Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell received invitations to the NBA draft combine, which is a small victory for the Washington Huskies stars whose pro prospects remain unclear.
Roughly 60 to 70 players will attend the May 15-19 combine in Chicago and nabbing a spot for the auditions in front of NBA teams is generally considered a positive sign for draft hopefuls.
With seven weeks remaining before the June 20 draft, there are few certainties regarding the UW duo.
In recent days, Thybulle’s stock in several mock drafts has soared.
For weeks the 6-foot-5 senior guard had been tabbed as someone who would be taken early or in the middle of the second round.
However in their latest mock drafts, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Joe Tansey at the Bleacher Report project Thybulle as a late first-rounder taken by the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 24.
“The Sixers are flush with creators and scoring at every position, but they could stand to add some defensive versatility on the wing,” Givony writes. “A player such as Thybulle, arguably the best perimeter defender in college basketball, could fit well, especially since he’s a willing ball mover who will have no issue deferring to the team’s plethora of stars.”
Thybulle, the Naismith defensive player of the year award, led Division I players with 126 steals, which broke a 26-year-old Pac-12 season record. He also had 83 blocks while averaging 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
NBAdraftroom.com projects Thybulle as the No. 27 pick going to the New Jersey Nets and compares him favorably to six-year NBA veteran Andre Roberson.
“Thybulle is the best defensive player in the draft and it’s not even close,” the website writes. “He’s a lockdown defender who changes the game on that end of the floor. His on-the-ball defense is world class and his help defense is truly special.”
NBAdraft.net also tabs Thybulle as a first-round pick going to the San Antonio Spurs at No. 29.
Meanwhile Nowell, a 6-4 sophomore guard, is trying to distinguish himself among the 233 players who filed for early entry to the draft.
Last week, Nowell worked out for the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics. The Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks also watched him work out at his training facility in Irvine, Calif.
The Pac-12 player of year, who averaged 16.2 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 50.2 percent from the floor and 44.0 percent on three-pointers, is projected as a second-round pick by many draft prognosticators.
NBAdraft.net projects Nowell as the 10th pick in the second round (No. 40 overall) heading to the Sacramento Kings while NBAdraftroom.com has him going to the Atlanta Hawks at No. 43 overall.
“Nowell had a huge sophomore season and will be rising up draft boards,” writes NBAdraftroom.com, which likened him to former NBA player Rashad McCants. “His 44 percent 3pt-shooting combined with a nice all around game will be enticing to NBA teams.”
Nowell can go through the NBA draft process and withdraw before the NCAA’s deadline May 29 to retain eligibility at Washington.
A recent change in NCAA rules allows early entry draft applicants like Nowell the chance to return to school after the June 20 draft if they participate in the NBA combine.
Last week, Nowell reaffirmed his commitment on turning pro.
“I’m really all in at this point,” he said. “I never go into anything halfheartedly. That’s just how I’ve been as a person. When I said I was going to enter the draft, that’s what I meant and that was final.”