While NBA personnel experts crisscross the globe studying draft prospects, most of us have a simpler method—YouTube. An unscientific and often misleading method, YouTube scouting is the only way most of us can catch up with the young talent and overseas players. But in the YouTube universe a player’s value is affected by editing, music, and pacing. A talented producer can make a borderline second-rounder look like a lottery pick.
What if teams only had those four-minute clips to go by? This year’s draft would look much different. The Crososver asked me to re-order its latest mock draft (Editor's note: We did not, he just did it), with the following guidelines: Type the players’ names into Google and use the first complete-season highlight video with music (that’s safe for work) as our scouting report.
Here's how the first round would play out if YouTube videos were all we knew about these players:
1. Malik Monk, Kentucky
Monk is perfect for YouTube—inconsistency isn’t a concern in a highlight package. Two points in 26 minutes against Georgia in the SEC Tourney—gone. Banished to the non-YouTube universe. Monk shows NBA three-point range throughout, but his vertical makes this montage pop. Best part is a series of jams from an intrasquad scrimmage at the 1:20 mark. Exactly the kind of meaningless action teams ignore and YouTube scouts relish. Monk will win the Slam Dunk contest immediately if he wants to participate.
2. Jayson Tatum, Duke
The most well-rounded clip—Tatum can dunk, reverse like Dr. J, hit a three and reject your shot. No music needed—the voices of Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas (showing a bit of Duke bias) form the perfect soundtrack. If there’s any downside, it’s the @justbombsproduction graphic that dominates the lower third of the screen. Is that really all they produce? Bombs? Seems like a flawed business plan.
3. Markelle Fultz, Washington
The first clip of Fultz was so average, I didn’t have him in the top half of the first round. But since he’ll likely go No. 1, I had to dig deeper. Real NBA scouts go back to the tape … I went back to Google. The second option displays the full power of editing. Fultz embarrasses defenders and shows everything you could want offensively out of a college guard. It's still weird seeing Washington play average opponents—it sort of looked like stock footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial. Fultz seemed to have played TCU twice—an unlikely and extremely lame out-of-conference rivalry.
4. Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
At the 3:00 mark, Smith nutmegs some little guy in a practice jersey and throws down a tomahawk. Not sure if it’s actually practice, an exhibition game or high school—but it was wonderful. Smith alternates between dunking emphatically, crossing guys over and hitting high-arching jumpers. And Smith’s highlight led me to this fun link of Smith facing all three Ball brothers in a camp game. LaMelo looks like he’s 12 and stars in a movie about a kid who found magic shoes and can compete with pros.
5. Josh Jackson, Kansas
If you play for a school like Emporia State or UAB and threw a lazy pass against Kansas, don’t Google Jackson’s highlights. You won’t like them. Jackson’s got a bit of everything—dunks, defense, mid-range jumpers, solid passes. No threes, but that’s on the clip producers (Jackson hit 34 of 90 threes, 37.8%).
6. Lonzo Ball, UCLA
There’s a nostalgic moment when LaVar Ball cheers in the crowd—just another sports dad who hadn’t yet said he could beat Michael Jordan. Maybe too many passes in here. We get it, Lonzo’s got vision. Although he finished about 10 alley-oops and hits several threes way beyond the three-point line (look at the bomb he drops at the 6:58 mark). Defense was either edited out or never took place.
7. Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
At the 1:24 mark Mitchell jumps five feet from the rim, catches a pass behind his head and throws it down. That’s the only play I need to see. He’s top 10. Mitchell moves like a guard but blocks shots like a bigger man. I know fans of the team that drafts him will love this link.
8. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Started out with a NSFW situation due to the Fetty Wap song, so I switched to this extended 16-minute display. Good thing because Fox’s extra gear is in full display. Unfortunately, YouTube can’t illustrate how many times Fox took over late in games. And his 39-point performance against UCLA in the Sweet 16 was absent. Don’t get me wrong, this is a player in complete control of the game. But there aren’t many three-pointers—he hit 17 of 69 on the season (24%). In this case, a YouTube deficiency points to a real-world concern.
9. Isaiah Hartenstein, Lithuania
Wait. What? Is this for real? Hartenstein looks like an angry Toni Kukoc. A lefty seven-footer with deep three-point range and a propensity for dunking in traffic. It’s almost like someone made up this clip. I was kind of feeling the song “In the Name of Love” by Dutch DJ Martin Farrix, sung by Bebe Rexha. Hopefully I’m not getting Darko’d (translation: fooled by lefty European big man).
10. Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
If aliens come down to earth seeking to understand what a European stretch-four looks like in 2017, show them this. Markkanen is going to drain an open three and if a player cuts backdoor, you can bet your ass Markkanen will hit him with a crisp bounce pass. For a 7-footer, the 3-to-1 layup-to-dunk ratio is disturbing. The music is concerning—it’s a new-age/funk stock music jam that adds an air of softness to the clip.
11. O.G. Anunoby, Indiana
Had to go back to a 2015-16 highlight reel because he was hurt last season. YouTube is Anunoby’s friend. It’s a 2:37 clip and the first non-dunk comes at 2:17. He 360s in a game against Chattanooga and generally attacks the rim with unnecessary force in the best kind of way.
12. Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
If you’re not sure what Isaac is as a player, I’m not sure this highlight helps. Is he a small forward? A big man? Both? He hits several threes, but the form on his outside shot seems inconsistent. Isaac may have the best defensive performance of any top prospect’s clip. Just eyeballing it, Isaac appears to have a wingspan of 8'4" and can defend inside or out. At the 1:40 mark he blocks a Jayson Tatum dunk attempt with ease—which makes me worry that I overrated the Tatum clip.
13. D.J. Wilson, Michigan
I’m sure there are downsides to Wilson’s game—he is a redshirt junior who averaged just 11 points per game. But there’s nothing wrong in this eight-minute montage of dunks and three-pointers. He’s a definite YouTube riser—which means nothing come Thursday night.
14. Justin Patton, Creighton
The video editor apparently didn’t feel the need to mix in any crisp layups. This is five minutes of Patton dunking anything he can get his hands on. If your team nabs him Thursday night, you’re going to click on this and be psyched. Although I’m not as sure he’s going to be able to run the floor and jam on every possession in the NBA.
15. Luke Kennard, Duke
While other players’ highlights are loaded with big dunks, Kennard’s highlight has more pump fakes than every other video combined. It’s hypnotic to watch. And the lefty threes are Chris Mullin-esque. (I apologize for the cliché player comp!)
16. Zach Collins, Gonzaga
Interesting approach from “Clutch Films” … half the video features Collins blocking shots against South Carolina in the Final Four. I’d veto this strategy if I was Collins’s publicist—big games are nice, but not at the expense of cool dunks, which he did have at Gonzaga. It’s not clear in this selection of plays if Collins fits the modern game. He looks like a top-five pick in ‘03 not ‘17.
17. Semi Ojeleye, SMU
Ojeleye is a player who translates well in a highlight world without context. He looks like just a strong finisher, until he starts reigning down three pointers. The editor expertly plays with your expectations …. or he just did what everyone else did and started with a dozen alley-oops?
18. Ike Anigbogu, UCLA
If you see this video, you assume Ike Anigbogu averages at least 15 points, 10 boards a game—not 4.7 points, 4.0 rebounds. This clip might contain every shot Anigbogu ever hit. The editor messed with the audio to make the rim sound on the dunks more emphatic and it works. The blocks are amazing as well. Why didn’t this guy do anything at UCLA?
19. Frank Ntilikina, France
The music in the first highlight wasn’t OK for work, so I called an audible to a fully narrated montage that has a slight “Boom goes the Dynamite” feel to it. The analyst—who isn’t introduced or mentioned anywhere in the clip—makes the case that Ntilikina is the best point guard in the draft. His three-point shot looks polished and he can throw it down with ease in the international game. But I don’t trust European highlights until Fran Fraschilla tells me I can.
20. Jordan Bell, Oregon
The video sticks to Bell’s strengths—vicious dunks and interior defense. It goes to the next level when he had eight blocks against Kansas in the tournament. We start out with Bell throwing it off the backboard to himself for a self alley-oop while leading Savannah State 88-43. A little tacky in the real world but perfect on YouTube.
21. T.J. Leaf, UCLA
Leaf has a couple of hammer dunks—just not enough to carry a whole video. Way too much effective mid-range game in here … although the three-point stroke is nice. Some defensive questions—he only had one block and it was lame. Side note: Lonzo Ball looked really good passing to Leaf.
22. Jonah Bolden, Australia
The former UCLA player looks amazing in the Serbian pro league, but there are no fans. Every stadium is empty. Like everyone had the flu. So when Bolden flies through the air in dunk after dunk, there’s no way to tell if it’s legit or if there’s some kind of 28 Days Later situation happening
23. Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Just what you’d expect from a highly accomplished upperclassman—runs the floor, sharp passer, can score in a variety of ways. Not as above the rim as some of the freshmen. But he does have a brief Rasheed Wallace cameo in the crowd and hits a lot of threes from NBA territory.
24. John Collins, Wake Forest
Straightforward 6'9" guy dunking on everyone’s head. Nothing to see here except a lot of alley-oops and emphatic slams. I’m going to have to criticize the editors for not showing Collins’s range, if he has any. That being said, who doesn’t want a 6'9" guy dunking on everyone’s head?
25. Harry Giles, Duke
I didn’t let reports that Giles looks healthy and impressive in pre-draft workouts influence my scouting. He looks great on an alley-oop or follow-up dunk, great shot-blocker, but doesn’t show a wide range of offensive skills. Or any offensive skills really.
26. Anžejs Pasečņiks, Latvia
Not sure about the camerawork and lighting… he could be the next Latvian sensation or never play one second in the NBA. Hard to tell in a highlight that looks like a compilation of random Eastern European big man dunks. Pasecniks’s low rating is solely based on production value, not basketball skills.
27. Terrance Ferguson, Australia
The Australian announcers have too much of an impact. They get really excited about relatively normal plays. And for some reason they show Ferguson taking foul shots. But the former Adelaide 36er (how great is that team name) does have a slam at the 4:24 mark that makes you look twice.
28. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Evans makes Kansas’s Josh Jackson look bad on a couple of drives, but if you had no other context it’s hard to get excited. He seems like a really solid guard—which has no value on YouTube.
29. Jarrett Allen, Texas
Allen may be a great prospect, but this was the most boring clip in the first round. Lots of 12-foot set shots. And for a 6'11" center, very few dunks. Could have definitely used music and some fancy graphics or effects.
30. Josh Hart, Villanova
Four years of solid college play with a top program, including a national title, means nothing in a three-minute highlight. Hart just wasn’t built for YouTube—a domain where clutch is less impactful than spectacular. Besides, we actually saw Hart play a lot of real games in college. He doesn’t need YouTube.