The SB Nation NBA Mock Draft is a thing born of the internet and carried out mainly by our own partiality. I wanted to draft R.J. Hunter as I controlled the faux-Mavericks and you're damn right I did at no. 21; whether the real Mavericks have even halfway considered the swingman from Georgia State, whether he aligns with their long-term plans, whether he missed all his shots in an AAC workout then flipped off Donnie Nelson with both hands as he walked off the court are all things clueless about. Yet even without information that ought to be crucial for me as the trigger man, the whole process feels surprisingly authentic.
I say all this to set up an explanation of how we settled on R.J. Hunter, and perhaps give you some small insight into how an actual draft room operates on the annual night that can make or break a franchise.
With pick no. 21, I had Hunter tabbed all along. Representing Dallas, the first 15 picks were meaningless to me -- we couldn't move up if we tried, not with our shiniest draft asset being Dwight Powell. At pick no. 18 or so, Cameron Payne was long gone and Jerian Grant had just be picked as well, but Hunter, Trey Lyles and Sam Dekker were all hanging around.
I emailed picks no. 23 through 26, seeing if there was any interest in swapping picks in exchange for Raymond Felton. The team would have to have cap space, sure, but he's not a useless player and it's possibly one of them coveted someone still on the board. By the time we reached pick no. 20, I was committed to Hunter if he was still on the board, but was planning on pushing hard for a trade should he be taken a pick in front of us.
The Raptors chose Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, freeing up the Hunter selection. The Suns offered P.J. Tucker for no. 21, which I graciously declined. At this point, my guy was there and I couldn't not take him.
Still, I couldn't help envision a scenario where a team snagged Hunter already and a trade down. Trading down four picks with Lyles, Dekker and another prospect we liked, Delon Wright, felt like a risk that would be worth taking. In all likelihood, one of those three would have remained.
I'm not a general manager and I certainly didn't experience nearly the full weight of what an NBA draft night feels like, but even that small taste made me realize how tough it can be.