2020–21 Franchise Player Re-Draft, Part III

At long last.

Simon Cherin-Gordon
21 min readJan 30, 2021


Before you embark on our final 10 picks (and our bonus reflection at the end), catch up on Part I and Part II if you haven’t yet.

21. Brandon Ingram (JS): I think it’s time to stop thinking about who Ingram was in LA as opposed to who he is now with New Orleans. He has dramatically changed as a player. He went from an inefficient long 2 guy in LA, to high-usage/high-efficiency centerpiece of the Pelicans 14th-ranked offense last season. How did he make this change? If you look at his shot profile, he took over 3x as many threes in 19–20 (6.8 3PA) as he did in 18–19 (1.9 3PA). That’s astounding, even more so when you saw him hit them at 39% clip in 19–20.

The more I write about Ingram, the more I like him. He leverages his 6’9 height, ball-handling, and smooth jumper for a nasty hesitation pull-up game. It’s so rare to have the trifecta of height, ball-handling, and shooting. Those guys don’t come around very often and when they do, they are borderline unguardable. Think of KD, PG, and Tatum. The big question is whether the shooting percentages from last year are sustainable. Time will tell, but Ingram is off to a great start in the 20–21 season.

Here is my bold statement: By the end of this season, Brandon Ingram will make an All-NBA team and people will begin to question who the best player is to build around in New Orleans.

(SCG): I’m gonna ignore that Zion shade, because we talked about him at length in Part I and because I agree with everything you said up to that point.

Here’s a take that’s less hot, but astounding in the fact that it’s not: Ingram’s long term outlook is arguably better than Ben Simmons’ at this point. Think back to that draft, and to the first couple years after that draft, and how absurd of a statement that would have seemed like.

For what it’s worth, I still had Simmons ever so slightly higher on my board, and I’ll get into why I’m still a relative believer in a minute, but the fact that it’s this close is more about Ingram’s ascension than anything else.

22. Ben Simmons (SCG): When we did this exercise three years ago, Simmons went #8. The following year, he went #18, and we (quite cleverly) poked fun at his comments about how he’d “never practiced” shooting while expressing grave disappointment in his lack of progress.

Two years later, I’m comfortable with who Ben is. That re-adjustment of expectations doesn’t line up with a rise in this draft, but at the same time, if you had told me two years ago that Ben STILL would have zero interest in shooting the basketball, I’d have told you he’d go lower than even #22.

What I would not have predicted was the defensive growth we’ve seen — strides that are frankly incongruent with the indifference he’s shown towards offensive improvement. Even in the malaised environment that was last year’s Sixers team, Simmons defended with hair-on-fire intensity all season — leading the league in steals, making his first all-defensive team and seeing his Sixers finish 8th in defensive efficiency. At this point, it’s unclear whether he or Embiid is the driving force there, and that is really saying something.

(JS): I had Simmons 25th on my board so we are not too far off here. I would put Embiid in a tier above Simmons because I think he is the superior player both offensively and defensively.

Now it’s difficult to say that I really KNOW that Embiid is the superior defensive player to Simmons. That would require watching tons of 76ers film and even that is imperfect, as gauging defense is somewhat subjective. But it’s my best guess based on the positions they play and on/off numbers. Embiid has finished in the 90th percentile or better in on/off defensive stats in all 5 of his years in the league. Simmons on the other hand, has finished in the 79th, 47th, 72nd, and 56th percentile in his four respective years in the league (all stats per Cleaning the Glass). Additionally, I think there is evidence that great defensive centers can drive teams to be solid on that side of the court, even if the surrounding talent isn’t (think Gobert, Embiid, and AD). I don’t think that same logic applies to top wing defenders as they can theoretically lock down one dude, but are not going to have nearly the same impact in larger areas such as deferring opposing teams from taking shots at the rim.

Offensively, it’s really no contest between these guys as I think you could build a fairly efficient offense around Embiid that finishes in the 12th-18th range. If you draft Simmons, my worry is there is a real chance you are going to have a team with a bottom 5 offense. To be fair, Simmons is much less of an injury risk and also two years younger than Embiid. At age 24, Simmons is entering what is traditionally the last few seasons where real growth can still be made. I think there is a 2% chance he ever becomes a decent 3 point shooter, and maybeeeeee you could say that makes this a high upside pick, but let me not waste any more space talking about Simmons and shooting.

(SCG): This response will double for my Embiid write-up.

You make a very strong argument. These dudes were back-to-back on my board, and deciding between the two came down to this: If I were starting a franchise tomorrow, who would I rather have?

Novel for a Franchise Player Re-Draft, right?

Simmons’ individual offensive flaws are much greater, but I’m actually more confident in the power of “Simmons + shooting” than I am in “Embiid + shooting.” Simmons is an elite passer, an all-world transition player and can either play small-ball 5 with four shooters or play the 4 with three shooters + a lob threat (think Draymond finding JaVale on the short roll). Embiid on the other hand limits transition offense and, because of the real estate he occupies, essentially needs to play with four shooters to be optimized. He’s an elite post scorer, but hasn’t shown the playmaking ability that would be essential to building a championship offense around his post-ups. If you go another route and pair him with another primary creator, you force him to play more pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop; posting up is antithetical to dribble penetration.

While Embiid has been the more valuable defender thus far, Simmons has become so elite on that end that at this point, it’s really just a positional thing as you laid out. And again, that positional thing slices the other way when it comes to roster construction. Building around a dominant drop coverage big isn’t a bad thing, but it dictates the type of scheme you need to employ, which boxes you in further building your offense (which again, needs to be very specific to optimize Embiid). Simmons doesn’t have the sheer individual impact, but can guard all 5 positions and wreak havoc both on and off ball. He’s as plug and play a defender as there is in the league, which allows you to focus more on offensive fit as you build your team.

Perhaps it is their status as real-life teammates that allows me to overlook Embiid’s better impact profile to this point; perhaps my board would look different if I thought more hypothetically throughout my ranking process.

(JS): I will say, you did shed light on a blind spot that I hadn’t considered which is versatility in building around these guys. As you lay out, for better or worse, you know a lot about what style your team is going to play around Embiid. Drop coverage on defense and a steady diet of post-ups on offense. In 2021, those two styles don’t exactly inspire confidence and enthusiasm for deep playoff runs. Embiid is obviously one of the most skilled and physically gifted bigs we have seen over this past decade, but can you really build a contender around that style?

Simmons on the other hand, is going to provide your team with a ton of variance. You could play him at multiple positions, although I particularly love the idea of Simmons as a small ball 5. It’s extremely easy to picture current Simmons instead of Draymond on those Warrior teams and that making a ton of sense. My worry is, even if you put a bunch of shooting around Simmons, does he have the gravitational pull to create open looks for those guys? Both of these guys are so unique in their styles of play, I have more sympathy for why the 76ers have struggled to build around them.

23. Bradley Beal (JS): Beal is in an interesting and small category of players in this draft at age 27. He is younger, and obviously not at the same levels of bonafide superstars such as Lebron, Harden, Steph, and KD. At the same time, he is significantly older than the up-and-comers like Booker, Trae, Bam, and Ingram. It’s a bit of an awkward place to be as it’s a tough sell that drafting Beal is going to get to you sniffing a deep playoff run. At the same time, you can’t talk yourself into a super high upside like you can with the aforementioned younger players.

And this is where I think we need to acknowledge the position we are drafting at. I know it sounds super lame to say I am drafting this guy figuring he can get me to the first round of the playoffs, second round at probably absolute best. But let’s be realistic. Any team with a top 12 pick in this draft had an enormous advantage. Even those in the 13–21 range had some great talent/prospects available, as we saw Harden, KD, Lillard, and Ja drafted. Maybe this gets slightly mitigated if we were to do a second round snake draft (teaser!?), but still, I think the Simmons pick we have officially entered into the teams who got screwed in this whole redraft.

I have also spent zero time talking about Beal’s quiet breakout season last year, in which he averaged 30.5 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 52% eFG, or his even-better league-leading 35.4 PPG this year. That’s rather astounding and falls in line with how Beal has steadily progressed throughout his career. I feel pretty good about this pick giving Beal’s current level and relatively young age, and I think you could make a reasonable case for why he should have gone ahead of guys like Mitchell, Ball, and Simmons.

(SCG): Philosophy stuff aside (you know I favor variance and championship upside over floor), Beal’s growth has been fucking amazing. The dude feels like he’s been in the league forever — a product of being a high draft pick thrust quickly into a large role, looking solid early, and then seemingly stagnating for 3 or 4 years. It creates this illusion of a finished product, a vet — not all that different from how I felt about Derrick Favors for years, where I would be shocked to see that he was STILL only 23, 24, 25.

In retrospect, much of the apparent stagnation for both players was likely due to an inability to stay on the court. Consistent reps required for growth, as is offseason work beyond simply rehabbing. The health turned around for Beal in a way it never did for Favors, and perhaps as a result, he really began his ascent in Year 5. He’s now in Year 9, having missed just 14 games over the past four years (not counting the bubble, which he smartly skipped), and has blossomed into arguably the best all-around 2-guard in the NBA.

And he’s still younger than Buddy fucking Hield.

(JS): **Spits out drink after reading that last sentence**

24. Joel Embiid (SCG): We covered this pick in the Simmons section.

25. Michael Porter Jr. (JS): My guess is that MPJ has one of the highest-variance outcomes in this draft. Let me give you 3 scenarios:

Scenario #1: MPJ drives coaches, analysts, and fans crazy as he remains an all-potential guy as opposed to an All-Star guy. He demands that he becomes a high usage player, and while he can create his own shot, he pounds the ball like crazy and often looks off his teammates. While he remains talented offensively, his contributions have little do with winning. The defense remains awful and he begins to morph into something like Zach LaVine but with less assists.

Scenario #2: MPJ realizes he is an absolutely deadly shooter from 3, leveraging his height (6’10) and a smooth stroke to become a lethal spot-up player. He provides excellent floor spacing while being able to attack opposing defenses off the dribble. He can initiate offense in second-units and is a headache for defenses as he scores at all levels on the floor. The defense improves as he becomes more focused, using his length to bother other players. He makes a few All-Star teams and flourishes around a team that already has great initiators in Jokic and Murray, putting him in a role that allows him to make winning contributions but not do too much.

Scenario #3: MPJ watches loads of KD and Tatum tape, figures out his height, shooting, and ball-handling make him nearly unguardable, and becomes a rare #1 who provides both high scoring and high efficiency. While he was never a gifted passer, he becomes such a scoring threat that passing lanes begin to naturally open-up as defenses focus in on him, and he bumps up his assists to 4–5 a game. He learns tricks like initiating contact to get to the line, something he hasn’t shown an ability to do in his first season in the league. He shows he could be a #1 on a decent playoff team, or one of the best #2s in the league.

(SCG): I agree with all 3 of those scenarios. I think there’s a 4th, which is that his injury history is not behind him. That’s half of why he wasn’t in my top 30. The other half is that I think scenario 1.5 is the most likely, where he becomes the off-ball player you project in scenario 2, but remains uninterested in making winning plays as a defender or ball-mover.

That said, MPJ has superstar upside, and I will never fault a pick near the end of this draft with superstar upside.

26. Jaren Jackson Jr. (SCG): This is just a bet on a skill set more than it is on knowing what exactly Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to be. Half the time, he looks like a shot-blocking/floor-stretching 5 a la Kristaps Porzingis, but one who can actually switch defensively. Other times, he looks like he has no business playing in the frontcourt, let alone at the center position due to his inability to defend the paint without fouling or grab a rebound. And while his shooting and defense make him a passable wing, his creation and switchability is a lot less of a plus attribute with each position he scales down.

So why am I taking him? Because he’s a 21-year-old 6’11 dude who can switch, bang 3s, block shots and get out in transition. And while his ultimate role is still unclear, those skills are proven. This isn’t some potential-filled rookie; we KNOW what Jaren can do. I’m grabbing him here because there’s not a young player remaining with this much proven talent.

27. De’aaron Fox (JS)

28. James Wiseman (SCG): When the Warriors drafted Wiseman, I thought it was a win-now pick. As a 7’1 dude with a 7’6 wingspan, a filled out frame and fluid athleticism, there was just no scenario in which this dude wasn’t going to become an elite lob threat and shot-blocking force. His floor was essentially prime DeAndre Jordan, which is an insanely high floor for a prospect who was not a consensus №1 pick.

The ceiling, however, was my concern (and this was my opinion on Wiseman when I made this pick a month ago). Even if Wiseman becomes an All-NBA level defender and a dominant roll man, is a slightly more offensively-leaning Rudy Gobert the centerpiece of the next great Warriors team? Wouldn’t you rather take a swing on LaMelo, whose floor is muuuch lower, but who could become a sort of hybrid of Andre Iguodala and Jason Kidd?

Two weeks into his NBA career, my view on that ceiling has shifted dramatically. Wiseman is not just fluid running end to end, but he’s fluid east-west. He’s fluid with the ball. He has made several plays in transition and attacking downhill that make it impossible not to think of Giannis, because Giannis is the only dude who has ever made plays like that at size. He’s also flashed a jumpshot that, while not a useful weapon yet, is much further along than I realized. Then there’s the defense, which is still rough, but where Wiseman’s attitude and game-by-game growth make a more-athletic prime Roy Hibbert-type of outcome seem quite feasible.

In other words, we’re talking about a dude who could be the most intimidating interior defender in the league, the most feared roll man, a capable pick-and-pop operator and a freakish downhill scorer. If we did this draft again today, I’m at least taking Wiseman in the top 20, if not as high as #14, where I took Bam initially.

(JS): As this is being written, the amount of games we have seen Weisman play in is comically low at 9. He is averaging 11.0 points and 6.0 rebounds on 50 eFG%. Teamwise, the Warriors are sitting at 5–4 with a -3.1 point differential. If you were going to show me only his individual stats and the Warriors team success through these first few weeks of the season, I would say that’s roughly in line with what I would expect for Wiseman.

If you are making the case for Wiseman going substantially higher than 28th in this exercise, it seems it would have to be based solely on eye-test. On one hand, I think that’s fair as an 9 game statistical sample size from a rookie doesn’t really mean anything for how he will perform for the rest of his career. On the other hand, I just get a little weary that his case for being in the top 20 is based 100% on eye test and theory, with no statistical evidence from the games he has actually played.

Look, I don’t think this is a bad pick at all here- I honestly would take him over De’Aaron Fox at this point. The theory of his game is compelling, and there have been flashes, but I just find there to be a lack of hard evidence for why he deserves to make big jumps in this draft so early in his career.

(SCG): I’m not biased at all, if that’s what you’re implying.

29. Tyler Herro (JS):

Player A: 13.5 PPG, 52 eFG%, 5.4 3PA on 39%, 1.8 FTA

Player B: 13.8 PPG, 48 eFG%, 3.8 3PA on 34%, 3.4 FTA

Player A is Tyler Herro’s 19–20 rookie season. Player B is Devin Booker’s 15–16 season. There are two stories you could spin from these statistics. The first story is the remarkable similarities between the two players. Both were the 13th overall pick. Both are 6’5. Both played at Kentucky. Both are score-first guards. Both play a finesse style of game, take advantage of a smooth shooting stroke.

Now, the other side of the coin is forecasting NBA players is pretty much impossible. Think of drafts in which Ayton went over Doncic in 2018, Fultz being the consensus #1 in 2017. Or just look at our own work in past franchise player redrafts, when in 2019 Towns was the 2nd overall pick or the time in 2018 when I compared Zach Lavine’s shooting to Klay Thompson (it’s hilarious to go back and read some of these picks and write-ups).

Now all that may just sound like a massive hedge against me saying Tyler Herro is on a Devin Booker-like path. But the reality is that although they show remarkable similarities at this point in their career, who the eff knows what Tyler Herro will turn into? His situation right now in Miami is so massively different than Booker’s that it just adds more noise to the comparison. Once again, you can spin it any way you want. Herro as a rookie played big minutes and made real contributions on a team that made the Finals! Wow! Or…. Herro benefits gigantically from playing in Spoelstra’s system and getting clean spot-up looks, something Booker has never really been the beneficiary of. I think we have a tendency as humans to see what we want to see, and the more times we do this exercise, the more I see the impossible nature of forecasting NBA career trajectories.

30. Pascal Siakam (SCG): An incomplete list of players I’d take above Spicy P after seeing how much he’s struggled out of the gate this season:

Jimmy Butler

Kristaps Porzingis

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Deandre Ayton

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

OG Anunoby

Paul George

Khris Middleton

Chris Paul

Domantas Sabonis

Andrew Wiggins

This is why we need to finish these faster. I take 90% of the blame.

After writing about these players, what do you stand by, and what would you change?

(JS): As I reflect back on the 15 players I drafted, I notice one major trend: I have a borderline fetish for young tall wings/guards who can shoot and playmake. This is evident in Luka #1, Tatum #3, LaMelo #19, Ingram #21, MPJ #25. I grabbed every young wing who fits in that category, although I didn’t grab veteran players who fit this mold like KD and LeBron. Furthermore, when I look back at the write-ups for the picks I was most skeptical about, it was guys who don’t fit that mold like Zion (who I’ve come around on), Bam, and even asking lots of questions about Giannis.

If I were going to change something in my strategy, it would be putting more value on veterans. Simon obviously did, grabbing Lebron #6, Steph #8, Lillard #16, Harden #18, and KD #20. I would move Lillard, Hardn and KD higher on my board — having Mitchell and Murray above those three is a little ridiculous (although to be fair, we hadn’t seen KD play when we drafted). Part of my change in philosophy here is realizing that the league is much more balanced and if you have any of those veteran guys, you are going to be immediately in the title conversation. That’s a really big deal and I don’t think I fully realized that until we wrote about these guys.

(SCG): I feel best about my willingness to draft Bigs. The notion that centers were going extinct was born out of a few variables — a random dip in big man talent from the 2005–2011 drafts, the Warriors’ ability to both play bigs off the floor and play without one of their own, and the analytics-driven referendum on postups — but those have all corrected. We’ve had awesome big man talent enter the league in the last 8 years, starting with AD in 2012 and culminating with Wiseman in 2020. The Warriors as we knew them are proving to be an anomaly, and even then, the notion that they didn’t need a center was flawed. Draymond may be wing-sized and switchy, but without his traditional center skills (rebounding, rim protection), that team wouldn’t have been what it was. And as young bigs adapt to the analytics revolution, we’re seeing 7-footers bombing 3s at a higher clip than guards did 10 years ago (I’m making this up, but I don’t doubt it’s true). With Giannis, AD, Bam, Jokic, Embiid, KAT and Wiseman all just entering or not even approaching their primes, bigs may rule the league again this decade. I’m glad to have grabbed 5 of those 7 guys.

I feel worst about my lack of creativity late. Picks like JJJ and Siakam were a little too cute, a little too rooted in absolute value. While Justin and I differ on how much to value #1 creation upside, I think I dismissed it too much near the end of the draft. With elite talents gone, why not just gamble on a creator like Shai, Collin Sexton, De’Aaron Fox, or even Anthony Edwards?

What player that you drafted do you feel the best about?

(JS): Grabbing Tatum at #3

First off, I will say this question was way harder to answer than I thought it would be. No one that I drafted really jumps out at me as a home run. Think of last season, where after 15 games it was pretty clear that Luka was on a superstar path. To me, there is no player like that so far this season. After the first two weeks, it looked like Trae Young was maybe going to be that guy, but he has had a rocky month of January.

So that leaves me choosing Mr. Jayson Tatum. I think having him 3rd on my big board was higher than most people would have had him, Simon included who said he had him 9th. Tatum has been stellar so far this season and his Boston Celtics sit near the top of the East. I could easily see him finishing 4th or 5th in MVP voting this year, and when you combine that with the fact that he is 22 years old and has already had strong and deep playoff runs, I like this pick more and more.

(SCG): Taking Steph as high as I did. I know, surprise surprise.

Here’s the thing — Curry has the Warriors 7–6. The Warriors with a #2 option of Andrew Wiggins. The Warriors with Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder as their only competent floor spacers outside of Steph. The Warriors with Kelly Oubre Jr. still in the starting lineup despite the worst shooting start to a season in NBA history.

Curry himself has not played his best. He’s had huge games (including his career-high 62-point explosion), but he’s shooting just 44.0% from the field and 36.6% from 3 — both career lows, his 5-game 2019–20 season notwithstanding — and he’s averaging 6.2 assists to 3.5 TOs (the worst ratio of his career).

Curry, of course, is putting up these diminished numbers as a result of unprecedented levels of defensive attention. He’s drawing more consistent double and triple teams further from the basket than any player in NBA history, and the lack of shooting and general offensive talent around him has the box-and-one defense becoming a viable NBA tactic for the first time ever.

In this unprecedentedly-difficult scoring environment, Curry is putting up numbers comparable to James Harden’s career marks (44.3 FG%, 36.3 3P%, 6.4 AST, 3.7 TO).

The №1 way people misunderstand Curry’s greatness is misunderstanding the value of his gravity, but close behind that is misunderstanding the outlier nature of his efficiency. People know that Curry is extremely efficient, but they also know that Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are as well.

Here are the career eFG% (points per shot) and TS% (points per shot attempt, incl. FTs) for those five players:

Player eFG% TS%

Harden 52.7 61.1

LeBron 54.2 58.6

Durant 54.3 61.3

Kawhi 54.4 59.7

20–21 Curry 53.9 60.3

Curry 58.0 62.3

Basketball is a game of marginal differences. A team averaging 1.14 points per possession is a top-5 offense, and a team averaging 1.05 is a bottom-5 offense. 0.09 points per possession is the difference.

When you have a guy that can get you 0.08 points per shot more than any of the other top-tier scorers in the league, that’s when you start talking about greatest offensive player of all-time type stuff.

Fans and media might not be able to understand the game on that level, but opposing teams and coaching staffs do. That’s why Curry, two months from turning 33, is still being defended in a way no player ever has been. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

*6 games have passed since I wrote this, and Curry is now at 39.5% from deep, 56.4 eFG% and 61.7 TS%. Because of course he is.

What player that you drafted do you feel the worst about?

(JS): Karl-Anthony Towns (drafted 9th)

After reflecting more on this pick, I find KAT to be a guy that wasn’t really in line with my strategy of youth and ability to serve as a strong #1. He’s obviously a very skilled offensive player but he is a big. In today’s NBA, unless you are one-of-a kind like Jokic, it seems you just don’t generate high enough usage to be able to carry an offense. Now, the thing with KAT, is he makes up for it on defense- oh wait. No he doesn’t.

We have only seen KAT play 4 games this year before getting injured. So it’s not even a “he’s been terrible this season” nomination. It’s more reflecting on my strategy in this draft and seeing KAT not fitting that. At this point, I would now take Zion, the Booker and Trae duo, KD, Harden, Ja, LaMelo and maybe even Damian and Embiid ahead of him if I were to remake my board.

(SCG): I feel so awful about the Pascal Siakam pick that I didn’t even write about it during the main exercise. So it’s gotta be that one.

Could I have anticipated Siakam’s poor start? Maybe. He looked awful in the bubble, but just as I wasn’t buying bubble Murray as the next superstar point guard (and lo and behold, he’s not), I wasn’t buying nearly-unplayable Siakam as the future form of a guy who had done nothing but improve consistently and dramatically every year.

But really, it’s not even about Siakam’s continued offensive slump. At this point, that’s mostly about his inability to knock down threes — his efficiency inside the arc is comparable to last season and his assists are up. No, the real issue was just a botched evaluation; putting too much of the credit for Toronto’s success last season on Siakam’s shoulders as this two-way dynamo. Toronto’s defense has dropped from 2nd to 16th this season, which tells me that, in a shocking turn of events, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are really good defensive anchors. That’s not say Siakam doesn’t help you on that end, but if he’s more cog than engine, I should have either taken another defensive cog with more offensive game or age-related upside (Jaylen Brown), a better, younger defender with room to grow offensively in his teammate, OG Anunoby or simply a more established, offensively-dynamic 3-and-D wing (Khris Middleton, Paul George).

Siakam is still a good player, but he doesn’t look like an all-star with this new Raptors roster, and that’s a problem given where he’s at on the aging curve (turning 27 this April).