The lottery balls have been drawn, the players have been run through workouts, the pundits have set their mock drafts for the 20th time; now all that is left is for the most exciting draft in professional sports. The NBA Draft.
Let me qualify that a drafts excitement is of course dependant on your desire of watching the sport. But in general baseball and hockey drafts are pale in comparison to the NBA and NFL because the former leagues are drafting players you have not heard of and will likely not hear of for a handful of years. Meanwhile the NFL draft, exciting because of the scope of football, is a three-day long process that goes seven rounds with players from small schools and where more than half of the positions drafted are not the “star, headlining positions”. The NBA draft however is done in one-night and consists of three-hours of entertainment and gossip. The players being taken are well-known and most of the time from teams you have watched all college season long or at least saw play in March.
So what to look for in tomorrow night’s draft? Obviously some teams are hoping to grab the next superstar and change the direction of their team, but there will be shocking picks, and busts to look back and laugh at. Here is a list of players that I personally think will be a success in the NBA.
- Deandre Ayton (Arizona) – A 7’0″ athletic center that averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds in his only college season. He scored in double figures in all but one game last season while grabbing double-digit rebounds in 24 games. Who cares if he doesn’t stretch the floor like the new trend in the NBA would like, put shooters around him and he will dominate the paint.
- Marvin Bagley Jr. (Duke) – Another paint player that simply goes out and gets a double-double night in and night out. Every time I watched him this past season he was a man among boys. Seven 30 point games as a freshman for one of the premier college programs and he lives to rebound.
- Collin Sexton (Alabama) – A point guard that can score. I was drawn to this guy watching him play during the SEC season and then through March. He is aggressive and leaves it all on the floor. He may not be the top scoring threat for his team in the NBA but he can certainly be a secondary option on a winning team.
- Miles Bridges (Michigan State) – Hyped up all preseason he of course had a season in which people second-guessed him and his talents this year. Bridges is a versatile player that is a bit undersized for power forward and a bit too slow for small forward. So why do I like him? Because he can do everything. He is one of those players that will not be a superstar in the NBA but will be a key part of a winning team.
- Jevon Carter (West Virginia) – He will never be an All-Star but he will jump out when you watch him. His relentless defense and effort are noticeable to any fan. He will come off the bench but he will make an impact with his guarding skills and is fun to watch.
Side Notes: There are a few top prospects that I did not include on my “guaranteed” list. So why did I not include Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr., or Mo Bamba?
- Luka Doncic (Real Madrid) – He has been the talk of the league since December. A 19-year-old that has conquered Euro basketball. A 6’8″ point guard. So why don’t I like him? It is funny because the NBA, more than any other league, loves to talk about upside, potential, and athleticism. They will constantly push a player up the board simply because of his athleticism. So they see Doncic and they see his success at a young age. But do you know what they are conveniently over-looking? His fitness level. Doncic is pudgy and scouts will admit his athleticism is lacking. They offset his weight issues by saying he is only 19 years old, he can afford to eat like that because his body will process it quickly. Guess what happens he is say 25 and not 19, his metabolism will slow down. And those life long eating habits he had will catch up with him. The last Euro player I remember getting this similar hype, a young player dominating Euro basketball, was Ricky Rubio. I see a similar career for him. Solid but not spectacular.
- Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri) – This one is a tough call. He has the skills to be a great player and me not including is not so much about his ability but his health. Already with a back surgery before he even entered the league, reports that he still only has 50-percent strength in his leg months after his surgery, and being forced to cancel team workouts a week prior to draft are very concerning. I hope he is able to have an injury free career and live up to his potential but it is too big of a risk to say he is a guarantee.
- Mo Bamba (Texas) – Bamba is the typical NBA draft riser. An athletic player that scouts love because of his measurements. He is 7’0″ tall and has a ridiculous 7’10” wingspan. But do you know what else he is? A player that had more than double the amount of single digit scoring games (8) as he did 20 point games (3) last year. He also lacks the body control to truly use his size, drawing four or more fouls in 10 games last season.