What are Justin Lewis’ Draft Prospects?

Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches

With Justin Lewis officially declaring for the NBA Draft (while maintaining eligibility and the opportunity to return) there were like 500 questions flying around my head. Where is he projected to go? How good are those projections at this point in time? What are his prospects like once he gets there?

So I figured I’d dive into them in case anyone else was interested. This isn’t meant as an assessment of him as a player, just a factual deep dive into where he currently stands.

Draft Projections

As of 4/15/2021, I rounded up 12 notable sites that have either mock drafts or big boards publicly available. They are: ESPN, The Athletic, CBS, Sports Illustrated, The Ringer, NBA Big Board, USA Today, Sporting News, Bleacher Report, Draft Net, Tankathon and NBA Draft Room.

Of those 12, 10 have Justin Lewis listed within the top 60 (or the first 2 rounds). On average, those sites have Justin sitting at 44.9 (with those not listing him automatically getting a 61). If you take the median, you get 42.5.

ESPNAthleticCBSSIRingerDraft NetTankathonBleacher ReportNBA Draft RoomSporting NewsUSA TodayNBA Big Board

So basically, Justin currently sits as a mid 2nd round projection. Only CBS has him in the first round, sitting at 23. Both the Athletic and ESPN dropped him from late 1st round projections to early 2nd round.

Of course, it should be noted that Justin’s stock has never been higher on aggregate. In February, only 4 of 9 mocks listed him with a median placement of 51.3. In March, that went to 6 out of 10 mocks, with an average placement of 48.1.

Long story short, he’s currently on an upswing, projected to be a mid-2nd round pick per the wisdom of the masses.

Projection Accuracy

We always like to site mock drafts from big sites because they do it for a living, but have you ever wondered how accurate they actually are?

I took the 3 biggest, most reliable names in the draft projecting business (Mike Schmidt of Draft Express/ESPN, Sam Vecinie of The Athletic, and Chad Forde of NBA Big Board) and averaged their projections for the late May, early April time frame in 2021, to get a sense of how much weight we can put on these mocks.

I used this time frame not only because it aligns with what we are currently in, but also to prevent a bit of the herding that goes on closer to the event, where prognosticators don’t like to be too far away from consensus and adjust to be less of an outlier.

The verdict is: depends on where in the draft you are looking. When it comes to the 1st round, the mocks are pretty good, all else considered.

On average, 24 of the 30 actual 1st round picks were in the 1st round of mocks at this point in time. Of the 6 left over, all of them were in the 2nd round on average.

However, once you get to the 2nd round, it gets to be quite a mess.

On average, only 16 of the 30 actual 2nd round picks were in the 2nd round of these mocks. In fact, 10 of the eventual picks weren’t even listed at this point in time. And to my surprise, it wasn’t a huge international contingent. Of those 10, 7 were college players and all were from high major programs.

If we limit our analysis to just the current range Lewis resides in (about 33 to 45), it does get a bit more accurate, but still with a ton of volatility.

ESPN had 4 players in this range that went undrafted, 1 that went back to college, and only 2 that made a significant move up (Josh Cristopher and Joshua Primo). The Athletic had 3 go undrafted, and 1 go into the 1st round. Ford had 1 go undrafted, 2 go back to college, with no one jumping into the first round.

On average, those that were listed in this range ended up getting drafted 5 spots lower than where the projection had them. That isn’t to say all of them dropped, just to note that most players in this area didn’t end up making a leap into the 1st round, or even the early part of the 2nd round.

Prospects for 2nd Rounders

Okay, so now we know that Justin is projected as a mid-2nd rounder, and that using last season as our guide, probably means he sticks around that area, what would that mean for his pro future?

As you can see, there is an enormous difference between being a 1st rounder and a 2nd rounder. But even among 2nd rounders, the drop from 31-40 to 41-50 is stark. Over 25% of draft picks in the 41-50 range never make a single NBA roster, and almost 70% total are end of bench players at best.

I didn’t quite go as far back, but from a financial perspective, there’s also enormous incentive to be closer to the 31st pick. For the 2021 draft, 9 of the picks in the 31-45 range signed a contract that guaranteed at least $1 million. On average, those contracts made them a guaranteed $2.14 million.

Only 7 of the 15 picks in the late 2nd round featured in at least 20 games, with 4 never making a roster this year. From a financial perspective, only 3 of those picks have a contract with at least $1 million guaranteed.  

What Does This Mean For Justin?

Basically, all of this is to say getting a legitimate NBA evaluation is crucial and necessary for Justin. He’s currently in that borderline zone where coming back could make sense, as he could really break out and cash in on NIL deals as a potential All-American.

However, if he works out for teams and can show them enough to get them to say he’s a 28-35 type of prospect, staying in the draft makes so much sense, ensuring a multi-million dollar payment.

For we’ll just wait and see how those workouts and evaluations go, hoping he and his family get a clear sense of where he stands.

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