Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Basketball

Padding the Stats: Isaiah Roby, Nebraska and the NBA Draft

June 21, 2019
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Isaiah Roby snapped a two-decade-long NBA Draft drought for Nebraska on Thursday night when he went off the board with the 45th pick.

Roby worked out for a third of the league leading up to the draft, but the Mavericks weren’t one of those teams. He also did not interview with Dallas during the NBA Combine. Still, when the clock started for the Mavericks in the second round, they decided they liked what they saw from Roby to pick him.

Though second-round picks aren’t locked into automatic guaranteed picks, Derek Peterson did a good job of pointing out that, as the years go by, more and more second-round picks are getting real contracts as well.

Something that might also play in Roby’s favor when his agent enters negotiations with the Mavericks is that Roby was Dallas’ only draft pick this year, so the only rookie competition he’ll have is from undrafted free agents. Past deals left the Mavericks without a first-round pick, and Dallas moved down from 37 to 45 in exchange for a couple of future second-round picks.

The Mavericks have just six guaranteed contracts for next season, though Kristaps Porzingis will be the seventh whether he signs the qualifying offer or works out a long-term deal with the Mavericks. 

Dwight Powell, who exercised his player option for next season, and Porzingis are the only frontcourt players currently in the picture, though Luka Doncic can defend fours as well. The Mavericks have a couple of versatile forwards in Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber who are entering restricted free agency. They’re expected to be in the mix for free agent big man Al Horford, and they have plenty of cap space to spend on other targets as well.

All of that is to say that Dallas’ roster will look very different when the dust from free agency settles than it does right now, so it’s tough to tell at this point what kind of chance Roby will have to stick with the big club and crack the rotation next season.

However, Dallas has done well with players like Roby in the past. In fact, if you search the name “Dwight Powell” on Twitter there are a ton of Dallas fans calling Roby Powell 2.0. They’re both athletics forwards who can finish above the rim and occasionally knock down a jump shot. Finney-Smith is a a tweener-forward out of Florida with a somewhat similar physical profile to Roby who made the team as an undrafted free agent and has carved out a career for himself. Kleber is bigger than Roby (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) though he plays the role that Roby will could at the next level as a forward capable of switching onto guards and holding his own defensively while knocking down the occasional 3-pointer on offense.

Roby’s first chance to impress the Mavericks will come in two weeks when the NBA Las Vegas Summer League begins. He’s got an up-hill battle to carve out a career, but getting one’s foot in the door is the hardest part and he’s done that by getting drafted. Now it’s on him to show the Mavericks his value.

Depending on who the Mavericks sign, it’s certainly possible that Roby sees more court time with the Dallas Legends of the NBA G League than he does with the Mavericks, but honestly that might be more beneficial to his development anyway. The jump shot could be the make or break part of his game. He’s already refined the form, now he just needs lots and lots of reps, both in practice and in game settings. He’d get that opportunity in the G League.

In any regard, it will be interesting to see how Roby’s career plays out. I’ll certainly be rooting for him and I know Husker fans everywhere will be cheering him on as well.

Now, the next question is: how long will Husker fans be waiting until they see another Husker taken in the draft?

The best shot likely lies with the junior college guards, Jervay Green and Cam Mack. 

Matt Abdelmassih has referred to Mack as the best guard he’s ever recruited, and Abdelmassih landed some talented backcourt players while he was with Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State such as Monte Morris as a high school recruit and DeAndre Kane as a graduate transfer. Mack was rated as the top junior college point guard in the country and third overall by JUCORecruiting.com. He’s incredibly quick and shifty with the ball in his hands, he’s fairly explosive and he’s a terrific playmaker for others.

As for Green, he was highly sought-after coming out of Western Nebraska Community College and Hoiberg held off interest from some quality programs to retain Green’s commitment to the Huskers. He put up big numbers for the Cougars as he’s versatile enough to impact the game in a variety of ways, he’s a plus athlete and can really shoot the ball from deep.

However, both guards are somewhat undersized for the NBA and neither one has played a second of Division I basketball, so it’s difficult to project just how good they might be.

If neither one manages to earn his way onto the draft board in the next few years (Green has two years of eligibility at Nebraska while Mack has three), it’s hard to guess who might be next. Perhaps that guy isn’t even on the roster yet.

Based on Hoiberg’s track record at Iowa State, however, you can bet it won’t be two decades before we see another Husker’s name called at the NBA Draft.

 
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