I know, I know, it’s way too early to be thinking about the draft. Except it really isn’t. Maybe if our scouting department started their process earlier in the year then we wouldn’t have to constantly complain about their largely underwhelming picks. Plus, if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
To be honest, I just needed a distraction from that Nets debacle. I channeled the frustration that resulted from that by watching hours of high school basketball games. That only made me feel mildly better about the caliber of basketball I saw from the Wizards all week, but it did reinforce how exciting this year’s draft class is. Because I couldn’t contain that excitement, I had my friend Cooper Klein of the Upside Swings podcast join me on Bleav in Wizards for a mock draft podcast.
Inevitably, someone will reply to this by saying, “but the Wizards don’t have a first-round pick this year!” Well, that’s not entirely true. If the Wizards end up in the lottery again, which certainly looks plausible after getting blown out by 42 at home, they would keep their pick. And honestly, that might not be the worst thing for them. People have been speculating for years this would be a loaded draft and after diving a little deeper, I totally agree.
We used the latest standings as of Sunday morning to determine our draft order. Cooper took the odd-numbered teams, which gave him his Houston Rockets at #1, and me the Wizards at #12.
1) Houston - Victor Wembanyama, Metropolitans 92, 7-4, alien unicorn, 18.8 years old
He’s the unicorn’s unicorn. Like an alien unicorn, hence the position above. Enough said.
2) Detroit - Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite, 6-2, guard, 18.8 years old
A powerfully built, athletic point guard. He can pass, shoot, slash, and defend. He seems like a lock top-three pick and could maybe even challenge for the top pick if he goes supernova a few more times in front of scouts.
3) Orlando - Amen Thompson, Overtime Elite, 6-7, guard/wing, 19.8 years old
Amen is a truly special passer with elite athleticism. Like Vince Carter jumping over Frederic Weis athleticism. His jumpshot will need to be totally retooled for him to reach his ceiling but considering his vertical jump, I bet he can jump pretty high even without it.
4) New Orleans (via the Lakers) - Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas, 6-5, guard, 18.6 years old, freshman
Smith Jr. can score any way you want a basketball player to score. He controls the pace better than most players his age and even better than most of those with more experience than him. He’s shifty, smart, and crafty which makes him fun to watch. He’s also a better passer than he gets credit for. I’m just a huge fan. I won’t even hold it against him that he played for the Bradley Beal Elite (just a joke, Beal fans).
5) Sacramento - Ausar Thompson, Overtime Elite, 6-7, guard/wing, 19.8 years old
Personally, I think this is a little too high for Ausar but I could end up looking really stupid for saying that after a few more OTE games. He and his twin brother Amen (see two spots higher) are two of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. In a class loaded with high-end athletes, they seem to stand (or jump) above the rest. He has a good feel for the game, defends really well, and is a good secondary or tertiary creator. He has the same concerns Amen does except he doesn’t appear to be as special of a passer.
6) Golden State - Cam Whitmore, Villanova, 6-7, wing/forward, 18.3 years old, freshman
Whitmore might be the hardest dunker I’ve seen in a decade. Not the best dunker but the one who uses the sheerest force. He’s powerfully built, athletic, and plays really hard. Like most players in this lottery range, his shooting is still a question mark. He seems destined for the role Andrew Wiggins is currently playing for Golden State.
7) Charlotte - Jarace Walker, Houston, 6-8, forward, 19.2 years old, freshman
Walker is an athletic forward who can cover bigs but switch onto guards and hold his own. He’s a mobile player who will be a nightmare in transition. He’s going to learn from arguably the best defensive coach in college basketball this year in Kelvin Sampson. That alone would excite me as an NBA general manager.
8) Brooklyn - Brandon Miller, Alabama, 6-9, wing/forward, 19.9 years old, freshman
He’s a tall, long, athletic wing who can create for others, create for himself, lock people up, and bury midrange jumpshots. If he can expand his range to make more threes, which seems totally reasonable given how the shot looks, he might be the steal of the draft. The word out of Alabama is that he’s been their best player by far. In a scrimmage loss to a ranked TCU team, where Alabama only scored 69 total points, Miller had 33. He was 12-of-22 from the field and 4-of-10 from three.
9) Utah (via Philadelphia) - Dariq Whitehead, Duke, 6-6, guard/wing, 18.3 years old, freshman
He’s an athletic wing who took over games against elite high school competition, what’s not to like? I still have some questions about the jumpshot and his ball handling. If one of those things gets sorted out then I get the lottery hype. Being questionable at both would make it hard for me to take him somewhere in the top 8, where he’s currently projected on most boards.
10) Miami - Kel’el Ware, Oregon, 7-0, forward/center, 18.5 years old, freshman
Ware is insanely talented for someone that size. He has all the tools. The question is whether or not he will put them all together. There are some questions about his motor but as Cooper pointed out during the podcast, people said the same thing about Evan Mobley.
11) Utah (via Minnesota) - Anthony Black, Arkansas, 6-7, guard/wing, 18.8 years old, freshman
It’s become trendy for every team to want a big wing creator. Josh Giddey is probably the comparison you’ll hear throughout the year as a 6-7 player who is a special passer. Black isn’t a point forward, he’s a real point guard. And he defends. It remains to be seen if he can shoot, that’s really the swing skill. But the questionable shooting hasn’t held black players like Giddey or Dyson Daniels.
12) Washington - Kris Murray, Iowa, 6-8, wing/forward, 22.2 years old, junior
We’ll see if Keegan’s twin can match even 80% of what he did last season. Kris projects as more of a prototypical 3-and-D wing but still pretty good. He was extremely productive in fewer minutes last season so let’s see if that production translates with higher usage. It just feels like a very Wizards move to take the slightly worse brother a year too late. Maybe we can take Johnny Davis’s twin in the second round too.
13) Oklahoma City - Matthew Cleveland, Florida State, 6-7, wing, 21.1 years old, sophomore
I had a well-documented obsession with MarJon Beauchamp last draft cycle. Even though Cooper made this pick, I totally endorse it. It remains to be seen if Cleveland can shoot but he does everything else you want from a modern-day wing. He defends, moves the ball, cuts, drives, and takes off in transition. You won’t find him this high on most mock drafts but this is just my kind of player. With shooting guru Chip Engelland on the Thunder staff, this seems like a perfect fit.
14) San Antonio - Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Kansas State, 6-9, wing, 21.9 years old, junior
Tomlin is a relative unknown even by most draft experts but I was blown away watching him playing in junior college last year. At 6-9, he has legitimate guard skills, great athleticism, an over 7-foot wingspan, and shot 38% from 3 last year. So why isn’t he more on people’s radars? Tomlin did not play basketball in high school. He was guard-sized for most of his high school years and academically ineligible because he was cutting a lot of classes. People at Kansas State are raving about his pro potential. I’m not sure he can gain enough steam at his age to wind up a lottery pick but I just want it on record that I think this guy is going to be a steal wherever he gets picked.