Who are the best prospects in this year’s NBA draft? The draft class appears to be loaded with talent, which can put even more pressure on teams to get it right.
To gauge current opinion and find the wisdom of the crowd, we asked our ESPN Forecast panel (plus several participants from the APBRmetrics discussion board) to vote on a series of head-to-head matchups: Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell vs. Emmanuel Mudiay, and so on.
To create these randomly generated one-on-one “contests,” we took the top 15 prospects from Chad Ford’s Top 100. About 50 voters, with more than 3,000 total votes, weighed in to produce a ranking of the top prospects.
What did we learn?
First, Towns is way above the field, according to our panel (see full rankings below).
Second, Russell took 62 percent of the head-to-head matchups versus Okafor (meaning that most voters see Russell as the better prospect). Despite that, their final scores were close together, because Russell tended to lose a little more often against other big men in the field compared with Okafor.
Third, big men tended to get the benefit of the doubt overall. Teams have traditionally favored bigs in the draft (though a little less so in recent years), and that tendency showed up among our panel too.
Fourth, just as Ford publishes tiers based on his reporting, our panel produced distinct tiers:
Tier 1: Towns, Russell and Okafor
(Our voters were a little less enthusiastic about Porzingis and Mario Hezonja than were the NBA personnel consulted by Ford.)
In the table, we show the rank, score and head-to-head score versus the prospect ranked just below. The score is the overall winning percentage against everyone else in the field of 15, and the head-to-head score is the winning percentage versus the referenced prospect. For example, Towns won 95 percent of matchups against the field and 73 percent of matchups versus Russell.
And now we’d like to get your views, using the same format.