Which players are ready for the Spotlight?

The Real Story Behind the NBA Draft

For weeks, we’ve been reading about mock drafts, team needs, player ceilings, floors, wingspans, broken wings and BBQ chicken, but I learned more about those kids by the way they performed on their first night in the NBA than anything they did at college or in pre-draft workouts.

Introducing a new advanced metric, the RFP (Ready for Primetime).

I rated the players’ introductions on a scale of 0–100, awarding up to 25 points for each of four categories:

  1. Fundamentals: are they stylish or garish? If clothes make the man, then tuxedos make these young newly-minted millionaires.
  2. Vision: as they walk down the runway, do these young men see the kids right next to them, or just look out at the cameras?
  3. Team Play: does the player look for the assist? Or does he let his mother walk down those stairs by herself?
  4. Intangibles: what do they say in their first national interview? What do their interests reveal about them?

Based on their performances, I broke down the main draft class into the following groups:

Tier 1 — Superheroes

1. DeAndre Ayton

Ayton checked all the boxes: he wore a classic tux (25); started out with a hesitation move while holding his mom’s hand, then surveyed the scene and high fived the kids lining up on either side(25); and, he helped his mom down the stairs(25). Afterwards, he hit it out of the park in the interview. Instead of showboating on the stage, he only revealed the lining of his suit when he was asked by Maria Taylor (+5 Humility Bonus).

And it was spectacular, featuring the flag of the Bahamas. Then he hit it out of the park, saying he wanted to learn from the veterans, work hard and represent the people of Nigeria and the Bahamas.(25) Score: 105

Is this guy the next Black Panther?? No, but I know who is…

Wendell Carter and parents rep Wakanda

2. Wendell Carter !!!

Ayton may be the #1 superhero in this draft, but Wendell Carter is a real life Black Panther, showing style and flash with an eye catching sash (25), but also showed amazing team play by letting his parents complement his style with their own colorful tigers (+5 Bonus). Carter showed versatility in his first appearance in the NBA, as he was able to give five to the kids on BOTH sides of the aisle (25). Then, he flashed the Wakanda forever sign and helped his mother down the stairs (25).

In the interview, Carter gave props to his dad, describing how his spirit walked with him, followed by pledging to do whatever it takes to win. Plus, this kid could have gone to Harvard!! (25)

If this dude can take honors calculus, I’m betting he will have no trouble reacting to a double team and spotting the open man. Score: 105

3. Mohamed Bamba — 95

All I can say is I want a lot Mo’ Bamba. With an understated blue suit (20), this humble warrior started out by holding both his parents hands. Then he did a deft crossover, holding his mom’s hand the entire time on the runway, while giving five to the kids (25). Both he and his dad provided support down the stairs for his mom (25). In the interview, he described the draft experience as surreal, leaving me to wonder if he would throw in some reference to Dali, or quote Sartre in French.

My hopes were high, because this kid got 30 on his ACT, a score in the 95th percentile and the equivalent of 1390–1410 on the SAT. And the first trophy he ever won was not from basketball… it was in chess (25).

Ms. Taylor chose, instead, to go for the low hanging fruit by asking Bamba to show his wingspan. (Can I even say somebody needs to get “woke” the fuck up?)

Mo Bamba is a nicer version of Tony Stark, except he has the ability to block a high flying dunker without a metal suit and a jet pack. Score: 95

4. Lonnie Walker IV

White was dressed in a double breasted white suit (25), held his mom’s hand during the entire trip and greeted the kids to his left (25). But the dad was either super shy about being on camera, or wanted to give all the attention to his son, because he almost ran off the runway and down the stairs, taking attention away from Walker’s big night (-5 Penalty). He changed grips to give his mom more support on the way down the stairs. (25)

Going up to the podium, Walker had a significant wardrobe malfunction as he could not properly wear a Spurs hat because of his hair (-5 Penalty). The bizarre eruption of hair posed a concern for his shooting and long term viability as a player because of the uneven results shown by these other NBA draft picks:

Unorthodox hair styles prevented these draft picks from becoming successful in the NBA

In the interview he showed tremendous calm while being forced to share the spotlight with David Robinson, who babbled on about how great the organization was and how he should trust coach Popovich (in spite of the problems currently surrounding Kawhi Leonard).

Walker, who is known for his inspirational message to the community of Reading, PA, seemed unfazed by the bizarre turn his interview took (25). Perhaps it’s because, as he said, “at the end of the day, it’s bigger than basketball.” Perhaps it because of his zen-like understanding that, in his words at the NBA combine, “the world is an illusion.” Or perhaps the animal-lover and Discovery Channel enthusiast came to the conclusion that the NBA draft is a zoo. Score: 90

Tier 2 —Trusted Sidekicks

5. Marvin Bagley

Bagley went for some understated glitz in a sparkling dark grey suit (25), but only connected with a handful of the kids (15), but his parents threw the assist by doing their own high fiving with the kids (+5 Bonus). Bagley held his mom’s hand for a good portion of the run way, then helped her down the stairs (25). Unfortunately, this revealed the lack of socks (-5 Penalty). You can’t get on an NBA court without the right uniform, and a $3000 tux without sock deserves to be fined.

In his interview, Bagley was really humble and thanked Jesus (25). Then he lied through his teeth and said he was happy to be in Sacramento (-5 Penalty). I mean, c’mon, nobody is happy to be in Sacramento. He also kept addressing Maria Taylor as “man” throughout the interview. I think this raises big questions about his court vision (-5 Penalty). Total: 80

6. Miles Bridges

Bridges part deux came out in a dark blue suit with burgundy (couldn’t tell if they were suede) shoes and no socks (20). He kept an eye on his mom throughout the runway, greeting the kids on his left as much as he could (20). Questions arose about his handle as he went for the less sure hand on the back method of helping mom down the stairs (15).

Bridges look a little dazed and confused at first because he was drafted by the LA Clippers, and then informed he might end up in Charlotte. But he recovered and spoke of his gratitude to God, his mom, his coach, and gave a shout out to the city of Flint, Michigan (20). Total: 75

7. Collin Sexton

Dressed in a burgundy tux jacket with black lapel, bow tie and pants (20), Sexton seemed to lose his internal compass as he bolted down the lane without his parents (-5 Penalty). He did a good job of making eye contact with the kids on both sides, proving he’s got good handles on either side (25).

But his assist game was out of sync, as he was too far ahead of his parents. Just as he was about to go down the stairs, he realized his error and turned back to look at his mom and reached out for her hand (15). But his dad had gotten to the spot before him, and mom was properly helped down the stairs (+5 Bonus).

Sexton, the unranked high school player who became a lottery pick, talked about hard work, then put in the ridiculous spot of making a pitch to keep Lebron in Cleveland (10). Total: 70

Jaren Jackson

Jackson’s first move in the NBA was to step forward and show off the lining of his shiny pink tux jacket with bow tie (15) instead of sharing the moment his parents. His mom took up the slack and moved forward spreading the love with the kids on her right side (+5 Bonus). Jackson seemed unfocused on the kids, only giving five to a few of them (10). For a split second, it seemed like he turned to look for his mom, but lost focus and walked down the steps without her (5). He stopped on the last step to reveal no socks (-5 Penalty), and then showed the lining of his jacket, which read “Rock the Vote.” Props for having a social conscience on the night he becomes a multi-millionaire (+10 Bonus).

The comeback was completed in the interview. Jackson gave all the credit to his dad, a former NBA Champion with the Spurs who has been his coach, and the support from his mom. They joined him at the interview and showed the importance of family in changing kids’ lives (25). Total: 65

Tier 3—Role Players

Mikal Bridges

Bridge came out in a blue tux jacket, black pants, and no socks (20). He only engaged with the kids on his right, which brings up questions about his ability to go left (15), but got an assist from mom, who spread the love to the kids on the left (+5 Bonus). Unfortunately, the entire world only saw Mikal’s dad leading the way, waving and soaking up the crowd’s applause for almost the entire run way sequence. Will he turn out to be this year’s version of Lavar Ball? (-5 Penalty).

Bridges made a hard pivot to relocate his mom and help her down the stairs, but inexplicably whiffed on her hand! The intent was there but the execution was horrible (10).

The interview was all about a storybook ending, where the local kid out of Villanova was drafted by Philadelphia, and his mom, who works as a VP in HR for the team was excited that her baby was joining the 76ers family. Bridges show some poise, describing how he had played every role in his four years at Villanova, and expressing his gratitude for this incredible opportunity. (20)

Within the hour, he was traded to the lowly Suns (-5 Penalty). Total: 60

Luka Doncic

Doncic absolutely killed his chances to be the #1 pick with his runway approach. Wearing a simple blue suit (20), Doncic kept his head down and didn’t make eye contact with the kids, causing him to miss a number of outstretched hands (10). He walked ahead of his hot mom, a model in Slovenia (+5 Bonus) and grandmother, and never looked back toward them. He walked down the stairs and didn’t even help his mother or grandmother. It’s bad enough he didn’t escort his mom, but can you imagine not even giving an assist to your grandmother? Big fail (0).

Doncic spoke pretty good English and said that playing with former NBA players in Europe prepared him well for the league. Based on his ability to utter the usual platitudes, at least his teammate have prepared him for the public speaking part of the NBA life. Best of all, he got traded to a team with Dirk Nowitzki to mentor him and Rick Carlisle to coach him (20). Total: 55

Donte DiVincenzo

DiVincenzo came storming down the lane, dressed in a grey suit with bow tie and brown shoes (15), taking a big lead in front of his parents (-5 Penalty), and swiveling his head to make sure he gave five to every kid on the stage (20). But it seemed more like he was trying to get their attention, instead of giving his (-5 Penalty).

At the very end of the runway, he executed a sharp change of pace, allowing his mom to catch up and grab for his hand like someone running the 4 x 100. While he held his mom’s hand to lead her down the stairs (25), questions were raised about whether he could keep a consistently hot (and possibly sweaty) hand, as his dad came in behind him to offer a supporting hand on his son’s back (-5 Penalty).

In the interview, he was given a softball question about how draft night felt compared to being interviewed as the Final Four MVP and said the usual right things. Then he was asked what food recommendations he would make to the Greek Freak who was on some kind of food tour across the USA. The Big Ragu (Donte’s nickname) suggested his mom’s home made pasta. Both the question and the answer gave me a little indigestion (10). Total: 55

Trae Young

Young, sporting a dark burgundy tux jacket with black lapel (20), unnecssarily showed a solid first step, leaving his parents behind (-5 Penalty). He smiled and made eye contact with the kids (25), then waited for his parents to catch up. He helped his mom down the stairs (25) and then the camera showed that he was wearing the equivalent of burgundy bermuda shorts compounded by black loafers with no socks (-20 Penalty).

Young may not have done himself any favors with this wardrobe choice, but I’m sure Jalen Rose and D’Angelo Russell will be thanking him for making people forget about his draft night outfit:

Today’s lesson: can you tell which player is ready for primetime?

The interview was a mixed bag. Young showed his media savvy by lying about how happy he was to be going to Atlanta (+10). Then he spoke about his fashion statement, saying he wanted to be different, which led to the shorts (-10), and adding a bunch of words on his shoes to represent himself and his family, which included a shout out to his deceased grandfather who first put a basketball in his hands (5). Total: 50

Tier 4 — Not Ready For Primetime

Jerome Robinson

Danger J Robinson! Danger! It’s not a good idea to leave your parents in the dust on the runway — no one is timing your half court speed on draft day (-5 Penalty). The blue suit and grey vest was solid (15), along with the way you smiled and made eye contact with kids on both sides of the runway (25). But you never looked back once to help your mom (0). Good thing dad picked up the slack (+5 Bonus).

In the interview, Robinson continued his streak of ignoring everyone who ever helped him, talking instead about how his preparation a year before led him to be a lottery pick, and described himself as “a great overall player” who “can can score at all three levels and play make as well”. The only thing he didn’t mention is he’s also the most humble person in the world (5). Total: 45

Michael Porter, Jr.

Porter wore a white suit with white shoes that didn’t seem to fit him perfectly (15). He kept the jacket buttoned and looked awkward as he passed through the gauntlet of kids while not making eye contact (10). He left his mom and dad behind to walk down the stairs (0).

In the interview, he described what it was like to ride the elevator, being possibly the top ranked kid in high school, to getting injured, having back surgery and missing almost the entire year at college as having to climb the stairs. He expressed his gratitude, but also spoke like an irrational confidence guy, considering he only played 3 games at the college level (15). Total: 35

Kevin Knox

Knox came out in a dark blue tux jacket with a strange pink-and-grey plaid vest (10). He left his parents behind to accept the hands of the kids without making much eye contact or smiling (10). Maybe it’s because he knew he was going to the Knicks.

He went down the stairs without even thinking about his mom (0), but family values have to count for something and his dad got the assist in his place by taking mom’s hand (+5 Bonus). On the way down, the camera showed some funky pink/burgundy shoes that didn’t seem to match his clothes, along with no socks (-5 Penalty).

The interview featured the second youngest player only talking about himself saying that he is versatile, can pretty much do everything, and that he’s only 18 years old and will keep getting better and better. But you’ve got to cut some slack to a player that young and give him credit for even stringing a few sentences together (15). Except for the Knicks fans, who booed his selection (-5 Penalty).

Overall, I have to say he really failed to Knox it out of the park. Total: 30

Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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