This year’s NBA draft feels more unpredictable than usual, with rumours flying everywhere of teams looking to move up and down.
And of course, there will inevitably be a trade that no one could have seen coming because as fluid as the draft is, the decision-making of teams will change in real time.
With that said, here’s a round-up of some of the biggest rumours making the rounds on draft day.
Teams lining up for Doncic
No one seems to know what direction Vlade Divac will go in, but Marvin Bagley has been the name most linked with the Kings in the lead-up. If Sacramento indeed select the Duke product, that could open the floodgates at three.
However, they’ll also have no shortage of suitors for a trade, as teams are expected to make a run at the pick to nab Doncic for themselves, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Mannix.
Doncic is considered one of the best international prospects to ever enter the draft and was in the mix for the top pick before Phoenix seemed to settle on Ayton.
If Atlanta aren’t as enamored with him as other teams, moving further down in the lottery while netting additional assets may the move.
Grizzlies trying to package four and Parsons
Like Atlanta, the Memphis Grizzlies could be willing to move down in the draft, but with the caveat that their trading partner must take on Chandler Parsons’ contract, according to Givony.
Parsons, who has played a total of 42 games over the past two seasons due to injuries, is owed $49.2 million over the next two years.
What offers the Grizzlies get for the fourth pick will depend on who’s still available, especially if Doncic is still on the board.
Memphis favour Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr, according to the report, which means they would only want to move down a couple picks to ensure they can land their man. That would put Dallas at five, Orlando at six and Chicago at seven as the most-likely trade partners.
Bamba number five
They could also reportedly make a deal with Chicago and move down to seven to select Michael Porter Jr, who is a favourite of the Mavericks’ ownership.
Dallas may also receive an offer from the New York Knicks, who met with Bamba in New York on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley.
The Knicks hold the ninth pick and Bamba is expected to be long gone by then. However, outside of their own selection, New York don’t possess the same assets other teams do to entice the Mavericks.
The next wave of talent is set to hit the NBA through the draft, taking place on Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The 30 teams, assuming they haven’t traded their selection, will choose from a pool of players over two rounds, with 60 picks in total.
Some teams will have more picks than others because of previous trades, while draft night brings with it the possibility of more movement as teams can continue to deal throughout.
Here, we predict how the first round will shake out with our mock draft.
1. Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton, centre, Arizona
It seems like a lock Phoenix will take Ayton, who has all the physical tools and skills to be a franchise cornerstone, although his defence needs plenty of work.
2. Sacramento Kings – Marvin Bagley, forward, Duke
Bagley isn’t one of the more skilled players in the draft, but there’s no doubting his athleticism. Still, Sacramento may end up regretting passing on Luka Doncic.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Luka Doncic, guard, Slovenia
A teenager who dominated among men in the EuroLeague, Doncic has proven he’s advanced for his age. Atlanta will be thrilled to add his playmaking.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Jaren Jackson Jr, forward, Michigan St
An ideal big in today’s game, Jackson can protect the rim and space the floor with his shooting. His two-way potential is just what the Grizzlies need to build around.
5. Dallas Mavericks – Mohamed Bamba, centre, Texas
Bamba’s 7-foot-10 wingspan is off the charts, making him a special rim protector, while his shooting appears to be improving. A high upside pick for Dallas.
6. Orlando Magic – Trae Young, guard, Oklahoma
Young looked like the second-coming of Steph Curry at Oklahoma, but was also wildly inconsistent. For Orlando, it’s between Young and Collin Sexton.
7. Chicago Bulls – Michael Porter, forward, Missouri
A back injury hurt his draft stock, but if he’s fully healthy, Porter has the potential to be a steal. The mystery around his health should drop him into the Bulls’ laps.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Wendell Carter Jr, forward, Duke
If the Cavaliers keep the pick, Carter would be a safe pick to begin Cleveland’s potential rebuild. He can do a little bit of everything and would anchor the Cavaliers.
9. New York Knicks – Kevin Knox, forward, Kentucky
Knox is the second-youngest player in the draft and unpolished, but the upside is evident for a combo forward who has seen his stock rise after team workouts.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Mikal Bridges, forward, Villanova
A 3-and-D wing that should come in and help immediately as a rotation player, Bridges fills multiple needs the Sixers have. Plus he’s a local kid.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Collin Sexton, guard, Alabama
Kemba Walker may not be with Charlotte much longer, which would open up a hole at point guard that Sexton could fill well with his scoring and intensity.
12. Los Angeles Clippers – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, guard, Kentucky
The Clippers could package 12 and 13 to move up, but if they stay put Gilgeous-Alexander would give them a combo guard at a position they need to get younger.
13. Los Angeles Clippers – Robert Williams, forward, Texas A&M
After going guard at 12, LA can nab an athletic big in Williams who can take over when DeAndre Jordan is no longer around and do similar things.
14. Denver Nuggets – Zhaire Smith, guard, Texas Tech
He’s raw, but the tools are there between his shooting stroke, athleticism and defensive versatility. Denver can afford to be a little patient in developing him.
15. Washington Wizards – Miles Bridges, forward, Villanova
A wing who projects as a solid role player, Bridges would fit well with Washington, where his weaknesses as a ball-handler and creator won’t be magnified.
16. Phoenix Suns – Lonnie Walker IV, guard Miami
Walker’s freshman season didn’t start as expected, but he finished strong and showed the ability to create his own shots as an explosive guard.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Aaron Holiday, guard, UCLA
It’s obvious Milwaukee need shooting and Holiday can certainly provide that with his smooth stroke to help space the floor for the Bucks’ athletes.
18. San Antonio Spurs – Troy Brown, guard, Oregon
It looks like Kawhi Leonard may be gone soon, so someone like Brown, who also fits the Spurs’ profile as a high-IQ playmaker, makes a lot of sense.
19. Atlanta Hawks – Elie Okobo, guard, France
After taking Doncic at 3, why not keep the international trend going with a point guard that has plenty of ability to shoot and score?
20. Minnesota Timberwolves – Keita Bates-Diop, forward, Ohio State
His length makes him a versatile chess piece that can be used in a variety of lineups, while also allowing him to hold his own defensively after a switch.
21. Utah Jazz – Donte DiVincenzo, guard, Villanova
His explosion in the NCAA title game put him squarely on the radar and the Jazz will welcome his long-distance shooting off the catch and off the dribble.
22. Chicago Bulls – Chandler Hutchison, forward, Boise State
There’s been noise Chicago gave Hutchinson a first-round promise, and the senior’s mature game would be valuable for the Bulls.
23. Indiana Pacers – Kevin Huerter, guard, Maryland
Huerter has apparently done well in team workouts and is considered one of the best shooters in the draft, something the Pacers should covet.
24. Portland Trail Blazers – Khyri Thomas, guard, Creighton
Portland need better defence from their backcourt and Thomas will help with that instantly, while also offering outside shooting on the other of the floor.
25. Los Angeles Lakers – Jacob Evans, forward, Cincinnati
The Lakers will try to assemble a super team this summer, which means they’ll need 3-and-D role players like Evans to fit around their potential stars.
26. Philadelphia 76ers – Mitchell Robinson, centre, Chalmette High School
After getting a much-needed wing at 10, the Sixers can take a flier on the raw but talented Robinson to improve their front-court depth.
27. Boston Celtics – Grayson Allen, guard, Duke
Boston is loaded on the wing, so they’ll likely take a guard or big man, and Allen is the exact type of player Danny Ainge loves having on his team.
28. Golden State Warriors – Jerome Robinson, forward, Boston College
The Warriors will look for young players who can help right away and Robinson fits the mold as a junior who can play on or off the ball.
29. Brooklyn Nets – Dzanan Musa, forward, Bosnia and Herzegovina
He has experience as a pro, but still needs time to develop and get acclimated to the NBA game. Brooklyn are in no rush so they can take the chance.
30. Atlanta Hawks – Josh Okogie, guard, Georgia Tech
Another 3-and-D candidate, Okogie can switch onto multiple positions and still has room to get better. Atlanta might also look to move this pick.
*Pulls up chair, flips it backwards and plops down with arm on top of backrest*
So… you want to learn about the NBA draft. Not sure how it all works? Don’t understand why you keep hearing ‘wingspan’ over and over?
Well, you’ve come to the right place. You’re about to get a crash course on the NBA draft, just in time for this year’s edition, taking place on Thursday.
You won’t become an expert on how to draft and evaluate players, but rest assured no one is really an expert at that. The draft is, at the end of the day, a crapshoot and while the front offices of teams actually making the picks know a lot more than anyone else, it doesn’t mean they’re always right – or even right most of the time.
What you will learn is how the draft works and what about it is worth paying attention to. Whether you want to start following the NBA more closely or are just interested in the draft as a one-off, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s get started.
What is the NBA draft?
If you’re unfamiliar with America’s four major sports leagues – the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL – a draft is used for the selection of incoming players, consisting of amateurs from college and professionals from overseas.
Unlike the Premier League or other football leagues, teams in the NBA are franchises, not clubs. As such, a socialist system is used whereby the worst teams at the end of each season, determined by record, have the best odds of drafting the top incoming players. A lottery is held to solidify the draft order, which you can learn more about here.
The actual draft itself will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where NBA commissioner Adam Silver will announce the first-round picks before giving way to deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, who will call out the round two selections.
Many of the top players expected to go in the first round have been invited to attend the draft, and whoever shows up will walk across the stage and greet Silver when their name is announced. This is actually one of the best parts of the draft because we get to see the outfits the players are wearing, which have seemingly become more and more bombastic over the years.
Plus, the players usually do a brief interview in which we get to see their emotion after they’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream. It’s a big night, after all.
Who can be drafted?
Some of the greatest players in NBA history never went to college – most famously LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. But since 2006, the NBA has had a rule in place that states players are only eligible for the draft one year after their high school graduation, and that they must by 19 by the end of the calendar year of the draft.
That’s basically resulted in the top prospects spending a lone year at college before declaring their eligibility, but in some cases players have chosen to spend their gap year overseas with a professional team.
With the NBA being as global as it is, there’s no shortage of international players in the draft these days.
Just two years ago, the 2016 draft featured a record 26 international players selected, with 14 of those taken in the first round.
With how much more information and video is available now, foreign players don’t carry the same cloud of mystery they used to. Even so, international players who’ve not played in an American college and enter the draft from overseas remain an unknown in the eyes of many because of the difference in competition.
Luka Doncic, a 19-year-old who plays for Real Madrid in the EuroLeague, is this year’s top international prospect and considered a top-five pick.
Finally, if you follow the draft close enough – the lead-up and the event itself – you’ve been subjected to a number of buzzwords that are impossible to avoid this time of the year.
The aforementioned ‘wingspan’ is one of the most common, as are ‘upside’, ‘high-motor’ and ‘raw’. Here’s a translation:
‘Wingspan’ refers to a player’s… well, wingspan of course. The larger a player’s wingspan, the better. Length of all kind is coveted in the NBA for obvious reasons.
‘Upside’ is simply potential. If a player has high upside, they have a high ceiling and could develop into a star one day.
‘High-motor’ is another way of saying a player constantly hustles and gives effort.
‘Raw’ references how underdeveloped a player is. The tools may be there, but they haven’t been utilised all that well yet.
These terms can be important in evaluating prospects, but they’re definitely used more than they need to be. Don’t get bogged down by them.