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[OC] The Overly-Long and Probably-Wrong list of the Top Draft Prospects
BEST PROSPECTS in the 2019-20 NBA DRAFT
Based on pure stats, Anthony Edwards would be one of the least impressive # 1 picks of all time. We're talking about a player who just averaged 19-5-3 on bad shooting splits (40-29-77) on a bad Georgia team. In fact, the Bulldogs didn't even crack .500 (finishing 16-16). All things considered, this isn't the resume of a top overall pick. It's like a kid with a 2.9 GPA applying to Harvard Law.
Still, the "eye test" helps Edwards' case in the same way it helped proud Harvard alum Elle Woods. Edwards has a powerful frame (strong and long with a 6'9" wingspan) and a scorer's mentality. He's going to be a handful for NBA wings to contend with, especially when he's going downhill. And while he hasn't shown to be a knockdown shooter, his form looks better than the results suggest. I'd project that he can become an average (35-36%) three-point shooter in time.
It may be unfair to label Edwards with the "best case scenario" comparison -- Dwyane Wade, for example -- but it may be just as unfair to liken him to "worst case scenario" comps like Dion Waiters as well. One of the reasons that Waiters is such an inefficient scorer in the NBA is that he's allergic to the free-throw line; he averages 3.1 FTA per 36 minutes. Edwards didn't live at the FT line, but he did get there 5.3 times per game. With more encouragement from an analytical front office or coaching staff, Edwards has the potential to get to the line 7-8 times a game and raise his ceiling in terms of efficiency.
The key for Edwards' career is going to be his work ethic and basketball character. As a prospect, he reminds me of Donovan Mitchell; in fact, he's ahead of where Mitchell was at the same age. That said, Mitchell is a natural leader who made a concerted effort to improve his body and his overall game. If Edwards can do the same, he has true All-Star potential. If he walks into the building thinking he's already a superstar, then he may never become one.
Anthony Edwards has some bust potential, but he also has true star potential. Given that, it'd be great to see him go to a team that's willing to feature him. Chances are he won't last this long, but he'd be a great fit for Charlotte (#3). The Hornets desperately need a signature star, and Edwards has the chance to be a 20 PPG scorer within a year or two.
If Edwards falls in the draft, he may end up clashing with the talent on the teams in the 4-5 range. Chicago (#4) already has a scoring guard in Zach LaVine. Meanwhile, Cleveland (#5) has already doubled up on scoring guards with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Adding a third would be a potential headache, both offensively and defensively.
A true center? Gross! What is this, 1970?
Traditional big men tend to get treated that way these days. In some ways, they've become the "running backs" of the NBA. They once ruled the draft, but now they have to scrape and claw to climb into the top 5.
Still, let's no go overboard here. Even if centers aren't as valuable as they used to be, there's still some value here. Some of the best centers in the game (Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, etc) have helped make their teams staples in the playoffs. Wiseman can potentially impact a team in the same way, especially on the defensive end. He can get beat on switches now and then, but he's about as agile as you can expect out of a kid who's 7'1" with a 7'6" wingspan. Offensively, he has an improving face-up game in addition to being a devastating lob threat.
Another reason that I'm comfortable with Wiseman in the top 3 is because he appears to be a smart kid with the will to improve his game. He intends to keep stretching out his range towards three point territory. Even if he can be a passable three-point shooter (in the 33% range), that should help make him a consistent 18-12 player and a fringe All-Star. And if not, then he'll still be a viable starting center.
We mentioned Charlotte (#3) as a great fit for Anthony Edwards, and I'd say the same for Wiseman here. His game complements the more dynamic P.J. Washington well; between the two of them, they'd have the 4-5 spot locked up for years. While Wiseman's best chance to be a star may come in Charlotte, we don't know if he truly has that type of aggressive upside. The more likely scenario is him being a pretty good starting center with an emphasis on defense. In that case, he makes some sense in Golden State (#2) and Atlanta (#6).
Apparently James Wiseman doesn't want to go to Minnesota (#1), which makes sense given the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns. If he slips, Chicago (#4) may also be an odd fit. Wiseman is a better prospect than Wendell Carter Jr., but they're not terribly dissimilar. The new Bulls administration didn't select Carter, but it still feels too early to give up on a recent # 7 pick.
Another big man? I may be showing my age here.
Still, I'm going to stick to my guns and suggest Onyeka Okongwu is a top 3 prospect in the class for some of the same reasons we ranked James Wiseman so highly. In fact, Okongwu is arguably an even better defensive prospect than Wiseman. While he doesn't have the same size (6'9" with a 7'1" wingspan), he's more switchable. He projects as a prowling, shot-blocking panther, not dissimilar to Bam Adebayo on Miami. Offensively, he flashes some solid skill here and there, although it's unlikely he'd get to Adebayo's level as a playmaker.
Another aspect that should help Okongwu is his selflessness. In high school, he played for Chino Hills alongside stars Lonzo and LaMelo Ball. While there, he blended in and did the dirty work for the LaVar Traveling Circus. It's likely that Okongwu will play a similar role in the NBA, complementing a star perimeter player.
While Okongwu may not have All-Star upside, I don't see much downside here. I'd be surprised if he's not a long-time starter at the center position (with the potential to play some PF if his shooting range improves.)
The most natural fits for Onyeka Okongwu mirror the best fits for James Wiseman. There’s a chance he may slip further than Wiseman too. Washington (#9) should be salivating if that’s the case.
As a low-usage player, there aren't a lot of terrible fits for Okongwu on the board. However, Detroit (#7) already has Blake Griffin on a long-term deal and may re-sign Christian Wood as well. Given that, there wouldn't be much room for Okongwu barring a Griffin trade.
Every draft pick is an inherent gamble, but there's a difference between gambling in blackjack and gambling in Roulette. To me, LaMelo Ball is more of the latter.
No doubt, there's a chance that you may get lucky and "win big" with LaMelo Ball. He has great height for the position at 6'6"/6'7", and he makes some exceptional passes that illustrate a rare court vision. ESPN's Draft Express team ranks him as the # 1 prospect overall, and I take that seriously. Those guys were way ahead of the curve on calling Luka Doncic a transcendent talent at a time when most others were still skeptical.
At the same time, I'd say there is a sizable downside here as well. In fact, I'd estimate that there's a greater than 50/50 chance that Ball is a "bust" based on his current draft status.
LaMelo Ball put up good raw numbers this past season in the NBL -- 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.8 assists -- but he was in a situation specifically designed for him to put up good numbers. The efficiency tells a different story, as his shooting splits (38-25-72) look worrisome. Yes, height helps on defense, but it doesn't matter much if you're not locked in on that end. And yes, highlight-reel passes and super-deep threes are fun to watch, but they're not a path to consistency on offense. As Ball makes the jump to the NBA, he may smack hard into a wall and crash into the water like was on Wipeout. There's a chance he'll be among the worst players (from an advanced stats perspective) as a rookie.
So what? We expect most rookies to struggle, right? That's true, but I'd be nervous about how LaMelo Ball and his camp would respond to those initial struggles. Again, I've never met the kid and have no real basis for this, but media interviews make him seem a little immature. That's totally understandable for a 19 year old, but it's not ideal for a 19 year old who's about to get handed the keys to an NBA franchise. If he struggles out of the gates, will he start to lose confidence? Will LaVar Ball start to make waves? Will the media gleefully tear him to shreds? No clue. And if I'm picking in the top 3, I'd prefer to have more confidence than question marks.
If we treat LaMelo Ball as a developmental project, then I'd prefer he land with a team like Chicago (#4). New coach Billy Donovan is a former PG himself, and spent decades working with young kids at the college level. If they slow play Ball's development, we may see the best of him down the road. Detroit (#7) also makes sense. Coach Dwane Casey has a pretty good reputation in player development himself, and he has a solid bridge PG in Derrick Rose to help buy Ball some time.
Cleveland (#5) is an obviously wonky fit based on the current roster. I'd also assert that Charlotte (#3) is a poor fit as well. While the team desperately needs a signature star, they don't have the type of supporting cast that would be conducive to him right now. And if he struggles as a rookie, then coach James Borrego and the whole front office may be cleaned out. If that happens, a new administration would be inheriting a franchise player that they didn't pick in the first place.
The NBA tends to be reactionary when it comes to the draft, which can be particularly impactful for international prospects. Their stock tends to swing up and down more violently than a ride at Action Park. There was a ton of skepticism about Euros when Dirk Nowitzki came along. When he hit, the NBA got so excited they drafted Darko Milicic at # 2. Eventually that excitement wore off as the busts started to pile up again. But when Latvian Kristaps Porzingis looked like the real deal, it helped reverse that narrative and helped Dragan Bender go # 4 the following year.
In terms of that up-and-down timing, Deni Avdija stands to benefit. He's coming into the NBA on the heels of an incredible sophomore campaign from Luka Doncic. No one thinks that Avdija can be a superstar like Doncic, but teams aren't as wary of international wings (specifically white wings) these days. Avdija should go somewhere in the top 10 if not the top 5.
In my mind, that's justified. He's 6'9", which should allow him to play either the SF or PF positions. He hasn't shown to be an excellent shooter yet, but he should eventually be solid there. He's better suited as a playmaker and passer, and he can also use his size and skill to convert on slashes around the rim. I've seen some comparisons to Lamar Odom before, although that may be optimistic. More likely, he'll be a 4th or 5th starter. His experience as a pro should help toward that end, as he's used to working hard and fitting in on a team of vets.
If you project Deni Avdija to just "fit in" and be a solid starter, then he'd make sense on a team like Golden State (#2). He could effectively play the role of Harrison Barnes or old Andre Iguodala for them. If the intention is to make him more of a featured player, then the Knicks (#8) would be interesting. In that market, he has real star potential.
I don't love the fit for Avdija in Charlotte (#3), where he may duplicate some of P.J. Washington's talents. Atlanta (#6) and Phoenix (#10) have also invested in young SF-PFs recently, so Avdija may find himself scraping for time there.
Every single NBA team needs 3+D wings. They thirst for them like a dying man in the desert. And then, when a legitimate 3+D wing comes along, they often ignore them in favor of splashier players at other positions.
Part of the issue is that low-usage 3+D wings aren't going to put up monster stats. That's certainly true of Devin Vassell, who averaged a modest 12.7 points this past year. Still, you have to go deeper than the pure numbers alone and consider the context. Florida State had a stacked and balanced team. In fact, Vassell's 12.7 PPG was the highest on the roster (and came in only 28.8 minutes.) There's more in the tank here than we've seen so far. He can hit the three (42% and 42% from deep in his two years), and he shows a good feel for the game (2:1 assist/turnover ratio.)
Vassell shows even more potential on the defensive end. He's currently listed at 6'7" with a 6'10" wingspan, but he looks even longer than that to my eye. He's tenacious and disruptive (1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks) without being out of control. Presumably, he should be a good defender at either the SG or SF spot.
In a sense, Vassell's the prototype for a 3+D wing. To be fair, I don't anticipate him being a great shooter at the next level. His FT% was iffy, and he's apparently been tweaking his shot during the draft process. Still, if he can be a viable shooting threat in the way that Josh Richardson is (an inconsistent shooter who averages around 36%), then he should be a solid starter for an NBA team. That may not sound like something worthy of a top 5 pick, but the high "floor" helps him in this case. He also appears to have a strong character and work ethic, making him feel like an even safer bet.
Devin Vassell's skill set would fit on virtually any NBA roster -- but his perceived lack of upside may keep him from going as high as my personal ranking. If he does, then Cleveland (#5) would be a nice fit given their lack of big wings and their lack of defense. Defensive-challenged Washington (#9) would also make sense; Vassell tends to be listed as a SG but he should have enough size to play the SF for them.
You can never have too many 3+D wings, but it may be a duplication to put Devin Vassell on the same team with Mikal Bridges in Phoenix (#10).
One of the reasons I'd have to be specific about a fit with a player like LaMelo Ball is that he needs the ball in his hands to maximize his potential. That's true for most lead guards.
Given that, it's a nice change of pace to see a prospect like Tyrese Haliburton come along. He's listed as a PG and he can perform those duties. This past season, he averaged 15.2 points and 6.5 assists per game. But he ALSO can operate as an off-the-ball player. As a freshman, he did exactly that, effectively working as a wing player and a glue guy on offense. His three-point shot looks wonky, but he converted 43% as a freshman and 42% as a sophomore. If that translates, he can be an effective spacer as well.
Haliburton's versatility also extends to the defensive end. He's 6'5" with an incredible 7'0" wingspan, allowing him to guard either PG or SGs. Like Devin Vassell, he also puts those tools to good use. Either one is an incredible athlete, but they're disruptive and locked in on that end. I'd expect Haliburton to be one of the better guard defenders in the NBA.
All in all, you may ask: why isn't this guy ranked HIGHER? The skill set would justify that. At the end of the day I don't see elite upside here (maybe George Hill?) because he may have some trouble getting his shot off in a halfcourt offense. Still, he's one of the safer prospects overall and a kid that you'd feel good betting on.
The New York Knicks (#8) may bring in a big-name guard like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, but if they stick with the rebuild then Tyrese Haliburton makes loads of sense. He can share playmaking duties with R.J. Barrett, and he can help Tom Thibodeau establish a defensive culture. He'd also make sense for Detroit (#7) and even Atlanta (#6). While the Hawks have Trae Young locked in at PG, Haliburton can play enough SG to justify 30+ overall minutes.
Obviously any team that doesn't have room for a PG OR SG would be a problem here. Cleveland (#5) and Washington (#9) are the clearest examples of that. While Haliburton could theoretically guard some SFs, it's not the best use of his talent.
If NBA centers are like NFL running backs, then point guards / lead playmakers may be like quarterbacks. There's positive and negatives to that comparison. Obviously, a good lead guard can immediately boost your team. At the same time, you don't really need more than one. And if you're not "the guy," then your impact is going to be limited.
Given that, there's a high bar to being a starting PG in the NBA. You have to be really, really friggin' good. According to many experts, Killian Hayes is exactly that. Physically he's what you want in the position, with a 6'5" frame. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.8 assists per 36 playing in Germany this year for a team that had a few former pros like Zoran Dragic. The Ringer has him # 1 overall.
Personally, I haven't completely bought into that hype yet. I can't claim to have season tickets to Ratiopharm Ulm, but when I watch highlights I don't really see ELITE traits here. He's not incredibly explosive, he's not a great shooter, he's over-reliant on his left hand. I have no doubt that he has the upside to be a good starter, but I don't think we've seen enough (or at least, I haven't) to make me confident in that projection.
Chicago (#4) and Detroit (#7) appear to be the most obvious fits for a potential star guard like Killian Hayes. And while the Knicks may have been underwhelmed by a French PG before, he would make sense for them at #8 as well.
Teams with lead guards locked in -- Golden State (#2), Cleveland (#5), for example -- would be obviously problematic fits for Hayes. While he has the size to play some shooting guard defensively, he has a ways to go before he's a sharpshooting spacer.
Back when I was single, I dated a girl who presumably viewed me as a "developmental prospect." She'd always tell me how cool I'd look if I got some new jeans. How hot I'd be if I lost some weight. After a while, reality set in. It ain't happening, honey. What you see is what you get. The whole transformation idea may have worked with Chris Pratt, but it's not going to work with schlubby ol' Zandrick Ellison.
Sometimes it feels like NBA teams view prospects in the same delusional way. Josh Jackson can be a superstar -- if he develops his shot! Isaac Okoro can be a great pick -- if he becomes a great shooter! IF IF IF. We tend to forget that it's not that easy for a leopard to change his spots or for a player to suddenly develop a shooting stroke. It may have worked with Kawhi Leonard, but it's not working with most players.
Given that, we should value players who already have developed that skill. Aaron Nesmith is one of the best shooters in the draft -- right here, right now. He shot 52% from three and 83% from the line this past season. There's a sample size issue there (he only played 14 games prior to injury), but his shooting form looks fluid and suggests that he should be a legitimate 38-40% shooter from deep. While Nesmith isn't a great athlete or defender, his 7'0" wingspan should help him hang at either the SG or SF spots. All in all, we're talking about a player who should be a starter, or at the very least a high-level rotational player.
Aaron Nesmith isn't going to put a team on his back, but he can help carry the load offensively given his shooting ability. That should make him a good fit for a team like New Orleans (#13) as they look to replace J.J. Redick down the road. He'd also be an excellent fit with Orlando (#16) as they eye more shooters/scorers.
It's hard to find a bad fit for a good shooting wing, but there are a few teams that may not have starting positions available. Phoenix (#10) already has Devin Booker and a few solid young SFs. Sacramento (#12) already has Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic (presuming they retain them.)
After that rant about delusions of grandeur with development prospects, let me try and talk you into a raw developmental prospect.
Like LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton went to play in the NBL during his gap year after high school. They were both top 10 prospects going in, but their stocks diverged from there. LaMelo Ball put up big numbers and locked himself into top 3 status. Hampton didn't showcase much (8.8 points per game on 41-30-68 shooting splits) and may drop out of the lottery altogether. But again, I'd caution us to consider context here. LaMelo Ball went to a bad team where he could jack up shots. Hampton played on a contending team that didn't spoon-feed him minutes.
Given that limited sample, I'm falling back on the "eye test" here. No doubt, Hampton's shot is a problem. He's a poor shooter now, and it may be 2-3 years before he straightens it out. At the same time, his size and explosion jumps out at you, particularly when he's attacking the basket. He also appears to be a mature and charismatic young man. That combo -- physical talent + basketball character -- tends to be a winning formula. There's some chance Hampton turns out to be a genuine star as a scoring lead guard. There's also a sizable chance he busts. Still, it's the type of gamble that teams in the late lottery should be considering.
In a PG-rich class, it'd be bold for Detroit (#8) to reach on R.J. Hampton. Still, he would fit there, as the team could groom him behind Derrick Rose for another year or two until he's ready to take over for major minutes. Any team that can afford him the luxury of patience would be a nice landing spot, even if it means going later in the draft to places like Boston (#14, #26) or Utah (#23.)
I'd be less bullish on R.J. Hampton in situations where he may have to play early and take his lumps. The N.Y. Knicks (#8) have struggled to develop point guards Frank Ntilkina and Dennis Smith already, and a new coaching staff doesn't make those concerns go away. Hampton would also have lower upside on teams that already have scoring guards locked in, like Sacramento (#12) or Portland (#16).
When Obi Toppin sees the list of names ahead of him, he should be stewing with rage. He's arguably the most productive player on the entire board. This past season at Dayton, he averaged 20.0 points on 63% shooting from the field. He's a good athlete and dunker, and he even hit 39% of his threes. At 6'9", he's a natural PF but he could theoretically play some SF or C too if need be. What else does a guy need to do to go in the top 5??
But while Toppin checks all the boxes on paper, I'm a little more skeptical. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Arizona PF Derrick Williams, who went # 2 in the 2011 draft. Many pundits thought Williams was the best player in the class, fresh on the heels of an awesome sophomore season that saw him average 19.5 points per game on 60% shooting and 57% (!) from three. The trouble is: Williams benefited from a small sample size from 3 that year (74 total). And while he was athletic in the dunking sense, he didn't have the hip movement to guard 3s or 4s effectively.
We see some of the same traits play out here with Toppin. He dominated this past season as a (22 year old) sophomore. Still, I'm doubtful that his three-point shooting is as good as the numbers suggest. I'm doubtful that his run-and-dunk athleticism translates to the defensive end, where he often looks stiff when changing direction. I can see a scenario where Toppin is a scoring big in the mold of a John Collins, but it's more likely to me that he'll be a scorer off the bench instead.
While I'm cool on Obi Toppin myself, I fully admit that I could be wrong and he may just end up being Rookie of the Year. That may happen if he plays on a team like Washington (#9) where his guards will be able to take a lot of pressure off and give him good opportunities to score. Cleveland (#5) would also make some sense if they trade Kevin Love.
If Toppin's defense is going to be bad, then he'd be a poor fit with Atlanta (#6). I also don't see much of a fit with Sacramento (#12) given the presence of Marvin Bagley III. In the long run, both may end up being smallball 5s.
We've all had this experience before. You'll go see a movie that you hear everyone rave about and you come away... underwhelmed. It's fine. It's OK. But you just don't get all the fuss about it.
Right out of that Silver Linings Playbook comes Isaac Okoro. His stats don't jump off the page: 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks. He's allegedly a great defensive player, but his dimensions (6'6" with a 6'8" wingspan) don't suggest "stopper." Worse yet, he's a poor shooter from distance (29% from three, 67% from the line.) The last time I got this sense of "meh-ness" was Jarrett Culver last year. I didn't understand how he went in the top 5, and I'm not going to understand how Okoro goes in the top 10 this year.
To be clear, I don't think Okoro (or Culver) is a BAD prospect, just that they're both overrated by the community. Okoro is definitely a strong kid who is active around the rim. He's a live body. He could theoretically improve his shooting and become a starter. Still, "potential starter" is not something that I want in a top 10 pick.
While I don't love Isaac Okoro myself, I can see some good fits on the board. Washington (#9) could use some thicker wings who can play solid defense. Portland (#16) is incredibly desperate for capable wings themselves.
With Okoro, I don't necessarily think the worst fits are a matter of skill set as much as expectation. If he goes as high as Chicago (#4) or Cleveland (#5), I suspect he'll disappoint in terms of the returns and garner some resentment from the fan base.
As oddly overrated as Isaac Okoro is (in my mind), Josh Green is oddly underrated. Okoro tends to go about 10 spots higher in mock drafts, but they seem nearly identical in terms of a head-to-head comparison. In fact, I had to go back and forth about which I'd rank higher. They're both good athletes for their position and should be backend starters at the next level. Okoro is thicker and better around the rim, while Green is further along as a shooter. Overall I leaned to Okoro because he had the size to match up with bigger SFs and has a little more of a bullying scorer gene in him, but it was a close race.
In fact, you can argue that Josh Green's selflessness will actually benefit him in the NBA. He's a "team guy," with an underrated passing ability and basketball IQ. The stats don't jump off the pages in that regard (2.6 assists, 1.6 turnovers), but he was also playing with a good college PG in Nico Mannion. As he moves to the NBA, he's unlikely to have the ball much either, but he projects to be an all-around glue guy who can help on both ends.
As with Isaac Okoro, Portland (#16) could be a nice landing spot for a solid wing player. And while New Orleans (#13) has a lot of athleticism already, it never hurts to have another viable wing. They tended to play small at the SG-SF spot, which hurt their defense overall. Playing Green could help them when they slide Brandon Ingram over to the 4 and Zion Williamson at the 5.
I don't see many "bad" fits for Josh Green on the board, but you'd prefer that he went to a team that intended to make him a part of the future. Minnesota (#17) may not be able to do that if they already have Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie. Brooklyn (#19) may not be looking for long-term projects since they're in a "win now" mode.
Tyrell Terry is rocketing up draft boards on account of his stellar shooting ability (41% from 3, 89% from the line) and his better-than-expected measurement of 6'3". It's only natural that pundits would start comparing him to stud shooters like Steph Curry.
That said, not every stud shooter is Steph Curry. Some are Seth Curry. Some are Quinn Cook. There's a slight chance Terry breaks out as a good starter, but there's a better than average chance he peaks as a rotational player instead. Still, he should be an asset to a team as a spacer, particularly if they run their offense through a playmaking forward (like a LeBron James).
And in case you're wondering, no he is NOT related to Jason Terry, although some of their skill sets do overlap as scoring guards with deep range.
If we presume that Tyrell Terry can be a Seth (not Steph) type player, then adding him to Dallas (#18) makes sense. He can develop behind Seth for a year or two as he gains weight, and then help complement Luka Doncic as a spacer after that. Similarly, he makes sense for Philadelphia (#21) as well. We'd still lock Ben Simmons into the starting PG role, but Terry could play alongside him in lineups or be used as a sparkplug off the bench.
Teams that may be eyeing Tyrell Terry as a surefire starter will have to be careful. For example, Phoenix (#10) needs an heir apparent for Ricky Rubio, but a Terry + Devin Booker combo may be problematic on the defensive end. Some other teams -- Brooklyn (#19) and Denver (#22) -- already have sharpshooter guards, so they don't have as strong of a need for this type of player.
We mentioned that LaMelo Ball may be the biggest boom/bust prospect in the class, likening him to gambling on Roulette. Enter Aleksej Pokusevski. "Gambling" may not even be doing it justice. This is like risking your family fortune on a bag of magic beans.
But hey, that worked for Jack, and it could work for an NBA team as well. I have a friend who works in coaching who raved about Pokusevski and considers him a top 10 prospect overall. After all, this is a legit 7'0" player with true perimeter skills. Playing for Olympiacos' development team, he averaged 16.7 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.0 steals, and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes. He hasn't even turned 19 years old yet, giving him an enormous amount of upside.
Still, he scares the hell out of me. He's listed at 7'0" and 200 pounds, with narrow shoulders that make you doubt how much weight he'll be able to carry in the long term. His body type doesn't remind you of any current NBA forwards; it reminds you of two kids wearing a trenchcoat.
All in all, Pokusevski seems like a great prospect to invest in, presuming you don't have to withdraw from the bank until 2023 or 2024. To that end, teams should only consider them if they feel confident in their long-term job security.
If the goal is to send Aleksej Pokusevski to a good, stable organization, then you can't do much better than San Antonio (#11). Even if Gregg Popovich retires from coaching, R.C. Buford should be around to help the next coach (Becky Hammon? Will Hardy? R.C.'s son Chase?). And if the goal is to find a good stable GM, Sam Presti and Oklahoma City (#25) would be a great home as they prepare for a long-term rebuild.
Orlando (#15) always values length, but they have limited space left in the frontcourt and limited leg room left on that poor charter plane.
2021 Draft V2
1 - New York Jets - Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson - Jets are still winless? Yup. I think its pretty clear at this point that Darnold isnt the future and Trevor Lawrence is the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck. Honestly, it really doesnt matter what team picks here, because I'm near 100% sure Lawrence should go 1. Jets land themselves a franchise QB. Lets hope Adam Gase isnt around to ruin him as well.
2 - Jacksonville Jaguars - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State - Losing is winning for Jacksonville right now, with both Minshew and Luton looking like capable near starters but neither being THE guy for the Jaguars. Those problems should be set to rest with the arrival of Justin Fields, however. Fields has been utterly electric this year for the Buckeyes and would be a nice shot in the arm for a Jacksonville passing attack that has been pretty poor this decade.
3 - Dallas Cowboys - Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon - The Great Wall of Dallas must be a distant memory at this point for the Cowboys, with the current line a shadow of its former self. Tyron Smith’s contract is
4 - New York Giants - Ja’marr Chase, WR, LSU - This was a close one here. The Giants really need an inside linebacker and Darius Slayton has been a great player for them. But Jamarr Chase is just that good. And the rest of the Giants receivers outside of Slayton dont exactly inspire any confidence. Daniel Jones might or might not still be the Giants QB of the future, but Jamarr Chase should absolutely be their WR1 going forward.
5 - Washington Football Team - Trey Lance, QB, NDSU - Haskins is probably done. I dont foresee any sort of happy conclusion to his time in Washington, and thus Ron Riveria is probably going to look to install his own guy at QB, with Alex Smith obviously not having it and Kyle Allen having peaked at handing off to CMC. Trey Lance might not be a near finished product the top 2 QBs are, but he has gobs of potential and has a ceiling that might even surpass Fields or Lawrence. Will Trey Lance end up being Mahomes/Josh Allen or just another big armed bust? That’ll be up to the Washington coaching staff, but he’s a fantastic prospect for Washington to figure out.
6 - Chicago Bears (Via Los Angeles Chargers - Sends 1.16, 3.80, 2022 CHI 1st, 2022 CHI Second for 1.06, 2022 LAC 3rd) - Zach WIlson, QB, BYU - After watching that horrid display of the Chicago offense on Sunday, I think it's clear the Bears NEED a different QB if they want to win it all. They were anemic against a pretty horrid Titans defense and with 3 of the top 4 QB prospects off the board, the Bears bite the bullet. With an aging defense and their Super Bowl window closing fast, they jump up high to draft Zach Wilson. Wilson has been flying up the draft boards recently, torching defenses on his possible Heisman campaign. He’s got great mobility, especially when it comes to extending plays, and solid pocket presence. Most of all, there’s a bit of reckless brilliance that reminds me a little of guys like Stafford, Mahomes and Allen. Its a fine line to balance and Wilson does have his flaws - such as too much aggressiveness and concerns about his shoulder’s durability, but if the Bears can keep Allen Robinson, then I can foresee a very fruitful connection in the future between the two, as well as a chance for Wilson to be the best QB in Bears history (Yes, its that bad).
7 - Miami (Via Houston Texans) - Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami - Miami’s pass rush wasnt as anemic as it was last year, but it certainly still isnt good. They need help there, and Rousseau could be the replacement they have been looking for ever since they lost Robert Quinn and Cam Wake. Rousseau is still very raw, but the potential here is sky high and his punch is elite. If he can develop his this repertoire some more, he could be as scary as someone like Chase Young, who he was able to keep up with in 2019.
8 - Cincinnati Bengals - Alex Leatherwood, OT/OG, Alabama - Parsons and Surtain are tempting here, but when you just drafted a franchise QB #1 overall, protecting him should be priority 1, 2, and 3, especially after how many hits Joe Burrow took to begin the year. The Bengals need line help everywhere, especially on the right side, and Leatherwood is a 4 year starter who can excel at both OT and OG. He should be an immediate upgrade to either Bobby Hart or Trey Hopkins/Alex Redmond/whoever the hell starts at RG for the Bengals and hopefully significantly improve the protection of Burrow.
9 - Carolina Panthers - Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State - Miach Parsons is a special linebacker, athletic, versatile, rangy and smart. He’s disruptive everywhere, and his ability to slip blocks and penetrate the offensive line definitely shows his background as a defensive end. Outside of perhaps not being the most consistent run defender, something that's barely an issue, the only flaws are nitpicky. There isnt much else to say about this pick. A year after losing Luke Kuechly, Carolina has their replacement.
10 - Atlanta Falcons - Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama - Pretty easy pick here. Surtain II is an elite cover corner in every way and should be a lock down guy day 1 for whatever team he starts on, which is a boon for the Falcons. With Matt Ryan and Julio Jones both aging and their title window almost nailed shut, Surtain II might be able to pry it open just enough to where the Falcons can go for one last shot at a ring.
11 - Detroit Lions - DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama - There’s been a lot of rumblings about Kenny Golloday’s unhappiness in Detroit, and although I do think they ought to pay him, if they cant come to an agreement and franchise tag him, they’ll likely need a replacement. And thats not even mentioning both Marvin Jones Jr and Danny Amendola are also free agents at the end of this year. That makes WR a pretty big need for the Lions. Enter DeVonta Smith, who’s surpassed his teammate Waddle as the #2 WR on my big board. Any concerns he had last year are all gone now, especially with Waddle out. It’s been the DeVonta showdown at Alabama, punctuated with a 200+ yard 4 TD performance against Mississippi State. Smith has Charmin soft hands and fantastic route running, and most importantly, gets fantastic separation. He’s a bit thin at only 175, but his frame should fill out nicely once he gets to the NFL. Whether he’s the Lions new #1 or a #2, either way he should be an elite weapon for Stafford to play with.
12 - Minnesota Vikings - Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State - The Vikings OL has two possible building blocks of the future in Ezra Cleveland and Brian O’Neil as well as an OK starter in Garrett Bradbury, but that leaves two rather large holes on the offensive line. Dakota Dozier’s a free agent at the end of this year, Cleveland might end up moving to OT, Pat Eiflen hasnt shown much to be excited about and I think the only time Vikings fans want to see Dru Samia on the field is if he’s starting for the opponents. Wyatt Davis is the last of the truly elite prospects in this class, an elite guard prospect who will run over anyone in his way and a plug, play and forget guy from Day 1. Count this pick as killing 3 birds with one stone. Helping Cousins, helping Dalvin Cook and the run game, and protecting whoever the Vikings pick as the QB of the future.
13 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Via New England Patriots via San Francisco 49ers - Sends 1.22, 3.66 for 1.13) - Dillion Radunz, OT, NDSU - After drafting their QBOTF in Justin Fields, the Jaguars now need to protect him. And with so much draft capital on their hands, they part ways with some of it in order to move up and grab the last OT I could consider a possible day 1 starter, OT Dillion Radunz out of NDSU. There are some question marks about athleticism and competition level, but Radunz’s technique is elite, and his toughness is unquestionable. He should be a welcome addition to the Jaguars offensive line, and will provide solid protection for Fields.
14 - Denver Broncos - Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State - From what Ive seen of the Broncos, Drew Lock has shown plenty of promise, and Garrett Bolles has actually been playing at a near elite level all season. That leaves one last problem for the Broncos, their secondary. Bryce Callahan has been fantastic all year and I've heard some praise for Michael Ojemudia, but AJ Bouye has been a disappointment, and that's when he’s on the field. Shaun Wade should be able to be that final piece in the Broncos secondary they need. It was close between Farley and Wade, but with the season the Broncos have had, Wade’s ability to stay on the field was the tiebreaker. Of course, that's only a bonus to Wade’s fantastic coverage ability, especially from the slot, and his run defense reminds me of Trae Waynes’s ability to stop the run at corner. With how complex NFL offenses are now, Wade’s ability to be both a slot and outside corner means he can follow a #1 WR wherever they go, which is surely should help him become an elite CB at the next level.
15 - San Francisco 49ers - Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech - The 49ers have 0 total CBs under contract in 2022. Yes, ZERO. That makes CB a huge huge need for them. Fortunately, Caleb Farley has dropped into their laps. He’s an outstanding press corner, and mirrors opposing receivers so well that he might as well be running their routes. He’s long, physical, and impressively sticky, and should be an elite outside corner for the 49ers. Grabbing Farley would allow for the 49ers to more easily part ways with Sherman or Verrett, as the #1 CB spot should not be an issue for them anymore.
16 - Los Angeles Chargers (Via Chicago Bears) - Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma - Herbert looks like a franchise QB so far, so the Chargers look to fix the most glaring issue on their team, their offensive line. With plenty of experience in Oklahoma’s zone blocking scheme and having protected both Kyler Murray and Spencer Rattler, Humphrey should slot into the Charger’s ZBS scheme perfectly. Thats not even mentioning his football smarts or his leadership, both of which would be huge boons for the Chargers offense. Humphrey should be a centerpiece in the Chargers offensive line for years to come.
17 - Miami Dolphins (via Cleveland Browns - sends 1.21, 3.87 for 1.17, 4.114) - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama - How can anyone pass up reuniting Tua and his old college buddy? Of course, Waddle isnt just Tua’s former WR. He’s an explosive receiver who shreds the turf just like his former teammate Henry Ruggs III, a player with a great catch radius and the ability to dart to the holes in coverages, and a great kick/punt returner. Adding a burner like Waddle who can stretch the field should only help Tua, Parker, Williams, and the rest of the Miami offense.
18 - Indianapolis Colts - Jaycee Horn, CB, - Xavier Rhodes has had a resurgence for the Colts, but it's hard to say how long that will last, and there have been issues with the other corners getting torched. Jaycee Horn should help with that problem. A physical aggressive corner who knows how to properly use his size as leverage against opposing WRs, Horn would benefit greatly from Rhodes, and could be a great compliment alongside him as well. You want to see him at his best? Watch his game against Auburn and think of the ceiling.
19 - Philadelphia Eagles - Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia - The Eagles WR situation was looking dire, but thanks to the emergence of second year WR Travis Fulgham, they can look to shore up another issue. The Eagles secondary has been pretty terrible for a few years now, and they need to find a solid answer. Tyson Campbell has been excellent at Georgia. He’s a bit thin at 6-2 185, but possesses outstanding athleticism and has very loose hips as well as great agility, making him an extremely interesting prospect. He is a bit raw and would need some development, but if the Eagles can properly develop him, Campbell can be an island in the NFL.
20 - Arizona Cardinals - Jay Tufele, iDL, USC - The Cardinals passing defense is pretty terrible, and corner is a definite need. However, there’s more ways to improve a passing defense than just adding corners, and Tufele is too much value to pass up here for the Cardinals. Tufele can be a dominant force at 1 or 3T, with his explosiveness and powerful hands, which allows him to be utterly unblockable at times. And adding such an interior force would boost the Cardinals pass rush even more, which could also help improve their defense. If Tufele can become more consistent, there’s no good reason why the Cardinals defensive line can’t become one of the best in the NFL.
21 - Cleveland Browns (Via Miami Dolphins) - Kwity Paye, Michigan, EDGE -Myles Garrett is having a DPOY level season, but once again he’s missing someone disruptive on the opposite side of him. Oliver Vernon is gone soon, and Clayborn is no long term solution. They need to grab the compliment to Garrett, who although is a one-man wrecking ball, is still one man. Kwity Paye is a very strong power rusher who can uses his bull rush well to set the LOS. He’s a tank with fantastic explosiveness and a pretty high ceiling, and his ability to cause problems against the opposing offensive line should be welcome on the Browns defense.
22 - New England Patriots (Via Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams) - Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida - TEs and the Patriots, name a more iconic duo. BB cant ignore BPA here any longer, and grabs the stud TE out of Florida in Kyle Pitts. He isnt in the same mold as the traditionally favored type the Patriots like, but he’s at least a willing blocker and can be coached up in that area. More importantly, He’s an extremely versatile weapon in the way that most modern TEs are with fantastic routes, soft hands, a huge catch radius and an excellent understanding of how to beat zone, able to line up all over and cause issues for the opposing defense. With the receiving corps is more barren than the Sahara, especially thanks to some brutal misses at WR Cough N’Keal Harry Cough, Pitts should be a great weapon for BB to play around with, and can carry the mantle of excellent Patriots tight ends that have been held by Gronkowski, Hernandez and Coates.
23 - Las Vegas Raiders - Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia - The Raiders EDGE corps isnt barren the way it was two years ago, but Maxx Crosby hasnt lived up to the hype he had after a stellar rookie season, and although Clelin Ferrell is an elite run defender, he’s nowhere near as good of a pass rusher. They need to add someone who can GET after the QB, and although there are better EDGEs left, I think Ojulari is the best pure pass rusher on the board. He’s got fantastic hand usage and his low center of gravity lets him bend the corner through contact really well. There’s some work to be done on run defense, but Ojulari does give me flashes of Ngakoue at times, and his versatility would allow for Ferrell to slide inside and be a mismatch there. This might be a little high on his currently, but I dont think Ojulari is someone who will end up rising on draft boards in the future
24 - Baltimore Ravens (Via Tennessee Titans - sends 1.27, 4.112 for 1.24) - Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee - With the retirement of Marshall Yanda, the Ravens have had a huge hole at LG that they still haven't been able to fill. And with their offense becoming more and more run heavy due to the addition of JK Dobbins and Lamar Jackson’s rushing abilities, one guy came to mind here. Trey Smith, the OG out of Tennessee, seemed like the natural fit. Smith is an absolute road grader in the run game, absolutely flattening whatever defensive players who are unfortunately enough to get into his way. He’s solid enough in pass protection, but more importantly, his fantastic run blocking paired alongside Orlando Brown Jr should lend itself to an absolutely terrifying run game from the Ravens.
25 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas - The Buccaneers OL was absolutely dominated by the Saints, and Donovan Smith really isnt the answer at LT. osmi is an intriguing prospect with tons of athleticism and excellent smarts, someone who wins via brains and technique rather than pure brawn. With enough practice and proper coaching, Cosmi and Wirfs can be excellent bookends for the Buccaneers in the future.
26 - New York Jets (Via Seattle Seahawks) - Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota - Trevor Lawrence is now in New York, but he needs weapons if they want him to succeed. Denzel Mims is still a prospect, and although Jamison Crowder has been good, I dont think he’s anyone’s idea of a #1 WR. Thats why Ive got New York picking Bateman. Bateman’s a big play machine, someone who not only runs great routes, but gobbles up YAC once he has the ball. He should be a fantastic addition to the Jets offense, as a reliable target for Lawrence, and could build a fantastic rapport with him.
27 - Tennessee Titans (Via Baltimore Ravens) - Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas - The Titans went up against a Bengals Oline that was starting 3rd stringers and recorded 0 sacks. Thats all I need to say about how terrible the Titans pass rush is. Landry is still pretty promising, but at this point Clowney is neither an answer to the pass rush woes nor is he likely staying long term in Tennessee, and Derick Roberson has had 1 good game against a terrible Bears OL. Joseph Ossai could be the answer here, though. A quick trigger pass rusher who has plenty of room for improvement, Ossai presents a tantalizing option for Tennessee as someone who has the ability to become a very dominant pass rusher. He’d be a great fit in the Titans hybrid defense, and could grow into a cornerstone alongside Simmons and Landry on the DL.
28 - Buffalo Bills - Josh Myers, iOL, Ohio State - The Bills have been carried by the brilliance of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and the pass attack, but the rushing attack has been terrible this year, ranking in the bottom third. Replacing one of their iOL with Josh Myers is a good first step to fixing that issue. Myers is a very mobile iOL who is a great anchor and provides stability in both the pass and run game. He was an integral part of helping JK Dobbins dominate at Ohio State, and would hopefully allow the flagging run game to pick up potency once again, as well as being a stalwart on the line.
29 - Green Bay Packers - Terrace Marshall Jr, WR, LSU - Davante Adams might be the best WR in the league, but there’s a reason why he gets so many targets from Aaron Rodgers. The rest of the Packers WR corps doesnt inspire that much confidence. Not to mention that the talent is too much here to pass up. Marshall has been fantastic at LSU with Chase out - which is more impressive with how bad LSU has been, and he’s got all the physical traits to be an elite WR. He rarely gets caught in press coverage and with his ball skills and frame, excels in contested catch situations. He’ll be a fantastic addition alongside Adams for the Packers offense, as someone who is good enough to be a WR#1 himself, someone who should be a complete mismatch going against CB2s.
30 - Kansas City Chiefs - Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama - The Chiefs overall have been elite once again this year, but there’s one clear flaw in their team, the run defense, which ranks in the bottom 5 in the league. Good thing Dylan Moses is available here. He’s an elite athlete with plenty of range and can hit like a truck. He also knows when to wrap up and is generally a sure tackler, which is a rather underappreciated trait. He does need to improve his ability to diagnose plays and shed blocks, but overall, he’s a force at ILB, and would greatly help out Chiefs ailing run defense.
31 - Carolina Panthers (via New Orleans Saints - sends 2.42, 4.106, 2022 3rd for 1.31) - Kyle Trask, QB, Florida - Teddy Bridgewater is a good stopgap, but the Panthers need a long term solution at QB if they dont want to waste CMC’s career. So, they trade up for Kyle Trask in a move reminiscent of the Ravens trade for Lamar Jackson in 2018 to secure the 5th year option. Trask is still very raw, but he’s been excellent at Florida, and has especially excellent in short routes and RPO plays. He’s also quite good at extending plays, and his ability to manipulate the defense with his eyes is very advanced. With CMC as a safety valve, Trask should be able to be a very nice fit for Joe Brady’s offense, which has excelled with Bridgewater and Burrow, both of whom are very accurate passers the same way Trask is.
32 - Pittsburgh Steelers - Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson - The Steelers dont have a ton of needs, and OT is probably the safest pick here, but James Conner is an FA after this year and there are questions if the Steelers should pay him big money. Travis Etienne is also the best RB in the class and easily BPA here. Etienne is an elite RB, who can break off huge chunks of yardage at a time and rip defenses apart with his burst. He’s also improved his catching ability to where he can be a every down RB. With Pittsburgh still a SB contender for the near future and possibly question marks on James Connor’s future, Etienne seems like a great fit here to both replace Connor’s production and keep Pittsburgh in title contention for the near future.