The NBA Draft is Thursday, which feels way too soon given that a few Cavaliers are probably still drunk from post-Game 7 festivities. The best perk of a Finals going seven games is a short refractory period between the best actual basketball of the year and the best imaginary basketball of the year. The dragged-out dead time that yawns between Finals and draft can get boring, but a longer wait means more time for insane rumors to build up momentum before all hell breaks loose at the draft.
Economically speaking, the draft is a gross, anti-labor tool that the NBA uses to ensure parity and depress wages. Draftees are tied to long, cheap rookie contracts, ensuring that they won’t get a chance to earn their market value for a few years. Second rounders, who are not tied to the rookie scale, have more flexibility and potential earning power, which is stupid garbage.
As a fan, however, draft night is one of the wildest evenings on the basketball calendar, and if you root for a bad team, congratulations, tomorrow is your Super Bowl (unless you like the Nets, who only have the 55th pick, or the Knicks, who aren’t on the clock until 2017). Anything is on the table, like Brandon Jennings showing up late and bounding onto the stage during another team’s pick, Ty Lawson blowing dank clouds of despair when he thought he had to go to Sacramento, and all manner of shady, tendon-challenged, and incomprehensible trades. Who knows, maybe an NBA legend will reveal another grand conspiracy.
Most NBA insiders have, at this point, arrived at a rough consensus of how the draft will shake out. None of them will be right. NBA front offices know how to use the media to obfuscate their true intentions, like last year when the Lakers convinced everyone they would pick Jahlil Okafor, only to select D’Angelo Russell. Besides, every mock draft notes that Boston is desperately trying to trade off as many of their picks as they can, which will butterfly-effect the hell out of the first round, starting at pick number three.
So any kind of comprehensive mock draft is educated speculation. You don’t need any more analysis like, “Utah has plenty of young talent, but could look to add depth at point guard. A big, multi-positional guard who can play alongside Dante Exum, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward would make sense.” This is not that. Rather, this blog is intended as an incomplete guide to some of the players worth knowing about tomorrow:
You know Ingram as the arachnid-skinny forward who will be erroneously compared to Kevin Durant after the Lakers pick him tomorrow, but you might not be aware of how country his accent is.
A man who is eating six meals a day in an effort to gain weight and also pronounces every letter of McDonalds is going to play in Los Angeles and carry the mantle as the Lakers’ next franchise-saving star. And he’s a Dookie. I can’t wait.
Jaylen Brown supposedly scares GMs, not because he laid an egg in his lone NCAA Tournament appearance and let Hawaii dominate a star-laden Cal team, but because he is, as one GM put it, “too smart for the league.” Brown took a graduate-level course at Berkeley and was the captain of his middle school chess team. Basketball-wise, he’s an intriguing player, who is wildly athletic but hasn’t yet shown that he can shoot the ball. He’ll probably be a top-eight pick, and casting him as a basketball revolutionary because he reads philosophy is probably too FreeDarko-esque, but there’s something inarguably intriguing about a forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan about whom anonymous GMs say things like this:
“He wants to know why you are doing something instead of just doing it. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s a form of questioning authority. It’s not malicious. He just wants to know what is going on. Old-school coaches don’t want guys that question stuff.”
Chriss is Anthony Randolph, and he wants to go to Phoenix, who don’t have the patience to develop him. I will never not be seduced by springy, unproven power forwards, even if they have an incredibly low yield rate.
Thon Maker fled the Sudanese Civil War for Uganda when he was five, got accepted as a refugee by Australia and settled in Perth, before moving across the country to Sydney, where he picked up basketball, which got him an invitation to a talent camp in Texas, where he distinguished himself and moved to Louisiana, then Virginia, and finally Ontario. He turned down recruiting offers from every program worth a damn, and declared for the NBA Draft this year despite skipping college. His around-the-world story is somehow matched for incredulity by his hyperathletic Gumby-on-EPO game.
There hasn’t been an active Chinese NBA player since Yi Jianlian went back to Guangdong in 2012. Zhucci Mane is not going to go in the lottery, and maybe not in the first round (DraftExpress has him at 34 and NBADraft.net has him at 43), but someone will pick him, and they’ll be getting a large adult center. Zhou is 7-foot-2, the size and shape of an adolescent ficus tree, and a complete mystery. Also, nobody knows if he’s 20 or 24:
“Qi should get drafted in the teens, 15-20 in this draft,” an NBA scout said. “I’ve heard the age rumors; sure, it’s a concern. If he is 24 years old, there isn’t much time left to work on his body. Can he add muscle? Is the CBA level good enough to evaluate his NBA talents? If he doesn’t come over now, will he ever?”
He can allegedly shoot a bit, but the standout thing from this video is how he looks like he’s made completely out of elbows.
These two will be linked, and it’s unfair, but it’s not every year that there are two 5-foot-9 point guards in the draft, especially not two as different as these guys. Ulis is a skinny playmaker who managed to win SEC Defensive Player of the Year, whereas Felder is a fiery ball of muscles who looks like he’ll be able to finish around the rim a bit at the next level. Both should be drafted, and Ulis will probably go first since he went to Kentucky and he’s a winner, but I like Felder as a prospect better. When he played elite competition, he shredded them, including Dejounte Murray, who will probably the third of fourth point guard off the board. Please, someone draft these tiny point guards.
Here’s a dunk:
Murray will probably be the first Kentucky player picked this year, and as he’s a combo guard who can score and not much else, I truly hope my team steers clear of him and lets someone else get seduced by his abilities. During the pre-draft process, Murray hit 79 out of 100 three pointers in an empty gym. This supposedly shows that he is an elite shooter, but I don’t buy that it’s a worthwhile point of evidence showing that he’s worth a top-five pick. Murray has an elite pedigree and shooting touch, but he’s not tall enough or fast enough to function as a playmaking guard, and I’m not convinced his shooting is enough to mask his deficiencies and make him worthy of an early lottery pick. Devin Booker proved he was much better than the pure shooter he was tabbed as last year, and Murray could very well do the same, but he doesn’t have Booker’s athleticism. Pass.
Nobody likes to draft college seniors because they aren’t 17-year-olds with young ACLs and plenty of mysterious years of “development” ahead of them. I’m not sure if there’s a true market inefficiency to picking older players, but talent evaluators seem to regard a college senior’s skills as a basketball player as less valid because they are closer to being fully realized products. Development is crucial, of course, but the ability to show up and play NBA ball is also pretty damn important.
Brogdon is a good example here: He was the ACC Player of the Year last year at Virginia, and his team won a ton of games. Brogdon doesn’t have the top-shelf athleticism or physical tools that make GMs and fans drool, but he’s got long arms and he’s smart. Simply put, Brogdon is very good at basketball and he will help your basketball team if you draft him. He doesn’t turn it over, moves the ball around the offense, and he was a lockdown defender in college. Whoever drafts him won’t have to hold his hand for very long before he’s ready to play.
Young Sabonis is one of the more intriguing mid-first round big men in a mid-first round full of big men. If you believe the mock draft consensus, he’ll be drafted somewhere near Jakob Poeltl, an Austrian the size of a small airplane. When the two met in March, Sabonis played him off the court.
Sabonis is a crafty-ass power forward, who brings a bunch of extra cool passing and shooting skills to the table in addition to elite rebounding skills and a light touch around the rim. Plus, his first name sounds like a Pokémon and his dad is one of the coolest basketball players of all time.
For the sake of circuity, here’s Ben Simmons. He looks like he’ll be the shit—passing big men are my favorite type of player and he can make all sorts of passes—and I hope that Philly doesn’t ruin him. Also, like Ingram, he has a cool accent. His Australian twang has faded since he moved to the United States at 16, but there are still traces of it.
There you have it, Deadspin’s official list of Some Basketball Guys Who Will Get Drafted Tomorrow.