What a week for the NBA! The rumor mill is absolutely out of control and as best I can tell, every team except for the Warriors has made every one of their players available and are on the market for…well, everyone. No other sport right now has as fluid of player movement as the NBA and there are a lot of reasons for that but I quickly want to focus in on one.
Exactly twenty eight teams just watched a group of players led by the unanimous best player in the world storm to the finals losing only one game on their way and hardly even being challenged. Then they all watched as this team was systematically dismantled by a different team in it’s prime.
And everyone is scared shitless.
Each team is trying to either hunker down and wait this whole thing out or gear up and get ready for battle. This could have a dismaying effect for the NBA middle class, which was hurting pretty badly anyway.
So as pointless as it is to do a mock draft in a year where every team is trying to make a trade, we did one anyway.
Thanks to contributors Michael Hermreck, Dan Buchfink, Darin Stroot and Jon Brogan, all marked by their first names by each pick.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (Colin): Markel Fultz, Washington
No surprise here – despite a total of 7 people having ever seen him play, the consensus among NBA types are that Fultz is the best prospect of the draft. I admittedly have never watched him play live but the highlights do look quite pretty, as they so often do. I honestly think one of the keys here is versatility. It seems like Fultz should be able to step in and play point with the ball in his hands while also being able to thrive off the ball at shooting guard. This is key for the 76ers who are going to need to spend a good amount of time developing Ben Simmons. If Embiid can stay healthy, a team of Fultz, Simmons, Saric and Embiid can absolutely make the playoffs in the East.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (Mike): Lonzo Ball, UCLA
This is a match made in heaven. Super personality and Father of the Year, Lavar Ball, stays relevant in the national media for a few more years, Big Baller Brand gets the benefit of having a star in second largest market in the US, and we’ll get plenty of prime time games on ESPN and TNT – which means even more Lavar. And if you’re thinking you’ve had enough of Lavar Ball, well, you’re wrong and you don’t know what you want. As for the how this will work for the basketball team? Who cares, they’ll figure it out on the court. If you don’t like the pick – you’re not Big Baller.
3. Boston Celtics (Dan): Josh Jackson, Kansas
After trading down two slots Boston selects my favorite player in this draft. Josh Jackson will immediately contribute to an already good Boston team by bringing an intensity rarely seen in athletes his age. Look for him to push for ROY before becoming an NBA All Star caliber wing. While his ceiling may not be as high as some, his floor is higher than anyone in this draft.
4. Phoenix Suns (Dan): Jayson Tatum, Duke
The Suns need help at the wing position and Jayson Tatum brings that. While his game is not as well rounded as Josh Jackson at this point, he does bring some talents that will immediately translate in the NBA and some scouts project him to have a higher ceiling. If he develops as expected he will help form a young core with Devin Booker and Marquess Criss.
5. Sacramento Kings (Darin): De’aaron Fox, Kentucky
De’aaron Fox, the lightning quick point guard out of Kentucky, is a great value and fit for the Kings with the 5th pick. Fox possesses elite level quickness, a tight handle, above average length and solid playmaking abilities. He is an absolute terror in the open floor and gets to the rim and free throw line at will out of the half court. His ball dominance and play making should fit well next to the sharp shooting Buddy Hield who prefers to play off the ball. Fox has been knocked for being slight of frame, and having a poor jump shot, but I’m not overly concerned about either weakness. He shot 74% from the line and shot it well from the field in March (Just ask Lonzo Ball) and at 19 he has plenty of time to add bulk. Defensively he is raw like many young stars, but with added strength will have every tool necessary to become a plus defender. De’aaron Fox has improvable weaknesses, is known for having a positive attitude and no one works as hard as him on the court. It’s a little cheesy to list “positive attitude” as a strength for an NBA prospect, but this should be important to the Kings after the messy Boogie Cousins divorce.
6. Orlando Magic (Colin): Malik Monk, Kentucky
Really since Dwight Howard left, the Magic have been a franchise with no discernible direction. That ends now that they hired the former Milwaukee Bucks GM, John Hammond. As is obvious by the Bucks roster, Hammond is not afraid of taking chances on guys with loads of potential, so part of me thinks they may end up going with Dennis Smith but what the Magic need more than anything else right now is shooting. Enter Malik Monk. Monk could put up nice stats next year on a team where he should have a pretty long leash.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (Mike): Dennis Smith
His jump shot needs some work, he got his college coach fired half way through the season, and tore is ACL a little over a year ago – I’m all in, let’s do this. Considering they are already paying over 14 million a year for a point guard who can’t shoot and are considering re-signing him after his contract ends in 2018/2019, I think you roll the dice here. He’s already an explosive scorer, and if his deep ball gets wet, he will make an impact in the league. If it pays off, you have a core of Towns/Wiggins/LaVine or Dunn/Smith that could be able to compete once Golden State and Cleveland start to age.
8. New York Knicks (Colin): Jonathon Isaac
The Knicks are a freaking tire fire. By the time this posts, they may have traded their only valuable asset (Porzingis) causing at least two thirds of the fan base to immediately set themselves on fire. Phil Jackson seems dead set on proving to the world that the triangle still makes sense as an NBA offense when the entire rest of the league is running pick and roll, taking threes and just trying to get smarter shots. And lets be clear here: there are elements of the triangle in almost every offense in the NBA, but to run it exclusively is absolutely insane. I’m giving them Isaac because he’s the best available at this point and would make a nice small ball 4 to play alongside Porzingis. However, you can expect the Knicks to take whoever Phil thinks is best suited for the triangle.
9. Dallas Mavericks (Jon): OG Anunoby, Indiana
I love OG. He has a very low floor but a very high ceiling and in this part of the draft, that makes him a perfect pick for the Mavericks. He can develop his skills with Nerlens Noel for a couple years while they become lock down defenders. Even if he doesn’t figure it out offensively, he has the tools to guard 3 or 4 positions and make this team very flexible defensively. The league is moving towards 6’8 guys with 8’0 wingspans who can switch everything. OG fills that role.
10. Sacramento Kings (Darin): Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
Remember when the Kings were mercilessly mocked by everyone (including myself) for the Boogie Cousins trade? Hind sight is 20/20 and instant locker room relief, Buddy Hield and the 10th pick in a strong draft class (after the Pelicans failed to make the playoffs) is not a terrible get considering the Kings had almost no leverage when shopping Boogie. Nailing this pick could make them the winners of the Pelicans trade and Lauri Markkanen provides good value at 10. Many people believe that he is the best shooter in this class despite standing 7 feet tall. Lauri’s offensive game is not limited to catch and shoot situations. He is extremely skilled for a big man and has shown ability with his handle, first step, shooting off the dribble and face up game. The key to a successful NBA career for the big Fin is becoming an average defender to go with his strong offensive game. He appears to have the lateral quickness to be a serviceable pick and roll defender but lacks ideal length to be a rim protector. He also does not possess enough strength to body up NBA Centers, further reducing his defensive versatility. However, this kind of offensive skill set is rarely found in seven footers and fits right in with the spacing era of the NBA, making Lauri Markkanen worth the gamble at the 10th spot.
11. Charlotte Hornets (Jon): Donovan Mitchell, Lousiville
The new owners of the Dwightbola sickness, it’s unclear what Charlotte is really going for right now. The only playmaker on the roster is Kemba Walker and he has obvious defensive issues. Pairing Kemba and Donovan in the backcourt could offset Kemba’s defensive issues and give the team another offensive option if he can develop that part of his game. This could be a steal if he develops a shot. Even if he doesn’t, they have a good defensive guard with ability to play off the ball.
12. Detroit Pistons (Dan): Luke Kennard, Duke
Detroit needs shooting and no one in this class has a better stroke than Luke Kennard. The prototypical white, Duke three point bomber averaged 19.5 ppg last season. He lacks elite athleticism and seems to struggle shooting over length so his NBA adjustment will be interesting. Will he be another Doug McDermott/Nik Stauskas or cab he reach his potential as a Kyle Korver level spot up shooter?
13. Denver Nuggets (Colin): “Filthy” Frank Ntilikina, France
Starting in mid December of last year, the rest of the NBA got a great sample size of what the Nuggets future could look like behind superstar Nikola Jokic (if you don’t know who Jokic is then we are no longer friends). They still have major holes, however, and they could go a lot of ways here. I think the most pressing need is for a point guard to eventually replace veteran Jameer Nelson. They also have a need for more shooting to space the floor, and it would be fantastic to get both and if Filthy Frank is on the board here, I think the Nuggets would and should jump at him. He’s 6’5”, a nasty defender and a great passer. It’s unclear how he’ll shoot from distance in the NBA but it sounds like he was a proven off ball shooter in Euro leagues. Playing off ball is important when your superstar is a center is a top 5 passer in the league. Really I just want to fit as many great passers onto this team as possible and Filthy Frank fits the bill.
14 .Miami Heat (Jon): Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jackson doesn’t boast a ton of athleticism but he’s still a 6’8 shooting guard with a solid perimeter shot. Miami has defensive stoppers, rebounding, and playmakers but are terrible at outside shooting. As talented defensively as Justise Winslow is, he just doesn’t space the floor to be a viable 3. With Justin Jackson, Miami could go super small with Justin at the 3 and Justise at the 4. The three point shooting and flexibility on defense would make this a good pick by Miami.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (Darin): Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kentucky
Bam Adebayo is built like Hercules and has the freak athletic traits to go with the strong frame. Defensively he is strong enough to bang with centers and quick enough to switch onto guards. His length is average for a center but his vertical jump is elite giving him solid rim protecting potential. Offensively, he uses his strength and athleticism to finish at a high rate as the roll man and dominate the offensive boards. He can also knock down open mid-range shots and shot a solid 65% from the line to back this up. Despite all the intrigue, Adebayo is an extremely raw basketball player and will need to improve in many areas. He lacks a post-up game and had a surprisingly low defensive rebound rate, probably due to lack of focus and technique. The Blazers are looking for a backup center (unless Meyers Leonard revitalizes his career, lol) and Bam Bam could fill this limited role if he focuses on his strengths of setting great screens, finishing strong at the rim and playing hard nose defense all while improving upon his weaknesses.
16. Chicago Bulls (Dan): Zach Collins, Gonzaga
The youth movement has finally begun in Chicago as they take their first one and done since Marquis Teague in 2012. You might be asking yourself: “Wait, Jeff Teague had a brother in the NBA?”. Well, yes, he was technically “in the NBA”. While no one knows what the Bulls are trying to build. There is an obvious need in the post following Taj Gibson’s departure and while Collins’ stats won’t overwhelm you his 31.5 PER and 7’1 wingspan will. I can’t see him falling this far but should Collins fall to Chicago, he will not get passed up by the Bulls.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (Colin): Harry Giles, Duke
Harry Giles is the perfect pick for the Bucks. There are NBA types (writers/GM’s/scouts) who will still say that he has the most talent out of anyone in this draft. However, repeated injury history at a young growth age and an extremely lackluster showing at Duke has dropped him to the late lottery at best (barring some shocker). But that’s what makes him the perfect pick for the Bucks. For years they have been taking chances on guys with huge amount of potential but a huge need for molding and hard work. Giles is exactly that. With the Bucks, Giles could work his way into playing time or even spend time in the D-League (soon to be the G-League) before becoming a contributor.
18. Indiana Pacers (Mike): Wesley Iwundo, Kansas State
The Paul George replacement they are looking for is right here. Wesley gives 1 inch to Paul, but otherwise they are very similar in size and stature. Iwundo has a very smooth game and with improvements to his shooting ability, can be an asset this team needs. Though he does nothing exceptional, he does all things… not terrible. He should be able to find his niche in the league if drafted here. Whoever this pick ends up being should get a lot of playing time, as this team needs to go full-on rebuild mode.
19. Atlanta Hawks (Darin): Justin Patton, Creighton
What a year for Justin Patton. After a red shirt season, he could be picked as high as late lottery in the NBA draft. The seven-footer is a perfect example of a boom or bust prospect. NBA scouts are drooling over his excellent length and mobility for a big man. He shot an incredible 67% from the field in his lone college season, showcasing his ability to finish at a high level. Despite the massive improvement from his red shirt season, the Hawks will need to be very careful with the raw prospect. Patton will need time to add bulk and strength to his frame along with improving his skill set and basketball awareness. His weaknesses show up on his stat line in a big way. Patton only averaged 2.5 free throws (52% shooting) and 6.2 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Both numbers are alarmingly low for a prospect hoping to bang with NBA centers next year. A developmental project makes a lot of sense for the Hawks as they are clearly moving into rebuilding mode after trading Dwight Howard for next to nothing and probably letting Paul Millsap walk this summer. Dennis Schroeder appears to be the real deal and Justin Patton could be a nice complement if he reaches his potential. Finally, RIP the 60 win 2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks. You were both fun and very good for the NBA.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (Darin): Semi Ojeleye, SMU
I think I’m a little higher on Semi Ojeleye than most, but I’m really impressed with his strength, athleticism and three-point stroke. Ojeleye weighed in at a chiseled 241 pounds to go along with his 40-inch vertical. On top of that he converted 42% of his three pointers on nearly 5 attempts a game. I see Semi Ojeleye as a 3 and D type player in the mold of Jae Crowder. He played the four at SMU against weak competition but will likely need to be able to guard NBA wings as his height and length are well below average for an NBA power forward. There will be an adjustment period, but I think Ojeleye has the quickness to succeed in this role. On the offensive end, he has a plus three-point stroke and should be able to bully smaller wings on the post and offensive glass. He is not much of a playmaker (only 1.5 assists per game) and his handle is nothing to write home about. He has role player written all over him, but a solid role player at 20 is plenty of value. Originally a heralded recruit out of high school, he transferred from Duke after struggling to find playing time. After sitting out a year and a half he showed great patience and perseverance to emerge as the 2016-2017 AAC player of the year.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (Colin): Derrick White, Colorado
You may not have heard of Derrick White, and I don’t blame you for that. Playing on Colorado in the PAC-12 typically doesn’t garner a ton of attention. White is exactly what OKC needs to shore up their bench. Think Malcolm Brodgon in terms of impact on a team. White is a 4 year player at Colorado who is really solid all the way through. He should be able to step in immediately and run the second team with skill, which is exactly what OKC is lacking. I really wanted Semi Ojeleye in this spot but in a lot of ways, Derrick White makes more sense.
22. Brooklyn Nets (Colin) – Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Now stay with me here. I’m entirely aware that the Nets just traded for D’Angelo Russel, and I actually really love that trade for the Nets because I like Russel’s potential. I DID make this pick BEFORE I knew about the trade and despite this giving the Nets three point guards who need the ball in their hands (Jeremy Lin is on the team as well), I’m sticking with this pick. I really don’t think they would take Evans but I’m making this pick more symbolically because what the Nets need more than anything else is to land a star. Evans is a high risk, high reward player and the Nets need to be looking hard at guys like that. You may not have known, but as a freshmen, Evans ran THE BEST offense in the land according to multiple advanced stats (including my hero, KenPom).
23. Toronto Raptors (Dan): Jarrett Allen, Texas
While Texas didn’t live up to the hype in 2016-17, Jarrett Allen definitely did. Allen has lottery type talent, even if it is extremely raw. If he had gone to a college with a competent floor general, his stat line would have greatly improved. He possesses all the tools that you want in a big man offensively while also being a solid rebounder and rim protector. It will take him a season or two to get used to this level of competition but look for him to be a steal in this draft.
24. Utah Jazz (Jon): TJ Leaf, UCLA
With Gordon Hayward possibly leaving, the Jazz are in need of a forward who can guard multiple positions. If Leaf can increase his strength or athleticism, he could guard 3s and 4s in the NBA. He already has a good offensive game with a nice perimeter shot and solid passing. He can drive and kick to find open shooters (much like Boris Diaw or Joe Ingles if he stays) which they will need once Gordon leaves. Future Boris Diaw playing with actual Boris Diaw sounds good to me. I just want more Boris!
25. Orlando Magic (Colin): Cameron Oliver, Nevada
Depending on who you ask, this pick is an extreme reach but I really believe in Oliver. He’s 6’8” with a 7’1” reach and extremely explosive. He shot well from three in college (if a little inconsistent) and he can even handle the ball. His main issue is he’s a bit of a head case on the court. Oliver struggled with turnovers, really poor decision making and focus on D but at this point in the draft, you aren’t going to see many guys with this much upside. The Magic need upside.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (Darin): Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
No one improved their draft stock as much as Sindarius Thornwell during March Madness. He was very impressive in leading the Gamecocks to an improbable final four. Thornwell is destined to be a 3 and D type player. He prides himself on his defense and has excellent length, awareness, toughness and a sturdy frame to make him a problem on this end of the floor. He is also an excellent rebounder for a 2 guard. In his senior season, Thornwell greatly improved his three-point stroke converting 39% of his 4.8 attempts per game. This will be key to his ability to earn NBA minutes as he lacks ideal explosiveness, most likely limiting his ability to finish in the paint at the NBA level. He did get to the line at a high rate while shooting 83% to greatly improve his efficiency in college. I could see him turning into a Wesley Matthews type player with his hardnosed mentality and willingness to stick to his strengths/role. He is almost 23 years old but I see the experience as more of a strength when drafting role players a la Malcolm Brogdon.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Colin): Jonah Bolden, Australia
This pick was originally Brooklyn’s and Bolden made a lot of sense for them but I maintain he makes sense on the Lakers as well. Bolden is a 6’10” three and D guy who has the potential to become a playmaker. Initially he’s going to look and feel like Julius Randle but Randle has continued to be in quite a few trade talks so Bolden could be a nice replacement. Bolden is the top prospect out of the Adriatic League which I only mention because recently that league has produced stars such as Nikola Jokic and Dario Saric.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (Mike): Terrance Fergeson, Australia/Tulsa, OK
This Tulsa, OK native decided to be Big Baller and get paid in Australia rather than play for the man in the NCAA – love it. The kid is 6’7’’, 19 years old, and already has a wet ball. I was surprised he lasted this long in the draft being this young and full of potential. It only takes like 4 minutes of highlights to fall in love with this guy. He tries to block out (straight up pushes guys sometimes), he tries on defense, and he loves shooting 3s in transition. Sign me up.
29. San Antonio Spurs (Dan): Frank Mason, Kansas
With Tony Parker at the end of his career, finding a point guard has become a major priority for San Antonio and the best remaining one on my board is Frank Mason. Frank averaged 20.9 ppg, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on 47% from 3pt range as a senior at Kansas. While most will argue that he’s too small and not French enough to be a Spur. Popovich will look at his high motor, mental toughness, and basketball IQ and not be able to pass him up. Whether Frank gets drafted in the first round or late second round, look for him to become a solid change of pace PG with the potential to become an Isaiah Thomas level floor general.
30. Utah Jazz (Jon): Josh Hart
A star player on a college team who had a lot of success in the tournament. Reminds me of someone… oh yeah. Gordon motherfucking Hayward (EDITORS NOTE: I can confirm this is his true middle name). That seemed to work out well. Josh will need a couple years to strengthen his game but he could become a nice 3 and D guard for the Jazz. Taking flyers on two guys with athleticism issues will pay dividends if even one of them develops well.
Thanks for reading our almost definitely wrong NBA Mock. Look for some draft analysis to come Friday or early next week!