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We had a one of a kind draft on Thursday. We’re used to seeing trades, a gazillion draftisms like “feel for the game” and “three-level scorer” stuff, booing from fans, and hundreds of highlights on the best young basketball players on the planet. We got that stuff, but we also got a unique draft from the reporters at the top of the draft.

 

As I’m sure most of you guys know, the market on the No. 1 pick was outrageous for the week leading up to the draft. Anthony Amico, Drew Dinkmeyer and I recorded our draft props pod a week before the draft, and we mentioned it was worth it to take Paolo Banchero at +2000 because we’re kind of in uncharted waters with respect to not having any concrete information. As Amico mentioned, it led to some massive mispricing of the market for the No. 1 pick based on the precedent of the information we had. Plus, every credible mock draft had Jabari Smith Jr. as the No. 1 pick. That lack of info held up all week until we got the Woj “increasingly firm” tweet to shift the markets (I’m sure most of you guys know the details, but if you don’t, here’s a story on it). Side note, any ED pills using “increasingly firm” in an ad on an NBA pod will slay me. Anyway, we all know the rest of this story and a lot of people cashed in on this anomaly of an outcome on reporting. Betting on the draft is almost purely about information combined with understanding of rosters and team tendencies, but we clearly got some bad information on Jabari Smith Jr. going No. 1. Why did this happen and can we expect it to happen again? Let’s take a look at some of the factors here.

 

As much as everyone is going to point to the Woj “increasingly firm” tweet (sponsored by Roman soon?), it wasn’t just him. Draft experts were adamant that Jabari Smith Jr. was going first, and mentioned many of their sources had the expectation of Jabari Smith Jr. to go first. These draft experts are extremely good at their jobs, so almost unanimously being off on No. 1 is out of this world. From my perspective as someone who really prides himself on nailing the information side of the NBA, the info from the reputable and diligent experts/analysts should carry a ton of weight.

 

There are more factors at work here, but this all stems from the lack of information given out by the Magic. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman withheld as much information as he could, headlined by when he asked about Paolo visiting the Magic and said it is “important for us to keep our information discreetly so the players know they can trust us.” He also mentioned when teams call about trades they “know they can make discreet phone calls to and it won’t get out.” Well, that part of the equation may have nullified some of the “sources” from the draft experts and national guys like Woj. Plus, head coach Jamahl Mosley on NBATV before the draft had told everyone they’ll find out about the No. 1 pick at 8:07. We would later find out that Paolo did have a formal workout with the Magic, so the Magic’s goal of keeping everything discreet was accomplished with flying colors. 

 

Although, despite not publicly revealing the Paolo workout, Jabari and the Magic did share that he worked out for them on June 9. The Magic also haven’t been publicizing their workouts under Weltman, which made the Jabari workout stand out even more. There were some reports of Chet Holmgren not sharing medicals, so that Jabari workout was really one of the biggest pieces of publicized evidence from the Magic that we had.

 

Another layer that was really missing here was the lack of beat reporting from Orlando. Last season, the Magic had one of the best beat reporters in the NBA in Josh Robbins, who was moved to cover the Wizards for The Athletic last year. As much as I love The Athletic, they opted not to have a beat for the Magic, which certainly makes sense from a business standpoint given the lack of interest on a bad basketball team (love you, Wendell). During the season, I really leaned on the Magic’s official page and they were outstanding at providing information on their team to give us lots of edges in DFS, but in draft season the teams are never going to be tipping any information that would give us an edge on betting. Basically, it does beg the question: could a more experienced beat reporter been able to give us an edge? There’s a pretty decent case for it. Many of the OKC beats were heavily leaning Chet Holmgren, several Kings reporters and gave us valuable information on the Kings really loving Keegan Murray to really set us up for picks in the 4-6 range, most of the Cavs beats were on the Ochai Agbaji train, and a few more examples. Sure, a lot of the Magic’s lack of information overall does make the job substantially harder, but it was a pretty subpar performance from the local guys. For what it’s worth, the local coverage had mentioned that the Magic should take Jabari Smith Jr. What’s more, they even had a column saying it’s not their job to talk about who they should pick while complaining about the national coverage, and then writes a column that he’s “not only on the #PaoloBanchero bandwagon, I’m driving the damn thing.” Big yikes on the hashtag on the name.

 

Another interesting layer was the lack of reporting from the other non-Woj reporters. Shams Charania had an interview with Jabari Smith Jr. back on May 17, but was basically quiet the whole time. Plus, the rest of the heavy-hitting national media was focused on other stories leading up to the draft on that front. Although, Yahoo! did have a story about Jabari, and how pumped he was to go to Orlando. “The city of Orlando was really nice,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “They’re headed in the right direction. They’ve got a new head coach, Jamahl Mosley. It was great talking to him. It was good talking to the GM and you can tell they’re headed in the right direction and the future is bright. I want to be a part of that. I can’t wait.” Reverse MagicJohnsonImNotGonnaBeHere.GIF energy on that quote.

 

Paolo Banchero is also repped by Mike Miller, who had just one client in the NBA prior to draft night (RJ Hampton). There’s a chance that some of the reporters may not have been able to establish a relationship with Miller to help get some information on that front. 

 

It wasn’t just Woj that led so many people in thinking that Jabari was the guy, and other influential reporting factored into what was such a big misprice at the top of the board for sportsbooks. Chances are we won’t see something like this happen in such an important spot for a long time. As much as it’s not Woj’s fault, his tweets undoubtedly moved the markets in a significant way (crazy graph here). It’ll be interesting to see if the sportsbooks underweight some of the reporting when they move the lines. The biggest lesson learned here was there are so many factors that go into predicting who a team will take. We were missing so many of them, and going forward we’ll need to factor in more logic while taking into account the reasons for info or lack of it.

 

OK, actual basketball stuff! After that intro, let’s try to go TL;DR approach here. I’m not a draft guy and any opinion I have on players right now is all from other people, but I will know more next month in summer league. Let’s just talk fit, competition for a bigger role and the team situation in general for the lottery guys.

 

Paolo Banchero – The Magic must really like Paolo to keep it quiet. The landing spot isn’t all that great compared to the other top-three guys with Orlando having some depth in their frontcourt right now. Obviously he should have no problem earning minutes a couple months into the season, but he might not get all he can handle off the bat. However, you’d imagine the Magic could look to unload Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac or both. The Magic also have a decent amount of ball-handling with Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, and they even added a ton of offensively responsibility to Franz Wagner. On the other hand, Cole may have topped out as a playmaker, and Jalen Suggs’ rookie season was a tough one. I’d be bearish on him early for now, but maybe he’s just that good (can’t wait to see him in Vegas!).

 

Chet Holmgren – Besides the fact that OKC could continue to tank it up again to take away the late-season output from Holmgren, this is the nut landing spot for him. Holmgren’s shot selection was one of the best in the NCAA last year, so having a guy like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out there to break down a defense should work in his favor to keep his FG% up there. Generally, you don’t want rookies posting high usage rates, so SGA should set up Chet for a good shot diet. Plus, there’s not too many suckers out there, so there should be ample opportunity to score in the teens. The most attractive part of this landing spot is the lack of competition. He’ll have no problem blowing away the likes of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Isaiah Roby or any of the veterans OKC doesn’t want to play. Coach Mark Daigneault generally doesn’t want to play young guys heavy minutes, but 28-30 could be a easy goal to hit before the calendar turns to 2023. Stats wise, he was also one of the best guys on block rate among those who can shoot 3-pointers. The Thunder will want space for SGA on that end to give Chet plenty of wide-open looks. Plus, the Thunder love to play tighter in the paint to open up lots of shot-blocking chances.

 

Jabari Smith Jr. – Another really good spot here. The Rockets have some major holes at forward as Jae’Sean Tate was able to surpass almost all expectations. Coach Stephen Silas was so desperate by the end of the season that he was trotting out some funky lineups, and we’ve seen at times he’s really willing to let some of his guys get some burn. The Rockets also desperately need a defender after putting up some of the worst perimeter defense I’ve seen in a while. Plus, there could be some untapped potential on his blocks because he spent so many of his minutes next to Walker Kessler, one of the NCAA’s best rim protectors. His role and upside for minutes is arguably as high as anyone. He likely won’t be getting too much offense headed his way, but he’ll thrive in an uptempo system with Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. Smith does seem a little bit raw from a shot-selection perspective and doesn’t possess the shot-blocking upside or ball-handling that Chet does, so Chet looks to be in a more favorable spot. I’d still expect some big games from Jabari once he establishes his identity as a player and learns to play with his ball-dominant teammates.

 

Keegan Murray – God bless the Kings. Like the Rockets, they have a dearth of forwards with Harrison Barnes posing as the only real threat to his minutes. Although, there’s a chance the Kings make some sort of move to take a little upside off his playing time, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it later this summer. Keegan was arguably the NCAA’s best scorer last year as his 29.7 usage rate to go with a 63.8 TS%. He was also a blocks and steals guy, but it’s worth noting his block and steal rate dipped a bit in his second season – I wouldn’t bank on huge D numbers. As an offense-first guy, it’ll likely be tougher for him to reach his potential next to De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. He also doesn’t pass, which makes the pathway even thinner on the offensive end. On the bright side, Keegan had some concerns on defense, so at least the KANGZ are going to be a fantastic DFS target again.

 

Jaden Ivey – Oh baby. Last year, we saw so much of Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo, Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder. Needless to say, Ivey should have no problem earning the lion’s share of the playing time, and coach Dwane Casey has already said that he’s open to playing Ivey, Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes. Last year once Cade was healthy, we saw a pretty sharp upward trend on his ball-handling, driving and statistical output. It’s obviously going to be Cade’s team, but we’ve seen Cade adapt and play off ball from summer league to the end of the season. Most young rookie guards tend to have a tough transition early, so I’d expect some early struggles from Ivey despite his physical gifts. With Cade growing and Casey having a process for his young guys, it might be a bit before he’s crushing.

 

Bennedict Mathurin – Yeah, this one is tough here. The Pacers clearly want to unload Malcolm Brogdon and maybe even Myles Turner, so it’s a bit pointless to break this one down. Tyrese Haliburton’s ball-handling late in the season was among the league leaders, so Benny Math won’t have many creation opportunities in this offense. Buddy Hield is still under contract for two more years, so it’s not like the rookie has a shot to be the top wing even if Brogdon is gone. We’ll come back to this one.

 

Shaedon Sharpe – Not a great spot here. We’ve seen Damian Lillard’s usage hover around 30 with a 30.8 usage rate in his minutes with Anfernee Simons. Ant’s usage did get wrecked in his minutes with Dame at 18.8 (25.9 without), but that’ll be trending up after Ant’s breakout following the Dame injury. Sharpe also has to compete with Nassir Little and likely Josh Hart for time. As an elite high-school prospect, he could be very good at some point, but we’re probably ignoring him for most of the season.

 

Dyson Daniels – Yeah, no thanks here for Daniels. The Pelicans are loaded with depth, and they’re not really going to need the ball-handling. Even if they get off Devonte’ Graham’s contract, we’re probably ignoring Daniels while the Pelicans are healthy.

 

Jeremy Sochan – Another one we can probably ignore for now. The Spurs have generally taken the long road with their rookies, and we know the offense isn’t there yet. It would need a massive rebuild for Sochan to have our attention in fantasy. I think he’s going to be good, though!

 

Johnny Davis – We’ve seen the Bradley Beal can play PG a million times, and it’s generally not happened unless there’s an injury to cut down the PG depth. The Wizards have the weakest PG depth in the NBA, so Davis should get a shot for the starting job. The minutes should be there and his ability to finish with both hands should serve him well. The Wizards could unload some players like Kyle Kuzma, and obviously if they do get off Beal, Davis could get some rocket ships.

 

Ousmane Dieng and Jalen Williams – Lets get these together. On top of Lu Dort and Josh Giddey having secure roles, the path to playing time isn’t great here with Darius Bazley showing some upside as a defender, and Tre Mann turning the corner as a scorer.  Williams seems to be a little more NBA ready, but it’s really tough to see these guys making an impact unless OKC dumps Dort in a trade.

 

Jalen Duren – The Pistons really wanted this guy with reports of trading up for him even before the move was made. It’s a pretty decent landing spot for him with Isaiah Stewart having minutes limitations, and Stewart shooting 3-pointers late in the year could even lead to some overlap. There’s a chance the Pistons can unload Kelly Olynyk, which could open things up for him in a hurry. After the top five guys and Johnny Davis, Duren looks to be in the best spot for a solidified role.

 

There’s very little to like on the non-lotto guys. The Rockets were really the only “bad” team to make picks here, but Tari Eason and TyTy Washington will have plenty of roadblocks for consistent playing time. 

 

That’s it for now! I’ll be back next month for more analysis of the rookies in Las Vegas.