UH’s Jankovic hoping to hear name at Thursday’s NBA Draft

My annual Vegas trip was a little shorter than usual. It was also much less profitable. Plus I scheduled my return flight for this past Sunday. That, in itself, showed a severe lack of foresight because it meant I was in the air during Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

I arranged to have the game DVR’d and kept all devices on airplane mode until I got home, so as not to receive any inkling of what had taken place. When I reached my house, I ran inside and pressed play, excited to catch up with the rest of the world.

It was a thoroughly entertaining game, thanks mostly to Draymond Green’s clutch genes, LeBron’s remarkably complete performance and Kyrie Irving’s shot making. But, in keeping with the theme of my Vegas venture, my luck wasn’t exactly ideal. The DVR had set aside two and a half hours of recording time and the minutes began to outpace the action. Of course, the recording ended with 1:09 to play, the score tied 89-89.

Yup.

All I could do was sigh, open my laptop and see the final score. It was a bit anticlimactic. But it was a great season and I’m not quite ready to shed my final thoughts. I’ll do that in the next week or two.

For today, let’s stay within the NBA framework because Thursday is the 2016 NBA Draft. I know, basketball just doesn’t die.

There are a lot of moving parts still to be determined and after the top two picks, it’s one of the more uncertain drafts I can remember. LSU’s Ben Simmons is very likely to go first overall to the 76ers and the Lakers will probably take Duke’s Brandon Ingram second. After that, your guess is, admittedly, as good as mine.

But for our purposes, let’s creep down towards the second round because that’s where Hawaii’s Stefan Jankovic has a chance of being selected.

Not many mock drafts include Jankovic, but the UH grad fits the mold of a player some teams may see as a European investment. Since he has a Serbian passport, Jankovic could be drafted by a team that decides to stash him in Europe for some pro seasoning and further evaluation.

Last year, 10 of the 30 second-round picks were international players, as opposed to just three in the first round. The second round gives franchises more flexibility without the guaranteed nature of contracts and commitment to first-round selections.

Jankovic is a unique player and has the ability to make an NBA roster. He’s exactly the type of stretch forward teams are looking for with spacing and ball movement all the rage these days. He’s been scouted by numerous teams and worked out for the 76ers, Pistons, Raptors and Kings. A team like the Celtics, which has five second-round picks, will definitely be looking for investments if they keep most of those.

It’s more likely than not that Jankovic doesn’t hear his name called Thursday and winds up a free agent, in the D-League or overseas. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see a smart team decide that his rights are worth owning. His game is the type that teams salivate over in workouts, where his shooting touch and size can be more evident than game film.

Having a player selected would be a nice recognition of the Rainbow Warriors’ tremendous season, but Jankovic has a potential path to the NBA no matter what happens Thursday.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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