The NBA Draft is deep this year, and there’s value everywhere
The Three approaches teams use in the Draft
When teams draft players, there’s generally three categories teams use (with a bit of a mix in there as well). The categories are Immediate impact, Ceiling, and Team Fit. If a player checks all three boxes, they’re an ideal candidate to be taken by that team. Often times, there are at least a couple guys who check all three boxes for every team. But, most of the time, teams are usually mulling one or two of those categories with a guy, and the weight of each category can greatly vary.
Take a look at the Spurs, for example. Last season, the Spurs took the youngest player in the draft, Josh Primo, late in the lottery. Primo really only checked the Ceiling box. He was in no way ready for the NBA, but his ceiling was so coveted, they simply couldn’t pass on a guy they perceived to be an eventual star. Now, what also impacted the decision was the perception of their current roster. The Spurs looked at the long term impact of Primo, knowing they likely wouldn’t have the personnel to make a playoff run in the short term.
Had the Spurs been in a better position from a roster talent perspective, it’s likely the Spurs would’ve gone with a player more ready to have an immediate impact, rather than Primo. On the flip side, teams who are more playoff ready and lacking depth tend to put more weight towards players who fit their immediate needs. In the end, there is no perfect formula, because every player develops differently and fits differently in their unique situations.
Our approach in predicting player landing spots
As we mentioned, there is no universal formula teams use to pick players. However, there are assumptions you can make with certain teams early in the draft, based on the butterfly effect theory. As a draft progresses, the choices one team makes can potentially drastically change a team’s approach in the rest of the draft. That’s why, in the later rounds, it’s often wise to just go with over/under “draft position selected”, than to peg a specific player to a specific team.
Trends are important in the NBA. It’s always good to review the last season or two, find player comps or championship team composition. It helps to see any potential swing in how certain players are perceived. For example, bigs are easy to find on a second contract. Generally, teams don’t need to draft less athletic bigs in Round 1, at all. Jaden Ivey drawing comps to Ja Morant make Ivey to be likely perceived higher by fans and amateur draft analysts than actual NBA teams.
We’re going to try to nail a few specific team picks and then drift into the over/under “draft position selected” as we get further into the article. Two and three years ago, we really hit on a lot, but last season was a bit of a struggle.
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Exact Draft Position (Listed as “Pick Number” in DK Sportsbook)
1st Overall Pick: Jabari Smith -250
Jabari Smith Jr started the day Tuesday at -155 to be taken here. The idea Smith will go first is gaining more and more traction each day. On the one hand, Smith isn’t a good ball handler and struggles to create his own shot. On the other hand, Smith has measurables, proficient three-point prowess, and huge defensive upside. For a team featuring an extremely young core and a lack of a truly dangerous wing/Power Forward (apologies, Chuma Okeke), Smith makes a lot more sense than Holmgren.
The Magic need shooting and could use more efficiency in the lineup, and improved defense would also be a great help to them. With the current makeup of this team, they could make some serious strides this upcoming season with the addition of Smith. Chet Holmgren, as dynamic and unique as he is, simply doesn’t fit the efficiency mold the Magic really need.
From the speculation we’ve read thus far surrounding the first pick, it appears Smith would be a much lower-risk, better fit for the Magic. Assuming Jonathan Isaac returns this season, the defensive makeup and balance of this team could be reasonably impressive.
2nd Overall Pick: Chet Holmgren -220
Holmgren is certainly the prototype Thunder prospect, even if we aren’t too sure if he’ll ever turn into the unicorn many expect to see. The Thunder value dynamic, versatile, tall players. For the last several seasons, the Thunder have shot for the moon on undervalued, high-ceiling prospects. In some ways, we’ve seen that strategy blossom, but on the whole, the Thunder lack star power.
In weaker lineups across the league, sub-optimal players can put up decent stats, and average players can put up great stats. There appears to be an element of that, bloating the perception of the Thunder’s young core. However, the dynamic addition of Chet Holmgren could further Sam Presti’s dream of constructing a team with great length, unselfish play, and balanced playmakers across the starting five. The issue now is, they are 28th in point differential and 30th in both block and assist differential.
What’s happening in Oklahoma City appears to be a long-term build of a new style of roster construction, and Chet Holmgren could eventually be the key piece towards making them a contender. Don’t go wild and put some crazy futures bet down on them, but this core of Shai Gilgeous–Alexander, Josh Giddey, and potentially Holmgren, would be very fun to watch (in theory).
4th Overall Pick: Keegan Murray +115
It’s certainly possible we see some shenanigans in Round 1 (like a player/multiple players and a later first to move-in here and select Ivey). That’s certainly a possibility. However, there just aren’t any props past pick #5, and there aren’t any options for trades or even certain players to go to specific teams (outside the top five or so guys).
For the Sacramento Kings, the selection of Keegan Murray here is a “team needs” fit. Over the past few seasons, the Kings have drafted De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Davion Mitchell. After trading Haliburton for Sabonis, the Kings are now in need of a wing who can help them immediately. Keegan Murray would be an ideal fit here.
He’s got enough versatility to play a small four, or a big wing. With Murray, the Kings can play small with Fox, Hield/Mitchell, Barnes, Sabonis, and Murray. They can also play big with Holmes, Sabonis, Murray, Hield, and Fox. Adding a guard like Jaden Ivey just makes no sense here. Between Mitchell, Fox, Hield, and Divincenzo, the Kings have enough potency and depth (though not much size). Adding Ivey only further jumbles this guard rotation and ignores the void at wing.
5th Overall Pick: Jaden Ivey +175
I like Ivey here for two reasons. For one, he’s a pretty good fit for the Pistons. The second reason is, the Pistons could move-out of this spot and opt to either add depth and picks, add a solid player and a pick, or generally increase the depth and quality of their weak roster. The Pistons need assists, rebounding, a true point guard, and a solid 4.
If the Pistons opt to keep this pick and take Ivey, they can shift Cade to the 2 (thus cutting-down his 3.7 TOs per game), and have a dangerous 1+2 combo at guard. Ball movement would increase, assists would go up, and they could iron-out the back court. If they trade-out, the Pistons could bring-in multiple players at various positions to satisfy the hefty price tag teams currently have on Ivey.
If Ivey goes in this spot, regardless of who gets him, it would make exponentially more sense than him going to the Kings at #4.
Player Draft Position
Jalen Duren Under 10.5 (-120)
Jalen Duren would be a solid-enough addition to most NBA Front courts. The problem is, Duren is limited as a shooter. Aside from that, Duren profiles as a rim protector and pick and roll guy with good athleticism. Though guys like this can be had in Free Agency, there are a number of mock drafts that have him going at #9 to the Spurs.
The hesitation here is the lack of focus on players like Duren in recent years. Though he’s an ideal fit for the Spurs, teams haven’t prioritized players like Duren and tend to value guards and wings much more (unless a big can really shoot or possesses good handles). Look at all the guards and wings the Spurs have drafted the past few years. This is a guard and wing-heavy draft, so expect the Spurs to take advantage of the shifting trends and take the Memphis big with the 9th pick.
Dyson Daniels Under 7.5 (-170)
Dyson Daniels is one of those typical G-League guys who is hard to really evaluate. He played last season for the G-League Ignite, averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, he’s not a very polished outside shooter (25% from deep). He’s a playmaking wing, focused more on passing the ball. However, there are concerns anytime you draft a wing who can’t efficiently shoot.
The big appeal with Daniels is the ceiling. He could end up being a Top 4 player in this draft. He could also end up just being a rotation wing with plus defense. If there’s anything we’ve learned about the NBA in the last five years, it’s that the perceived ceiling of a player does a lot more for advancing their draft capital than the negatives do. At the very minimum, Daniels is a fourth option on offense and a solid defender.
One interesting tidbit is his height. Reportedly, Daniels was just 6’6 during the G-League season and now, he’s 6’8. It may not be a big deal to most teams, but the jump in height shows teams he’s still growing and that may be the enticing little minor detail to push him into the Top 7. Both Indiana and Portland could use Daniels, so that’s currently the two most-expected landing spots for him.
Team Futures: NBA Champion
Denver Nuggets to win NBA Championship
The Denver Nuggets had a very anti-climactic conclusion to their season. Much of that was due to how un-competitive they were in the Playoffs, but even more of it was due to the absence of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. MPJ and Murray are star-level talents, but their health has been the Achilles heel of this team the past two seasons. The emergence of Bones Hyland was crucial last season, but missing Murray and MPJ took all the wind out of this team’s sails.
Assuming they can stay healthy, the Nuggets are a Top 3 talent in the West. The big contract situations are settled for now, but the prospect of having Hyland, Murray, MPJ, Gordon, and Jokic as a starting five is one of the most appealing “what-ifs” for the upcoming NBA season. At +1500, a $100 bet can bring you $1,500. That’s a pretty nice return for how talented this roster is.