In about 24 hours, St. Bonaventure fans will know the answer to the question that has been on their minds for months now. What National Basketball Association team will Andrew Nicholson begin his professional career with? Nicholson is projected to be drafted in the first round anywhere between picks #15 and #25. If he is selected in the first round, he will be the first Bonnie drafted in the first round since Bob Lanier was the number one overall pick of the 1970 draft by the Detroit Pistons. Regardless, when Nicholson’s name is called, he will be the first player from St. Bonaventure to be drafted since Barry Mungar in 1986 by the Washington Bullets.
It is difficult to know exactly where Nicholson will end up, but we do have some clues of which teams are the most interested.
Nicholson was watched by NBA scouts at just about everyone of his games this past season. In fact, 27 of the 30 NBA teams, came to see him at least once. Only the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings did not attend a game. Oklahoma City led the way watching Nicholson eight times. San Antonio saw him seven times, while Memphis, Golden State, and Charlotte each attended four games.
Twelve teams brought Nicholson in for a workout. They are listed below by their draft position.
#4 and #24 Cleveland Cavaliers
#13 Phoenix Suns
#12, #16, and #18 Houston Rockets
#15 Philadelphia 76ers
#19 Orlando Magic
#20 Denver Nuggets
#21 and #22 Boston Celtics
#23 Atlanta Hawks
#26 Indiana Pacers
#27 Miami Heat
#28 Oklahoma City Thunder
#29 Chicago Bulls
According to analysts mock drafts, the most talked about destination is Boston at pick #21 or #22. Nicholson has shot up many draft boards and so many people have slotted him in at #22 to back up Kevin Garnett, but his stock continues to rise and it seems he may not even be there after pick #20 which is the Denver Nuggets.
Although it may seem to be a stretch, don’t rule out the Phoenix Suns at #13. Don’t be shocked if Nicholson goes this high. Phoenix can use a versatile big man and Suns free agent point guard Steve Nash, who is also the GM of the Canadian National Team, has spoke highly of Nicholson telling reporters this week, "He’s a terrific player, I really like his game. If I were a GM, I would look really hard at him, even in the low-teens, he’s that good." Phoenix hopes to re-sign Nash and his endorsement may sway the Suns front office.
The focus for Nicholson will start around pick #15. He worked out in Philadelphia over the weekend and he was the most spotlighted player of the eight who attended the workout. He got high praise from the Philadelphia Daily News as well. There has also been a lot of talk of teams moving into the high teens to trump Boston or Cleveland who are both interested in the early 20’s.
While you watch the ESPN telecast, the commentators will say this regardless of who drafts him: “Andrew Nicholson is the sleeper in this draft. He has great range as a shooter for a big man and had a very productive career at St. Bonaventure. He was impressive at the draft combine and shot up a lot of team’s boards. Once he adds some bulk to his frame, he will have a solid NBA career.”
Over/under on the times he is called a sleeper on the ESPN broadcast: 4.5
Ok, so where will Andrew Nicholson’s new home be when the draft is over? Here are my three projected scenario's:
(1) Nicholson is drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers at #15. Philadelphia is a good young team in need of depth in the front court. He was one of the last players they worked out and he left Philly on a high note in the minds of the Sixers front office. If Perry Jones III of Baylor and Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State are off the board at this point, Nicholson is the pick.
(2) The Houston Rockets trade the #18 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for PG Eric Maynor and the rights to OKC’s pick at #28. Then, OKC selects Nicholson at #18. OKC has coveted Nicholson for some time and have been rumored to want to move up from #28 to either take Nicholson or another big man in the mid-1st round. They came to watch him the most of any team in the league and with former Bonnie David Vanterpool a key member of the front office, this makes sense.
(3) If Philly takes Jones or Moultrie at #15 and Houston keeps the #18 pick, then Nicholson is selected by the Orlando Magic with the #19 pick. Orlando will definitely be the destination if you see a draft day trade between the Magic and the Rockets where Dwight Howard is swapped for a package of players, cash and Houston’s #12, #16, and #18 1st round draft picks. If Orlando gets multiple 1st round picks on Thursday night, start ordering your Magic Nicholson #44 jersey’s. New Orlando GM Rob Hennigan was the Thunder Assistant GM up until last week and is very high on Nicholson from his workouts in OKC. Hennigan has also fired the longtime Magic Assistant GM and all six of the team’s scouts, so Hennigan is most likely going off of his already compiled OKC draft board to use for his first draft with the Magic.
It is really anyone’s guess how any draft breaks down. Whatever happens, look for Nicholson to be gone by the time the Celtics and Cavs select. I can’t see him getting by Denver at #20 if he is still on the board at that point. Enjoy the draft!