By Max Feldman
NBA Draft media coverage does a great job controlling the stock of prospects by showing highlights, sharing measurements and the most dangerous at times, comparisons. The following four prospects stick out as those who’s consensus draft stock is massively inflated. My feelings have tapered as of late on some prospects (Poku and Edwards) and some I have been low on throughout the process (Okoro and Hampton). Taking a look at the consensus Big Boards throughout draft coverage and then seeing FOG’s might create some questions, and this should answer most of them. The four players listed are in order of how far the FOG opinion differs from the majority of NBA Draft media.
Big Board #17
Through all the film and the entire season, I have not been able to sell myself on Okoro as a top ten pick no matter how bad I want to. He’s an elite defender and having that prowess at a young age speaks volumes towards what kind of player he can be in the NBA. I am sold on that end because of his frame at a mature 6-6 and 225 pounds, his relentless motor, the isolation defense analytics (88th percentile) and his complete body of work under Bruce Pearl. But, I can not quite sell myself on taking a defensive stopper in the top ten of the NBA Draft. On the offensive end, Okoro can be a ball stopper as he can dribble too much, force the action and struggle against ball pressure. He is not a shot maker on spot ups, hand offs, P&R or in transition. He struggled mightily from deep showing inconsistencies in his release and balance. He lacks live dribble passing ability, and 1:1 assist to turnover ratio illustrates his lack of playmaking for others. ESPN and others maintain Okoro’s stock as a top five player in the class, as do the comparsions to Kawhi Leonard, Caron Butler and Andre Igoudala. A few guys come to mind when evaluating how Okoro’s game might translate, and those are Andre Roberson, Josh Okogie, OG Anunoby and for a throw back, even a little bit of Ronnie Brewer. All plus athletes who do not have advanced skillsets on the offensive end. The idea being thrown around is that his offensive has a ton of room to grow and signs of development are there, but outside of his ability to finish at the rim, especially strong in transition, I can not be sold that Okoro is going to develop a consistent jumper, good touch or an advanced feel for the game. Unless it is for a team with a glaring weakness in perimeter/wing defending, Okoro is not worth a lottery selection.
Big Board #32
The case with Pokusevski is not a rare one. A European big with a plus draft age, strong measurements and impressive highlights. To be completely honest, I had Poku in my top sixteen range for a month or two. Yet, the more I dive in and see more film, the more his case scares me. Much of the excitement of his film comes in him grabbing uncontested rebounds, dribbling down the court through defenders and finishing at the rim. Next thing you know he is being compared to Porzingis, Jokic with his passing and I even saw a Giannis comparison. Here’s is where I am on a different page. Poku is not a good athlete. Not average or decent, bad. It seems at times he is moving in slow motion. The likely absence of workouts and the combine is great news for Poku for these reasons. His rim to rim scoring ability is shown off because of his massive 7-3 range and his competition against other poor athletes. Another glaring point to me is that all of his strengths flourish in transition. Yes, there is a run and gun style in the NBA and the tempo in a game is vital for control, but games are won and lost in the half court battle. Poku is not extremely effective on either end in the half court. The combination of his lack of athleticism yet all of his strengths thrive in the transition game creates a gloomy transition and trajectory for the Serbian big man. His passing game is unique and he does have excellent feel for the game, but he will likely be the youngest player drafted in the entire field and requires a long timeline for development. He’s a project with a lot of concerns in my eyes and is not worth a top 25-30 pick.
Big Board #21
Three weeks ago, FOG dropped the full scouting report on RJ Hampton. This does a good job diving deeper into the nuances and details of why I am low on him. To keep it simple, I have been extremely low on Hampton since he arrived in New Zealand when he’s pegged as a near lock to be a top eight pick. Since then, the media has moved away from him and his range remains from about 8 to 14. The New York Knicks are rumored to be especially interested in Hampton. I had hope that moving to an advanced level outside the NBA would allow Hampton to develop in his natural position as an off-ball guard, but that did not come into fruition. Hampton continues to try and develop into a playmaking lead guard, but struggled showing feel for P&R coverages, consistency making the right pass to keep fluid ball movement and simply the natural ability to lead an offense. His jump shot remains a question as he did not showcase the ability to stroke it from deep with confidence (29% from deep) and while his mid-range pull up game is a strength, his mediocre 67% from the free thrown line brings about the question of whether he can develop that area of his game. The comparisons to Dejounte Murray and Markelle Fultz are not fitting due to his lack of natural feel. The comparisons to Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Zach LaVine are even less likely because of his perimeter shooting shortcomings. Yes, he is a long, pogo stick athlete with a good motor and positive trajectory on the defensive end, his lack of feel and natural playmaking ability do not fit the bill. This case is a bit different, because I do like Hampton as a player, but I do not like him in the position that is being forced upon him. If he falls to a team where he can ‘star in his role’ or be pegged with the responsibilities of slashing, improving tempo, defend both guard spots and provide an overall energy boost of, I do like him. He requires a specific fit unlike many other top prospects, and I fear for his trajectory if he does land with a team like the Knicks who are in need of players with advanced feel and playmaking ability.
Big Board #5
The big fish. Ant was in my top three to four range for the entire duration of FOG’s existence, until May of 2020 where he falls to the 5th spot. To say I am not sold on a prospect but still have him in the 5th spot just goes to show how highly regarded Edwards is by draft media. Edwards will never fall out of the top three on the FOG Mock Draft, because that simply will not happen when draft day rolls around. To clarify, Anthony Edwards is an incredible talent and is the definitive top individual scoring player in the field. However, my perspective on Edwards continues to grow more gloomy the more film and analytics I dive into. I am sold on Edwards as a scorer, but I am not sold on Edwards as the 1st or 2nd pick overall. As eye-catching as his highlight plays around the rim and from the perimeter, specifically the Michigan State game in Maui, his bad film is as bad as any presumed top 40 pick. Not only did Edwards display a poor motor throughout the season, there are many clips where he outright shows no effort whatsoever. He has all the intangibles, thus why he will be a top three pick, but he did not show signs of putting it all together. Further, it should be clear to longterm FOG viewers that I put a massive amount of value in overall feel for the game and instincts. While Edwards can show off an elite scoring skillset from all three levels varying between power and finesse, his poor shot selection and lack of feel for when to keep the ball moving took Tom Crean and Georgia out of many games this season. Scoring is the name of the game, but even the best scorers in the league today show off some ability to make plays for others, or they’ll be stuck in a category with Zach LaVine, Donovan Mitchell and Bradley Beal who can not be fully built around because they fail to consistently elevate the performance of their teammates. No doubt that Georgia was at it’s best when Edwards had the ball in his hands at times, but they also were at their worst at times when Edwards had the ball. With that, the Bulldogs finished at 16-16 and 13th in the SEC. Edwards might be a home run pick for some lottery teams, but if he winds up in a position with a team like the Pistons, the Knicks, the Cavs or Hornets where he is being built around, I can not sell myself that he nor the team will find long term success.