Conversation with Lafayette Journal & Courier Purdue beat writer Nathan Baird

Conversation with Lafayette Journal & Courier Purdue beat writer Nathan Baird

Purdue rode a senior-heavy lineup to a 30-7 record and Sweet 16 apperance this past season, meaning a mostly new look in 2018-19. Lafayette Journal & Courier beat writer Nathan Baird weighs in on all things Boilermakers:

Which of Purdue's seniors stands the best chance of catching on with an NBA team?

Vincent Edwards has always been the best NBA prospect in this class, even more so as the league increasingly values versatility. Ironically, in some ways it's also the reason he may not get drafted. NBA scouts tell me they see a player who does a lot of things well but doesn't necessarily do anything great. But they like that he can shoot and can play multiple positions. The biggest remaining question is which positions he can defend at the next level. All four seniors have a chance at long overseas careers, at worst, if they want them.

What type of 2018-19 season is possible for Carsen Edwards should he return to Purdue?

Matt Painter said last week he expects Edwards to average 25 points per game. On one hand that sounds like a big jump. While Edwards' approach really improved last season, he was also surrounded by some of the most efficient offensive players in Purdue history. While he wasn't the featured player in the offense on many nights, he usually had no trouble getting his shots.

As Illinois fans know, Edwards will get his points. I think the next breakthrough comes on defense. Purdue needs someone to step into Dakota Mathias' role as the shut-down option on the perimeter. Edwards has the quickness and bravado to accept that challenge. I assume he'll be the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, but whether or not he has that title in March may depend on where he leads this team.

How do you see the mostly new-look Purdue frontcourt shaping up next season?

I think Matt Haarms was the best NBA prospect on Purdue's roster last season. He's a true rim protector at 7-3 and has the skills to take his offensive game to the perimeter. (No reason for him to shoot threes with so many better shooters on the floor last season.) He also has the personality necessary for a player opposing fans will love to hate. Tolono's own Brian Cardinal is a big fan.

Now you add Evan Boudreaux, who nearly averaged a double-double in two seasons at Dartmouth, next to him. He's a critical addition for a team that never fully solved last season's defensive rebounding issues. He and Haarms should be one of the better 4-5 combinations in the Big Ten. The wild card here is redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler, who had really impressed some teammates in postseason workouts. He can give Purdue a jolt of athleticism at small forward that it really needs.