The NBA Draft is one of the most anticipated events around the league for various reasons. Obviously, the team winning the chance to pick first overall has a franchise-altering decision to make. In some cases where the draft pools are deep, it’s not uncommon to see All-Stars and max-type players emerging from the late lottery and the back end of the first round.
However, if you have followed the draft for years, you may come across a predictive board called a Mock Draft. How do NBA Mock Draft works and what is its purpose?
What is Mock Draft in NBA?
A mock draft exists in the NBA and professional sports leagues that employ some form of a drafting system. It is basically a prediction of the orders of players taken in the draft, considering intel from inside the organization or an analysis of a team’s most glaring needs.
Almost all major media outlets that employ analysts and experts conduct mock drafts. They analyze each player in the draft class and utilize this information to build a board that ranks the top 60 or so prospects in the draft class in order of their projected talent level. They may also conduct draft other draft analyses, such as possible dark horses, draft steals, and similar evaluations.
That said, mock drafts are rarely correct unless they guess obvious choices, such as LeBron James or Victor Wembanyama. There are so many moving parts (such as trades) that it’s hard to pinpoint who’s going where. Teams who’d like to win now have no time to develop a young player, so they may package said youngster to rebuilding teams in exchange for a veteran star. Conversely, rebuilding teams may acquire as many assets and picks as possible moving forward.
How Does NBA Mock Draft Works?
As much as these pundits would want to simply mix and match faces and teams, the process of making a mock draft board is strenuous. They need to put their basketball stalker suits on and break down each prospect’s previous performances, whether in college, G-League, or international leagues.
As soon as it’s complete, it will now be up to fans to ascertain to make their own predictions. Some fans even build their own mock drafts to see who can make the most accurate predictions.
The unpredictable nature of the actual draft is one of the most fascinating components of the NBA Mock Draft. While experts may think they know where each player will be chosen, trades, surprise choices, and other circumstances can dramatically change the draft order. This makes the NBA Mock Draft an exciting and engaging event for fans, as they can put their draft knowledge to the test and see how close they can get to forecasting the actual pick.
What is the Purpose of the NBA Mock Draft?
If most NBA Draft predictions don’t usually pan out, what is the point of mock drafts? They serve a multitude of purposes for teams and players.
The first is that mock drafts are used for talent evaluation. They provide an opportunity for scouts, analysts, and fans to evaluate and assess the talent pool of upcoming prospects. How does the NBA draft work for players? It’s also for their exposure. If a prospect’s name often comes up in these draft predictions, it will improve his name recognition and draft stock.
Ultimately, the sports media and the NBA want the fans to follow the draft, so these outlets pique their interest by updating mocks in the days leading to it. These should also generate fan interest, buzz, and publicity.
NBA Mock Draft vs. Actual NBA Draft
Obviously, the difference between the “mock” and the real thing is night and day. Outside the top 5 or the top 10, the real draft looks so much different, and sometimes, the consensus on who the top picks are could also differ.
To give you an idea of how the mock and actual drafts are poles apart, look at how the 2022 Draft played out. Compare what happened in the actual draft versus the mock draft board of top sports media outlets Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Athletic, The Ringer, and Tankathon.
Here are some notes:
- All five sports media organizations thought Jabari Smith, Jr. of Auburn would go first overall in 2022. Unfortunately for them, the Orlando Magic had other things in mind and went for Paolo Banchero.
- To flip the script, all these sports media outlets correctly guessed that the OKC Thunder would select Chet Holmgren.
- Because they already speculated Smith, Jr. would go first, they all had Paolo Banchero at third. Two strikes!
- Only Sports Illustrated correctly picked Keegan Murray for the Sacramento Kings at 4. The others thought the Kings were going to go with Jaden Ivey. Even in hindsight, they already had De’Aaron Fox, so adding another non-shooting ballhandler didn’t make sense.
- At No. 5, the media groups have three different choices. Sports Illustrated correctly guessed Jaden Ivey after going with Murray. ESPN, The Athletic, and Tankathon went with Keegan Murray. The Ringer thought Benedict Mathurin should fit the bill, but they were wrong.
- Since The Ringer already picked Mathurin at No. 6, it should follow they missed the target at No. 7 as well. Tankathon offered a Dyson Daniels pick at this spot, but Indiana selected Mathurin. SI, ESPN, and The Athletic were spot on.
- Nobody guessed the Shaedon Sharpe pick for Portland at No. 7. The highest Sharpe has ranked in any of the mocks was ninth.
- Aside from the Holmgren pick, the No. 10 spot was the only other selection everyone got right: Johnny Davis to Washington.
- Over picks 20 to 30, there are only five occasions in which at least one of the aforementioned outlets got a pick right. These were Malaki Branham at 20 (Sports Illustrated), Christian Braun at 21 (The Athletic), Marjon Beauchamp at 24 (The Athletic), Wendell Moore at 25 (Tankathon), and Patrick Baldwin at 28 (Tankathon).
As you can see from how it went, mock drafting is never an exact science. That is never going to change soon unless somebody gets a hold of the ancient oracle of Thebes. Otherwise, hits and misses will abound. Case in point: In the days leading to the 2023 NBA Draft, most are torn between Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller as the No. 2 selection behind Victor Wembenyama. Some will be wrong, and some will be right.
Wrapping Things Up: How Do NBA Mock Draft Work?
If you have followed the days leading to the NBA draft, many sports networks and individual experts share their predictions on where particular prospects will get selected. These extensive draft predictions are called mock drafts, and they attempt to foresee who gets chosen from the first overall pick to the 60th.
But how do NBA mock draft work? A mock draft comes about because experts strive to break down each prospect’s profile, their strengths and weaknesses, and if said weaknesses can be overcome. They also consider a team’s needs and whether a particular player could address them. There is no guarantee that such predictions will come true, but it gives teams something to gauge the prospects. The players also gain media attention and publicity and may improve their stock if featured prominently in mock drafts.
In the days leading to the 2023 Draft, experts unanimously agree about Victor Wembenyama as the first overall pick. However, they seem to be split on whether Charlotte should pick Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson at No. 2. Amen and Ausar Thompson are projected inside the top 10, but some experts put the twins in the top 5, while others rank Ausar outside of it.
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