1. Look for the star
First and foremost, the point of drafting a player around the lottery is to acquire star talent that may not otherwise be available. Teams generally need stars to succeed and can then surround them with role players who complement the star player's strengths and weaknesses. Players like Mikal Bridges, Jacob Evans, and Zhaire Smith lack the ball skills to have star potential, which is why we would avoid drafting them high altogether. Once the lottery ends. we focus primarily on strong all around players with an elite skill and no glaring weakness. For example, wings should be able to shoot the 3, defend well, and have a high basketball IQ. Everything else they become above that is a plus.
2. Focus on the positives, not the negatives
In drafting a lottery prospect, we believe in highlighting their skills rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Not every star player is great at everything, but they have several elite skills that propel them. We scout to determine whether a player has the necessary skills to fill a certain role, whether it be a 3 and D player, shooter, stretch 4, or star scorer. When scouting Guards, we believe in focusing on a player's current offensive skills and basketball IQ rather than projecting what they could become. As an example, we preferred Jamal Murray, who already possessed elite offensive skills (shooting, playmaking, IQ) at Kentucky, over Marcus Smart, who was drafted primarily due to his size, toughness and defensive ability at the PG position. Smart is more of a body than a complete basketball player.
When scouting bigs, we believe in focusing on a player's physical tools (height, wingspan, athleticism, and touch) rather than their on-court production. Our belief is that bigs can develop the necessary skills over time whereas Guards can't learn a feel for the game that we believe is natural. We loved players like Cheick Diallo or Jordan Bell, who have all the physical tools (length, natural timing, switchability) necessary to succeed as modern NBA C's, rather than a Nikola Vucevic, who already possesses great skills for a big, but has speed and defensive problems keeping up in the NBA.
SFs and stretch PFs are a hybrid of the above thinking. For example. in stretch 4s, we look for a combination of athleticism to guard 3s, size to guard 4s, and shooting ability to stretch the floor on offense. A player we would have loved to draft in the 1st Round was Patrick McCaw. McCaw’s elite skill is getting steals, and he is also a good 3 point shooter and facilitator. Most importantly, though, he has the physical tools to become a lockdown defender, and should be able to switch onto a number of positions. McCaw's combination of guard skills and high athletic potential make him an intriguing prospect.
3. When drafting role players, ensure they have a definable NBA skill
Non-lottery picks should have an obvious NBA skill that fills a specific role. Even when a player is drafted purely for potential (eg. Robert Williams III), we look to make sure they can fill a role and play both ends of the floor.
Another example of a player with definable NBA skills is Devonte Graham. Graham can defend opposing PGs, shoot the 3, make plays for teammates, and has experience as the leader of a Final Four team. Graham has the requisite athleticism to succeed in the NBA and, at worst, we know Graham can be a backup PG who can run a team without forcing his game. The stronger the definable skills the player possesses, the more we are willing to gamble on their weaknesses. An example of this is Trae Young, who poses defensive concerns due to lateral quickness and size, but has superstar potential as a shooter, scorer, and playmaker offensively.
4. Don’t let injury concerns deter you
We believe there is more risk drafting a player based solely on potential than taking one with skills who has injury concerns. As such, we don’t believe in focusing on injury concerns late in the first round or beyond because those factors are beyond our control. We liked Caris LeVert and OG Anunoby in past drafts, both of whom have good size and athleticism and would have been higher picks had they not gotten injured.
5. Ignore projections. Draft each player on their own merit and stick to your guys
We believe projections and popular opinion should be dismissed entirely in favour of instinct. Popular opinion appears to reign supreme too often, with top picks like Markelle Fultz, Dragan Bender or Hasheem Thabeet that we believe will never pan out. We don't believe in common ideas like "best player available" because rankings should be unique for each individual or team. In the past we believed in players like Jamal Murray (drafted 7th) over Brandon Ingram (drafted 2nd) and Malik Monk (drafted 11th) over Markelle Fultz (drafted 1st).
Projections seem to decide a player’s draft stock. We believe in having a list of players you like and sticking to drafting those players, no matter where they are projected. This year we believe in players like Khyri Thomas and Donte DiVincenzo as potential lottery picks who will not fail in the NBA, but also have star potential. As a 3rd party source, we bring a unique and impartial perspective to teams that can help justify your beliefs or understand opposing viewpoints.
6. In the second round, shoot for the stars
We believe in drafting stat stuffers late in the draft. These players may be Seniors at big programs or come from smaller NCAA schools, but have proven to have a level of skill that other projected talent may never tap into. Lots of teams draft players with potential who have not actually produced on the court. Instead, we prefer drafting a player who has shown star potential and whose skills could translate, despite the risk. Our favourite stat stuffer this season is Malik Newman, who averaged 22.5 PPG over his last 8 games against high level competition. Despite the inconsistency throughout the season, Newman showed flashes of brilliance on court, so we know it is at least possible that he becomes greater than his projections as a 2nd round pick, despite his size as a SG in a PG's body.