I’ve had the idea of writing this type of article for a while now, but it feels very timely with the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Finals. Obviously, Kawhi Leonard’s heroics and horrific injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson play a huge part in that, but the depth and consistent contribution of the Raptors’ bench, contrasted with the Warriors lack of bench production definitely impacted the series. Guys like Fred Van Vleet, Danny Green and Pascal Siakam were incredible the entire Finals. They are reliable, productive role players that are necessary to win a championship. Outside of the first pick, it’s likely that this draft doesn’t produce any other superstars, but there a ton of intriguing role players. In this article, I’m going to give you my favorite longevity value plays in this years draft. The term “high floor” tends to get thrown around with people that don’t have a high upside. I think balancing the floor with the ceiling is a must when considering draft philosophy, but having a high floor is correlated towards having translatable skills, not necessarily college production. As you’ll see in this article they often overlap, but it is very important to know that one doesn’t equal the other (cite Denzel Valentine). These are guys I can picture contributing to a championship team, they most likely won’t be the star player, but can be one of the pieces that helps their team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at some point in their lengthy careers.
Chuma Okeke (Auburn)
Projected Draft Range: 25-40
Big board rank: 17
Okeke was one of the highest risers late in the season due to his dominance in March. But, he was quietly incredible for the Auburn Tigers the entire year. Sadly, he suffered an ACL tear in the sweet 16 game against North Carolina, but that doesn’t hinder his stock too much in my mind. Okeke is the ideal power forward for today’s NBA due to his versatility on both ends. On offense, he is a really good pick and pop big man. He sets good screens and does a great job of finding open space and getting on balance for the three ball. Okeke has good shot preparation that allows him to get it off quickly and effectively. He is a career 39% three point shooter on a high volume at 6’8, he also has good size and can score on smaller defenders in the post, too. On defense, Okeke is a genius. He always seems to make the right rotation and just thinks one play ahead of everyone else. He can hold his own down low if he gets posted up, and is really good at rotating out of scrambles. Okeke has great hands both on and off the ball, that lead to steals and deflections that disrupt the opponents offensive flow. Despite the fact that Okeke will probably have to miss the majority of his rookie season, he is a safe bet to me in this draft. He has the skills and the smarts, which you’ll see is a recurring theme in this article.
Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga)
Projected Draft range: 10-25
Big Board Rank: 8
Clarke is an anomaly. And unless your name is Zion Williamson, we don’t know what to do with people who we haven’t seen before. There is legit no comparison for Brandon Clarke. Yes, he is a 6’8” rim protector with an even wingspan, those numbers definitely aren’t appealing. But, you would be doing yourself a major disservice if that’s what you focused on with Clarke. He is an absolute freak athlete, at the combine he wrongly got placed with the small forwards, but still finished first in every testing category, but one. And unlike other people at the combine, his athleticism is all functional on the court. His standing vertical is visible when he shoots up to swat a floater out of nowhere, and his lane agility is visible when he slides across the court to cut off a driving guard. Yes, he is far from being an effective shooter, but if you saw his jump shot at San Jose State you know it speaks to his work ethic. Clarke completely overhauled his mechanics during his redshirt season at Gonzaga and has been getting better ever since. Clarke’s touch is also incredible around the rim, which will help him finish above and around bigger defenders. He is very effective from five to eight feet, which makes him a bigger threat when rolling to the rim. With stretch fives trending in the league right now, Clarke appears to be the perfect match due to his rim protection, freak athleticism and dive skills. He’ll carve out a long career for himself with his elite shot blocking skills, quick twitch movements and elite instincts.
Carsen Edwards (Purdue)
Projected Draft Range: 22-35
Big board rank: 24
This may be a surprising pick to some due to his extremely high volume in college and somewhat inefficient shooting numbers. But, I think that’s one of his biggest assets. Edwards will most likely get drafted to a playoff team late in the first round that will rely on him to come off the bench and hit shots. He will be a volume scorer for a second unit and his shotmaking ability will impact the rest of the defense. Basically once Edwards crosses half court, he must be picked up. If you drop against him in the pick and roll he will make you pay. Edwards is used to getting double and triple teamed in college due to the fact he was the only person on his team that could create their own shot. I think it’s safe to say he won’t face that defensive attention at the next level, which will allow him to pick his spots better. Yes, there were games when he shot Purdue out of the game, but I think not having to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders will impact his percentages in a positive way. He may be short, but he’s definitely not weak. Edwards is pretty jacked for a guy his size, and his lower body is very strong. This provides him with a strong base and the ability to explode and take contact. People on twitter (shoutout to Jackson Frank) have pointed out that Edwards is a really good screener. Once I watched more of Edwards and focused on that trait, it was definitely visible. This will be really helpful for him at the next level, as it will allow him to get more open looks for threes (cite Steph Curry). He’ll be a shotmaker for a long time in this league and will always be a guy that is capable of exploding on any given night.
Grant Williams (Tennessee)
Projected Draft Range: 25-35
Big Board Rank: 12
The player on this list that I’m highest on compared to consensus is Grant Williams. Williams has definitely been a polarizing player throughout the draft process, as many on draft twitter have him in the top 5 of their boards while some mainstream sites don’t have him as a first round pick. Williams checks all the boxes in my book of a high floor prospect, except for the three point shooting of course. Some will say he’s undersized, but with the direction the game is going in, Williams fits the bill of a versatile forward. He can put the ball in the basket from the mid range area, the post and around the rim. He has great touch from all of those levels that will translate to the next level. His biggest asset that jumps off the tape on both ends is his IQ. In college, he drew a ton of double teams in the post and seemed to also find the right guy for an open shot. His ability to read the defense, then deceive them with his eyes before making the pass is an elite skill. There are some that say he won’t draw doubles in the post at the next level, which is a fair thing to say. I’d be delusional if I said it would he would draw them at the same rate, but I do believe he’ll score on the majority of post ups and mid range face ups if the other team doesn’t bring a double. On the defensive end, like Okeke, he is always in the right place. He isn’t the greatest athlete in the world, but he has a lot of functional strength on the court. This allows him to hold his ground and wall up when contesting shots at the rim without fouling and while being a little undersized. I would have liked to see him shoot more threes in college, considering how effective he was at the free throw line and on mid range jumpers, but the mechanics are there. I don’t think it’s crazy at all to project Williams as a slightly below or even average three point shooter at the next level, and if that’s the case I think Williams will be a mainstay in the league.
Based on the perception of where these guys will be drafted, I think they will turn out to be great value picks that can impact a team for a long time. They might not pop right away, but I think all four guys have long NBA careers ahead of them.