The NBA Draft is always littered with unknowns. No matter how much scouting is done, how many games are dissected and how many hours of workouts and interviews are conducted, there are still the mistakes. Anthony Bennett was taken No. 1 overall. The same spot atop the draft was utilized for Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown.
And we don’t have to roll through the Knicks' history to break fans' hearts with reminders of the misfires on draft day.
So what if we took away the scouting of college games? I mean, not dropping from four years of college down to a one-and-done, but really — no college games. And what if that player didn’t compete anywhere for the one year since high school? No more AAU ball. No EYBL. And just as a tease for teams, the player was the No. 1-ranked high school player, but that came only after a drastic step forward at a tournament that rocketed him from unranked to the top of the class.
That is what teams are facing Thursday when considering Shaedon Sharpe.
The stories are tantalizing. There are reports of him being measured with a 49-inch vertical leap — which would top that of Michael Jordan, along with everyone else who has been measured in the NBA. He measured 6-5 with shoes at the NBA Draft Combine with a wingspan of 6-11 1/2. Scouts say he is a skilled shooter and as explosive around the rim as any prospect in the draft. That has gotten him workouts with the Orlando Magic, who hold the No. 1 pick in the draft, as well as most every team in the top nine slots.
But scouts also have given mixed reviews, complaining at the Combine — where he didn’t play — that he has been overhyped and shouldn’t be talked about in the same breath as the top five players in the draft, much less considered for the top spot.
So what is reality? Well, ask him.
“I see myself being one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball, just playing at the highest level, getting after it, competing,” Sharpe said Friday on a predraft media availability. “One of my goals coming in as a rookie is to win Rookie of the Year. That's one of the goals and then also, you know, All-Star, and then later on, Hall of Fame.”
That seems in line with the legend, but there is that pesky item of actually proving that he can do any of this. He was with Kentucky but opted to not play at all. He said Friday that the decision was his to sit out, focusing on getting better as a player in workouts after reclassifying to enroll at the university in October.
As we noted earlier, there have been plenty of prospects who had teams salivating — overseas unknowns, one-year wonders and high school phenoms. For teams considering Sharpe, these individual workouts, prepped and prepared for by his agents, are all there is.
“I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “Me not playing. It's hard because being a basketball player, I feel like you want to get out there and support your guys, play with your teammates and everything. Compete. But I don't think it's really gonna be too hard for me just because I've been competing for a long time now.”
While it’s Father’s Day, for a few of the top prospects, Mom turned out to be a huge part of the path to the NBA Draft.
Jaden Ivey is the son of Niele Ivey, former star point guard in the WNBA and now coach of Notre Dame. Jeremy Sochan’s mother, Aneta, was a standout from Poland who played at Division II Panhandle State in Oklahoma, as did his father. He credits his mother for teaching him to focus on defense first — a skill that has him drawing comparisons to Draymond Green heading into the draft. Paolo Banchero’s parents both played for the University of Washington, and his mother, Rhonda, left as the all-time leading scorer before playing professionally.
“Growing up, all I would ever hear is people telling me stories about my mom,” Banchero said. “You know, raving about how good she was, how dominant she was. I never saw her play, so it was kind of hard to believe. I mean, I believed it but I couldn't really imagine. But a couple years ago, she showed me a bunch of college tapes like just highlights from college and stuff, and so I got to see really, her playing and her stuff. And she was a four-year player, dominated much of her career.
“She's helped me in a lot of ways. But I would say the main thing is just the fundamentals. She made sure growing up I never lacked fundamentals. She always stressed that to me instead of the stuff that may look better, look more pretty. She always made sure I was using the backboard, being able to use my left hand and talking about talking on defense and offense, like just little stuff.”
Top draft picks
It looks as if the top three in the draft remain Jabari Smith, Banchero and Chet Holmgren, with Ivey and Keegan Murray the next two — although Ivey has been rumored to not want to play for Sacramento, which has the No. 4 pick.
Sharpe, Dyson Daniels and Bennedict Mathurin all figure to be gone ahead of the Knicks at No. 11. In our first mock draft right after the lottery, we had Daniels to the Knicks, but his stock has risen steadily. The mix for the Knicks figures to be Duke's A.J. Griffin and Mark Williams, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, Memphis freshman Jalen Duren, Baylor’s Sochan, Kansas senior Ochai Ogbaji, Ohio State’s Malaki Branham and Kentucky guard TyTy Washington Jr.