Mike Schmitz on life as an ESPN Draft Expert
ESPN Draft Expert Mike Schmitz poses for a photo on July 7, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
If you tuned in to see any of ESPN’s NBA Draft coverage in June, then you also saw Mike Schmitz. ESPN’s Draft Expert was practically in your living room, feeding you information about the top selections and breaking down their NBA potential.
Schmitz’s basketball analysis has recently become a main staple of some of ESPN’s most viewed shows. From SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt to The Jump to the Draft Special, Schmitz is now one of the more recognizable faces in a company branded “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
But before any of that, Schmitz spent three years as an Arizona Daily Wildcat sports writer, working three different beats at one point. Eventually, he broke into the UA basketball beat, where his talent for understanding the the ins and outs of the game were evident. Schmitz, who had a basketball his hand since the age of 3, played until he was 18. Later, he began to develop a more analytical eye for the game, specifically in video work starting at ValleyoftheSuns.com.
“Sure, I’ll teach myself how to use video,” Schmitz recalled. “I think I have a good feel for players' strengths and weaknesses, so I started creating these video packages.”
Quickly advancing from there to Draft Express to Yahoo and now to ESPN, Schmitz’s draft analysis has been defined by dedication to the craft and seeing as many prospects as possible.
“You can’t fake it,” Schmitz said. “You can really tell if people are trying to fake it, especially in terms of scouting.”
The 2012 UA grad spends his days now traveling not just around the U.S. but internationally as well to see the top up-and-coming basketball players. Schmitz went overseas to scout 2018 lottery pick Luka Doncic several times this past year, including going to a game in Belgrade, Serbia where Doncic hit a game-winning shot.
The 2018 NBA Draft class turned out to be one of the most heavily dissected groups in recent memory with several potential franchise-changing players such as Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Doncic in the fold.
Despite being one of the cornerstone voices of ESPN’s draft reports, Schmitz isn’t worried about how close his analysis will match a player’s pro career or how his rankings look years later.
“The confidence comes from putting in the work,” Schmitz said. “Our reps are making sure we are scouting everyone and we’re making calls, getting the right intel. So as long as I do the work to make the best evaluation possible, then you live with it. Nobody’s perfect in this business.”
The 2018 Draft may be in the rearview mirror, but Schmitz’s process starts all over again. He spent a few days at the NBA Summer League in Vegas to see how the top picks fared in their first few games, appearing on-air several times to give his breakdown. By now, Schmitz is in Sofia, Bulgaria, where the work begins for the 2019 and beyond draft classes.
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