Alabama's Kira Lewis Jr. rated as one of the top guards in Wednesday night’s NBA Draft

Cecil Hurt
Tidesports.com
Alabama guard Kira Lewis Jr. (2) penetrates to the hoop against Furman guard Alex Hunter (10) in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

When Kira Lewis Jr. committed to Alabama in the summer of 2018, he was expected to follow in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor, Colin Sexton.

Comparisons are often inaccurate and more than occasionally unfair, but on Wednesday night Lewis is expected to take his own path to the same destination: the first round of the NBA Draft.

While Lewis might not be chosen quite as highly as Sexton, the No. 8 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lewis made a sound decision to return for his sophomore season (he is still only 19 years old and will not turn 20 until next April) and elevate his draft stock under Nate Oats and Alabama’s up-tempo offense  

“The pace we played at was to play as fast as we (could),” Lewis said in a pre-draft Zoom press conference last week. “The spacing that we had allowed me to use my speed to the fullest and get in the lane and create for myself and my teammates.

"I was able to show different ways to come off pick-and-rolls to use my speed and go at a steady pace and use my burst. With all the spacing, it really helped a lot. We had some shooters that the defense really couldn’t help off of so I was able to get in the lane a little bit easier.”

Lewis finished the season leading Alabama in scoring (18.5 points per game) and assists (5.2 per game).

The coronavirus pushed the draft back and limited the in-person contact that Lewis could have with NBA scouts, but his stock has risen steadily since the NBA season ended. 

One NBA scout told The Athletic’s Seth Davis earlier this week that Lewis was “a poor man’s Ja Morant,” referring to the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year for the Memphis Grizzlies. “He could end up being the best point guard in this draft. He has dynamic ballhandling and passing abilities. He’s still super young, but he’s got elite speed. Nate Oats did a great job letting him play through mistakes. (Lewis) has to get a lot stronger, but with all the spacing in our league he could be dangerous. My concern with him is he’s turnover-prone (and) I’m not 100 percent convinced he thinks like a point guard.”

Several other projections published this week have Lewis pushing up the board, perhaps into the top 10.

“I don’t think he’s going No. 1 in the draft, but who knows?" Oats said in a Zoom call last week. “There are some teams that are doing their homework. (Some) with the possibility of trades are reaching out.

“He’s got zero red flags as a kid. He’s a great person off the floor. He works hard. He’s in the gym. Teams can see how good he is on film.”

 Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt