One thing is certain as Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore eye NBA draft opportunity Thursday night — staying for their senior seasons did wonders for their prospects.
“Every NBA team would agree with that,” Boilers coach Matt Painter said.
Is that enough to enable them to become the first drafted Purdue players since Carl Landry was the No. 31 pick by Seattle in the 2007 draft (and then immediately traded to Houston)?
We'll see. Both players explored their NBA options as juniors, then returned for their final seasons.
The 6-10 Johnson, the Big Ten's player of the year, is positioned for a late first-round selection. The 6-4 Moore is considered a second-round pick at best.
Johnson has been projected to go as high as No. 24 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, although the Sporting News suggested Charlotte at No. 19 might be interested. NBA.com's Scott Howard Cooper has Johnson going to San Antonio with the No. 29 pick.
Michael Plesha of the Bleacher Report website wrote that Johnson is “one of the most athletic power forwards in the class … He needs to work on his low-post game, but he will have plenty of time to develop it.”
As for Moore, Chad Ford, ESPN.com NBA draft analyst, said NBA team officials are talking about him, although what that means for the draft is uncertain.
“He's a guy who just may be underrated because he does just about everything well, but maybe nothing spectacular,” Ford said.
Johnson developed into a big-time scorer good enough to lead the Big Ten last season. Painter sees no reason why that improvement can't continue.
“Are you scoring college points in college or are you scoring NBA points in college?” Painter said. “I think JaJuan is one of those guys who scores NBA baskets.
“He has a fade-away he can hit out to 17 feet. He can catch and shoot to 20 feet. He makes his free throws. Even though he has an unorthodox jump hook, it's very efficient. He's always been make to make a pull-up.
“His ability to score is high for big guys in this draft. There's something to be said for a 6-10 guy who can knock down perimeter shots and score in a variety of ways.”
The 220-pound Johnson will never be the most overpowering player in the league, but don't let his slender frame fool you. He can bench press 330 pounds, his 33 1/2 -inch vertical jump was the third best at the pre-draft camp in Chicago, and he's durable.
“He's been injury-free,” Painter said. “That raised a lot of eyebrows of a lot of NBA teams. “He did a good job at Purdue working on his body and strength. Now he has to do a great job. I think he can get to 240 or 250. That might sound crazy, but … between age 22 and 26, he can make a huge jump.”
Moore said he's played the under-dog role before, even in high school when, despite leading East Chicago to the Indiana Class 4A state title and winning the mental attitude award, he played in the shadows of Mr. Basketball Eric Gordon.
“I have to keep proving (people) wrong,” he said.
Painter doesn't see why Moore can't. He's a scorer who can play the point, which he did at times for the Boilers.
“Has he ever really run a team and been a pass-first guy? No. He is never going to be that type of guy. I would look at him as a scoring guard, but I think he can guard both guard spots.”
Moore's versatility — he totaled more than 2,000 points and more than 500 rebounds, plus nearly 400 assists — gives him an NBA chance.
“I think he's going to make it,” Painter said. “ … He's one of those persistent guys who just keeps coming.”