There are no obvious stars in this class at this time, but there is a DEEP cluster of interesting guys who could emerge between now and the draft. Info on most of these guys is still fairly thin, but it is an interesting class.
The #3 through #20 range is particularly interesting because it could end up re-arranged in any order (with inevitably some guys falling out) after a full season of additional information.
I don’t think these guys are quite as locked into the top 2 as everybody believes, but they definitely have the inside track at this time with no clear cases to leapfrog them without quality NCAA performance.
Scoot is a tough evaluation at this stage because there are still such few prospects to start off in the G League as teenagers, let alone at age 17 like he did last year. But he definitely seems good.
First his physical tools are awesome as he is listed at 6’3 with an alleged 6’9 wingspan and excellent athleticism. He also seems to be a real PG with 2:1 assist:TOV ratio and had good rebound and steal rates. His shooting is the biggest question mark as he only shot 11/51 from 3, but his 77.8% FT (42/54) helps that from being a major concern.
A conservative comp would be Derrick Rose, where he is a fine #1 overall pick that could look good if he develops well (pre-injury Rose) or be merely fine if not (post-injury Rose). But if we do a quick and dirty comparison of their per game stats:
They are nearly twins in spite of Scoot being 16 months younger playing against grown men. I am not sure he is quite as explosive, but he seems close enough to not sweat it.
Through this lens there is a decent case that Scoot is a generational PG prospect. The last PG prospect who was clearly above him was likely Magic Johnson. Jason Kidd + Kyrie Irving have arguments to be better (IMO Kyrie NBA career was a disappointment relative to his talent level). But if he makes a significant leap next year it will be difficult to put those guys above him decisively.
So right now I believe he is the best prospect in this draft.
Wemby the Weirdo
Wemby appeared to be a generational prospect last summer as a 17 y/o competing in FIBA u19, but that did not translate to playing against adults as he struggled in both Euroleague and Jeep Elite.
Granted, Euroleague is the toughest non-NBA league in the world and he was starting the season as a 17 year old, but the warts he showed were fairly gross. He carried a high usage offensively but had terrible efficiency.
He badly struggled to finish inside the arc with a stomach churning 37.2% 2P, and had a poor 6 assists vs 17 turnovers. He did block 1.9 shots per game in 17.5 mins, but his rebs (3.9) and steals (0.4) were a bit underwhelming.
His main selling point is his shooting ability, but he only made 27.5% 3P 68.4% FT. Historically he is a low-mid 70’s FT shooter, and the shooting potential is real given his age, but he still has a ways to go.
It was only 228 minutes in 13 games, but in the much softer Jeep Elite he showed similar flaws over 347 minutes.
He should be better next year, especially if his frame fills out a bit, so we will have more information then. But at this time there is no clear evidence that he is going to be significantly better than Kristaps Porzingis.
And even if he does make a major leap, he is so tall at 7’3 that it is a concern that he cannot stay healthy in the NBA. Ralph Sampson is a physically similar prospect who went #1 overall in 1983, had a few decent years, and then got derailed by injuries.
Currently there is not enough information to project Wemby’s NBA future with high confidence since he has such a polarizing profile and is still so young. But the one thing that is clear is that he is not a generational prospect, and is definitely not even the best international in recent memory as Luka Doncic was clearly superior.
There is some chance he re-claims #1 with a strong season next year, and there is also a chance that he slides further (at least in my eyes) if his flaws continue to linger too strongly
3. Nick Smith
One of the biggest surprises of the Nike Hoop Summit was Nick Smith’s defensive activity and disruption.
He is reputed as a scoring SG, which at 6’4 is not my type. But he was all over the place on defense with strips, deflections, and contests of shots.
It’s still not clear exactly how good on defense he is, or whether he will live up to his offensive reputation. Is he going to be a two way star? Or will he be a big time scorer with OK enough D? Or a Jrue/Smart type who has great D while falling short of offensive reputation? Or is he just another overhyped undersized SG recruit who disappoints?
He does not turn 19 until shortly before next draft in May, so for now we will err on the side of optimism until getting to know him better for Arkansas next year.
4. Cam Whitmore
Whitmore is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, as he doesn’t turn 19 until July after the draft.
The defining feature of his game is that he loves to dunk. He dunked a ton in both the Hoop Summit and FIBA u19 this summer.
The question mark for him is whether he has enough well rounded goodness to be a complete player, or if he just a one dimensional dunker at 6’6 or 6’7.
If he shows a well rounded skill set and has good measurements, he is one of the more exciting prospects in the class. If he is only 6’6 with meh length and doesn’t do much else it may be hard to quit him entirely but that is a weird mold to get too enthusiastic over.
5. Kyle Filipowski
Filipowski is exceptionally good at passing and moving his feet defensively for 6’11. He does not seem to be much of an athlete or scorer which should limit his draft stock, but seems like the type of guy who inevitably gets underrated in the draft. He has shades of Mike Dunleavy Jr. (who ironically did not get underrated in the draft) but is 2″ taller.
6. Cason Wallace
Wallace is an athletic 6’4 PG who seems to do a bit of everything based on his AAU stats where he averaged 15.2 pts 6.9 rebs 4.8 asts 2 tov 1.2 stls 1.4 blks with solid small sample shooting percentages.
Maybe he shows some weakness once he starts playing games for Kentucky but based on the limited evidence available it is hard to pinpoint anything clearly lacking with him.
7. Amen Thompson 8. Ausar Thompson
I do not understand Overtime Elite. It seems conceptually stupid since they play almost nobody– for prospects who want to skip college what advantage does it offer over G League or overseas?
But the Thompsons are interesting talents. They are super athletic and fill the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Their shooting is a work in progress, but they are high upside molds if they are 6’7 with 6’10 to 6’11 wingspans as reported.
The frustrating part is discerning whether they are actually good, but they did well performing against top AAU teams together in high school and this weekend they play in the The Basketball Tournament against a bunch of former college players. They open vs. a Creighton team that has no quality big men so it will be interesting to get some real info on them (albeit small sample) before they go back to playing nobodies.
The risk here is that they both could be non-shooters so you need to really be confident in their hooping ability to take them this high.
9. Dereck Lively 10. Kel’el Ware
The big boys of the class.
Lively was the best player to my eye in Nike Hoop Summit. He only played 14 mins but scored 8 pts on 4/4 shooting with 3 rebs 1 assist 1 steal 1 block 2 turnovers with at least one of the TOVs being Dariq Whitehead’s fault.
He looked fundamentally sound in the post with impressive passing and is huge and capable of rim protection. And it is only a matter of whether he can shoot and hold his own matched up with perimeter players, both which seem like somewhat dicey but plausible propositions.
The big question for him is whether he is just another Jahlil Okafor or Vernon Carey who does not fit in the modern NBA or a legit good player.
Ware is an explosive finisher with traces of shooting ability, and seems active at stuffing the box score. He is young for the class not turning 19 until April, and there is definitely upside there. The only apprehension is that he seems a bit awkward and uncoordinated at times. He was 0/2 finishing lobs in Hoop Summit and he struggled to corral a loose ball.
But he had an excellent summer in FIBA u18 Americas so there seems to be some clear potential there.
Both of these guys are on the fringe between really good and exciting vs. boring bigs that don’t fit the modern era.
11. Dariq Whitehead
Dariq managed to be Nike Hoop Summit MVP while also being the worst player on the floor and being responsible for about 5 of the 10 worst plays in the game.
How? He got hot from 3 making 5/7 but otherwise was mediocre at best shooting 1/5 from 2P with 4 assists and 3 turnovers, which seems like a minor miracle that he only had 3 turnovers with all of the poor decisions he was making. Although a number of them were taking awful shots that had zero hope of going in.
That said he did have 3 steals and a couple of them were fairly nice. He definitely has some natural processing power in his brain, he is merely a terrible decision maker.
But it is difficult to skewer him too badly since he is the youngest prospect in the lottery turning 19 in August after the draft. And he averaged 3.0 assists vs. 1.7 TOVs EYBL, so perhaps he is not always this sloppy and dumb with the ball.
He reminds me quite a bit of RJ Barrett. 6’6 guy with some PG skill, some shooting ability, a young birthday, and a frustrating amount of shortcomings. On average I would anticipate that he is less good than RJ, but he does have outs to be better if the Hoop Summit is not indicative of his typical self. We’ll see what he has to offer for Duke this year.
12. Dillon Mitchell 13. Anthony Black 14. Jordan Walsh
These are the super role playing wings who do a bit of everything but shoot and score. All are roughly in the Dalen Terry mold but with (hopefully) more upside.
Walsh is a fascinating sleeper with an ’04 birthday at 6’7 with 7’3 wingspan. He averaged 12.2 pts 7.4 rebs 3.2 ast 2.1 tovs 2 stls 0.3 blks in EYBL. It does not look bad compared to Dillon Mitchell who is a few months older and averaged 12.2 pts 4.3 rebs 2.5 asts 1.1 tovs 1.5 stls 0.5 blks.
But Mitchell was a more efficient finisher shooting 76.7% 2P vs 50.8% for Walsh. That is likely playing a role in his higher draft rating.
Black is a complete weirdo in his own rite. For FIBA U18 Americas this summer he averaged 4.7 pts 7.8 rebs 4.2 asts 1.8 tovs 1.8 stl 2 blks on 36.4% TS and his only FGA in Hoop Summit was an open dunk attempt that he badly missed getting rejected by the rim. He is elite at everything basketball related but seems to have some major scoring issues, so he will be a slippery guy to evaluate.
15. Julian Phillips 16. Jarace Walker
Don’t know much about either but they both seem to have solid wing tools.
17. Keyonte George
George is an undersized SG at 6’4. Maybe he can play but he is a worse mold so he needs to get in line behind some other better molds until he proves that he can.
18. Amari Bailey
In the Hoop Summit Bailey looked like a really good player who just cannot shoot, which is a problem at 6’4 but also makes him a somewhat interesting sleeper.
19. Sidy Cissoko
One of the funnest players in the Hoop Summit. His offense was a largely disaster although he had some nifty passes and a few too many spin moves. But his defense was absolutely smothering.
He only measured 6’7.25 with 6’9.25 wingspan so it would be more exciting if he was just a bit bigger. He had just turned 18 in April during Hoop Summit, so perhaps he can still grow a bit more.
But he had a couple of good possessions vs 6’11 Kyle Filipowski and seems like he may be super switchable regardless. My interest is piqued.
20. Chris Livingston
It’s hard to find anything exciting to grasp onto about Livingston, but he is a 6’7 5* freshman playing for Kentucky which is enough to make him worth keeping an eye on.
Hunter’s freshman offense was raw for a little 6’0 guy, but he is highly athletic and capable of making plays on both ends of the floor. He is also still 19 years old, so if he makes a big sophomore leap he will be somewhat interesting.
23. Trayce Jackson-Davis
An awesome dunker– perhaps TJD has a bit of Brandon Clarke upside?
24. Colby Jones 25. David Jones
A couple of well rounded 6’6 SGs who rebound exceptionally well for their size. They are a bit boring, but this is the part of the draft where exciting players are off the board
26. Jaime Jaquez 27. Coleman Hawkins
Both well rounded and solid dudes to help round out round 1.
28. Henri Veesar 29. Mark Mitchell 30. Gradey Dick
A few more young guys round out round 1.
Henri Veesar had a pretty good 5 game run in FIBA u18 Challengers with 16.2 pts 11.6 rebs 2.6 ast 2.2 tov 1 stl 3.8 blks 3.6 3PA 71.4% FT. That is a complete profile for a big, and he committed to play for the best big man coach in college basketball in Tommy Lloyd. I would bet on him making it onto draft radar at some point or another.
No idea what Mitchell is but he is 6’8 and 5* committed to Duke so seems like the type of guy who can leap up the rankings if he randomly plays well and can still be a solid late 1st prospect if he plays merely decently.
Gradey Dick was one of my least favorite players in the Hoop Summit because he had a horrendous defensive play where he helped and jump at a pump fake when his teammate was already there jumping at the pump fake. The result was two players jumping at a pump fake and a wide open layup for Dick’s man. Perhaps he is not always so overzealous, but it was really bad. He also missed a wide open layup.
Can’t be all the way out on him because he is 6’7 and can allegedly shoot, but if his shooting proves to be fake (which is common at this age) and that one play is indicative of his typical BBIQ then he could be really terrible.
31. Brandon Miller
Miller is technically a freshman but he is sophomore aged with a late ’02 birthday. He is actually a pretty decent mold of 6’8 who got rebounds, steals, and blocks in EYBL, but he was not a scorer in spite of being a year older than everybody.
If he can play the age cannot be sweated too hard because he is the right NBA mold…but the age should inspire skepticism that he really can play. We will see.
32. Pete Nance
Pete Nance seems probably too slow for an NBA big, but he can handle, pass, and shoot well and overachieving in the draft runs in the family with his dad Larry and brother Larry Jr.
33. Kevin McCullar
McCullar is 6’6, athletic, and does a bit of everything.
34. Norchad Omier 35. Terry Roberts
A couple of interesting mid-major guys who transferred to high major for this season. Omier is 6’7 and stuffed the stat sheet with all sorts of steals, blocks, and rebs for Arkansas State. His top 2 kenpom comps are Kenneth Faried and Brandon Clarke, so he is definitely a guy to keep an eye on this year for Miami FL.
Roberts is an athletic 6’3 PG who transferred from JUCO and was a stud for Bradley stuffing the stat sheet with a bit of everything and playing excellent D. The main issue is that his offense may be too raw for his age to make it far in the NBA, he is fairly turnover prone and his shooting of 34% 3P 70% FT is OK but less than you would hope for his size and age. He plays in the SEC for Georgia this year, so let’s see how his offense translates to a higher level of athleticism.
36. Zach Edey
Is Edey too slow of a giant 7’4 monster to fit in the NBA? Probably. But he is too much of an elite outlier to write off entirely. At minimum he can be a Boban type, and possibly quite a bit better.
37. Harrison Ingram 38. Matthew Mayer 39. Azuolas Tubelis
Not much to add about these guys, they are all on the fringe of not good enough vs maybe slightly interesting if they hit.
40. Leonard Miller
I think Miller just doesn’t know how to play, but he is young and toolsy and has a chance to prove me wrong in G League this year.
41. Marcus Sasser 42. Terquavion Smith
It’s funny I was thinking Sasser may be a decent UDFA in this draft, and then suddenly he pops up at #27 in ESPN’s mock for next year. I guess they really just need some warm bodies to fill out round 1. It’s hard to figure out what returners are good.
But him and Terq are roughly the same thing. They are undersized 3 point bombers. Sasser is older and less athletic, but also has a higher BBIQ.
It seems like a terrible decision for Terq to return to school. He had all of the undeserved hype in the world, and he goes back to a bad NC State team that will likely be bad again next year. And what is there for him to build on his game?
He really needs to show some semblance of PG skills and make FT’s. But he really seems like an inefficient chucker who can’t guard anybody in the NBA, and if he looks that way at age 20 and NC State still sucks teams may need to question whether he belongs in round 1.
Rating him lotto ahead of some of these talented freshman is really bad. He probably just isn’t good enough for the NBA as a one dimensional shooter who only made 69.8% FT as a freshman.
Off the Board Arthur Kaluma
ESPN has him #31 while CBS Sports has him #13 and the Athletic has him #15.
At a glance you may say well he is 6’7 and could be in line for a big freshman leap after having a career game in the tourney vs Kansas scoring 24 pts 12 rebs 3 assists. But looking at the big picture he has flags on flags on flags.
First– he was a sophomore aged freshman who turned 20 in March. He isn’t that young.
Further, every indicator for NBA perimeter ability looks bad for him. He had half as many assists as turnovers, an anemic 1.3% steal rate, and shot 26.5% 3P 67.1% FT.
So to stomach all of this weakness there should be a unique selling point. Which in his case I guess it’s that he has OKish wing tools? He is 6’7 with 6’11 wingspan and OK-ish athleticism. But he isn’t much of a rebounder, shot blocker, or interior scorer, so how does he make his bacon in the NBA?
The answer is he doesn’t. Don’t be scammed into drafting this guy, let him be somebody else’s mistake.
Hickman doesn’t have that much hype being just #32 ESPN #29 CBS…but it is difficult to see how he belongs on draft radar at all. He is 6’2 and averaged 5.1 pts 1.5 rebs 1.3 ast 0.6 stl 0.2 blk with 30.8% 3P 66.7% FT in 17.2 mins as a freshman for Gonzaga. He is young and did not turn 19 until after the season, but he is a little guy with practically nothing to build on.
It is difficult to see how he should ever be valued above fellow Zag Julian Strawther who is far from a world beater, but is 6’7 and can at least somewhat shoot.
It is crazy how much Bates hype has evaporated as he has gone from the next Kevin Durant to #33 in ESPN’s latest mock.
Honestly that’s still probably too high. The fact that he transferred all the way down to a terrible Eastern Michigan program likely indicates that he has some major red flags and just is not good enough for the NBA.
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
–Keels/Grimes/Sochan/Duren –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.
Hard to love this pick more. I had Paolo as the best player available, the best fit, and they completely tricked Woj and the rest of the NBA media into believing they wanted Jabari.
Jabari would have been a fine choice, but it would have left the team lacking a primary creator. Franz showed surprising creation potential as a rookie, but still may be more of a #2 guy with elite role player skills.
Paolo has clear #1 creation upside, and does not come attached to a small size and huntability which is neat because it can enable Orlando to build a super switchable defense with one or no guards while still having a potent offense.
If they develop well, Paolo and Franz are a championship level top 2 with Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr., and hopefully Jonathan Isaac if he can ever get and stay healthy as some nice pieces to fill in the gaps.
After a decade mired in mediocrity, the future finally looks bright for the Magic.
2. Oklahoma City: Chet Holmgren C-
Chet can work out totally fine here, he is an elite role player who fits well alongside Shai and Giddey. But they passed up Jabari Smith who was a more elite role player and fit just as well, which is a dubious decision by Sam Presti.
Jabari has potential to be somewhat blah and Chet can be great in his own funky way so it would be unfair to skewer Oklahoma City too hard, but this does not seem like the correct choice.
3. Houston: Jabari Smith: A+
Draft grades are hard. Are you supposed to grade picks based on the skillfulness of the pick or how much bottom line value he provides to the slot?
Smith is not a difficult pick to make, I would imagine that most or all of the 30 teams would have taken him here. But he is great value for #3 overall as I rated him as an average #1 overall, so regardless of the difficulty of the pick this was a big W for the Rockets.
4. Sacramento: Keegan Murray C-
It’s somewhat unfair to skewer the Kings here. I personally had Murray 12th on my board, and would not have considered him this high. But it is a relatively flat tier and an incredibly difficult slot to choose in, and there was pretty much nobody who was a big win on the table.
In some regard you could blame the Davion Mitchell pick for being a low upside guard alongside De’Aaron Fox and eliminating the next three SG picks from fitting in Sacramento’s young core. But even without Mitchell I would not like the Ivey/Fox backcourt since it offers two small guys to hunt while still being light on shooting.
Personally I would have taken Dyson Daniels or Jeremy Sochan ahead of Murray, but regardless the Kings were choosing from a tier of boring role players and going to get an underwhelming result. This was a no win slot for them so not much to be done.
5. Detroit: Jaden Ivey B
I am fairly bearish on Ivey, but it is difficult to knock him as the choice here. I rated Mathurin, Daniels, and Sochan as all a bit higher, but those were all somewhat hot takes and none of them trump Ivey by a comfortable margin.
Ivey fits especially well with Cade Cunningham, as they make a pretty good backcourt duo helping atone for each other’s weaknesses.
Ivey needs another handler by his side because he is not a floor general, but having a small guard like De’Aaron Fox is tough because then there are two small guys to hunt. In that regard, Cade is a great fit.
Cade needs another handler by his side because his creation is fairly inefficient, and if he had lower responsibility and can spend more time spotting up to maximize his shooting ability his overall efficiency should get a boost.
I don’t really like Ivey that much and am not convinced he amounts to anything in the longterm, but the same could be said for anybody available at this slot. Perfectly reasonable pick here.
6. Indiana Pacers: Bennedict Mathurin B
Between Mathurin, Duarte, Hield, Brogdon, and Haliburton the Pacers really love SG’s a bit too much.
But Duarte is a bench player and Brogdon + Hield are at the end of their primes, so this is all about finding a sidekick for Haliburton. Him and Mathurin can be a fun backcourt duo that provide great shooting and efficiency and hopefully do not give too much back away on defense.
Personally I would have taken Dyson Daniels or Jeremy Sochan but this pick is perfectly fine.
7. Portland: Shaedon Sharpe D
Portland took the bait on the mystery box. They need to hope he is better than free tickets to a crappy comedy club.
8. New Orleans: Dyson Daniels A
Daniels was the best player available on my board and fits nicely with the Pelicans. Jaxson Hayes is not the right 5th wheel for their lineup, they needed somebody more perimetery and Daniels is the perfect replacement.
Now even without Zion they can put out a lineup of CJ/Daniels/Ingram/Herb/JV which is actually pretty good. And if Zion can stay healthy and effective that is an awesome top 6. Either way this is a good pick.
9. San Antonio: Jeremy Sochan A
Sochan was my best player on the board. Good pick for the Spurs and good landing spot for Sochan
10. Washington: Johnny Davis D-
The Wizards cannot get enough of low upside guys in the late lottery. In the past 4 years here are their top choices:
And now Johnny Davis this year. 6’5 SG who has no PG skill, struggles to get to the rim, struggles to make 3’s, but has a nice midrange pullup and that midwestern toughness.
These guys are all mediocrities with low upside. The Wizards are quickly becoming one of my least favorite drafting teams.
11. Oklahoma CityOusmane Dieng F-
Man did Presti fumble the bag this draft. Taking Chet over Smith was a mistake but they nevertheless got a good prospect that could work out. But here they really add insult to injury by diving into their bag of picks and setting 3 of them on fire.
Let us revisit Sam Presti’s international picks since hitting on Serge Ibaka in 2008:
His only other first round choice is Aleksej Pokusevski who he traded up for at #17 overall in 2020. Poku is still only 20 and has some potential to stick around for an NBA career, but the early returns are underwhelming and NYC and Minnesota who traded down for Immanuel Quickley and Jaden McDaniels respectively seem to have gotten the better end of the deal.
Other than that he has taken 5 pulls in round 2 that all completely flopped: Tibor Pleiss (#31), Alex Abrines (#32), Theo Maledon (#34), Vit Krejci (#37), and Petr Cornelie (#53). It’s tough to hit on 2nd rounders but that is four pulls early in the round who look nothing close to NBA players, and Maledon came one slot before Xavier Tillman who an actually sharp Memphis team drafted after Presti’s blunder.
And then last year, Alperen Sengun falls into his lap at #16 and he trades out of the slot for additional future picks. Sengun still has longterm questions to answer, but has already shown far more potential than Poku and all of the 2nd round picks combined.
Now this year he takes the two picks acquired from trading Sengun and throws in a 3rd lottery protected Denver first rounder to trade for Dieng, who is painfully obviously a weaker prospect than Sengun.
I get that OKC had way too many future picks and needed to consolidate on somebody, but it really should have been anybody but this guy.
OKC is putting far too much faith in their terrible international scouting with this pick, and it will likely result in 3 picks spent on a guy who is not an NBA player.
Conversely, this was a great trade for the Knicks to scoop up so many first rounders for such a weak #11 pick.
12. Oklahoma City: Jalen Williams D
After making two blunders to start the draft, Presti figured why not have a 3rd and reached for a random 21 year old mid-major guy who had a junior year breakout.
The last mid-major prospect that Presti took lottery was Cam Payne, and while he has settled into a nice backup player for his fourth team in Phoenix, he had a disastrous start to his career and OKC sold low on him in a trade halfway through his second season.
Why should Williams provide any better of a return? He had a nice combine but taking him all the way up in the lottery seems like a big overreaction. Mid majors are historically not a source of NBA talent, and Williams seems like he could be an exception in the sense that he may be a decent rotation player. But he simply does not have the upside or the median to be worth a lottery pull.
13. Detroit: Jalen Duren A
Detroit had a great week of trading, shipping Jerami Grant for a Milwaukee 1st and three 2nds, and then re-routing that first for Duren and Kemba Walker $9M expiring contract.
People were laughing at the Pistons for an underwhelming return on Grant after rumors of getting #7 overall, but then they ended up swinging the return into a prospect who is better than the guy Portland actually took at #7.
Which is not to mention that Grant should have a limited trade value as a solid but not great player on an expiring deal who will likely need to be overpaid as a free agent to retain from ages 29+.
Meanwhile the Knicks pulled off some sneaky good work as the middle man here. They paid Denver’s lottery protected first round pick for next year (likely in the 20s) and three 2nd rounders for Milwaukee’s 2025 top 4 protected pick and a dump of Walkers $9M cap hit.
The picks all look like approximately mid-2nd rounders, two in 2023 and one in 2024. Seems like a reasonable price to unload Walker’s expiring, and then that Milwaukee pick is better than the Denver pick since it is only top 4 protection instead of top 14, and the 2022-2023 Nuggets are faves to be better than the 2024-25 Bucks.
As for Charlotte, flipping this year’s #13 into next years #25ish pick and three seconds is not thrilling, but it is fine since this year’s #13 is a relatively weak slot and they need to save cap space to pay Miles Bridges.
14. Cleveland: Ochai Agbaji D
Defensive versatility and switching defenses is all the rage in the NBA right now, but the Cavs can not remotely be bothered to care.
To add to their core of 2 bigs and one small PG, the Cavs picked a SG and still have zero long term wings on the roster. Even if you like Okoro, he is SG size.
They have pretty much have nobody to match up defensively with stars like Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Luka Doncic, etc. This would have been a nice time to take a stab on somebody who has a chance of doing so such as Tari Eason or Jake LaRavia, but instead they needed to take an old low upside SG and how need to pray that his shooting is actually good.
15. Charlotte: Mark Williams A-
Williams is a nice value, a great fit with LaMelo as a lob finisher, and may be an instant upgrade over Mason Plumlee at center.
This pick made sense in all levels for Charlottes.
16. Atlanta: AJ Griffin B
Griffin is fine here, but likely slid a bit due to medical flags so hopefully he can stay healthy and hopefully his shooting is real.
17. Houston: Tari Eason A
Eason is a gamble to be sure as his foul and turnover rates are disgusting for a relatively old prospect. But his physical tools and defensive potential are off the chart, and he has far more exciting upside than anybody else on the board.
Another clear great selection for Houston
18. Chicago: Dalen Terry B-
I like Terry, and I championed him as a value pick when he was not projected to be drafted. But it seems that NBA teams may have fell a bit too hard in love here, as he is a somewhat boring role player and I am not sure he is quite worth #18 overall.
But he a fun guy with a relatively easy path to usefulness at the wing, so it is difficult to criticize this pick too harshly.
19. Memphis: Jake LaRavia A-
LaRavia is a nice pick who seemed like a Memphis guy all along, so this is a nice choice for them.
The only downside is that 22 and 29 is a steep price to pay to move up 3 slots, but I suppose they have so much young talent they don’t mind consolidating some assets a bit.
20. San Antonio: Malaki Branham C+
I don’t know. I didn’t strongly watch Malaki film but he seems like a boring SG whose defense is more bad than his offense is good. He is a guy where if his freshman shooting percentages overstate his shooting, he could be really disappointing for his drafting team.
21. Denver: Christian Braun B
Braun is a little bit boring in the upside department, but the Nuggets already have their star power and just need cheap useful guys to eat minutes and they are a real contender.
Braun could be their version of Pat Connaughton who is simply less bad than Austin Rivers, and not bad and not expensive is all the Nuggets need around Jokic and a healthy Murray.
22. Minnesota: Walker Kessler A
Not sure how Kessler fits with KAT but he is a nice value choice here.
23. Memphis: David Roddy B–
Trading 24 year old Melton for a late first is a disappointing outcome when he is still locked up for two more cheap years, but it seems that he wanted out of Memphis and they obliged him by sending him to Philly who is starved for depth and needs a guy like him more badly than the Grizzlies. This trade is a clear win for Philly, but it is tough to win with a player who wants out that will only be fully appreciated by other analytics teams.
As for the pick. I don’t know. Roddy is a tough one for me. He is highly intelligent and fairly well rounded on the court, but just seems a buck short of having much NBA upside in terms of dimensions, skill, and athleticism.
But there is no strong reason why he cannot be a useful pick in the late first, so I don’t have anything too bad to say about the pick. It is mostly unfortunate that he had to cost them Melton
24. Milwaukee Bucks: Marjon Beauchamp C
Beauchamp is a reasonable choice here for his defensive versatility, but he is fairly old with badly limited offense and an unorthodox path to the NBA. He may be fine but this pick is just meh to me.
25. San Antonio: Blake Wesley C
Wesley is young with a bit of potential but is also really meh.
26. Minnesota: Wendell Moore B+
Moore is a bit boring but he nevertheless seems like a solid role player and solid value here.
27. Miami Heat: Nikola Jovic C
Jovic is a boring international but is probably fine to take this late.
28. Golden State: Patrick Baldwin Jr. D-
Baldwin was absolutely terrible for an awful low major team as a freshman, he struggled with injuries, and he is horribly unathletic, and the most likely conclusion is that the guy is not an NBA player.
But of course the Warriors take him in round 1 to prove that they are light years ahead.
29. Houston: TyTy Washington B+
TyTy is a bit boring but a pretty solid gamble this late.
Gotta LOVE Houston’s draft. They got a big prize in the lottery and two quality pulls in the late first. They are on a roll drafting between these 3 picks and Sengun.
That said I think people are going a bit too far praising Rafael Stone for being some drafting savant. Smith completely fell into his lap and Jalen Green over Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes is still a historical mistake so let’s not pretend that didn’t happen.
The Rockets future is looking bright but I think people get too excited to praise teams for making a few nice picks when everybody makes some major blunders over a large enough sample.
30. Denver: Peyton Watson A-
Pre-draft I wasn’t sure where to rate Watson because his offense is so bad and his defense is so good.
I stashed him #34 after watching zero film and putting close to zero analytical effort into him. Why? Because as fun as draft analysis is, it is merely a hobby and it takes significant energy to thoroughly analyze every second round talent. This is why big boards are a brutal exercise to try to precisely rank EVERYBODY.
My main hang up with him is that it was difficult to think of anybody who was that bad offensively and worked out in the NBA…but then I remembered Herb Jones was a disaster offensively his first two years of college.
Granted, Watson likely does not make the shooting and overall offensive leaps that Herb did. But if he does he is a really nice payoff for the last pick in round 1 as an excellent role playing wing.
This is the pick the Nuggets got along with two 2nd rounders from OKC in exchange for their top 5 protected 2027 1st and OKC absorbing $8M JaMychal Green expiring to save on luxury tax.
OKC gets some upside with mid-late lotto potential, but not that much upside with top 5 protection. Denver benefits from getting cheap pulls on talent to help their team that can help them win it all in the short term future. In terms of pick quality it is close to break even, given that this fits their window better and they shed luxury tax it was a really good trade for the Nuggets, and Watson caps it off with a solid pick.
31. Indiana: Andrew Nembhard C+
Kinda boring but it’s fine
32. Orlando: Caleb Houstan C+
Also kinda boring but fine. If he does work out he would make an interesting 5th wheel for a lineup like Suggs/Franz/Houstan/Paolo/WCJ.
33. Toronto: Christian Koloko A
This is a really awesome pick for Toronto for a team that whose only rim protector is 29 year old free agent Chris Boucher.
Koloko is super switchable and super good on defense, and gives the Raptors a vertical spacer.
Between Barnes, Siakam, Anunoby, Precious, and Koloko, Toronto is really hoarding some elite defensive pieces to build around.
34. Oklahoma City: Jaylin Williams B
Williams is a bit boring but he has decent odds of being a useful rotation player.
35. LA Lakers: Max Christie D-
Christie is terrible and so are the Lakers, so at least it is a good fit.
36. Detroit: Gabriele Procida C+
Procida is a generic role playing international SG, but if you want to draft a stash he is fine.
37. Dallas: Jaden Hardy C-
Small chance of Anfernee Simons 2.0, big chance of bust.
38. Memphis: Kennedy Chandler A-
Chandler is the type of prospect that is always difficult for me to pin down. He is small and athletic and does some really nice things, but how excited can you be for a 6’0 guard who shot 60.6% FT? I seriously don’t know.
Gotta be worried that he is this year’s version of Jawun Evans or Sharife Cooper as the little guy who everybody loves and slides and then is not good value. But little guys are weird– when they bust they bust really hard, but sometimes they hit harder than you would think.
Overall I’m going to say this the Grizzlies made a nice gamble here.
39. Cleveland: Khalifa Diop C-
I don’t really know much about Khalifa Diop. I just know that there was a decent 6’7 guy on the board in EJ Liddell that the Cavs could have drafted, but of course that is against their religion so they take a random international big. Maybe they just wanted a stash, I don’t know. I just wish they would let Mobley have a single wing by his side when some teams are trotting out 4-5 wing lineups.
40. Minnesota: Bryce McGowens C-
Seems like guys like this hit in round 2 pretty much ~never
41. New Orleans: EJ Liddell A–
Liddell is really weird and I am not certain what to think of him but it is tough to see how he is not a good pull this late.
42. New York: Trevor Keels A+
Man it is INSANE Keels slid this long and so many turds went ahead of him. This includes Dieng who the Knicks swindled 3 future picks from OKC for.
Keels is my most underrated player on my board. He is not an athlete but he is young and knows how to hoop, which is a much better pick to make that an international like Dieng who is not an athlete but is young and has no idea how to hoop.
43. LA Clippers: Moussa Diabate D+
Don’t see it with this guy
44. Golden State Warriors: Ryan Rollins A-
Fun round 2 pull
45. Minnesota: Josh Minott B+
Not a bad pull here.
46. Denver: Ismael Kamagate B
I had said that Kamagate was undraftable based on a look at the stats…but he is a late starter and very toolsy and making rapid gains. And he was DPOY in his French league. So maybe I sold him short. Still think he is kinda boring but he is a reasonable stash candidate in round 2.
47. Memphis Grizzlies: Vince Williams B
Vince seems kinda boring to me but everybody loves him and it’s the Grizzlies so it’s probably fine.
48. Indiana Pacers: Kendall Brown B
I love me some Kendall Brown but I have a feeling he slid due to insurmountable red flags rather than a misevaluation of his talent.
49. Cleveland Cavaliers: Isaiah Mobley A
As much as I would like to criticize the Cavs for once again not taking a wing, I like this pick. You want to keep Evan as happy as possible, and Isaiah may be a decent value this late in the draft as high basketball IQ runs in the family. He certainly has more potential than Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
50. Minnesota Timberwolves: Matteo SpagnoloB
A fine choice to stash
Rest of the picks are do not care:
The big winners of the draft are Orlando and Houston who got the two possible franchise changing talents on the board. Houston taking some good pulls later in the first on Eason and TyTy are a nice bonus.
The Knicks did not get to make any franchise changing moves, but Keels could be the steal of the draft in round 2 and they really swindled Presti badly in the Dieng trade. They scooped some nice chunks of expected value tonight.
New Orleans had a sneaky good night with Daniels + Liddell, as did Minnesota with Kessler, Moore, and Minott. Toronto did very well with Koloko as their only pick at 33.
Denver also had a solid draft. They got some nice pulls at wing between Braun and Watson with Braun being more likely to be useful right away and Watson being a higher upside gamble long term. Their trade with OKC to acquire Watson is better than it is getting credit for. Kamagate is a decent round 2 stash, as he could match up with Victor Wembanyama next season and pump up his trade value if he plays well against him.
Spurs got off to a good start with Sochan but then took a couple of meh SG’s in round 2 in Branham and Wesley. But they nailed the important pick and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the SG’s hit, so overall their draft was net good.
As for Detroit I am not in love with Ivey like everybody else, but he is a fine choice and being able to convert an expiring Jerami Grant into a pull on Jalen Duren is a nice maneuver. Good night overall.
Philly needs to be happy they plucked a DeAnthony Melton from thin air.
Memphis needs to be sad they had to deal Melton, but LaRavia, Roddy, and KC are some decent pulls collectively so it was an alright night for the Grizzlies all things considered.
The biggest loser was OKC. They were a team with such an exciting hand to play with their war chest of future picks, infinite cap space, and Giddey + Shai. But they took the wrong guy at #2 in Chet, they used three of their future picks to take a pull on a terrible french guy Dieng, and they took a dubious mid-major talent at #12 in Jalen Williams.
They are still in not bad spot with Giddey, Shai, Chet, and likely another high lottery pick next year and still a whole lot more picks to take bad shots with. But they could have instead had a core of Giddey/Shai/Jabari/Duren with 3 extra first rounders to use on pretty much anybody else other than Ousmane Dieng.
Portland would be an incredibly frustrating team to root for now. Dame is going to be 32 coming off by far the worst season of his career and is due $137M over the next 3 years. He should rebound next year, but he likely is past his prime and they have too little help around him to have much potential. Maybe they can sneak into the playoffs next year, but it is difficult to see them winning a series.
They really should be unloading Dame while he still has trade value. For instance, if the Knicks are willing to offer Keels, Grimes, all of the picks from Dieng trade, and a future NYK unprotected 1st, that is a snap yes. And even if the Knicks are not THAT generous with draft picks, it will still be worth doing simply because Dame’s prime is over and they need to reset.
I would have also taken Dyson Daniels or Jeremy Sochan over Shaedon Sharpe, and traded for Jalen Duren instead of Jerami Grant. That gives us Keels/Grimes/Sochan/Duren with a slew of extra future 1sts in the bag.
Now instead the Blazers get to try to build around Dame, Josh Hart, and Jerami Grant. We will see what they can do, but most of the time they are likely destined for the play in tournament, and there is some small risk that Dame has another bad year and goes from being a coveted star to an albatross contract. And then Grant will be a 29 UDFA that will be risky to pay longterm, and the team is left with essentially nothing of value after missing the playoffs.
They still have an entire offseason to field a competitive cast around Dame. But they are choosing the path of most resistance when instead they could have just cashed in on Dame, scooped a bunch of neat young guys, and gone into tank mode.
Kings didn’t blow the pick as bad as everybody thinks they did, simply because the pick wasn’t good enough to have much at stake. Taking Murray over Ivey could look like the right pick in retrospect and still be an underwhelming outcome for #4 overall.
Everything went downhill for them from that Davion Mitchell pick. If I was their meddlesome owner, I would have forced the GM to draft Sengun at #9 and keep Haliburton. Then this year we would have traded down for whatever nominal fee we could collect to draft Dyson Daniels or Jeremy Sochan. Fox/Hali/Daniels/Sengun would be something to build on. Fox/Mitchell/Keegan/Sabonis? Not so much.
Wizards continuing their tradition of wasting lottery picks on mediocre low upside guys continuing cannot bode well for the franchise.
Dallas only had a couple of low leverage plays, but there are a number of players I would have taken a pull on at #26 over an expiring Christian Wood– such as Moore, TyTy, Watson, Keels, and Koloko. At #37 Hardy is a fine pull but likely doesn’t amount to anything. Meh night for them.
Cavs got meh value with their picks and didn’t pick a single capable wing.
Warriors made a really bad PBJ pick but somewhat redeemed it with Rollins.
Big Boards are hard to do. But I watched a decent amount of film this year. I will inevitably regret some of these rankings, but they should prove to be reasonably efficient in time.
Tier 1: Lottery Prizes
I have written in depth about Paolo and why I believe he is the #1 choice, but the short version is that he has the best creativity and passing. He is 6’10 and while he is not the explosive athlete, he is highly fluid and capable from scoring at all levels of the floor.
He is also an excellent passer and big enough to play PF and possibly work in some lineups as a small center.
There are some concerns about his defense, but size + intelligence is a fairly common intersection that leads to players overachieving defensively. He is not great laterally, but he is decent enough and while he has some risk of being a liability, he also has potential to be solid on that end of the floor.
It’s incredibly rare to see such offensive versatility in such a large player, and this gives Paolo the clearly best upside in the draft.
There is some risk that his shooting and defense are on the mediocre side which make him a slightly awkward fit in some lineups, but Paolo has a good median and good upside and is collectively around an average #1 overall prospect.
2. Jabari Smith Jr.
Jabari Smith is a close second because of his excellent shooting and defensive versatility. This gives him elite role player skills that will enable him to fit in any lineup.
Most 3 + D players are good at one of shooting or defense and merely OK at the other. It is rare to get somebody who is solidly good at both, but that seems to be what Smith is on track for.
He shot 42% 3P on high volume and 79.9% FT as an 18 year old freshman, and for a 6’10 player he excels at moving his feet and containing penetration. His versatility as a man to man defensive player is elite.
He also had more assists than TOVs, indicating a solid intersection of perimeter skill and basketball IQ for his size and age. It is difficult to see how he would not be a welcome addition to any NBA lineup.
The one concern is whether he has the ability to create at a superstar level. He lacks athletic pop and struggles to get to the rim and finish, and most of his two point attempts came from midrange, resulting in a 43.5% 2P.
On one hand, he has excellent height and shooting at 6’10, and with competent ball handling he should at least be able to shoot over most defensive players. He only turned 19 in May, so he has plenty of time to develop some creation package.
But he does not have nearly the length or athleticism of Kevin Durant, so it seems optimistic to expect him to create at anywhere close to KD’s volume or efficiency. Rashard Lewis may be a more realistic comp for his creativity, as he seems more like a #2 option. That said given his youth and talent capping his creation potential at Lewis seems harsh– perhaps his scoring upside is somewhere halfway in between Lewis and Durant. It is difficult to say.
He also could be compared to Klay Thompson, who similarly struggled inside the arc as an NCAA freshman at 42.7%. He likely will not make 42% 3P on high volume like Klay, but you cannot rule out the possibility and he has potential to be much better on defense due to his 4″ height advantage. If he comes anywhere close to Klay’s shooting with better and more versatile defense, that is a valuable player regardless of whether he becomes a good creator or not.
Ultimately I rank Smith slightly behind Banchero because his upside is a bit lower, but he atones by fitting a lower friction mold that fits awesomely into any lineup. It is a very close decision between the two, and I flipped back and forth between them all season. I also rate Smith as approximately an average #1 overall.
3. Chet Holmgren
Chet is a distant third because he is the oldest of the three (a full year older than Jabari) and his skinny frame gives a weird flaw that you do not need to sweat out with the other two who fit more typical star molds. It may not hurt him that much in light of his unique strengths, but it adds a layer of uncertainty that makes him less comfortable investing in than the other two, on top of possible extra injury risk to boot as we have seen with other physically atypical prospects like Zion Williamson.
Except the difference is that Chet is not a generational talent like Zion, and nobody has been more than a low end bench player with his frame as Manute Bol + Aleksej Pokusevskis are the only guys who have made the NBA being that skinny.
While his dimensions, IQ, and skill could yield a highly useful NBA career for Chet, it is difficult to justify how he should go ahead of the two guys who are more typical #1 overall picks.
It is almost impossible to find a comp for him. He has similarities to Jonathan Isaac and Evan Mobley, but those guys are more athletic and less deathly skinny.
The player he most reminds me of is a big man version of Lonzo Ball. Both great dimensions + IQ for position, plus shooters, limited self creation, elite efficiency, both gangly and awkward looking. Both elite freshman stats, both projected #2 overall in their drafts. I could envision his NBA career being something like Lonzo’s, where he does not completely live up to the hype, but nevertheless is a highly useful role player, but also may have inconsistent availability because he is too fragile to handle the physicality of the NBA (or maybe not, but it is difficult to look at him and not assign greater than random probability of struggling with injuries).
It seems ridiculous to take him over either Jabari or Paolo as both are typical #1 overall picks and Chet is atypical in a way that opens the room for more extra downside than extra upside. But he is still really good at basketball and #3 is as low as one can reasonably get on him.
Daniels glows with the most goodness out of anybody in this tier. He looked awesome last summer against team USA for Australia, then he proceeded to do great in the G League, grow 1.5″, and then (hopefully) made a shooting leap in time for the draft.
He is likely a somewhat boring role player in the Kyle Anderson or Boris Diaw mold, but he is young and can play which is about the nicest thing you can say about anyone outside of the top 3.
5. Jeremy Sochan
Sochan is not quite as attractive as Daniels as he does not have the same passing and his shooting is likely weaker as well. But he is a bit bigger with great defensive potential, and has a good assist:TOV for a young big wing and a chance of learning to shoot.
Every team could use a versatile wing like Sochan, and the cherry on top is that he is somewhat dirty player. And perhaps this is a bad heuristic, but it seems like dirty players hit in the draft at a very high rate. So this cements him as the second most glow in the tier, and then things get murky.
6. Jalen Duren
Jalen Duren is so slippery to peg. He has such optimal center tools outside of missing a couple inches of height. It is so rare to see his strength, length, and athleticism, and it makes it so easy to find an NBA role without any skill.
Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan were both unthinkably bad in college, clearly worse than Duren, and both went on to have acceptable NBA careers. Jordan had a brief but good peak, and Drummond was more of a perennial mediocrity but nevertheless had a decent outcome relative to NCAA production.
Duren is definitely better than those guys at the same age, but it is not clear he will necessarily be better on average in the NBA. He is really leaning on his nuclear upside of Dwight Howard or at least Alonzo Mourning to hit for his drafting team to truly emerge as a winner. It’s definitely somewhere in the realm of possibility, but how thick are the odds? Your guess is as good as mine.
More likely he will be a Derrick Favors type of solid big that is useful but not so highly valued in current NBA climate. And there is some chance of being a Drummond level of meh. It’s not that thrilling but hey the upside tail exists, and that’s a fairly exciting pitch compared to the rest of the class.
Overall Duren is difficult to rank, but he is the youngest and most physically elite prospect in the draft and nothing is fundamentally broken about him. So why not err on the side of optimism with him.
7. Bennedict Mathurin 8. Jaden Ivey
Mathurin and Ivey are the two most athletic SG’s in the draft, and make for an interesting comparison.
Ivey has all of the hype because he is the more elite athlete and uses his athleticism more functionally in creating his own shot at the rim.
But his flaw is that he is a SG, not a PG capable of running the offense. There is a limit to the value of slashing to the rim if it is paired with lackluster decision making and floor general skills.
Even though Ivey played more as a primary handler for Purdue, he still had a slightly worse assist TOV ratio than Mathurin (1.17 vs 1.42) and to my eye has worse feel for the game and makes more painfully bad decisions on offense.
Meanwhile Mathurin is 2″ taller, 4 months younger, plays more within the flow of the offense, and is the better shooter making 38.3% 3P 78.9% FT vs 32.2% 3P 73.9% FT for Ivey, both on similarly high 3PA rates.
Both are bad defensively, but given Mathurin’s height advantage and that he played for a solid NCAA defense (#21) while Ivey played for a bad one (#93) and the defense was notably worse with him on the floor both seasons. Further, Ivey’s defensive mistakes seem a bit worse to my eye. These are all relatively minor points, but it seems Mathurin should have a small edge defensively in terms of NBA projection.
All things considered, it seems like Mathurin is a slightly better prospect than Ivey. There is some boring element to his game, where he could be an athlete who doesn’t use his athleticism functionally and is a boring spot up shooter like Terrence Ross, but Ivey can be bad in a Dennis Smith Jr. or Jordan Crawford sort of way.
And in spite of being the better athlete who is foraying to the rim more frequently, Ivey had fewer dunks at 1.5 per 100 possessions this past season vs 1.75 per 100 for Mathurin. It really does not seem like the gap is significant enough to move the needle in a major way, and if Mathurin randomly makes some major leaps in ball handling ability he is equipped to be the more complete player with slightly better height, shooting, and feel for the game.
It is strange that more people are not questioning Ivey’s goodness
Maybe this qualifies as a hot take to rank Ivey all the way down here, or perhaps the real hot take is everyone locking him in as the #4 player in the draft. Given that there are three #1 talents in this draft, Ivey somewhat functions as a #2 pick in this draft and may shed light on why #2 picks seem historically cursed. Once the obvious stud(s) are off the board, teams seem to feel the need to target big upside with their high lottery pick. Except the high upside guys who aren’t obvious studs normally have some debilitating wart that causes them to disappoint, thus the #2 pick curse.
It is a simple heuristic to say that the most athletic guy has the most upside, but that’s not always the case. My preferred heuristic is that dimensions and basketball IQ yield the most upside, but Ivey has the smallest dimensions and arguably the worst basketball IQ in this tier.
Another way to discern upside would be to look for players who are productive players and young. Ivey is the 6th oldest in this tier, and older prospects such as Keegan Murray (15.7), Tari Eason (14.7), Walker Kessler (14.1), and Mark Williams (12.5) all had vastly better BPM’s than Ivey this past season (7.2). Jake Laravia is only 3 months older and was nevertheless higher (8.5). Then among younger players: AJ Griffin (8.1), Sochan (8), Mathurin (8), Kendall Brown (7.4) all were higher, Jalen Duren (7.1) is a hair lower while being 21 months younger, and Trevor Keels (4.2) is the only much lower player who is 1.5 years younger and vastly underrated by BPM.
There is no stable floor to Ivey’s profile. People are latching onto one big strength in speed/athleticism and one basketball skill in getting to the rim and finishing, and somewhat glazing over how little else he has to offer. There is some chance that he develops great and becomes a Zach LaVine, but more commonly he will be something like Jordan Clarkson and he has some risk of being not good at all.
Overall the other choices aren’t great and it is not crazy to consider Ivey at #4 overall. But it is crazy to not consider that he should actually be rated solidly lower than #4, and it seems that most people are failing to give this concern it’s due.
9. Tari Eason
This may regrettable to rate Eason this high, as he has an incredibly polarizing set of traits. He likely has the second best physical profile in the draft after Jalen Duren, as he is 6’8 with 7’2 wingspan with wiry strength and great athleticism.
Eason is a buzzsaw defensively, as he can physically match up with almost anybody, has a great motor, and is natural at pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers. The downside is that he fouls approximately as much as a buzzsaw might, and is massively turnover prone offensively.
Offensively he is a capable shooter and can create his own shot and finish. He makes decent passes at times but is definitely a score first player, and because he is prone to playing out of control and attacking at inopportune times he had a terrible assist:TOV ratio of 0.45 for LSU.
He seems to have an excellent intuition for basketball but a questionable IQ– many of his fouls are sloppy and lazy reaches. It is not clear if the fouls are turnovers are stomachable errors can be cleaned up over time, or indicative of a fundamental lack of intelligence that will lead to overall disappointment over time. But it needs to be a major concern how frequently his mental lapses occur on both ends.
Drafting Eason this high is a big risk. Fouls and turnovers can typically be reduced over time, but it is not common for prospects with such high rates as an old sophomore who turned 21 shortly after the season to enter the draft. They need to be treated as possible fatal flaws, as players with foul rates that bad typically stay bad forever.
So this makes it a challenge to rank Eason. His strengths are tantalizing, but he has some disgusting warts as well. It’s tough to place him with any confidence, but his strengths are so much more exciting than anybody else outside of the top 3, it seems worth erring on the side of optimism.
10. Mark Williams 11. Walker Kessler
Both Williams + Kessler have somewhat limited excitement as role playerish bigs, but they both have fairly easy paths to useful NBA player and are going to get drafted behind a whole bunch of perimeter players who amount to nothing.
Both are efficient garbagemen and rim protectors. Williams is a bet on physical tools and offense, whereas Kessler is more of a bet on instincts and defense.
Williams eye tests as one of the best pick and roll finishers and vertical spacers for a big in recent memory. He is incredibly long at 7’6.5″, reasonably bouncy, and extremely fluid in the paint. He dunks at a massive rate and rarely turns it over with almost as many assists (35) as turnovers (36) on the season for Duke.
His shooting has some inkling of hope as well, as he made 72.7% FT as a sophomore and 66.1% for his NCAA career. He only went 0/1 from 3 in two seasons, but he has some outs of learning to make an open 3 in the NBA in time.
Defensively he uses his reach to block a high rate of shots, and he is decent enough on this end, but is not as good as the other top bigs in the draft. His reaction times are a bit slow as is his lateral movement, and consequently his impact was not great as he anchored a decent but not great Duke defense, with the defense performing worse with him on the floor. Most notably he struggled to defend Zed Key in the post, who had BY FAR his highest scoring game of the season vs. Duke with many of his buckets coming isolated vs Williams in the post. But he also dominated Drew Timme 1 on 1 in a much more difficult matchup vs Gonzaga, so his defense is more of a mixed bag than an active weakness.
Kessler’s offense is not quite as aesthetically pleasing as Williams, he is nevertheless highly efficient as a low usage garbage man. His FT% is not as good making 59.6% as a sophomore and 57.7% career, but he did attempt 50 3 pointers on the season as a sophomore. He only made 10 of them, but the fact that he is trying conveys some inkling of hope for eventually learning to shoot.
What is special about Kessler is his defensive instincts. He has the highest steal rate of any big in the draft, and the highest block rate of any NCAA player ever. For a 7’1 guy he is fairly mobile and seems to always be in the right place at the right time and blocks almost everything.
He has clear potential to be best defensive player in the draft, and a DPOY candidate if he gets enough minutes for his NBA team.
There is a case to be made that Kessler belongs slightly ahead of Williams due to defense being higher leverage than offense for a rim protecting big. But DeAndre Jordan has shown that elite vertical spacers who can dunk every pass in site provide good offensive value, and Williams’ offense looks so aesthetically great it is difficult to be confident in rating Kessler higher.
As it is, they both seem like solid big prospects in a similar tier.
12. Keegan Murray
Keegan is a painfully boring top 5 choice, and I honestly would like to rank him lower but there just aren’t many guys to put ahead of him.
He is an old 3 + D wing who turns 22 shortly after the draft and may not be good at either 3’s or defense. He only made 74.9% FT in college and his 37.3% 3P was on middling volume, so he is a capable shooter but it is unclear if he is good or not.
Defensively he gets steals and blocks, but played for a soft Iowa defense and appeared to be soft on this end himself. He is not particularly quick and can be beat off the dribble, and most egregious he was bullied for layups three times in the second half of Iowa’s tournament loss to Richmond by a 6’7 mid major PF Nathan Cayo averaging 9 pts/game. It was a bad look for such an old prospect in a matchup that should not have been a challenge for him.
Outside of that, Murray excels at making shots in the paint at a high % without turning it over. In this regard he has a bit of TJ Warren potential. But TJ Warren looked aesthetically better scoring, and Murray may be more of a wing version of Frank Kaminsky that is a product of an NCAA system moreso than a high level NBA scorer.
Ultimately, there are some decent points to like regarding Murray but nothing stands out as special, and all of his strengths have enough asterisks such that there is no guarantee he amounts to anything at all in the NBA.
But everybody else in this draft is really bad, so how low can we get on him? Perhaps a bit lower would be reasonable, but we’ll keep the spice levels on this take mild and stash him here with the understanding that he is not a prospect I would be excited to draft.
Tier 3: Solid Role Players
13. Trevor Keels
Keels is a massive weirdo as an unathletic combo guard. But he is one of the youngest players in the class, not turning 19 until after the draft in August and has some funky gravity to him.
In spite of his lack of burst, he has decent craft at getting to the rim and finishing. He is also a good passer and decision maker and posted an excellent 2.18 A:TO ratio as an 18 year old freshman.
His freshman shooting was underwhelming at 31.2% 3P 67% FT, but he took a high rate of 3PA and looks like a confident shooter. In light of his age, it seems like he should be a capable 3 point shooter in the NBA and he has some potential to be a good shooter if he develops well over time.
Defensively he has questions as he is slow and beatable off the dribble, and does not always have the best awareness. But his instincts and intuition are overall decent, and he is capable of getting in the passing lanes and being disruptive. He definitely has a risk of being a liability defensively in the NBA, but he also has clear outs to figure it out and be competent.
Keels’ main selling point is his ability to create a moderate volume of offense without turning it over. In this regard he is like a Monte Morris who is 2.25″ taller (6’4.75″), 3.25″ longer (6’7.25″) and 49 pounds heavier at a beefy 224 in spite of his youth. That’s some significant size boosts to a decent rotation player.
If we really want to turn up the optimism, it is difficult to find a strong comp considering how unique his distribution of traits are. But he has some parallels to Tyrese Haliburton. Keels is beefier, not as athletic, and has a long way to go to catch up as a shooter, but Haliburton did not get much draft hype either as a freshman who averaged 6.8 points 3.6 assists 0.8 turnovers for Iowa State. But then Haliburton made a sophomore leap, and he was a steal at #12 overall in the draft.
14. AJ Griffin
AJ Griffin projects to be an efficient player offensively if he develops smoothly. But there are a couple of issues that could put a hitch in his development.
First he missed major time in high school with injuries, and may have some medical flags lingering. You need to be worried that he just is not durable enough to be available with any consistency in the NBA.
Second he *seems* like an elite shooter after making 44.7% 3P as a young freshman for Duke, but a small sample of good NCAA 3P shooting does not always predict NBA success. Xavier Henry shot 41.8% 3P as an NCAA freshman on slightly more attempts than AJ (165 vs 159), and had a similar FT% (78 vs 79). Yet in the NBA he only shot 32.5% 3P 63.5% FT on tiny volume and flamed out of the league at age 24.
Aaron Nesmith another example of a prospect who shot 52.2% on 115 attempts with 82.5% FT and has a 30.6% 3P in his first two NBA seasons including playoffs. Sometimes guys make 3’s in college but not in the NBA.
AJ really needs to shoot well too, because he is not a great athlete, shot creator, or passer and his defense is actively bad. If he shoots as badly as Nesmith or Henry, he will likely disappoint in the NBA as much as they did. And even if those guys did not completely flop and shot 35-36% from 3, they still would not be particularly useful.
But IF he can shoot and if he stays healthy, there are reasons to be optimistic for Griffin. He is the son of former NBA player Adrian Griffin, which tends to be predictive of draft success. He could be something like a fellow NBA junior such as Gary Trent Jr. or Tim Hardaway Jr. And there is some scenario where he is even better than them and more like a Desmond Bane.
Griffin is a reasonable gamble on him at some point mid-1st, but there is a scary downside tail here that makes him a somewhat murky value proposition.
15. Jake LaRavia
Laravia is an extremely young junior, being just 12 days older than freshman TyTy Washington.
He fits a nice 3 + D mold as a 6’8 wing who excels at moving his feet and defending the perimeter. His post defense is not quite as good, and may limit LaRavia from being a full stopper, but in two games at Duke Paolo Banchero badly struggled to get past him on perimeter drives.
But he is nevertheless looks like a solid defensive prospect who can make an open 3, making 38.4% 3P 77.7% FT this past season for Wake Forest. That said he has a slow release on his shot and took a low volume of 3PA which badly needs to increase in the NBA. And while he is a good passer with solidly more assists (3.7) than turnovers (2.7), he does not create a high volume of offense off the dribble.
He has enough skill to fit as an NBA role player, but his offense is fairly limited and he is a good but not great defensive prospect. This makes him collectively a bit boring, but he has an easy path to being average or a bit above average 3 + D wing, which is a relatively good prize in this draft.
16. Shaedon Sharpe
Shaedon Sharpe has pretty decent upside as an athletic SG who can potentially score a high volume, the only issue is that his odds of hitting is fairly long due to lack of evidence that he actually knows how to play.
There is some chance he happens to succeed and becomes something like a Jason Richardson or Michael Redd and this ranking looks harsh, but most of the time he is going to be a mediocre bench player or bust.
17. Christian Koloko
Koloko has great dimensions at 7′ with 7’5 wingspan and good mobility for a big man. He can protect the rim and switch onto the perimeter, he has elite defensive potential as a big man who does it all.
His issue is that he is 22 years old a few days after the draft and does not bring much offensive value. But between 64.2% 2P, 73.5% FT, and almost as many assists as TOVs this season he has a basic competence on this end.
The way that Koloko turns into a big draft win is if he develops into a DPOY candidate. Which seems plausible, as there are a number of quality big men in this draft but it is not clear that any of them have higher defensive potential than Koloko.
Kessler, Chet, and Duren all have big defensive potential, but I don’t think any of them are clear favorites to be better defensively than Koloko as he has the strongest intersection of switchability and on court goodness between the group. He is also the oldest and those guys can conceivably pass him, but there is a ton to like about his defense.
If he is an efficient vertical spacer in the NBA and elite defensively, that adds up to quite the prize in round 2.
18. Kendall Brown
Down to #34 on ESPN’s mock seems unnecessarily harsh. He is frustratingly passive but is he that bad? He must exude a lackadaisical energy throughout his interviews and workouts as well for teams to be this low on him.
He has elite wing tools with 6’7.5″ height, 6’11 wingspan, and explosive athleticism that offers solid defensive versatility. He was a top 10 freshman recruit who is still young, having just turned 19 in May.
He also has a decent enough basketball IQ with more assists than turnovers and he rarely takes bad shots or does anything dumb on defense.
But this is somewhat tied to his weakness of rarely doing much at all. While he is physically capable of being an ideal NBA wing, he is too passive to inspire much confidence.
He reminds me somewhat of Andrew Wiggins, Harrison Barnes, and Rudy Gay but without the ability to make pullup jump shots which considerably lowers his scoring output.
But if he can learn to make an open NBA 3, you really don’t need him pulling up from mid-range to be a decent role player.
His low stock also may be a product of injury concerns as he had an injury in high school and Baylor prospects seem to have medical flags fairly often. But it is difficult to reconcile how he actually belongs in round 2. He is boring in many ways but his intersection of elite tools, youth, and basic competence at playing basketball makes him sliding that far somewhat puzzling.
I hate having to rate this guy. He is a sophomore aged PG who had a decent but unspectacular season for Kentucky in an unspectacular mode of unathletic jump shooting combo guard. But he isn’t even that good of a shooter, he only made 35% 3P 75% FT.
But he may have sneaky PG potential, he had a good assist (3.9) to TOV (1.6) ratio while sharing PG duties with Sahvir Wheeler. Maybe he is more of a floor general than he was able to show at Kentucky, and perhaps he can score more too. It happened with Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Tyrese Maxey, and Immanuel Quickley, so why not TyTy?
The reason why not is also because Cal gets plenty of guards who are not good, and lots of times he is Brandon Knight or Andrew Harrison. He is an entire 23 months older than freshman Devin Booker so that is probably an unrealistic hope.
So let’s not overthink him too much, he is going to be nothing fairly often and when he is something it will typically not be something great. Let’s just stash him here and move on.
21. EJ Liddell 22. Malaki Branham
No strong opinion on the Ohio State guys. Liddell is weird, last year the NBA told him he should go back to school because he was not athlete enough, and now after a fairly typical year of development he is a 1st round choice. Tough to reconcile the inconsistency, but my inkling is that he is a decent enough pull in the late first for a guy with good wing dimensions and a well rounded set of strengths, including uniquely good shot blocking for 6’7.
Branham is younger and skilled but seems like a boring SG who is a decent scorer but a bit too dependent on mid-range shots and likely gets roasted on defense. I can’t get excited about him but maybe he’s alright.
23. Kennedy Chandler
Kennedy Chandler is slippery to rank, because he checks so many upside boxes. He is fast, can create for himself, pass to teammates, has a big steal rate, has a +5″ wingspan, and is fairly young…but he is a 6’0 who shot 60.6% FT. How excited can get you get over a guy like that? I am seriously asking because I do not know.
24. Jalen Williams 25. Christian Braun
Christian Braun masterfully toes the line between painfully boring and great at nothing and solidly well rounded and not bad at anything.
At 6’7 he has t-rex arms at 6’6.5″ but he is a good athlete and has a solid basketball IQ. It seems like he is always trying to make something happen on the court, and while his talent has his limits he does a good job making the most of them.
One comp that could be made for him is a slightly bigger Donte DiVincenzo. It is difficult to see a big upside tail, but it is not hard to see a reasonably useful rotation player.
26. Blake Wesley
Wesley has excellent mobility and decent enough steal, blocks, and rebounds for his size to be a solid defensive player in the league. But he is 6’4.25″ with 6’9.25″ wingspan, and his indicators look clearly inferior to Jrue or Smart so there is only so much impact he can conceivably make on defense.
Offensively he has a semblance of passing, shooting, and scoring ability for a freshman who only turned 19 in March. He can get to the rim in doses, he had a slightly positive assist:TOV ratio, and he shot 30.3% 3P 65.7% FT on a high volume of attempts.
If he can make a shooting leap and cut down on bad decisions offensively, it is easy to see him as a guy who is decent on both ends of the floor.
But the downside is that he is currently undersized and highly inefficient. And he blew Notre Dame’s tournament when he got stopped in dominant fashion 3 times in a row in the last two minutes vs Texas Tech with two turnovers and a layup attempt blocked.
On one hand, Wesley’s youth makes this semi-forgivable, but on the other hand– how aggressively can you really invest in an inefficient 6’4 guy simply because he covers ground defensively?
27. Dalen Terry
Terry is a funky weirdo who is long, lanky, and does not score much but is a great passer for a 6’7 wing. He is so unique he is difficult to pin down, but the concern is that he is a 3 + D wing who is not guaranteed to be positive at either shooting or defense. There is some fun appeal with him but also a healthy amount of blah, so perhaps late first where he belongs.
28. Johnny Davis
Johnny Davis is such a boring prospect in the lottery. He is a small SG with mediocre skill, efficiency, and athleticism who thrives on toughness and defense even though he doesn’t get nearly enough steals to suggest that his defense is uniquely good for his size. He is not great at getting to the rim, he is not great at making 3’s, and he is definitely not a floor general with more turnovers than assists. His main value offensively for Wisconsin was to make pull-up mid-range shots
29. Ochai Agbaji
There is so much to dislike about Agbaji. He is 22 years old and getting drafted for his spot up shooting when it is not even that obvious he can shoot. He only made 74.3% FT as a senior and 71.2% for his career. This makes it difficult to fully trust his 40.7% 3P on high volume as a senior.
Further he is a 6’5.5″ SG with mediocre feel for the game, does not create much offense for himself or teammates, and may be a significant liability on defense.
But he had really good on/off splits for the champion Jayhawks, he has decent man to man defensive abilities because of his length, strength, and athleticism, and it is possible that he is a good shooter after all.
So it wouldn’t be a shock to see him reach a basic level of usefulness, which is more than can be said for most guys still on the board this late. But it also wouldn’t be a shock to see him amount to nothing, and his upside is fairly limited.
Tier 4: Getting Thin:
30. Alondes Williams
Alondes seems a bit too unpolished and a bit too old to be good, but his creation ability for a 6’5 PG is too good to sleep on entirely. He is super athletic and extremely saucy with the ball. He can create his own shot at the rim at a monster rate, has excellent passing vision and creativity, and his shot is not completely broken.
He is prone to getting sloppy and turning it over and his shooting is rather meh for his age, but it just seems like there is a bit too much strength to go undrafted.
Has some potential to be something like Jordan Clarkson or Derrick White if Derrick White played like Russell Westbrook.
31. Darius Days
Days looks the part of a role playing NBA wing.
First physically he is a beast. 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan and a strong, thick frame. He isn’t an explosive athlete but moves decently enough to have a chance of hanging on the perimeter defensively. This is especially given his exceptionally quick hands that he uses to pick guards clean in a way that is rarely seen for guards his size. His perimeter D is somewhat of a mixed bag
He also has good post defense, where he does not yield deep position and is not easy to back down. It would not be a surprise if he turned out to be sneaky good at defending Giannis because of his strength with decent enough dimensions and mobility.
Offensively, Days is limited with the ball but is a decent shooter who takes a high rate of 3PA. He will not require much defensive attention in the NBA, but if you try to hide a guard on him he can punish them in the post and on the offensive glass.
Days does not offer much upside but if you are looking for a 3 + D wing to fill out a rotation with decent minutes, Days seems like a solid candidate for that role. If I ran a team I would absolutely be trying to get him as an UDFA on a 2 way deal.
32. Ryan Rollins
I wrote in my combine review that he was too much of a mixed bag to justify a round 1 choice, but there aren’t that many guys to rank above him and he misses the cut here by two slots. Rollins has his flaws and reasons to doubt him, but also some interesting strengths. He has great length, a young birthday for his class, and fairly well rounded box score production.
He showed some flaws in the combine scrimmages but also showed some funky goodness that is difficult to pin down. He has a chance of being alright.
33. MarJon Beauchamp
I don’t know what to do with this guy. He seems really bad on offense for his age. But good dimensions + defensive versatility is worth something. Shrug.
34. Peyton Watson
Watson has one of the most polarizing profiles in recent memory, as his intersection of dimensions, steal, block, rebound, and assist rates imply a wing that is highly likely to be useful in the NBA.
But for the life of him he could not put the biscuit in the basket as an NCAA freshman for UCLA. He made 35.6% 2P, 39.4% TS while averaged 3.3 pts in 12.7 minutes per game.
On one hand– this is a small sample where he was limited by being on a good team deep with talented players, and if he simply happened to have bad luck shooting and does better in the NBA, then you are left with a likely steal in round 2.
On the other hand– him not spending more time on the court implies that he was more likely to be bad than unlucky, and it is extremely tough to find an example of somebody who became a useful NBAer with THAT bad of a 2P% in college.
So it’s tough to place him. He has a somewhat compelling upside argument, but in all likelihood he is not good enough.
35. Jaylin Williams
Williams is a bit undersized for a big at 6’10 with 7’1 wingspan, and is not that quick or athletic. Where he shines is with his defensive fundamentals, as his dad taught him positioning at a young age and he is a master at drawing charges, drawing 54 in 37 games this season for Arkansas.
Unfortunately, this will not fully translate to the NBA where his lack of speed will weigh heavier with greater space, and he will draw fewer charges, but his strong fundamentals could nevertheless make him a useful role player.
He is a good passer with a great assist:TOV (2.6 vs 1.8), and has outs to develop an NBA 3 with 1.9 3PA/game as a sophomore with 73% FT. He also has a young birthday for his class, turning 20 several days after the draft.
It is easy to see him as a 3rd big who is solidly useful in certain situations, but will not be ideal in every matchup.
36. Michael Foster
Seems like an old school PF but sometimes a good old school PF can be better than a bad modern player. Which is not to say Foster is necessarily good. Just that he might be.
37. David Roddy
Roddy has a nice intersection of brains and brawns as he has a strong thick frame and a good basketball IQ.
Unfortunately he may not have enough talent otherwise. He is only 6’6 and not all that athletic or good at shooting. He seems like more of a mid-major star than a guy who can convert to NBA wing like PJ Tucker. But there is enough there to take a stab on his funky mold working out in round 2.
38. Josh Minott
Minott seemed like an interesting candidate to be a nice piece if he learns to shoot based on his freshman small sample playing 14.6 mins/game off the bench for Memphis.
But his skill level looked painfully raw in the combine. Worth considering that if he played 30 mins/game for a full season his numbers may not look as impressive.
But his freshman production along with youth and dimensions are worth something. He’s tough to rank but somewhere in first half of round 2 seems right.
39. Caleb Houstan
Houstan is painfully meh but he is 6’8, young, and decent at shooting, so if he finds a way to stick in the NBA it would hardly be surprising.
40. Nikola Jovic 41. Ousmane Dieng
This international class sucks, but Jovic is has an inkling of hope of being something between his height, youth, passing, and shooting. Perhaps he can be something of a Jonas Jerebko in the NBA.
Jovic is certainly going to be better draft value than Dieng, who for some reason is getting drafted in the lottery. Dieng has a good height at 6’9 for a young wing with some semblence of shooting and handling, but he is otherwise horrific at basketball.
He is incredibly soft, plays with no force, dies on every screen and has no physicality whatsoever to his game.
He is also slow and unathletic, cannot get past anybody off the dribble, and likely will struggle to defend the perimeter in the NBA.
He occasionally makes an impressive pass, but overall he averaged 1 assists vs 1.4 turnovers for by far the worst team in Australia.
In theory he has “potential” but in reality he is really bad at basketball now, has some horrible flaws that likely will not change, and likely does not have enough time to improve into a useful NBA player. He would be a big mistake in the lottery.
42. Jaden Hardy
Maybe this is too low. I don’t have the best read on these G League guys. But a 6’4 inefficient gunner is not my type. Maybe he develops into Anfernee Simons or something but he is probably bad.
43. Andrew Nembhard
Maybe this is a bit low on Nembhard. 6’4.5 PG who can shoot isn’t bad. But he is so old and unathletic and kind of boring.
This 30-43 range is difficult in general for me to rank and pretty much somebody needs to go in the back and feel like they may be too low.
44. Ron Harper Jr. 45. Jabari Walker 46. Scottie Pippen Jr.
These guys all had NBA dads so maybe they overachieve. Or maybe they aren’t good enough. Who knows.
47. Jamaree Bouyea
Bouyea is old but an athletic buckets getter and that is worth respecting.
The one domestic who misses the cut is Max Christie. He may not be as hopeless as some of these internationals, but there is close to nothing to like about him outside of making 82.4% FT on 74 FTA. But he still only shot 31.7% 3P on mediocre volume of 3.5 3PA/game, which is not what you want out of your one dimensional shooter who is bad and undersized on D at 6’5.75″ with 6’8.75″ wingspan.
He is also inefficient on offense, with low volume and low efficiency and it is difficult to see what may be his ticket to NBA success. The consensus draft twitter big board ranked him ahead of Keels, which may age really badly in time.
Shaedon Sharpe is the big mystery box of the draft, as he was #1 RSCI in the 2022 high school class before re-classifying to spend last season on Kentucky’s bench. Now he is a top 10 prospect in this year’s draft, with limited information to discern his true value.
Here is the list of the last 19 #1 RSCI prospects coming out of high school.
LeBron James Dwight Howard Lou Williams Josh McRoberts Greg Oden OJ Mayo Brandon Jennings Derrick Favors Harrison Barnes Anthony Davis Shabazz Muhammad Andrew Wiggins Jahlil Okafor Ben Simmons Josh Jackson Marvin Bagley RJ Barrett James Wiseman Cade Cunningham Chet Holmgren
LeBron and Dwight were obvious #1 overalls straight out of high school. Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons were obvious #1 overalls after a year of college. Andrew Wiggins, Greg Oden, and Cade Cunningham were not obvious #1 choices after a year of college, but wrongfully went #1 because of all of their RSCI hype.
Everybody else went #2 or later, including a high number of mediocre careers in the high lottery. Bagley and Wiseman were both major mistakes at #2 overall, with Wiseman sharing a commonality with Sharpe of low information. He had 3 good games in college and then seemed eager to not play anymore to preserve the draft hype he had attained. This worked to perfection, as he tricked the Warriors into drafting him over LaMelo Ball among other more capable prospects on the board.
The problem with low information is that it gives an aura of infinite upside, but in reality is more indicative of a weak median outcome. The draft is hard enough to predict working with full seasons of high major NCAA play, but if we are working with AAU data it is far more difficult. This is why top RSCI’s are so boom or bust– high school scouts can discern if somebody is in a good mold, but being able to tell if they are NBA caliber is much more difficult for 16 and 17 year olds.
Let’s talk about long armed SG’s
And if there is one player on this list that Sharpe stylistically compare to, it is Shabazz Muhammad. They have similar dimensions as long armed SG’s with 6’11 wingspans (Muhammad is an inch taller at 6’6 vs 6’5), and the strength of both players is being able to get buckets without turning it over. Muhammad did this capably in the NBA, but he was too selfish and one dimensional and fizzled out of the league after 5 underwhelming seasons.
Granted, Muhammad somewhat tricked RSCI by being secretly a year older than listed. But Sharpe is no spring chicken himself, as he was only 6 months older relative to his HS class where he was ranked #1. It is important to be leery of older prospects beating up on high school opposition that may happen to be less developed.
Long armed guards is a fairly common mold for draft disappointment among high RSCI’s. Xavier Henry (#6 RSCI) and went 12th in the draft after shooting 41.8% 3P and 78.3% FT for Kansas, and then completely forgot how to shoot in the NBA and badly busted. James Young (#9 RSCI) showed promise due to his youth and length but failed in the NBA due to lack of maturity.
Markelle Fultz is a famous example of a #1 pick SG who was heavily dependent on his shooting but only made 64.9% FT in NCAA. Sharpe only made 63.5% FT (33/52) in EYBL, so there is good reason to worry he could have similar issues as he is the same age as Fultz on draft night in spite of moving a class up and not playing and did not show nearly the same PG skills in high school.
Romeo Langford, Rashad McCants, and Lonnie Walker are a few other examples of long armed scorers who flopped in the NBA.
The last hit was on Anthony Edwards, who was outlier young for his class. He was a few months younger than Sharpe even after Sharpe reclassified. He also has outlier positive energy, whereas Sharpe seems to have a terrible attitude based on interviews floating around.
And prior to Edwards it is tough to find a top 20 RSCI SG with long arms hitting. Lance Stephenson had a couple of decent years, but was not consistent enough to be a major draft prize. Gerald Henderson did not bust but never became better than mediocre. James Harden and Tyreke Evans are moreso PG’s and not the same mold. The best example of a win may be Jason Richardson who was ranked #14 RSCI all the way back in 1999.
Ultimately this mold is dense with busts, and every once in a blue moon you get a Jason Richardson who never made an all-star game or an Anthony Edwards who seems on track to become an all-star, but his career is still TBD. If we go back a few years further to the days before RSCI there are more inspiring examples such as Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, but anybody who has been chasing one of those guys over the past 20+ drafts has experienced mostly pain and frustration.
Where Are Shaedon Odds of Success?
This is difficult to say, as we have not gained much information to work with this draft process. But the Sacramento Kings did share this interview clip:
This might be the worst pre-draft interview clip I have ever seen. First, he does not seem to know a single player on the Sacramento Kings, including De’Aaron Fox who played for the same school and coach as Sharpe.
Most star players are big fans of the NBA entering the league, but it seems that Sharpe instead believes that the NBA should be a big fan of him. In spite of his highest level of basketball played being the EYBL Peach Jam, he believes he can come in and give proven NBA players like De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis “their little shine” by finding them when they are open.
This is a wild intersection of bad awareness and gross arrogance, as if he is above the NBA without even proving that he can be a competent college basketball player.
Typically focusing too much on interviews over on court performance is going to lead to more bad opinions than good ones, but there is no on court performance for Sharpe to analyze. If the only bit of information that Sharpe provides this draft process is a transparently awful attitude, why should that be taken lightly when there is close to zero information suggesting that he will be a useful NBA player.
Even without this video it seemed most likely that he would be a Shabazz Muhammad, James Young, Romeo Langford, or Xavier Henry type with just a tiny shred of hope that he would be Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter.
But while Sharpe is a good athlete, he is not a generational athlete like Kobe or Vince and needs to develop perfectly to achieve that level of greatness. This video should disqualify him from that, as those guys entered the league with far more humble mentalities. This pre-rookie video from Kobe conveys the opposite mentality of having studied all of the great NBA players and being excited to learn from them.
So now we are hoping for something more like Jason Richardson, which is a nice payoff on a mid-lottery pick but far from franchise changing, and even still it is difficult to imagine J-Rich having such a bad attitude. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Sharpe’s distribution of NBA outcomes is something like
10% Jason Richardson 10% Lance Stephenson 80% Bust
Is that really worth a lottery pick? It is not a particularly exciting distribution of outcomes, and 10% odds of becoming J-Rich may be too generous for Sharpe.
Where Does Sharpe fit in 2022 Class?
This year is full of SG’s in a similar mold to compare Sharpe to, so let’s run through them.
Bennedict Mathurin is an inch taller at 6’6 with 2.5″ less length at 6’9, but is the better athlete, more proven shooter, and more proven basketball player having won Pac-12 player of the year for Arizona this past season. Sharpe is only 11 months younger– if he transferred to Arizona to play next season, it is unlikely that he would win 2022-23 Pac-12 player of the year. Sharpe has clearly inferior median outcome to Mathurin without any reason to believe in more upside.
My first impression was that Sharpe was a better gamble than Jaden Ivey who showed myriad warts on the floor for Purdue. But Ivey nevertheless showed some baseline competence offensively that Sharpe may have not matched, and there is no strong reason to expect Sharpe to be any less bad on defense. Further, Ivey is the clearly more explosive athlete and seems to be much more coachable than Sharpe. For all of my doubts about Ivey and his bust risk, he seems clearly above Sharpe.
AJ Griffin is another SG worth questioning given his reliance on shooting with unorthodox shooting mechanics. But he still has a bigger sample of better shooting numbers than Sharpe, he has proven to be a useful NCAA player who was efficient and avoided turnovers, and he is 0.5 to 1″ taller and longer. He is also 3 months younger than Sharpe. Sharpe is the better athlete, but everything else points toward AJ being the better value proposition.
Malaki Branham has similar dimensions with 1.5″ less length, and proved to be a competent player for Ohio State with an intriguing shooting making 41.6% 3P 83.3% FT. He still likes the mid-range a bit too much and needs to stretch his range to NBA 3, but he nevertheless has more evidence suggesting he can shoot than Sharpe does. And they have the same birth month, even if Sharpe is a little bit longer and a bit more athletic, there is not a clear reason to value him higher.
Johnny Davis and Ochai Agbaji are the tougher comparisons as they have more transparent offensive limitations and lower upside, but they likely do have better median outcomes than Sharpe. You could debate whether it is worth gambling on Sharpe’s upside when the odds of it hitting since fairly bad, but it is safer to instead just not draft any of these guys since they are all unlikely to provide any sort of compelling payoff in the lottery.
It’s difficult to rank Sharpe with precision based on the low information. It seems like a fairly safe assumption that he is not going to be useful, but there is still enough intrigue to take a punt on him at some point in case it works out. But even in late round 1 or early round 2 I would rather take a high IQ non-athlete like Trevor Keels over a dunce like Sharpe.
Median vs Upside
Everybody is obsessed with upside in the draft, and for good reason. Most of the value of a prospect comes in the scenarios where he hits his upside and provides a major payoff to his drafting team.
But upside is heavily tied to median. Let’s say that hypothetically, Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe have similar upside scenarios if they max out their development. But let’s also say that Sharpe has a 50% chance of being a significantly worse shooter, 50% odds of translating to NCAA play poorly, and 50% odds of underwhelming development due to his bad attitude. Odds are that 7/8 times, one of those things will undercut his value and make him at least a notch less good than Mathurin.
So if we believe that Mathurin is going to be an all-star 15% of the time, that means that Sharpe will be the same all-star less than 2% of the time. Who cares about theoretical upside if it does not hit?
It is already a difficult parlay for most players with solid information to hit their upside, but for a mystery box like Sharpe the parlay requires additional legs that make it even further unlikely and make the median bad, which places a major hit on the expected value of their draft rights.
Perhaps these are harsh estimates on Sharpe’s odds of falling short, but even if we say he has 30% odds of disappointing in each category, he is still just 34% to match Mathurin overall. That is really bad relative to a guy that he is currently mocked just one slot behind.
Ultimately it is difficult to rank Sharpe with precision, but the safest thing to do is to simply not draft him. It’s a pure degen variance fest praying that he hits his mysterious upside when there is not much information suggesting that he is likely to hit. You are basically playing a parlay with multiple legs that are unlikely to hit and your reward is a fringe all-star at best.
The smart move is to let somebody else gamble on the mystery box and end up with tickets to a crappy comedy club.
Draft rankings are brutally difficult to execute with consistent accuracy. This year it was season long challenge for me to decide between Paolo and Jabari for #1, and even though I settled on Paolo and would take him in Orlando’s shoes, I still have no criticism for Orlando if they choose Smith at #1 as reported since he is an excellent wing prospect.
And even though I have been firm on Chet being #3, it also is not a clear mistake if OKC choose him over Paolo at #2. I would still take Paolo even if he is an odd fit with Shai + Giddey as it leaves too many offensive hubs who need the ball. You can always trade one of the three for 3 + D help down the road, and the main priority should be to try to hit on a future top 5 MVP candidate which Paolo has better odds of than Shai, Giddey, or Chet.
But if OKC chooses Chet, they are nevertheless left with an excellent trio of potentially 3 future all-stars, with Chet being a perfect 3 + D fit next to their guards. While Chet has less creation upside and a bit more weirdly skinny frame downside than Paolo, he still is an excellent player in his own rite and could be the best player in the draft long term.
But it is not clear that swinging for the fences with an Ivey, Sharpe, or Duren at #4 is necessarily the correct answer, as it is difficult to be confident that any of them are going to be good at all. Let’s discuss all other options, and try to estimate how closely they compare to one another.
Last summer when Australia played USA in FIBA, Dyson Daniels was the clear 2nd best prospect on the floor behind Chet with 18 pts 5 rebounds 4 assists 1 turnover. Australia lost by 21 but was only -6 in Daniels’ 25 mins on the floor.
Since then Daniels has grown 1.5″ to solid SF size at 6’7.5 with 6’10.5 wingspan, and had a productive season for G League Ignite averaging 31.6 mins 11.6 pts 6.8 rebs 4.7 ast 2.7 tov 2 stl 0.7 blk with 53% 2P. His sole weakness was in his mediocre shooting at 30% 3P on 3.4 attempts/game and 53.3% FT on a small sample of 45 attempts.
But apparently he shot the lights out during his pro day. It is a slippery point to read too heavily into, but he is making a number without touching the rim and goes on a few long streaks without the camera cutting away. We should not expect him to be an actively good shooter based on this, but it does mitigate some concern raised by his G League shooting %’s.
He was already the non-top 3 prospect who had the highest odds of being a useful NBA player. And he isn’t lacking in upside– his passing and defense are both great for a young SF. If his shot creation and shooting progress well he can be an all-star.
If we want to turn optimism to the max, there is nothing disqualifying him from being a Scottie Pippen. It would require almost everything to go right, but it is more realistic than Jaden Ivey becoming Russell Westbrook.
A more common outcome would be something along the lines of Boris Diaw as a versatile role playing wing is more of a passer than a scorer. Diaw would not be a thrilling outcome for a top 5 pick, but it will be better than most of the guys who go outside of the top 3 this year, and there is still arguably as much (or more) upside for Daniels as there is for anybody else.
Hard to see him disappointing unless he simply cannot make an open 3, which is still of some concern. But collectively Daniels seems to have the highest odds of being decent of anybody outside the top 3, and he seems to have as much upside as anybody outside the top 3, and I would currently lean toward him being the correct choice at #4 overall.
Sochan has been frequently compared to Dennis Rodman for changing his hair color, and his pest like approach to the game where he regularly irritates his opponents. But stylistically, his freshman numbers are more similar to another player with a colorful personality. Per 100 possessions:
Draymond was a bit better rebounding and passing, but Sochan 2.5 months younger and played a bigger freshman role averaging 25 mins/game compared to 11 mins for Draymond. Sochan also attempted substantially more 3PA, but that may be a product of the modern era more than anything.
Sochan didn’t get measured at the combine, but is listed at 1.5″ taller than Draymond at 6’9 vs 6’7.5 with less wingspan at 7′ vs 7’1.25″.
In all likeilhood Sochan will not be as good as Draymond, but anybody who is that similar at a young age is automatically interesting in this year’s lottery.
More commonly he will be a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson type who hopefully learns to make an open NBA 3 pointer in time. This may seem boring to most, but RHJ was legit good for a non-shooter, and at least Sochan believes in his shot enough to chuck up attempts at a moderate rate. RHJ with a competent outside shot would be a solid NBA role player.
Sochan has excellent wing dimensions, a great motor, his gets good rebound, assists, steals, and blocks, and he is a somewhat dirty player who gets under opponents’ skins. It seems like players like this are almost always good on defense, where he can possibly make a major impact.
Sochan’s lack of offense is likely getting in the way of him generating much draft hype, ranking 15th on ESPN’s latest big board and 18th on their most recent mock. But his positive assist:TOV ratio, efficiency inside the arc, and not completely hopeless shooting given his youth could sum up to a decent player offensively in time.
There is a decent case to be made that he is one of the top 5 prospects in this draft. Perhaps it is too much of a gamble on his dicey shooting ability and limited offensive package, but most everybody outside of the top 3 have major warts on at least one side of the ball.
Between him and Dyson Daniels, I would lean toward Daniels having the edge. Sochan is 1.5″ taller, but Daniels is a better passer and better bet to shoot.
If we are putting him against guys like Mathurin, Ivey, Sharpe, Duren, etc it becomes a fuzzier comparison but it just doesn’t seem that crazy to project Sochan a bit more valuable than all of those guys. You cannot have enough versatile defensive wings in the modern NBA, whereas there is a limit to how many bigs and chucking SG’s you can play at a time (one).
Mathurin makes for an easy comparison to Shaedon Sharpe and Jaden Ivey because they are all athletic SG’s. This is especially the case for Ivey since they have high major NCAA samples at a similar age. Per 100 possessions:
Ivey is higher in the public eye because he is the more outlier elite athlete, and uses it more functionally to pressure the rim and create a high volume of offense. This led to a higher scoring and assist output than Mathurin. But he also turned it over much more, and Mathurin has the better assist:TOV ratio (1.42 to 1.17).
In spite of being the less explosive athlete who attacked the rim and scored in the paint less frequently, Mathurin dunked slightly more often than Ivey. This is likely in part to his 2″ height advantage, and that Mathurin is an excellent athlete in his own rite.
Based on sophomore shooting stats Mathurin is the slightly better shooter at 36.9% 3P 76.4% FT vs 35.8% 3P 74.4% FT for Ivey. But if you include freshman #’s the gap widens, with Mathurin 38.3% 3P 78.9% FT vs Ivey 32.2% 3P 73.9% FT.
Both players project to be defensive liabilities, but Mathurin seems slightly better on D. His 2″ height advantage is significant, his NCAA team defense was much better, and he eye tests as a bit better.
So if we sum everything up, is it really clear that Ivey is better? He has a bit more athleticism and potential for a high usage role offensively, but it’s not clear that he has the basketball IQ to merit a high usage role for an NBA team. And if you are drafting somebody to be a #2 or #3 guy, Mathurin is a better fit since he has an edge in both 3 and D and scores more within the flow of the offense with fewer turnovers.
That said, Mathurin is not a world beater, he could easily be just a Ben McLemore or Terrence Ross. In slightly more favorable outcomes, he may be a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Tim Hardaway Jr. His more exciting outcome would be Jason Richardson, and perhaps he has some small outs to be a Devin Booker, although his shooting and scoring would need to take some major leaps to get there.
But it still seems like he has an easier path to decency than Ivey, who will have some bad common outcomes like Jordan Crawford or Dennis Smith Jr.
If Ivey makes a big shooting leap and figures out how to navigate NBA defenses, he could be a Zach LaVine. His more common useful outcome would be a Jordan Clarkson type.
Westbrook comps are ridiculous– Russ was 9 months younger posting 7.9 assists vs 4.5 turnovers per 100 for UCLA sharing the PG duties with junior Darren Collison compared to Ivey’s 5.8 ast 5.0 tov as the primary perimeter ball handler for Purdue. Russ may be wild and make questionable decisions at times, but he is a far more natural PG as well as likely the most explosive athlete in NBA history.
To my eye, Ivey’s basketball intuition is a buck short of what it needs to be for him to place in the top of this tier. You can argue a number of players belong ahead of him, and Mathurin has a fairly solid case of 4 months younger, 2″ taller, better shooter, less bad D, and plays better within the flow of the team while being only slightly less athletic.
Mathurin vs Sharpe
We can extend the comparison to Sharpe, who is stylistically more similar to Mathurin than Ivey. He is slightly shorter than Mathurin at 6’5.25″ vs 6’6″, but has a solid length advantage at 6’11.5″ vs 6’9″. Dimensionally they are similar tier, with perhaps a tiny edge to Sharpe for his length.
Both Mathurin and Sharpe are guys who rely on shooting and athleticism to score a high volume without turning it over. Neither guy gets many steals or blocks defensively, and you are drafting them mostly for their offense and hoping their D is not too bad.
Sharpe has that mystery box upside, but Mathurin likely has a better floor for his proven performance at Arizona. One concern with Sharpe is that while he made 36.4% 3P on 6.4 attempts/game in 12 EYBL games, he only shot 33/52 (63.5%) FT. This is a slightly uncomfortable point given how much he needs to be able to shoot to succeed. Mathurin is likely the favorite to be the better shooter with his 78.9% FT in 2 years at Arizona. And even though Mathurin was 2 classes ahead of Sharpe in high school, he is only 11 months older, Sharpe does not have that much of a youth advantage.
The advantage for Sharpe is simply that he has more upside to be a big time scorer. Mathurin showed good scoring capability and his athleticism leaves room for it to grow, but he will be a medium usage complementary scorer more often than he is the go to guy in the NBA.
Sharpe has more potential to be that #1 scorer, but has lower FT%, and unlike Mathurin did not prove he can be a quality NCAA player as he was Pac-12 player of the year at age 19.
This makes it tricky to pick between these two. Sharpe has higher upside but based on his AAU stats, age, and the way scouts talk about him he is probably not going to be Vince Carter or Ray Allen. There’s a clear case to be made that Mathurin’s proven performance is worth more than Sharpe’s extra sliver of upside, since there are decent odds Sharpe would not have been as good as Mathurin if he stayed for a year of college.
AJ Griffin is a close stylistic relative of Sharpe + Mathurin while trading athleticism for a bit of size. He is much less dunky with a mere 0.51 dunks per 100 possessions compared to Mathurin’s 1.75, and rarely creates his own shot at the rim.
He is presumed to be 6’6 with 7′ wingspan, although did not measure officially. He likely has a small dimensional advantage over Sharpe + Mathurin, and his main calling card is his efficient offensive play as he showed promising shooting making 44.7% 3P 79.2% FT with a microscopic turnover rate at the young age of 18. In spite of being a class ahead of Sharpe, he is actually 3 months younger.
But Griffin gets messy because there are a number of reasons to skew his projection in either direction. First his shooting just does not look that smooth, especially not relative to his #’s. On average I would trust the actual numbers over the eye test for shooting, but there have been guys who shot the lights out for small college samples that failed to do so in the NBA. For instance– Xavier Henry shot 41.8% 2P 78.3% FT on slightly more 3PA (165 vs 159) and solidly more FTA (115 vs 53) than Griffin and could not shoot a lick in the NBA. Aaron Nesmith made 52.2% 3P 82.5% FT as an NCAA sophomore, and has shot 31% 3P in 245 NBA attempts between regular season and playoffs.
Shooting is weird and difficult to predict, and for Griffin’s biggest selling point it is slightly uncomfortable that the eye test does not align with his relatively small statistical sample. His 3P%, FT%, and 3PA rate are all slightly better than Mathurin’s career numbers while Griffin is younger, but Mathurin has a bigger sample of attempts and looks smoother. Who is the favorite to be the better NBA shooter? It is not clear.
If Griffin’s shooting does prove to be a SSS ruse and he is average or worse shooting in the NBA, it is difficult to imagine him being a useful pro. He has an anemic steal rate considering his length, and he has mediocre defensive awareness and is often caught napping for backdoor cuts. Also for his size he is a mediocre rebounder and rarely gets to the line, and he seems to shy away from physicality a bit. He is physically capable of defending in the NBA, but he has clear risk of being a liability, and without official measurements he may be closer to a SG than a true wing size.
Another point for downside is that he missed large chunks of his last two high school seasons with injuries. Some people will argue that this gives him extra upside for future growth, but repetitions at ages 18-20 are not the same as repetitions from 15-17. It is difficult to see this as anything other than a flag that he might be made of glass.
So between his injury history and minor doubts regarding his shooting, there are a couple of ways that Griffin’s career can go sideways. But if he stays healthy and shoots as well as his freshman numbers imply, he is a nice offensive piece that can space the floor, avoid mistakes, and hopefully develop competent defense in time.
And having an NBA father in Adrian Griffin is a plus, as these prospects tend to work out with a higher success rate than average prospects. Tim Hardaway Jr and Gary Trent Jr are fellow NBA dad juniors with similar games who were not quite as strong as pre-draft, so there is no major obstacle that prevents him from being as good as those guys or even better.
If we are stacking him up against his fellow SGs in Mathurin, Sharpe, and Ivey we are left with more razor thin decisions. He is the youngest of the group, turns it over the least, has the best shooting %’s, and his NBA dad could easily propel him to be the best of the bunch. But he also is clearly the least athletic, has the lowest possibility of randomly expanding his offensive role in time, has the scariest injury history, and eye tests as a bit more wonky than that crew.
Analyzing the draft is really hard. Between Mathurin, Sharpe, and Griffin we could easily have one guy become a Michael Redd or Jason Richardson or even Devin Booker level hit, one could be a THJ or KCP type of kinda boring but kinda useful role player, and one could be a dud like Ben McLemore or Xavier Henry. But it’s really hard to know which ones are most or least likely to fall into each path, and most people will resort to ranking them based on some arbitrary heuristic and hope for the best.
Murray absolutely stuffed the stat sheet for Iowa this past year, but you would hope so given that he is by far the oldest player in the lottery and projected #4 in ESPN’s latest mock.
Murray turns 22 shortly after the draft in August, and his biggest issue is that he is a 3 + D wing who may not be good at either 3s or D. He has solid rebound, steal, and block rates, but his D does not always look as good as his statistics imply. His lateral quickness is only OK, and he is prone to being beat off the dribble. In the NCAA tournament he was bullied in the paint for an easy bucket 3 times in a row by 6’7 Nathan Cayo who averaged 9.1 points for mid-major Richmond. This is not the best look for an older prospect.
But presumably at 6’8 with 6’11 height he has pretty good wing dimensions and at least does some things on defense, so he has potential to be either a positive or negative on this end. I would lean slightly toward the negative side, but he is decidedly a mixed bag.
Offensively he made 39.8% from 3 as a sophomore, but backed it up with an unspectacular 74.7% FT. Over his two seasons at Iowa he shot 37.3% 3P 74.9% FT on a middling rate of 3PA, which is fine but not great for an older prospect.
His main value is his ability to score a high volume of 2 pointers with a microscopic turnover rate. He is a difficult player to finger. He has a number of statistical parallels to Frank Kaminsky, but is smaller and closer to Kyle Kuzma stylistically.
He’s a pretty decent wing prospect, but he is just too old with too many blah points in his profile to be a compelling choice in the top 5. He is likely worth taking somewhere near the end of the lottery, but his weirdness makes him difficult to predict with precision.
Eason is a fascinating weirdo who measured with dreamy dimensions for a wing at 6’8 with 7’2 wingspan.
He anchored LSU’s elite #6 defense, as he led the team in TRB%, STL%, and BLK%. He has a great motor and an excellent intuition for pressuring the ball on defense, and was able to use his length to force a boatload of turnovers for the Tigers.
Offensively he is a capable shooter making 80.3% FT and 35.9% 3P for LSU (32.7% 2P 75.7% FT for his 2 year career) and can create his own shot at the rim, making 56.4% 2P on high volume.
But he has major holes in his basketball IQ, as he is often sloppy and out of control. He only played 24.4 minutes per game for LSU because of foul trouble averaging 2.8 per game, and he had a poor 0.45 assist:turnover ratio. He frequently makes questionable decisions, and often attacks at bad times. This is exacerbated by being a relatively old sophomore, having turned 21 in May shortly before the combine.
This is a fairly significant wart, and puts him behind other wings with high defensive potential like Daniels and Sochan. But he also has bigger strengths than most of the prospects outside of the top 3, which makes for an interesting value proposition.
It is most interesting to compare him to Keegan Murray. Eason is 9 months younger and longer with clearly better defense, they are in a similar boat as shooters with perhaps a small edge to Keegan, and Keegan is far better at avoiding mistakes with drastically lower foul and turnover rates.
This is another close comparison. Perhaps it is wise to simply favor the guy who does not have bizarre warts for his age in Murray as consensus does. But Eason’s length + defense add enough sex appeal such that it’s crazy that one of these guys is projected inside the top 5 and the other out of the lottery. The sharp play is clearly to pass on Keegan earlier to take Eason later.
The Bigs: Jalen Duren, Mark Williams, and Walker Kessler
Duren is compelling for his physical tools and youth, and it is easy to get enthusiastic for his upside if he develops well. But he is so raw and his skill and decision making have a long way to go for him to sniff that upside, and he will have plenty of boring common outcomes like Derrick Favors or Andre Drummond. How much value can you place on hitting on a big like that when bigs are getting valued less and less?
So how high is it worth gambling on him hitting a big upside and becoming an Alonzo Mourning or Dwight Howard when most of the time he is not that interesting? And it is not even clear that he is a favorite to be better than Mark Williams who should be available later in the lottery.
Williams is a bit older and less strong and athletic, but has actual center dimensions and is much more efficient for Duke. There is a good case to be made that Williams has the higher median outcome while Duren has the higher upside, and it is not clear exactly who should have the higher draft value.
But the concern for Williams is that for a big who is largely a garbageman and rim protector– does he protect the rim at a high enough level? Duke’s defense was solid but far from elite at #49 in the nation, and it was slightly better with the 20 year old Williams off the floor.
Perhaps the galaxy brain take is that while Duren + Williams are perfectly solid prospects, it is pointless to take them lotto with Walker Kessler lingering in the 20’s. He is a bit weirder and less attractive as the not as athletic white guy, although you would never be able to tell by looking at the stats.
Kessler is only slightly behind Duren + Williams in dunks and rebounds, but dwarfs them in steals and blocks as he set the record for D1 block rate among players who played at least 400 minutes. He blocks almost everything, and is decently mobile for a 7′ rim protector. Offensively, he has the worst FT% of the 3, but is the only one of the group who regular attempts 3’s as he shot 10/50 as a sophomore, attempting 1.5 3P per game. Otherwise he is hyperefficient with an elite 70% 2P and microscopic TOV rate, much like Williams.
There is quite a bit of goodness in Kessler’s profile, and not really anything to strongly dislike. He seems to be getting the short end of the stick due to assumptions that he is a big white stiff, but he does not look stiff on the court and he has a unique intersection of strengths.
Ultimately I tend to agree with consensus ranking of Duren > Williams > Kessler, but disagree with the space between them in mock drafts. It seems pretty close to a three way coinflip between these guys, as any of them could be the best of the bunch or the worst.
Kessler being underrated should not be a huge knock on Duren and Williams, but he is indicative of the bigger trend that teams are averse to heavily investing in non-elite bigs, and it is an easier position to play moneyball since obviously good ones can fall through the cracks in the draft like Kessler. Duren + Williams both seem like reasonable top 10 picks, but given the market value of bigs, is it really necessary to draft them that high? It’s not clear.
The Weird Combo Guard: Trevor Keels
Keels is the one guy who is unique enough to be difficult to directly compare to anybody in this draft, because he ticks to his own beat as a prospect and it is tough to find a historical comparison for him.
On paper he seems extremely boring as an undersized SG at 6’4.75 with 6’7.25 wingspan. He also had some of the worst athletic testing for any non-big, as he graded similarly to the unathletic euro guards Hugo Besson and Matteo Spagnolo and well below any domestic guard. And he did little on the court as a Duke freshman to dispel any athletic doubts, as he finished the season with a mere 2 dunks and 2 blocks.
Let’s compare past NBA draft prospects who are somewhat similar to him with similarly low block and dunk numbers:
Pritchard has largely succeeded in the NBA because he became a 41% shooter through his first two seasons, but at the same age Keels was not far behind as a shooter. He is confident in his shooting and takes a good volume of 3PA in spite of only making 31.2%, and given how young he is he has plenty of time to become decent to good at shooting.
And even if he does not shoot as well as Pritchard, he had a similar assist:TOV while scoring at a much higher rate, and his greater size gives him more potential on defense.
Herro and Kennard are not quite the same because they are such obviously better shooters, but they nevertheless have had NBA careers without being overall more productive than Keels.
Cory Joseph is a fairly juicy comparison. He was a role player who was never that valuable, but he provided a solidly above average return on a late 1st pick at #29 overall as he consistently has found significant minutes throughout his career. And when you put him side by side with Keels, it is not close. Keels was a much more efficient and productive scorer at a full year younger, and has similar potential to be a pesky defensive player with slightly more versatility given his extra 1.5″ of height and length. It does not seem right to let Keels go as late as Joseph did in a weak draft.
Jalen Brunson is fascinating comparison because not only did he have 0 dunks and 0 blocks as an NCAA freshman, but he was similar to Keels with less size, a year older, and far more turnovers. His only significant advantage was in shooting. It’s crazy how well Brunson has done in the NBA– there was no clear signal of his potential statistically or athletically. In fairness he did quite a bit better than Keels in athletic testing, but there was no evidence of any athletic prowess on the court for him.
Austin Rivers is also interesting to compare to Keels, because he was essentially better at nothing as a freshman while having nearly identical dimensions to Keels and being a full year older. Rivers had a bit more volume scoring on mediocre efficiency, but Keels had significant advantages in assists and turnovers as well as more rebounds and steals while being a full year younger.
Rivers was a subpar return on #10 overall as he has never quite been useful, but he has been close enough to useful to hang around the NBA for a long career. If Keels can be a Rivers but with better efficiency, passing, and defense, that is a decent NBA player.
The big cautionary tale on the list is Tyler Ennis, who crushed with assist:TOV ratio while scoring a high volume and completely flopped in the NBA. His low athleticism likely played a role, but he also racked up stats in a dumb Syracuse offense where they jacked up a bunch of mid-range shots and then offensive rebounded them at a huge 38.1% rate. This is reflected in his 42.9% 2P and his team having the 2nd worst 2P% in ACC– it is easier to generate a high volume of offense without turning it over if you are settling for lower quality shots.
Granted, this does not completely negate his offensive production, he still had a compelling amount of output and his limited athleticism likely played a significant role in him succeeding. But as somebody who saw potential in Ennis at the time, I believe I gave his statistical production a bit too much credit given how much it centered around mid-range chucking.
Perhaps I missed a good example or two to compare, but overall this seems to be hardly a death knell. Granted, most of these guys either skipped athletic testing or scored better than Keels, but on court athletic performance should typically trump combine testing for athleticism.
And in terms of on court performance relative to age, Keels seems like he is better than all of these guys. Perhaps you could make a case for Herro or Ennis having a small edge on draft day, but Keels clearly performed better than everybody else as a freshman. And this group collectively performed fairly well relative to draft stock.
There are no huge wins who became stars, which is a reason to somewhat temper enthusiasm for Keels. But there is also no clear signal that limited athleticism should place a major pessimistic skew for young productive guards, and it would seem that with an ESPN ranking of #27 the pessimism for Keels’ athletic limitations has gone too far.
The Tortoise and the Hare
It is interesting how similar these two prospects are outside of being on opposite ends of the athletic spectrum. They have similar dimensions, similar shooting, play similar roles, and the main difference is that one of these guys has a massive speed advantage and the other has a massive IQ advantage.
At a glance you may think that any IQ disparity is likely not that big. Ivey plays a significantly bigger offensive role, and his additional turnovers are not so bad given the higher scoring and slightly higher assist totals.
But consider that Keels is 1.5 years younger and needed to share the ball with four other first round caliber prospects at Duke. It is exceptionally rare for a guard that young to create as much offense as Keels did for himself and his teammates while turning it over so rarely.
With an extra year of experience and more ball handling duties, Keels could see a significant sophomore leap if he returned to school. This would be especially true if he played in a favorable situation like Ivey at Purdue where he was always playing with an elite big man and 3 shooters.
It is difficult to overstate how favorable of a situation Ivey was in this past season. Purdue returned everybody from a top 25 team last year, and gave Ivey a bigger offensive role in more minutes. The team had major upside, but hardly even improved.
Part of this is because of a significant regression in their defense. The defense has simply been dreadful whenever Ivey has played over the past two seasons, and he seems really bad on this end. Keels is not an elite stopper on defense, but he is solid and in spite of being much slower than Ivey is overall a solidly better defensive player. Athleticism certainly helps on defense, but it is secondary to intelligence and Ivey’s defensive IQ is ultra bad where Keels is good.
Offensively Ivey’s IQ is decent enough since he is able to score with high efficiency and post more assists than turnovers for the #2 NCAA offense behind Duke. But he still made a few too many questionable decisions for a 20 year old– especially in Purdue’s tournament loss to Saint Peter’s, which may be the worst tourney performance of all time for a projected lottery pick.
Intuitively, I have a difficult time buying that Ivey has the basketball IQ to be trusted as a lead guard for an NBA offense. He seems more like a microwave scorer for a bench unit.
Meanwhile there has to be something special about Keels’ basketball IQ to have such solid creation as an infant aged freshman while managing to avoid turnovers.
Granted, athleticism gets valued more in the draft for non-trivial reasons. One because a significant percentage of stars are high end athletes, and two because it is easier to discern than basketball IQ.
For instance, it is easy to underrate the basketball IQ of Russell Westbrook who is prone to playing out of control and making bad decisions at times. This makes it easy to overlook his excellent basketball intuition and that he showed rare floor general skills for such an elite athlete at a young age.
Conversely, it is easy to overrate the basketball IQ of guys like Doug McDermott or Jimmer Fredette when they have a common level of NCAA success as non-athletes at an old age.
And this is where the draft gets tricky…Ivey gets top 5 consideration because it is difficult to discern that his basketball intuition/IQ is levels below that of Westbrook, and if you pass on him and he turns out to have similar intelligence and athleticism then you are risking missing out on a big time star.
Intuitively I believe Ivey’s basketball IQ is simply not good enough to run an NBA offense, and that anybody who takes him top 5 will feel scammed in due time. But I cannot assess his BBIQ with perfect accuracy, and there is some wiggle room that needs to be left that his intelligence proves to be decent enough for him to be a good NBA player, even if he is never an MVP candidate like Westbrook.
But most of the athletes that get picked highly in the draft and fail are due to a poor basketball IQ, and most of the best steals who slide out of the top 20 are non-athletes who just know how to play.
While it is difficult to directly compare two prospects with such athletic and intelligence disparities, it would be highly unsurprising if Keels turned out to be the solidly better pro than Ivey. Does this necessarily mean he is the better prospect? I am not sure. There is a reasonable case to be made for it, but it is unclear.
What is clear is Keels’ path to be solidly better at a fraction of the cost based on current draft consensus makes him a drastically better value relative to draft slot.
Brown is a curious case where I wonder what sort of terrible impression he must have made in interviews to be rated #28 on ESPN’s big board.
He has excellent physical tools for a wing as he is 6’7.5″ with 6’11” length and elite athleticism. He had the second highest max vertical leap in the combine behind Kennedy Chandler and 36% of his made FG this season were dunks.
He only turned 19 in May shortly before the combine, and has pretty decent statistical production for a young and toolsy prospect in the coveted mold of 3 + D wing.
Granted, he is not particularly good at either 3 or D. He made 34.1% 3P 68.9% FT which seems decent enough, except he sparsely attempted 3’s with just 1.2 attempts per game in 27 minutes.
His steal, rebound, and block rates are decent, but they nevertheless pale in comparison to fellow NBA prospect teammates Matthew Mayer and Jeremy Sochan. Baylor’s offense and defense were both solidly worse with him on the floor. While Brown has ideal physical tools to defend NBA wings, his defense is largely unrealized potential at this point.
He seems capable of scoring at a decent volume as well, as he has a basic ability to create off the dribble and finish as he converted an excellent 63.8% 2P. But he attacked oddly infrequently, and only averaged 9.7 points in 27 minutes for Baylor on the season.
You may be noticing a trend that Brown has significant potential across the board but his current output is underwhelming in all regards. He has this passive and floaty approach to the game which is frustrating– he should take more 3’s, he should attack the rim more, he should be more disruptive on D, but his mental approach cuts into all of this and leaves a mediocre imprint on the game.
It seems that draft consensus is so offput by this that he is at risk of sliding out of round 1, which seems a bit crazy. There have been floaty players in the past who were not nearly as punished for their limits:
You can see compared to Wiggins and Barnes that in spite of their floaty nature, they still scored considerably more than Brown and were better shooters, which likely played a role in help keeping their draft stock afloat.
But Brown was much more efficient inside the arc. He actually made slightly more 2P per 100 in spite of taking so many fewer attempts, and he had a better dunk rate than either. He also had a much better assist:TOV ratio, which is fairly important for predicting success for NCAA prospects to translate to NBA wing.
The main difference was really that Wiggins + Barnes were better shooters and shot far more frequently. But Brown’s shooting does not seem all that broken, he can close the gap by improving over time and simply pulling the trigger more often.
Richard Jefferson is an example of a prospect with a more similar distribution to Brown. They seemed pretty close as freshmen, but what is surprising about RJ is how his production barely improved over his three years at Arizona and in his final pre-draft season his production was essentially the same as his freshman year with more turnovers.
Perhaps there was some subtle nuanced advantage that drove Jefferson to be selected 13th overall while Brown likely falls to the end of round 1. Maybe Brown just doesn’t like basketball that much and it is apparent in his interviews with teams.
But it is odd that somebody with his physical profile, youth, and mold is getting such little love in the draft. He has a stench of mediocre underachieving that makes it difficult to have much faith in the guy, but prospects with his strengths are normally a lock for the lottery even with some nasty warts attached.
Personally I’m not sure what to exactly think about Brown, but it is difficult to see how he is valued appropriately in the late 20’s.
The draft combine gives a nice new chunk of information to work with: official measurements are most interesting and the combine scrimmages have been surprisingly predictive, with Quentin Grimes and Bones Hyland shining last season and being two of the most productive rookies taken outside of the lottery.
This year there were not any prospects who stood out as clearly, but let’s run through the guys who made favorable impressions:
Days received a combine invite after a monster G League camp where he measured 6’7 with 7’1 wingspan and in 17.5 mins he averaged 14 pts, 5 rebs, 0.5 ast, 0.5 tov, 2.5 stls on 5/9 2P 5/14 3P 3/5 FT.
Then in the combine he continued to play effectively averaging 22.5 mins, 13 pts, 6 rebs, 1 ast, 0 tovs, 1 stl on 4/7 3P 5/15 3P 3/4 FT.
Combine both samples and you get an average of 20 mins, 13.5 pts, 5.5 rebs, 0.8 ast, 0.3 tov, 1.8 stl and a whopping 7.3 3PA per game.
It’s difficult to see how such a prototypical 3 + D wing can go undrafted. He is getting off a huge volume of 3PA, not taking bad shots, not turning it over, and is capable of rebounding and defending the perimeter.
Days is on the older side as he turns 23 before next season in October, and he is only a decent but non-elite shooter. But what more do you want in round 2 than a pull at a solid 3 + D wing like him? It seems crazy that he is currently slated to go undrafted, and somewhat obviously deserves to be picked.
LaRavia measured 6’8 as listed. His wingspan is slightly underwhelming at 6’9.5, but sufficient for a wing given his height. He also crushed lane agility with the 3rd best time and tied for 2nd best in the shuttle run. His standing and max verticals were less impressive, but this is consistent with his style of play– he is not particularly explosive, but he is agile.
This enables him to provide value as a versatile and switchable defensive player, which is likely his biggest strengths as a prospect as he is a high IQ defensive player who moves his feet well and actively generates steals with a solid 2.7% steal rate as a junior for Wake Forest.
Offensively he is an excellent passer and an efficient scorer on middling volume, and projects as a complementary piece. The biggest factor for him is if he develops NBA 3 point range– he made 38.4% 3P and 77.7% FT as a 20 year old junior, but took a meager 3.6 3PA per 100 possessions and likely will need time to develop from NBA 3 point range.
But if that range does develop in time, you are looking at an ideal role player. He is currently slated at #38 in ESPN’s latest mock, but it would not be surprising to see a sharp team like the Grizzlies snipe him at #22 or #29.
Williams looked good in all regards in Chicago, as he measured 6’5.75″ with a monster 7’2.25″ wingspan and excellent athletic testing including a tie for the 2nd best standing vertical.
He was also one of the standouts of the scrimmages, where in two games he averaged 24 mins, 15 pts, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, and rarely missed shooting 9/12 2P, 3/4 3P, 3/3 FT.
Williams fits a nice offensive mold as he was a high volume creator for Santa Clara, regularly creating his own shooting at the rim with an excellent 2:1 assist:TOV ratio as a junior who turned 21 shortly after the season. He is a capable shooter making 39.6% 3P 80.9% FT (35.2% 3P 78.5% FT career), although his 3PA volume is slightly underwhelming with 5.2 attempts per 100 possessions.
The main hitch in his profile is that he rebounds like a small guard and does not make the defensive impact that he is physically capable of making.
The variance in his NBA success hinges on how well his 3 point shot develops and how well he defends. He has the physical tools to be a solid defensive player, but his performance thus far leaves a fair amount of downside on that end.
But if those points go reasonably well for him, it is easy to see him as a quality piece that fits in almost any NBA lineup. He was mocked at #43 on ESPN before the combine, and it would not be surprising to see him rise into round 1 based on his showing, as he seems like a reasonable selection in the 20’s.
There has been some chatter that he belongs in the lottery, which would be excessive. For perspective, there is a similar player who has not been building hype currently projected at #36: Wendell Moore. Let’s compare per 100 statistics:
Both are long armed guards who had junior breakout seasons. Wendell is 0.25″ shorter at 6’5.5 and 1.75″ less length at 7’0.5″, and does not create as much offense at the rim but had slightly more assists and offered better rebounding + defense.
Both guys have similarly good FT% and 3PA rate, but Wendell likely gets the edge in shooting based on career FT% (81.4 vs 78.5) and 5 months of youth advantage.
Last and perhaps most significantly, Wendell was a 5* recruit playing for one of the best teams in the country against a major conference schedule. Santa Clara had an excellent mid major season in a good conference, but played a notably weaker schedule and is a much weaker source of NBA talent than Duke.
While Williams has a couple of advantages over Moore and is a fun prospect with a unique distribution of talent, Moore is likely the safer bet being slightly more well rounded coming from a more proven source of NBA talent.
Williams had a good showing at the combine and rightfully deserves some hype for his performance, but it’s worth noting that a slightly better sleeper is currently building no hype and should be available in late round 1 or early round 2.
This is not meant as a slight on Williams since I would also rate Moore above Johnny Davis who is currently slotted at #10 overall, rather an interesting comparison of guys who fall in a similar category of long armed guards who do a bit of everything offensively.
Terry was already an interesting sleeper as role playing wing in round 2, and he solidified it by having slightly better measurements than expected at 6’7.25″ with 7’0.75″ wingspan.
Rollins measured a slightly disappointing 6’3.25″ height, but atoned with an excellent 6’9.75″ wingspan.
He only played in one scrimmage where he had a number of plays that popped including an athletic putback and being pesky with deflections on defense. But he was very sloppy with 5 turnovers on a relatively limited offensive load of 9 FGA and 3 assists, and missed all three of his 3’s including a couple of bad bricks on wide open looks.
This makes it difficult to know where to place him in the draft. He has potential in a number of ways, as he has good defense for his size and decent offensive skills for a guard who doesn’t turn 20 until shortly after the draft.
But the question with him is: does he have enough offensive skill to get excited over at 6’3? In his two NCAA seasons he made a solid 79.6% FT, but only 31.7% 3P on moderate volume. For a little guy, it needs to be a concern whether he can ever make NBA 3’s with consistency.
The other question is whether he can be a lead guard, as he can get to the rim decently enough and had more assists (3.6) than turnovers (2.2) as a sophomore but is not a true point guard. The turnover issues in the scrimmage were not encouraging on this front.
So he is on the fringe of good in almost every category. It is plausible that with his length and instincts he is a + defensive player and has enough skill to develop into a + offensive player in time. Or it’s plausible that he is a buck short in everything across the board for a little guy and isn’t an NBA player.
He is projected as undrafted in ESPN’s pre-combine mock which seems harsh, as it is tough to see 50 prospects ahead of him in this draft. But he did not show quite enough to get hyped on him as a top 30 guy who belongs in round 1.
He is a difficult one to rank, but early-mid round 2 seems reasonable based on what he has shown these past few days.
Williams is one of the most fascinating weirdos in the entire draft. After starting his career in JUCO for two seasons, he spent his junior season badly struggling for Oklahoma and looking stone dead to be a future NBA player. As a senior his numbers upticked to a respectable role player, but still looked nothing like an NBA player.
But then for his 5th season he transferred to Wake Forest where he was an absolute stud, averaging 18.5 pts 6.4 rebounds 5.2 assists 3.6 TOVs making 60.3% 2P. He is shifty and athletic and got to the rim at an astronomical rate, and proved to be an intelligent and crafty passer with good size for a lead guard at 6’5 with a 6’7 wingspan.
The downside for him is that he is a career 27% 3P 69.9% FT shooter for a 5 year player who turns 23 several days before the draft. And how much can his lead guard play for one season at Wake be trusted when he showed nothing close to that at ages 20 and 21 for Oklahoma?
In his 2 scrimmages, he averaged 27 mins 9 pts 3 rebs 4.5 asts 1 tov on 4/10 2P 1/7 3P 7/10 FT. That’s a nice assist to turnover ratio, but his jumper was not falling and he struggled to finish at the rim on a few occasions. His %’s were likely to some extent bad variance, but it would have been nice to see him show a bit more self creation.
Everything about Alondes is so oddly distributed. Based on his performance at Wake Forest he seems to have unique athleticism and creation ability for a 6’5 guard, and just enough possibility of learning to shoot to have massive upside in round 2 where he is currently slated to go at #54.
But in the more common scenarios where he is a bad to mediocre shooter who lacks defensive versatility, how valuable can he be? And how much should we worry about his slow start at Oklahoma?
There is a lot of weirdness here which creates reason to be both optimistic for his best cases and cautious for his common outcomes. But there are some serious shades of Derrick White who was good value in the late 1st round, so it would seem that Alondes should belong much higher than 54th where he is currently slated to go.
Seabron showed some impressive scoring ability in the scrimmages, but his measurements were a huge disappointment. In spite of being listed at 6’7, he measured a meager 6’5.75 with 6’8.75 wingspan.
He seemed like a possibly major sleeper at 6’7 with legitimate creation skills as he is both shifty and explosive and go to the rim at an astronomical rate for NC State. But after measuring as an undersized SG that tempers so much of the excitement, because that seems like it makes one wart too many to have a compelling NBA upside.
As a sophomore he averaged more assists (3.2) than turnovers (2.4) but he is definitely not a point guard and is not really a shooter either. He made 71.3% FT but merely 25.6% 3P on a meager 2.2 3PA/100.
In the scrimmages he averaged 27.5 mins, 16 pts, 5 rebs, 2.5 asts, 3 tovs on 10/16 2P, 1/2 3P, 9/10 FT. This is basically who he was in college– excellent at creating his own offense in the paint but still not really a floor general and still not comfortable taking 3’s.
He is also staggeringly old for a sophomore, turning 22 a month before the draft. He is only 11 months younger than Alondes Williams, and has a similar of super power of getting to the rack but is less comfy from 3 and is not the same tier of passer, so it is difficult to get nearly as excited in spite of being slightly bigger and younger.
It’s hard to not be slightly intrigued by Seabron based on his slashing ability, but it at his size he is a bit too one dimensional to get excited over.
Good news: he measured an entire inch above his listed height at 6’7″, bad news: he is a t-rex with 6’6.5″ wingspan.
Good news: he was actively making all sorts of plays in the scrimmage averaging 26.5 mins, 11.5 pts, 5.5 rebs, 3.5 asts, 1.5 tovs, 2.5 stls. Bad news: he really struggled to make shots 5/15 2P, 4/11 3P, 1/2 FT.
It is nice to see him freely attempt threes as he had an odd decline from 9.4 3PA/100 as a sophomore to 5.5 as a junior. His NCAA shooting signal only looks OK-ish, making 37.8% 3P on moderate volume and 74.9% FT in his 3 years at Kansas.
Braun is in a bit of a weird zone where he does not have any particularly bad weakness, nor does he have any major strength to lean on. He is more or less a 6’7 guy who is OK at everything.
Is that a guy worth taking in round 1? He is not going to be a home run selection, and he may not be an NBA player at all. But he also doesn’t need that much to go right to be a decent rotation player.
He is currently mocked at #28 at ESPN which seems about right.
McGowens had a bad year for a bad team but as a 19 year old who got to the line a ton and made 83.1% FT, having wing dimensions would be enough to make him worth considering in the late first.
Unfortunately he came up a bit short at 6’6.5″ with 6’8.75″ wingspan and 181 pounds. Makes it hard to get excited on the idea of gambling that he can ever learn to defend decently in the NBA being that slight with SG dimensions and showing no inkling of basketball IQ as an NCAA freshman.
He is currently slated at #29 on ESPN’s mock, but I am downgrading him to a mid-late 2nd round pick based on those measurements.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
PBJ had perfectly decent measurements at 6’10.25″ with 7’1.75″ wingspan, but his athletic testing was outright miserable.
He was at or near the bottom of every test: dead last in max vert, 2nd to last in standing vert and lane agility, 4th to last in 3/4 court sprint, and 6th to last in the shuttle run.
It can be dangerous to overly invest in athletic testing since it is not always indicative of in game athleticism, but this mostly helps reconcile how he was so dreadfully bad playing low major basketball this season. He is likely too slow and too unathletic to find a niche in the NBA, and it is likely correct to let go of his top 10 recruiting hype and treat him as a likely bust with thin outs to be a useful pro.
He is currently slated as #31 in ESPN’s mock but should be a late 2nd rounder or UDFA.
The good news for Hugo is that he measured considerably above his 6’3 listing at 6’5.75″, although he does not supplement this with any sort of length at 6’5.5″ and his frame looks slight at 180 pounds.
In the scrimmages he averaged 23.5 mins 11 pts 3 rebs 2 asts 2 tovs while making 3/4 2P 3/11 3P 7/9 FT. This is a good distribution of shots as it was mostly in the paint, free throws, or 3’s.
Besson did show a decent capability of getting to the rim, as all 3 of his two point makes were self created off the dribble. So it was not a complete disappointment for Besson, and his fans may have felt that he showcase versatile efficient and scoring for a SG while measuring a respectable height. Even as a major Hugo doubter it is worth acknowledging that his hype seems slightly less ridiculous after seeing his height and a few successful forays to the rim.
But outside of being an OK-ish complementary scorer, it seems that just about everything else is a weakness. He is nevertheless very small for a SG once factoring in strength + length and showed nothing to indicate that he will be anything other than a massive sieve defensively in the NBA.
Offensively, his basketball IQ left quite a bit to be desired. He had a number of bad turnovers, including an uncredited one where he essentially dribbled out the last 7 seconds of the shot clock with no awareness that it was ticking down. This is not a forgivable mistake for a 21 year old with major physical deficiencies.
He also had a number of other sloppy passes for turnovers, as his vision and decision making both seem limited. He also had several bad bricks from 3 on bad attempts, including one that he got bailed out with a foul for 3 free throws.
So it’s difficult to see how he ever makes the offensive impact to make it worth stomaching his likely awful defense. He is not even that good of a shooter, making 30.8% 3P 79.5% FT this past season and 34.8% 3P 77.6% FT over the past three.
It’s tough to see what his path to being useful could possibly be. He is OK-ish at shooting and scoring, bad at passing and decision making, and terrible on defense. Those are some huge weaknesses with no clear strengths to offset them.
It boggles the mind how a random French guy with no clear NBA strengths on by far the worst Australian basketball team is even in attendance at the combine. This guy does not belong.
Tiny Terq measured 6’3.75″ with 6’6.5″ wingspan and a tiny 165 pound frame, and is a horribly undersized SG.
In the scrimmage he did what he does best and jacked up a ton of shots with mediocre efficiency, finishing with 17 pts, 4, rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 tovs on 3/7 2P, 3/10 3P, 2/2 FT.
He keeps creeping up draft boards and in the latest mock is knocking on the door of round 1 at #33 overall, but it’s difficult to see what his calling card to success may be.
He may be compared to other combo guards who have done well in the late 1st lately, but Jordan Poole measured 1.75″ taller and 25 pounds heavier, Tyrese Maxey is 1.25″ longer and listed 35 pounds heavier. Terq is very small by combo guard standards.
So what makes him special? He was the second best player on a terrible NC State team, was horribly inefficient from 2 at 43.7%, rarely got to the FT line and only made 69.8% when he got there. His main selling point is that he has a monster 3PA rate and is a pretty good athlete, rating in the top 11 in all 5 athletic testing categories (out of 50 to 51 prospects) which enabled him to get decent rebound, steal, and block rates for a little guy.
But that’s all so thin. Most likely he is a sieve on defense and an inefficient chucker with no PG skills offensively. And even in the good outcomes, how much can his athleticism salvage things for him? He is still too small to guard non-PG’s, and he is still mostly going to be an off ball player as his shooting clearly exceeds his creation skills.
There are definitely outs to be something, and he may deserve to be drafted at some point in the mid-late second, but why bother to use a late 1st or early 2nd on him when a guy like Marcus Sasser is going to be available in UDFA?
Sasser is not as young or athletic, but has similar size and high volume 3PA with higher basketball IQ playing a key role for a much better team. It is fair to give Terq the edge overall due to his youth and athleticism, but does not have enough to build on with that youth and athleticism to justify chasing after him with a top 40 pick.
Miller measured well at 6’10 with 7’2 wingspan, tested decently athletically, and showed some flashes of usefulness in the scrimmages.
in 26 minutes he averaged 7.5 pts 6.5 rebs 1.5 asts 2.5 tovs 0.5 stl 0 blk on 6/9 2P, 1/9 3P 0 FTA. He didn’t force many bad shots, he is physically capable of being defensively versatile, and he at least attempted 4.5 3P per game.
He is still only 18 years old and does not turn 19 until November, so it’s difficult to be all the way out on a prospect like him.
But at the same time he offers too little to get into him. Many of his 3PA missed badly, everybody attempts them in the combine so there is no evidence that his shooting is not broken. And he seems generally lacking in skill or capability to do anything off the dribble. And his feel for the game does not seem all that good, and his defense leaves much to be desired in spite of his physical profile.
For better or worse, a bet on Miller seems like a complete shot in the dark on his youth and tools in case he learns how to both shoot and play over time. It seems grim with just a sliver of upside, although it is difficult to be too confident in how far away he is with such a small sample of Miller playing in real competition.
His youth and tools aren’t much of a base but they are something, so it’s hard to complain much about taking a round 2 shot on him. But intuitively he seems probably not good enough for the NBA and probably not worth a round 1 selection.
It seems that it is a rule that regardless of how weak an international class is, that at least two internationals must go in round 1. Even if there are no NBA caliber prospects overseas in a particular class, teams will look for and find a few guys to latch onto and treat them as if they are deserving.
Going back to 1998, 22 of 24 drafts have featured at least two internationals in round 1, and all drafts have had at least two picked in the top 32. Internationals tend to be higher variance picks since NBA teams tend to be bad at evaluating them, with colossal mistakes such as Darko Milicic 2nd over Anthony, Wade, and Bosh and Nikola Jokic sliding all the way to #41.
This year is decisively a bad year for internationals, but there are nevertheless four guys in round 1 consideration at the moment currently ranked in ESPN’s top 33. Let’s run through them one at a time and see if any have them have decent odds of justifying the hype.
Ousmane Dieng (#12 ESPN)
Dieng burst onto prospect radar in 2019, playing for France’s u16 team that won the silver medal. In 22 minutes he averaged 8.9 pts 2.7 rebounds 3.6 assists, showing an intriguing intersection of passing and shooting for a 6’9 wing but also shooting just 33% from the field.
Most recently he has played for the New Zealand Breakers, by far the worst team in the Australian NBL who went 5-23 with -8.7 point differential.
After a dreadful start to the season, he finished strong. He finished the year averaging 20.8 minutes, 8.9 points, 3.1 rebs, 1 ast, 1.4 tovs, 0.6 stls, and 0.3 blks with 47.9% TS and a paltry 10.7 PER. His biggest appeal is his shooting, or at least his belief that he can shoot as he attempted 4.2 3’s per game and made 27.1%.
Over the past 3 seasons from ages 16 thru 18 he has shot 138/462 (29.9%) from 3 and 88/112 (78.6%) FT. So he’s not exactly a good shooter at this point, but in time he could develop into one for his size.
And whoever drafts him better hope that he does, because there is not much to like outside of that. He does not have much shake or burst, and struggles to beat anybody off the dribble. And in spite of his size, he is not much of a defensive playmaker with mediocre rebound, steal, and block numbers.
He turns 19 in May before the draft and is basically a gamble on youth and tools, even though his tools outside of height are not all that special as like most French people he is a mediocre athlete.
Interestingly, he has a domestic twin who was recently taken in the lottery. Per 40 minute stats:
Granted, Australian NBL is not the same as the SEC, but it is certainly not more difficult. And when you factor in that Knox played for a good SEC team with a coach who routinely makes prospects underperform statistically, and Dieng played for a horrific NBL team who had nothing better to do with their season than pump up his stats, it is clear that Knox is the much stronger candidate to be underrated by statistics than Dieng.
And based on just the numbers, Knox has a clear edge as they are near identical in most categories, except Knox is much more efficient due to drawing significantly more FT’s and making 34% 3P compared to 27% for Dieng and was 3 months younger.
Knox was a reasonable lottery selection because of the possibility that he might be better than his box score indicated, as is common with prospects who play for John Calipari. This is not so common with European prospects, as outside of Giannis everybody who becomes great has a clear statistical signal of high potential. And Dieng is nowhere near Giannis physically.
Dieng is essentially Kevin Knox minus the upside that never came to fruition. Perhaps he improves better than Knox and maybe he develops into an excellent shooter over time, but there is no clear reason to actively believe in him.
And even if he does develop well, it is difficult to see him having any sort of compelling payoff. People may try to compare him to Brandon Ingram or Nicolas Batum, but both of those guys were much better at the same age and hit their NBA upside as shooters, so it is difficult to see what path Dieng would have to get there.
Perhaps he can be something like a Bojan Bogdanovic in his best outcomes. But it’s a relatively thin path that results on him developing well and becoming a great shooter, and his much more common outcome is similar to Kevin Knox where he is nowhere near NBA caliber.
And if you want to take a tall wing who shoots and does nothing else, there is a domestic in this current draft projected at #29 in Bryce McGowens:
Dieng is 6 months younger and approximately 2″ taller and 3″ longer, but McGowens gets to the free throw line much more frequently and made 83.1%. He also struggled from 3 making just 27%, but his free throws give him better hope of shooting and his FT drawing shows some capacity to play physical.
I would not rate McGowens as good value at #29, but would still lean toward gambling on him in spite of Dieng’s youth and dimensions edge if forced to pick between the two, although it is fairly close.
Ultimately there is probably enough there to justify a round 2 flier on Dieng, but it would be flat out insane to take him lottery and even in late round 1 he is a still a mediocre value proposition.
Nikola Jovic (#19 ESPN)
Jovic looked like a potential lottery pick in his 17 year old small sample, as he was efficient in 99 Adriatic League minutes and had a strong FIBA u19 performance where he averaged 31 mins, 18.1 pts, 8.3 rebs 2.9 asts, 1.9 tovs 56.6% TS over 7 games.
But unfortunately he has fallen completely flat as an 18 year old playing a larger sample in the Adriatic League. In 28.5 minutes he had posted 12 pts, 4.8 rebs, 3.6 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks in 29 games across all competition, which includes two u18 games.
Collectively this amounts to a meager 11.9 PER which is not inspiring. He is unsurprisingly like an off brand version of Nikola Jokic who was only 4 months older when he posted 21.2 Adriatic PER. So it is rather amusing that the real thing went in round 2 while the cheap knockoff is slated to go in round 1.
But on the bright side, the most obvious part of that failure was underrating the Joker. And what makes Jovic interesting is that he had a higher assist rate (22.5% vs 18.1% if you include Joker’s Serbian sample) and a slightly better shooting signal, making 31.5% 3P, 5 3PA/G, 71.8% FT vs 31.5% 3P, 2.9 3PA/G, 65.6% FT.
Granted, he is unlikely to have the outlier shooting development of the real Joker, but height, passing, and shooting can go far in tandem so it is reasonable to consider him a serious prospect.
But he still is not as big as Joker, as he is 1″ shorter with 2″ less length, and plays drastically smaller on the court as he gets crushed in all of rebounds (10% vs 15.5%) steals (1.3% vs 1.9%) and blocks (1.6% vs 3.4%). He is not a true center, and likely lacks the footspeed to guard anybody on the perimeter, which is enigmatic for his defensive projection.
Offensively his main concern is that he is a disaster in terms of efficiency, as he is highly turnover prone and struggles to score inside the arc. He posted 96 ORtg on 23.8 usage compared to Jokic 119 ORtg on 20.2 usg– he completely gets destroyed in terms of efficiency.
Jovic has some shades of Jokic with his passing, shooting, and height, except he is smaller with no clear defensive role in the NBA and overall bad on offense instead of good.
It’s tough to come up with a real comparison for Jovic. We could try to comp him to a different Nikola with Mirotic, but Mirotic is much better everywhere outside of passing never being a strength.
Boris Diaw has some similarities, but was more agile and always had higher steal rates. Danilo Gallinari was a much better shooter with a much better steal rate pre-draft.
There really isn’t a clear comparison to make for Jovic. You are basically just hoping that his true talent is closer to his smaller sample last year plus his FIBA performance this past summer than this year, and that he learns to shoot and his passing gravity helps overcome his myriad flaws.
Ultimately he is in a similar boat to Dieng where he has outs to hit, but overall is a bland and boring prospect and is more of a round 2 flier than somebody worth a late 1st.
Hugo Besson (ESPN #32)
It’s surprising enough that there is one prospect on by far the worst Australian league team. But at least Dieng is 18 years old and toolsy. Besson has no excuse, since he is 21 years old and a horrible mold of 6’3 SG who is near guaranteed to be a disaster on defense.
You would have to figure well this guy must have elite skill level to make him worth consideration, but he had a pedestrian 35.7% 3P 79.1% FT and barely more assists (3) than turnovers (2.5).
In summary he is old playing for a bad team in a bad league in a bad NBA mold with bad dimensions and athleticism and has no clear strengths whatsoever.
Perhaps I am missing somebody, but I cannot recall a past prospect who seemed this hopeless to be an NBA caliber player. There is not even a clear selling point in his favor. If the draft was 10 rounds long, it is still difficult to see how he would deserve to be picked.
How he is flirting with round 1 radar is difficult to comprehend. Perhaps when NBA teams all actually see him they will universally agree that he is terrible and nobody will pick him. Nothing about him being on the radar makes sense.
Ismael Kamagate(#33 ESPN)
It is difficult to reconcile how we live in a world where bigs are rapidly dying and quality big prospects often slide through the cracks in the draft, yet this nondescript 21 year old is knocking on the door of round 1.
Physically his tools are OK for a big. He is 6’11 with 7’3 wingspan, and OK-ish athleticism, although he is slightly on the skinny side weighing 220.
In terms of basketball playing ability, he can dunk and occasionally block shots and his FT% is not completely busted at 68.3% over the past 3 years combined. But he is a mediocre rebounder, does not create steals, and had a meager 0.38 assist:TOV ratio this past season playing in France.
Further, there is a clear superior player currently mocked a few slots later at #36 overall. Per 40 minutes:
Jeep Elite and Pac-12 are not the same, but Jeep Elite is not a good international league and is not a bigger challenge.
Christian Koloko has 1″ more length and is a better athlete, and outclasses Kamagate in every category of basketball playing ability.
I would rate Koloko as decent value in the early 2nd, as he has an easy path to serviceable NBA big, but it is difficult to get into him as a 1st rounder as it seems like he should be a replacement level big fairly commonly.
In Kamagate’s case, it seems like replacement big is approximately his upside as he has no clear strengths in terms of physical tools, skill level, and especially basketball IQ.
He is not quite as hopeless as Hugo Besson, but he nevertheless has no business being drafted.
If you are going to try to draft a player without an impressive statistical profile, it is typically an error to pick an international as opposed to a domestic player. America is the most proven source of NBA talent and has the best athletes. Its prospects typically have better odds of outperforming their pre-draft statistical profiles than random internationals do.
Really the only international who has hit with bad stats has been Giannis, and we could possibly go another 1000 drafts without seeing another prospect like him. He had a small sample of Greek stats that made him look like not a serious prospect, but he is a rare international who has elite physical tools. It is difficult to think of any past international prospect who is even close to him physically.
Because of this, you are playing with fire trying to project uniquely good NBA translation and/or development from internationals. Even if they seem athletic, they may not be by NBA standards (see: Mario Hezonja).
But there are have been so many draft steals from international players, scouts and teams are always going to look at a few of them every year. If there is not anybody who is clearly NBA talent, they will squint and squint and squint until they have a cute read that some bland talent has upside, and that guy will almost always flop.
This exemplifies this year. Dieng and Jovic have limited strengths for non-athletes, and should not be going in round 1. And they are the only guys who should be getting drafted at all, as everybody else seems more or less doomed to either fail or be a bland bench player.
If you want to draft an international prospect, there should be clear evidence that he is good at basketball. Since none of the prospects this year fit that qualification, each international drafted is likely to look like a mistake in the long term.
This draft has a good and clear cut top 3 overall between Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr., and Chet Holmgren. It’s a good year to land in the top 3, but then the draft falls off a massive cliff and whoever picks #4 is left in a brutal spot unless another team makes the mistake of taking Jaden Ivey in the top 3.
There are 3 clear upside pulls on the table for #4 overall: Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Shaedon Sharpe.
I have already written about Ivey, he is enticing for his elite speed and athleticism and ability to get to the rim, but his limited size for SG and questionable basketball IQ add a fair amount of downside to his profile. He is currently slated to go #4 on ESPN’s mock draft, but he has enough red flags such that it is worth considering other prospects for that slot, so let’s get into the other two options:
Shaedon Sharpe is currently projected #6 overall and is a fascinating mystery box, as he was #1 RSCI in this year’s high school class before reclassifying to Kentucky where he did not play this year. We are working with thin information on him, as his 12 game EYBL sample is the only somewhat meaningful stat sample to go off of.
He averaged 22.6 pts 5.8 rebounds 2.7 assists 1.5 turnovers for UPLAY Canada with 36.4% 3P on 6.4 3PA/game and 63.5% FT. He is listed at 6’5 or 6’6 with a 7′ wingspan, and is a good athlete but not outlier elite like Ivey. He turns 19 in May, which makes him slightly old for his high school class.
The good news for him is that he has the golden SG dimensions, especially if he measures 6’6. It seems that 6’6 with 6’11 wingspan is the baseline where players are capable of being elite without being point guards or generational 3 point shooters with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter as 3 big examples of guys with approximately those dimensions. It would be nice to get confirmation with official measurements, but Sharpe seems to make the cut.
The downside is that while he is a clearly + athlete for the NBA, he still may be a notch down athletically from those guys which makes it a bit more difficult to get hyped for him having hall of fame upside. He is athletic enough to not be ruled out entirely, but it feels overly optimistic to bet on him landing in that tier.
Also he does not seem to be a defensive stopper, with just 10 steals in his 12 EYBL games in spite of his monster length. He is physically capable of defending in the NBA and may become adequate on this end in time, but this is a bit of a red flag.
He nevertheless can get off a high volume of offense without turning it over, has great physical tools for a SG, and is young enough to have a compelling upside. His realistic upside comparisons are likely along the lines of guys like Michael Finley, Michael Redd, Jason Richardson, or Rip Hamilton. Which isn’t bad in a weak draft outside of the top 3, and he has some outs to surpass this group.
But without any thick reason to have conviction in him hitting, he also has downside risk and could be a Ron Mercer or Shabazz Muhammad.
It’s difficult to get overly enthusiastic on Sharpe with such little info, but there is no major obstacle to him being an all-star caliber SG if he develops smoothly. This should be enough to put him in the conversation for #4 overall.
Duren has an exceptionally intersection of youth and tools, as he is 6’10 with a 7’5 wingspan, a chiseled 250 pound frame, good athleticism, and does not turn 19 until November.
He is still raw in terms of basketball IQ and skill, but he did show some glimmers of potential as a passer and made a respectable 62.5% from the line.
The big selling point with his is that when somebody is so clearly + at each of height, length, strength, and athleticism, it is not particularly difficult to be a good NBA player. He has one comp that is basically his twin in Derrick Favors who was also 6’10 with 7’4 wingspan. Per 100 possessions:
They are basically the same thing, except Duren is 3 months younger with better passing and more frequent dunks, and should have the higher upside tail. Favors was considered to have elite intangibles pre-draft, which would likely be his biggest advantage over Duren. Overall these prospects seem equal with possibly a small edge to Duren.
Favors had a solid career for a non #1 overall pick, but he also would be fairly boring as we enter an era where bigs are less commonly used.
Now let’s compare him to some prospects who are not as identical statistically, but have similar physical profiles since that is the defining feature of Duren:
It may be a bit optimistic to compare him physically to Howard or Jordan, the same way it is overly optimistic to compare Sharpe to MJ, Kobe, and Vince. They have the same body and dimensions, but there is nevertheless a significant difference between being an 80th or 90th percentile NBA athlete vs 99th percentile explosive freak.
It is unlikely that he matches Dwight’s MVP caliber play in Orlando, although Dwight never developed his passing or shooting so there is some non-zero chance that Duren can reach that level if his skill level develops particularly well.
For now let’s focus on comparisons between Duren and guys who actually played in college, starting with Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning’s freshman season at Georgetown as well as his career averages over 4 NCAA seasons.
Just looking at freshman year Duren had some significant advantages….he was 9 months younger with double the steal and assist rates as well as more points and rebounds. Zo destroyed him on blocks and had a higher FT rate and FT%
Mourning settled to 69.2% FT over his NBA career and that skill edge made him a 7 time all-star who finished top 3 in MVP voting twice, as he was defensive player of the year twice with his elite rim protection. It’s not clear if Duren is as athletic as Mourning, but they seem close enough physically such that this is a fairly exciting comparison if Duren develops his shooting and is able to make a major defensive impact in his own rite.
DAJ and Drummond were slightly bigger and true center sized while Duren is slightly short for the position at 6’10, but in terms of on court production, he is solidly better than both. The first thing that stands out is that they were terrible NCAA players and it is stunning they had as much NBA success as they did.
In spite of being more than a full year older than Duren, DAJ had substantially fewer steals and assists, fewer blocks, more TOVs, and a much worse FT% that he hardly improved in the NBA. He required multiple outlier leaps from his first two seasons to reach his peak, so this isn’t what should be typically expected of a player who shows so many flaws in college. But when you are a physical freak these leaps are possible.
Drummond also was dreadful for UConn, as his profile is flaws on flaws on flaws. He scored a low volume with worse efficiency than Duren, had a microscopic assist rate, and his FT rate and FT% were both outright pathetic. And Duren dunked slightly more often in spite of being slightly smaller. Drummond was never quite as good as his box score production suggests, and is a somewhat boring type of player in the modern NBA, but he nevertheless had a surprisingly long and productive career considering his myriad flaws while being 3 months older than Duren.
Damian Jones was the most similar negative comp I could come up with, but he is not in the same ballpark as a prospect as Duren. James Wiseman is likely a better negative example since he had Duren’s pedigree and hype going #2 overall as a fellow Memphis alum, but it is still difficult to compare him because we only saw his disappointing rookie season and he lacked a real NCAA statistical sample with some major statistical flags in AAU.
Wiseman is likely a reasonable enough cautionary tale, because all he needs to do is not have an outlier DAJ improvement arc and he is not going to be a particularly useful NBA player. But on average guys in this mold who are not good college players are capable of doing surprisingly well in the NBA.
Ultimately Duren is in a similar boat as Sharpe where it is difficult to have conviction in his goodness based on what he has done on the floor thus far, but he has not disqualified him from being a future all-star in any clear way and has plenty of upside between his youth and physical tools.
Other Options at #4
Ivey, Duren, and Sharpe seem like they should be the choices at #4 since they have the juiciest upside tails, but without any clear reason to have conviction that they will hit it is worth pondering if it is worth taking a guy with lower upside but higher median above them.
ESPN’s latest mock has Keegan Murray at #5, which seems too high. He is in a nice 3 + D mold, but his physical tools are meh, he turns 22 in August, his defense seems soft, and how much do you really want to bet on a 74.9% NCAA FT shooter becoming an elite NBA shooter? Too much bleh in his profile to take him above those guys.
AJ Griffin is slated at #8, and he has youth, length, and efficient role playing on his side as he was an elite spot up shooter for Duke. He rarely turned it over, was efficient from all levels, and has an NBA dad which bodes well for his NBA development. He could be similar to fellow Dukie with an NBA dad in Gary Trent Jr., and if things go well enough he has upside to be better. But he is somewhat mechanical in his movement to get too optimistic for his upside, and his shooting is somewhat of a small sample to have too much faith in. I would slate him later in the lottery.
Dyson Daniels is #10 and Jeremy Sochan is #15 currently. These are 3 + D guys who are most interesting to me as types who have easy paths to goodness and are in molds that will be coveted by every NBA team if they hit. But their shooting and offense are both fairly weak, so it is difficult to have enough conviction to place them in the mix at #4. It is something worth considering if I watched enough film and was particularly impressed by either, but that has not happened at this juncture so for now they are in the 7-10 range.
Mark Williams is another guy who seems like a solid guy who is easily useful at #13, but the question is whether he has enough upside to vault ahead of the #4-6 guys. As of now I’d likely keep him in the same tier as Daniels and Sochan.
Benedict Mathurin is a wildcard at #11, as he is an exceptional athlete and turns just 20 in June. There is some chance he can develop into a Devin Booker type of big time offensive player. But there is also a chance he is mostly a spot up shooter on offense with mediocre to bad defense, and he only shot 78.9% FT in college so no guarantee he is an elite shooter in the NBA.
Then #7 Johnny Davis, #12 Ousmane Dieng, and #14 Ochai Agbaji simply do not belong in the lottery conversation. The easiest way to get an edge over other teams picking in the lotto or mid-first is to simply take these guys off your board.
Dyson Daniels, Jeremy Sochan, and Mark Williams are all sleepers who could be better than all of Sharpe, Ivey, and Duren, but it feels like too much of a hot take to rate them there without heavy film watching that I have yet to do.
So for now it would seem the realistic debate is between Ivey, Duren, and Sharpe.
For me, Ivey is the weakest link of the group because even if he is clearly the most athletic, he has the most red flags between his limited size and mediocre basketball IQ. And he is already 20, and had the worst tourney game of any prospect against Saint Peter’s where he made an endless stream of bad decisions resulting in Purdue’s upset loss.
Ivey’s main value is going to be as a ball handler getting to the rim, and if he does not significantly improve his passing and decision making it is hard to believe you should want to build an NBA offense around him as the primary handler.
#4 on my board will in all likelihood come down to Duren vs Sharpe, which is a difficult decision. It seems that Duren’s mold hits more commonly since it is so easy to be a useful NBA player with those tools. But Duren also may be less coveted in his more common outcomes where unskilled bigs are not that valuable any more whereas length and shooting are perpetually in demand.
Gun to my head I will take Sharpe with the lowest conviction possible. This is how I would rank the lottery for now:
Oscar Tshiebwe was recently named the AP and Naismith men’s college basketball Player of the Year. And he deserved it– he had a monster year for Kentucky, posting elite statistics including the most rebounds per game (15.2) in NCAA D1 since 1979. He led a not so great Kentucky cast to 6th best kenpom team in the country.
While Kentucky had a disappointing round 1 upset loss to St. Peter’s, it was anybody but Tshiebwe’s fault (mostly TyTy Washington’s), as he posted 30 pounds, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 11/16 FG.
He is currently projected to go round 2 at #44 on ESPN’s latest mock, which at a glance seems reasonable given his limitations. Tshiebwe is 22 years old and while he was dominant inside the paint and on the glass, he is not a true rim protector at 6’9 and he lacks the passing and shooting to project as a perimeter player at this age, so he does not have a clear niche in the modern NBA. He is somewhat of an obsolete old school power forward, so it makes sense that his NBA draft stock does not align with his NCAA dominance.
Best Round 2 Steals:
Let’s analyze who have been the best round 2 picks in the lottery era dating back to 1985. We can start with most career win shares of round 2 picks over that time:
Internationals (Jokic, Ginobili, Gasol) and high school (Lewis) provided some of the best value because the NBA struggles with the lower/different information and drafts these types less efficiently than domestic college players.
Unfortunately this year’s international crop is incredibly weak, and it is unlikely that there is any sort of elite hidden gem in either round this season. So if we focus on domestic college players, that leaves these 9 plus active players Khris Middleton and Draymond Green, who could eventually reach this group and even if not had better peaks than some of the players on the list.
Carlos Boozer was never as useful as his box score stats implied because his lack of mobility made him a defensive liability. Cliff Robinson and PJ Brown had long and productive careers, but neither peaked high with one all-star appearance combined between the two of them.
So if we replace those 3 with Middleton and Green, that leaves a reasonable top 8 domestic round 2 picks with college experience. Perhaps we could include Gilbert Arenas to make 9 because of his 3 year peak of excellent box score stats, although he had no longevity and it is not clear that he helped his team win as much as his box score numbers suggested.
Among those 9, only 5 have 2%+ Hall of Fame Probability according to basketball-reference: Dennis Rodman (75.3%) is the only person actually in with Draymond (59.7%) having a solid chance of making it eventually and Arenas (21.6%), Price (18.3%), and Millsap (5.5%) all projected to be a buck short.
If we are looking for patterns, two guys who consistently show up as elite steals from any angle are Dennis Rodman and Paul Millsap. They share the commonality of extreme outlier NCAA rebounding, as well as surprisingly good steal rates but slid due to limited passing and shooting for undersized bigs. Interestingly, this description fits that of Tshiebwe.
The monster rebs + high steals + low skill is a distinct brand of prospect that 5 prospects clearly fit, with the two others being Kenneth Faried and DeJuan Blair who were drafted 22nd and 37th respectfully. Perhaps I am missing another example, but it is rare enough to find guys who rebound at this rate let alone guys who can rack up steals to boot.
Here are per 60 possession stats of their final college season:
Note that Rodman’s minutes + pace are unavailable, so I just used his per game stats. He was a 24 year old man playing D2 basketball, so it is difficult to directly compare to these other guys, but you can see the similarity in his output.
Another odd (and perhaps meaningless) similarity is that Rodman, Millsap, and Tshiebwe all had lower steal rates in their first two seasons before seeing a big spike in their 3rd season.
Faried + Blair had relatively disappointing outcomes, but they did not flop completely. They had solidly productive careers relative to draft slot, but couldn’t find a niche to make an impact as their length and steal rates did not translate into NBA caliber perimeter defense and they were too small to guard bigs. And while their garbageman skills translated, they did not have enough shooting or skill to overcome their defensive warts.
Rodman and Millsap did prove to be good, versatile defensive players, with Rodman winning two defensive player of the year awards and Millsap making NBA all defensive 2nd team once. Millsap also became surprisingly good on offense, as he became a competent NBA 3 point shooter and developed some point forwards skills.
Collectively box score production has translated to NBA for all of these guys, and the biggest factor swinging outcome is whether they hit their low end defensive outcomes (Faried, Blair) vs their high end (Rodman, Millsap).
Now let’s look at measurables:
Being 2″ taller than any of these guys is an interesting advantage for Tshiebwe’s defensive versatility. He is still too short to defend star bigs like Jokic or Embiid, and is not a true rim protector, but that extra height does give him potential to play at least situationally as a small ball center.
And if he develops into a quality perimeter defensive player like Millsap or Rodman, he has the size to match up with big star wings like Giannis, Durant, and Luka.
This gives Tshiebwe an easier path to finding a defensive niche than these guys, as well as a bit more defensive upside outside of Rodman who was more athletic.
Next Closest Comps
This super long, super rebounder in a thick wing body mold is so distinct that there are not many other guys who even loosely pass for it. Let’s throw out some of the closest examples to be found:
Thomas Robinson had all sorts of disadvantages. He was a worse rebounder, especially offensively which has more predictive gravity, and his steals and blocks were curiously low. He played a slightly bigger offensive role, but was a fairly inefficient scorer. And this was after he played a small bench role for his first two seasons. It’s curious that he seems like a poor man’s version of the mold, but he went 5th overall when these types typically go late 1st or round 2.
Jared Sullinger was a much worse rebounder and slower with fewer steals and blocks but had more skill. Not really the same.
Mitch McGary was a fascinating weirdo. He was taller at 6’10 and didn’t have a monster wingspan at 7’0, but still had a crazy steal rate. But he had other holes in his numbers, and he couldn’t stay healthy enough to be an informative data point.
Ben Wallace is the best undrafted free agent of all time, and these are his numbers guessing a 65 possession/game pace for his D2 Virginia Union team. It is surprising that he was not a bigger rebounding outlier playing D2, but he continually improved his rebounding rates in the NBA until leading the league in rebounds per game in his 6th and 7th seasons. He also had a higher steal rate in the NBA than his final year in college, although he did get more steals in his prior NCAA season.
But he had his differences from OT, as he was a vastly better shot blocker while being unskilled to a tragic extent. That turnover rate and 2P% for a relatively small offensive role at D2 makes it easy to see why he went undrafted, and he never leaned to make free throws shooting 41.4% for his NBA career.
Ultimately Wallace and Tshiebwe are different players, but it is fairly encouraging that Wallace shares the outlier rebounding trait to provide another example where it led to major draft overachievement.
It is interesting that how outlier rebounding has been a commonality in some of the best domestic prospects to slide out of round 1 in the lottery era. Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman are the only two Hall of Famers over that time that played college basketball and did not get picked in round 1, and Paul Millsap has one of the better hall of fame cases even though he likely will not make it.
It’s not quite fair to compare him to Rodman and Wallace who are better athletes and multiple time winners of defensive player of the year. But it should be encouraging to know that Tshiebwe has some commonalities with them and with more offensive skill could become a better offense, lesser defense version– essentially Paul Millsap.
Granted it is a bit of a longshot that he both becomes a Millsap level defensive player and develops his perimeter skill, but the similarities between them are too strong to rule it out like we can rule out similar upside for most second round prospects.
And even if he does not hit his full Millsap ceiling, there are a number of other outcomes that are a happy return on a late 1st round pick or early 2nd rounder.
If he posts Kenneth Faried or DeJuan Blair box score production with a more competent but still not great level of defense, that’s a good return on a draft pick. Faried and Blair both accumulated top 20% career win shares for their draft range, and bad defense is the only thing that precluded them from being particularly useful toward NBA team success.
Of course he could also be “just” a Faried or Blair type role player who doesn’t really add value outside of eating regular season minutes at a passable level, but everybody outside of the top 3 could be bad this year. It’s not a scary floor outcome.
Where Does Oscar Fit in 2022 Draft?
Tshiebwe seems to be somewhat obviously the highest upside prospect currently projected to go in round 2. The other compelling options are mostly guys who could be quality role playing wings who cannot honestly be compared to past prospects who became multiple time all-stars.
He definitely is a first round value, but how high in round 1 does he go? This is where it gets tricky because he is so weird with such few similar past examples. Perhaps Blair + Faried are the more likely outcomes for this mold, and Millsap is an outlier with a career arc never to be replicated again. Or perhaps the mentality that goes into that level of rebounding is predictive of success in other aspects.
But he has obviously better upside than a number of 1st round guys. For instance, 6’5 SGs such as Johnny Davis, Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji, and Blake Wesley are all projected top 20, but none of them fit anything resembling a high upside NBA mold. It is difficult to fathom how it is correct to pick any of these guys ahead of Oscar.
Looking in Tshiebwe’s height range, internationals Ousmane Dieng (#19) and Nikola Jovic (#23) are younger, but have no interesting selling points toward their NBA upside. It seems clear that neither should be valued higher than OT.
Or if we compare him to a fellow old with elite college stats, Keegan Murray is only 9 months younger and projected at #5 overall. Keegan had slightly better PER (37.8 vs 35), WS/40 (.311 vs .297) and BPM (15.7 vs 13.3) and fits a more traditional 3 + D mold, so it is understandable that he is ranked higher.
But Tshiebwe has a much better wingspan (7’4 vs 6’11), better on/off splits, and outlier rebounding has been more predictive of late draft steals than Murray’s outlier low turnover rate historically. And even though Murray is the much better 3P shooter, Tshiebwe is not too far behind in career FT% at 69% vs 74.9%. There is some chance Oscar learns to make NBA 3’s and their shooting peaks relatively close, with Tshiebwe being much better defensively where Keegan appears to be soft.
So it seems like it should be fairly close between the two. Perhaps Murray belongs in the back end of the lottery and Tshiebwe right outside of the lottery. It is difficult to say because both are fairly weird and unique prospects. But it is curious that for older guys with gaudy box scores that Murray is getting every benefit of the doubt while Tshiebwe is stuck all the way back in mid round 2.
What is clear that Tshiebwe has upside, and when he hits he is going to hit harder than anybody else in round 2 and a number of round 1 prospects in a weak class. It is difficult to see 20 guys that belong ahead of him, and he has potential to be steal of the draft.