The college basketball season is so close that I can practically taste it. While I have been making lists of players in my head and on paper, the best way to determine the relative value is to have a mock draft with other people. It is the wisdom of crowds and so forth. Therefore, six bold people and I got together and performed a couple of mock drafts in preparation for my Big Chief Challenge league. We went 10 rounds. Each team would start two guards, two forward, a center, and utility spot – one of the six starters had to be a freshman. I had the sixth pick of the first round and the draft snaked.
1. Markelle Fultz, Washington, FR, G
2. Moses Kingsley, Arkansas, JR, F-C
3. Josh Hawkinson, Washington State, SR, F
4. Grayson Allen, Duke, JR, G
5. Lonzo Ball, UCLA, FR, G
6. Josh Jackson, Kansas, FR, G
7. Malcolm Hill, Illinois, SR, G-F
I have Fultz and Kingsley as the top two players on my board. Fultz should be the focus of the Husky offense and Kingsley is, by far, the best returning center. These are the two hardest slots to fill in these leagues, so having a productive player at either position is a key to success. Hawkinson and Allen are two of the most consistent producers. It will be a surprise if the Washington State forward does not average a double-double for the third straight season. The Blue Devils have a lot of talent, but the offense will still flow through Allen. I think Ball was drafted too high. He is a talented guard, but the Bruins are stacked in the backcourt. I took Jackson, who should provide decent numbers. In retrospect, I probably should have taken Adebayo. Hill is a nice all-around performer who combines great rebounding for a guard with excellent passing for a forward-eligible player.
1. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State, SO, G
2. Melo Trimble, Maryland, JR, G
3. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin, SR, F
4. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson, SR, F
5. Bam Adebayo, Kentucky, FR, F-C
6. Monte Morris, Iowa State, SR, G
7. Yante Maten, Georgia, JR, F-C
In the draft, there was table talk between me and a pair of Oklahoma State fans. I teased them, suggesting that Evans was taken too early, and wondered when Lucas N’Guessan would go. Evans is no joke. Before missing the last 10 games of the season, the sophomore guard looked like a sweet all-around player who should be helped by the return of shooting guard Phil Forte (knee). Trimble, Hayes, and Blossomgame are all known entities who should produce nice numbers. Trimble has some upside since the Terrapins have had roster upheaval around him. I am bullish on Adebayo even though the 6-foot-10 post player may not get many primary opportunities on offense. Morris is similar to Trimble in that he should get more shots with the Cyclone roster turning. Maten is the second most productive returning center.
1. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin, SO, F
2. Carlton Bragg, Kansas, SO, F
3. Mo Watson, Creighton, SR, G
4. Ivan Rabb, California, SO, F-C
5. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, JR, G-F
6. Dillon Brooks, Oregon, JR, F
7. Thomas Bryant, Indiana, SO, C
The Badgers became the first team to have two players drafted. Like Wisconsin big men past, Happ may add some range to his jumper and should continue to dominate in the paint. Bragg had a quiet freshman season, but is poised to move into Perry Ellis’ slot. Watson may lead Tier 1 in assists and can score aplenty. Rabb figures to be a climber with all of the perimeter talent that left California. Even as a tertiary offensive option, Rabb provided 12.5 points and 8.5 boards. Bluiett is a wing player who can do it all. I had my starting backcourt set in Trimble and Johnson, so I took a flyer (a bit early for a flyer) on Brooks who is currently recuperating from a foot injury. If he proves healthy, the Duck forward has high first round talent. Bryant is another center with plenty of upside. Like Rabb, he was not a primary option on offense last year and still managed to score 11.6 points.
1. Harry Giles, Duke, FR, F
2. Austin Nichols, Virginia, JR, F
3. Mike Thorne, Illinois, SR, F-C
4. Thomas Welsh, UCLA, JR, C
5. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern, JR, G
6. Mustapha Heron, Auburn, FR, G
7. Corey Sanders, Rutgers, SO, G
To me, Giles is one of the most divisive players in the draft. He is coming off of two serious knee injuries and will start the season on the shelf. Like Brooks, he has first round upside, but I don’t think I will sniff around a player who may be limited on a Blue Devil roster that is full to the brim with talent. I dug into the transfer file with Nichols who blocked 3.4 shots per game two seasons ago with Memphis. I tend to shy away from Cavaliers because of their slow tempo, but I think Nichols should be a really solid player for them. Two more teams filled their center slots with mid-range players like Thorne (who is coming off a torn meniscus) and Welsh. McIntosh and Sanders are both high producing guards for bottom tier Big Ten teams. Heron is the jewel of coach Bruce Pearl’s recruiting class. He is a burly 6-4 guard.
1. Chris Boucher, Oregon, SR, F
2. Abdul-Malik Abu, North Carolina State, JR, F
3. Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech, SR, F
4. Dennis Smith, North Carolina State, FR, G
5. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State, JR, G
6. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue, SO, F
7. Michael Young, Pittsburgh, SR, F
If Brooks misses the beginning of the season, Boucher may well be the prime beneficiary. The 6-10 Canadian beanpole can block shots and hit 3-pointers. Abu and LeDay should provide plenty of double-doubles from the ACC. I think Fultz is clearly the best freshman, but there is no consensus in my mind about who will put up the second-best numbers. It could be Smith, a 6-1 guard, who might slide into Cat Barber’s role. Smith comes with some risk because he missed his high school senior season with a torn ACL. I went with Swanigan, who should get more shots with A.J. Hammons gone. Hopefully, more room in the paint will keep the sophomore from taking 3-pointers (just 29.2 percent from long range last year). Young is a solid contributor who provided 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds last year.
1. Josh Hart, Villanova, SR, G
2. Marques Bolden, Duke, FR, C
3. Kelan Martin, Butler, JR, F
4. J.J. Frazier, Georgia, SR, G
5. Jayson Tatum, Duke, FR, F
6. Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State, SR, F
7. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, FR, F
Hart produces well, but I think he is more valuable than his number suggest. He simply can do anything, particularly when a team needs a stop or a bucket. I needed a center, so I shot for Bolden who may get more minutes for Duke while Giles is out. He has more offensive potential than starter Amile Jefferson, but coach Mike Krzyzewski will likely go with the redshirt senior with his Plumlee-less roster. Martin was one of last season’s nicest surprises and could score even more with Kellen Dunham gone from Butler. There is no good reason for Frazier to fall this far. He is just the third player to average more than four rebounds and four assists taken in the draft and put up 17 points to boot. There is an interesting comparison to be made between Tatum and Markkanen. On talent, Tatum seems like a better bet, but Markkanen will likely get more shots with Arizona’s roster in flux.
1. Malik Monk, Kentucky, FR, G
2. Andrew White, Syracuse, SR, G
3. Tyler Davis, Texas A&M, SO, C
4. Luke Fischer, Marquette, SR, C
5. Jamel Artis, Pittsburgh, SR, F
6. Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt, SR, F
7. Miles Bridges, Michigan State, FR, F
I was really curious where Monk and his teammate De’Aaron Fox would go. Both are high flying guards who were very productive in high school. I think Monk will score more, while Fox will be a better all-around contributor. If massive dunks were a fantasy category, Monk would certainly be more valuable. White is a 3-and-D guy for the Orange who should fit in nicely. Davis and Fischer are similar prospects. Each may get more offensive opportunities with their teams losing a lot of players. No one has climbed my board more than Artis since this mock draft. The 6-7 forward may be the main facilitator for the Panther offense. I love point forwards. My pick was Kornet, who is the son of a former Milwaukee Bucks second round pick, who also played at Vanderbilt. The 7-1 senior has not been able to put it together for an entire season yet, but he produced triple-double with blocks last year against Auburn.
1. Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina, SR, F-C
2. Angel Delgado, Seton Hall, JR, F
3. Alonzo Trier, Arizona, SO, G
4. Rosco Allen, Stanford, SR, F
5. Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest, SO, G
6. Dererk Pardon, Northwestern, SO, C
7. Sebastian Saiz, Mississippi, SR, F
In the latter portion of the draft, centers who produced 9.4 points and 5.9 rebounds are a consideration. Meeks could get more shots for the national runners-up, but his overall ceiling is limited. If only Delgado would get center eligibility, he would be a top 25 pick. The 7-0 forward had 13 double-doubles last year and may see the ball more now that turnover machine Isaiah Whitehead is on the Brooklyn Nets. Trier was one of three Wildcats who averaged at least 14.8 points last season. The other two are gone, so he could see a nice bump in scoring. Crawford was a nice surprise as a freshman and hopefully will improve his shot selection (39.4 percent from the field) and ball handling (3.5 turnovers). I have to admit that I had not heard of Pardon before the draft. The 6-8 Wildcat center stepped in for an injured Alex Olah last year and had a 28-point game against Nebraska before cooling off. He is a super center sleeper.
1. Isaac Haas, Purdue, JR, C
2. Tres Tinkle, Oregon State, SO, F
3. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, SO, G
4. De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky, FR, G
5. Derrick Walton, Michigan, SR, G
6. Rodney Bullock, Providence, JR, F
7. Bryce Alford, UCLA, SR, G
Haas had excellent per minute numbers and should get more of those minutes with Hammons gone. The 7-2 center provided 9.8 points in just 14.3 minutes. I like him better than Meeks and would give him consideration over players like Fischer. Tinkle was productive as a freshman and plays for his dad. He could be among the leading scorers in the Pac 12. Similarly, Bacon could be one of the top point producers in the ACC after providing 15.6 points as a freshman. The Fox says ninth round, which seems like a nice value to me. I took Bullock, who should be a steal this late. Coach Ed Cooley tends to have a short bench and Bullock was productive as a third option for the Friars last year. He could score 20 points and grab eight boards as the main man in Providence. I am a bit worried about Alford’s value. As noted in the first round, the Bruin backcourt is crowded. The coach’s son should still lead the team in scoring, but may take a dip in playmaking with Ball handling the ball.
1. Phil Forte, Oklahoma State, SR, G
2. Jordan McLaughlin, USC, JR, G
3. Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, JR, F
4. Jordan Murphy, Minnesota, SO, F
5. Yankuba Sima, St. Johns, SO, C
6. Frank Mason, Kansas, SR, G
7. Tyler Lydon, Syracuse, SO, F
All Cowboy jibes aside, Forte is an excellent value at this point. The redshirt averaged 15.0 points two seasons ago and hit 38 percent of his 3-pointers. His shot attempts should take a nice bump. I finished my draft with McLaughlin, a scoring point guard for the up tempo Trojans. Sima could develop into a Delgado-esque player. I am bullish on the young Red Storm backcourt of Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds, who may be able to set up Sima for easy baskets. The 6-11 center should continue to dominate on the defensive end. Mason and Lydon are great values to finish up the draft. Mason provided 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists last year. His production may not change a great deal, but he is solid. Lydon is the rare player who can block shots and hit 3-pointers. He is the Orange’s leading returning scorer and should be in for a much bigger role.