It’s just not the NBA if nobody’s declaring they’ve been conspired against. Let’s get another mock in before the Knicks’ tears have dried from their mustaches.
*This is who I would pick, not who I expect the teams to pick. Feel free to explain why I’m wrong.
1. Minnesota: Karl Anthony-Towns
The only situation I didn’t have Towns going first was if the Knicks won the lottery. I figured that they would have a win-now mentality. The Timberwolves can afford to be a little more patient. Towns has incredible upside, defensively and offensively. The Wolves can start to look at role players after this pick, they have their foundation of Rubio-Lavine-Wiggins-Towns-Pek (or Dieng). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pekovic get traded this offseason.
2: Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor
The Lakers were the big winner of the lottery, moving up from fourth to second. I have them taking Jahlil Okafor here. He crowds the paint a little bit playing next to Julius Randle, and neither of them are great rim protectors, but I think that if you have the opportunity to draft the next Tim Duncan, you’ve gotta take it. Even if it isn’t the greatest fit, they have plenty of time before they contend for a championship. They can trade Randle, or they can let them learn how to play together. The Randle-Okafor combination could be one of the great high low post duos of all time.
3: Philadelphia: D’Angelo Russell
I’m struggling to come up with a player comparison for Russell. He has James Harden’s ability to score in a variety of ways, as well as a Steph Curry-esque ability to make the insane pass. If you have key components of the two top candidates for the MVP, that means you’re a steal at the third pick. The one question mark about Russell is his athleticism. Does he have the ability to finish over people, or the strength to go through them? He’s going to have to work on that to become an elite scorer, but I think he has enough tools that he can make up for his lack of over the rim explosiveness.
4: New York: Emmanuel Mudiay
I think that this is a no-brainer unless they trade the pick. In terms of fit, potential, and short term building, no prospect remaining is a better match with New York. Mudiay is John Wall in Michael Carter-Williams’ body. He has elite athleticism and playmaking ability. His jumpshot isn’t great, but his mechanics don’t give you MKG flashbacks, so it can improve. He can be a really good player for a long time, and he could bring the Knicks back to the playoffs.
5: Orlando: Justise Winslow
Speaking of no-brainers, pretty much everyone has the Magic taking Winslow here. I agree, because he is pretty much a perfect fit for them. The Warriors are once again showing us that an athletic, swarming defense is the way to go, and that’s what Winslow gives you. His jumper is a little bit strange, but it only needs minor adjustments, and when he’s hot he makes a high percentage of them anyway. He fits the Jimmy Butler/Kawhi Leonard mold of two-way wings that can give you 15-20 points and guard the other teams’ star.
6: Sacramento: Kristaps Porzingis
I believe that this draft has a pretty clear top five. Now that we’re through that group, we enter the second tier. These are the guys who either are going to be projects, or don’t have much long-term potential. Porzingis falls squarely into the first group. Kris, as we learned he is called during the lottery show, has enormous upside, as a 7’1 athletic stretch big man. Unfortunately, there is a stereotype of high upside Euros not living up to their potential. This is no more the case than home grown products, (Anthony Randolph anyone?) but I guess Darko scarred everybody. It’s not hard to see the red flags with Kris though, he’s 7’1, but he weighs only 220 pounds, he plays mostly on the perimeter despite his height, and he looks averse to contact. He has great athleticism though, and he seems like a really good fit next to Boogie as an athletic rim protector who can spread the floor.
7: Denver: Myles Turner
Turner is a guy who I expect to rise dramatically before the draft, he has a pretty good body and great skills for a big man. Turner is a great compliment to Jusuf Nurkic, and makes Faried very expendable for the Nuggets. (Watch the Trail Blazers for him). Turner is a little bit like a bigger, less explosive Serge Ibaka. That’s a very enticing skill set for a building team.
8: Detroit: Stanley Johnson
This is another match made in heaven with the way this player fits with this team. Detroit is building a physical, defensive minded style of team. Johnson has a stellar body for an NBA small forward at 6’8 235 lbs. He can shoot the three, but he excels offensively when he can play like a running back going “downhill” in transition. He is another player in the DTA mold.
9: Charlotte: Mario Hezonja
The Hornets desperately need a perimeter scorer. Hezonja is the best one of those remaining, so this pick makes sense. He has great size to play either wing position at 6’8, he can pass, shoot, and he is excellent at running wings on the break. He is also an above average passer, so the only question is whether he can defend at an NBA level.
10: Miami: Delon Wright
Wright vs. Grant is one of the biggest debates of this year’s draft, but it goes deeper than a debate between two players. This is the debate between the numbers test and the eye test. Jerian Grant is an excellent player, so this shouldn’t be read as a takedown of him, but the advanced stats make it clear that Wright is a better player, especially on defense. (For more on this subject you should go to Wingspan Addicts, an excellent NBA draft blog). Miami has been one of the teams leading the numbers revolution in the NBA, so I think that they take Wright. Either one would be an upgrade over Mario Chalmers.
11: Indiana: Willie Trill Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein is probably the best defensive player in this draft. He can protect the rim almost as well as anyone in the league already, and his pick and roll defense is beautiful. On the other end of the floor, he has excellent above the rim athleticism, and he is developing a nice little fifteen footer to keep the defense honest. Look for him to be a threat in pick and rolls. Another great quality is that he actually makes free throws, so he’s a rim protector you can leave in at the end of the game.
12: Utah: Kelly Oubre
Oubre was, for the most part, a disappointment in college. He didn’t play as well as anybody thought he would, and his jumpshot was especially underwhelming. Here’s the thing, though, Oubre is a terrible fit for college basketball. He belongs in uptempo, athletic, basketball. He just couldn’t work in the grind it out pace that is currently in fashion. He really would be a great fit for the Rockets, but the Jazz work too. He can help the Jazz begin building their bench, and he really fits the long, athletic, mold they are building around.
13: Phoenix: Kevon Looney
The Suns can afford a gamble here, and Looney is just that. Looney seems to have all the physical tools, but he still needs to work on putting it all together in one game. He is very long, but he lacks the ability to bang in the post, which might limit his production initially. He has the skills to stretch the floor and pound the glass, so an eventual 16 ppg 10 rpg season isn’t beyond the realm of imagination.
14: Oklahoma City: Devin Booker
OKC probably doesn’t need to bring Dion Waiters back next season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they packaged him with this pick to try to move up or get some veteran help. As it is though, I have them taking Booker because he has some Klay Thompson potential. He can shoot the three and hit shots off of one or two dribbles, and he’s an underrated athlete and defender. He’s a great fit for them, and he could contribute immediately.
15: Atlanta: Sam Dekker
I’m not very high on the Wisconsin guys as NBA players. They’re kind of the opposite of Kelly Oubre. They both have good enough size and skill to contribute, but they’re never going to be stars. Sam Dekker in college got most of his scoring opportunities out of plays that were designed to create mismatches for him. Once he got that mismatch, he didn’t really use any finesse post moves, he just put his shoulder down and bullied guys. That doesn’t really work in the NBA unless you’re Shaq, (ask Tyler Hansbrough). He’s going to have to adjust, and he will probably end up being a Mike Dunleavy/ Kyle Singler type of player.
16:Boston: Bobby Portis
Portis is a really good all around player, but he lacks that one great skill that would really make him a huge asset. As it is, he can stretch the floor, protect the rim and rebound. He should also be able to play well next to Kevin Love if they get him. He’s 6’11 and long, and he is enough of an athlete that he can probably guard most types of post players on defense.
17: Milwaukee: Trey Lyles
This is the part of the draft where you really start to look at drafting for need, as these are mostly teams at various stages of contention. What the Bucks really need right now is a backup big man. I don’t think that Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia are doing too much for them right now. There are a couple of options here, they could go with Lyles or Robert Upshaw, I think that what they went through with Larry Sanders is going to scare them off of Upshaw, so Lyles is the choice here. He can shoot out to the three point line, and he does lots of interesting things in pick and rolls. His year playing the three at Kentucky should prepare him well for Milwaukee.
18: Houston: Jerian Grant
Houston desperately needs a point guard. As I write this, Jason Terry is the starter for the Rockets, and Pablo Prigioni is the backup. Patrick Beverly is hurt, but I don’t think he was ever a plus point guard. Jerian Grant makes a lot of sense for them, not only due to his position, but because Notre Dame played a style very similar to the Rockets last year. He can excel at both guard spots, and he can provide some scoring when Harden is out.
19: Washington: Justin Anderson
Washington has their foundation, and they have a solid supporting cast around their backcourt, but the backup wing spot could use some work. Justin Anderson is a very good defender with a streaky jumpshot. When he’s hot, he looks like a Klay Thompson type of shooter. Wes Matthews is probably a more realistic example to shoot for, but if he turned out as good as eighty percent of Matthews that would be a great pickup at 19.
20: Toronto: Frank Kaminsky
Toronto has several needs, so this pick could go a few ways, but I think the Raptors grab Kaminsky here as an upgrade over Tyler Hansbrough. Kaminsky is a solid post scorer, and he can stretch the floor on offense, but I’m worried about him protecting the rim. He is 6’11 but his arms are only 6’10. He has a smaller wingspan than Justise Winslow, who is 6’6. He’s not a great athlete, but he should be able to leverage his skills into a long career.
21: Dallas: Cameron Payne
I don’t love Payne, even though there has been a pretty good track record in the last few years of mid major point guards turning out well. He isn’t an explosive leaper like Lillard or a lockdown defender like Elfrid Payton. He is a very solid offensive guard though, and Dallas really just needs someone who won’t ruin their spacing like Rondo did. (That trade still just makes no sense to me, why would they give up what they had going for a guy who everyone knows can’t shoot?)
22: Chicago: Tyus Jones
Jahlil Okafor was the anchor for Duke all year, Justise Winslow was the X-factor and Tyus Jones was the leader. Whenever the Blue Devils needed a clutch bucket, they went to Jones. I think he is going to be a very good NBA point guard, especially if he gets a few years to develop and learn how to make up for his lack of size. He can shoot, pass, and defend, so I think he could have a very good career. He reminds me of Trey Burke and Kemba Walker.
23: Portland: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Nic Batum is a free agent this year, and I don’t think the Blazers will be too desperate to bring him back. Jefferson makes a lot of sense for them, he can play both forward positions, and he is an outstanding defensive player. Think of him as a Draymond Green type. He’s not quite the shooter that Green has become, but he’s an even better athlete. He’s a solid pick at 23.
24: Cleveland: Christian Wood
The Cavs have so many expiring contracts that it makes sense for them to just take the best player available. Christian Wood is 6’11, he can jump out of the gym and he has three point range. The problem is that he just hasn’t figured out how to play basketball yet. Everyone would love to take the next Anthony Davis, but no one wants the next Javale McGee. He’s going to have to demonstrate some semblance of a basketball IQ in interviews before the draft.
25: Memphis: RJ Hunter
Memphis continues its desperate attempt to find some sort of spacing for their big men. RJ Hunter can provide that. Lots of people are throwing around the stat that he only shot 30% from three last year, but here’s the thing, he was the only offense that his team had, and he was regularly double teamed. If you look at his shot charts, he was taking very deep, very contested threes. I think he’ll be a fine spot up shooter.
26: San Antonio: George Lucas De Paula
We have now crossed from the teams drafting for need to the team that doesn’t have any. In case you don’t know, De Paula is an 18 year old 6’6 Brazilian point guard with a seven foot wingspan and 10″ by 10″ hands. He doesn’t have a great grasp of English, but that won’t be a problem playing for the Spurs. He is the Giannis Antetokounmpo of this year’s draft.
27: Los Angeles Lakers: Terry Rozier
Rozier is a very solid scoring point guard, but he isn’t quite good enough to project as much more than a backup. That’s fine, because the Lakers are just trying to stockpile assets right now.
28: Boston: Joseph Young
I am a huge fan of Joseph Young, I think that he can become a Jamal Crawford/ Monta Ellis type of scorer. The main problem that people have with him is his size, but that makes Boston a great fit for him, because he can play next to Marcus Smart, who is enormous for a point guard.
29: Brooklyn: Montrezl Harrell
Brooklyn just needs young, cheap players. Harrell is a solid all around player who at the very least can pound the glass and get some offensive putbacks. Brooklyn is trending down, and will be for a while, but they can pick up a decent asset here.
30: Golden State: Robert Upshaw
Whenever I watch the Warriors in the playoffs, I get major Perkins flashbacks from Andrew Bogut. Upshaw could be a solid replacement for Bogut, as long as he can convince the Warriors front office that he isn’t going to be a huge cancer to this team’s precious chemistry.
That’s all for now, check back regularly for divisional offseason primers and more draft coverage!