15 pounds over the next few weeks training with Abunasser. He also needs to hit the weight room. While he possesses natural strength, his body doesn't look like he's really ever lifted seriously.”
Ford said Jawai reminded him of LA Clippers superstar Elton Brand.
“Look for him to be very popular in draft workouts. His game resembles Elton Brand's. Usually you can't say that about players in the second half of the first round. Only six NBA teams made the trip to Australia this year, so most scouts are working off video tape.
Unfortunately he's skipping the Orlando pre-draft camp, where we could see him in 5-on-5 play. But it shouldn't damage his stock. As he gets in shape and gets into team workouts, his draft stock should take a leap.
“I think at the end of the day, someone takes him in first round.”