Washington State Men’s Basketball had what can only be described as a successful NBA Draft night last Thursday. While they were unable to produce a first-round pick, Mouhamed Gueye was drafted the highest of any WSU player since Klay Thompson 12 years ago. Two other former Cougs were draft eligible, but their fates were decidedly different. There is a lot to discuss with the drafted, and undrafted Cougs, as well as with some other former Cougs currently playing professionally. So let’s get into it!
Gueye went to the Atlanta Hawks at pick 39, and the Hawks seem like they are leaning toward giving him a real NBA contract rather than a two-way. The difference between getting a legitimate second-round contract (generally a four-year contract for around $6 Million, where the fourth season is a team option) versus a two-way is huge for a second-round pick. If Gueye does secure that four-year deal, he will be a much bigger part of the Hawks future, with a likelihood of playing legitimate NBA minutes over the course of that contract.
The Hawks’ roster could see a lot of tumultuous changes over the next couple of days, but as of now, it is built for Gueye to have a lot of success. Gueye will probably spend the beginning of his rookie season playing with the G-League team (College Park Skyhawks) but when he gets time with the main roster, he’ll have an opportunity to prove himself in a limited role. His untapped upside is certainly as a roll-man, as WSU lacked the guard-play to utilize him in that way, but the Hawks have arguably the best pick-and-roll PG in the NBA, and opportunities for Gueye to be used there.
Many expect the Hawks to move on from big-man Clint Capela in a trade in order to give more minutes to former lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu, and that could free up even more minutes for him as a center. If that happens, Gueye could fight for a real rotation role early.
Gueye’s NBA translation is a difficult one. While he is almost certainly a big-man offensively, with his best skills being his quick-leaping and ability to beat slow-footed big-men off the bounce, but he is more of a power forward defensively because he struggles to protect the rim consistently. This dichotomy makes him a bit of a tough fit in the NBA, but he could be some utility there as a versatile roll-man and a pure switch-5 on backup units. He would have to develop a lot to get to starter level, but there is some upside if the defensive instincts can improve.
I made a prediction, before the draft, that Powell likely had a two-way promise out there. Turns out I was wrong, but he still managed to land in a great spot to develop and compete for a two-way with the Miami Heat. Powell signed a exhibit 10 contract with the Heat, which means that he will play in Summer League, be a part of their preseason camp, and potentially get one of their three two-way contracts. Even if he doesn’t get a two-way, he is likely to get a G-League contract with the Sioux Falls Heat and continue competing in a great domestic league.
The Heat seemed to have made a few bets on players similar to Powell in order to find potential replacements for Duncan Robinson and Max Strus as movement shooters on the wing. Jamal Cain from Oakland University, Taylor Funk from Utah State, and Caleb Daniels from Villanova are all potential guys to fill that void. Powell, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch, but his trigger will have to get a little quicker if he wants to make a real impact in the NBA.
The Heat Summer League team will be a fun watch for any Pac-12 fan, as Jaime Jaquez Jr and Drew Peterson will also play with Powell on that team. Powell is also not the only Kyle Smith recruit to find his way to Miami, as Jamaree Bouyea from San Francisco is also going to be competing for a two-way with the Heat.
Sadly, Abogidi did not have the same positive outcome as Gueye or Powell. He had a great start to his season with the G-League Ignite, but he suffered a knee injury halfway through the season and has never really recovered. There are a ton of medical red flags with his knees, and that led to him not getting drafted- and the unlikelihood that he is available to play for Summer League and camp makes teams wary of giving him a two-way or Exhibit 10. My hope for Abogidi is that he stays with the Ignite for another year despite no longer being draft eligible. He can get medical care there, be a mentor for a huge crop of incoming young talent, and hopefully stay on NBA and professional radars.
WSU has not had the greatest track record of producing NBA talent over the last decade or so, but things seem to be turning up under Kyle Smith. Even beyond these three, WSU has been consistently recruiting and producing professional talent. Whether that be guys who leave like TJ Bamba or Adrame Diongue, or guys who stay like Andrej Jakimovski and Gueye. It’s unlikely that WSU will ever be an NBA powerhouse, but the roster is more full of pros than it has been in awhile, and that is refreshing.
Go Cougs, and Go Pro Cougs!