In a span of one year, Rakeem Christmas went from a role player at Syracuse to a potential first round NBA draft pick. His breakout senior season with the Orange and a stellar performance at the NBA Draft Combine has left little doubt that he'll be selected in tonight's draft.
At 23 years old, his age is a concern. What you see now with Christmas is pretty close to what you're going to get for the foreseeable future. And at 6-foot-9, he's slightly undersized for a center, something he'll have to hope his wingspan (7-foot-5) and standing reach (9-foot-3) make up for.
Those concerns aside, teams have surely fallen in love with the big man's proven post-up game and defensive ability. Christmas was nearly unstoppable around the rim last season and was constantly disruptive in the same area on the other end. He lacks experience in man-to-man defense, but his great instincts could make the transition a smooth one.
For a full scouting report on the SU grad, click here.
Before tonight's draft in Brooklyn, here are four potential landing spots for Christmas:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: With the 31st and 36th overall picks, Minnesota could have two chances to take Christmas at spots that would make sense. The Timberwolves will surely take power forward Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall selection and could be looking for a frontcourt body to come off the bench and spell both him and center Nikola Pekovic.
2. Detroit Pistons: ESPN's Chad Ford has Detroit grabbing Christmas with the 38th overall pick in his most recent mock draft. He might not fall that far, but if he does, he'd make sense for the Pistons. Stan Van Gundy's team needs depth in its frontcourt, especially if Greg Monroe bolts in free agency.
3. San Antonio Spurs: Of the teams on this list, the Spurs are the only one in serious win-now mode, mostly because they're perennially in win-now mode. Tim Duncan's career is winding down, and he could retire this offseason. So even if San Antonio were to sign LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, it needs frontcourt help more than it needs guards. And Gregg Popovich would seemingly love a player as coachable as Christmas proved to be under Boeheim at Syracuse.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: If Los Angeles opts to take D'Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick, the team will presumably be looking for a big man with the 27th pick. Enter Christmas, who would be a safe pick at that spot and could complement Julius Randle nicely down low.