Big boards are not the most efficient method of sharing draft predictions, simply because it is painfully difficult to have a precise opinion on everybody in the draft. On average all you really need is to know who you would target in any particular range.
The other issue is that it is difficult to measure big board success based on final rankings. Mostly because there are too many boards to analyze, and also it may look like somebody has a strong take when it may just be misplacing somebody they randomly guessed on.
For instance last year I had Sharife Cooper 13th on my board because of a random late thought that maybe his creation is getting undervalued. In general he is not my type because I believe creation is abundant and typically overvalued, and small guys with terrible defense are not ideal molds. I did not spend much time watching or analyzing him, and I know if I worked for a team that was not into him (basically every team) I could have easily been convinced to drop him heavily on my board with further analysis.
But on my final board, he was the best player available for a longer stretch where I may not have necessarily taken him in reality. This is what happens when you need to make thin sliced decisions for an entire board of players that are mostly half analyzed.
Let’s Try Something New
I am going to audit the teams that blew it, and make their drafts better. Then we can go re-visit and 5 years and see how my strategy would have fared compared to theirs.
I also included some light retrodictions from drafts further in the past, doing my best to be honest about who I would take based on the predictions I had publicly made at the time.
I made trash efforts on my boards in 2019 and 2020 so I don’t want to focus on them too much, but it is fun to see how I could have ended up with a few home run picks that other teams missed anyway. This audit will mostly be about 2022 with some of the stronger opinions I had at the top of 2021 draft factoring in as well.
Then going forward we will track the picks moving in trades and once they settle I will make my fake selections to see how it would all work out.
Orlando is actually on a nice run of agreeability with my rankings in the lottery, taking the exact guys I would take with their last 3 high picks in Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, and Paolo Banchero.
I have some light disagreement with their round 2 picks this year. I would not have taken Caleb Houstan with a Koloko or Keels on board, with a lean toward Keels as the correct play to re-unite with his Duke buddy Paolo.
So let’s quick Orlando a big thumbs up with the only minor correction being Keels over over Houstan.
For OKC let’s go back to 2021. I liked the Josh Giddey pick, but I would have personally taken Franz Wagner there who was #4 on my board and seemed like a stone cold lock to be a good NBA player.
I also would have kept Alperen Sengun at #16 overall instead of trading him to Houston, as I had him as by far the best player available. This would have caused us to miss out on two of the picks that were later traded for Ousmane Dieng, and we would get to keep Denver’s 2023 lotto protected 1st rounder which was the third pick in that trade.
At #18 I would have taken Jalen Johnson (#10) or Jaden Springer (#11) over Tre Mann. Then in round 2 they consolidated #34 and #36 on #32 to take Jeremiah Robinson Earl. I would have passed on that trade and just sold #55 overall which was used on Aaron Wiggins.
Not sure who I would have taken at 34/36– I gave “A” grades to Deuce McBride, Ayo Dosunmu, Joe Wieskamp, and Sharife Cooper, A- to Neemias Queta, and B+ to Herbert Jones so probably one of those guys. I also had Jared Butler (#18) and BJ Boston (#22) high on my board, but since they slid largely due to heart condition and being a knucklehead respectively they likely would have been easy passes. I would not have seen a need for Sharife with Shai already in place as a lead guard, and the next two highest rated guys on my board were Deuce (#23) and Ayo (#25) so let’s roll with them. I would like to think that in reality I would have given Herb Jones a closer look and possibly settled on him, but based on what I had at the time it would be cheating to say that I would take him over Deuce or Ayo.
Now this year I am snapping up Jabari Smith at #2, Jalen Duren at #12, and definitely passing on trading 3 picks for Ousmane Dieng. Then we turbo snap Trevor Keels at #34.
Net difference: Shai/Ayo/Franz/Jabari/Sengunwith Keels/Deuce/J Johnson/Duren bench + Denver’s 2023 1st vs Shai/Giddey/J Williams/Dieng/Chet with Mann/JRE/Wiggins/Jaylin.
We will be back to make that Denver pick next year. But I believe my OKC team crushes the league. Shai as lead handler with two super sized wings in Jabari + Franz who can handle, pass, shoot, and defend would be a dream come true. That seems clearly better than Shai/Giddey/Chet, and then Sengun + Duren are better prospects than anybody outside of the current OKC big 3 and then we have plenty of pulls at guards to fill out the rotation.
The Rockets are on a streak of highly agreeable draft picks, but I still believe they firmly screwed the pooch last year when they took Jalen Green over Evan Mobley.
Loved the Sengun trade, and then at #23 and #24 I would have taken Jaden Springer (#11 on my board) and Quentin Grimes (#16). I had Sharife Cooper a bit higher than Grimes at #13, but as aforementioned that was a zero conviction ranking and I would like to think I would have not reached for him 25 slots too soon over either guy that I actively was bullish on.
Now this year I largely agreed with their Jabari + Eason picks. Although in retrospect I would be terrified to draft Eason because of his frequent mental lapses, I would consider Jake LaRavia ahead of him for a safer bet to be a role playing wing. I did have Eason as clear BPA on my board so let’s keep him. I believe TyTy Washington at #29 was a reasonable pull, but I would have preferred Trevor Keels who is younger by almost 2 full years in spite of being in the same class.
Keels/Grimes/Jabari/Sengun/Mobley with Springer/Eason vs Green/Christopher/Eason/Jabari/Sengun with TyTy/Garuba
My Houston team still needs a primary ball handler to run the offense with Keels + Springer being the only two pulls at it, but in general it’s not that hard to find a competent floor general and our frontcourt is completely stacked.
Our Kings tale starts in 2020, where hope springs eternal and they take the exact same two guys I would have drafted in Tyrese Haliburton and Jah’mius Ramsey.
Then last year we are taking Sengun over Davion Mitchell so we never feel the need to trade Haliburton for Sabonis.
Now this year, man #4 is a terrible pick. I would not want to sit there, and would trade down for such a nominal fee. If Indiana is offering Terry Taylor and #6 for #4, I am snap calling that and taking Dyson Daniels #6 since he seems like he should pair better with Sengun than Sochan. If not I will take Daniels straight up at #4.
So instead of Davion/Keegan/Sabonis we are rocking with Haliburton/Daniels/Sengun and hopefully Terry Taylor.
The first thing we are doing is trading Dame to the Knicks. Of course I do not know exactly how much the Knicks would pay for Dame. But given that is the Knicks and they are perpetually thirsty for a big star name, they likely would pay the piper for him.
I would really like to pry Quentin Grimes from them since I liked him pre-draft and he had a solid rookie year. I also would like their entire haul from the Ousmane Dieng trade since 1st round pulls are good and they got 3 of them that they likely do not mind parting from in order to get a star. And we would be willing to take on all of the bad contracts they want to send– something like Fournier, Noel, Kemba, and Grimes would work.
That is a fairly modest return on Dame given his star profile, but given his age + salary + complete lack of a cast, that’s enough for me to do the deal as Portland. I would try to get as much future Knicks draft equity with as little protection as possible as well. Who knows how much they would be willing to share.
I would have also passed on the Jerami Grant deal, and instead used the pick to deal for Jalen Duren as Detroit did. And I would have taken Jeremy Sochan or Dyson Daniels at #7 overall over Shaedon Sharpe. I am not sure which one. I have not analyzed them as much as I would if I actually had to make the pick. Let’s pencil in Sochan since Daniels has already been audited onto other teams.
Then I take Trevor Keels over Procida at #36.
This leaves us with
–2025 Bucks’ 1st (top 4 protected), Detroit 1st (Top 18 protected in ’23 and ’24, top 13 in ’25, top 11 in 26, top 9 in ’27), Washington 1st (Top 14 protected in ’23, Top 12 in ’24, top 10 in ’25, top 8 in ’26).
–All of the 2nd rounders Portland traded for Jerami Grant
–Whatever future Knick draft equity we can get. Our humble request would be 2026 unprotected pick swap
None of the assets we get are super valuable in a vacuum, but Portland seems like they are giving themselves such a short window to have such a low upside with the status quo. At least getting some young guys now, some future draft pulls, and setting ourselves up for a top 5 pick in next draft gives us a head start on the rebuild instead of dying a slow and painful death.
Starting with last year, hated the Primo pick. Would have taken Sengun instead. Liked the Wieskamp pick.
This year, liked the Sochan pick. Two meh SG’s at #20 and #25 in Branham and Wesley are not inspiring, I would have copied Minnesota’s picks made shortly after with Walker Kessler and Wendell Moore.
Then at #38 instead of trading Kennedy Chandler for a future Memphis 2nd and cash, we would have kept the pick and taken Trevor Keels to unite him with his Duke backcourt mate Moore.
Keels/Moore/Sochan/Sengun/Kessler vs Wesley/Branham/Primo/Sochan and future 2nd (not sure of details).
They really are stockpiling mediocre SG prospects over in San Antonio. Lonnie Walker too from a bit further back. My young core is better.
The Wizards are quickly becoming the most boring drafting team in the NBA. Under Tommy Sheppard, their last 4 first round picks have been Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, and now Johnny Davis.
Using my big boards, I would have taken PJ Washington (#4 on my board) over Hachimura, Tyrese Haliburton (#6) over Deni, and Alperen Sengun (#5) over Kispert as my clear BPAs at all slots.
Haliburton/Washington/Sengun would not be a bad start. If we had those 3 instead of Deni, Kispert, and Rui, we probably make the 2022 playoffs.
But we are still likely not ready to contend. I would try to dump Bradley Beal on the Knicks for Quentin Grimes, Trevor Keels, and all of the Ousmane Dieng picks if we can get them. His window does not align with our young core, and we are not going to pay a maximum extension to an SG as he ages from 30 to 33.
#10 overall this year is a tough pick. First choice would likely be to trade the pick to OKC for all of the Dieng picks, but we already let the Knicks send us those picks for Beal. Duren is BPA, but between Sengun, Washington, and Gafford we already have enough bigs in the mix. Let’s say for the sake of argument we ended up with the #16 pick due to superior drafting over the real life Wizards, and we take Tari Eason.
This nets us with Haliburton/Grimes/Eason/Washington/Sengun + Keels + Dieng picks instead of Johnny Davis, Beal, Kispert, Avdija, and Rui.
Starting in 2021
This team is good for going back further bc I had such clear BPA vs such meh actual choices, but everybody else’s audit starts in 2021 so let’s run through that for the Wiz.
We start with the obvious Sengun over Kispert pick. Then #10 this year is brutal, having just missed out on the two interesting guys Daniels + Sochan at #8/9. I would trade Rui Hachimura or Isaiah Todd to move up a slot or two for either of them, but probably not Deni.
If we are standing pat, I don’t like anyone here really. Duren + Eason are fine, but I would much rather snipe New York’s Dieng trade and trade the pick for 3 future 1sts.
Then I still trade Beal to NYK for Grimes, Keels, 2026 unprotected NYK 1st, and whatever filler salaries NYK wants. If NYK insists on light protection on the pick I’d still accept it and ask for maybe 2024 DET 2nd rounder.
Keels, Grimes, Sengun, and a hoard of future picks vs Beal, Johnny Davis, and Kispert. We are fast tracking the asset collection while the current Wiz seem married to mediocrity forever.
If we go back to the LaMelo pick in 2020, my board has some embarrassing advice because I rated Onyeka Okongwu #1, James Wiseman #2, and then LaMelo #3 and Ant #4. Oops!
But this couldn’t be further from a high conviction read. I hardly watched any of these guys and tossed out some different ideas for fun. After the draft I even called Charlotte a winner and acknowledged they likely made the right play for LaMelo.
This is not generally how I talk about hot takes around draft time when I truly believe in them. Not all big board rankings should be judged the same since they are not all backed by the same levels of confidence and conviction.
So let’s start the audit in 2021, where I hated the Hornets draft. We kick it off by taking Sengun over Bouknight at #11 in an easy decision.
Then we probably don’t trade for #19 that was used on Kai Jones. It only cost an OK-ish future 1st (top 16 protected in 23 and top 14 in 24/25), but the #19 wasn’t full of great choices. Top 2 on my board were Jalen Johnson and Jaden Springer in terms of upside, and I would have given Quentin Grimes a look as a lower upside pull that was a safer bet. But nobody stood out enough to be worth trading in.
At #37 we take Ayo Dosunmu (#25 on my board) or Joe Wieskamp (#29) over JT Thor.
Now this year at #13 and #15, it’s a tough decision. We could just grab Duren at 13 + Eason or LaRavia at 15 and call it a day. I would consider trading out but the return Charlotte got for #13 was none too inspiring.
Mark Williams at #15 is fine, but he has less upside than Duren and not as good as trading #15 to Memphis for 22 + 29 and taking Walker Kessler and anybody else. I would have probably taken Keels at #29 but would have looked at TyTy, Peyton Watson, and Koloko as other options. Double dipping on bigs with Kessler and Koloko would be an interesting strategy bc odds are at least one of them turns into a defensive beast with better overall value than Williams.
But the simplest path leaves us with:
Dosunmu, LaRavia, Sengun, Duren and keep the future 1st that was traded to Knicks instead of Bouknight, Kai, Thor, and Mark Williams and getting Denver’s 2023 first and a handful of mid 2nds.
This team needs wing help so badly, I definitely would have taken Tari Eason or Jake LaRavia over Ochai Agbaji at #14. It would have been a tough decision because LaRavia has less scary flaws and seems like a safer bet, but he also has less big strengths and is more boring.
This is a tough decision. LaRavia seems like a fairly low variance and boring guy who is a solid bet to provide decent filler minutes at wing. Eason is more of a high variance guy who could flop completely, be the steal of the draft, or anything in between. If the Cavs already have an elite young core with Garland, Mobley, and Allen, do they really need to gamble here? If they get a couple of league average 3 + D wings they are likely going to become perennial contenders.
This would be an agonizing decision but ultimately I believe I would play it safe and take LaRavia.
At #39 I would have taken Trevor Keels or EJ Liddell. Keels is rated higher but not sure he is really needed with Garland in place, and the team still badly needing wings.
Then will still draft Isaiah Mobley at #50 for the brotherly love.
Ultimately we take LaRavia and Liddell over Ochai and Diop.
Golden State had a couple of slots I loved last year that they did an alright job with taking Kuminga and Moody, but personally I am taking Franz + Sengun with those picks 100% of the time.
This year at 28 they took Patrick Baldwin Jr. who is nearly certain to bust. I would take Koloko, Peyton Washington, or Keels in front of him. Let’s say Koloko in this instance because I am pretty sure I have audited Keels onto every other team so far, and GSW could use a rim protector. Then at #44 Ryan Rollins would have been my pick as well.
Franz/Sengun/Koloko vs Kuminga/Moody/PBJ. Not even a contest, Franz is going to be better than those 3 combined and would have been helpful during their recent championship run.
Ousmane Dieng Challenge
The challenge will be to see how many of my top choices among the 3 picks that Oklahoma City traded for Ousmane Dieng become better than Dieng himself. I believe I should be able to get at least one, and possibly two or three. The picks in question are:
–Denver 1st (top 14 protected ’23 thru ’25)
–Detroit 1st (Top 18 protected in ’23 and ’24, top 13 in ’25, top 11 in 26, top 9 in ’27)
–Washington 1st (Top 14 protected in ’23, Top 12 in ’24, top 10 in ’25, top 8 in ’26)
It could take a few years for those Detroit and Washington picks to go into effect and then a few more years for my picks to hit.
But this is a long term exercise so we will slowly make these picks this over time and see how things look 5-10 years down the road.
Dean, I really appreciate what you have done with this post. It has required deep thought and you run the risk of being profoundly embarrassed in the future.
I am a Toronto fan and just read of a new statistical process which rates Masai Ujiri has the best at drafting (time period was from 2009 to the present) Here is the link: https://towardsdatascience.com/which-nba-teams-are-best-at-drafting-20070ccd1702.
I do not know enough to say whether Koloko or Jaylin Williams will be the better pick for the Raptors this year. I know you favor Koloko, and I like your reasoning. We’ll see.
Once again, thanks for the work you put in
Yeah I’d trust Masai on this one. Which big man are you taking– the slow 6’10 guy with 7’1 length who specializes in drawing charges, or the quick 7 guy with 7’5 length who can switch onto the perimeter?
Jaylen with a bit more youth + skill but Koloko more athletic finisher. both of these guys are defensive minded bigs, and there is so much more to work with on koloko’s end.
Great post, I was tired of reading big boards anyway. Thanks for sharing, it will be interesting to see how this ages
Who has impressed you the most so far in the summer league?
Hard to get too excited over 1 or 2 games, but the guy who had an interesting box score to keep an eye on is Josh Minott.
I went from thinking he was a sleeper, to not being sure after a bad combine scrimmage due to his low minute sample at Memphis. Maybe this is his one good summer game and that is it, but if he continues to play well it is particularly meaningful in a guy who had bench minutes in a high upside mold for Memphis.