It was a big night for the Draftniks, as most of the NBA Draft first round went as predicted. That’s not usually how it works
This is a prized day, dear readers. We are going to take you inside the intriguing creative process of one of sportswriting’s preferred informational devices – the mock draft.
Are we here to mock the mock draft? Well, not quite. But under normal circumstances, you must know that these things usually work out to be labor-intensive exercises in pointlessness.
Consider the intrinsic task in creating a mock draft: A expert beat writer or national columnist in a particular field, usually the NHL, NBA or NFL, is assigned the responsibility of accurately predicting the precise flow of the selection process, with special attention to the first round, where interest is most ardent.
To do this correctly not only requires comprehensive understanding of the strengths and weakness of the hundreds of available players, but the foresight to match them up with the needs of each team in perfect sequential order.
You need to evaluate players and chat up scouts. Most importantly, you must interrogate coaches and general managers with the full understanding that it’s not in their best interest to tell you the truth. Then you trust your instincts.
As you can tell, this is a very treacherous business. Done professionally, a mock draft requires hours of study, then hours more of re-thinking as one begins to place names into their projected draft slots.
Once completed, the author must then depend on divinity.
Think of a mock draft like the game of Jenga, a bunch of wooden blocks painstakingly assembled, perfectly balanced, each layer supporting the other with a symmetrical precision that might impress an architect.
But what happens when even one block is removed in the order not projected? Jenga becomes kindling burnt to a crisp.
On Thursday night, the NBA conducted its annual draft. And as you might expect, just about every major daily newspaper in every NBA city and all of the nation’s pre-eminent websites built their own mocks.
In a grand experiment to measure accuracy, USA Today collected the versions created by its own authors as well as those from ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, CBS and NBADraft.net.
USA Today then collated all of the predictions and spit out a composite version of the first-round, an interesting concept, to be sure.
So how did it turn out? Surprisingly well … for a change.
Here is how the first 10 picks in the first round were projected by USA Today:
1). Phoenix: Deandre Ayton
2). Sacramento: Marvin Bagley III
3). Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4). Memphis: Jaren Jackson, Jr.
5). Dallas: Michael Porter, Jr.
6). Orlando: Mohamed Bamba
7). Chicago: Wendell Carter, Jr.
8). Cleveland: Trea Young
9). New York Knicks: Collin Sexton
10): Philadelphia: Mikal Bridges
And here is how it actually played out:
1). Phoenix: Ayton
2). Sacramento: Bagley III
3). Atlanta: Doncic
4). Memphis: Jackson, Jr.
5). Dallas: Young
6). Orlando: Bamba
7). Chicago: Carter, Jr.
8). Cleveland: Sexton
9). New York Knicks: Kevin Knox
10). Philadelphia: Bridges
So what went astray?
After Donic was taken third by Atlanta he was dealt to Dallas for Young, the Mavericks fifth-overall pick. Donic’s projected draft position was spot on. But the composite did have Young listed as Cleveland’s No. 8, so that was wrong. Bridges also was traded to Phoenix after the 76ers selected him.
The two big swings and misses were the projection of Porter as the Mavericks’ No. 5 pick. Porter wasn’t drafted until No. 14 by Denver. And the composite had the Knicks taking Sexton at No. 9 (he went No. 8 to Cleveland) prompting the them to take Knox, the composite’s 12th overall pick by the Clippers.
All in all, USA Today’s mathematicians are to congratulated for being 70 percent correct, an astounding accomplishment, in our estimation.
However, for those of you at home, who may not have a PhD in draft analysis, we suggest you proceed with caution. Danger lurks. Jenga is a mysterious game.