Longtime scout gives Kel’el Ware “late lottery” NBA draft grade

  • 06/17/2024 9:02 am in

The 2024 NBA draft begins next Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

For the second straight year, Indiana is poised to have a player selected in the first round of the draft. But the Hoosiers could also have a lottery pick for the first time in five years. Romeo Langford (2019 to Boston) was Indiana’s last lottery pick.

Kel’el Ware, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season, is rising up draft boards because of recent workouts.

Inside the Hall recently spoke to longtime NBA draft scout and consultant Ryan Blake, the son of the late Marty Blake, about Ware’s draft stock. Blake has over 30 years of scouting experience and has been evaluating prospects since the age of 17. Blake has also been a regular guest on NBA TV.

Here’s what Blake had to say about Ware’s development at Indiana, his draft stock and much more:

On what Ware did last season at Indiana and how he was able to improve his draft positioning:

“Coming from Oregon, there wasn’t a lot of substance there. And that happens regardless of the stuff was on the court, off the court, he didn’t get the minutes, coaching and all of that stuff. Coming into Indiana, he got that opportunity. His physical skills, as we know, are at a very, very high level. But I think the big knock on him was ‘is he playing hard all the time?’

“When we evaluate a player, we have like a circle graph. And we’re shading in different things. And that could be intangibles, speed, physicality, skill set. You got a 7-footer that can play inside and out. Those are positives. Is he able to work hard? And a lot of times when you have a player that is succeeding and succeeding early and he’s your go-to-guy not only offensively but defensively as well, you also have a coach… any coach will have certain rules on offensive and defensive schemes. And one of those things may be, ‘OK, let’s eliminate foul trouble.’ Or pick and choose when you’re contesting whether it’s contesting 3s or off the block or high block.

“When you look at his overall skill set, here’s a guy that will continue to have a huge upside. And if you have individual workouts and he comes in and he’s able to show those… whether it’s 3-on-3 or playing as an individual, I think Ware is going to be one of those players that, I wouldn’t say a sleeper, but he could be the steal of the draft.”

On the range in the draft where it would make sense to select Ware:

“The way that I and my staff, and we have for many, many years, we’ll do our own sort of mock drafts. We’ll do a mock draft of what we think the teams are going to pick. Then we’ll do best player available and then we’ll evaluate after three years. So for us, we do it where we think the best player available is, not by what a team needs.

“And you know the cliche, beauty in the eye of the beholder. Every draft will be beauty in the eye of the beholder. And if we’re looking at someone compared to another player in the same draft, it could be Matas Buzelis or another big… to me, he ranks right up there with him. If you look at (Donovan) Clingan, who doesn’t have the athleticism that Kel’el has, it becomes beauty in the eye of the beholder. Why can’t he be up there compared to those types of players who are very, very good players. Buzelis didn’t have a great year with G-League Ignite, so you’d have a roundtable and we’re all going to have a different opinion.

“Going back to your question, I have him late lottery. And would I be surprised if he went higher? No. Would it be a surprise if he went lower? No. Because it’s kind of where the ball bounces, too. There’s a number of teams with multiple picks. That will come into play as well. We still don’t even know who the first two or three picks are going to be. That’s why it’s also going to be an interesting draft. Once that first pick is done, then I think it can change the landscape for the rest of the draft.”

On what stands out as the strengths of Ware’s game:

“I think he can be a verstile big. You split a paper down the line and you put strengths and concerns. He can be a scorer, a rim protector, a shot blocker. But he can also come into the league, not as the first or fourth option, but as a defensive player. Because none of these players are going to be a first or fourth option coming in.

“And he can come in and if he learns that and if he buys into that culture and that approach and that investment to his game, it’ll sky rocker. Yes, he can be a spread the floor big. He doesn’t have to be, he can be that defensive shot blocker, rim protector, back to the basket and high post passer and playmaker.”

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