With the NBA draft just a few short days away, myriad scenarios and possibilities remain, beginning at No. 2 with the the Sacramento Kings. To help suss through the smokescreens and surplus of rumors, The Crossover's Front Office contacted 10 of our most trusted scouts around the league, polling our network with the same 10 pressing questions about Thursday night’s big event. The following are their collective responses to each topic, presented anonymously in order to ensure confidentiality.
Will Trae Young pan out? Which lottery pick could fall on draft night? And what should the Cavs do at No. 8? Our anonymous scouts weigh in.
(The following has been edited and condensed for clarity).
1. How does Luka Doncic’s career play out?
I think his range is 2 to 7, but I doubt he falls that far... There’s some questions there because teams haven’t had their hands on him for a medical standpoint and an interview standpoint like we usually do...It’s funny, our international guys are 100% behind him, and based on his age, everything else, what he’s doing in Europe has never been done before…our American guys question his athleticism and what position he is…I think everyone’s a little bit split but those that like him really like him, and those that don’t are really lukewarm. There’s really varied opinion. I think there’s potentially three franchise-changing bigs at the top of the draft, and if you pass on one of those for Doncic and he doesn’t pan out, you’re fired.
I don’t think he has enough scoring ego to be amongst the league leaders in scoring, but certainly he could be one of the more prolific stat-sheet stuffing guys, so probably at best, the second-best guy on a really good team. Obviously, super accomplished at the highest European level at a young age, so given that, I think he’s going to have a good NBA career. He’s excelled at the highest level outside there, and I don’t see any real reason why that wouldn’t continue…Two-time All-Star, I don’t feel confident about that, but one or two time All-Star…High-level starter for a very good team, I don’t think he’s a franchise-altering piece but he could be the second or third best guy on a championship team...I don’t see Sacramento making the pick there. I could see him falling to Memphis at 4, I don’t think the Clippers trade up to get there. I think he’s a good third or fourth option on a good team...I don’t see him dropping past 3. He’s too talented, too skilled, too much of a playmaker and so cerebral that I’d be surprised. Someone’s going to be very lucky if he slips.
2. Who is the best player from this draft in 10 years?
Deandre Ayton. He hasn’t even come close to reaching his potential and what he can do and how gifted he is, the guy should be a borderline superstar.. Ayton, and there’s not much more to it...I think Jaren Jackson, just the way the NBA is going, I could see him playing small-ball five at the end of games, also playing the four with his skills, and he’s one of the younger guys in the draft. To me it just depends on where guys go. No offense to Sacramento but whoever they pick I don’t think will have the best career in a decade…I’m still banking on Luka, the historical things he’s doing over there combined with being a wing that competes every night, we don’t know where the league will be in 10 years but with Ayton and big men, right now it’s still a wing league…Wendell Carter, I think he’s really good. Jaren Jackson’s interesting too, but I think Wendell, his skill level is really really high, and he’s a guy that can play with pretty much anyone else and be impactful…If he’s healthy, Michael Porter Jr. has a chance.
3. What do you do if you’re the Cavaliers, drafting at No. 8?
Are you anticipating that LeBron’s gone? You got a nice pick where you can get a nice player. I think you have to look at figuring whatever assets you can move out of there to get more picks and younger assets. With an aging roster, that doesn’t sound very good...Take the best available, you have no idea what LeBron’s plan is, so I think you just gotta take the best guy…You approach the pick looking for the guy that can be the best player, the uncertainty of the situation is too much to really say we need this guy or that guy to play around LeBron to where you pigeonhole yourself…whether he stays or goes you need to do a lot of mixing and matching with the roster, so the best guy is who you take, then you maybe move some other pieces to free up minutes for him if LeBron leaves, or you can use that guy like they did with Andrew Wiggins and move it. Take the guy who has the most leaguewide value
LeBron is such a versatile player, I don’t know if at No. 8 you’re going to draft someone that’s immediately going to start, so the best available player I’d guess. Are you going to find a replacement? Probably not. If there’s a feeling he’s going to leave or that it’ll be hard to get him back, I don’t think there’s a natural assumption of who the pick has to be...If Michael Porter Jr.’s there, I’d take him. Best available talent, really. I think if he was healthy and played this year and everything was good, he’d be rivaling Ayton for the No. 1 pick...I don’t know if LeBron would affect my pick...I don’t think that radically shifts it. LeBron is so versatile anyway that I don’t think you have to draft with his specific position in mind. I don’t think that should affect their decision, honestly…There’s too many variables to focus on a specific positional need, or making LeBron happy—what will make LeBron happy is having the best team around him if he stays. LeBron can play wherever you need him to play, so I don’t think it really matters…That’s where it starts getting interesting with Trae Young...I take the most-skilled guy that’s still left on the board. And to me, Trae Young, right now, is the most skilled player in the draft.
4. Which lottery team other than the Cavs is in the most difficult position?
Memphis, because their jobs are on the line. Phoenix’s jobs are on the line too, but you’re picking No. 1 at least you get Ayton. Memphis, it’s a little less certain the guy they get at No. 4 is great, especially because they have lofty expectations...Sacramento cannot mess this opportunity up….the No. 2 pick wouldn’t seem like a difficult situation, but I don’t know if the answer is totally clear on who it should be and where they fit into the Kings’ team specifically…Atlanta, I don’t know which direction they go in their roster at all. John Collins might be their best player outside of Dennis Schröder, they could go a number of directions that could influence the entire draft. I feel like they’re probably not going to get the best player, but they’ll have to take whoever’s left…I don’t think it’s necessarily a difficult position but I think the Clippers hold a lot of keys with 12 and 13, whether they trade up to get someone…The Clippers. Who the hell knows where they’re going. Are they rebuilding or are they trying to contend?”
Orlando, they already have a bunch of bigs and a big will be there at 6 or they may have to talk themselves into a guard, either Trae Young or Collin Sexton…The Magic don’t have a legitimate guy, and I’m including Aaron Gordon, where you say this is a high-level player on a championship team. Jonathan Isaac they swung for the fences and it’s way too early to make a judgment, but they just don’t have any true assets as a rebuilding team. They’re not under pressure to win because they’re clearly in the middle of this process, but they haven’t made the playoffs in six or seven years, and there’s no clear path for them back to the playoffs, I look at their core and think they could be really bad for a number of years. I think there’s a lot of pressure with these high draft picks for them to get it right…The Knicks, I just feel like they kind of need to figure out what they’re doing. They drafted Frank [Ntilikina] and then they traded for Emmanuel [Mudiay]. You think, Man they can’t go point guard. But here we are...Charlotte, they don’t have a pick where you can expect to get a super high level talent. They’ve got problems with their salary cup. They’re sitting in the middle right now.
5. Do the rewards outweigh the risks for Trae Young?
It depends on where you’re picking. I think picking him in the top 5, vs top 10, there’s a big difference...He had a really good year obviously, showed a lot of what he can do with his passing and scoring ability…the fact that he stayed in his hometown, I’m sure there was a lot surrounding that, I think he showed a lot of positive qualities…It’s easy to beat a kid up, it’s hard to predict with certainty, and the stuff he has against him, physicality, lack of a blinding first step, but I think there’s a significant reward…he’s so prolific in two areas, it’s hard to imagine one of the two isn’t going to translate…I think his offensive skill set is so advanced, he can shoot so he can play off the ball with bigger guards, and he’s got ridiculous vision..the defense thing, yeah it’s going to be a struggle, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of good offensive players in the league who don’t defend at a high level, and guys like James Harden and Damian Lillard who haven’t even tried. If he tries more than he did at Oklahoma I think he’s smart enough to be close enough to average, but he has the tools to be elite offensively…the only thing that worries me is his frame, because he’s going to take a pounding in the paint…guys that can dribble-pass-shoot, he’s probably the best in all three of those categories in the draft, and that’s the way the league is going.
To me he’s just got a very high ceiling, the Steph Curry comparison, but the floor where he’s attacked on defense, not quick enough to get his shots off, I still think he’ll be fine in the NBA, but if you’re taking him top seven you’re looking for more than someone where the comparison could end up being Seth Curry…I’m not a fan. To me he’s a wannabe Steph, and there’s only one Steph…He feels more like an Eddie House where he might have big games, but the turnovers, lack of size, lack of defense…he’s a lot more risky on any given night...He could be really damn good, but I could also see him being a backup point guard. I wouldn’t touch him. I’d be the GM where if he becomes a superstar, it’s OK [to pass]...You have to ask the legitimate question if he can play defensively in the playoffs...he’s currently the most-skilled player in this draft, but you have to seriously wonder if he can stay on the floor defensively in the postseason. He’s just so small...I think he’s very skilled but I think he’s the type of player that has to be in a perfect situation to excel. The right setting, right people around him and the right teammates. If they all line up, you’re gonna hit a home run, but your’e chances of that lining up are pretty slim.
6. Which player has the widest range in the lottery?
Trae Young or Michael Porter. Michael, you don’t know the injury situation and the intel is questionable and the fit is also very important. He could go as high as 2, he could drop to 8, 9, 10. I would think he doesn’t get past 10. And with Trae, who’s going to put their money where their mouth is? It all depends what Atlanta does...Porter’s in the conversation. He could be early lottery, mid lottery, or late lottery...With a good medical report he could go as high as 2…Miles Bridges could be in the mix starting at 8 and 9, and I could see him falling way out of the lottery...Two weeks ago I would have said Donte DiVincenzo but I feel like he’s this year’s Donovan Mitchell and will go pretty high. Mitchell Robinson I could see someone taking the talent high, or passing on him until it’s late in the first or top of the second to mitigate the risk...Maybe a guy like Gary Trent. Trent may end up anywhere from 22 to 45…our analytics love him but some rankings have him like, 50th, some scouts like him and some don’t, and he’s stuck out to me as someone I need to keep watching because there’s such a wide range…I think the mystery guys, Anfernee Simons and Mitchell Robinson, obviously there’s a lot less evidence to go off in terms of film and numbers with those guys. I think with them it’ll come down to a particular team liking them for particular reasons…Mitchell Robinson hasn’t played high-level basketball ever in his life against legitimate competition, and I just think given he’s not really working out for anyone, you need a GM who’s secure in his job to be willing to roll the dice on that big of a gamble…I think a guy like Dzanan Musa could be a real X-factor in the draft, I could see him going anywhere from 17–33. Jevon Carter might be an X-factor guy, Mo Wagner, anywhere from 17–32.
7. How far could Michael Porter Jr. fall?
I don’t think he falls outside of the top eight...Someone’s gonna take a swing at a certain point. The talent’s tantalizing enough to say the least...There’s no chance he falls out of the lottery, but he can definitely slip into the teens...He could be anywhere from 4, 5 down to 12, 13…Either the Knicks or the Clippers, because now I’m starting to think they’re smokescreening to push him down to one of those bigger markets...If the medical stuff comes back bad, I still don’t see him falling out of the lottery. You look at the Clippers with two picks at 12 and 13, you hedge your risk by taking him in one of those spots...There’s a lot of worries about him fitting in, being a good teammate, being well liked and contributing to being successful.
8. Is this a deep draft?
Not necessarily. It’s tough because the most recent thing you have in your mind is last year, which I think will shape up as one of the best drafts in a while. I think it’s a little to do with that, that this one isn’t as deep…There’s good players in every draft and there will be players later in this one that pan out. but on the whole, I don't know…It’s not as deep as last year’s, I feel like there’s a lot more questionable guys, flaws with everyone up at the top, so from a star potential perspective—I mean last year, Donovan at 13, Lauri Markkanen, even Kyle Kuzma…picking in the 40s you can get a solid rotation guy this year, maybe…You’re going to get depth as far as role players and rotation players, but I can’t tell you it’s a superstar-laden draft..My idea of deep is you’re just as likely to get a good player at 35 as at 25, maybe 45 as at 35, so you reach a certain point where maybe there are 18 guys in this draft that could be a big-time starter down the road, and after that you’re still picking some pretty good players that maybe someone could have taken at say, 25 if they liked them…I just think you have a really good chance, as good as any other year, if not better, to get the same type of talent in the late 30s that you might be swinging on in the 20s. I think that’s kind of the sweet spot. There’ll be some really interesting players that go in the 20s. Portland could be in a worse position right now sitting at 24. If you’re getting a handful of rotation players in the second round...You can probably get to the mid-30s and feel relatively confident about who you’re getting. After 35, 40 players there’s not a lot of guys I’d be super ecstatic about in the second round where you’re like man, he has a real chance…a lot of those prospects you’re like, meh. As we get into the second round, there’s not a lot of excitement. There’s not a lot of game changers. And it’s a weak international group. I think there are a lot of high risk/high reward guys. Hamidou Diallo could be something. Billy Preston could he be something? Trevon Duval. They could move the needle, or would you rather take a safer bet. With this group there’s just a lot of potential failures...There’s an obvious top eight or nine and six or seven other guys in the mix for the lottery. That’s all you need to know.
9. What do you make of Mitchell Robinson?
Someone is definitely going to give him a hard look at the back of the first round...Freak athlete, ridiculous shot blocker, no fundamentals offensively, bad footwork, doesn’t know how to finish without trying to dunk over someone, but defensively he could be elite…You could throw him anything at the rim and think there’s a chance he’s going to catch it, his shot doesn’t look broken…If he had played in college I think he would be a top–five pick this year. But because he didn’t and nobody knew where he was throughout the year, it’s not the talent but you wonder if he’ll go AWOL…He’s a little bit of a mystery man. He definitely has some impressive footage in terms of what we can get our hands on. Obviously he was dominant in competition at the level he played at. He showed some face-up potential down the line. He’s definitely worth the look once the 20s come up...If I have a really, really strong player development program, I’m a playoff team, I can burn the pick, I take him. Because why not take a chance? But if we are one player away, if we need a building block or an important piece, that could end up being a throwaway...He’s a tantalizing talent, going to need some structure and discipline in his life, he’s going to need a good organization to show him how to become a professional, but he’s a long, athletic five-man that can roll and dunk around the rim, he can maybe shoot the ball a little bit, the prototype is good but it’s all between the ears and in his chest, if he can get his life straight…Robinson could be a guy who produces very little his first couple years in the league, then ends up one of the NBA’s leading shot blockers. He could go a bunch of ways. He just has so much learning he has to catch up on…You’re definitely taking a shot in the dark because aside from these high school All-Star games, and it’s arguable how useful those can be from a scouting perspective, you don’t really have a lot to go on…There’s obviously risk involved, but you can see he’s a talented player…I haven’t been on the road scouting the high school kids and some of this is second hand for me, but what can’t he do compared to like, Ayton, or Robert Williams—it sounds like from what I’ve seen on film he has similar upside. You just have no idea what you’re going to get as a kid, what kind of work ethic, if he loves basketball, all those questions between his ears…could he be the next Hassan Whiteside? It just feels like the team that drafts him won’t be the one that benefits from any success he has down the road...I’ve tried to stay away as to not like him. There’s too much fool’s gold. A 1-on-0 workout is where he’d excel. We’ve intentionally stayed a little bit away so as to not be seduced.
10. Who is the most overhyped player in the draft?
I feel like this draft has been pretty fairly valued relative to some other years…there’s not necessarily one guy where it’s like, totally off with his rough projected angle versus where he should go… Marvin Bagley, he put up big numbers, I think he will put up big numbers, but part of me wonders if that’ll be empty calories, losing-type stats, I see where he’s at, he’s either a four-man that can’t shoot or a five-man that can’t defend, I don’t really love that combination…Trae Young, leading the country in scoring and assists is a big deal, but double-digit turnovers in certain games, his team not being very good, I don’t know if it was the media that did it or just that this nation loves the highlight reel guys. If you can boil someone’s game down to a 30-second clip, they get all the love. He just doesn’t feel like a solid pick for me in the top 10…Trae, I wouldn’t take him in the lottery...Three months ago it was Trae, but now it’s probably Zhaire Smith, because he’s arguably a first–round pick and he’s getting mocked 20 picks higher...I don’t know what else he does besides being athletic. I think he could end up being a rotation player...I think there’s a lot of questions with Zhaire but there’s a big variance there, talk about elite bounce and spectacular athleticism, but he’s so new to playing on the wing...Chandler Hutchison is an athletic wing, but he’s not a playmaking wing, not a knockdown shooter, he’s just sort of a wing, and I don’t trust his shot. I wouldn’t have promised him, I don’t know for sure who did…The way he’s being talked about at No. 2, you could say it’s Michael Porter Jr. There’s just still so many question marks with him right now...Mo Bamba, you look at him and there’s questions about his love of the game and his physical and mental toughness. The body looks like it’s going to be hard to put a ton of weight on it. If you watch film, he doesn’t seem to enjoy any bit of physicality. It’s great he can hit a shot, but do you really want a 7’1 guy out on the perimeter?