Now that I have gone on a binge of writing words, I will post an attempt at a big board with DX and ESPN rankings for comparison.
One note on this board is that it is extremely hard to have rankings that I feel good about while thin slicing these prospects. There is such a thin margin between being the #15 and #30 prospect in this draft, it is nearly impossible to correctly value the key nuances from afar. I can make a good effort with the available pieces and logical analysis, but the draft process entails loads of luck even with the thick slice. When thin slicing and filling in the blanks with guesswork, predicting NBA futures feels like a complete variance fest. But it is a fun variance fest, so here are my rankings:
The top 3 are all below average #1 picks but above average for #3. They can be reasonably ranked in any order. It is probably a horrible idea to rank Dragan Bender #1 based on a small sample of FIBA stats and highlights of touchdown outlet passes, but I like to live life on the edge. He could be a Darko level flop and make me feel bad about this ranking, or he could also be a generational star in a world where Brandon Ingram is Luol Deng-ish and Ben Simmons is an enigma, so let’s gamble. Ingram is the safest pick but the least sexy, and then Simmons is roughly taller Rajon Rondo which means he will land somewhere on the scale of incredibly frustrating to awesome.
Wade Baldwin is beloved by every draft nerd and should rise on ESPN and DX’s respective boards. I feel similarly toward Baldwin as I did toward Marcus Smart– he may not have the burst and ball skills to be a true superstar, but he has wiggle room for surprise upside and at least he is unlikely to provide a bad return for the drafting team.
I have no Furkan idea where to rank Korkmaz, but he is 18, 6’7″, can shoot, pass, and jump which is a super nice intersection of traits. I do not understand why he does not have more draft hype in a world where the intersection of shooting and athleticism causes traditional scouts to drool all over themselves. You would think the rest of his game is awful, except youth, passing, and good wing height further bolster his profile to the point where he feels like he may merit consideration at #4 overall. His weaknesses are strength, defense, and ball handling, all of which seem readily improvable given his age. Yet here we are, with Chad Ford ranking him one slot ahead of Malachi Richardson and DX not even having him top 20. Shrug.
Timothy Luwawu is another international guy that seems like a better gamble from afar than these crappy young NCAA guys.
Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Henry Ellenson, and Marquese Chriss make up my tier of baby NCAA players who I am not particularly fond of, but all have outs to become good NBA’ers so I am not relentlessly selling.
Zhou Qi is another international who just seems like he is a better shot in the dark than most NCAA guys. He has monster height and wingspan, skill, and basketball IQ, yet DX barely has him in round 1 Chad Ford has him ranked behind loads of 23 year old NCAA players who are locked into D-League careers. Especially after seeing foreign bigs like Jokic and Capela providing awesome draft value recently, why get so bearish on a guy with a unique collection of good traits?
Brice Johnson is my pet sleeper. He is young for a senior, and is in the conversation for both best NCAA player this past season as well as most explosive leaper in the draft. Any time both of those things are true, how bad can it be to draft him? He is Jeremy Evans deluxe– Evans always had solid stats, and I imagine if he was a bit bigger and more well rounded like Brice that he would be a useful pro.
Denzel Valentine is weird. On one hand, a guy who is great at passing, shooting, and rebounding seems like a great gamble in the mid-1st. On the other hand, how good can a guard be while being a statue on defense and unable to get to the rim on offense?
I like everybody in the #22-32 range. Most of them I wish I could move up, but I’m not sure to move down. This is a section where I wish I was more familiar with nuances, so I could have a more accurate ranking. Instead I may as well randomize it.
Damian Jones has a great body and athleticism and is a young junior, but suffers from being bad at basketball. As a regular Vanderbilt watcher, he was incredibly frustrating as the game of basketball simply does not come natural to him. He has a basic scoring repertoire and has become a willing passer. But his poor instincts are reflected in his lackluster rebounds, steals, and blocks, as well as the fact that Vandy only had the #34 defense in spite of Jones sharing the floor with more talented players such as Wade Baldwin and Luke Kornet.
Like Damian Jones, Skal Labissiere has great tools but little in the way of basketball playing ability. The only area where he stuffed the statsheet is blocks, and that is largely because he jumps at everything. His anemic rebound, assist, and steal rates indicate his awful feel for the game, and as an old freshman he seems nearly hopeless to me. His best skill is his decent mid-range/FT shot. It is hard to write off an explosive 7’0 player at age 20, but outside of height and athleticism there is approximately nothing to work with. He is just 9 months younger than Jones, skinnier, has a shorter wingspan, and more frightening statistical craters. His tools leave him some shot of having a successful NBA career, but color me pessimistic.
What happened to Troy Williams‘ stock? His 6’8.25″ wingspan is meh, but other than that he has the tools to be a wing stopper defensively. There are questions about his perimeter skills offensively, but if his handle and shot progress well he could be a steal. I had him as a 1st rounder pre-season and his junior year wasn’t bad, so I am not sure why he fell off the radar.
My familiarity with Thon Maker comes from the 2015 Hoop Summit, who looked like he had hands for feet and feet for hands. Maybe I am selling him short, but as far as I can tell his selling points are that he is 7’0″, young, and sometimes attempts to dribble and shoot. With such poor coordination and hands, it is hard to see him becoming good.
Juan Hernangomez is meh to me. He is a 3/4 tweener whose terrible assist to turnover ratio implies that he lacks the ball skill to succeed as an NBA perimeter player, in spite of him being an acceptable shooter. Without exceptional defense or athleticism to make up for this flaw, I remain unexcited.
Jameel Warney is the Paul Millsap flier of the draft. His NCAA statistics are not as strong as Millsap’s and he will likely not develop into a player who can make 3’s and defend the perimeter, but he has similar measurables and posted more assists than turnovers three seasons in a row as an efficient volume scorer for Stony Brook. He is a not bad under the radar sleeper in round 2.
Daniel Ochefu is the guy totally off the radar who I believe is most likely to carve out a rotation role in the NBA. He was among the best NCAA players in the country, and at age 22 is not insanely old for a senior. He has center size and does a little bit of everything. DraftExpress thinks his poor flexibility prevents him from switch onto smaller players. This may be a death knell for his NBA odds as heavy switching becomes increasingly popular, but there is enough to like to gamble on him in round 2 anyway.
Life hack: if you are Chad Ford, try swapping Malachi Richardson and Zhou Qi on your big board before the draft instead of 4 years after.