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Syracuse NBA Draft Preview - Where Will Tyler Ennis Go?

The 2014 NBA Draft is almost upon us. Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, and C.J. Fair are hoping to hear their names called on Thursday night, with Ennis and Grant likely to be selected in the first round. I sat down with my CNY Central colleague and fellow basketball junkie Alex Dunbar to discuss the draft and where the three former Orange men are expected to land.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Up today: Tyler Ennis

Jeremy: Ennis's stock has fallen since he declared for the draft in late March. Early mock drafts projected him as a lottery pick, some even in the top ten. Now he's fallen out of the lottery almost across the board, and is barely holding onto the top 20 - even though he has been invited to sit in the green room on draft night. Why do you think that is?

Alex: Scouts are clearly becoming more enamored with some of the upside guys and the fall of Ennis has coincided with the rise of Dante Exum: International Man of Mystery and UCLA's Zach LaVine. With Ennis, scouts know what they are getting and that's not always a good thing for front offices that want to make a splash and get fans excited about something special. Exum and LaVine have a lot more "What If?" to them. (Note: I get the Exum fascination but the LaVine talk mystifies me. I feel like a bunch of scouts said LaVine was a lottery ticket and all the draft websites misheard it as "lottery pick.")

Do you think the combine stuff (height, speed, wingspan, etc.) may have hurt Ennis?

Jeremy: Unfortunately, I think you're right. When it comes to the NBA Draft, it seems that the unknown is sexier than the known. Front office types look at Ennis and think they have a good idea of what they're going to get. A heady, skilled, consistent, unflappable, pure point guard who will probably be a solid pro for 10-15 years. They look at someone like LaVine and think they have the next Russell Westbrook or John Wall. They could also have the next Joe Forte. (Look him up, kids). Many teams would rather shoot for the moon and gamble on LaVine instead of taking the 'safer' pick with Ennis. But that's how NBA GMs get fired.

I suppose the combine tests didn't help Ennis, but anyone who looked at him already knew he wasn't a physical freak. I didn't need a tape measure and stopwatch to tell me that. However, I'm happy to report that Ennis is a basketball player, not a track star, so how fast he can run and how high he can jump only mean so much. We'll talk about that more when we get to Jerami Grant.

If we're ranking the available point guards from one to whatever, where do you think Ennis should be?

Alex: I was afraid of this. Here are my rankings with a giant disclaimer upfront - I have seen more video on purported Loch Ness Monster sightings than I have on Dante Exum. He might be the greatest thing ever (basically the scenes of Kurt Russell playing basketball in Escape from L.A.) or he might be a disaster (The unedited footage of Kurt Russell playing basketball in Escape from L.A.) I have no idea where he ranks, it could be anywhere from #1 to "What if Bryant Reeves played at the point?"

#1 - Marcus Smart, OSU (I think he's an incredibly skilled shooting guard who happens to be a little short but he's marketing himself as a point guard. I guess I'll go along with it.)

#2 - Shabazz Napier, UConn (Be honest with yourself SU fans. If you were picking a team right now and needed to win - Napier is a good bet.)

#3 - Tyler Ennis (Noted Canadian and half court shot-maker extraordinaire)

#4 - Kyle Anderson, UCLA (I'm not sure what exact position Anderson will play but he's got a lot of point guard in him. He's a matchup nightmare and seemingly got better every week during the regular season.)

#5 - Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette (Disclaimer #2: 95% of my viewpoint on Payton is based on YouTube clips but I see why scouts are hoping they get credit for discovering the next Damian Lillard.)

Jordan Clarkson from Missouri is climbing a lot of draft boards but I'm skeptical that teams truly view him as a point guard. He was Mizzou's best guard so he played a lot of point guard but I don't know why an NBA team would intentionally force that position change on him.

Who do you have as the top options?

Jeremy: You have Shazam! Napier a little higher than I would, but otherwise I agree with you. I assume Exum and Smart will play point guard in the pros, so they are 1-2 on my list. There are actually several guards this year who aren't pure PGs or SGs, so that muddles things a bit. At any rate, Ennis should be the third PG taken, right? Who goes higher?

Alex: Depending on the situation, I could see Ennis as the fourth with Napier going above him. predicts Elfrid Payton going above both of them but that seems like a bit of a reach. For a team like Boston still wants a point guard at 17 or Charlotte wants one at 24, a scorer like Napier might be a slightly better fit. If I'm Orlando at 12, Chicago at 16 and 19 or OKC at 21, I think Ennis is a better fit. The middle of this draft is getting really cloudy so predictions are tough. Napier and Glenn Robinson III were seen as second round picks fairly recently, now both are showing up in the mid first round. What do you think about Elfrid Payton? Clearly some scouts have him over Ennis.

Alex: I have only seen highlight clips of Payton, but every year there seems to be one mid-major guy that comes out of nowhere. Payton might be that guy this year, like Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum before him. Payton is bigger and more explosive than Ennis, but again with Tyler I don't think physical attributes tell the whole story. Ennis is the epitome of an intangibles guy, someone who just shows up and plays well. Sometimes you can't really explain it.

Jeremy: Okay, so let's get down to it. For the most part Ennis seems to have settled into a late teens or early 20s slot on the draft board. Of the teams picking between say 10 and 25, which do you think has the biggest need for him, and which would be the best fit?

Alex: I think Chicago, Orlando and Boston (if they are moving on without Rondo) have the most significant need for a player like Ennis. Chicago needs Derrick Rose insurance, Orlando could use a developmental point guard, Boston needs a point guard that is not explicitly hated by the entire organization. The best fit for Ennis is probably Orlando but they may feel like taking him at 12 is too much of reach. You know that Toronto will be pressured to draft him at 20 if he's still available and he could step into Derek Fisher's old role at OKC instantly. What teams do you think have the best mix of need, draft spot and realistic chance they would take Ennis?

Jeremy: I think there are a lot of moving parts. Like you mentioned, our Celtics could be looking for a point guard if they plan to trade Rajon Rondo, but they have the 6th pick and could take Smart. But if they take a forward like Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon at 6, then Ennis could be in play at 17. Toronto would be a great fit at 20 if the Raptors don't resign Kyle Lowry. I could also see Ennis going to Memphis at 22 as a backup to Mike Conley, or Houston at 25 if the Rockets try to trade Jeremy Lin.

Now you're on the clock. Which team takes Ennis, and why?

Alex: I've talked myself into Chicago with the 19th pick. He won't be pressured to start right away but is mature enough to make a difference for a team that can compete right now.

I'll throw a bonus question at you - if Tyler Ennis knew in April what we know about his draft stock now, does he still declare? (I say yes but by a razor thin margin.)

Jeremy: You could be right about Chicago. I also like hometown Toronto taking him at 20 if they're going to let Lowry leave.

Yeah, Ennis probably does leave anyway, but the choice gets a lot tougher. I think the guaranteed money is too tough to pass up, even if the projections are true and he has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by slipping as far as he has.

Coming Tuesday: Jerami Grant