Yes, it’s only been two months into their rookie seasons and it’s far too early to definitively say how their careers will turn out but we’ve seen enough of the rookie class so far to have some fun with a re-draft. Overall the early reports on this draft class are positive. There are a number of players that look like stars and possibly one or two superstars at the top. We’ve seen the typical rookie struggles and some immediate impact players.
I’ll keep this re-draft at a top 20 since many of the prospects haven’t seen real minutes yet and it’s just too early to evaluate them as NBA players.
One thing that really stands out about this group of young players is how advanced many of them are on the defensive end. I can’t remember a rookie class having such a big impact on that end of the floor and we could see a number of NBA All-Defensive team selections from this group.
Note: I’ve left teams in their original draft order but didn’t take team needs very strongly into account.
- Magic – Paolo Banchero – PF – Duke – Banchero is a beast. He should have been no.1 on my big board, I messed that up, I’ll own it. He’s got such an incredible blend of power, speed and skill that he can overpower NBA defenders and play bully ball against most players in the league. Banchero looks like a perennial All Star with All NBA first team potential. So far he’s averaging nearly 22ppg and 6 boards (on less than ideal efficiency). The Magic nailed this pick and are building a nice young nucleus for the future.
- Thunder – Chet Holmgren – PF/C – Gonzaga – Although Chet is out for the season he showed enough dominance in Summer League to hold on to the no.2 spot. He’s an incredible talent. The only thing that can slow him down is injuries. When healthy he’s got a blend of 3pt shooting, shot blocking and overall versatility that is hard to find anywhere in the league outside of Kevin Durant. His abilities are special. Fingers crossed he stays healthy.
- Rockets – Jabari Smith Jr. – PF – Auburn – I had Smith no.1 on my board in June, which was too high. But I’m still all-in on his talent and think he’ll be a many-time All Star and one of the best shooting bigs in the league. His defense has translated right away and he’s starting to see his 3pt shot fall at a high clip, like it did in college. His play-making and creation abilities are still lacking and will likely never be a big part of his game but what he does shooting the ball from mid range and from deep and defending is special. After a very rough start he’s up to 36% from 3 and that number will likely continue to rise.
- Kings – Bennedict Mathurin – SF – Arizona (Canada) – This might be too low for Mathurin who has come into the league on fire, looking like a high level starter with All Star potential. He’s a 3 level scorer who just knows how to put the ball in the basket. He’s not a great play-maker but does everything else well and is a perfect fit on the wing next to a ball dominant lead guard like Haliburton. The Pacers nailed their draft.
- Pistons – Shaedon Sharpe – SG – Kentucky (Canada) –Sharpe is looking like a future star with superstar upside. His rare athletic ability stands out even against NBA level athletes. He might take a few years to really come into his own but his upside is unlimited. Ivey was a nice selection for the Pistons on draft day but Sharpe gets the nod here.
- Pacers – Jaden Ivey – SG – Purdue – Ivey is what we thought he was. He’s one of the most explosive athletes in the league who will take some time to polish his game. So far he’s been very inefficient from the field and from 3 but his athleticism is next level and he still has all of the upside in the world. Once he harnesses his abilities and develops better shot selection/decision making the league better watch out.
- Blazers – Keegan Murray – PF – Iowa – Keegan has been really good so far in his rookie season and, as expected, he came into the league ready to contribute. The reason he lands at no.7 on this list instead of in the top 4 where he was drafted is the massive upside of some of the younger prospects. Murray will be a long time starter and might make a few All Star teams, which is a solid value at no.7.
- Pelicans – Dyson Daniels – SG/SF – G League Ignite (Australia) – The Pelicans drafted Daniels at no.8 and get him here again in the first re-draft. He hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time yet but has shown in flashes exactly what they hoped to see when drafting him: exceptional perimeter defense, great passing instincts and team first play. He’s got all the tools plus a feel for the game that you can’t teach. He’s going to be good.
- Spurs – Jalen Williams – SG – Santa Clara – I’m tempted to put JDub even higher. He’s really f*$%ing good. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands, getting into the lane with ease, despite not having an elite first step and showing off advanced play-making and feel for the game. He’s got great size and length and incredible versatility. He’s the epitome of a modern position-less player.
- Wizards – Tari Eason – SF/PF – LSU – This would be a hell of a pick for the Wizards who spent this pick on Johnny Davis instead. Eason has been one of the most effective two-way rookies in the class and has a big impact that goes beyond the box score. He’s averaging 1.2 steals despite playing only 19 minutes per game and is hitting a very respectable 36% from downtown. The Rockets got a good one at no.17 and he goes much higher in this re-draft.
- Knicks – Adrian Griffin Jr. – SG/SF – Duke – AGJ has brought all of his best qualities from his time at Duke (elite shooting, scoring touch and high IQ play) while also looking more athletic, now being a full year removed from injury. The Hawks drafted Griffin Jr. at no. 16 but he’d go at least a few spots higher in an early re-draft, possibly even cracking the top 10 on some re-draft boards. He’s right there in the top 10 mix for me, along with JDub and Tari Eason.
- Thunder – Jalen Duren – C – Memphis – This is where the strength of this draft class shows. Having Jalen Duren at no.12 is tough. He’s been really solid, really strong inside and it looks like he’ll be a starting center in the league for a long, long time. It’s just hard to put him any higher given how the other rookies in this class have played. The Pistons should be very happy with their selection.
- Hornets – Walker Kessler – C – Auburn – Kessler was the best shot blocker in college basketball last year and has picked up right where he left off, averaging nearly 2 blocks in just 17 minutes per game. He’s also shooting a silly 74% from the field. This combination of rim protection and efficiency on the offensive end might not make him a perennial All Star but certainly makes him a very valuable NBA player who projects as a starting center for years to come. If he can hit his free throws and expand his offensive game we could see him playing on All Star weekend in the near future.
- Cavs – Jeremy Sochan – PF – Baylor – Sochan has come into the league and made an immediate impact on the defensive end. He can guard up and down the line up and is tenacious on that end of the court. His offensive game is limited and it’ll likely be some time before he’s a consistent floor spacer (currently hitting just 17% from 3pt land on about 2 attempts per game) but he does have a decent feel for moving the ball, setting screens and playing within the offense. There are a lot of good defenders in this draft class and Sochan might be the best.
- Hornets – Ousmane Dieng – SF – France – We haven’t seen much of Dieng yet and now he’s out for an extended time with a fractured wrist but he’s got all the talent in the world and I’m not selling any of his stock. There’s a chance he ends up much higher on this list in a year or two… or three.
- Hawks – Andrew Nembhard – PG – Gonzaga – Nembhard is about as poised as any rookie can be, looking like a 5-year vet so far this season and earning plenty of playing time because of it. He’s been super efficient with his offense with shooting splits of 47/40/87 while also dishing out 4 assists to only 1.4 turnovers per game. The Pacers got a steal at no.31 and in this early re-draft he goes in the top 20.
- Rockets – MarJon Beauchamp – SG – G League Ignite – MarJon has looked really solid so far for the Bucks and would probably come off the board a bit higher, given what we know now. His minutes have been inconsistent but when he’s gotten the opportunity he’s stepped up and delivered. If he can prove to be a good shooter in time he could be a long-term starter in the league.
- Bulls – Jake LaRavia – SF/PF – Wake Forest – LaRavia was drafted at no.19 and moves up one spot here in the early re-draft. He’s been exactly who we thought he was and that’s a solid floor spacing combo forward who plays both ends. He’s been playing a small role in the rotation for the Grizzlies and it looks like he’s going to be a long time contributor and possible starter in the league.
- Timberwolves – TyTy Washington – PG – Kentucky – TyTy is just starting to get minutes so this might be premature but I was really high on him in the draft and remain so. I think he’s a starter in the league and that’s at least worth a top 20 pick. Hopefully the minutes come around as the Rockets take their tanking more seriously.
- Spurs – Jaden Hardy – SG – G League Ignite – Hardy was once considered a likely top 5 pick but fell all the way to no.37 on draft night. His scoring ability was never in doubt but there were questions about his shot selection, efficiency, lack of size and defensive ability. While some of those questions remains it’s clear that his ability to put the all in the basket will translate and he projects as a microwave scorer off the bench. If he can improve his shot selection and hold his own defensively he’ll have a long career.
Honorable Mention/On the Bubble
Patrick Baldwin Jr., Christian Koloko, David Roddy, Christian Braun, Mark Williams, Nikola Jović