Connect with us


NBA AM: The Experts Don’t Make The NBA Draft Order

Mock Drafts are fun, but history has shown they aren’t 100 percent accurate.

Steve Kyler



The NBA Draft Narrative

Every year, there is a perception of how the NBA Draft should play out. Some of that his driven by the media, especially with the prevalence of Mock Drafts and pseudo-experts weighing in on the topic. We at Basketball Insiders love Mock Drafts as much as the next guy. Heck, we do two per week most weeks and will be rolling out a few more as we get closer to the actual draft on June 22.

The problem with the Mock Draft narrative is the artificial storylines we create every year, mainly as a result of us thinking we know what’s going on (myself included) and which players teams really like. History shows that while we all pretty good at getting the field of first-round players right, none of us are very good at nailing exactly who will fall where.

So, who are the guys that really know? As some of you may know, I have been in this space for what will be 20 seasons next year. On average, I get eight to 10 correct picks per season, but more importantly, get 26 to 27 of the players drafted in the first round every year. I tend to fall in love with an underdog every year and rank him too high, but I am fine with my track record of seeing the Jimmy Butlers, the Kyle O’Quinns and Terry Roziers of the process.

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express is pretty close to me, he usually get a few more correct picks each year, but falls into the same issue all of us face. If one or two players goes out of sequence, the exact order changes and will cause a ripple effect in from what was predicted. Still, Givony is equally good at nailing the first-round talent, which is why we have partnered with him and his amazing team for so many years.

Aran Smith at is also really good. He’ll come in right around the same eight to 10 correct picks. He tends to be the one that nails the three or four first rounders that others may miss, but in the end, he typically clocks in around the same 26 to 27 correct first round talents.

ESPN’s Chad Ford usually leads the way on most exact first round picks, his average is typically eight to 10 correct selections, but he is not immune to the whims of a player going early and throwing the whole thing off. Chad does about the same as the pool in terms of nailing the first-round talent pool.

Scott Howard-Cooper of is also very good at nailing picks, he’ll come in around the seven to eight mark and his first round talent selections are on par with the group.

While there are lots of people that create Mock Drafts, historically that’s the group that crafts the narrative because of how good they are at what they do, but even the best in the business from the outside get it wrong on the exact order more frequently than not, even in drafts where it seems like the “perceived” order is so locked in.

In 2014, the Mock Draft world was in love with Noah Vonleh. Many had him ranked in the top four or five, he ended up going nine to the Charlotte Hornets. Julius Randle was also a Mock Draft darling that year and ended up going seven to the LA Lakers.

In 2016, the Mock Draft world was equally high on Jahlil Oakfor as the second overall guy to the Lakers, they opted instead for D’Angelo Russell. Justise Winslow was also deemed a top five draft lock by the Mock world but ended up going 10th to the Miami HEAT.

Last year, the Mock world was down on Jaylen Brown (3rd to the Celtics) and high on Skal Labissière (28th to the Kings).

Why is all of this important?

In every case where the Mock world deemed a player higher and that player went lower, it was deemed that player “fell” – did he fall or did the Mock world have it wrong?

When Terry Rozier went 16th to the Boston Celtics in 2015, it was deemed the Celtics “reached.” Was the perception based on how Rozier has played? Or did the Mock/ranking world have it wrong? Thon Maker at 10th last year was considered a “gamble,” but was he? Based on how he’s played for the Bucks this year, maybe not.

This year there is a love affair with UCLA’s Lonzo Ball as the second-best talent in a loaded draft pool. While he may very well be the second pick in the draft, are the outside evaluators giving too much credit to Ball and not enough credit to Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox or Kansas’ Josh Jackson?

While the narrative that gets crafted in the Mock Draft world is fun and it fills the vacuum between the last game of the season and the actual draft, the truth of all of it is even though many of us that create Mock Drafts talk to the people that make the picks (frequently) none of us are making the picks. None of us are on the proverbial clock in the war room when it’s time to live with the decision.

All of us are historically very good at nailing the first-round talents, and in many cases like Draft Express, nailing the bulk of the second-round talent. The truth is while we all take the job of predicting the draft very serious, history has shown we’re not going to get it right because the way we see the draft from the outside very rarely lines up with how the talent evaluators of the teams themselves see the draft, and more importantly, are willing to tie their futures to.

In no way is this meant to disparage the credibility of the best in the business. This is more about explaining the reality that the draft is very fluid process. We’re typically very good at this, but because we believe a player is the second-best talent and should be selected second, does not mean that’s where the team is going to go. At the end of the day, the team is the one that sets the talent order, not the experts.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: Lonzo’s Shot, How To Cut Luol Deng and More

Basketball Insiders



Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA writer and salary cap guru Eric Pincus talk about Lonzo Ball and the unreasonable expectations some have had about his rookie campaign, what the Lakers could do with Luol Deng, teams that have cap exceptions and could likely use them, which teams are for real and more.

Continue Reading


Johnson Is Leading By Example In Philadelphia

Amir Johnson may not be a star player, but his impact on the locker room is a constant in Philadelphia.

Dennis Chambers



After every home win, the Philadelphia 76ers have a miniature liberty bell in their locker room that gets rung by a selected player, usually the who had the biggest impact on the game.

On Monday night, Amir Johnson got to the ring the bell after the Sixers beat the Utah Jazz 107-86 to secure their ninth win of the season. Johnson turned in his best performance since joining Philadelphia this offseason, with eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 21 minutes of playing time as Joel Embiid’s substitute.

Up until about 45 minutes before the 7 p.m. tipoff, Embiid’s status was unclear due to knee soreness. Johnson would’ve been tasked with the starting role had his teammate been unable to perform. Instead, he fulfilled his backup role to perfection, which has been the status quo for Johnson so far this season.

When the Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year $11 million deal in July, it was for the purpose of shaping a young roster with some veteran leadership. Management wanted to ensure there would be a professional in the locker room to help navigate the likes of Embiid and Ben Simmons through a full NBA season, with hopes of making it to the playoffs.

“When we looked to build our roster and sort of identify people we started talking about Amir Johnson,” Brett Brown said. “And Bryan was way more familiar with Amir — this is to Bryan’s credit — than I was, because of his Toronto background. And I started digging in and calling his teammates. I’ve been in the league for a long time, so you follow him, and you speak to people like Evan Turner. You know, tell me about Amir when you were in Boston and so on.”

While Brown was doing his research on Johnson, he came across an impressive level of continuity when it came to how others viewed the center.

“It’s amazing to a man how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said of Johnson. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game and now worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots? It isn’t ever on my mind with Amir.”

The Sixers’ head coach seems honest in his assessment, and Johnson’s fluctuating level of productivity and use reflects that. Prior to his big night against Utah, Johnson logged a combined 21 minutes over the team’s previous four games — including two DNP’s, both coming against the Golden State Warriors.

Still, just barely over a month into this new season, the Sixers are trying to iron out the kinks in their lineup. With injuries to Richaun Holmes, Markelle Fultz, Jerryd Bayless and Justin Anderson over the course of the season so far, finding a set group of guys and defining their roles has been a tricky situation to maneuver.

Last season, Johnson started 77 games for the Boston Celtics during their campaign that ran all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. His one start in 14 games this season, with a cut in minutes per game, is a far cry from the level of use Johnson experienced just one year ago. But coming into this season, that was known. Johnson’s role would be to help guide his junior counterparts and chip in where he could.

So far, the deal is paying dividends on both ends.

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

In a game that featured the absence of Jazz star center Rudy Gobert, Johnson was able to make his presence more prevalent during his reserve minutes. Along with his four blocks, Johnson had a game-high 15 contested two-point shots. As a team, Utah shot just 35.3 percent from the field.

Backing up a superstar in the making in Embiid, Johnson has limited time to let it be known that he’s still around. That situation is magnified on nights that Holmes is seeing extended run as well. But in his 13th season in the league, Johnson knows a thing or two about finding ways to be effective and efficient.

“Finding my way on the floor, knowing the amount of time I have, just finding ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “I watch a lot of film. Just for me to find open spots, set screens, and the biggest part that I can help this team out, is just play defense and grabbing rebounds.”

On the nights where Johnson doesn’t get his number called — a la games against the Warriors and other small-ball teams — the veteran just continues to do what he was brought in to do in the first place, lead by example.

“Just sticking to my routine,” Johnson said. “Being mentally prepared, getting my teammates ready, just being a professional, doing all kind of things to prepare for a game.”

After being around the come up in Boston, Johnson knows there are bigger things at stake for the Sixers than a few minutes here and there on the court. To him, winning is the only thing that matters.

“When you don’t play and you win, man it’s like and that’s all that matters,” Johnson said. “We’re here to try and do one goal, and that’s win games and make the playoffs, and go from there on.”

Whether he’s on the bench waving a towel, or on the court making a play, Johnson will continue to lead a young group of talented players by example, hopefully culminating in a trip to the playoffs.

“He is a legitimate pro, on and off the court,” Brown said. “He’s a wonderful teammate.”

Continue Reading


NBA PM: Marcus Morris’ Return Bolsters The Celtics

With the Boston Celtics riding high with a league-best 16-game win streak, the return of forward Marcus Morris has provided a lift.

Buddy Grizzard



Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a huge personnel gamble this summer that changed four starters from a roster that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. One of the less-heralded among the new starters — forward Marcus Morris, who arrived from the Pistons in a surprise trade for starting shooting guard Avery Bradley — has proven to be a key component in Boston’s early success.

After missing the first eight games of the season due to lingering knee soreness, Morris has scored in double figures in six of nine appearances. Following Saturday’s win over the Hawks in Atlanta — the 15th of the current 16-game win streak — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Morris’ contributions have been vital, even as Stevens continues to monitor his minutes.

“We need Marcus quite a bit,” said Stevens. “We’re still managing his minutes appropriately as he comes back. Hopefully, that continues to be more and more and more.”

Morris was plus-18 against the Hawks, 10 points better than any other starter, despite being the only starter with single-digit shot attempts. Stevens added that Morris’ offense has been a boost despite few plays being run for him.

“He brings us scoring, he brings us defense [and] he brings us toughness,” said Stevens. “I think we really need his scoring, like his ability to shoot the ball both off broken plays and off movement.”

Morris’ emergence as an offensive threat was noted in the offseason by an Eastern Conference forward in an anonymously-sourced piece on underrated players by HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy.

“I think Marcus Morris is really underrated,” the forward told Kennedy. “He can play multiple positions and he went from being a role player to someone who scores the ball really well. When other players have made that leap, they got more attention. Take Chandler Parsons, for example. When Chandler made big strides, he got a ton of attention and a huge contract. Marcus hasn’t gotten the recognition or the payday that he deserves.”

While some questioned the wisdom of trading Bradley, a starter for a team that had a lot of success and remained on the rise, Celtics center Al Horford — the sole remaining starter from last season — said he was looking forward to playing with Morris once the trade was announced.

“He’s one of the guys that really excited me once we got him this offseason, just because of everything he’s going to be able to bring,” said Horford. “I don’t think he’s at his best yet. He’s doing okay. But he’s just going to keep getting better. So that’s a good thing for us.”

With the knee injury that lingered after the start of the season, Horford said the team is still getting accustomed to the diverse set of tools Morris brings to the court.

“Marcus is great,” said Horford. “Defensively, his presence is felt. On offense I think he’s finally starting to get into a rhythm. He’s getting more comfortable [and] we’re getting more comfortable with him. It’s a matter of time.”

While Stevens and Horford both feel that we haven’t seen Morris at his best, his return to action was timely as it bolstered the lineup during the current win streak. Horford, who was part of a 19-game win streak for the Hawks during the 2014-15 season, was asked how Boston is approaching its current prosperity. Horford said that, like his former Hawks team, the Celtics are avoiding the subject in the locker room.

“We’re not honestly really talking about it much,” said Horford. “That winning streak here was pretty special. We were playing at a high level. We didn’t talk about it here either and we’re taking that type of approach. We’re just playing and enjoying the game out there.”

With Boston carrying the current streak into a Wednesday visit to Miami, Ainge’s surprising trade for Marcus Morris is looking more and more prescient. If his best is yet to come, as his coach and teammates maintain, the recognition that has elluded Morris could be just around the corner.

Continue Reading

Trending Now