As a former high school recruiting analyst, the NBA Draft is my absolute favorite night of the year. A chance to see where guys who I have been watching and evaluating since they were in the ninth grade ended up in the eyes of NBA scouts. Here is my final edition of this years mock draft. Unlike Jonathon Givony (Draft Express) and Chad Ford (ESPN Insider) this is not based on any inside information. I follow the draft all year long, study the depth charts, read the rumors, etc…. I have been doing a mock since I was in college but I do not handicap the draft for a living. This is simply an exercise I do for fun in order to make draft night more fun. That said, I think this years mock might be my best ever !
A Trip Down Memory Lane
***The first time I laid eyes on Anthony Davis there wasn’t a single member of the media or scout in the gym who knew a darn thing about him. We were at a tournament hosted by Spiece, an Indiana based AAU program and here was a 6-11 post player who ran the floor like a young Garnett and blocked shots like Marcus Camby. I remember watching as everyone furiously put pen to paper, texted their friends, and watched in amazement. I had just seen history. It wasn’t the first time I had seen a future lottery pick get discovered, but it was nothing like this. The buzz in the gym was electric and two weeks later Anthony Davis was the #1 player in America. I have a feeling it’s a story I’m going to tell my grand kids one day. I was in the gym when Anthony Davis went from unknown to alpha dog***
***I was at the Nike EYBL in Los Angeles later that summer when I did a radio interview for SLAMOnline with Anthony. I had to take his picture for the cover. I snapped it and as I was going through them in my hotel later that night I said to the guys, imagine the number one pick in the NBA Draft had a uni brow like that. The talk shows and fans would go crazy. Heck, it had already become a running joke in recruiting circles. Imagine what would happen when if the national media got a chance to run with it. Never in one million years did I think it could become marketable. Never. Fast forward 18 months and Davis just had the thing trademarked so that people won’t be able to make money off of the popularity of his uni-brow. You can’t make this stuff up.”
***I had a similar high the first time I took in Austin Rivers. It was 2009 at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Florida. Rivers was the local guy, the fan favorite. Dick Vitale and his father, Doc Rivers were in the building watching. The seating capacity was probably around 500 and there was roughly double that inside. It was also the first time I brought my older brother Justin to a high school game. He was vacationing in Boca Raton and made the drive north to Fort Myers to take in a weekend of hoops with me. Rivers showed up and his pre-game swagger was in full affect. He was wearing custom Dr.Dre beats and despite a game going on, all eyes were locked on him as he bobbed his head to whatever was on his I-Pod. He never looked up. Not once. He was completely unfazed by the 800 plus sets of eyes watching him listen to music in order to get in the zone. He was a full blown rock star that night. The ball tipped and Rivers put his entire offensive arsenal on display. He had an NBA ready jab-step, the best crossover dribble in America, and a jumper with out of the gym range. 45 points later Rivers was being mobbed for autographs at center court.***
***It was the 2010 McDonald’s All-American Game in Columbus, Ohio. I was smitten about a Brazilian big man named Fabricio De Melo. I had followed him around for a few days in Las Vegas earlier that summer and was enamoured with his story. I drove to his high school in Sagemont, FL to watch him. I then saw him again at the City of Palms. He was a 1st team shoot-around all-american. He was 7’0″ and could make jump shots out to 20 feet. Not only could he make them, but he looked good doing it. Then the game would start and he looked like a deer in the head lights. The fact that he didn’t understand his assignments or rotations was understandable. He had just started playing the game. The fact that he looked as if he was thinking about something that had nothing to do with basketball and had the worst help-side awareness of any player in the gym certainly scared me some. But there was something about him. Maybe it was his charisma and the way he laughed at himself. Maybe I just saw the abundance of talent and have been waiting for it to shine through. But something inside me has always rooted for this kid. Despite single-handedly destroying a potential final four run for my favourite childhood team, I’m not mad. I still can’t get enough of the gentle giant. He won me over during a 30 minute interview at the Ronald McDonald House. He was genuine, he was humble, he cared about the kids, and he was fun to be around. For the next four years, he’ll also be able to say he’s a third string center in the Association.”
***Michael Gilchrist has always been known as a winner. And he’s always come up huge in the big moments. My first taste was at the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton Virginia. Both Gilchrist and Dion Waiters played for a loaded Team Final squad. It was tied 61-61 when Michael made this half court prayer.***