Purdue's Zach Edey AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Men's College Basketball Stars Who Are Getting Snubbed in NBA Mock Drafts

Kerry Miller

Let's start this column with a confession: I'm not an NBA Draft guy. Never have been. Don't even watch a second of it in most years.

And that's because, as a college basketball junkie, it's often difficult to fathom what NBA scouts are seeing—or, more often, not seeing—in various players.

Take the 2017-18 season for instance. Jalen Brunson was my preseason pick to win the Wooden Award, which he did eventually win. He was fantastic in leading Villanova to its second national championship in three years. He felt like a point guard any NBA franchise would be lucky to build around.

Yet Brunson went in the second round—as the fourth player selected from Villanova—while Boston College's Jerome Robinson was a lottery pick.

That's not intended to be shade thrown at Robinson, but it's hard to understand how anyone tasked with watching college basketball that season could come to the conclusion that he should be drafted 20 spots ahead of Brunson.

There are similar examples every year, but that one will always stick with me.

That said, I do occasionally peruse mock drafts and big boards, either to add some context to an article or just out of morbid curiosity.

And these are a few of the "You've got to be kidding me" observations for the current draft class.

In What Possible World Is Zach Edey "Mr. Irrelevant"?

Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Zach Edey has been an unstoppable force of nature for Purdue. Not just this season, either. Over the course of his three-year career in West Lafayette, the 7'4" Boilermaker has averaged 28.0 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 40 minutes.

He's going to win the Wooden Award, the Naismith Trophy and pretty much every National Player of the Year honor in existence.

But it's unclear if he'll even get drafted?

There's an aggregator at NBA Mock Draft Database that combines dozens of projections into one consensus big board, and Edey is currently No. 71.

At least our Jonathan Wasserman has Edey getting selected in his most recent mock draft, with Edey projected for the 60th pick in the NBA's version of Mr. Irrelevant.

Even that's a big time "maybe," though, which is so hard to swallow after watching Edey run rampant for the past few months.

Old-school, back-to-the-basket big men are the woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers of the modern-day pro game. If you can't shoot threes, it's next to impossible to earn a living in today's NBA. And if guys like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard have the range of a cell phone, Edey is more of a "two tin cans connected by a shoelace" situation.

The NBA game has evolved to more or less eradicate the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming and Edey.

I get that.

But there's no room for Edey anywhere?

A guy who gets double teamed just about every time he touches the ball and still makes 63 percent of his field-goal attempts?

A guy who also shoots nearly 75 percent from the charity stripe, keeping "Hack-a-Zach" from ever becoming a viable strategy?

A guy who isn't shy about kicking the ball back out to the perimeter when the double team does come, often resulting in a "hockey assist" for a wide-open triple?

Every franchise is willing to pass on that game-changer in the post at least once and possibly twice?

Where the Heck Is Jamal Mashburn Jr.?

New Mexico's Jamal Mashburn Jr. Sam Wasson/Getty Images

While Edey isn't guaranteed to hear his name called on June 22, at least there's about a 50/50 chance the best college basketball player in the country gets selected.

But where is New Mexico's Jamal Mashburn Jr.?

The aforementioned NBA Mock Draft Database includes 226 players, and Mashburn is nowhere to be found on it.

This is patently ludicrous.

"Mash" is averaging 20 points per game, and his three-point stroke has improved drastically over the years. He shot 27.6 percent as a freshman in 2020-21, 34.2 percent last year and is sitting at 39.1 percent this season.

But it's the mid-range game that should be making him stand apart from the crowd.

Physically, the 6'2" shooting guard is nothing like Kevin Durant. But there's a KD element to his ability to drain those market inefficiency jumpers from what many players treat as no man's land.

We talk about players being able to score from all three levels, but Mashburn is a rare talent who actually prefers to do his damage off the dribble from just inside the three-point arc.

And he is darn good at it.

Sure, Mash is undersized. And, sure, he's a substantial liability on defense. But no one even taking a flier on one of the best shot creators in recent memory is difficult to comprehend.

Not a Single Non-Freshman in the Lottery?

Kansas' Jalen Wilson and Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe Michael Hickey/Getty Images

There have been multiple non-freshman college players selected within the first 10 picks in each of the past four drafts, and there have been multiple sophomores/juniors/seniors selected in the lottery of every draft since the lottery became a thing in 1985.

But of all freshman classes, this is seriously going to be the one to end that streak?

This year's crop of first-year players has been underwhelming as a whole.

Granted, much of that is because of injury. Cam Whitmore, Nick Smith Jr., Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II were all hurt to start the year, and they have all fallen short of the hype.

And it hasn't all been bad. Alabama's Brandon Miller has been fantastic and should be headed for first-team All-American honors in a few weeks.

But he's the only freshman even remotely in that first-team conversation. Maybe there's a case for Baylor's Keyonte George, Kansas' Gradey Dick, Houston's Jarace Walker or Duke's Kyle Filipowski for third-team AA. But it wouldn't be a surprise if the consensus at the end of the year is that only one of the top 15 players in the country was a freshman.

Nevertheless, the top of this year's draft board is exclusively freshmen and/or non-college prospects.

The consensus big board has four non-college players (Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson) up top, followed by 13 consecutive freshmen at Nos. 5-17 before listing NC State's sophomore Terquavion Smith and Iowa's junior Kris Murray at Nos. 18 and 19, respectively.

The non-freshmen most likely to join Miller as first-team All-Americans are Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jalen Wilson, Azuolas Tubelis and Zach Edey, and they're all projected second-round picks, if that.

Oscar Tshiebwe won National Player of the Year last year, should be no worse than a second-team All-American this year...and might not get drafted?

Meanwhile, GG Jackson, Brice Sensabaugh, Taylor Hendricks, Cason Wallace, Jett Howard and Cam Whitmore rank among the candidates for the lottery after one season that might not even result in an NCAA tournament appearance.

I can appreciate that being great for multiple years of college basketball doesn't necessarily translate to even being serviceable in the NBA, but things feel particularly out of whack this year.

Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @KerranceJames.


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