With the NBA Finals in the rear view mirror, we now sit in the two week period where sports fans suddenly feel a little deprived. Baseball is here, but that’s not enough. Both LeBron and KD are now hitting the links (or uncomfortably dancing in the gym), while the Stanley Cup Finals have also come to a close. This brief timeframe leading up to the NBA Draft is actually much more fun than one would think. NBA practice facilities suddenly become cool and trendy, while the words “wingspan”, “upside”, “physicality”, and “long” get to be overused without any questioning. Rumors of 45-inch verticals circulate alongside rising and falling stocks with excessively high share prices. Let’s jump into another mock draft and add to the offseason frenzy. It’s draft week!
1.Philadelphia 76ers : Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
Ok. So after the ole shakeup that took place this weekend, the Sixers now hold the number one pick and plan to take Markelle Fultz. He’ll fit in well with the youth movement in Philly as he joins Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to create an exciting three headed monster.
Pretty great how Robert Covington snuck into this picture. Add Dario Saric into this photo op and you’re finally seeing some results of The Process. Sam Hinkie must be proud.
Back to Fultz - The 6’4 guard can slide into either backcourt spot and is the best prospect in this draft. If he reaches anywhere near his ceiling, he could be a real franchise changing player.
2. L.A. Lakers: Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
The Lakers sit in an interesting spot with the second pick while speculation surrounding this slot remains rampant. Ball’s tremendous passing ability and sharp shooting ways make him the smart choice, but to say Jackson is enticing at two would be an understatement. I still think Magic Johnson goes with Lonzo here.
3. Boston Celtics: Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
The Celtics now sit at No.3 following this weekend’s trade, but something tells me they aren’t done moving pieces. One has to think they made this trade knowing that another deal with say, Chicago (Jimmy Butler) or New Orleans (Anthony Davis) is on the table in the near future.
Or maybe not. Maybe this is just another trade to fuel Danny Ainge’s obsession with stockpiling assets. Maybe by the end of this week, after all the trades have come and gone, the Celtics will hold every first round pick in next year’s draft. Who knows?
In all seriousness, if the Celtics stick with this pick, it’ll be either Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum. Tatum is a safe pick, but Jackson seems to be the best available if Fultz and Ball go 1-2. Some Celtics fans may be frustrated with a Jackson pick, as he has a lot of similarities to Jaylen Brown. Those frustrations are fair. To those fans in particular, be patient, another trade could be on the horizon. We’ll see if Ainge pulls the trigger this time around.
Side note: Here’s a picture of Fultz with Red Auerbach’s Benz. *Sigh* What could’ve been.
4. Phoenix Suns: De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
Now the debate becomes Tatum vs Fox. It seems as though the Suns like the idea of piling up as many Kentucky guards as they possibly can, so choosing De’Aaron Fox at No. 4 would be fitting. He’d be effective alongside Devin Booker, while this would also give them an escape plan with Eric Bledsoe if they wanted to go that route. Fox could go as high as two, but I think he slips to four and joins his fellow Wildcats in Phoenix.
5. Sacramento Kings: Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
If Fox somehow ends up falling to five, the Kings will undoubtably choose the Calipari product here.
With Fox off the board, Jayson Tatum is the safe pick. He’s strong on the offensive glass, good in transition, and can be a viable replacement as Rudy Gay becomes a free agent. Tatum has arguably the highest floor out of any prospect on the board, which is comforting for the Kings who haven’t made they playoffs in over a decade.
6. Orlando Magic: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
I can see president Jeff Weltmann and GM John Hammond taking a chance on Monk’s freakish athletic ability. It might take him a few years to develop, however his sky high ceiling could really pay off for a team in need of some help in the backcourt. Plus, Monk has the chance to easily become a flashy superstar, which Orlando’s new management would absolutely love.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Florida St.
Isaac comes in at 6’11 with a wingspan of just over 7’1. He has tremendous upside and carries the ability to be a stretch four or five, which would allow him to become an effective, multifaceted third star alongside Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Add in a year or two of development for Kris Dunn, and suddenly the T-Wolves are a legitimate threat.
8. New York Knicks: Dennis Smith, PG, N.C. State
Knicks fans everywhere are just praying that they don’t screw this pick up. Lucky for them I think that’d be difficult to do. There’s no shortage of backcourt players in this year’s draft, and the Knicks should still have a nice group to choose from at the No. 8. IF New York does have the choice between Smith and Ntilikina, it’s a win win. They’ve made it pretty clear that they’ll take the best guard available here, and in this case, that’s Dennis Smith. Frank Ntilikina is a solid foreign product that would resemble a Porzingis selection, however Smith has the edge in this PG battle.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
Ntilikina has great size at 6’5 while his defensive ability is probably top five for this class. Rick Carlisle loves his defense, which is why I can see him being taken here. Obviously an 18 year old foreign prospect is a risky pick, but that hasn’t stopped NBA GMs before. Ntilikina will be a multi-year development, so wherever he ends up, don’t expect immediate dividends.
10. Sacramento Kings: Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
The Kings already have their fair share of young big men, but if Markkanen falls to ten, he will most likely be the best prospect available. In a guard heavy class, the 7 footer is a stand out stretch four who’s a proven shooter. If Isaac get chosen higher than projected, look for Markkanen to follow suit.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville.
Charlotte can go in a few directions with this pick. If they want to continue the big trend, they have a nice option in Gonzaga’s Zach Collins. Or they have the luxury of choosing between Luke Kennard and Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell displays a great basketball IQ combined with unbelievable athletic ability and defensive skill. With depth issues across the board, Mitchell’s positional versatility has to be an important and appealing trait for Charlotte.
12. Detroit Pistons: Zach Collins, PF, Gonzaga
Many are saying that Stan Van Gundy is trying to trade this pick, but if that doesn’t happen, look for the Pistons to snag this 7 foot freshmen. He can stretch the floor and is one of the more efficient rim protectors available. Collins averaged just 17 minutes in his freshman campaign, but that was enough to make him a first round pick.
13. Denver Nuggets: OG Anunoby, F, Indiana
Denver is a team that would be willing to wait for a long term project, and Anunoby is just that. His surgically repaired knee could keep him out for the entirety of next season, but his athleticism and defensive ability is something that shouldn’t be overlooked due to injury. Look for the Nuggets to take a chance with this long term investment.
14. Miami Heat: Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Five weeks ago, if you were to tell me that Luke Kennard was going to be a lottery pick, I probably would’ve responded with a skeptical, know-it-all answer telling you why he’d eventually be a late first rounder. Over the last few weeks, Kennard has been lighting up pre-draft workouts with his phenomenal three point shooting ability and showcasing his impressive athleticism (see 38.5-inch vertical). Miami could use his perimeter efficiency off of the bench, especially if front court prospects fly off of the board earlier than expected.
15. Portland Trail Blazers: John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
Now comes the post-lottery fun. This draft class rapidly thins out once you get into the mid teens, but there are still plenty of guys who can be impact players in the near future. Justin Jackson and John Collins both represent prospects in that category. Collins has great productivity for a 19 year old stretch four and has shot the three well in his workouts. The Blazers have a crowded frontcourt, but could use Collins’ flexibility and defensive help. I’ll give him the edge over Jackson here.
16. Chicago Bulls: Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
I wanted to have Gar Forman take Harry Giles here, but I don’t think Chicago, or their fans, are in a position to take a risk like that.
Jackson will be a nice fit for any team in the 15-21 range. He’d be an ideal sixth man, or even fifth starter for teams sneaking into the playoffs. His athleticism, or lack there of, hurts his potential, which leads me to believe he could fall into the early twenties. If he doesn’t though, the Bulls could very well be an early suitor as they’re desperately in need of some help in the shooting department.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
Newly hired Jon Horst will determine where the Bucks go at 17, but Jarrett Allen could be a nice steal for a team that’s already heading in the right direction. Milwaukee needs help in the backcourt, but unfortunately for them the top of the line guards will be gone by this point in the night. If that’s the case, Allen is a smart, high-ish risk, high reward investment. He’ll need a little touching up on the offensive side of the ball but his impressive agility will help to expedite that process.
18. Indiana Pacers: Justin Patton, C, Creighton
BIG EAST ALERT!
Patton is another big, athletic center with tremendous upside. The Creighton star would fit nicely next to Myles Turner, which seems to be what the Pacers are looking for. He could go anywhere from 17-25, but the pressing bias has me leaning towards the early side. We’ve all seen what he can do. Give him a couple years of development and the late bloomer could surprise some people.
19. Atlanta Hawks: Harry Giles, F, Duke
Giles has red flags all over his reports, but he would be great value at No. 19. His pro-day went very well as he showed little issues regarding his past knee injuries. If the medical results look good, I could see Travis Schlenk taking a flier on Giles with his first ever pick as Hawks’ GM. He could end up being one of the biggest steals in this year’s draft.
20. Portland Trail Blazers: T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
This is the Blazers’ second of three first rounders this year. Expect them to deal this one away, as they’ll be plenty of takers in this valued slot.
Players worth consideration here include TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, both of UCLA, and Bam Adebayo of Kentucky. I’ll say Leaf goes here due to value, just not sure who he’d go to. We’ll see who owns No. 20 when the clock starts ticking.
Quick report: Leaf brings the ability to score efficiently while lacking on the defensive end.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrance Ferguson, SG, Australia
Ahhh making the case for Terrance Ferguson. Many will disagree with me for placing him this high, but for the sake of thinking optimistically, consider him as a raw Terrance Ross. After a few years in the league, he should be a very effective 3-and-D wing.
Ferguson is one of this class’ biggest wild cards. He’s a great athlete who can shoot the ball well, but didn’t exhibit that last year in Australia. Out of high school Ferguson was committed to Arizona, but eligibility issues pushed him overseas. He’s a long term investment, but his high ceiling will lead someone to take him in the mid to late first round. Don’t be surprised if that’s OKC whose been in desperate need of an extra wing over the last few seasons.
Buyer beware: Ferguson has struggled over the last few weeks in his workouts. Depending on how GMs react to this, he could quickly fall out of the first round.
But I’m being optimistic, I swear.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Bam Adebayo, C/F, Kentucky
Quick, mobile, and a 7’2 wingspan. All traits of a modern day NBA big man. With uncertainty regarding Brook Lopez’s future, Adebayo can serve as a potential replacement plan, while also playing alongside of Lopez against bigger lineups. The Nets can afford a project pick, so like most things related to this team, fingers crossed!
23. Toronto Raptors: Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
If you look back for game footage of Anigbogu in his freshman year, you won’t find much. The 6-10 center averaged just 13 minutes a game as an eighteen year old, but showed he has plenty of potential. He has good size and is great on the glass. Give him a couple years of development and he could turn into a very valuable defensive minded center for the Raptors.
24. Utah Jazz: Anzejs Pasecniks, C, Latvia
The Jazz having a lot of uncertainty in their future. Restricted free agents, upcoming contract extensions, and a lot of waiting and seeing doesn’t create a clear vision heading into draft night. So maybe the Jazz go with the best available player here in 7-2 center, Anzejs Pasecniks. Could be a draft and stash, but the Jazz can afford that plan at the moment. Plus he’s Latvian and his last name sounds like Porzingis. If that’s not enough I don’t know what is.
25. Orlando Magic: Jordan Bell, PF, Oregon
Say the Magic do in fact choose a guard (Monk) with their first pick, look for their new management to turn towards the front court. Semi Ojeleye, Tyler Lydon, Ivan Rabb, and Jordan Bell all fit the mold here if this is what they need post-lottery. Ojeleye and Bell bring about more versatility than the rest, plus solid NBA frames. Bell’s strengths on the defensive side of the ball gives him the edge here.
Don’t rule out D.J. Wilson or Tony Bradley here either.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Germany
If the Blazers keep all of their first rounders, this will be their third and final. My best guess here is they trade out of the second pick, and then go with a draft and stash at No. 26. Hartenstein fits the mold. Wherever he goes, expect the 7 footer to remain overseas for at least a year or two.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Ivan Rabb, PF, California
This time last year, Rabb was a projected lottery pick who decided to stay in school for another season. He says he stands by his decision, but he’ll have some work to do now that he’s projected as a late first / early second rounder. Rabb will need to improve outside of the paint, but he could surely help the Nets, or anyone else, underneath.
28. L.A. Lakers: Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
I wonder if LaVar Ball wants the Lakers to forfeit every other pick after they choose Lonzo...
Regardless, Magic Johnson could go a few different directions with this one, but the frontcourt should be his priority assuming they go with Ball at No. 2. Caleb Swanigan should fit their needs here, unless L.A. goes towards a project pick like Tony Bradley, which I doubt they will.
Of note: Keep an eye out for D.J. Wilson here as the Lakers are said to be high on the Michigan product.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Tyler Lydon, F, Syracuse
I automatically assume anyone drafted by the Spurs will become a solid professional player. They go right from the green room to Coach Pop’s lab, and then bang; the Spurs magically have some sort of Kawhi Leonard - Tim Duncan hybrid.
They could take Tyler Lydon, D.J. Wilson, Josh Hart, Frank Jackson, Ed Cooley or my next door neighbor and I would still feel as though it’d work out in their favor.
I’d like to see the Spurs take Lydon here. A crafty stretch four who can defend both spots would be an interesting addition to a team that’s looking to add either Chris Paul or George Hill. From Lydon’s perspective, this would be an ideal destination.
30. Utah Jazz: Frank Jackson, G, Duke
Thankfully Golden State does not have the opportunity to improve via draft picks on Thursday night. Utah will be using the Warriors slot to conclude this year’s first round.
Frank Jackson is one of the better combo guards in this class outside of the lottery. He shoots well while being able to play both spots in the backcourt. Any team could benefit in having him come off the bench.
So who’s left for the second round? Let’s focus on our Big East products.
Josh Hart, SG, Villanova: Hart could sneak into the late first round, but he could also watch himself slip into the mid second. One can easily make an argument for him to go in the 20-30 range. Hart can help any team looking for defensive help in the backcourt, as he effectively guards both spots. He consistently hits the open look and doesn’t make many mistakes, if any. Wherever he goes, he’ll be a valuable asset off the bench who can give productive, smart, and efficient minutes.
L.J. Peak, SG, Georgetown: Peak continues to fly under the radar on most draft boards. At most, he’s projected to go in the 50 - 60 range. His consistency shooting the ball has been questioned, which is why his slashing mentality took over throughout his time with the Hoyas. Peak could be a valued selection for a team looking for depth at the wing.
Edmond Sumner, PG, Xavier: Sumner is a long, explosive guard, whose physical attributes keep him in the conversation with other prospects at the back end of this class. His injuries cause some red flags, as teams wonder if he’ll be able to regain his full athleticism. He’s a good passer who exhibits balanced scoring habits, but his decision making will have to improve as he develops over the next year or so. Look for him to be the third Big East grad chosen following Patton and Hart.
The other two Big East prospects I have my eye on are Nova’s Kris Jenkins and Georgetown’s Rodney Pryor, among others. Both players are relatively one dimensional, but will still get some looks once draft night passes. Either player could be effective in the D-League or overseas.
Some other names to keep an eye out for come Thursday night:
Jawun Evans, PG, Oklahoma St.
D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan
Tony Bradley, C, North Carolina
Frank Mason, PG Kansas
Johnathan Motley, PF/C, Baylor