For the third time in program history, the Washington Huskies had two players taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
Isaiah Stewart exceeded projections and came off the board sooner than expected Wednesday night while his former UW teammate Jaden McDaniels waited a little longer before hearing NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call his name.
Most draft analysts predicted Stewart would land near the bottom of the first round, however, the Portland Trail Blazers selected the 6-foot-9 forward with the No. 16 pick before trading him to the Detroit Pistons.
McDaniels was also dealt on draft night. The Los Angeles Lakers chose the 6-10 forward at No. 28 and promptly traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
According to the NBA rookie salary scale, Stewart is slotted to earn $2.7 million during the 2020-21 season and is guaranteed $8 million in his first three seasons. McDaniels is slated to make $1.6 million as a rookie and $5.1 million guaranteed.
In addition to Washington, it was a banner night for the Pac-12, which had six players chosen in the NBA first round — tied for the second most in conference history.
The other first-round picks include: USC forward Onyeka Okongwu (sixth), Arizona’s Josh Green (18th) and Zeke Nnaji (22) and Oregon’s Peyton Pritchard (26th).
Stewart is considered a foundational piece for the rebuilding Detroit Pistons that finished 20-46 last season and drafted French point guard Killian Hayes with the No. 7 pick.
Huskies coach Mike Hopkins believes Stewart can make an immediate impact and will have a 10-15 year NBA career.
“What Isaiah does, you can’t measure stats and that’s saying something because his stats are off the chart,” Hopkins said. “But this kid has immeasurables that equate to winning. He’s a leader. He’s passionate about basketball. He does everything right.
“He was a leader for us and you’re talking about a freshman who took on that responsibility and didn’t flinch. That’s just who he is.”
Stewart averaged 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks while shooting 57.0% last season. He was chosen first team all-Pac-12 and selected to the conference’s all-freshman team.
An All-Pac-12 first team and all-freshman team selection, Stewart started all 32 games and led UW in scoring (17.0 points per game), rebounds (8.8), blocks (2.1) and minutes (32.2).
However, few draft analysts predicted he’d go higher than No. 20.
“I’m at a loss on this one,” 24/7 Sports recruiting analyst Eric Bossi wrote. “There aren’t any prospects in this draft with a better blend of work ethic, proven ability, humility and overall character. I see organizations preaching culture right and left, yet here we have the No. 1 ‘culture’ guy in the draft and people seem to be knocking themselves out finding reasons to bet against him.
“I get it, he’s an undersized center. Maybe he’s not a crazy skilled guy and perhaps Stewart would have fit better in an era gone by. But, having seen first-hand how important competing, doing everything he can to get better and understanding who and what he is as a player are to him, I just can’t see how he’s not a lock to go in at least the top 20.”
McDaniels joins a Minnesota team that used the No. 1 overall pick on shooting guard Anthony Edwards and traded for point guard Leandro Bolmaro, who was taken at No. 23.
The Timberwolves, which finished 19-45 last season and have made the playoffs just once in the past 15 years, selected former UW star Jaylen Nowell in the second round last year.
McDaniels was considered one of the most gifted players in the draft. He averaged 13.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and 0.8 steals last season.
“The thing that separates him is that he’s an elite competitor,” Hopkins said. “That competitive nature will definitely carry his talent. He can handle adversity and I believe that’s going to make him a great pro.
“He can play the 2, 3 or the 4 — forward or guard. He’s got great vision and wants to help his teammates get better. He can also really defend. He can guard 1-4, he can move his feet laterally as good as anyone I’ve seen at that size. That all translates. His shooting was improving throughout the year and I think he’s going to be the steal of this draft.”
McDaniels followed his older brother Jalen in the NBA. Last year, the Charlotte Hornets picked Jalen in the second round.
Stewart and McDaniels also join a long list of UW players taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
The others include: Matisse Thybulle (20th, 2019), Markelle Fultz (1st, 2017), Marquese Chriss (8th, 2016), Dejounte Murray (29th, 2016), C.J Wilcox (28th, 2014), Terrence Ross (8th, 2012), Tony Wroten Jr. (25th, 2012), Quincy Pondexter (26th, 2010), Spencer Hawes (10th, 2007), Brandon Roy (6th, 2006), Nate Robinson (21st, 2005), Christian Welp (16th, 1987), Detlef Schrempf (8th, 1985), Bob Houbregs (3rd, 1953) and Jack Nichols (12th, 1948).
- Washington State sophomore standout CJ Elleby was selected No. 46 overall in the draft’s second round by the Portland Trail Blazers.
- The Toronto Raptors used the No. 29 pick on San Diego State point guard Malachi Flynn, who played two seasons at Washington State and starred at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma.
- The Pac-12 had 10 players taken in the NBA draft, which is the fourth most in conference history.