NBA Draft Preview
Here’s a quick take on this year’s NBA draft from an everyday CBB/NBA DFS player. This isn’t a mock draft, just ranking this year’s prospects… To me this is one of the better drafts in recent years, with a clear top 12-16 prospects and no lack of role players stretching deep into the second round.
- Karl-Anthony Towns – To me there is no comparison or argument here… Towns is the best player in the draft. He’s skilled on both ends of the court. Can run, shoot, handle, defend, post up, face up, and will instantly fill a need for the Timberwolves. The only mistakes he makes right now are mental: dumb fouls, lapses in focus on defense… Things Flip Saunders should be able to coach out of him, because he’s a great kid, smart, and very coachable.
- D’Angelo Russell – The argument between Russell and Mudiay is one that I’ve struggled with… Russell has better vision, is a better passer, shooter, and his overall offensive game is more polished, but Mudiay projects as the better defender and also has a polished offensive game. I think Mudiay ends up a slightly better player, but Russell is the type of player your fan base will rally behind.
- Jahlil Okafor – The most polished post up game we’ve seen in years, can beat you from the block with his back to the basket or face up from 15 feet out. Lacks the athleticism to ever be even a good defender… huge liability on pick and rolls, and while he has good touch, isn’t a good free throw shooter. However, we are talking about an elite, elite, elite post game, with Hakeem-esque footwork.
- Emmanuel Mudiay – Mudiay is more athletic than Russell, will be a better defender, and, while his range is questionable, he probably has higher upside. I’ve read the Russell Westbrook comparisons and think it’s fair, he’s incredibly athletic and shoots better off the dribble than spotting up. Put shooters around him and his midrange game and athleticism will make up for a lack of a three point shot.
- Kristaps Porzingis – Such a gamble picking him at two, but knowing the shortcomings in Okafor’s game, I would consider Porzingis over him. I watch his workout video below and think, sure he’d struggle with Okafor on the block, but could Okafor ever guard his 15 feet from the basket? He’s athletic, can spot up and hit shots, or shoot off the dribble, post game is developing, and if you look at tape over the past few seasons he’s really worked hard and added bulk.
- Stanley Johnson – You’re reading this order right, I like Johnson, then Booker, then Hezonja, then Winslow. Johnson can do it all, he’s a plus scorer, above average shooter, great perimeter defender, great athlete, has a good motor, and will start for you from day one.
- Devin Booker – He’s been billed as a shooter, because that’s all we got to see him do in limited minutes for the Wildcats, but Booker is more than just a knock-down shooter. He’s a good athlete, that can handle, will be able to defend his position, and is quick enough to beat you off the dribble. That being said his shooting fills a need on so many teams right away, and the one thing this draft isn’t deep in is athletes that are elite shooters. If your team needs shooting, passes on Booker, then 10 games into the season realize they still need shooting, it’s a decision they will regret immediately.
- Mario Hezonja – Speaking of athletes that can shoot… Hezonja is like an athletic Danilo Gallinari, better yet, he’s like an aggressive/quicker Sam Dekker. He’s ready to start for a lottery team today, and at 6’8″ 200′, he’s going to be able to defend the 2/3 and eventually some 4’s. His shot (while more towards the middle/left of his head) is quick, consistent and has a nice high release point. Looking at potential landing spots, I love the idea of him landing in Detroit… Hezonja, Hardaway, Meeks, around Reggie Jackson, Ersan Ilyasova and Drummond.
- Trey Lyles – I wrote in my NCAA tournament predictions that Lyles was the best Wildcat, and believe he’s already an all star NBA caliber power forward. He’s 6’10”, a great passer, and is one of the best spot up shooters in the draft. Lyles played the 3 at Kentucky, but can really play the 3/4/5 in today’s NBA. He’s been shooting up draft boards, which shouldn’t be a surprise, I think he’s the most NBA-ready player in the draft.
- Justice Winslow – My last elite prospect grade in this draft, and after the tournament run Winslow put together, I know I’m going to get heat for this one. His strength is his strength. He’s got an elite body, start the James Harden/Jimmy Butler comparisons, and maybe he develops into Harden, but I don’t see it right now. First off, at 6’4.5″, he’s smaller than the top point guards in this draft. He made up for it with his size/quickness in college, but at that size in the NBA he’ll have to be able to shoot the 3 and right now he can’t. Maybe I will eat crow on this one, but in the range he’s going to go I would rather take Porzingis, Johnson, Booker, Lyles or Hezonja.
- Kelly Oubre – Has a chance to fill out and become the best defender in the draft. His shooting is underrated because he has a slight hitch in his shot, but he already has NBA range, can run the floor and has the highest ceiling of any of the wings in this class.
- Willie Cauley-Stein – I’ve been back and forth on Cauley-Stein as a lottery pick. He’s never, ever shown offensive promise, other than in his workouts. Before watching him shoot in his workouts, I was ready to write him off as an unskilled Tyson Chandler, but if he’s able to develop some sort of offensive game he’s no doubt a lottery pick. If he really did shoot well in his Knicks workout, he could go as high as 4…
- Sam Dekker – He’s already a double-digit scorer in the league with his current skill-set: can run the floor, lead the break, spot up, post up, face up, drive… I think maybe somewhat overrated as an athlete, but at 6’8″ with room to add strength, he will be able to play/defend the 3/4. You just aren’t filling a need or getting an all star with Dekker, you’re getting a really good roll player, and a potentially valuable piece to a great team.
- Frank Kaminsky – Let’s start with the positive: great shooter, will be great in pick and pops, can defend the pick and roll, is a good passing big man, great worker and leader. The negatives are obvious: lacks the strength and athleticism to defend or score on the block and when you’re a center in the Association, that’s just so hard to overcome.
- Jerian Grant – I think if Grant was a consistent shooter he’d be a top 10 pick. He’s a long 6’5″ combo guard, who’s game is actually better suited as a pure point guard than shooting guard. Unlike his father and uncle, right now he lacks the toughness and killer instinct he’ll need to score in the paint and defend at an elite level at the next level. He is creative, has handle, can shoot off the dribble, and has the physical skill set. I’m seeing him going to Atlanta where I think he would fit perfectly as a backup to both Beal and Wall.
- Bobby Portis – I’m way higher on Portis than most… Give me a stretch 4 with size and a great motor all day… He can put the ball on the floor, pass, spot up, and do just about anything offensively outside of play on the block with his back to the basket. He will be an above average on ball defender at the 4 from both the perimeter and block. Came to play in the NCAA tournament averaging 17, 13, 3, 3 in two games against Wofford and UNC. I love him because, unlike Looney, Holmes, Upshaw or McCullough, who may all have higher upside, you already know who Portis is and will be.
- Justin Anderson – Anderson and another of my sleepers, Aaron White just seem like they are destined to be Spurs… While other teams draft on potential, someone will see the need Anderson can already fill and get a guy that will immediately contribute and do what he did at Virginia: shoot, defend and win.
- Rondae Hollis-Jeffereson – Again, your filling needs that you know you have. If you need a perimeter defender that can run the floor and finish, he’s your guy. I think he’s just slightly more skilled on both ends than Ronnie Brewer, but your getting that type of roll player.
- Mouhammadou Jaiteh – After seeing how much he’s grown since he first popped up on draft boards, I’m convinced that you can develop Jaiteh into a solid rotational player. He’s not athletic enough to be an elite rim protector, but will be a very good on-ball post defender thanks to his shear size and strength.
- Pat Connaughton – Who’s ready for some white guy basketball talk? Sure Connaughton is a competitor, a leader, a shooter, but the reason he’s shooting up draft boards? How about the second highest max jump of all time? Any NBA teams out there need a great locker room guy that projects as an elite shooter and defender?
- Aaron White – Just give him his #30 Spurs roster already… Competitor, max effort, high motor guy that can stretch the floor as a 4. I love seeing reputable draft sites that don’t have him listed as a top 60 player, but have Cliff Alexander as a top 30… Watch him play and he’s one thing: efficient. He’s a great passer, pesky defender that forces a ton of turnovers, can shoot, take guys off the dribble, is unselfish, will move the ball and make good decisions, limits turnovers… Want to look back and ‘win’ a draft in three years, take a player like White in the second round.
- Rakeem Christmas – Like Okafor, here is a guy you can throw on an NBA block tomorrow and he’ll get you 12 and 10. At 6’9″, he’s extremely long with the second longest wingspan in the class and a 9’3″ standing reach, which will allow him to play the 4 or the 5 at the next level. His post game is done, polished, no work needed, and he’s got a good enough shot to face up from 15′ out. I get that he’s old(er) at 23, but you don’t have to stash this guy and develop him, he’s ready now and the good new for him is that it looks like he’ll slip to a contender.
Mock Lottery Draft
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns
This is a no-brainer pick, Towns solves so many issues for the Timberwolves and is clearly the top player in the draft.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor
I think they need to trade out of this spot (Boogie or trade down) because Okafor doesn’t fit what they need… especially if they think Randle is capable of giving them 18 ppg on the block. The fact that there aren’t teams clambering to trade up for Okafor tells you all you need to know about him becoming a ‘franchise’ center.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Kristaps Porzingis
We will get a good idea for how bad teams want Kristaps Porzingis here, because Hinkie is certainly ready to trade back in the draft and pick up even more picks (currently 5 second round picks). If they stay put, it’s simple he’s going to keep taking the best player in the draft and that’s Kristaps Porzingis.
- New York Knicks – D’angelo Russell
It’s Porzingis or Russell in the 3/4 spots, with a slight chance New York just goes and gets their rim protector in Willie Cauley-Stein. If Hinkie stays with his status quo, New York will get the point guard they desperately need. Knick fans would love this pick.
- Orlando Magic – Mario Hezonja
The Magic have to know they need shooting out of their Small Forward… if you commit to a Vucevic, Gordon, Oladipo, Payton core, you have to have a shooter on the floor and Mario Hezonja would give them great size, athleticism and of course shooting at the 3. He’s going to need a season or two, but this team isn’t beating the Cavs next season anyways…
- Sacramento Kings – Emmanuel Mudiay
This could end up being the steal of the draft… If the Kings keep Boogie, which Karl would hate, Mudiay, Gay, Cousins would be a great core group. If they make the trade and end up with Okafor/Randle/Gay/McLemore/Mudiay it’s a group that flat out won’t be able to defend well enough to win in the Western Conference.
- Denver Nuggets – Justice Winslow
The Nuggets will do backflips if Winslow falls to them at 7. He’s not a shooter, but will be an elite slasher/finisher/defender and fills the shooting guard hole that Foye and Harris never could.
- Detroit Pistons – Devin Booker
Stanley Johnson is a better fit for their needs at Small Forward, but I think they are in set in the mindset of getting a shooter here. They’d love for Hezonja to fall to them, but it isn’t happening, and Booker is a heck of a consolation prize. He or KCP will have to defend at the 3, but, outside of the Cavs, that’s not as big of an issue in the Eastern Conference.
- Charlotte Hornets – R.J. Hunter
The Hornets need shooting desperately, and I think they are coming to the realization that R.J. Hunter will be the best shooter available at their pick. They may be able to move back a few spots with a team looking to trade up for Willie Cauley-Stein or Stanley Johnson, but if not I think they will pull the trigger on Hunter early.
- Miami Heat – Stanley Johnson
Another potentially great steal here… By now the Heat have to know that they aren’t getting a full season out of Wade or Deng, making Johnson the perfect piece to immediately take some of their workload.
- Willie Cauley-Stein –
This pick shouldn’t take more than 5 seconds for the Pacers to make. Hibbert is gone and Cauley-Stein is the perfect fit for what they are looking for out of their next center.
- Utah Jazz – Myles Turner
I’ve heard rumors of the Jazz trading up to the Hornets pick to grab Turner, but if you look at the team’s need ahead of them, I don’t think they need to. The Pacers love Cauley-Stein and Heat and Hornets have needs elsewhere. Utah is a perfect destination for Turner… he’ll get minutes right away backing up both Gobert and Favors.
- Phoenix Suns – Frank Kaminsky
I have Kaminsky here, but I think the Suns would be better off drafting Bobby Portis. Either guy will be a solid rotational player with Len and Morris.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Kelly Oubre
I keep seeing Cameron Payne here, but I think you can find a backup point guard just about anywhere this offseason. Oubre gives you a wing that can start at the 2, play and defend the 2 or 3, and is an above-average shooter.