Former LSU forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey have a lot in common.
They both bypassed their final two seasons of eligibility at LSU to enter Thursday’s NBA draft.
Both are ranked among the top forwards in the draft and both figure to hear their names called near the middle of the 60-pick draft.
Which will go first and exactly when and where remains to be seen though.
Mickey is generally considered the more polished of the two and therefore the safer pick. Martin is generally thought to have a greater upside, but perhaps will have a less of an immediate impact.
Martin is considered the better athlete and at 6-foot-9, he is an inch taller than Mickey, but Mickey’s wing span is 5½ inches longer than Martin’s. That leads some scouts to believe Mickey is a better prospect as a power forward and Martin might be somewhere between a wing and a power forward.
The primary goal for Martin at the NBA Scouting Combine and workouts with a dozen-plus teams was to show he can handle himself on the perimeter against NBA small forwards, even if he doesn’t play there exclusively.
Martin’s athleticism leads some scouts to think he might be able to play small forward, but others think he will at least start out at power forward despite the relatively short wing span for his height.
“If he just embraces who he is instead of trying to sell us that he’s something he’s not, he’ll do fine in the NBA,” one NBA general manager told ESPN.com. “If he tries to be a small forward, I don’t think he’ll make it. He needs to be Draymond Green.”
Green is a former second-round draft choice from Michigan State who emerged as a standout inside force this season with the Golden State Warriors.
LSU coach Johnny Jones praised Martin for his development as a perimeter player in two years with the Tigers after playing center at Madison Prep.
“I think he did an excellent job as far as trying to learn exactly what it took to play on the perimeter,” Jones said. “In his sophomore season I think he was able to put it all together — passing, reading defenses, and, at the same time being able to defend on the perimeter.”
Martin averaged 13.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists in two seasons at LSU.
“He can create opportunities for himself off the bounce, especially on the perimeter, and he certainly can space the floor because he can shoot the basketball,” Jones said. “I think he can create opportunities for others on the floor because of his passing ability and his ability to score.”
Jones cited Martin’s “passion for the game,” which he said was evident in an 81-78 victory at Arkansas in LSU’s regular-season finale in March.
“He was as fresh at the end of the game as though the game had just started,” Jones said.
Last season, Martin ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
“I’m a guy that can attack the basket and play both inside and out,” Martin said. “I’ve been working on my shot lately, being able to shoot the three ball. That’s one of my strengths that I’ve been working on trying to get better at.”
Mickey led the nation in blocked shots last season and he’s considered a good, but not great low-post scorer. He wasn’t asked to shoot from the perimeter much with the Tigers, but he shot well from the perimeter at the Combine.
“Of course my defense always stands out to people,” Mickey said, “I want to showcase my defense, my ability to protect the rim, being able to switch out and guard smaller guys. That’s something I think is valuable to all teams, but I want to show that I can hit the midrange shot. I think my ability to shoot the basketball and my ability to score the ball impressed a lot of people.
“One of the questions that most people have about me was would I be able to score or could I shoot the midrange shot and that’s something I think I showed. I’m able to post up smaller guys or go around bigger guys — just (taking advantage of) that mismatch and being able to knock down the mid-range shot.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.