After months of agonizing over the most nuanced details of college aged basketball players, it’s time to present my final big board for draft night. This is the first season where I have delved this deeply into information, and I developed my process for evaluating prospects on the fly. Overall I feel good about the process that I developed, and I feel my analysis is likely on the right track for the majority of these players. That said I am sure that I overlooked or incorrectly valued plenty of information, and I imagine that in 5 years I will look back on this and be pained by my lack of foresight for at least a handful of players. I expect to be wrong due to variance, and I expect to be wrong due to the inefficiencies of my analysis. I estimate it will take about 5 years of similar analysis before I attain mastery in draft evaluation, and even then I will still have room to grow.
But the good news is that nobody is perfect at draft analysis, and my only goals this year were to outperform ESPN + DX rankings as well as the actual draft order. I feel like this big board puts me in a strong position to do so, and now all that remains is to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Tier 1: Possible superstars
1. Joel Embiid: 7’0″ C, Kansas, 20.3 years old. DX: 1, ESPN: 4
Embiid has all of the talent and none of the durability. He was in a tier by himself until he became a medical disaster, and now I’m not sure where to put him. I’m going to be optimistic and assume that modern medicine and nutrition is advanced enough to give him the possibility of a normal, healthy career. I understand that this puts me at big time risk of looking terrible down the road, but I never claimed to be able to predict health. I don’t have access to his medical report, and it’s possible that having access would alter my opinion. Consider this a shaky #1 ranking based on my strong belief in his talent. The draft is all about binking upside, not avoiding downside.
2. Dante Exum: 6’6″ PG, Australia, 19.0 yrs. DX: 4, ESPN: 3
The best able bodied talent in the draft, the thin slice of Exum is promising. His size, length, speed, and quicks give him uniquely good physical tools for a PG, and he supplements that with awesome court vision and basketball IQ. He still needs to learn to play defense and move off the ball, and there is the risk that the 9 game FIBA sample overstates his talent level. I like rolling the dice on him anyway, his great physical profile with a hint of CP3ish BBIQ gives him special offensive upside.
3. Marcus Smart: 6’3″ PG/SG, Oklahoma State, 20.3 yrs. DX: 5, ESPN: 6
The best intangibles and the best defensive player (with respect to position) in the draft. His offense is a work in progress, and he doesn’t quite share Exum’s upside on that end. Smart still has the potential to be quite good offensively and I was tempted to put him above Exum due to his superior defensive projection, but for guards it seems wise to err on the side of offensive upside and give the edge to Exum.
4. Aaron Gordon: 6’9″ SF, Arizona, 18.8 yrs. DX: 9, ESPN: 7
Gordon is young, toolsy, and good at everything except shooting. Unfortunately he is frighteningly bad at shooting, which is a difficult wart to weigh. Given that his shooting sometimes lends itself to outlier leaps, this feels like the right place to slot him.
Tier 2: Maybe All-Stars, Maybe Not Even Close to All-Stars
5. Jusuf Nurkic: 6’11” C, Bosnia, 19.9 yrs. DX: 6, ESPN: 17
6. Clint Capela: 6’11” C, Switzerland, 20.1 yrs. DX: 11, ESPN: 27
The frustrating part of evaluating this class is that all of my expertise lies in NCAA basketball, and it’s hard to find a place where I’m comfortable ranking all of the compelling internationals. It may be ill advised to place two underhyped internationals above the consensus top 2 picks, but if at least one of them becomes a better pro than both Parker and Wiggins I will consider this ranking a success. If this looks silly later, I will take overseas stats with a bigger grain of salt next time. But bigs with good stats and good tools are good picks, and the gambler in me is more attracted to these two than Parker and Wiggins.
7. Andrew Wiggins: 6’8″ SF, Kansas, 19.4 yrs. DX: 2, ESPN: 1
8. Jabari Parker: 6’8″ PF, Duke, 19.3 yrs. DX: 3, ESPN: 2
The top two contenders for #1 overall are also rife with flaws that sit unwell with me.
Andrew Wiggins’ draft rating is a battle between his uniquely good speed, quicks, and athleticism vs. his lackluster skill level. He was able to perform well in college by burning teams in transition, but draft models still don’t love him and he requires loads of development to become good enough offensively to justify a top 3 draft slot. He still has plenty of potential as a 3 + D role player, however.
Parker posted great scoring and rebounding numbers as a big man for Duke, but that was largely due to bullying undersized bigs. He struggled vs. teams with good interior defense, and had a horrible assist to turnover ratio which bodes ill for his ability to translate to NBA perimeter player. There are also questions about his defense. His stats are good and he has enough skill, but he needs to become less selfish to become an attractive NBA player and I’m not comfortable betting on players to overhaul their nature.
Part of me fears betting against Jabari since he’s such a fierce competitor, but between the two I have to give Wiggins the edge due to superior tools, defense, and a much clearer path to usefulness.
9. Tyler Ennis, 6’2″ PG, Syracuse, 19.9 yrs. DX: 14, ESPN: 16
His game isn’t sexy but it’s effective, and he was at his best vs. good defenses and in clutch situations. Ennis boasts a stellar assist to turnover ratio and great statistical splits, which dually suggest that he has excellent feel for the game. There are questions about his ability to play man to man defense, but he offers a unique form of offensive upside.
10. Noah Vonleh: 6’10” PF, Indiana, 18.9 yrs. DX: 10, ESPN: 5
Vonleh is tall and long and he can shoot and rebound. He’s also exceptionally young, so these qualities add up to a top 10 pick. His bad hands, poor passing, and mediocre rim finishing cause enough doubt for me to keep him in the back end of the top 10, however.
Tier 3: Good Starter Potential
11. Elfrid Payton: 6’4″ PG, Louisiana Lafayette, 20.4 yrs. DX: 15, ESPN: 12
Payton is tall, long, quick, and uses his tools to hawk the ball defensively. Offensively he crushed the Sun Belt competition in transition, but how will that translate? He has solid floor general skills and slick handles, but he’s a poor shooter and there are questions about his ability to finish in traffic since he’s not an elite athlete.
12. Damien Inglis: 6’8″ SF/PF, France, 19.1 yrs. DX: 26, ESPN: 30
He offers a similar appeal as Wiggins: average stats at a young age, good tools, and good defense. I get that super athleticism is sexier than having LeBron James’ body with longer arms, but I believe BronBod needs more love.
13. KJ McDaniels: 6’6″ SF, Clemson, 21.4 yrs. DX: 18, ESPN: 24
KJ was a one man wrecking crew on defense for Clemson, as he used his length and explosiveness to rack up an obscene block rate for a SF. He’s a bit small for the position and his offensive skill level isn’t great, but KJ has solid 3 + D potential nevertheless.
14. Nik Stauskas: 6’6″ SG/SF, Michigan, 20.7 yrs. DX: 12, ESPN: 11
Stauskas can dunk surprisingly well for a white shooter, but his tools still aren’t that good overall and he’s lock bad defensively. But it’s hard to not love his handle, passing, and shooting combination as well as his smarts and presumed work ethic given his improvements last offseason.
15. Kyle Anderson: 6’8″ SF/PF, UCLA, 20.8 yrs. DX: 21, ESPN: 19
The best NCAA passer this past season, his nickname of SloMo accurately describes his mobility, his leaping ability, and his shot release. But stat models love him and he has super long arms to equip him with at least one great physical tool, so I believe he’s a good gamble outside of the lottery.
16. Nikola Jokic: 6’11” C, Serbia, 19.4 yrs. DX: 42, ESPN: 31
His poor athleticism and speed make it fair to take his stats with a grain of salt, but based on his stats he appears to have a shot of becoming the best passing big man of all-time. That gives him a world of intrigue to me on its own.
17. Spencer Dinwiddie: 6’6″ SG, Colorado, 21.2 yrs. DX: 29, ESPN: 40
He’s coming off an ACL tear, but Dinwiddie is custom made to be a 3 + D SG in the NBA. As a bonus he seems to take an interest in analytics.
18. Jarnell Stokes: 6’8″ PF, Tennessee, 20.5 yrs. DX: 25, ESPN: 26
The physically strongest player in the draft, Stokes suffers from being an undersized PF without 3 point range. But he does enough things well for stat models to like him, and he’s essentially Julius Randle with better defense and less hype.
19. Jordan Adams: 6’5″ SG, UCLA, 20.0 yrs. DX: 27, ESPN: 28
Scouting reports hate him, stats love him. I feel scouting reports raise a number of valid points, but at a certain point it’s time to gamble on the stats, especially since he was out of shape when he accrued them.
20. PJ Hairston: 6’5″ SG, Texas Legends, 21.5 yrs. DX: 20, ESPN: 18
An endless supply of catch and shoot 3 pointers with the physical tools to not be a sieve defensively.
21. Vasilije Micic: 6’6 PG, Serbia, 20.5 yrs. DX: 36, ESPN: 41
An exceptionally creative passing PG with the height to guard SG’s seems worth comfortably more than an early 2nd rounder.
Tier 4: Everybody Else
22. Julius Randle: 6’9″ PF, Kentucky, 19.6 yrs. DX: 7, ESPN: 8
Randle brings skill, rebounding, strength, and quick feet to the table but shoots himself in the foot with poor length, mediocre athleticism, and poor feel for the game. This causes translation concerns and exceptionally slow defensive rotations.
23. Dario Saric: 6’10 SF/PF, Croatia, 20.2 yrs. DX: 13, ESPN: 9
The one first round international prospect that I’m not lower on than consensus. Waiting 2 years for his services isn’t a big deal, but having less than stellar translated stats with his lackluster physical tools is a big deal. His skill and height may enable him to be a good role player, but I don’t see the star potential.
24. Gary Harris: 6’4″ SG, Michigan State, 19.8 yrs. DX: 16, ESPN: 10
Vanilla 3 + D combo guard who can’t get to the rim and may be too small to guard SG’s. Stats like him enough to take him in round 1, but he has questionable upside.
25. Mitch McGary: 6’10 C, Michigan, 22.1 yrs. DX: 24, ESPN: 25
Back problems hurt his stock, but stat models tend to like him and his quick feet and high steal rate give him an non-traditional form of defensive appeal.
26. Javon McCrea: 6’8″ PF, Buffalo, 21.7 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 52
The undersized PF measured to have surprisingly good size at his Clippers workout: 6’8″ height, 7’3″ length, 8’11” reach, 250 pounds. That is legit PF size, and stat models like him. McCrea has some Millsap-esque upside.
27. James Young: 6’7 SF, Kentucky, 18.9 yrs. DX: 30, ESPN: 15
He’s young and uses his 7’0″ wingspan to get shots off vs. tough defenses. He needs to improve his defense and develop his offense quite a bit to become an attractive NBA player.
28. TJ Warren: 6’8″ SF, NC State, 20.8 yrs. DX: 17, ESPN: 20
One of the weirdest prospects in the draft, TJ Warren thrives off of his elite floater. An great 2 point scoring wing that lacks athleticism is an exceptionally uncommon mold. It seems unlikely to amount to much, but the stats are good enough for a late 1st gamble.
29. Kendrick Perry: 6’0″ PG, Youngstown State, 21.5 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He needs help running the offense from his backcourt mate, but his stats are good and so are his length and athleticism. One of the more compelling sleepers in the draft, and my top prospect who appears on neither DX nor ESPN’s top 100.
30. Walter Tavares: 7’3″ C, Cape Verde, 22.3 yrs. DX: 33, ESPN: 37
He’s old, he started playing late, and he projects to be a complete zero offensively. But he’s 7’3″ with a 7’10” wingspan and offers quite a bit of rim protection intrigue.
31. Glenn Robinson: 6’7″ SF, Michigan, 20.5 yrs. DX: 35, ESPN: 33
His appeal is as an athletic 3 + D SF, except neither the 3 nor the D can be taken for granted. But he did finish a scintillating 83% of rim attempts as a sophomore.
32. Semaj Christon: 6’3″ PG, Xavier, 21.7 yrs. DX: 67, ESPN: 44
His offensive skill level leaves plenty to be desired for his age, but his physical tools and defensive potential make him worth a pick in the early 2nd.
33. Adreian Payne: 6’10” PF, Michigan State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 19, ESPN: 22
He offers appeal as a stretch 4 with solid tools, but his poor passing for his age and lack of rim protection may be his undoing.
34. Doug McDermott: 6’8″ SF, Creighton, 22.5 yrs. DX: 8, ESPN: 13
One dimensional scorer with poor physical tools. He’s an elite spot up shooter, but will struggle to fit in defensively and translate his interior scoring. The lottery hype is insane.
35. Zach LaVine: 6’6″ SG, UCLA, 19.3 yrs. DX: 31, ESPN: 14
He has the athleticism to make this ranking look silly down the line, but I’m 90% sure he doesn’t have the skill level to do so. You need to believe that Steve Alford severely held him back to take him in round 1.
36. Bogdan Bogdanovic: 6’6″ SF, Serbia, 21.9 yrs. DX: 34, ESPN: 45
His poor 2p% calls his shot selection into question and hurts his rating in stat models. But he has good tools, good defensive potential, and he impresses in workouts. Not a bad early round 2 flier.
37. Shabazz Napier: 6’1″ PG, UConn, 23.0 yrs. DX: 32, ESPN: 23
I believe The Real Shabazz has potential to be a perfectly decent role player. But he’s old, tiny, and unathletic at the deepest position in the NBA. Hard to buy the round 1 hype when he has such narrow odds of becoming an above average starter.
38. Jerami Grant: 6’8″ SF/PF, Syracuse, 20.3 yrs. DX: 22, ESPN: 34
I don’t see how he has the skill level to thrive in the NBA, but I’ll pay enough respect to his good physical tools and OK enough stats to rate him as an early 2nd.
39. Artem Klimenko: 7’1″ C, Russia, 20.5 yrs. DX: 37, ESPN: 39
Is not proven against anything remotely resembling serious competition, but he’s tall, long, mobile, and he can make free throws at 74%. That’s worth a flier once the known talent starts to thin.
40. Russ Smith: 6’0″ PG, Louisville, 23.2 yrs. DX: 28, ESPN: 58
He’s tiny and old but he’s also exceptionally quick with both his feet and his hands. He has also developed his game impressively over the past 2 seasons, and I like him in round 2.
41. Dwight Powell: 6’10” PF, Stanford, 23.0 yrs. DX: 48, ESPN: 64
Powell would really benefit from improving his 3 point shooting, as a stretch 4 with good mobility, athleticism, and passing is a neat piece to pick up in round 2.
42. Nick Johnson: 6’3″ PG/SG, Arizona, 21.5 yrs. DX: 54, ESPN: 60
He’s an underskilled SG in a PG body, but he also is explosively athletic and has good 3 + D potential if you pair him with a bigger PG.
43. Chris Udofia: 6’6″ SF, Denver, 22.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Posted good stats that may have been somewhat inflated by Denver’s system as an undersized center, but his length and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect to convert to SF.
44. Isaiah Sykes: 6’5″ SG/SF, Central Florida, 22.6 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Brings length, athleticism, rebounding, passing, and ability to get to the rim. Needs to clean up his shot selection and improve his shooting, but he’s my favorite sleeper who is completely off the radar.
45. Scottie Wilbekin: 6’3″ PG, Florida, 21.2 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 75
A young senior who played a key role in Florida’s #1 ranking and Final 4 run. He is a jack of all trades, master of none.
46. Sim Bhullar: 7’5″ C, New Mexico State, 21.6 yrs. DX: 73, ESPN: NR
Can the giant find a niche in the NBA if he continues to trim down? Probably not, but in the back end of round 2 it’s worth a gamble that he might.
47. Khem Birch: 6’9″ PF, UNLV, 21.8 yrs. DX: 55, ESPN: 42
Posted good stats for a center in college, only trouble is that he’s an undersized and underskilled PF in the NBA.
48. Okaro White: 6’8″ SF, Florida State, 21.8 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
His physical tools and shooting ability make him an intriguing 3 + D prospect. It’s uncertain if he has the skill level to translate from NCAA PF to NBA SF, but I like him as a completely under the radar flier.
49. Bryce Cotton: 6’1″ PG, Providence, 21.9 yrs. DX: 71, ESPN: 49
He can shoot, he can penetrate, and as a senior he showed he can pass too when he was given the PG reins as a senior. He’s tiny and will struggle to fit in defensively, but his offensive package is not bad.
50. Daniel Miller: 6’11” C, Georgia Tech, 23.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 98
He’s old and he can’t score in the post, but his stats and physical profile suggest that he can become a solid role playing center.
51. Roy Devyn Marble: 6’6″ SG, Iowa, 21.8 yrs. DX: 50, ESPN: 53
He posted solid stats in college, but was the beneficiary of ample steal and transition opportunities at Iowa. He could translate as a role playing SG nevertheless.
52. Jordan Clarkson: 6’5″ SG/PG, Missouri, 22.1 yrs. DX: 47, ESPN: 23
He has decent tools and he can get to the hoop, but overall his stats aren’t too good. He needs to improve his shooting and finishing if he wants to be any better than Austin Rivers.
53. Patric Young: 6’9″ PF, Florida, 22.4 yrs. DX: 40, ESPN: 36
He’s a center in a power forward body, but he’s strong and plays hard and could find a niche off the bench in the NBA.
54. Lamar Patterson: 6’5″ SG, Pittsburgh, 22.9 yrs. DX: 58, ESPN: 50
He’ll have a tough time hanging with NBA SG’s defensively, but he has good skill level and is fairly crafty.
55. Fuquan Edwin: 6’6″ SG, Seton Hall, 22.8 yrs. DX: 69, ESPN: 90
He racked up loads of steals for Seton Hall and showed good defensive potential. He is limited offensively and his 3 point shot is a work in progress, but it has enough hope to offer 3 + D potential.
56. Kendall Williams: 6’4″ PG, New Mexico, 23.0 yrs. DX: 84, ESPN: NR
Good size and acceptable stats for a PG, but was heavily reliant on transition scoring. He may not be able to penetrate through NBA defenses.
57. Rodney Hood: 6’8 SF, Duke, 21.7 yrs. DX: 23, ESPN: 21
One of the absolute worst defensive players in the draft. He can be a solid role player offensively, as he’s a good shooter and passer and makes limited mistakes, but can his offensive goodness outweigh his defensive badness? I doubt it.
58. Ioannis Papapetrou: 6’8″ SF, Greece, 20.3 yrs. DX: 53, ESPN: 89
May not have the physical tools to be able to defend SF’s, but his skill level makes him draftable.
59. Alec Brown: 7’1″ PF/C, Green Bay, 21.9 yrs. DX: 78, ESPN: 88
He’s tall and he can shoot and that’s about it. But that’s such a good tandem of traits that it may be enough to merit a draft selection.
60. Markel Brown: 6’3″ SG, Oklahoma State, 22.4 yrs. DX: 51, ESPN: 61
He can pass, shoot, and jump through the roof. But he’s also undersized and didn’t post the best stats for his age.
61. Thanasis Antetokounmpo: 6’6″ SF, Delaware 87ers, 22.0 yrs. DX: 65, ESPN: 48
His D-League stats don’t inspire a world of confidence for his offensive upside, but his tools and defensive potential create enough intrigue to make him draftable.
62. Cristiano Felicio: 6’9″ PF, Brazil, 22.0 yrs. DX: 43, ESPN: 51
I know nothing about him, but DX and ESPN think he’s toolsy and draftable and frankly I’m running out of better ideas at this point.
63. James Michael McAdoo: 6’9″ PF, North Carolina, 21.5 yrs. DX: 74, ESPN: 63
McAdoo has really fallen off from his lottery hype as a freshman, but his tools are still there and his stats could be worse.
64. Deonte Burton: 6’1″ PG, Nevada, 23.0 yrs. DX: 45, ESPN: 62
He’s old, and based on his stats it may too late for him to capitalize on his great physical tools.
65. TJ Bray: 6’6″ PG/SG, Princeton, 22.0 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He’s likely too unathletic to translate to the NBA, but his size and stats make him a compelling undrafted free agent.
66. Troy Huff: 6’5″ SG, North Dakota, 22.4 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
His stats grade fairly well, although they are aided by his lofty steal rate from North Dakota’s gambling defense. But he can also rebound and get buckets, and if he improves his shot he could make it in the NBA.
67. Davion Berry: 6’4″ SG, Weber State, 22.7 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
Berry’s quicks and skill level are solid, but his size is limiting.
68. Alessandro Gentile: 6’6″ SG, Italy, 21.6 yrs. DX: 57, ESPN: 57
Gentile has the offensive skill to be draftable, but his lack of athleticism casts doubt on his ability to succeed.
69. Casey Prather: 6’5″ SF, Florida, 23.1 yrs. DX: 83, ESPN: 96
Prather is old and likely can’t shoot well enough to play the perimeter in the NBA, but his tools aren’t bad and he was arguably the best player in the SEC this past season.
70. DeAndre Daniels: 6’8″ SF, UConn, 22.2 yrs. DX: 64, ESPN: 59
He doesn’t have a clear niche defensively, and his non-existent passing may be his undoing. But he’s long and can space and score, and I’m running out of possibly useful players.
71. Aaron Craft: 6’2″ PG, Ohio State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 99, ESPN: 69
His ability to apply pressure defensively is something, but his lack of tools and offensive skill for such an old prospect cast doubt on his ability to cut it in the NBA.
72. Langston Galloway: 6’2″ PG/SG, Saint Joseph’s, 22.6 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 94
He’s another SG in a PG body, but he can space the floor if you pair him with a big PG. Kevin Pelton’s WARP model is a fan.
73. Cleanthony Early: 6’8″ SF, Wichita State, 23.2 yrs. DX: 39, ESPN: 32
Can’t pass, can’t get to the rim, not great defensively, too small to play PF, old. He can jump and he can shoot, but that’s not enough to justify his fringe 1st round hype.
74. CJ Wilcox: 6’5″ SG, Washington, 23.5 yrs. DX: 38, ESPN: 35
Like Early, he’s an old, one dimensional shooter who can jump a little bit. I suppose scouts like these types more than I do.
75. Juvonte Reddic: 6’9″ PF, VCU, 22.1 yrs. DX: 100, ESPN: 93
Not sure what caused him to fall off a cliff as a senior, but his good junior year stats are enough to keep him on draft radar.
76. Taylor Braun: 6’7″ SF, North Dakota State, 23.1 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: 92
Stat models say he’s not that bad, but he did little to inspire confidence in his ability to translate with two disappointing performances in the NCAA tournament.
77. Trevor Releford: 6’0″ PG, Alabama, 22.5 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
He’s a 3 + D PG with OK enough stats. Super exciting stuff, right?
78. Cory Jefferson: 6’9″ PF, Baylor, 23.5 yrs. DX: 66, ESPN: 67
Center in a PF body. Likely can’t pass well enough to fit in at PF, but he did show signs of a budding 3 point shot as a senior.
79. Jerrelle Benimon: 6’8″ PF, Towson, 23.1 yrs. DX: NR, ESPN: NR
When he showed up, Towson went from a dumpster fire to a respectable mid-major program. He can rebound, pass, and almost shoot, but his lack of size and athleticism inhibit his draftability.
80. Xavier Thames: 6’3″ PG, San Diego State, 23.4 yrs. DX: 85, ESPN: 77
He was 3rd in the NCAA in win shares behind McDermott and Napier while playing fewer minutes than both. He had a big breakout as a 23 year old senior and offers appeal as a 3 + D PG.
#’s 81-100: Johnny O’Bryant, Billy Baron, Jake Odum, Halil Kanacevic, Jabari Brown, Jahii Carson, De’Mon Brooks, Andre Dawkins, Cameron Bairstow, Joe Harris, Jordan McRae, Melvin Ejim, Josh Huestis, Nemanja Dangubic, Eric Moreland, Richard Solomon, Austin Hollins, James Bell, Dwayne Evans, Sean Kilpatrick