After a lengthy process, today’s the day! Tonight, the three UNC players expected to go in the first round will have their immediate futures determined, in the culmination of a long offseason of a Combine, multiple workouts, interviews, etc. They’ll make themselves a fair bit of money, too.
Thanks to NBA.com’s handy roundup of 10 different mock drafts (though they only list up to the lottery. Boo!), we can pretty clearly see draft positions coalescing for our guys even after the chaos of the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. As my buddy Al aptly recapped, this trade has potential big-time implications for both Coby White and Nassir Little, both mostly positive but very murky. Now, Cameron Johnson’s future has been thrown into some confusion as well, after Utah’s trade of their 23rd pick, a popular landing spot for Johnson, so there’s even more to look at. So let’s take a look:
- Every single mock draft listed has Coby White being drafted either 6th by the Phoenix Suns or 7th by the Chicago Bulls. Also, all four (that’s The Ringer, The Athletic, CBS, and Basketball Insiders) that have White being taken 7th have Darius Garland being taken 6th, which shows that they’re mocking based on their own feelings and not based on available information. White and Garland left the Combine amid rumors of draft promises from the Lakers for Garland and the Suns for White. While the Lakers’ rumored promise has been invalidated after they traded the pick to a team with an established point guard, the Suns have been true to their alleged word: ESPN’s Jonathan Givony notes that the Suns “have not watched Darius Garland work out” or done much work on him at all, making White to the point guard-needy Suns a near-certainty unless a team trades up for him, which seems unlikely.
- Nassir Little’s still getting a wide range of predictions, getting mocked from 11th to the Minnesota Timberwolves (ESPN) to 22nd to the Boston Celtics (Bleacher Report). Usually, though, we find him in the late lottery, with his most popular destination being Miami with the 13th pick. The team’s draft history, need for a wing, and bringing home a Florida kid all line up for this pick, and if it’s available, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see happen. Little worked out with the Heat last week, so there’s been interest as well. Givony says that Little’s pre-draft process appears to have solidified him as a lottery pick, but even if he slides due to some trading shenanigans, I don’t see him going lower than 17th or so to the Brooklyn Nets, which is what NetScouts Basketball sees happening. I think there’s a chance he goes higher than expected as well, with reports of Sekou Doumbouya’s rise. A team in the late top-10, like Washington (at whose workout Little made some news both for his shooting and his character), that was hoping for him may well take a guy they see as the second option in that mold. According to him in that second link, the Wizards sent more of their front office personnel to his workout than any other team. Just something to keep in mind.
- Cam Johnson’s still landing pretty consistently in the early 20’s, with a ceiling of 18th to the Indiana Pacers (Bleacher Report) and a floor of 29th to the San Antonio Spurs (Basketball Insider), though I find that one incredibly unrealistic. More than the other two guys, Johnson is totally need-independent, because there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t take a deadeye shooter with plus positional size in the 20’s. It’s a total guessing game as to which team takes him, but Yahoo’s note on Johnson is particularly interesting: “Johnson appears to be a lock to the [Oklahoma City] Thunder [at 21], but could go as high as No. 17 [to the Nets] because of a surge of interest.” It’s unclear if that’s something the Yahoo writer is saying could happen or is happening, because Johnson’s had a fairly quiet pre-draft process, but wouldn’t that be something. A 23-year old who was ranked in the 200’s getting picked in the teens is almost unthinkable in today’s draft climate, and yet if there was somebody who could make it happen, it’s probably somebody close to Cam Johnson. The Thunder, or if OKC gets an unexpected faller, the Philadelphia 76ers, seem like the two most likely NBA teams to take Johnson, barring trades at the back end of the first.
We’ll update you tonight as the guys get picked in the NBA Draft, which starts at 7:00 PM Eastern tonight and can be watched on ESPN.