Welcome y’all to the third edition of the Hird It Here First Mock Draft! I last put out a mock draft on 11/24, so while we have not had much action at the top, with Cole Anthony and LaMelo Ball out with injury, and James Wiseman out initially due to an NCAA suspension that has now spiraled into a season-long blackout on Wiseman tape with his exodus from the university, I have had some action on my board.
The biggest change, however, has to be the introduction of mock NBA teams, turning this exercise into a legitimate predictive exercise rather simply an analysis of the players themselves. I found walking through this team-by-team, weighing the wants and needs of the team at the moment and in the long-term, really putting myself into the shoes of the front office, was awfully worthwhile. For instance, in the simulation I did, Golden State ended up with the 2nd overall pick, and the Knicks with the 4th. In this exercise, I simply could not bring myself to make any selection at #2. Was I really going to bring in young LaMelo Ball to an aging contender? On a team that currently has Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and D’Angelo Russell? Taking a guard was out of the question. But could I really bring myself to take James Wiseman or even Jaden McDaniels #2 overall? Even in this weak draft it seemed wrong. There was clearly value on the board in both Cole and LaMelo that would be intensely desirable to several teams, much more desirable than James Wiseman is to the Warriors.
So what did I do? I mentally shopped the pick. It took very little time to find a buyer – the Knicks were sitting only two picks down, and it seems clear that they are in dire need of a long-term point guard prospect, given the regression of Dennis Smith Jr. and his likely status as a trade candidate, and the natural limitations of Elfrid Payton (not to mention his constant injury problems) limiting his long-term starter potential. Not to mention, the Knicks have a clear connection to Cole Anthony that doesn’t come around too often – Greg Anthony, Cole’s father, played almost 300 games for the Knicks over his first four years in the NBA, starting a total of 74 games and becoming a bit of a cult favorite in NY – helped by the fact that his tenure with the Knicks coincided with the prime of Patrick Ewing and the greatest stretch of NY Knicks basketball since the Clyde Frazier/Willis Reed teams of yesteryear. Additionally, Cole is an incredibly talented basketball player, with pretty high-level athleticism, even compared to NBA guards. Plus, the Warriors can still be pretty sure that they can snag James Wiseman, or could even package the #4 pick for further assets in a D’Lo trade.
There are other clear changes as well; many due simply to the new outlook on a few players who have proven their worth, one way or another. Tyrese Haliburton and Obi Toppin were consecutive picks in version 2.0 of my mock draft, all the way down at 24th and 25th. In version 3.0? Haliburton is a lottery pick at 12th, and Obi Toppin is quite possibly the biggest faller in this mock draft, dropping all the way down to 17th (Obi is 11th on my personal Big Board) due more to his positional fit than anything else. Other players such as Zeke Nnaji and Landers Nolley II have proven to be legitimate NBA prospects in their first year of NCAA play, jumping onto mock drafts everywhere after being universally left off in the preseason. Aaron Nesmith and Jordan Nwora have solidified their reputations as marksman shooters and have ramped up their volume from 3 in remarkable ways. Paul Reed and Saddiq Bey have continued to show a level of coordination and skill that is rare in players at their size.
When all is said and done though, this is still such a far cry from the breadth of talent we had at the top of the draft just two years ago, in the 2018 draft. Jaren Jackson Jr. has not progressed as rapidly as some thought in his second year, though I caution heavily against weighing a player’s second year improvement at a higher value than his second year production compared to draft projections, rather than his value after his impressive, unexpectedly impressive rookie year. All five of 2018’s top 5 – Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Jackson Jr., and Young – would be clear #1 overall pick favorites over the field of 2020. Looking a little deeper in that draft, guys like Collin Sexton, (#8 overall) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, (#11 overall) or Michael Porter Jr. (#14 overall) would have real claims to go #1 overall in 2020. And to flip it around – where does Anthony Edwards go in 2018? No way he is a better prospect than Doncic (#3), and both Ayton (#1) and Bagley (#2) were drafted over him, so we can start at the #4 overall pick. Would you take Edwards over Jaren Jackson Jr.? Some certainly would. Efficient self-created offense is the crux of winning basketball, and Anthony Edwards gives you the opportunity to develop a guy into that level of player. Jaren Jackson Jr. has clear complementary superstar upside – he does best splitting minutes strategically between the 4 and the 5, which means having a three-man rotation of starting caliber big men is not only feasible, it is preferable. His offensive skillset is also clearly complementary, with his off-ball shooting potential – is getting a guy that you expect to be in his prime a 2nd or 3rd best player on a contending team better than a guy who has a chance, however slim, of developing into a best player on a title team? It’s a reasonable debate to have (hence why I just had it) but in the end Jackson Jr. is too developed already in his first two seasons for me to take the flier on Edwards. Next?
Well, I think we might want to take Trae Young at #5 over Edwards, (funnily enough, the Hawks were the team I project to pick Edwards) which brings us down to #6 overall, where Anthony Edwards supplants Mo Bamba as the #6 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Woo!
However, it is unwise to live life only looking at the negatives. Where are the bright spots in this draft? Well, for one, look at all these international guys in the first round! It is by no means a new trend, but certainly one worth considering as the NBA continues to explore new markets to tap – namely overseas. Also, the two NBL guys are doing pretty well! That’s pretty cool! Jalen Suggs, the #10 overall player in the upcoming 2020 recruiting class recently committed to Gonzaga, but left open the possibility of going overseas, if the right opportunity opened up. Right now, Australia (and New Zealand!) have been the most prominent lures of young talent looking to escape the NCAA, but if the NCAA continues to embarrass itself as it has recently, and publicity continues to tank, there is no reason to think more and more leagues wouldn’t begin to capitalize on this opening. As of now, the NBA is a few years away from addressing the age limit that is forcing kids to spend a year overseas, and as such, there are a few more years for the NBL to grab a couple of talented young players that don’t just make the teams some money with a buyout, but actually contribute to entertaining basketball within their league – at least for the time they are there.
A thought to leave you with – if we are seeing kids going overseas rather than college despite having great grades and being model citizens, why wouldn’t kids start going over earlier? Why not go play for FC Barcelona’s B-Team at the start of 9th grade? It would be a heck of a transition for a 15-year-old to make, but the family could move too, and at the end of the day, it just takes one.
Be sure to check out Version 2.0 https://thedraftclass.com/2019/11/24/hird-it-here-nba-mock-draft-2019-v2-0/
Without further ado, I present to you: Version 3.0
|#||NBA Team||Player Name||Exp||Pos|
|2||NYK (via GSW)||Cole Anthony||FR||PG|
|4||GSW (via NYK)||James Wiseman||FR||C|
|11||BOS (via MEM)||Tyrese Haliburton||SO||PG|
|17||ATL (via BKN)||Obi Toppin||JR||C|
|19||MIL (via IND)||Isaiah Joe||SO||SG|
|20||BKN (via PHI)||Matthew Hurt||FR||PF|
|25||OKC (via DEN)||Paul Reed||JR||PF|
|27||MIA||Landers Nolley II||SO||SG|
|30||CHA (via BOS/MIL)||Vernon Carey||FR||C|
|31||PHI (via ATL)||Trevelin Queen||SR||SG|
|32||DAL (via GSW)||Jalen Smith||SO||C|
|33||PHI (via NYK)||Xavier Tillman||SR||PF|
|34||CHA (via CLE)||Patrick Williams||FR||SF|
|35||NOLA (via WAS)||Trendon Watford||FR||SF|
|37||SAC (via DET)||Kahlil Whitney||FR||SF|
|38||DEN (via SAC)||Jahmi’us Ramsey||FR||SG|
|39||WAS (via CHI)||Aaron Henry||SO||SG|
|41||CHI (via MEM)||Romeo Weems||FR||SF|
|42||NYK (via CHA)||Cassius Winston||SR||PG|
|43||MEM (via PHX)||Josiah-Jordan James||FR||SG|
|47||BOS (via BKN)||Killian Tillie||SR||PF|
|50||UTA (via PHI)||Jon Teske||SR||C|
|51||PHI (via DAL)||Grant Riller||SR||PG|
|52||DAL (via UTA)||Malcolm Cazalon||FR||SG|
|55||SAC (via HOU)||Markus Howard||SR||PG|
|56||BKN (via DEN)||Filip Petrusev||SO||PF|
|58||CHA (via BOS)||E.J. Montgomery||SO||PF|
|59||ORL (via LAL)||Arturs Zagars||FR||PG|
|60||NOLA (via MIL)||Dru Smith||SR||PG|