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Major League Pickleball

A Full Premier Level 2024 Major League Pickleball Mock Draft

by Erik Tice on

Excitement is building for the 2024 MLP Premier Level Draft on Tuesday, April 2nd at 6p ET.

The first two hours of the draft will be streamed live on MLP's YouTube channel and on PickleballTV.

A Refresher for the Upcoming 2024 Major League Pickleball Draft
Now that Major League Pickleball is back, how are the teams constructed? We get you prepped for the April 2 draft with a refresher on how it works.

Let’s Go Over the Ground Rules

We know this is a dynamic auction draft and we know that each team will have three minutes to make their pick, once they have secured a draft position. We also know that each Premier Level team (12 in total) needs to draft four players – two men and two women – for a total of 48 drafted players.

We also have an understanding of who may or may not be playing in Major League Pickleball in 2024.

These Notable Players Are Not Playing MLP in 2024
The MLP Draft is coming up, and some notable players have withdrawn their eligibility for 2024. Find out who’s not playing this season.

Some of the other logistics you may or may not know

Each team is given 500,000 in draft points from MLP in order to bid on draft slots in the auction draft.

  • To be clear: all player contracts are already set. The dollar amounts being used to buy draft slots are just interactions between MLP Teams and MLP itself. If a team pays 500,000 draft points for the 10th draft slot and picks Thomas Wilson, Wilson doesn’t see any of that money - he already has a contract that is completely separate from the MLP Draft auction amounts.
  • In addition to the "free" 500,000 draft points, teams are able to spend up to $500,000 of their own dollars for draft points. Teams that are willing to spend the most money, are able to use up to one million draft points for draft slots.
  • The minimum bid for a draft slot is 10,000 draft points. This makes the maximum amount a team can bid for a draft slot as 970,000 draft points, with 30,000 draft points left for that team’s last three picks.
  • For purposes of this mock draft, I am assuming the minimum bid increment is 5,000 draft points – I have no confirmation from MLP of this number, but it makes the most sense to keep this mock draft as understandable as possible.
  • Jimmy Miller mentioned on his podcast that if you draft a player in 2024 and want to keep them in 2025, before the 2025 season, it will cost you 50 percent of whatever you paid for that slot in 2024. Example: I pay 900,000 draft points for draft slot 1 and I draft Ben Johns. If I want to keep Ben Johns in 2025, I will also need to pay MLP $450,000. That is a HEFTY price to pay, but I am sure someone is willing to pay it.
  • Last, and maybe most importantly, teams who are tied at a bid amount will go into a separate live chat and bid with each other for that bid – the amount they bid in this "side pot" does not go toward their one million draft-point salary cap AND goes into the hands of MLP from the team.
Five Strategies GMs Could Implement in the Upcoming MLP Premier Level Draft
The 2024 MLP Draft is just around the corner and we’re gearing up with a look at some potential strategies GMs could utilize to build that championship team.

Other strategies/assumptions I used employed

  • Three teams will not want to spend more than the 500,000 draft points and that is their draft capital ceiling.
  • Six teams will employ their entire one million draft-point budget.
  • Three other teams will fall somewhere in between the 500,000 floor and the one million draft-point ceiling.

In the real draft, there will be no rounds, just draft slots. I am using the term "round" here to break up the draft and provide commentary. Here is the entire mock draft with commentary after every round:

Round 1

  • It is exciting that Jack Sock is for sure going to play Major League Pickleball. He is super entertaining and always has fun on the court. Imagine him playing in a team format.
  • Anna Bright is the first woman taken off the table – she is a great teammate and has proven she does extremely well in MLP events.
  • Christian Alshon is playing some of the best pickleball on tour right now and he still has upside – from Challenger Level to fourth-round pick in Premier to a first rounder in a year.
  • Thomas Wilson is trending upward and playing some of his best pickleball as of late. He was a third-round pick last summer, but now he's playing like a first rounder.

Round 1 strategy

  • In all of my mock drafts, the first round always had each team drafting once. 
  • The No. 6 draft slot cost more than slot No. 5 because Team 6 and Team 7 had a bidding war over who would be able to get Anna Bright.
  • The drop in value from draft slot No. 6 to draft slot No. 12 is huge – over $500,000.

Round 2

  • Hayden Patriquin and ALW get paired up again, reminiscent of the New Jersey 5s in MLP 2023 Season 1.
  • I have Tyson McGuffin slotted as a very early second round pick, but when a run of elite level women was made, he ended up dropping to later on the second round. I doubt this happens in the draft on Tuesday, as McGuffin is too good and has too much marketing power for teams to let him get to this draft spot.
  • The other player who dropped a little further than I thought they would is Lea Jansen. However, she is able to get picked up by Team 11, and paired back with a former partner in Federico Staksrud.

Round 2 strategy

  • With budget playing a huge part in this, many teams had to wait a significant amount of time to take their second or third pick.
  • Rachel Rohrabacher was a hot commodity early in the second round, so Team 6 had to overpay for the 15th draft slot. This strategy may turn out to be a problem later on in the draft.
  • Team 12 is able to FINISH their entire draft in round 2 – they took the strategy of waiting a little longer in taking their second pick in order to ensure they had a large draft point budget to make quicker third and fourth picks – all on a budget of 500,000 draft points.
  • The drop from draft slot 13 to draft slot 24 went from 215,000 draft points to 60,000 draft points.

Round 3

  • Bobbi Oshiro and Milan Rane are a big stretch here late in the third round, but based on team needs they both land here.
  • Connor Garnett and Jay Devilliers are victims of teams being scared on missing out on a second woman and they slipped into the third round.
  • Pablo Tellez is able to get paired up with Fed and Jackie Kawamoto is comfortable playing the left, so it makes a great mixed partner for Tellez.

Round 3 strategy

  • Team 11 is now done drafting with the 34th pick – they also used only a 500,000 draft point budget.
  • Team 1 is finally able to make two picks late in round 3 after drafting Ben Johns with the first overall pick.
  • Check out draft slots 31, 32, and 33 – they all went for 25,000 draft points. How was the tiebreaker won?
    • When there is a tie in terms of draft points for a select draft slot, the teams go into a side virtual room and bid in a "side pot" for that draft pick - all of that side pot money goes directly to MLP and does NOT count toward the one million draft-point cap.

Round 4

  • Alix Truong just signed an exclusive contract with MLP/PPA last week and she gets drafted to the Premier Level for the first time.
  • Dekel Bar had the biggest slip from where he is on the draft board (22nd overall) and he landed at the 39th draft slot – I am sure he doesn’t care though, because he somehow magically fell into Ben Johns’ team.
  • Will Howells has played in a tournament with JW Johnson and trains with him regularly. Team 4 had to pay more in the side pot in order to pick him up.
  • The biggest snub in my mock draft is Allyce Jones – I have no idea how she didn’t make the list, but she should be fine on Tuesday – she has too much skill and too many connections not to be drafted in Premier Level.
  • Parris Todd is able to partner up with her boyfriend, Hunter Johnson.
  • Sock seems to put a premium on having fun in pickleball – ensuring Brooke Buckner is on his team is a great way to do this.


Round 4 strategy

  • If the actual draft goes like my mock draft, MLP is going to be making a bunch of extra money from the side pot negotiations. 
    • If a bunch of teams only leave 15,000 or 10,000 draft points for their last pick(s), they will be involved in a lot of side room negotiations.
  • I would argue that Team 6 overpaying for Rohrabacher in the second round hamstrung them with the two picks of their guys. They still get two great male players in Tyler Loong and Pat Smith, but if they had done a little better with their budget, they would have had at least one higher-level guy to team up with.

Outcomes

Here are the teams and how many draft points they used:

Team 1 - 1 million draft points 

Team 2 - 1 million draft points 

Team 3 - 1 million draft points 

Team 4 - 1 million draft points

Team 5 - 1 million draft points

Team 6 - 1 million draft points 

Team 7 - 900,000 draft points

Team 8 - 850,000 draft points

Team 9 - 750,000 draft points 

Team 10 - 500,000 draft points 

Team 11 - 500,000 draft points 

Team 12 - 500,000 draft points 

 

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