I went all-in this year.
As I’ve referred to in my three features on some of my favorite and most interesting prospects in this draft class, I created a 15 page scouting document full of notes on 45 players or so in this year’s class.
Forty-five isn’t a lot compared to what teams or people like Mike Schmitz do, but those 45 I did watch I watched hours of. Other guys I watched not nearly as much. You’ll be able to tell which ones, as I believe I’m pretty open about it.
No.1, New Orleans Pelicans- Zion Williamson, Duke
No.2, Memphis Grizzlies- Ja Morant, Murray State
Morant’s rise from literally a zero-star recruit to the No.2 pick in the NBA Draft has been absolutely incredible. I barely knew who he was before this college basketball season.
Morant’s drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook, which isn’t exactly a good thing. However, Morant’s a bit of a different case. His similarities to Westbrook are in the qualities that we like about Westbrook. Extreme athleticism, a quick first step in getting to the rim, a tenacious player on both ends, makes excellent passes (Though in Westbrook’s case, that’s a matter of when he passes).
Despite his jump-shot not being great (I think his percentages are better than the reality), Morant is like a lower-usage, more efficient Westbrook. Though everything ran through him at Murray State, he’s not a ball-hog and doesn’t play selfishly like Westbrook. He’s more than happy to make the right pass to another player for a good shot. He has command of the offense and is a team player. His athleticism makes him a good off-the-ball player despite the lack of shooting.
Memphis made it clear yesterday that Morant was their guy by trading Mike Conley (More on that later). He may not be offensive option 1A for the Grizzlies, but he’s absolutely a franchise point guard, whose passing and court-vision make him fit to coordinate an offense from day one.
No.3, New York Knicks- RJ Barrett, Duke
The common consensus is that the top tier of this draft is Zion-Morant-RJ Barrett, and then the rest, but I believe there’s that Barrett’s in his own tier, and it’s a tad lower than most have him.
I’m not not a fan of Barrett, I just have less confidence in him reaching the same ceiling as Morant, Zion or Darius Garland (More on him later). There were though, so many times at Duke this season where I found myself saying “Don’t forget about RJ!” But with the presence of Zion, there were times we forgot about him entirely. He’s not a great off-the-ball player due to his poor shooting and pure lack of effort offensively.
RJ projects as a bit of a tweener in my mind. He has a wing’s body but has many guard-like skills, specifically his ability to get to the rim. The dude was unstoppable driving to the lane this past season, and used that ability to takeover late in many Duke games. He’s also a good passer, a trait he showcased well in the NCAA Tournament. A projection of him as a point guard or a lead facilitator is wild to me, but he absolutely has secondary stuff.
Barrett doesn’t have great wing skills. He doesn’t move off the ball, and had his shooting fall off drastically over the course of the season (despite his developing a quicker shooting release and having good mechanics in the first place). He’s not a great defender but a purely good one, but like offensively can get caught standing around.
The reason Barrett is in his own tier is because if he’s a No.2 facilitator with no jump-shot or off-the-ball capabilities who can only get to the rim, then what is his true role? That’s not the description of a 1A offensive option, that sounds more like a 1B offensive option.
If the Knicks get KD this summer and they all the sudden run KD-Kevin Knox-Barrett-Robinson out, then Barrett will be fine. A point guard is needed, but it may not matter. If the Knicks totally strikeout this summer and come into next season with another young team and Barrett at the center of it, then that could mean rough times ahead. Barrett is good, but I’m not sure he’s the bonafide star some project him to be.
No.4, New Orleans Pelicans- DeAndre Hunter, Virginia
As I wrote about Monday, the Pelicans need to put win-now guys around Zion Williamson as soon as they can. This is not a situation where you wait and build.
That could mean trading this pick, and if the right guy is available, then that’s probably the best option on the table.
But if the Pelicans do decide to keep it and make a selection, DeAndre Hunter, though still a rookie like Zion, is the most win-now, ready player on the board.
I had Hunter going No.4 even when the Lakers had this pick for the same reason. LeBron wasn’t going to want to play with young, developing players.
DeAndre Hunter is not that. Like Mikal Bridges last season, he’s the type of guy who can step into any situation and make an impact. Hunter, with his shot-making ability, ridiculous defense and big game experience could have played in the Finals last week. He’s that ready.
He’s likely never going to be a star; his ceiling isn’t very high but that’s because his floor already is. There is little development needed. We could see Hunter work on his driving game, which was on display at Virginia throughout the season and had serious potential. He’s got some crunch-time scoring potential as well, as all the big games he played in showed us that he has a little bit of a “Get me the ball” attitude when the game is close, late and slowing down.
The Pelicans, no matter what roster they have going into next season, need shooting and defense from the wing. Hunter provides that and can do it at a big-time level immediately.
No.5, Cleveland Cavaliers- Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
In some ways, Jarrett Culver is a troubling prospect just like RJ Barrett is. The two are quite similar. They’re both tweeners in long, athletic bodies who struggle with their jump-shot, possess some facilitating abilities and aren’t guaranteed to be No.1 offensive options despite projections.
But Culver’s a bit more efficient than Barrett; he’s a much better defender and plays a smoother game moves without the ball. With the athleticism and effort, Culver can be effective without dribbling.
The problem is that Culver’s shots were terrible ones. The guy has practically no sense of shot-selection at all. At least with Barrett, he’s scoring at a higher volume and has a sense of takeover in his blood. Barrett doesn’t settle as much. With Culver, it feels like you can crunch him late in games. Despite some of the passing we’ve seen, he’s not a good ball-handler when creating his own shot, and again, it’s not like the shots are good ones anyways.
Culver is a safer pick than Barrett because at worst, he’s a great defensive wing who can come in and not have as prominent of an offensive role. Culver’s potential is a dyamnic two-way guy who can takeover when needed. But a lot, the jump-shot, the shot selection, and the shot-creation, needs to be fixed.
Cleveland is a good fit not only because of roster but because of draft position. They don’t need Darius Garland with Collin Sexton, and Cam Reddish and anyone below him is a reach here. The Cavs have Sexton at guard and Ante Zizic down low. Culver is the perfect wing project who could develop into a lot more. The Cavaliers have time. That’s what you’re going to need with Culver.
No.6, Phoenix Suns- Darius Garland, Vanderbilt
I did not have confidence in this being possible until the Anthony Davis trade Saturday night.
A lot of mocks and reports had the Lakers taking Darius Garland at No.4 until Saturday. I had the Lakers taking Hunter because of the fit, readiness and a slight bit of bias.
The Suns desperately need someone who can make an impact. A serious one. They also desperately need a point guard.
Devin Booker is likely no more than a second ball-handler; Point Booker may be possible, but it doesn’t necessarily make the team good, or a whole better than when he’s not running the show.
Zion would have made an impact; to hell with point guard if the Suns landed No.1. Garland supplies both.
A Kyrie-clone in on-and-off the court sense (Due to his very short college career), Garland is a dynamic scorer who is well-established in the pick and roll and won’t have to develop into a No.1 ball-handler because he already is. He can create his own shot and shots for others. With the shooting, he can be effective off-the-ball and play alongside Booker just fine. The two should be interchangeable from an offensive perspective.
They’re going to get destroyed defensively. While Booker doesn’t pay a lot of attention and doesn’t dedicate work to that side of the court, he’s also just not very good even with effort at its highest. Garland is the same case, and even has more of one due to his frailness. At only 6’2 and 175 pounds, Garland will get bodied and cooked at the same time. Like Kyrie and James Harden, it’s not the athleticism that impresses you on offense, it’s the moves. Garland is similar; he’s not a great athlete, but that only rears its head on the defensive side of the ball.
If the Knicks know they’re not getting Kyrie or Kemba Walker, Garland might be worth a look. A trade down is probably the best option, as Garland at No.3 is a bit of a reach based on how other teams view this draft.
No.7, Chicago Bulls- Cam Reddish, Duke
No.8, Atlanta Hawks- Sekou Doumbouya, France
With Trae Young at point guard and John Collins at center, the Hawks need wings to help fill out the rest of their roster.
Sekou Doumbouya, and later PJ Washington, help do that.
Doumbouya is lengthy and silky dude. He moves really, really well for someone who is 6’9 and 230 pounds. He’s shown the ability to get to the rim from the perimeter, and be someone who can get quick, easy buckets down low. His jump-shot and shot selection has come into question, but spacing with Collins shouldn’t be an issue as he’s comfortable playing on the perimeter. Having him cut in for a pass from Young with Kevin Huerter in the corner is a deadly offensive set.
Defensively Doumbouya is a work in progress; it seems as if he’s still learning that end of the court. But he has the skills with the athleticism and length to be impactful on that end.
The Raptors just proved that bigger guys can survive on the court when playing an efficient, fast pace of basketball. Doumbouya fits the part of that type of player.
No.9, Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimera, Gonzaga
No.10, Atlanta Hawks- PJ Washington, Kentucky
I have the Hawks going with length and athleticism on the wing again.
PJ Washington is a MAN. That was my first note in my scouting book about him. The guy is a hard-nosed defender, drives hard to the rim, and can shoot threes. That’s the biggest difference between Washington and their other pick Doumbouya. Washington is a solidified three point shooter, which probably makes him an automatic starter alongside Young, Huerter and Collins.
Washington is fantastic and efficient under the rim as well. I think he could play small-ball five in lineups without Collins on the floor; his length and driftiness has him all over the court, and he picks spots well around the rim.
The Hawks may not keep all of their three picks. If they do package some of them together, a player like RJ Barrett or Jarrett Culver would fit well. Them going with Hachimera at No.8 is a move I’d love them to make, but he’s not exactly their type of player.
No.11, Minnesota Timberwolves- Coby White, North Carolina
This is quite a fall for White, who probably won’t get past Chicago at No.8 overall. I just have the Bulls going for a higher ceiling player.
That’s the book on White. He has a very high floor, but I’m not sure how much better he will get. That’s why the Suns enamor with him at No.6 overall confuses me; Garland’s potential is just so much more.
That isn’t to say that I’m not a fan of White. He’s a really good, modern player. He’s a tad toned-down De’Aaron Fox with a three pointer out of college. White’s a dog defensively who never quits battling; his legs, like they do on offense, never stop moving. The athleticism translates to both sides of the ball. He uses his speed to charge to the rim and blow by everyone. That first step is gorgeous. He can also use it to step-back off the dribble against defenders as well, a trait that we never expected him to have coming into the season, when White didn’t have a jumper, ah-la the Fox comparison. But White kept shooting throughout the season, and it started going in. A lot. And in big moments as well. White was hitting clutch threes in big games this past season. He developed a three pointer as the season went on. That’s improvement, effort and drive you love to see.
But is White an impact guy? It’s the reason I have the Suns passing on him at No.6, and the Bulls passing on him at No.7 overall. The potential, and immediate impact, that Garland and Reddish could bring immediately to their teams is just larger than that of White’s. Garland is an impact guy. Reddish obviously could or couldn’t be. White just won’t get a whole lot better than what he is.
And for Minnesota, that’s fine. They desperately need to add efficiency and defense to a roster that’s full of wasted talent right now. Jeff Teague will be around next season after of-course opting into one of the secretly-worst contracts in the league, but he’s turned into a ball-hog the past two years. Derrick Rose may be back, but if White is around it’s probably best to let him go.
White can run the ship immediately, and get Karl Anthony-Towns the ball. That could be a special two-man game. Him, combined with the defense that Josh Okogie brings and hopefully some improved defense from KAT could turn Minnesota into a better defensive team next season. This is starting to look like the young, fun Wolves team we thought we had four years ago.
No.12, Charlotte Hornets- Jaxson Hayes, Texas
The Hornets have a log-jam at the two big man spots, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good one to have.
Willy Hernangomez is probably my favorite Hornets big guy, and he’s no more than a backup. Neither Frank Kaminsky or Cody Zeller have the style fit of the modern NBA; their lack of athleticism and spacing offensively makes them practically unplayable.
Jaxson Hayes is the perfect fit for today’s league. He’s long, athletic, and can likely switch 3-5. He’s got impressive foot-speed and lateral quickness for an almost seven-footer. He’s not a shooter, and offensively is just a lob guy, but the defense he brings is undeniable.
No.13, Miami Heat- Kevin Porter Jr., USC
The biggest thing the Miami Heat have lacked since LeBron James left is a dominant offensive player.
Yes, those are some big shoes to fill. But their trial of Dion Waiters to washed-up Dywane Wade has failed badly. D-Wade was legitimately their crunch-time guy last year!
Pat Riley has tried to attract and trade for stars since the Big Three era, but nothing has turned up. Jimmy Butler will certainly be on their radar this summer as he has for years now, but him ending back up in Philadelphia or with a LA team is starting to seem more likely. Instead of taking a risk and over-paying someone, adding to what is already a tight cap for the Heat (where they’ve decided to put their money has been BRUTAL), Kevin Porter Jr. could represent that type of big-fish the Heat want so bad.
This might be high for KPJ. He’s got some serious issues. He only played in 21 games this past season and started just four of them at USC due to a suspension for an undisclosed reason. He takes a ton of mid-rangers, which isn’t too concerning given the role the Heat will need him to play (crunch-time scorer) and his good three-point percentage (41.2%). But a lot of those mid-rangers are circus shots; he’s a bit of a ball-hog and hoists whenever he feels like it.
But he’s got the ball-handling to go with it, making KPJ a potentially dangerous, isolation scorer someday. His moves are sick; he can shake and bake and cross over dudes like it’s nothing. He’s also lightning quick; a dangerous combination with his isolation scoring; KPJ can blow by guys and get to the rim and keep up defensively using his speed.
Defensively there are some effort issues. He’s long and quick, but a bit scrawny, and is more of an offense-focused player rather than a defensively-focused one. The speed and agility should make him a pest on that end, but like in other areas, even on the offensive end, the effort just isn’t there. KPJ is a bit too me-focused.
Maybe Pat Riley will change that.
No.14, Boston Celtics- Nickiel Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech
With Kyrie Irving likely going to Brooklyn, the Celtics need a point guard.
Nickiel Alexander-Walker isn’t exactly that, but he’s close.
Alexander-Walker is if Bradley Beal could pass really well. Or if Shai Gilgeous Alexander was a better isolation scorer.
Walker is everything we want Kevin Porter Jr. to be.
He’s a silky combo guard who shoots well, can have an offense run through him, can get to the rim and possibly be a No.1 ball-handler and No.1 offensive option. He needs to work on isolating for three pointers, but the Virginia Tech guard is already able to score when the game slows down in crunch-time.
He’s also a really good defensive player, using his length to swallow small guards and his height to be able to hang with some forwards. He’s thin, so switching onto bigger forwards and centers doesn’t make him an all-around 1-5 defender, but his drive makes him more than competitive on that side of the court.
For Boston, the loss of Kyrie leaves them without a lead ball-handler (There’s no way they’re going to pay Terry Rozier what he’s going to demand, right?) and possibly without a dominant scorer. It’s possible Irving’s absence turns Jayson Tatum into the guy we’ve wanted to see, but the timidness is a little hard to get over. Alexander-Walker can take over some of those responsibilities.
No.15, Detroit Pistons- Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
The best pure shooter in the draft, Keldon Johnson is the type of player who is perfect for today’s league. He knows every spot on the court, and is always open. His ability to relocate off the ball and get himself good shots without needing the ball in his hands reminds me of Klay Thompson. He can get just as hot as Klay too.
Johnson’s got some crunch-time scoring potential in him. He’s not a great shot creator off the dribble, but like DeAndre Hunter, he hit big shots in big games. When he’s hot, you don’t give anyone else the ball.
The Pistons desperately need shooting even after getting Tony Snell last night, especially so if they’re going to continue to put guys around Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Griffin has improved his three pointer greatly, but Drummond is a non-threat with his lumbering around, and Reggie Jackson can’t hit threes either. When Jackson is hurt (An inevitability), the Pistons move the ball quite well. Johnson could flourish in that situation.
No.16, Orlando Magic- Cameron Johnson, North Carolina
Literally the only thing that makes Keldon Johnson better than Cameron Johnson is the age difference.
Keldon will be 20 in November, where as Cameron played five years of college basketball at Pittsburgh and North Carolina. He’s already 23.
Johnson’s lights out, and the biggest reason why is his quick release. The ball jumps out of his hands, and it allows him to be a threat in transition as well.
Johnson isn’t crazy athletic; he’s a bit stiff moving around, which hurts his defensive ability, especially when it comes to on-ball defense.
With a heavy load of big guys on their roster, the Magic lack shooting. Whether it’s Aaron Gordon paired with Nikola Vucevic or Mo Bamba, that front-court isn’t exactly a modern one. I’m skeptical of Jonathan Issac’s ability to be a shooter, and Evan Fournier and whoever is at point guard (Unless Markelle Fultz is TOTALLY rejuvenated) don’t provide enough firepower. Johnson does.
No.17, Atlanta Hawks- Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga
Brandon Clarke is still a wing, but is a bit different than the other wings I have Atlanta selecting at the top of the first round.
Clarke is a bit of a puzzle when it comes to his fit in the NBA. He’s big and athletic and plays very good defense, but can’t protect the rim. For someone who is 6’8, that’s usually okay. He can switch onto practically anyone else. His legs are huge, and they move well.
But Clarke’s problem is that he’s not a shooter. He plays like a traditional power forward on offense. He posts-up, takes bad mid-rangers, and plays a very old-man-like game. He’s essentially LaMarcus Aldridge on the offensive end.
That’s why I have Clarke falling. He’s incredibly efficient on the defensive end and is the complete opposite on the offensive end. If he’s not a rim protector, and can’t shoot, then what is he on the court?
The Hawks can take this risk. They need defense desperately (This draft will help on that end), and Clarke’s switchability among four positions is undeniable. A team that can take a risk should take him. The Hawks have three picks and are in position to do that.
No.18, Indiana Pacers- Carsen Edwards, Purdue
The Pacers need a point guard that can play off of Victor Oladipo and make an impact while doing it.
This is a little high for Carsen Edwards, but the Purdue guard put up massive production this season. For a guy his size, Edwards was a wrecking ball. He went flying into the lane using his shiftiness and using his size to sneak around defenders. He’s got a good three point shot, which allows him to play off Oladipo and be effective.
There are concerns, which makes this a bit of a reach. Edwards’ size leaves him exposed defensively; he’s short and doesn’t have long arms to make up for it. He’ll get destroyed in screens and against physical guards who like to play like him.
He also had some bad games in addition to the good games; games where he’d legitimately shoot 3-21 or something horrendous. That happened multiple times. Perhaps in a lesser usage role, those performances can be eliminated.
The Pacers could look to go after someone in free agency instead, like a D’Angelo Russell, which would certainly give them a bigger impact (Please God don’t let it be Ricky Rubio). If the Pacers want to play it safe and add some firepower, then Edwards is a fine choice.
No.19, San Antonio Spurs- Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
We are starting to get into the reach zone. As I’ve said above, the draft plummets after the first three guys or so. Everyone else can go within a very wide range.
Talen Horton-Tucker is made for the NBA. He’s also perfectly made for the Spurs.
He’s a hard-nosed, stockily built defender who can shoot and get to the rim. He’s not a very quick player when he drives, as he uses his body to bully his way into the paint. He’s a hustle player who you can find in the right spots on both ends.
Horton-Tucker’s ball-handling, shown off when he goes to the rim, may be the key to some untapped potential in him. A good shooter when catching and releasing and coming off screens, there could be some shot-creation in him with some development.
Horton-Tucker is going to be a solid player. His ceiling is quite debatable, which is why he falls in the 13-30 range (Remember how I talked about the ranges expanding in bad drafts?). But his floor is quite high.
For the Spurs, those are their type of guys. Horton-Tucker rounds out a possible future lineup of Dejounte Murray-Derrick White-Lonnie Walker Jr.-Horton-Tucker-Jakob Poeltl for the Spurs (More on that center spot later). That’s really fun, and a ridiculous defense team. For once, the Spurs have a modern flair to their roster despite Horton-Tucker’s old-school, grinding game.
No.20, Boston Celtics- Dylan Windler, Belmont
Another reach. In my opinion, Windler is the best shooter left in the draft at this point. With key contributor Marcus Morris likely hitting the road along with Al Horford and Kyrie Irving in free agency, the Celtics could replace him with a more well-rounded, lower-usage player in Dylan Windler.
He’s old, unlike Tyler Herro or Louis King, but Herro is a not someone I’m excited about at the NBA level and Windler provides a bit more firepower than someone like King.
Windler’s also a pretty good defender, though a slight lack of athleticism might hurt him.
Boston could easily take Nic Claxton here instead, but then you risk the Thunder taking Windler at No.21. Boston could take Ty Jerome with their pick at 22, but Windler projects as a bit more lights out of a shooter.
No.21, Oklahoma City Thunder- Ty Jerome, Virginia
The Thunder kick off a string of teams that need shooting. Get ready for the rest of the top snipers in this class to go off the board.
Ty Jerome is a nice player who could possibly be a combo guard at the NBA level. He’s got good size and a strong body. The shooting is obviously his best trait, but he has some ball-handling skills that could make him a N0.2 facilitator.
He’s an okay defender, but the Thunder are taken care of on that side of the court. Even if Jerome under preforms on that end, his shooting will make up for it.
No.22, Boston Celtics- Nic Claxton, Georgia
With the sudden news that Al Horford is leaving along with Kyrie Irving in free agency, this pick makes even more sense.
My comparison for Nic Claxton was Al Horford well before the news Tuesday. Claxton is a long, athletic center whose rim protection skills are excellent. He can switch positions 3-5, and that’s probably underrating him. He’s an excellent passer, and had a lot of Georgia’s offense run through him thanks to the facilitating skills.
He doesn’t have a three point shot yet, but his ability to move practically anywhere on the court makes up for that. Claxton could easily be used as a deadly cutter and slasher in a Celtics offense that should feature plenty of ball movement. Imagine someone of Claxton’s size running Brad Stevens cuts.
There are some concerns about the size. Despite being an excellent rim protector in college, Claxton only weighs 217 pounds and has a thin frame. He could get bodied down low against bigger guys. Still, the athleticism should keep him in it against the Pascal Siakam-types, which are likely the players Claxton will face if out there in crunch-time.
No.23, Memphis Grizzlies- Tyler Herro, Kentucky
Even with Utah trading this pick to Memphis in the Mike Conley trade, I still have Tyler Herro going at the No.23 overall spot.
This is a fall for Herro; he will almost certainly go much higher than this. I’m really just not a fan. Herro was a hoister at Kentucky, and though he’s been praised for his ability to come in and hit shots for a team, I don’t think he’s the most efficient, selfless player despite the shot-making ability.
Kentucky loved to put the ball in his hands this past season, and used him as a primary ball-handler quite a bit. This led to a lot of bad shots and chuck-ups from Herro. One of my notes in my scouting document was that he played all “Herro ball.”
The Grizzlies got back a lot of shooting after trading Conley. With Herro being added to the bevy of wings coming, Memphis has depth at a needy position. Herro could also help out Morant when it comes to passing duties; he’s got the ability to be a No.2 facilitator at some point. But the Grizzlies will have to keep him in check and make sure he doesn’t hijack the ship.
No.24, Philadelphia 76ers- Louis King, Oregon
More shooters go off the board and we aren’t even close to done yet.
The 76ers have a lot of possible roster turnover coming this summer, and should probably take a hard look at who deserves to be back (That goes for everyone but Joel Embiid, by the way). No matter who comes back or leaves, the Sixers need one thing: Shooting.
King is the best guy left at that. This may be a bit of a stretch (Which may or may not be because he literally torched ASU in a game in Tempe this past season), but King offers a long body who is a sweet shooter and uses the length to be really versatile defensively.
No.25, Portland Trail Blazers- Chuma Okeke, Auburn
Chuma Okeke’s devastating knee injury late in the NCAA Tournament will probably cause him to slide, so once again this is a bit of a reach.
But Portland just saw themselves get decimated by Golden State without Kevin Durant playing, and a big part of that problem was due to the lack of scoring they possessed on the wings.
When healthy, and Okeke should be by next year’s playoffs, Okeke is a great shooter who knows how to play off the ball. He’s got a good knack for getting to the rim as well; using the athleticism that makes him an insane defender.
Okeke is a physical yet switchable defender. He’s meaty and throws his body into dudes while also recovering really well.
No.26, Cleveland Cavaliers -Kz Okpala, Stanford
I don’t really know what Kz Okpala does well on the basketball court. He’s a long, athletic kid who can cut and slash offensively because of his athleticism. He’s a good defender but can be a tad immature on that end (He gambles and is also very skinny).
The Cavaliers need wings, and I have them solving that issue in this draft. They’re banking on a lot of upside in Culver. In Okpala, they do that again. He has to become a bit more involved offensively, but it sounds as if there’s some optimism that he can turn into a No.2 ball-handler and a good shooter if he works on it.
He’s likely to go high, so that’s why he goes in my first round.
No.27, Brooklyn Nets- Nassir Little, North Carolina
We’re getting to the point where there’s a lot of guys going in my mock draft who will be long gone by this time.
That’s because I’m trying to make a point.
After coming in with a ton of hype, Nassir Little completely disappointed at North Carolina this year.
Little looked as if he had no idea how to play basketball when he was on the court. He’d stand around and show little effort on both ends. He’d force it when he finally got the ball. The whole experience was depressing.
He did show some promise. When he did shoot, the ball jumped out his hands quickly. He’s got some good but raw isolation moves. He’s an insane athlete when he tries, which helps immensely when he’s driving to the rim.
Little reminds me a bit of Miles Bridges from last year’s draft combined with some PJ Tucker. It’s the length and explosiveness combined with the defensive prospectus that arrives me that. Offensively, I’m not sure how much to expect from him.
The Nets are loaded with talent whether Kyrie Irving comes or not. They can take a risk in Little and believe in the upside.
No.28, Golden State Warriors- Mfiondu Kabevgele, Florida State
I heavily considered going with Deividas Sirvydis here, a lights-out lefty sniper from Lithuania, but with a ravaged roster heading into next year, the Warriors need bodies that can help now.
Kevon Looney is likely to get a contract that Golden State won’t pay him, so Mifiondu Kabevgele’s rim protection, switchability and three point shooting would make an excellent replacement. He’s probably not as mobile as Looney is, but can at least drop well in pick and roll coverages and not get played off the court at the center position.
No.29, San Antonio Spurs- Bol Bol, Oregon
The next guy is the much more Spurs-y pick, but there’s no way Bol Bol falls this far, so it’s about time he comes off my board.
I completely understand the potential in Bol. Am I willing to risk it? Not until now. There’s quality wings and more guaranteed production available until this point.
Bol’s complicated. He could be able to do everything on the court. He may not be able to do any of it.
We do this all the time; fall in love with a prospect who’s probably too tall and lanky to stay healthy who can supposedly “do everything” on the court. Who can shoot, dribble, protect the rim, be a good defender, etc.
There is a guy who can do that in this draft. His name is Zion Williamson. That dream of our’s finally came true. Someone actually did all of those things.
There’s a good chance Bol won’t. He’s extremely skinny and doesn’t have the type of frame you want in a rim-protecting center. He missed most of Oregon’s season thanks to a broken foot, which always works out lovely in big men, especially in those who we already have simple durability questions about in the first place. Bol also tends to try to do too much when he has the ball in his hands.
The hope is that Bol can be a dominant shot-blocker who can get away with being the rim protector, and that his underrated three point shot translateS to the NBA with ease.
The Spurs have Jakob Poeltl, but I worry about his ability to play late in games. If Bol’s modern flair holds true in the NBA, he can be the big guy of the future for them.
(Deividas Sirvydis would also make a lot of sense here given the Spurs’ knack for foreign guys and their need for shooting)
No.30, Detroit Pistons- Terence Davis, Ole Miss
I had Goga Bitadze going here until Milwaukee traded out of this pick for cap space last night. The last thing the Pistons need is big guys, so I’m giving them a 3-and-D wing instead.
Davis’ shot is improving (He posted his best percentages of his college career this past season) and he can defend at a high level. With Tony Snell now in the rotation among Davis, Johnson and Bruce Brown, the Pistons are slowly getting better at the wing.
How did these guys not go in the first round of the mock?
Below is a list of prominent names or favorites of mine that I couldn’t squeeze into the first round based on opinion and unlikeliness of their selection in the top 30.
- Goga Bitadze: He’s probably not even going to get into the 20s. But with the guys I value in this draft, and my evaluation of him, I’m not sure I get what teams see in him. He’s an explosive big man, but he can’t shoot threes and doesn’t have great agility as a defender, whether that’s in rim protection or on the perimeter.
- Eric Paschall: I’ve been a fan for awhile now. He reminds me of Draymond Green on the defensive end; I think he’s a small-ball five. But can the floor spacing complete that projection?
- Matisse Thybulle: Lockdown defender but has practically zero use offensively. Andre Roberson 2.0.
- Grant Williams: Athletic but has too much old-school power forward in him, and is less switchable than Brandon Clarke.
- Lugentz Dort: I go to Arizona State and I legitimately think he’s terrible and don’t get practically any of the cases for him. He’s a good on-ball defender but has proved too selfish offensively. He doesn’t have a jump-shot to balance that out, either.
- Admiral Schofield: Despite the athleticism and spacing he has shown to provide, he might be not efficient enough offensively. A tough, gritty player though.
- Deividas Sirvydis: A top 25 pick if he was coming to the league this upcoming season. Dude doesn’t miss. Lefty!
- Bruno Fernando: A switchy, athletic center who has to built out his offensive game. Could be nice small-ball five.
- Naz Reid: Big dude who gets boards, protects the rim and moves well for his size. But likely won’t ever shoot threes at the NBA level. Energy big potential.
- Zach Norvell Jr.: Good shooter but older age for his class holds him back
- Zylan Cheatham: Here’s where the ASU bias comes in. HE MIGHT BE THE MOST SWITCHABLE GUY IN THE DRAFT.
- Tremont Waters: Undersized point guard who gets buckets. Has serious sixth-man potential. Either a backup point guard who facilities and shoots well or you have to turn everything over to him. Not nearly good enough to be a 1A offensive option.
On the Mike Conley trade…
Jazz get: Mike Conley
Grizzlies get: Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, No.23 overall, 2020 protected first round pick
As much as I wanted this trade to happen, I certainly wasn’t very impressed with it once it occurred.
Utah should have gotten Mike Conley at the trade deadline. He would have provided them with more firepower and would have taken the load off of Donavan Mitchell against Houston, providing them a bit more of a chance.
He probably would have been cheaper then. And Utah could have shipped out other players who were played off the floor in the series against Houston.
When the Jazz were snooping around Conley, we got excited about the possibility of a Conley-Mitchell-Korver-Joe Ingles-Rudy Gobert lineup. It was actually a modern lineup finally being ran by Utah!
They had the opportunity to have this lineup next season, but reports claim that Utah didn’t want to didn’t want to move Derrick Favors, a non-shooting power forward who they typically play with Gobert.
The heart of Utah’s issues has been not enough shooting and not enough firepower. Playing Favors and Gobert together doesn’t fix that.
Utah should have sent Favors’ contract along with Jae Crowder and Grayson Allen in the deal. There, you’re shedding a lineup clog and a non-shooter while still only surrendering one asset that’s currently on the roster.
On top of this, the Jazz gave up TWO first round picks in the deal, including No.23 overall, a pick that I figured they’d use to draft a shooter, especially so since they traded two (or theoretically three if you count Crowder). Now, that pick, and another one whose protections in 2020 are still undisclosed, are gone, in addition to Korver who rounded out what was a very solid crunch-time unit heading into next season with Conley at the helm.
Despite my issues with the price, Conley is exactly what the Jazz needed. He’s more efficient than Ricky Rubio and doesn’t take offensive possessions off. He’s a fantastic passer and can be used off Mitchell. He fits the Jazz’s persona of defense-first, creating an even better unit on that end than before.
Memphis got a haul back, including some sneaky-good shooting to put around Morant. Korver and Allen bring the fire-power while Crowder fits the now-lost Grit n’ Grind formula.
The Jazz are going for it in the wide-open West. That usually comes with a price. They certainly paid it.