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Baylor’s NBA Draft Wishlist

We make a wishlist of teams best suited for Baylor’s next crop of NBA Draftees

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Let’s flip the script.

You’ve read all the mock drafts. You’ve seen all the opinions about what picks each team should make, how those players might fit a team’s timeline, and who would be a good value at what draft position.

All fine and good, but we’re a Baylor blog, and that means we want to think about things from the Baylor perspective. In particular, it’s a fun exercise to think of it from the players’ perspectives. What team would best suit them? What qualities would each player want in the team that drafted them, and given expected draft ranges, how likely are they to get a team that fits their needs?

So let’s look at each player, what would make an ideal fit for each of them, and consider if they’re likely to get what they want.

Think I missed a quality or that there’s a better fit out there? Head to the comments!

Jeremy Sochan

Team Profile

Read-and-React Offensive System

Give the ball to Sochan in the high post, and he can absolutely carve up a defense by spinning middle, creating contact, finding the drop-off pass, or firing out to the corner shooter. He won’t have those opportunities, though, if he is confined to being a corner shooter. Put him in a heliocentric offense with the likes of a Damien Lillard or Trey Young, and you just won’t see his decision-making and versatility shine. The team doesn’t need to “Let Sochan cook”, per se, but he does need to be entrusted to make read-and-react decisions where he can manipulate the defense and choose from pre-determined options.

International Flair

Sochan deservedly calls himself a “citizen of the world.” With his culturally diverse background, Sochan is looking for a team that has players from across the globe. In much the way that Boris Diaw famously touted around an espresso machine to make cappuccinos, Sochan will undoubtedly insert a flair for European culture into the locker room. For instance, surrealist art (The Athletic, paywall).

Playoff Aspirations

Look, everyone wants to be on a winning team. All these guys are ultra-level competitors. Not everyone is ready for that in year one, though. It’s a rare thing for rookies to be contributors, even the most talented ones. Consider the ways in which Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. They have undoubtedly grown as players and professionals from being on a championship team in year one, but they were not exactly tallying big minute totals.

Sochan, though, is mature enough and skilled enough to join a team that is looking to make a playoff run soon — and maybe right now. After all, he joined a national championship team in basketball and eventually became the most impactful two-way player on the team, pushing the national runner-up to the absolute brink by pestering their best player to the point of insanity.

Sochan’s ultimate role is that of the uber-glueguy, the sort of player who flirts with all-star consideration by being integral to the team’s success. That sort of player needs to be on a team that knows what they are about.

Guts

Similar to the previous wish, Sochan needs a team with some guts. Now, guts doesn’t necessarily mean the team is a playoff contender. They just can’t be a team that flounders at every opportunity (looking at you, here, Sacramento). If the team plays competitively, Sochan will be a great fit. If they perpetually lose by 20+, he might start dying a bright read S.O.S. into his hair.

Editorial note: prayers up for our boy Off Night in his quest to hoist that mess of a franchise out of the mired depths of basketball hell.

Kendall Brown

Top Notch Shooting Coach

It’s been said to death — if Brown can only prove to be a threat from outside, the ceiling is the roof, or whatever that guy from the crying meme said.

It just makes sense, then, that number one on Brown’s list would be a staff that knows how to build confidence and instruct good shooting mechanics and habits. He shot a decent percentage by year’s end, but it was painful to see the number of open threes Brown simply passed on because he wasn’t confident it was a good shot. He needs that confidence built up in him. A great shooting coach could be just the thing he needs most in order to flourish in the NBA.

Pace and Space Offensive System

Brown will be at his best in a system that gives him plenty of space to attack. He’s a special downhill talent, and it will be important for him to get going towards the rim as often as possible. He’s got real talent attacking closing defenders and catching them mid-rotation, and the shot is already just good enough to hurt teams that leave him all alone in the corner trying to double the talismanic super star with the ball. Thankfully, a large number of teams have adopted this style in one way or another.

When not in the half court, the team needs to have the mentality to push the ball ahead for easy buckets. Give him the green light to leak out and get behind the defense and empower him to pull down rebounds and just start running. Brown is a basketball-playing gazelle. Let him loose.

Not Afraid of Commitment

Brown is young, and he has more growing to do as a basketball player than was perhaps initially expected when he arrived at Baylor (one could argue that was over-inflated fan expectation). He’s not looking to join up with a team in “asset collection” mode where he could be discarded as the tantalizing but uncertain prospect in a trade a year or two down the road. Brown is looking for a team that just loves him for who he is.

Because aren’t we all?

James Akinjo

Pick-and-Roll Offensive System

Akinjo is a guy who wants the ball in his hands at the top of the key with options. He likes to attack, he likes to pull up, and he likes to snake himself around a screen into open space to draw the extra defender and hit the roll man. In that sense, he’s a simple man with simple pleasures. He doesn’t need your whirligig offense with its reads and cues and actions. He just needs to re-screen.

Room in the Kitchen for a Microwave

Akinjo is fated to be pigeon-holed as an Isaiah Thomas-type player. And, well, it’s honestly hard to argue with that. His talent is in commanding the floor and being willing to call his own number. So it’s just reasonable that room for a microwave scorer has to be on the wishlist. Give him the ball, a defense full of bench players, and let him cook up some pizza rolls in 3 minute bursts.

Pre-built Defense

At Baylor, Akinjo proved he’s not tissue-paper blowing around the court. He is competitive on defense, with great hands and a willingness to pursue his man. That needs to be paired with a team that has a defensive culture in place, preferably with some length on the back end to help Akinjo if he gets caught defending a player too big for him. Even better — let him hunt steals knowing the rotations behind him will cover for the occasional whiff.

Likely Matches

It’s rare to find the perfect match. Not all of us can be like Rey in Rise of Skywalker. So given the above wishlists and the expected draft ranges for our Bears, here are the teams that mostly closely fulfill the wish lists.

Sochan Adds a Feather to his Plume

Already known for his stylish hair choices, why not start rocking a feather in his multi-colored mop like a true Cavalier when the 14th pick comes around?

The Cavs have made themselves into a very promising team. For much of the season they were among the best 6 teams in the eastern conference. Towards the end, the squad of young players faltered a bit and bowed out in the play-in tournament, but these guys are going places. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen mean business on defense, and they’ll readily embrace the grit Sochan would bring. Mobley showed himself to be a highly versatile offensive player in his rookie year, something that Sochan could both enhance and benefit from. Cleveland ranked 6th in assist percentage last season, an indicator that they are creating the kind of offensive atmosphere where Sochan could thrive.

They’ve also got a couple of international players on the squad to add a little diversity to the conversation. Maybe Sochan and Lauri Markkanen can bond over the Spanish countryside together while they battle it out in practice.

Brown On the River Walk or in the Rockies

San Antonio just makes so much sense for Brown at 20. They’ve shown a willingness to draft young, talent, raw players recently (Josh Primo last season); they’ve got Chip Engelland, the guy everyone thinks of when they think of a shooting coach; and their a team with a plan for everything and are willing to pivot their approach to the talent on-hand. They haven’t had much pace or space in recent seasons, but there’s plenty of reason to believe they know how to maximize their talent.

The other great option for Brown is 21 to the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic would make Brown look so, so good. Brown’s knack for cutting to the basket and run the floor would be rewarded in spades by the two-time MVP. Plus, Denver is a team on a hunt for a championship. Nowadays, that is quintessential to saying a team is trying to stack as many potential wing defenders as humanly possible.

Akinjo in Indiana

Akinjo running Rick Carlisle’s offense just makes too much sense. Run approximately one-million pick and rolls as the backup point guard and find the diving big. It’s what Akinjo is built for. Plus, Indiana is in a rebuilding phase and likely won’t be too picky about its backup point guard. He can have free rein of the bench mob, and as long as he doesn’t make bone-headed choices, Indiana will be happy for him to generate offense. With Ricky Rubio possibly out the door, they’ll need someone to soak up the backup minutes.

We don’t always get what we wish for, but if the draft shakes out anything like we hope for, these Bears show some promise of sticking around the league for a long, long time.

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