Following a tumultuous season filled with controversies, scandals and shortcomings, USC basketball fans had their eyes set on the NBA Draft to see where some of their favorite stars would land. Four Trojans have declared for the draft, but only two heard their name called on Thursday night.
De’Anthony Melton — USC’s highest selection in the 2018 Draft — was chosen 46th overall by the Houston Rockets. His selection as a second round pick surprised many, as media outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated had Melton slotted in the 20s. Despite the 6-foot-4 guard not playing a single minute this season amid an ongoing FBI scandal, NBA teams were intrigued by Melton’s size, playmaking and defensive versatility during his only season at USC. In 2016-2017, he averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Melton will look to crack the rotation and become the steal of the draft on a Rockets team that came up just one game short of an NBA Finals appearance and already features a starting backcourt of reigning league MVP James Harden and 2017 Sixth Man of Year Eric Gordon.
Chimezie Metu, the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder in 2018, was selected 49th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Though many project Metu to spend time in the G League this season, scouts are optimistic Metu will develop into a serviceable two-way big man who can block shots (1.7 per game in 2018) and score willingly at the NBA level with his athleticism and mobility in the long run.
His opportunity for significant minutes may also come sooner than some expect with the uncertain future of franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard and an aging Pau Gasol. As he develops, he will look to help lead a youth movement in San Antonio that features All-Defensive 2nd Team point guard Dejounte Murray, and the 18th selection in this year’s draft, Lonnie Walker IV from Miami.
Jordan McLaughlin, arguably the face of USC basketball for the past four years, went undrafted but has agreed to play in the summer league and training camp with the Brooklyn Nets. Though McLaughlin doesn’t have the elite athleticism of his peers, there is no question in his leadership and ability to distribute the ball. In his four-year career as a Trojan, McLaughlin finished second all-time in assists and fourth all-time in scoring in USC history. USC head coach Andy Enfield, vouched for his point guard in an interview with the Orange County Register.
“He has the best court vision, probably, of any point guard in the country,” Enfield said.
McLaughlin will look to earn a roster spot with strong performances in the summer league.
Elijah Stewart, USC’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and games played, also went undrafted despite working out for multiple NBA teams during the pre-draft process. He will spend training camp and summer league with the Indiana Pacers. Despite going undrafted, Stewart’s elite 3-point shooting ability and defensive intensity (126 blocks in four years) are skills many NBA teams in this floor-spreading era desire. With Victor Oladipo emerging as the face of the franchise and commanding defensive attention, opportunities for Stewart to show what he excelled at in Los Angeles may be on the horizon.