Over the past several months we’ve seen every single draft order imaginable in somebody’s mock draft. My favorite part of the draft process is watching guys shoot up and down boards daily when there were no games played, drills ran, combines measured in, or any piece of new evidence to cause one to rethink their ranking. A lot of the noise is just hearsay from anonymous sources. It’s hard to decipher what is actual team interest as opposed to an agent putting out a smokescreen or a reporter looking for his 15 minutes of fame. When predicting draft choices, find a few trustworthy sources to listen to, but also just use your own judgment and intuition regarding a player’s production, talent, and measurements. Then look around at the day-to-day landscape of the league and take note of what players are earning playoff minutes and big contracts. A pattern I found when scrolling through the draft prop odds and various mock drafts was how overlooked current NBA trends seemed to be. My picks aren’t based on the whirlwind of rumors that are out there. They’re my estimation as to how teams are going to value these players.
Keldon Johnson Before 19.5 (+105)
This class is very center and frontcourt heavy in the nine through 20 range. Of this tier, Johnson and Herro are the only guards who can knock down threes at a high level. Starting at pick 12, teams desperate for shooting include Charlotte, Miami, Detroit, Indiana, and then San Antonio at pick 19. If all these teams pass on Johnson, Popovich will pull a classic Popovich by finding the late first-round gem of the draft.
Nassir Little After 12.5 (+130)
Little is the player who I feel confident proclaiming as the bust of the draft. Watch the NBA today and see what type of players get minutes. How many of them play like Nassir Little? A player who is 6’4.5” without shoes on needs to have a perimeter jumper, handle, passing ability, driving ability, or some refined skill that allows them to either score or help somebody else score. His per minute production wasn’t terrible, but his strength and athleticism that allowed him to grab rebounds and score inside at the collegiate level aren’t going to win against NBA forwards. He shot 27% from three-point range and finished with twice as many turnovers as assists. He isn’t a modern player, and teams don’t fall for the defensive specialists the way they used to.
Over 5.5 Freshman in Top 10 (-304)
At -304, Vegas is confident in this, but that number isn’t high enough. The top eight players in the draft are in their own tier, of the eight only three are non-freshman. Morant, Hunter, and Culver are the only sophomores guaranteed to go in the top 10 picks. Picks nine and 10 would have to both be a freshman for this pick to miss, and by my count there are 12 players who will be considered in these last two spots. Clarke, Hachimura, Washington, and Alexander-Walker are the upperclassman teams may look at, but most mocks have those players outside the top 10. One may be taken but play the numbers game.
Sekou Doumbouya after 9.5 (+125)
I’m past my previous prejudice against international basketball prospects. I still find the risk to generally be much higher, but more and more have been showing out recently. Doumbouya has an NBA body and the tools to grow, but as I previously stated, the second tier of players ends with Cameron Reddish at No. 8. Sekou could go No. 9 to Washington, but that’s the earliest I see him going. Since I essentially view this bet as one on the field for who Washington selects, (+125) is a tremendous value.
Carson Edwards before 29.5 (-120)
Everybody remembers the moment when Carson cemented himself as an all-time March performer in one of the most exciting games of basketball ever played against Virginia. Don’t let that single performance cast a shadow over his entire tournament run, though, as he averaged 35 points a game by shooting a Steph Curry-esque 15 threes a game at 46%. While teams may be scared away by his height (under six foot without shoes) they have to consider that he has a 6’6” wingspan and the step-back package needed to get shots off at the next level. We’ve also seen more and more shooters lacking prototypical size and athleticism make a mark in the league in the pace and space era. If 29 teams have a chance at Carson, 25 may not even have him on their draft board, but a handful are going to view him as an instant game-changer.
Bol Bol before 13.5 (+280)
As confident as I am in Little being the bust of the draft, I’m more confident in Bol being the steal of the draft. Bol is a created player straight out of a video game who possesses a freakish 7’7” wingspan and produced over 43 points, 20 boards, and 5.5 blocks per 100 possessions while shooting 52% from three-point range. He has agile feet for his size, and he managed to contest shots he has no business affecting. He doesn’t have the reach of Tacko Fall, but he’s a coordinated basketball player with real talent. We’ve become so desensitized to skilled big men over the years, we’re missing a prodigal talent right in front of our eyes. If Bol was a prospect in the draft just 10 years ago, all the “analysts” would be so amazed and at awe of how smooth somebody can look moving around at that size. Bol is recovering from the same foot problems that plagued other big men such as Embiid, Oden, and Yao Ming. Embiid went third with a fraction of the production that Bol managed in just nine games. Yes, his body was more NBA-ready, but with Bol’s additional touch and shooting efficiency, it would take a minor increase in weight for me to feel comfortable with him on the floor.