NBA Draft Season goes kind of like this: first you have the long, idle speculation during the season. This year of course Victor Wembanyana was the apple of everybody’s eye, which is a little atypical. You don’t see those guys come along very often obviously. He’s been compared, in terms of potential and impact, to LeBron James.
After that you get the run up to the lottery and pointless but fun mock drafts. And after the lottery, things start to get more real because everyone can see the order, who needs what and of course project careers and trades and so on.
It’s so easy you wonder why everyone doesn't have a job doing it.
Kidding of course but the mock drafts become much more interesting after the draft order is set. So what do we see for Duke’s Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead, two highly rated recruits who both struggled with injuries this season?
- SB Nation’s Ricky O’ Donnell sees Whitehead going to Toronto at #13, which, as you’ll see, is a bit of an outlier. He has Lively going to Memphis at #25
- According to CBS’s Gary Parrish, we should see Lively go to Golden State with the #19 pick and Whitehead will go to Portland at #23.
- USA Today has Lively going to Utah at #16, but he seems kind of redundant since Walker Kessler has emerged as an outstanding rim protector in his own right. The Gannett geeks have Whitehead going at #22 to Brooklyn.
- The New York Post has Whitehead going to OKC with the #12 pick and only posts the lottery picks so Lively is not listed.
- But the Athletic sees Lively in the lottery, going to Dallas with the #10 pick. Lively is off to Houston in their vision at #20.
- Finally, NBADraft.com has Lively to Utah at #28 and is an outlier on Whitehead, projecting him to Boston with the #33 pick.
In its consensus mock draft though, which is essentially a popularity contest, Whitehead goes to Sacto with the #24 pick and Lively falls to the Pacers at #26.
Ultimately the extraordinary level of competition in the NBA sorts things out quickly, but we will say this for Lively and Whitehead: a lot of people haven’t seen them anywhere near their best. Lively showed his talents on defense, but he can shoot. He had two issues at Duke: first, he’s still thin and can’t assert himself inside the way he will eventually. He has a lot more offense than people realize, up to and including a three point game, which we saw glimpses of.
And Whitehead’s foot clearly limited him. He came back and was an effective player, largely because of his vastly improved three point shooting but he struggled when he drove, missing dunks and layups.
Anyone looking at that kid should first realize that he had a serious foot injury that limited his explosiveness. If you can see past that, and imagine him being able to push off of that foot, things change.
And second, and this is really important, clearly he’s resourceful and determined. Why?
Because he spent his downtime working on a perceived weakness - three point shooting - and turned it into a major strength - and did it in essentially a few weeks. Think about that. Who does that? That means that he got in the gym when his foot was limited and worked his ass off. That’s a guy you want on your team.
Finally, he’s 6-6 and strong. Comparisons are pretty useless, but he’s likely to develop a physique like Jimmy Butler’s or Dwyane Wade’s. A healthy Whitehead is going to be a load.