Social media has taken a huge leap in terms of NBA Draft coverage, with Twitter and Reddit becoming mainstays for helping us get to know the prospects, both on and off the court. The internet has helped fans become familiar with aspects of players’ games that are not as widely showcased on the court, such as Duke’s Jahlil Okafor’s massive hands or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns’s underrated three-point shot.
This is especially true for top international prospects, including guard Mario Hezonja and forward Kristaps Porzingis. While both play in the ACB (Spanish League), widely considered the second best professional basketball league in the world, not many of us had seen actual game footage of them, let alone heard their interviews.
Top international prospects have weight to their names, and rightly so. Any team picking them is making a smart choice, much like any team that chooses one of the big three names out of the NCAA: Kentucky’s Towns (KAT), Duke’s Okafor and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. Most mock drafts and experts widely consider these three to be the best players in the draft by a sizeable margin (sorry Hezonja).
Towns seems to be the surefire number one overall pick, and the Minnesota Timberwolves would be selecting a player with incredible upside, capable of playing both power forward and center. Unlike most 6-foot-10 players, KAT possesses soft touch from almost anywhere in the midrange area, including an impressive 82 percent from the free throw line. His offensive game will only improve, and his defense already promises to be among the best in this draft class. He is a capable post scorer and has all the physical and mental tools to help a team immediately on the defensive end.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Jahlil Okafor, who has concerns surrounding his game defensively. However, these concerns are exaggerated, as Okafor will not harm a team greatly or give up points around the rim with ease. He is not as quick or vertical as Towns defensively, but he also more than makes up for it on offense. His post moves are elite and he is the most polished big man in this draft, able to effectively contribute to an NBA offense almost immediately. There are few centers in today’s NBA that have post moves as refined and powerful as Okafor’s, and for that very reason, he is arguably the second best player in the draft behind Towns.
D’Angelo Russell, however, can also make that case. While Okafor is the most polished offensive big man in the draft, Russell is the most polished perimeter player. He has excellent shooting form and is a consistent jumper off the dribble, from midrange and from three. In addition to also absorbing contact well when driving, Russell can finish over bigger defenders with his 6-foot-5 frame and freaky 6-foot-9 wingspan. Plus, his experience as both the point man and main scorer for Ohio State can only translate to good things at the next level.
All three of these players are expected to be selected within the top five picks. However, as is always the case, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen. It’s possible that the draft could go in a straightforward fashion, with Towns, Okafor and Russell, in that order, going in the top three selections. However, Porzingis or Hezonja could crash the party. In addition, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the No. 2 overall pick could be heading from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Sacramento Kings as part of a deal for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
Regardless of what happens at the top of the draft, social media has made fan scouting much more available and accessible, especially for international players. However, like all things relating to young players, we only have a vague idea of exactly how good these guys will be. So, in five years, if Porzingis is an All-Star and Towns is out of the league, call it a surprise, call it sheer dumb luck or just call it what it is: the NBA Draft.
Paolo Santamaria is a rising sophomore in the College.
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