With the Sixers sitting at home watching the playoffs, it is time to turn our attention towards the Draft Lottery, and then the actual NBA Draft. If you want to read serious analysis on prospects outside the lottery, read DraftExpress or ESPN Insider (Chad Ford’s last Draft at ESPN). Derek Bodner also provides insightful Sixers draft coverage for just three dollars per month. I recommend it. However, I just don’t have time to research 60-plus prospects. I’d have to be getting paid or just be a complete psycho. After the Lottery, I might do some analysis on specific prospects that the Sixers are likely to draft in the top 7, but that’s it.
Thankfully, I do have enough time to make a snap judgement on players after watching three to five minutes of their Youtube highlights. Here is my 2017 YouTube NBA Mock Draft, where I will rank the players based on who has the most impressive mixtape. Only college and overseas tapes will be accepted, because everyone is “The Next Kevin Durant!!!” in high school. I will rank the top 10 after considering players projected to be drafted by DraftExpress as of April 28.
Note: Before I begin, I want to establish that I did not create the idea of ranking draft prospects based on their YouTube highlights. Bill Simmons and Grantland used to do a “Youtube Draft” and The Rights to Ricky Sanchez Podcast has done a “YouTube Big Board.” There are probably others that I am not aware of.
- Markelle Fultz, Freshman PG, Washington https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA9Uw6Fhm6Y
Call it predictable, but the consensus first overall pick among draft experts also has the best highlight tape. This video has the perfect mix of spectacular athleticism, ankle-breaking dribble moves, and ridiculous shot-making that every great mixtape needs. Despite Fultz being the projected top pick all season, I didn’t watch one Washington game. I don’t regret it, because these four and half minutes are all I need to be convinced of his future NBA success. The section from the Cal State Fullerton game is my personal favorite. There is a chasedown block, a fastbreak dunk, one of the best spin moves I’ve ever seen, and a few up-and-under finishes that left me gasping for air. Markelle is the definition of silky smooth. Lock him in for number one.
- Rodions Kurucs, SF, Barcelona 2, 19 years old
Never underestimate the highlight potential of international flair combined with NBA-level athleticism. He plays for Barcelona’s B Team. DraftExpress has no recorded stats for him. None of that changes the fact that Rodions Kurucs’ highlights are pure entertainment. First, a fading runner from the elbow catches the eye. From there, Kurucs keeps impressing. He crosses over his defender and viciously dunks him through the rim. Next, he shows off his sky hook (0:20). Also, a few plays later, he runs the floor and finishes a lob. It’s a decent finish, but the dunk is not what impresses me most. After the finish, he swings around on the rim and attempts to sit on the shoulders of the defender he had just dunked on (0:40). His showmanship and taunting skills will quickly endear him to NBA Twitter. And finally, just when I think I can’t love Kurucs any more, he casually drains a half-court buzzer beater to end the video. What more can I ask for?
- Isaiah Hartenstein, PF/C, Zalgiris, 19 years old
After watching the first 45 seconds of Hartenstein’s highlights, I was ready to include him in the top 14 based on the sheer volume of two-handed dunks in which he tried to tear the rim off like Shaq. Then, suddenly, he busted out a smooth lefty stroke, threw Kevin Love-like outlet passes, and made plays off the dribble. His ability to throw a ¾ court pass with his weak hand is underrated (1:50). Unless he’s an abysmal defender, he will develop into a solid NBA player. He has too many skills and is too mobile at 7 feet to fail.
- Cameron Oliver, Sophomore PF, Nevada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EbBxkyIeFE
Oliver is the most explosive player I watched while writing this. His dunks can only be described as violent. His blocks are flat out disrespectful to the opponent. As if that is not enough, he will step out and drain threes with ease. He has a natural fade on his jump shot that adds some swag to his game. I’m not sure how Oliver is not projected to be drafted in the first round. Even if you don’t see him on draft night, don’t be surprised to see him in the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest.
- Edmond Sumner, Sophomore PG, Xavier https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dhq4g2IS-7Q
Sumner’s stock has slipped from the first round into the late second after suffering an ACL tear in January. No one even made a highlight tape for his sophomore season. Sumner’s freshman year mixtape, on the other hand, is something to behold. He is not the most spectacular dunker, but his dunks just look cool. Sumner constantly launches himself at the rim and finishes through whoever was there to stop him. By my count, he takes only one shot outside the paint in the entire video. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope Sumner makes a full recovery because I can’t wait to see him in the NBA.
- Jonathan Isaac, Freshman F, Florida State https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ16GETqk2U
Isaac is a bit raw at 6’11, 205 pounds, but his body still looks like it was made to play basketball. His length and athleticism will translate seamlessly to the modern NBA. Look at his block on Jayson Tatum (1:35). Some NBA team will watch that play and still draft Tatum over Isaac, which puzzles me, to say the least. Isaac also has a fun habit of trying to steal the inbounds pass right after he scores (2:05). T.J. McConnell and Isaac could be the most annoying (to opponents) teammates ever, in that regard. I love his first step and he has a nice jab step to complement it. His shooting stroke is pretty solid, so he can both stretch the floor and protect the rim. I hope he ends up in Philly.
- Jawun Evans, Sophomore PG, Oklahoma State https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ_axQZyf6U
An undersized guard weaving his way through defenses and finishing over big men is my favorite genre of basketball highlight mixtapes. Evans’ shifty crossovers and acrobatic finishes just never get old. I can’t get enough of him picking someone’s pocket and pushing the ball the other way. Additionally, he throws alley-oops in such a delicate manner. It’s beautiful, if you ask me. Anyway, Evans was the engine that drove a high-powered Oklahoma State offense this year. He is projected to go late in the first round and may be able to contribute to an NBA team as a backup next season.
P.S. If you liked Evans’ mixtape, search for “Aquille Carr.”
- Mathias Lessort, PF/C, Nanterre, 21 y/o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4wdaWzw49o
If you press play on this video, I guarantee that you will keep watching for at least three minutes. Why? His dunk at the beginning is the best attention getter I’ve ever seen. Lessort is a physical specimen at 6’9, 253 pounds. If he had grown up in America, he would probably have been taken in the NFL Draft this weekend. The way he runs the floor reminds me of Nerlens Noel, except Lessort is 25 pounds heavier and much stronger. Also, his three best skills are setting picks, running the floor, and dunking. Therefore, he is meant to play alongside James Harden in Houston. Please make this happen, Daryl Morey.
- Jarrett Allen, Freshman C, Texas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-yXpl0zlLU
Allen was a top high school recruit, but he fell under the radar on a bad Texas team. I did not watch any Texas games this year, so this video was my first time seeing him. At first, I wasn’t particularly impressed. There were good blocks, good dunks, and he had an afro. But over time, the blocks and dunks got better. The afro got bigger. Allen really impressed me with some nifty post moves and footwork. Check out the baseline finishes at 2:20 and 3:10. Those are advanced moves and he looks comfortable doing them. At 1:50, he gallops down the floor and finishes with an off-foot layup. I can’t remember seeing a center do that. He looks raw and definitely needs to add some functional strength, but for whatever reason, that makes me like him more. I’m all in on Jarrett Allen.
- Lonzo Ball, Freshman PG, UCLA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1z-5WDESQ8
I base these rankings mostly on whether the player’s game is aesthetically pleasing to me. Lonzo Ball’s shooting form is the opposite of aesthetically pleasing. I hate looking at it, and it almost kept him out of the top 10. However, his transition play is enough to make up for his jumper. Forget the finishing and passing for a second; just watching Lonzo push the ball in transition is mesmerizing. He has long strides, good straightaway speed, and looks like he’s had years of experience running the fast break. Lonzo also has a large portfolio of lob and putback dunks, which I enjoyed. Combine that with his generational court vision and sleeved undershirt, and I couldn’t leave him out of the rankings. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ball and Simmons feed each other for easy transition baskets next year. Then again, his jump shot might force me to stop watching the Sixers.
Honorable Mention: Kobi Simmons is an outstanding athlete. Miles Bridges would have easily made the list if he had declared for the draft. Alpha Kaba has a great name and an interesting game. Jonathan Jeanne deserves credit for being able to stand upright at 7’2, 210 pounds. Hamidou Diallo has not played in college yet, but his high school mixtape is worth watching. Former UCLA big man Jonah Bolden apparently spent the last year dunking on all of Europe.