Since the inception of analytics, many scouts and NBA personnel have depended on it to make an educated decision when drafting players.
For many teams, this year’s draft will label them as winners, losers, or maybe a surprise based on the performances of this year’s class. Analytics has some disadvantages regarding the unmeasurables, mental toughness, desire, or how badly someone wants to improve. Older scouts may rely more on the eye test than analytics, and new scouts on analytics more than the eye test. Whatever methods are used to evaluate talent, there is one certain that there are no guarantees.
This year’s draft saw what many called the best NBA prospect ever in a 7’5 being drafted at No. 1, along with several trades involving top-10 picks and one player that many scouts, including myself, saw as a lottery slide out of the top 15 of the draft. Several NBA teams made moves during this year’s draft that will significantly impact free agency and the 2023-24 season for years to come.
If you have been following the NBA, French phenom Victor Wembanyama was drafted with the first overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs, and as expected, he came with the status as the most hyped NBA prospect since Lebron James in 2003. Many teams’ draft picks will provide optimism and hope from the outset, such as the Charlotte Hornets drafting Brandon Miller, Portland Trailblazers drafting Scoot Henderson. Twins Amen and Ausar Thompson became the first brothers taken in the top five picks of the same draft in NBA history (the Houston Rockets took Amen at No. 4, and the Detroit Pistons took Ausar at No. 5).
In the first round, we saw some trades, as the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards swapped draft rights for Bilal Coulibaly and Jarace Walker. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks exchanged draft rights for Cason Wallace and Dereck Lively II. There were many storylines that developed throughout the draft night, and many feature draft picks, swaps, or trades. But there were a few big surprises on the night.
What surprised me most about the draft?
One of the first surprises on the night was Bilal Coulibaly going at No. 7. I had him between 10-18, and many of my colleagues and experts felt the same way. I was certainly surprised to see Coulibaly going ahead of Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks, and Cam Whitmore, but to his credit, over the last few months before the draft, his stock did rise based on his workouts. What is impressive is that he was barely on anyone’s radar a year ago and even after his collegiate season this year. Leading up to draft night, there was a tremendous buzz about him, and the lottery did surface in many conversations; talk about those unmeasurables in a player.
Another surprise was Jett Howard at No. 11, but actually not all that surprising once I examined it. Orlando needed to add some shooters, and they decided to draft him instead of Gradey Dick or Jordan Hawkins, obviously gambling on Howard’s potential and upside in becoming an all-around scorer. He will be joining the likes of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner in the Magic rotation. Would I have drafted him ahead of the before mentioned? Maybe not. For the most part, the first round went mostly as predicted, and this is just another pick that stood out on draft night that will be watched closely over the next several years of the franchise.
What teams moved up or down in the draft?
This draft lacked trade activity for the most part, with only two teams, the Sacramento Kings at 24 and the Boston Celtics at 25, moving out of the first round on draft night. There were two other trades in the first round that consisted of a pair of swapped picks in the lottery.
The outcome of this year’s draft is yet to be determined, and the NBA summer leagues are a precursor where teams will begin to determine, as well as the public, whether there are winners, losers, or even a few surprises from this year’s draft. One thing I have come to realize there are two things that society overrates and underestimate that is talent and brains!
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