Lock Draft: An Alternate Draft Universe
FEATURING: A Unique Mock Draft of Sorts, Based on the Previous Year's Draft
Lock Draft: An Alternate Draft Universe
The churn of prospect scouting can be a bit exhausting at this point in the season. Most of the major prospects have been dissected—perhaps overly done. It can be difficult to time a piece. Is the featured prospect playing well? Has the preseason expectation been met? Have injuries hampered a player’s performance? Has the NCAA issued an unnecessarily long punishment? The answer to all of these questions this season has been an emphatic Y-E-S at some point. The timing of the season, the amount of content, and the hours upon hours of film study can be enough to wear down even the most enthusiastic and devoted scout or analyst. So, what can be done?
The answer is: have a little fun. Some light-hearted, good-natured fun can be good to blow off some steam, but it can also facilitate a new way of thinking. That brings us to the point of this piece. “Lock Draft” is a spin-off of an exercise that all NBA Draft fans are intimately familiar with. The concept here is to draft players within this year’s draft class in the same order that players went last season. Clear as mud? I’ll explain it another way.
The Top 3 in last year’s draft were Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr. With those three playing power forward, center, and power forward, the order of this “Lock Draft” will go in the same order. The idea isn’t to look for players that could be more talented than Scoot Henderson; rather, it is to help sift out how deep some positions are, how the draft valued certain positions based on the talent available, and, most importantly, to have fun! Let’s get into it!
No Ceilings Presents: Lock Draft 1.0
#1. Jarace Walker | Forward | Houston | 6’8” | 240 | Freshman
With Paolo Banchero playing a position that is mostly power forward, with enough playmaking and athleticism to allow him to act as a 3 in certain lineups, this is very similar to what Jarace Walker has done so far in the early going. Both have the size and strength to also play some small-ball 5 as well. Banchero was considered the top prospect by some, but last season was largely a three-man race until the buzzer. That isn’t the case here, but the #3 spot in this coming draft is believed to be wide open. The defense shown by Jarace is more impressive than what we saw from Banchero, but Paolo has the ball skill and is more fluid than what we’ve seen from Walker so far.
#2. Victor Wembanyama | Big | Metropolitans 92 | 7’4” | 240 | International
Don’t come at me! This is supposed to be fun. I have Victor Wembanyama listed as a forward personally, but the consensus believes him to be the beginning of an evolutionary state at the 5. He is ridiculously tall, obviously. The opportunity to have Victor and Chet at the same spot makes too much sense. Both have advanced positional ball skills. Both are believed to be advanced playmakers for their position. We believe both will be fantastic shot blockers. Vic just appears to be more advanced with scoring. There is a chance that we’ll see a more offensively-assertive Holmgren when he takes an NBA court, as he was not the top offensive focal point in college during large stints. The race for Rookie of the Year between these two will be a blast to monitor.
#3. Brandon Miller | Forward | Alabama | 6’9” | 200 | Freshman
The comparisons I’ve seen between Brandon Miller and Jabari Smith Jr. are a little more than I’ve cared to see, but there is no denying that if I have to select a tall, sweet shooting, defensively capable forward, then I’m going with the player I’m referring to as “Mt. Miller”. Jabari has taken a little bit to grow somewhat acclimated to the NBA, but that has to do—in my opinion—with the fact that he needs to be set up at this stage of his career. Miller seems to have more skill with the ball on the deck, and he can make some tough shots off of the bounce. He is a capable pick-and-roll ball handler, whereas Jabari is better suited to be on the other end of those sets.
#4. Cam Whitmore | Forward | Villanova | 6’7” | 232 | Freshman
I know these two are decently different in a number of ways, but both are best suited to play the 4 and have some upside to scale up and down the rotation at their absolute peaks. Keegan Murray was a more polished prospect, however, and was thought to be one of the “safer” prospects in last year’s class. His defense was awesome, and his offense drove Iowa—there just wasn’t much he couldn’t do. Cam Whitmore is the antithesis of this. He’s largely valued at this point of this season because of what he could be, not because of his production. As a big Cam guy, I thoroughly enjoy the highs. The lows can be a bit scary. This draft concept is bizarre in nature, and so is this comparison. But both of those things are fun to compare with one another.
#5. Scoot Henderson | Guard | Ignite | 6’2” | 195 | G-League
There is no multiverse that I can conceptualize where Scoot falls to five. If such one exists, I never want to go there. But this is where Jaden Ivey fell, and I feel like both players are similar enough for Scoot to come off of the board here. Both are very quick. Both are positionally imposing. Scoot is miles ahead as a floor general and on the defensive side. Both players would be taken after their second season with their team. Ivey has yet to demonstrate enough consistency to be viewed as a top rookie, but the long game figures to be very promising. Henderson may be one of the best guard prospects to come into the league, and he is a player I personally believe is on the same tier as Victor Wembanyama.
#6. Keyonte George | Guard | Baylor | 6’4” | 185 | Freshman
Keyonte George has been a player I’ve loved as a Top 5 prospect for a while. I felt very similar about Bennedict Mathurin when watching him play at Arizona. Both players are capable on or off the ball. Ben often got slammed for his defensive film, but I thought his athleticism helped him to be a solid prospect on that side of the ball. Keyonte is also very talented on the defensive end. Both players are “hired guns,” so to speak, as scorers, but I feel like Keyonte is a far better facilitator—something that many were not expecting coming into the season. With the scoring long thought to be a threat, the fact that he has shown such growth as a passer has all but solidified his place as a Top 5 guy.
#7. Ausar Thompson | Wing | City Reapers | 6’7” | 195 | OTE
There might be a little something here in comparing Ausar Thompson and Shaedon Sharpe as draft prospects. Shaedon was a mystery player that was largely looked at as a top prospect last season due to his freakish athleticism. While we have seen film—and, in my case, live-action play—from Thompson, the OTE wing still has some mystery in terms of his stock. The competition has been commented on continuously, and we have no idea how dominating for the Reapers translates. His physical tools and scary athleticism will be enough to have NBA front offices believe in him, but will a team take the plunge on him like Portland did with Shaedon?
#8. Amen Thompson | Guard | City Reapers | 6’7” | 195 | OTE
How about this lineup of taking Amen Thompson at the same spot that Dyson Daniels was selected last season? What’s interesting is how I loved Daniels last season compared to how I feel about Amen currently. I believe that like Dyson, Thompson possesses crazy feel, vision, and size, but Amen looks like he will be one of the top athletes in this draft. Daniels wasn’t a bad athlete, but he wasn’t considered to be “generational” athletically. The in-season growth that Dyson underwent while playing for the Ignite was enough for me to consider him as a Top 5 player. The lack of shooting and finishing consistency both have me concerned about Amen. But, at #8, you take the ceiling of an athletic, jumbo creator.
#9. Gregory “GG” Jackson II | Forward | South Carolina | 6’9” | 215 | Freshman
Jeremy Sochan was one of the fastest risers last season, but he also possessed a game that stood out among his peers. While Kendall Brown got a lot of early-season praise, Jeremy worked his way into a Top 10 spot—mostly due to effort and potential. While GG Jackson doesn’t play like Sochan, he may be equally unique. Having the ability to play with the ball as a 4 the way he does is special. He is super young among his peers, and he has a ton of opportunity to grow as a player. While Sochan was a monster defender and had upside as a passer, GG has the potential to be a potent offensive threat. Both are different, but both are special.
#10. Nick Smith Jr. | Guard | Arkansas | 6’5” | 185 | Freshman
By no means am I picking a player that I think will struggle the most at the next level. I’m buying Johnny Davis stock, by the way. Similar to basketball Johnny, Nick Smith Jr. is a threat with and without the ball. Also similarly, Smith Jr. is a promising guard defender as well. Where these two players diverge is health. Davis was on the court a ton, and he barely missed time while being hurt. This isn’t a slight to Nick. Luck just breaks differently for different players. It’s also worth noting that the construction of both of their college teams was based on the skill and production both players could bring.
#11. Taylor Hendricks | Forward | UCF | 6’9” | 210 | Freshman
I was so out on Ousmane Dieng for the majority of last season. After some inspiration from a trusted member within the draft community, I gave the second half of his season another chance. I came away pleasantly surprised. The size and shooting were enough to get excited about, but the creation for others is what pushed him higher. Taylor Hendricks doesn’t have as much on-ball juice, but he can certainly stretch the floor. What else is impressive about his game is the defensive upside. There have been a number of instances that he can switch out on the perimeter, but his shot blocking is very encouraging. There is not a lack of opportunity for a player of Taylor’s ilk at the next level.
#12. Jett Howard | Wing | Michigan | 6’8” | 215 | Freshman
Shout out to Jalen Williams, friend of the brand. He may have been the best example of “it’s never too late to rise” that we have seen in some time. He had been on the radar of many, but it wasn’t until much later that one could believe he’d be the 12th-picked prospect—that should have been taken higher. Jett Howard was a name coming into the season, but not one many considered to be a Top 10 name. That isn’t to say nobody had him that high, but the consensus was lower. Howard has the same on-ball upside that Jalen had. The ability to work his way into his shot is somewhat comparable. Jett needs to improve if he is going to be the same level of passer, but Jalen was more seasoned when he was taken.
#13. Dereck Lively II | Big | Duke | 7’1” | 230 | Freshman
It wasn’t that long ago that Dereck Lively was thought to go significantly higher than #13. Now, it’s pretty wild to even see his name this high. I loved Jalen Duren during his time at Memphis despite it not being ideal. Sound familiar? We’ve seen such a variance in Dereck’s production, but like Duren, if you squint, you can see a player there. While his offense has been M.I.A in large stretches, his rim protection and rebounding have been promising. Duren may have had one of the best big man bodies I’ve ever evaluated, so obviously Lively has a ways to go in that department. I’m pretty surprised at this. I have some thinking to do.
#14. Gradey Dick | Wing | Kansas | 6’8” | 205 | Freshman
I promise this wasn’t on purpose, but it’s hard not to take Gradey Dick where Ochai Agbaji was selected. Both are promising shooting prospects. What blows me away is how consistent Dick has been on defense, on the glass, and even as a connector. The efficiency numbers aren’t at the level that Ochai had in his draft year, but Gradey has shown enough to be considered as a top shooter in this class. Ochai hasn’t shown a ton—and was even traded—which may be a possibility for Gradey, but I believe in his connective ability and competitive nature to be a year-one contributor.
#15. DaRon Holmes | Big | Dayton | 6’10” | 225 | Sophomore
It’s becoming very apparent how deep the big man crop was last season compared to this year. That’s not to say DaRon Holmes is a bad prospect; he just isn’t at the level I think Mark Williams is at, personally. Williams and Holmes are both great shot blockers. Both have some nice athleticism for their position. I just have some concerns as to how DaRon will adjust to the size and strength that NBA 5s have. Williams has even had to cope with seeing time in the G-League despite there being a clear need for Charlotte to see production from him. Holmes might see the same level of patience applied to him.
#16. Max Lewis | Forward | Pepperdine | 6’7” | 195 | Sophomore
AJ Griffin has to deal with coming off of an injury while coming into his freshman season at Duke. His defense was concerning. We had to evaluate how much did injuries play a part in his perceived athleticism. He didn’t do much other than shoot—but he was phenomenal at it. Max Lewis might be the most effective shooter in this class. He’s posted obnoxious stats regarding his shooting efficiency this season without the talent that Griffin got to play with at Duke. His path is far different than the one AJ took, but both look to be NBA-level shooters.
#17. Noah Clowney | Forward | Alabama | 6’10” | 210 | Freshman
Tari Eason was the apple of my eye for much of last year’s cycle, so comparing anyone to him feels half-hearted. Noah Clowney isn’t the level of defender that Eason was, but he is also much younger. Both are probably best served by playing the 4 in the NBA, but both offer substantial versatility. The shooting that Eason displayed last year was under-discussed, but it looks to be the skill that could vault Noah up to this range in a few months.
#18. Jalen Hood-Schifino | Guard | Indiana | 6’6” | 213 | Freshman
Jalen Hood-Schifino is much high on my board, but his comparison to Dalen Terry is pretty fun. To be fair, Jalen is much better on the ball. Much better. Terry was a 2 in Arizona who had the tools to potentially be a jumbo-initiator. There are no concerns with Hood-Schifino being an on-ball facilitator in the NBA for me. His vision is very nice. He has good touch on the ball when shooting. The size offers some switchability on the defensive end, but he does need to improve on that front.
#19. Brice Sensabaugh | Forward (?) | Ohio State | 6’6” | 235 | Freshman
I love funk—both the music and the style that certain players bring to the game of basketball. Friend of the brand Jake LaRavia had funk in spades and could do a bit of everything. The shot was pretty. The ball movement was fun. He had good size. The defense was solid, but nothing to write home about. Brice Sensabaugh could be considered a guard, wing, or forward—depending on who he’s playing with. Though listed at 6’6”, he is a very strong player that gets to his spots with ease. Like Jake, Brice can shoot. Unlike Jake, Brice can do a ton with the ball on the bounce. LaRavia showed more on the defensive side and in playmaking, but he was much more polished due to his experience. Brice is very young and looks lethal as an offensive threat.
#20. Cason Wallace | Guard | Kentucky | 6’4” | 193 | Freshman
Taking Cason Wallace this late saddens me, but that’s how the positions compare from last season to this one. Both Malaki Branham and Cason are guards but of a different cloth. Branham has such a mature shot-creation ability. His defense wasn’t his strong suit, though. To say Wallace is good defensively is an irresponsible understatement. He is probably the best defensive playmaker in his class. His on-ball scoring might get criticized—and that’s fair—but if you’re taking Cason to play off of another player, he can shoot the ball with efficiency and confidence.
#21. Colby Jones | Wing | Xavier | 6’6” | 205 | Junior
This one is fun to me. I underrated what Christian Braun brought to an NBA team. Viewed as a shooter, he wasn’t an efficient one. He played solid defense. He made smart looks. He competed on the glass. He was a high-energy guy. That’s exactly what he’s done for Denver in his rookie season. Colby Jones is a reliable shooter while also being one of the best wing defenders in college basketball. Both were upperclassmen—should Jones declare and get drafted. The exciting ceiling may not be sexy, but NBA teams know exactly what Jones brings, and it’s something every team should value.
#22. Trayce Jackson-Davis | Big | Indiana | 6’9” | 245 | Senior
Let me first say this: I was wrong about Walker Kessler. I had him as a second round pick. Many people did. Since Kessler has over-achieved expectations placed on him, many NBA teams will probably be looking for another one. TJD isn’t as big as Walker, but he is a tremendous shot-blocker. Not only that, but he is very strong and can finish well around the rim. The big development in his game has been the playmaking—something that Kessler doesn’t have. Teams might fool themselves for chasing the dimensions of Kessler while ignoring the productivity and processing that makes him special. TJD has up-checks in both of those areas.
#23. Kris Murray | Forward | Iowa | 6’8” | 220 | Junior
David Roddy is one of the more unique body types in the NBA. On top of the peer-separating frame of Roddy, he was massively productive for his team. Kris Murray isn’t as unique. Heck, there is a player in the NBA that looks just like him. But Kris is incredibly productive. He is the top player for his Iowa club. He is very efficient on substantial volume. Murray looks to be a solid defensive player with the ability to space the defense out. His on-ball equity isn’t as flashy as what Roddy displayed at moments, but he is another one of these “safe” players that have a high probability of outplaying wherever they’re drafted.
#24. Rayan Rupert | Wing | New Zealand Breakers | 6’6” | 192 | International
MarJon Beauchamp does see some minutes in the NBA while being a late first round pick. The shooting was questionable. The playmaking wasn’t to the level of a primary initiator. But he played with frenetic energy on defense and was someone that just made smart plays. Rayan Rupert has had an injury to overcome, but he came to New Zealand with an interesting skill set. He is a hound on defense, but he also has some ball-handling promise. The shooting and scoring splits aren’t what you want to see, but he could see his stock rise in a manner similar to what MarJon saw as the cycle progressed.
#25. Anthony Black | Guard | Arkansas | 6’7” | 198 | Freshman
Anthony Black is just another example of how much deeper the guard class looks to be this season compared to the prior one. Blake Wesley was much more of a “theory” player. His athleticism and explosiveness are what set him apart, along with some defensive upside. His offensive game consisted of a lot of “put my head down and go” looks. Anthony is more of a natural floor general while also being a promising, potentially switchable defender. Similar to Wesley, Black has some work to do in the shooting department.
#26. Terquavion Smith | Guard | NC State | 6’4” | 165 | Sophomore
Wendell Moore Jr. was a prospect I had teetering between a late first round grade and a priority second round one. His connective ability, along with the reliable floor spacing and defensive ability, looked like enough to believe Wendell could stick in the league for many years. Terquavion Smith is a flamethrower. His range on his jumper is preposterous. The utter certainty he has in his scoring makes him one of the best Sixth Man of the Year candidates in his class. He’s a bit undersized, and he has struggled with some injuries lately, but he has a nuclear offensive bag that will likely lead to him being taken higher than here.
#27. Kyle Filipowski | Forward | Duke | 7” | 230 | Freshman
While Kyle FIlipowski isn’t an international player, it’s pretty cool to stack him next to Nikola Jović. Jović had more juice as a passer—it was actually his more unique skill. Kyle isn’t that level of passer, but he is a willing one. Both players are ones you hope prove to be reliable floor spacers in the front court. You kind of worry about their defense but if you put them in the right ecosystem, you might be able to live with the defensive deficiencies if they are consistent offensive threats.
#28. Dariq Whitehead | Wing | Duke | 6’7” | 220 | Freshman
Patrick Baldwin Jr. had a not-so-good campaign playing for his father at UW-Milwaukee, but was taken because of how highly he was regarded coming into his freshman season. Dariq Whitehead is also in a strange situation that has seen injury concerns and poor roster construction. Two different obstacles, but you can see how these players with preseason expectations could both be taken by a team that doesn’t need them to be instant impact rookies. Dariq could live up to the expectations with more time, but it’s fair to say that his stock has taken a similar hit to that of which we saw in Baldwin Jr.’s.
#29. Marcus Sasser | Guard | Houston | 6’2” | 195 | Senior
Marcus Sasser has long been a favorite among our No Ceilings team. His shot-making is fantastic. His defensive pressure is a joy to watch. He can play off of and complement a wide variety of players. He is just a smart player that plays incredibly hard. TyTy Washington Jr. was drafted at a younger point, but he was still believed in because of his passing ability and promise to grow in his off-ball game. Sasser is a different type of guard, and he is going to open the floor for any team that is lucky enough—and smart enough—to take him.
#30. Julian Phillips | Forward | Tennessee | 6’8” | 198 | Freshman
Peyton Watson was another case of a prospect that was expected to reach tremendous heights as a one-and-done, multi-faceted X-factor. He wasn’t afforded much playing time at UCLA but was still taken in the first round due to his preseason hype and defensive promise. Julian Phillips was a well-known prospect, but he wasn’t thought of as a potential Top 5 guy like how Watson was. Phillips has been a very impressive defensive player, but he has a ways to go on offense. Watson had playmaking upside, whereas Julian has to grow in that area of the game. With some offensive questions, the shooting upside and defensive ability might be enough to have Phillips taken where Watson was drafted.