Take a look at some NBA mock drafts. You’ll see some upperclassmen in Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and others. You’ll see some foreign-born players in Dragan Bender, Furkan Korkmaz, Ivica Zubac and others.
But for the most part, you’ll see a lot of freshmen: 18- and 19-year-old players who could set a franchise back years if they don’t pan out. And, seemingly more often than not, these freshmen do exactly that. They flop on their fresh teenage faces.
So if that is the case, why do they keep dominating the lottery?
“Well, here’s the deal with the freshmen,” CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “By definition, they are the most talented, naturally gifted players available in the draft because they’re the only ones who were essentially forced into school last year because of the one-and-done rule. General managers have – for a long, long time now – been willing to gamble on upside picks. They basically have come to the conclusion you can get basketball players anywhere, but if you want to be different, if you want to win championships, you got to have special talent.
“Look at Cleveland,” Parrish continued. “They got at least two special, uniquely talented guys in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Look at Golden State. Steph Curry is uniquely gifted, Draymond Green is uniquely gifted, Klay Thompson is uniquely gifted. We might not have seen that coming out of college, but undeniably at this point, those guys are uniquely gifted. So general mangers are forever looking at those guys.”
That’s why somebody like Marquese Chriss, a 6-9 forward out of Washington, might actually go third in this year’s draft.
If you don’t know who that is – or didn’t know who that was until a few weeks ago – don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.
“He wasn’t a relevant college basketball player on any level last year,” Parrish said. “He fouled out about every other game and played for a team that couldn’t make the NCAA Tournament. But when you start looking at potential and upside, he’s got one of the highest ceilings in this draft.”
The same can be said for Skal Labissiere, who massively underachieved last season.
“He was awful at Kentucky,” Parrish said. “Like, couldn’t get on the court. John Calipari couldn’t play him. But he’s a 6-11 pick-and-pop 4 who has a natural shooting stroke. He looks comfortable shooting the ball. These are guys who could end up in the D-League and maybe never be relevant NBA players. But if they hit on what they’re supposed to be – or what they could be, rather – then you’re talking abut potential All-Stars.”
Remember in 2003 when four of the top five picks were LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade? James came out of high school. Anthony and Bosh were ultra-talented freshmen. Only Wade had a few years of college ball under his belt, but all of those picks panned out – aside from, of course, Darko Milicic, who went second overall to Detroit.
Well, don’t expect four of the top five picks this year to become Hall of Famers, or even All-Stars. It isn’t going to happen.
Or is it?
“(Basketball) is the sport where people swing for the fences more often than they do in any other place,” Parrish said. “That’s why you’re going to see guys who are huge question marks – Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss, Dejounte Murray – (get drafted early). All (are) freshmen who have tremendous upside, but (they) also could be huge, huge misses.”