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Three Thoughts on the NBA Draft

With the NBA Draft set to get under way in under 24 hours, there are still so many questions unanswered.

Who will actually be draft first overall by Orlando?

What will the impact of Shaedon Sharpe sitting out the season for Kentucky have on his draft stock?

Which teams will look to trade up or down on the night?

Time will tell the answers to those questions and more, but as the Draft nears, I wanted to go on the record with three thoughts before the names are read out and we know the immediate futures of the next batch of budding stars.

Who Should Be Drafted #1 Overall?

It’s a hard question with no apparent answer, even this close to decision time. The Ringer’s Big Board courtesy of Kevin O’Connor ranks Duke’s Paolo Banchero as the best overall prospect, saying the Magic use the #1 overall pick on him. Turn the page and head over to CBS Sports, and their College Basketball columnist and TV Analyst Gary Parrish has Chet Holmgren heading to Orlando. ESPN’s Dick Vitale meanwhile, he’s got Jabari Smith as the top dog.

For me, Smith is the right choice.

His balanced game, combining smooth shot making from all three levels in addition to his shot blocking and defensive potential are perfect for the modern NBA. At 6’10”, he possesses the size to be able to get his shot off over most defenders and projects as being able to guard nearly all positions on the floor as he develops.

Despite the #1 pick in the NBA Draft still being up for debate, Auburn's Jabari Smith stands out as the best prospect in my mind. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

I believe Chet Holmgren projects as having the highest ceiling of any player available, but also a low floor for someone who is projected by almost all experts to have his name called in the top three tomorrow morning. He could be the next great big man, or he could fizzle out if his body doesn’t develop and teams are able to bully him down low.

As for Paolo Banchero, despite many physical similarities to Smith, his defensive game leaves much room for improvement which I’m not sure is in him. He’s not quick laterally like Smith, and isn’t much of a rim protector either. His free throw percentage (just 72.9%) is also cause for concern, and he didn’t shoot the deep ball anywhere near as well as Smith last season, connecting on less than 35% of his shots from distance.

None of the above is to say that Holmgren or Banchero won’t be great pros or won’t develop into players who out-perform their draft position, but Smith is my clear-cut favourite in this draft class.

What’s the Best Case for Jaden Ivey?

As the draft edges nearer, Ivey, it seems, is becoming hot property.

Teams searching for dynamic guard play are fast becoming enamoured with his potential and comparisons to Ja Morant, and it’s easy to see why. The athleticism, burst of speed and craftiness around the rim are all on display and are the attributes that arguably make Morant the most exciting young star in the League.

The real quandary for me, if I’m Ivey, is where do I want to land?

It’s universally thought that the top three picks in the draft will all be used on Smith, Holmgren and Banchero in some order, meaning Ivey’s earliest chance to go off the board will be at #4 to the Kings. This seems increasingly likely, but the fit is all kinds of wrong for me.

Sacramento still have Fox running their team and I believe Davion Mitchell still has good potential and can play a valuable role for them going forward. This creates uncertainty regarding a fit for Ivey unless used as a secondary ball handler – a role I would think would be a hindrance to his development.

The Pistons could be a decent landing spot after the Killian Hayes experience appears dead in the water, but I’m still not entirely sold on his fit their beside Cunningham either. Cunningham showed promise as a ball handler and distributor in his rookie year, and I’m not sure whether Ivey would be a better option as a primary ball handler in the short or long term. Looking even further down the board should he fall unexpectedly, the Pacers, Blazers and Pelicans all have star or ball-dominant guards already on their roster.

Is there a good fit for Purdue's Jaden Ivey at the top of the draft? Credit: Hammer and Rails.

Indiana recently acquired Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon remains with the team despite being in trade rumours. The Blazers still have Damian Lillard under contract and their recent trade for Jerami Grant would indicate they are not ready to start rebuilding. The Pelicans, meanwhile, only acquired CJ McCollum at the deadline last season and his ball-handling helped the team win two clutch games during the Play-In Tournament and make the Playoffs.

Unless a team like New York (currently pick #11) or Washington (currently pick #10) try to trade up to take him, I’m not sure there is a great fit which will allow him to blossom the way I believe he can going forward.

I’m very high on Ivey, despite small concerns about lapses of concentration on the defensive end. His improvement in the last 12 months, particularly on his outside stroke, make me believe he can become an above average defender sooner rather than later. In the meantime, his dynamic offensive game will help any team that drafts him – provided he gets the right opportunities and lands in a favourable situation.

Walker Kessler Is Being Undervalued

A teammate of Jabari Smith at Auburn this past season, centre Walker Kessler might be my biggest obsession leading into draft day. At 7’1” and 255lbs (215cm, 115kg for those in the metric system), Kessler’s physical tools, including his 7’4” wing-span, tantalise me like few others in this year’s crop. He took out the College Basketball Defensive Player of The Year Award this past season and set a single season record for blocked shots for the Tigers with 155.

What’s more impressive to me than his staggering 4.6 blocks per contest however, is his composure around the rim. Rim protectors are usually quick to leave their feet and often draw unnecessary fouls because of this, but Kessler doesn’t appear to have this issue. He utilises his physical tools to make up for any athletic short-comings and keeps his arm up and feet down when opponents pump fake or he’s switched onto smaller guards. He’s also got reasonable lateral quickness and positions himself well when trailing, allowing him to contest shots without making body contact.

I'm all in on Walker Kessler, who I believe could be a steal in the late lottery despite most mock drafts having him in the early-mid twenties. Credit: AP Photo/Butch Dill.

Most mock drafts have him pegged in the 23-28 range, which confuses me a little, especially considering some of the teams in the late lottery and late teens who are in need of a defensive big. The Hornets have picks #13 and #15 and are in desperate need of rim protection after Mason Plumlee and Montrezl Harrell failed to provide a defensive identity for the team last season.

Chicago are also potentially in need of a defensive minded centre who can contribute right away behind Nikola Vucevic, who is extremely limited in that aspect of the game, and have pick #18 at their disposal. Could Houston also look at him at #17 if they shock the league and pass on a big at pick #3 and opt to draft a guard like Ivey instead?

I’ve seen analysts compare Kessler to a combination of Miles Turner and Cole Aldrich, and his shot blocking ability makes that comparison sensible on many levels. To my eyes though, he’s more of a combination of the body type and athletic ability of a player like Ivica Zubac mixed with the length, shot-blocking and court-running ability of JaVale McGee.

In any case, I firmly believe that if Kessler is selected after pick #20, the team that chooses him has a bargain on their hands.

So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I mess it up? Let me know on twitter (@BMBTPodcast) or send us an email at!

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