1. Past stories on Blue’s path to the NBA
— Vander Blue’s top 5 NBA team fits
— Where Blue ranks among PG prospects
— Vander Blue’s best NBA fit
— Pick-and-roll: Where Blue stacks up
— Where Blue ranks among SG prospects
— Recapping Vander Blue’s successful day in Chicago
— Vander Blue’s draft equivalent: Malcolm Lee
— NBA scout: Blue can be a poor man’s Tony Allen
— The aftermath of Blue: Where Marquette goes from here
— Blue forgoes senior season, enters NBA draft
2. New kid on the block
Vander Blue will sit in his Madison, Wis., home tonight with his mother, Rita, awaiting the fate of his immediate future in the NBA. It will be a familiar site to the one four years ago, when Blue sat in the same house and told his mother he was ready to commit to Buzz Williams and Marquette. Tonight will be different, and so, too, is the player.
Blue arrived in Milwaukee in 2009 a cocky, 18-year-old kid who had nothing but one-and-done on his mind. A few Boot Camp sessions and maybe a dozen scrimmages with a team consisting of Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler later and the message that summer became clear: the kid had work to do. So he dropped the attitude, buckled down defensively and, last summer, improved his jump shot dramatically. Such a transformation didn’t happen on talent alone; Blue worked every day to become the player he was the last time he put on a Marquette uniform, and that’s commendable. It’s also reflective of how he has taken on his post-Marquette career to date.
He won’t get to choose his path this time like he did at 17, but whether you thought his decision to enter the draft was right or wrong, it’s impossible to argue he hasn’t worked hard to this point. He may not have the talent to warrant a draft pick, but after “winning” at the combine and working out for 12 teams — five of which made the playoffs this past season — the combo guard has done as much as he can to convince front offices he’s ready for his opportunity. Right or wrong to leave the Golden Eagles a year early, Blue is still going about his business the Marquette Way.
3. Scoreboard watching during the draft
Even eternal optimists can admit the likelihood of Vander Blue being selected in the first 30 picks tonight is minuscule. It’s no knock on Blue, but calculating the draft buzz, the other players he worked out with for individual teams and even his own comments says that if you have dinner plans at 6 p.m., you won’t miss much Blue talk on ESPN if you return home for only the second round.
And while Blue isn’t technically competing against anyone tonight, there are a handful of players vying for the same final spots in the draft. Not every team is looking for a combo guard in the second round, but those that are will pick between 4-5 names.
Last month we looked at the shooting-guard prospects Blue must “beat out,” so tonight be on the lookout for Arkansas’ B.J. Young, Illinois’ Brandon Paul and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. At point guard, Blue is in that late-second-round mix with Detroit’s Ray McCallum, Missouri’s Phil Pressey and Louisville’s Peyton Siva. That’s six names, and including Blue a soft guess is four of those players earn a draft selection.
And though there’s nothing LESS set in stone than the second round of any NBA draft — trades happen left-and-right, and some aren’t announced until after players are taken — here are some draft slots and teams to watch for in Round 2: Detroit (37); Philadelphia (41); Portland (45); Orlando (51); Memphis (55); Phoenix (57); Memphis (60)
4. Debunking the Wes Matthews NBA Draft myth
It very well may turn out tomorrow that Blue goes undrafted. Most mocks that go two round don’t have him listed, and his name hasn’t generated much buzz, even on the lists of round-two fliers. If that happens, in no way, shape or form is that better than him being drafted late in the second round.
The myth of going undrafted being better than receiving non-guaranteed money is silly. Wesley Matthews’ incredible path to the NBA and a $33 million deal has spoiled all in the Marquette circle into believing he was better off choosing the Utah Jazz as his summer-league team rather than being confined to a team that would have drafted him.
There’s some research project to be done at a later date, perhaps for the 2014 NBA draft when Jamil Wilson begins his workouts, but one has to believe the number of late-second round picks in the NBA is much higher than those players who go undrafted and later stick.
When a front office selects a player in the second round, they aren’t doing it for kicks. They wanted that player for a specific reason, to fill a specific need and because they believe he has a chance to earn a roster spot. Let’s set the record straight: if Vander Blue is taken with the 60th pick, 10 out of 10 times that’s a better scenario than getting to pick his summer-league team after going undrafted.
5. How much has Blue’s shift to point guard done?
Before Vander Blue spoke with any general manager or worked out for any NBA team, he made the decision to make the transition to point guard. He would never admit it, but the case was likely that Blue wanted to cover up his outside shooting deficiencies and slight size disadvantage. But was this a smart move, or one that will pay off?
Working in Blue’s favor is three seasons of highlight reels and game film of him off-the-ball, making plays and hitting outside shots as a shooting guard. Blue even admitted some teams worked him out as a shooting guard, and the reality is he’ll need to pick one going forward. There just isn’t enough time for him to work on both improving his jumper AND becoming a better ball-handler and distributor. Wherever he lands, his leash will be short to prove he can stick at the NBA level.
When he worked out in Milwaukee, director of scouting Billy McKinney flirted with the notion of Blue playing the two-guard at the next level.
“He doesn’t have to (play point guard),” McKinney told the Journal-Sentinel. “He’s got the size to play the shooting guard. He’s going to have to shoot the ball more consistently and with range.
We’ve debunked Blue’s claim that he spent time at Marquette playing the point — he really only did that as a sophomore, in extremely limited minutes. Still young for his age, the 21-year-old Blue improved from 26 percent as a sophomore to 30 percent from beyond the arc last season. Who’s to say he can’t improve further the next few seasons as an NBA shooting guard? Perhaps an NBA team will say he can.
Malcolm Lee was as close to a comparison to Blue as we could find, and he made himself a living as a shooting guard without much of an outside jump shot.
6. Oladipo, McLemore may determine Blue’s fate
Without having any inside information, two of Blue’s potential destinations may be the Orlando Magic at no. 51 or the Phoenix Suns at no. 57. It makes sense, considering the two teams are desperate for backcourt help and are in the rebuilding stages as franchises. But there’s (likely) a whole first round to be completed before teams begin considering Blue, and the Magic (no. 2) and the Suns (no. 5) will have the options of filling their respective guard needs early in the lottery.
Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo could easily go to the Magic and Suns, in either order, which may not make a world of difference to what both teams do later in the draft but may matter to Blue. If the Magic opt for one of two centers remaining in Nerlens Noel or Alex Len, and/or if the Suns believe UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett has a high enough ceiling, both teams could be searching for guard help in the second round.
Even if one of those teams go away from a shooting guard in the top-5 it helps Blue. This may be nitpicking, but anything to help Blue’s cause could go a long way.