The moment that final buzzer goes off for the NCAA Championship, a light switch flicks in my head. It's basically the same exact thing as when Lincoln Hawk turns his hat around in Over The Top. Some individuals in the world might call it the "winds of change." For me...it simply means it's time to get rocking. That final buzzer means one thing in my mind...it's officially NBA Draft season.
While some might believe that draft season starts at different times, I'm a big believer in the fact that you need to see the whole menu before you can make a decision on what you're going to order. Consider it a personal preference when it comes to personally evaluating draft prospects on a yearly basis. Don't get caught up on a good/bad streak of performances. Some players start out hot and then struggle when teams start to figure out how to potentially defend their strengths. Others get into a fantastic groove as the year goes on and they end the season on a hot note, making evaluators circle back around to see what suddenly has changed with that player's game.
Every year when that final buzzer goes off, and we all get to bask in the glory of "One Shining Moment", that means it's time to fire up the engines here and talk some draft. Usually, that involves a dangerous amount of coffee and has turned into a bit of a tradition that some might call "Midnight Madness." So I thought, let's have some fun with that chaotic tradition that I have personally developed over the last couple of years. Why not live blog some of my draft thoughts while evaluating these prospects. Let's do it.
10:00 PM. Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky.
Now we all know the obvious top dogs in this draft class, So I like to save those individuals for down the road. As of now, I wanted to get a quick look at some of the names that I've circled throughout the year. When a player starts to generate some "buzz" in the draft circles, it's always important to make note of it. Especially when it comes to a player like Isaiah Jackson, who really started to turn some heads with his play down the stretch for Kentucky. It didn't take long for me to start using profanities when it came to watching Jackson on the floor. The kid goes after rebounds and rejections like a possessed demon. When you see prospects like Jackson, who has a fantastic pairing of athleticism and quick leaping ability, you immediately review the measurables. Jackson, who is a bit thin-framed (that's okay), is listed at around 6'10" 206 pounds. But the flashes with this kid are terrifyingly fun. He's an early favorite in Vegas to have the most electric highlight tape on Draft night.
The more I watch Jackson the more the flashes come in a variety of aspects in his game. Quickly you start to ask yourself about the other aspects of his game. Is he just a fantastic athlete who can be a rim protector? Are there more untapped levels to his game that have yet to be unlocked? You can't coach the ability for a player to simply hunt the basketball and that's what Jackson does. Rebounding is about desire and heart. Jackson attacks the ball in the air like his life is depending on it.
Yes, this will be a play you will most likely want to watch on loop a couple of times. I'm also convinced that the referee simply blew the whistle here out of pure fear for what just happened. But an impressive display all around from Jackson who shows great determination to get this offensive rebound before trying to absolutely murder the rim with this slam.
11:12 PM Chris Duarte, Oregon
If you've been here before, then you know how I feel about upperclassmen in the college basketball world. It's a shame that NBA teams "penalize" prospects for being older, as I personally believe that experience should be treated as an asset. Chris Duarte caught my attention earlier in the year and he's been one that I'm extremely intrigued by. The thing that's so special about Duarte is his ability to create in minimal space. All he needs is a small window and he can become a nightmare for opposing defenses. NBA teams are always going to continue to covet shooters, and they especially want shooters who can thrive when it comes to making tough shots. Duarte checks a number of boxes for a productive wing. He's listed at 6'6" 190 pounds, but unfortunately will be turning 24-years-old before Draft night. Like I said before, throw the age number out. It's all fun and games to get giddy about a potential 18-year-old rookie...but we're trying to find guys who can just hoop. Chris Duarte is one of those guys.
Immediately you can see the tough shot-making ability that Duarte has in his arsenal. Great looking shot and he has a quick high release. What's even more impressive about Duarte is when you look at his production increase from last year. During the 2019-20 season, Duarte averaged 12.9 PTS, 5.6 REB, and 1.7 STL while shooting 41.4% from the field and 33.6% from 3. This year? Duarte averaged 17.1 PTS, 4.6 REB, and 1.9 STL while shooting 53.2% from the field and 42.4% from 3. A nice boost across the board in some important categories for the former Oregon Duck wing.
This is as good as an espresso shot when you're watching film. Just a beautiful take here by Duarte who attacks the lane with bad intentions. Notice the explosiveness and burst to go right at the rim. When you have a player like Duarte who has the ability to light it up in a hurry from outside, seeing this ability to put the ball on the floor is crucial. It opens up his scoring at multiple levels and makes him a fascinating prospect for the NBA game.
11:41 PM Usman Garuba, Real Madrid
This has been the one I've had circled throughout the majority of the basketball "season" in 2020-21. It's no secret that the international class this year isn't going to get as much hype as last year, but that doesn't mean there's not some fascinating talent in this draft. Usman Garuba of Real Madrid is one of those players that you need to start getting familiar with if you haven't already. Garuba is a bit of a freak athlete, standing at 6'8" 229 pounds with a reported 7'2" wingspan. Garuba hangs his hat on his ability on the defensive side of the ball. Personally, I have a weakness for players who can get after it defensively with high-energy possessions. Garuba fits the bill perfectly.
Just a laughable sequence here from Garuba, and for good reasons. Notice the quickness, not with just his feet but also his hands. Garuba will project to be an asset immediately on the defensive side of the ball, and there's still plenty of untapped potential when it comes to his offense as well. With NBA teams always looking for 3-and-D prospects with serious upside, Garuba will have plenty of front offices smitten. Garuba has some abilities on the defensive side of the ball that you simply cannot teach. He plays with a tremendous motor and knows how to make winning plays. It seems as if everyone in Europe has tried to dunk on Garuba with the majority of them failing.
12:10 AM Isaiah Todd, G-League Ignite
This will be one of the wildcard names to keep an eye on throughout the predraft process. Although most of the attention was on Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Green when it came to the G-League Ignite team, Isaiah Todd was quickly getting the attention of evaluators with his performance in the bubble. It's another important reminder when dissecting the game of these young players...PATIENCE. Don't let a couple of bad performances get you down...make note of it, allow the player to get some more film on tape, and then re-evaluate. Isaiah Todd was a perfect example of this. After the first couple of scrimmages for the G-League Ignite earlier in the year, scouts were questioning where Todd would even be drafted. The rawness looked to be on full display and a source had told me Todd had a "LONG way to go" after the scrimmages in Walnut Creek, California. But after all of that, I wanted to make sure to keep a lookout for Todd in the G-League bubble. He didn't disappoint with his play.
Isaiah Todd was demonstrating some serious flashes of versatility on both sides of the ball with his play in the bubble. The 19-year-old forward is listed at 6'10" and 210 pounds. His frame looks to have room to fill out, and there's definitely some quickness to his game. Todd showcased some eye-opening post-up moves, including a number of one-footed fadeaways (shout out Dirk). When you combine that with Todd also letting everyone know he can stretch the floor and hit the 3 ball...there's some sleeper appeal coming up in this draft. Isaiah Todd went on to average 12.3 PTS and 4.9 REB in the G-League while shooting 43.7% from the field and 36.2% from 3.
Another clip from the 19-year-old caught my attention. Notice this awareness on the defensive side of the ball. Now at first, it might just look like Todd came over from the weakside to block this shot. But if you look closely here, you'll notice the mindset of the young kid. Notice as Todd first tags the roller. After he does that and realizes the rolling big man is no longer a threat on this play, Todd then waits for his perfect opportunity to attack the ball.
12:51 AM Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers
Personally, this has been one of my favorite prospects to keep an eye on throughout the year. If you haven't heard or watched much of Giddey this year, then you are in for a special treat. Giddey has been playing in the NBL for the Adelaide 36ers and has been putting up some impressive performances throughout the basketball season. Still just 18-years-old, the 6'8" guard is a playmaking wizard with the ball in his hands and has a rare combination of vision and anticipation. In 18 games this year, Giddey is averaging 11.1 PTS, 6.9 REB, 6.6 AST, and 1.2 STL while shooting 41.3% from the field and 31.8% from 3. The outside shot will need to come around in order to unlock Giddey's full potential as a basketball player, but the rest of the tools will have you drooling.
Giddey has continued to see his game develop throughout the year and you can tell the game has slowed down for him. He understands how to create angles and anticipates cuts happening. Imagine an NFL quarterback throwing a receiver open, that's what Giddey can do on the basketball floor. He has plenty of "flashy" passes, but he also understands how to put the ball in a tight window in which only his teammate can get to it.
Another good example of Giddey knowing where the ball should go before it even touches his hands. This most likely is a specific set by design, but it's still crucial to see that Giddey can throw the ball on a rope here. Trust me, Giddey has made this play plenty of times and it's not by specific design. The kid has the vision to become a terrifying threat as a playmaker at the NBA level, if some team is convinced his shot will come along as well...he could become a tremendous selection.
That concludes the first edition of Midnight Madness. Was it good for you? It was good for me draft world, thank you for your time.