Tonight is the NBA draft. I love the NBA draft. I used to watch all the picks when I was a kid, and even through my first few years of college. I still, to this day, follow every pick on my phone on one of my sports apps. I, for some unknown reason, am enamored by where the top players get drafted.
For example, I was a stunned as everyone oelse when the Cavs took Anthony Bennett first overall. I was rooting hard for guys like Hasheem Thabeet and Brandon Jennings were lottery picks. I'll never forget that I fought hard that the Bucks won the trade that sent Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavericks for Robert "Tractor" Traylor. I vividly remember thinking the Vancouver Grizzlies totally blew it when they selected Bryant Reeves in the top three. My exact words were, "don't take that country fed white boy". Needless to say, the NBA draft, and only the NBA draft, has played a big part in ,y sports fandom. I also love the pageantry that goes into the whole night. I also like how fast paced it is. It is fun. For something so ridiculous, I love it. So, much like I did with the NFL draft in April, I will be ranking my top 10 prospects, and give you 5 guys that I think will not live up to the hype. I'm not going to do a mock draft because that is an exercise in futility. It is like picking the perfect March Madness bracket. No one has ever gotten even close to 90 percent of the draft correct. I like doing the top 10 and not so top 5 instead. I will also do in descending order. Alright, lets get started.
My number 10 player is PJ Washington from Kentucky. He is big, physical, can shoot, and will get better in the NBA, and he is one of the few Kentucky guys that benefited from coming back for another season. That made his draft stock soar. I feel like he will be a better version of David West, who was a multiple All Star. Washington is legit.
At number 9 I have Darius Garland. I know a ton of people have him much higher, and I am falling in that "potential" trap, but this kid was amazing in high school, and his 4 games at Vanderbilt were pretty good. He reminds me so much of Damian Lillard. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor. You have to guard him. He is also a good passer with a high IQ. The only knock, and why I have him at 9 and not 4, is the fact that he tore an Achilles, and only played 4 games. He has so much potential, but he will have to prove that he was not just a high school wunderkind. He has a whole lot to prove.
At number 8 I have Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga. I think I might be higher on him than any of the other "draft experts". You all know I love older college players. I pushed for Buddy Hield to be the number one pick in his draft. Well Clarke was a transfer from SDSU, refined his jumper and became a solid all around player while at Gonzaga. He was the best player on a team that spent a good amount at the top of the rankings last year. He will also understand that he has a role to play. He doesn't need the ball all the time. He doesn't have to score. He doesn't need to be flashy. He is the exact player that every team should want. He is going to be so good, and I think, because I believe he will slide past the lottery, that we will all look back in 3 or 4 years and think, damn Brandon Clarke is a good professional basketball player.
At number 7 I have Coby White. This kid is a flash of lightening, can shoot the three and plays like a traditional point guard. He is like Russell Westbrook, except his is a much more willing passer. He had a great ACC and NCAA tournament, and has been apparently lights out in private workouts. I also love his afro. Coby White is going to be good, but he has potential to be great. If he could land with Phoenix or Chicago, that would be best. Coby White is good.
At number 6 I have Jaxson Hayes from Texas. You cannot teach height, and this kid has a ton of it. He also proved to be a solid rim protector and rebounder in his one year in college. He can also score in the post, and shoot a little from the outside. But, he is very raw and young. It will take time, but I see him as being a better pro than John Collins, who I think is already pretty good. Hayes willingness to defend will keep him on the court as a rookie, and from there on out, he will only get better with coaching. I feel like he is the best traditional big in the draft.
At number 5 I have Nassir Little from UNC. Hear me out. I know he did not live up to the recruiting hype in college, but this kid is freakishly athletic, and if you want to take a chance, and hit a grand slam in the mid to late lottery, I wouldn't hesitate for one second in taking Little. He is the type of player, given the proper coaching, could turn out to be a star. Remember when Dwayne Wade went 10th overall? Or when Rashard Lewis didn't get picked until round 2? I feel like Little has that type of star potential if he is put in the right position.
At number 4 I have Little's teammate, Cam Johnson. Again, I know this is much higher than most have him, but the kid can shoot threes at a high clip, and isn't that what you want from a 6'7 guard in the modern NBA? He could very well be the next Klay. He has the ability to be that good of a shooter. He was lights out in college, and I can see that easily projecting to the NBA. If he gets picked by a team like Sacramento or Cleveland, I think they'd be delighted to have a knock down shooter from outside.
At number 3 I have a tie between Jarrett Culver and Deandre Hunter. Maybe this is unfair, or I should have done a top 11, but I don't care. After watching these 2 face off in the title game, I loved both of their games. Culver may not have had the best shooting game, but he can get to the rim, and he can shoot the jumper. He can also get to the line. And his defense is legit. He is such a good defender. Again, if you can defend, you can stay on the floor and learn the rest of the game. Culver will be longtime pro. Hunter is almost as good a defender, and he can hit the open shot. He made so many big time threes in the biggest game of his college career. He was the reason Virginia won the title. That game, even though I already loved him before, put him over the edge for me. I have so much faith in Hunter and his ability to become not just a good pro, but an All Star.
At number 2 I have Zion Williamson. Again, here me out. Zion is one of the best athletic talents I have ever watched in the college game. He has thunderous dunks, which I love, and he plays hard defense. He is going to single handily going to save the New Orleans franchise. My only questions are, will he get into better shape because he will not be able to over power pros, and can he develop a shot. I think he can do both, but I keep going back to these 2 things when I think about the draft. I know he will be the top pick, and he will sell tickets, and I think he will be good, I just don't see him as the top player in this draft.
My top player, coming in at number one, is Ja Morant. I love this kid. I love his motor. I love his dunking ability. I love his relentless will to get to the rim. I love that he made his jumper more consistently this year. I love that he is a willing passer. I love that we got to see him, the national we that is, in the tournament this year. I love that he is a small school kid. I do not dislike anything about Morant. I have zero doubts that he will be an absolute star, and I love that Memphis is going to take him because they are the closest professional basketball team to me, and I can watch him play a ton next year. Morant is my guy. He is legit.
Now lets get to the guys that I don't think will be as good as projected.
At number 5 I have Rui Hachimura. Now, I like Hachimura, I just think he should have gone back to school for one more year to really hone his skills. He tested the waters last year, but came back to improve. But, he didn't really improve on the things I was hoping he would improve on. Sure, he is an okay rebounder, and can score in the post. But, his jumper is weak, he got exposed on defense, and the fact that Clarke surpassed him as the guy shows me that he needs more work. I hope I'm wrong on Hachimura, but I don't see it with him.
At number 4 I have Bol Bol. I know he has plummeted down draft boards, but I feel like that is for dumb reasons like, he has outside hobbies. So what? That shouldn't matter. But what worries me about him is the injury he sustained this year, and his frail upper body. He is so tall, but he is rail thin. Guys like Draymond Green or Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol are going to destroy him when he is defending them, and they aren't even the best of the best. Bol is about as raw as they get in this draft.
At number 3 I have Romeo Langford. This kid was supposed to be the savior in Indiana, and they stunk this year. I watched him get bullied by Michigan this year. He couldn't do anything until the game was already decided. He needs a ton of work and time. He is not a lottery pick, and at time during the college season, he looked a step slow and confused. I think whoever takes him, especially if he goes in the lottery, is going to be upset when they trade or cut him in two years.
At number 2 I have Cam Reddish. If Little didn't live up to the hype, Reddish was a total "one and one" bust. He flat out disappeared at times during this past season. I forgot he was on Duke. I then forgot that he was the top recruit on that team. He is nothing more than potential. He didn't show me anything that jumped off the screen when I watched him play last year. He was non existent during the season, and in the tournament, when he could've really made a name for himself, he did nothing. I cannot believe this kid is a surefire lottery pick.
And my number one guy that I have no faith in is RJ Barrett. Yes, I understand he will be a very high lottery pick, but come on, how is he not a very, very, very poor man's Kobe Bryant? He has serious tunnel vision and only looks to score. There were times, and I loathe Duke basketball, where I would yell at him to pass the ball to Zion. He just puts his head down and tries to score. His jumper is also wack as hell. It is broken. He may have averaged 4 assists a game, but that was pure luck, or leak out passes to Zion for a dunk. It was a very hollow 4 assists. Barrett is going to go to New York, and he and Dennis Smith Jr will be fighting over shots all season, and the Knicks will win 15 games again. I just cannot get on the bandwagon for this kid. He is too self focused for me. I don't see it.
Okay, there is my "expert" opinion on 15 players that will get picked tonight. We will have to wait a couple of years to see if I was right. But, I am very excited to see where everyone gets picked, and I will have my eyes on the three Wolverines in the draft tonight. Yeah, the NBA draft is here. Get pumped people.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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