Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2015 NBA Draft. Included is a revised Mock Draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts and information from in and around the process.
Here is Consensus Version 3.0:
Yannis’ Notebook: With the NBA Draft Combine upon us, it’s really important to remember that this is just a part of the process, unless of course a red flag of some sort – especially those of the medical variety – surfaces. NBA teams have been doing their research on the majority of players in attendance for at least a year, in some cases even several. For them, the combine really just provides an opportunity to get exact measurements, see some competitive action and get to know a little bit about the person behind the player.
The latter may be the most beneficial of the entire process. Teams dont always interview players they think they can draft, but a lot are doing research and information gathering for free agency down the road. Others really test players’ mental aptitude with brain teasers and complex hypotheticals. A few don’t put much into the process, simply having players fill out a questionnaire sheet in an empty room. If this part of the combine were televised, though, it would be the most interesting by far.
Look for there to be risers and fallers after the completion of the combine as there is every year. There’s a long ways till draft night, though, and a lot can change no matter how good or bad the combine goes for a prospect.
Joel’s Notebook: Just like they have in years past, the Philadelphia 76ers have been absolutely brutal without being the absolute worst, which means there’s a good chance that once again they will not end up with the top overall pick this year. For the first time, however, that might not be the worst thing. While landing Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor would be a coup for any franchise regardless of what they’ve got on the roster, the reality is that the last couple of drafts already have yielded Sam Hinkie a couple of franchise big men (he thinks, at least) in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Adding Towns or Okafor to that would be fine, but a point guard like Emmanuel Mudiay or D’Angelo Russell would probably be a better fit for them, especially now that they’ve traded away Michael Carter-Williams.
Mudiay, in particular, would be an awesome fit for them. He’s a 6’5 point guard who’s quick and heady and athletic, and despite the fact that he’s been portrayed in some ways as a guy who skipped college to greedily accept $1.2 million to play a year in China, the fact is that his reasons for taking that money were both noble and justified, and he really is a young man of character. As soon as teams interview him, they’re going to love what they see.
While Mudiay is less a mystery than Dante Exum was last year because he played high school and AAU ball in the States, college basketball nuts don’t know much about him. It doesn’t help that he won’t be attending the combine (his brother will be the first in his family to graduate college that same week), but his affability and talent is going to win over a lot of teams once they do finally get a chance to meet with him and see him work out.
Philadelphia traded MCW because they didn’t think he was a franchise point guard and they were hoping to find one in a future draft. Well, here he is, and he might be a better fit for the Sixers than the big men are.
Alex’s Notebook: Cameron Payne is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on throughout the pre-draft process, as his stock could be on the rise after teams get a chance to see what he can do at the combine and in workouts.
In this week’s mock draft, I have Payne going to the Houston Rockets at No. 18. Houston could really a use a young point guard behind Patrick Beverley since they currently have two 37-year-old backups in Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni.
While this would be a good landing spot for Payne since he’d get an opportunity to contribute on a contender, it’s very possible that he could climb even higher.
In recent years, small-school point guards have had meteoric rises in the draft. Damian Lillard and Elfrid Payton are the best examples, as they unexpectedly climbed into the top 10 in their drafts. This is because these small-school players rarely receive the exposure they deserve throughout their collegiate career, and executives admit they haven’t watched them as much as they have the well-known prospects.
With Payton, it was only after he did an outstanding job in workouts against other point guard prospects that teams really looked at all of his game film and came away impressed with what they saw. This allowed him to go from being projected as a late first-rounder to going No. 10 overall (and landing with the Orlando Magic through a draft-night trade).
This year, Payne could be that prospect that turns heads and climbs draft boards. He was very productive in his two seasons at Murray State. As a sophomore, he averaged 20.2 points, 6.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three.
He’s a talented scorer, as evidenced by his points per game, but he’s also a very good facilitator. He averaged 7.3 assists per 40 minutes and he had the highest assist percentage of all the prospects ranked in DraftExpress’ top 100. Payne was also efficient, as his 29.5 PER was fifth among all of DraftExpress’ first-round prospects.
Payne has shown that he’s a well-rounded floor general, capable of putting up points and making his teammates better when playing the role of true point guard. One of the biggest knocks on him right now is that he didn’t face elite talent in college, but that’s exactly what he’ll be doing during the pre-draft process. Payne will have the opportunity to show what he can do against some of the more notable prospects, and don’t be surprised if you hear his name a lot over the next month.
Steve’s Notebook: The smokescreens of meetings and workouts is arguably the most entertaining part of the NBA Draft process. As soon as the Draft Combine wraps in Chicago a whirlwind of frequent flier miles will get generated as teams try to bring in dozens of prospects for a face to face meeting, a workout and visit to their facilities.
While no two teams approach the process the same way, it is interesting to hear about how many players a team is trying to schedule and how many teams a player gets scheduled to see.
Syracuse big man Rakeem Christmas already has 12 workout dates locked in over a 32-day span, with several more teams trying to get him to lock in a date. Conceivably if Christmas were open to it, he could have as many as 25 visits and workouts, however, his camp is trying to narrow down the serious teams from those that are just data collecting.
Louisville point Terry Rozier was invited to Phoenix for a workout. On the surface that sounds promising considering their style of play, however, with a roster loaded with point guard types how does that work out for Rozier?
No player wants to pass on a legitimate chance to showcase to a team that wants to draft him, however, there is a lot of misdirection and fact finding that takes place in the workout process that isn’t always about drafting a player.
Teams like the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers try to see as many players as possible, not to specifically to draft them but to start a file on them for future use. Now there is always a chance someone stands out in the process and changes the thinking of the team, but in many cases guys are being brought in because teams are willing to spend the time and money to do it, or are looking for guys to go against players they really like.
The gamesmanship of the draft is always amusing, especially when the bulk of the league is in one place, as is the case this week in Chicago for the 2015 NBA Draft Combine, where teams are trying to gain an advantage anyway they can get one.
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