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The YODA Guide to the 2023 NBA Draft

When he was a lowly stat guy with the Portland Trail Blazers, former NBA executive (and championship-winning high school coach) Ben Falk had an idea borne from his data analysis. He shared it with the coaching staff, and they liked it enough to make it part of the game plan.

Then head coach Terry Stotts, turned to Falk and the conversation went something like this:

Stotts: Are you sure about this?

Falk: Yes.

Stotts: Good. Because tomorrow before the game, I’m going to tell reporters this was your idea.

Falk: {clears throat unable to speak}

He then went back to his office and double-checked everything. As Falk told the story, it was one thing to make a suggestion privately. It was something else to have that suggestion implemented with his name attached publicly.

That’s a long way of saying that I thought I was ready to release the YODA “Big Board” a few days ago, and I got right up to the point of pushing “publish.” And then I pulled it back and re-checked everything. Am I more confident in the predictions? Not really. But, I did catch a couple data entry errors, so that’s nice.

Anyway, The numbers are in. They’ve been crunched, studied and analyzed — a process that will now enable me to perfectly predict which of these 18-25 year olds will be the next NBA booms and busts.

Well, except for the “perfectly” part anyway.

Quick background: the rankings below are based on a stat-driven process I began assembling a few years ago on a basketball message board. I kept posting about it, calling it “Ye Olde Draft Analyzer.” Someone — I wish I could remember who — shortened that to YODA, and the name stuck.

It’s still “YODA,” and it’s been refined incrementally each year. Included in the rankings are box score stats, efficiency measures, statistical benchmarks, as well as other factors including level of competition, position, athletic tools and “intangibles” such as being a great (or lousy) person or being a superior defender.

In YODA, I use four position groupings — guards, wings, forwards and centers. At the NBA level, positions are getting increasingly blurred, and my shift from the PG, SG, SF, PF, SF paradigm is a reflection of that reality.

All of that gets rolled into a single number and the prospects get ranked. I do not use mock drafts in any way — not even consensus mocks. While there’s often wisdom coming from the crowd, the consensus is wrong a lot too. Turns out, it’s hard to forecast the futures of 19 year olds.

The list below represents the players who received what I consider to be a first round grade in YODA. I’ve included comments where I think they’re warranted, as well as where the each prospect ranks on Rookie Scale’s Consensus Big Board. I’ve added players with second round grades who interested me, as well as players ranked high on the consensus board who I have rated lower.

Note: Where there are big mismatches between where a prospect ranks in YODA, and where he lands in consensus mocks, I don’t necessarily think a team should just pick him with a much earlier pick. Often, those are players to snap up later in the draft, if the team can acquire additional picks.

The Draft According to YODA

  1. Victor Wembanyama, F/C, Metropolitans 92 — Duh! He’s a 7-4 19-year old with guard skills, and he just dominated a strong international professional league. Consensus Rank: 1
  2. Scoot Henderson, G, G League Ignite — Shot poorly in the G League, but did everything else at a high level. Plus, freaky quick and athletic. Consensus Rank: 2
  3. Amen Thompson, G, Overtime Elite — Big. Instantly one of the top athletes in the NBA, which is quite a statement. Iffy shooting, but seems to do everything else well. Potential concern: level of competition in Overtime Elite was pretty low. Consensus Rank: 4
  4. Ausar Thompson, G, Overtime Elite — Amen’s twin brother. Everything I wrote about Amen applies to Ausur, though Amen was more of an on-ball player to Ausur’s more off-ball role. Both seem capable of playing on or off ball, though. Consensus Rank: 7
  5. Bilal Coulibaly, W, Metropolitans 92 — At just 18 years old, Coulibaly played with Wembanyama, as well as in under-21 games. He dominated the U21 competition, and was solid in a strong international professional league. He’s long, athletic, defends, and has a high motor. Needs to work on his shooting, though his accuracy this season was decent even with stiff form. Consensus Rank: 14
  6. Brandon Miller, F, Alabama — Excellent shooter with solid size and athletic tools. He hit 38.4% from three on 9.1 attempts per 40 minutes and shot 85.9% from the free throw line. Decent rebounder. Potential concerns: more turnovers than assists and just 48.3% on twos. Consensus Rank: 3
  7. Taylor Hendricks, F, University of Central Florida — Good shooter with outstanding size and athleticism — 39.4% on threes and 53.5% on twos. He led forwards in YODA with 2.0 blocks per 40. Potential concerns: no playmaking (just 1.6 assists per 40) and rebounding numbers a little lower than desired based on his size and athletic tools. Consensus Rank: 9
  8. Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova — Impressive freshman season from an outstanding athlete who doesn’t turn 19 until July — 57.8% on twos, 34.3% on threes and 70.3% from the free throw line. He was a disruptive defender — 2.1 steals per 40 minutes, which is at the top among this year’s forwards. Potential concerns: Not outstanding on the boards, and more than two turnovers for every assist. Consensus Rank: 5
  9. Jarace Walker, F, Houston — Adequate size and a good leaper. Some playmaking (2.6 assists per 40) with good steals and blocks — number one in steals + blocks among this year’s forwards. Potential concerns: Iffy shooting (34.7% on threes and 66.3% from the free throw line). Consensus Rank: 6
  10. Anthony Black, G, Arkansas — Big and athletic. Defensive impact looked good, and he flashed some nice playmaking instincts. Poor shooting (30.1% on threes, 70.5% on free throws), relatively low assist numbers for a primary playmaker (4.5 per 40) and high turnovers (3.5 per 40). Consensus Rank: 8
  11. Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky — Could join the Kentucky tradition of guards who outproduce their draft slot. Overall, his NCAA numbers were on the plus side of good — 34.6% on three, 51.6% on twos, 4.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 steals — but not by a lot. He does not pop out as an outstanding athlete (at least by NBA standards). Still, he has promise as a modern guard who can be a good pro. Consensus Rank: 11
  12. Noah Clowney, F, Alabama — Doesn’t turn 19 until July. If he grows a little, I could see Clowney playing some center in the NBA. In the NCAA, 12.5 rebounds per for (including 3.3 on the offensive glass) and 66.9% on twos. Potential concerns: Just 28.3% on threes, 64.9% on free throws, more turnovers than assists and unimpressive tallies of blocks and steals. Consensus Rank: 22
  13. Leonard Miller, F/C, G League Ignite — Productive in the G League, though Bullets Forever’s Matt Modderno cautions that Miller was a garbage time hero. Still, 60.2% on twos, 14.4 rebounds per 40, along with a good enough free throw percentage (79.2%) and enough made threes to think he can improve in that area with some work. He got 4.2 offensive rebounds per 40, which is strong. Biggest concerns would be at the defensive end where he managed just 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 40. Probably begins his career as a forward and transitions to the middle as he gains strength and experience. Consensus Rank: 19
  14. Gradey Dick, W, Kansas — Terrific shooter who rebounded decently but didn’t do much else. He shot 40.3% on threes and 85.4% from the free throw line...but just 48.4% on twos. Few turnovers and almost no assists. He generated some steals (1.8 per 40 minutes), but rarely blocked shots. The shooting has NBA value. This type of player tends to get targeted on defense when the stakes go up. Consensus Rank: 10
  15. Colby Jones, W, Xavier — Interesting prospect who could end up being a bargain if mock drafts are accurate and he winds up in the late first or early second round. He finished well inside (56.3% on twos), shot 37.8% from three, and was a strong playmaker (5.2 assists per 40 with a 1.9 to 1 ast/tov ratio). Of potential concern: just 65.3% from the free throw line, and the overall numbers aren’t mind-blowing for a 20-year old junior. Consensus Rank: 30
  16. Brandon Podziemski, G, Santa Clara — small for the NBA, but he tested as athletic enough, and lord can he shoot — 43.8% on 6.4 threes per 40. He also hit the boards (9.7 rebounds per 40) and showed playmaking chops (4.1 assists per 40) while avoiding turnovers (2.5 per 40). That’s impressive production, even against relatively weak NCAA competition. The question on him is whether he can overcome the lack of size against NBA-caliber players. Consensus Rank: 29
  17. Kris Murray, F, Iowa — YODA doesn’t think quite as much of Murray as it did of his twin brother, Keegan. This Murray shot well inside the arc — 58.3% on twos — but an iffy 33.5% on threes. Solid rebounding, a little playmaking, almost no turnovers for a high usage player, and he even played some defense at times. He could be a genuine value in the late first or early second round. Consensus Rank: 22
  18. Brice Sensabaugh, W, Ohio State — Terrific shooter from everywhere and strong rebounding. Lots more turnovers than assists, shockingly low steals and blocks, but plenty of fouls (4.1 per 40). The shooting has real value to NBA teams, if he can do enough of the other stuff to stay on the floor. Consensus Rank: 23
  19. Jordan Hawkins, G, Connecticut — Good shooter — 38.5% on a whopping 10.5 three-point attempts per 40 minutes and 88.6% on free throws. Why doesn’t he rank higher? Kinda everything else — 44.3% on twos, meh rebounding, anemic assists, steals and blocks. He averaged just 1.9 turnovers per 40 and still had more turnovers than assists. The poor two-point percentage in combination with low steals and blocks puts his athleticism into question. Consensus Rank: 18
  20. Trayce Jackson-Davis, C, Indiana — Older prospect whose game is strictly inside — he didn’t attempt a three-point shot all season. His rebounding, blocks and high free throw rate are positive signs. Also encouraging: 4.7 assists per 40 (to just 2.9 turnovers) and just 2.0 fouls per 40. Consensus Rank: 34
  21. Jaime Jaquez Jr., W, UCLA — Tough kid who plays hard and hates to lose — exactly the kind of guy teams need. Not a great shooter, and his combine measurements and times weren’t great, but maybe good enough. He rebounds, defends and competes. Could be a useful NBA player, especially if he can learn to shoot. Consensus Rank: 28
  22. Marcus Sasser, G, Houston — Shooter! — 38.4% on 9.0 three-point attempts per 40 and 84.8% on free throws. He also finished inside reasonably well — 51.1% on twos — and produced 2.1 steals per 40. He even generated 4.0 assists per 40 and a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Almost 23 years old. Consensus Rank: 33
  23. Jaylen Clark, G, UCLA — Not much of a shooter (32.9% on threes and 69.8% on free throws), but he hit the boards (7.9 per 40) and was an active and disruptive defender (3.4 steals per 40). Consensus Rank: 49
  24. Julian Phillips, W, Tennessee — Best athlete at the combine, at least according to times and vertical measurements. Questionable shooting (just 23.9% on threes) and playmaking. Excelled on the offensive glass, and his 82.2% free throw shooting suggests his shot isn’t broken. Consensus Rank: 39
  25. Tristan Vukcevic, C, PartizanExcellent shooter in a strong international pro league — 67.8% on twos, 37.9% from three, 80.0% from the free throw line. He was okay on the defensive boards but didn’t get to the offensive glass much. Solid playmaking and steals. Just 1.2 blocks, which is not good for someone his size. Fouled a ton. The statistical signals for athleticism are decidedly mixed — the two-point percentage and steals are encouraging, but the lack of offensive rebounds, low blocks and high fouls are potentially concerning. Consensus Rank: 45

That’s it for the first round grades.

Players who I think are interesting later in the draft or as undrafted free agents:

  • Kobe Brown, F, Xavier — Consensus Rank: 44 — An oddball who’s wide not tall and more than a little ground-bound. Older prospect who’s already 23. Can really shoot.
  • Dereck Lively II, C, Duke — Consensus Rank: 12 — I like Lively and think he has a chance to be a good pro. As a lottery pick? Pass.
  • Nick Smith Jr., G, Arkansas — YODA rank: 28; Consensus Rank: 17 — An injured knee cut into his season and hampered his performance.
  • D’Moi Hodge, G, Missouri — Consensus Rank: not in top 60 — Good shooter who’s already 24.
  • Nikos Rogkavopoulos, W, Turkish BSL — Decent shooter in a strong international league. Could be a draft-and-stash candidate. Consensus Rank: not in top 60
  • Drew Timme, C, Gonzaga — Consensus Rank: not in top 60
  • Adam Sanogo, C, Connecticut — Consensus Rank: 53 — F/C type who rebounds, finishes inside and can shoot threes.
  • Kobe Bufkin, G, Michigan — Consensus Rank: 13 — Good free throw shooter who just wasn’t all that productive in the NCAA.
  • Azuolas Tubelis, C, Arizona — Consensus Rank: 59
  • Sidy Cissoko, W, G League Ignite — Consensus Rank: 32
  • Nadir Hifi, G, Le Portel — Consensus Rank: not in the top 60 — Played in the same league as Wembanyama and Coulibaly. Good draft and stash prospect.
  • Oscar Tshiebwe, C, Kentucky — Consensus Rank: 57 — Big time rebounder — 6.8 offensive rebounds per 40.
  • Toumani Camara, F, Dayton — Consensus Rank: not in top 60 — Good shooter and rebounder.
  • Taevion Kinsey, G, Marshall — Consensus Rank: not in top 60 — Excellent shooter.
  • James Nnaji, C, ACB — Consensus Rank: 31 — Played decently at age 18 in one of the strongest international leagues. Probably draft-and-stash.
  • Ed Crosswell, F, Providence — Consensus Rank: not in top 60 — Already 23, but might be the kind of guy ready to contribute some grit and grind immediately. Finished well inside (61.3% on twos), smashed the offensive glass (5.4 per 40) and produced good steals and blocks. Seems like someone who shows up with the Heat as an undrafted free agent.
  • Julian Strawther, W, Gonzaga — Consensus Rank: 40 — Good shooter. Needs to show more dimension to his game.
  • O-Max Prosper, F, Marquette — Consensus Rank: 35 — Excellent athlete, so-so production. Maybe the right team helps him translate the tools into on-court performance.

Mock drafts — and likely the actual draft — has several players going high that ranked low in YODA. In some cases, the reason is obvious. YODA works on numbers, and injuries hampered the performance of Nick Smith Jr., for example. In some other cases, on-court production doesn’t match up with The Eye Test.

For example, I’ve heard talk about Jett Howard’s great ball handling, shiftiness and smooth shooting stroke. When I watch the videos selected to demonstrate those abilities, they’re easily observed. The question, of course, is how they’re applied to the game. If his stroke is so good, why did he shoot just 36.8% on threes this season? If he’s so shifty and tough to stay in front of, why was he below 50% on twos? And if he’s “extremely versatile” and “has an NBA build already,” why so few rebounds, blocks and steals?

Anyway, you’ve seen some of the YODA high vs. consensus low candidates above. Here are some YODA low vs. consensus high mismatches:

  • Jalen Hood-Schifino, G, Indiana — YODA rank: 50; Consensus Rank: 15 — Wildly inefficient with poor finishing, meh three-point shooting, plenty of turnovers, and scant steals or blocks.
  • Keyonte George, G, Baylor — YODA rank: 36; Consensus Rank: 16 — Poor shooting from the floor, more turnovers than assists.
  • Jett Howard, W, Michigan — YODA rank: 56; Consensus Rank: 20 — See above.
  • Dariq Whitehead, W, Duke — YODA rank: 54; Consensus Rank: 24 — Shot well from three, but just 41.4% on twos. Very little non-scoring production.
  • Rayan Rupert, W, NZ Breakers — YODA rank: 55; Consensus Rank: 25 — Abysmal efficiency and overall production last season. Just 41.1% on twos and 31.3% on threes.
  • Maxwell Lewis, W, Pepperdine — YODA rank: 66; Consensus Rank: 26 — Poor efficiency and meh production against relatively weak competition.
  • GG Jackson Jr., F, South Carolina — YODA rank: 48; Consensus Rank: 27 — Terrific athlete and very young. Horrific efficiency and overall production.

If you don’t see someone who interests you, let me know in the comments or email me at kevinbroomwrites at gmail dot com.