Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2018 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process.
Benny’s Notebook: It’s June! Draft month is finally upon us, which means the player pool is set and boards are starting to solidify. For now, my top half of the draft remains unchanged — but if there’s a late riser left, look no further than Lonnie Walker. He’s been impressive throughout the draft process thus far, so, needless to say, this is not an unpopular opinion. Walker only averaged 11.5 points and 1.9 assists as a freshman at the University of Miami, but the NBA-worthy skillset is apparent. His uber-athletic and explosive first step makes Walker difficult to defend and his 6-foot-4, 200-pound fame only adds to that scoring prowess. At just 19 years old, Walker could become one of the best guards in the draft, which is high praise considering the others around him.
After that, there’s a pair of highly-touted European prospects worth checking in on, Džanan Musa and Élie Okobo — both of whom seem destined for late first-round selections. Although Musa has slipped a little of late, the 6-foot-9 Bosnian sharpshooter could be an absolute force with the right coaching. His defense certainly needs work, but Musa can already score in a whole variety of ways. Imagine getting him under the tutorship of Brad Stevens or Gregg Popovich — then the possibilities are truly endless.
Okobo, on the other hand, has been a recent riser and it’s not hard to see why. In France, he averaged 12.9 points and 4.8 assists on 39.4 percent from three-point range. Last summer, Okobo won a bronze medal at the FIBA Europe U-20 Championship and seems poised to become a regular on the senior team soon enough. Oh, and he also dropped 44 points on 8-for-11 from deep in a postseason game against AS Monaco in May. At 20 years old, Okobo looks like he might be just scratching the surface — so which team will take the plunge?
Moke’s Notebook: Things are starting to get very, very interesting. Although my lottery picks are mostly the same as they were last week, there’s a growing sense among those with whom I’ve spoken that Trae Young has a shot at going as high as third to the Atlanta Hawks. If the Orlando Magic do indeed lose out on Young (I’ve been told he’s in consideration for them) then I wouldn’t be surprised to see them land on either Kevin Knox (whom they had in for a workout this week) or Michael Porter, Jr. There’s still a fair amount of reservation surrounding Porter, though, but the general consensus seems to be that he won’t get past the Knicks at ninth. The Knicks are said to be looking for the either Young or Porter to fall to them, and if not, then Knox and Colin Sexton would be the next two on their depth chart. Either way, it’s still pretty early in the process, as most of the top prospects are just beginning to do their individual workouts.
While I do think this draft is rich with talent, from a depth standpoint, the general thought is that there are five players who have star potential, another five who will be solid role players and quite a few diamonds in the rough. Nobody knows who those diamonds are yet, which is why you’ll see a fair amount of volatility once you get outside of the lottery.
It’s looking like Keita Bates-Diop and Donte DiVicenzo will be available in the 20s, and I think either would present good value at those spots.
If Wendell Carter falls to the Clippers at 12th (definitely possible if the Mavericks take Mo Bamba), they might have cause for celebration.
This is how I see things stacking up based on what I’ve heard. Let’s see where we are next week.
Jesse’s Notebook: There is still no consensus clarity on what the Sacramento Kings will do with the second overall pick but I now think there’s a solid chance they pass on Luka Dončić. If Dončić falls to No. 4, expect the Memphis Grizzlies to take him. The Grizzlies want someone who can step out onto an NBA court and contribute immediately, and that’s Dončić.
We are starting to get some more clarity on how things may shake out after the Lottery picks but things could change a lot from now until draft night. This draft has a lot depth in terms of potential role players, but it doesn’t feature many prospects outside of the Lottery who have star potential. Thus, team need and fit is likely going to be a determining factor more than overall talent once we get outside of the top-14 picks (or around that area). So if a couple of teams decide to reach on a player or two, it could throw off the entire board and throw off projections.
The most interesting group of players to keep an eye on are the wing players. There is plenty of depth at this position and teams could start zoning in on their preferred wing players as they come in for workouts.
Steve’s Notebook: With less than two weeks remaining until NBA teams must lock in on their picks, things are going to get real from here. Most of the marquee players are either scheduled to visit or have started to visit NBA teams, and many are holding their own “controlled” Pro-Days. Teams are often mixed on the value of a Pro-Day, mainly because they are typically run by the player’s personal trainers and are designed to showcase not only the player, but the trainer too.
Marquee level players also rarely workout against anyone. So, what do you really learn from a guy running drills he runs every day against a chair or thin air? Hence the draft myth of how good a player did against the chair or worse yet, when he fails to perform and loses to the proverbial chair.
A good agent will tell you the worst thing you can do is get a silly contact-related injury prior to the draft. NBA Draft history is littered with high-level prospects who get a significant injury while training and can’t workout for teams at the level or frequency they would need to solidify a higher draft position.
The other part of the Pro-Day is using the audience a marquee player draws from NBA scouts and executives to showcase lesser draft prospects that may be represented by the same agent or have the same trainer. This can be an added value for those players that might not have gotten a top tier decision maker to really look at them.
Once the Pro-Day cycle ends things will get serious. For some players, this is when they will start asking for firm commitments to establish a “floor,” or the lowest point in the draft a player might go. If a player doesn’t have a floor going into next week, they may be in for a long draft night.
It is not uncommon for players at the top of the board to agree to a workout a little outside their projected range to ensure they have a floor they are comfortable with. So, look for the odd workout or team meeting to surface next week as players try to lock in a floor.
Specific to this draft, Michael Porter Jr.’s Pro-Day seems to be the key to who he will ultimately share medical with and workout out for. The narrative around his situation is once teams see him and are ready to commit, they will make their decision on who to visit and who they will share medical information with.
On the surface, all of this sounds too calculated, but in reality, there is a business behind the draft. For the players and agents involved, there is a desire to work the process to the best of their ability, because at the end of the draft where you get drafted, usually isn’t nearly as important as the fit of the situations. Searching for the right fit is why so many agents and players work the process to ensure they land in the best situation to have a long and fruitful career.
Who are these guys anyway? Steve Kyler is the Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 19 years. Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders and has covered basketball for the last eight years. Jesse Blancarte is a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last four years. Benny Nadeau is an NBA Writer and has just finished his first season covering the NBA for Basketball Insiders.
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