After a fairly standard NBA Draft Lottery, where essentially the Lakers and the Knicks swapped positions, the next question is: Who will be the #1 Draft Pick? Whilst it is devastating to have my hopes and dreams crushed with the Kings not moving into the top 3, 6th isn’t too bad. I suspect that many others (namely New York Knicks fans) will be far more devastated. With that, let’s begin!
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, 6-11, PF/C
The Wolves have struck gold and will be looking to add to the treasure chest of young assets they have in the land of 10,000 lakes. With Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammed, the Wolves are building a wonderful future and should look toward Karl-Anthony Towns to further develop this roster. Offensively, Towns is a potential inside-outside threat. He’s a solid, but unspectacular (especially in comparison to Jahlil Okafor) post player, but his finishing around the rim and potential to become a legitimate mid-range scorer is what will really entice the Wolves to gamble on his offense. He’s also an excellent passer and a team can run and offense through him from the elbow a la Andrew Bogut, Al Horford, Joakim Noah. Defensively, whether he’s protecting the rim or chasing around the perimeter, Towns athleticism allows him to block shots and get in lanes. On pick-and-rolls, he rarely gets stuck and he uses his speed in combination with underrated timing to block shots. In the first half of this season with Kentucky, the Big KAT showed a tendency to drift during games, however in the second half and through to the NCAA Tournament, he proved that he can be the man. Good fit with the Wolves who will potentially have a lineup of Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Towns, Dieng that will be extremely dangerous in a few years time. With Towns learning under the tutelage of Kevin Garnett, this guy could be deadly.
Other Options: Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell
2. Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor, Duke, 6-11, C
The Lakers were the only team to move up into the top 3 in the lottery and their selection should be very clear, Jahlil Okafor. This guy is the best post scorer college basketball has seen in years and will potentially be able to anchor an offense in the NBA. In college, often Okafor would be double teamed and he still put up numbers, whilst showing deft touch passing out of the double team, in the NBA, these double teams won’t occur Okafor will be able to score at will. If they do, he will create plenty of space for shooters, whilst also getting teammates involved with his passing. His footwork is exquisite and his touch at the rim is soft enough that the ball is bound to go in after he completes one of his many moves he has in his arsenal. Okafor is also a beast on the offensive boards, rarely getting beaten in that area and also gets his share of defensive boards. So why is this guy not the #1 overall pick? In a word, defense. Okafor has a block percentage that rivals notoriously poor defenders such as Nikola Vucevic and Greg Monroe. Jahlil is never going to be a huge shot blocker and he won’t be able to guard Power Forwards on the perimeter. Okafor cannot let opponents get by him and in the NCAA Final, he didn’t looked comfortable defending Frank Kaminsky. Overall, if Okafor maxes out his potential, he will be a special player in the NBA, a better version of Al Jefferson or Brook Lopez.
Other Options: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell, Justise Winslow
3. Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State, 6-5, PG/SG
The 76ers won’t mind the third pick. With Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid already in place, they didn’t really need a Towns or Okafor type to revamp the franchise like the Wolves and Lakers do, rather, they need their future Point Guard to help grow that nucleus, especially after trading the volume-stats-happy Michael Carter-Williams. This is where D’Angelo Russell comes in, a silky smooth ball handler with a promising jumper (41% 3PT), there is no doubt in my mind he is the better fit for the 76ers than fellow Point Guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Whilst Mudiay is a far better athlete, Russell has the passing instincts, court vision and below the rim finishing to succeed in the NBA. In Ohio State, it was clear that Russell could lead the team through a set like a Jeff Teague, but when it all broke down, he turned into Kyrie Irving and was able to create, and make, his own shot. Defensively, on the perimeter, Russell has great anticipation, but on the pick-and-roll, he struggles against more athletic guards. Russell also has sublime versatility and can easily switch to playing off the ball. A pretty safe bet to be one of the best players in this draft.
Other Options: Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow.
4. New York Knicks – Emmanuel Mudiay, China, 6-5, PG
Honestly, I think there is a 95% chance that the Knicks trade this pick, but I’ll go through why they will pick Mudiay if the do not trade it. After going over to China, he got injured early in the season, but looked in sizzling form before that. Mudiay is dynamic, his ceiling is the highest in the draft. If everything comes together he could be John Wall or Russell Westbrook…but it could also all go up in flames. Mudiay is athletic, agile, has incredible handles and is already showing signs of being a promising floor general. He’s brilliant at reading the situation out of the pick-and-roll and is a nightmare in transition. Defensively, Mudiay was encouraging in China, without being spectacular, but his length and agility should lead to no issues for Mudiay in his quest to be an above-average NBA defender. Mudiay’s shot needs a lot of work (57% FT), but early in his NBA career, he should be a rich mans Elfrid Payton before potentially becoming the next John Wall. For the Knicks, it’s worth taking the gamble for a potential franchise Point Guard.
Other Options: Trade.
5. Orlando Magic – Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7-0, PF
This pick really could be anything. The Magic have some nice young pieces in place with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, but with Tobias Harris all but out the door, they don’t really have anything in the forwards (unless Aaron Gordon turns out). The Magic have four options with this pick, but I’ve gone with Porzinigs, who could potentially complement Nikola Vucevic beautifully. Granted, Porzingis is extremely risky, but at 7-0, with incredible offensive potential, this guy could be anything. But at the moment, he is just potential, whilst he is already a knockdown shooter from deep, he gets bullied on the inside and struggles to rebound due t his size. But he is an athlete, he is a fast-break weapon who on the defensive end could develop into a Serge Ibaka like shot blocker.
Other Options: Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Mario Hezonja
6. Sacramento Kings – Justise Winslow, Duke, 6-6, SF
The Kings aren’t really in a position to pass on the best player available and Winslow is exactly that. Worst case scenario, Winslow ends up a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist type who is a lockdown defender with little offense, best case scenario, the Kings stumble upon Kawhi Leonard 2.0. The Kings have been atrocious defensively for a while now and a player that can defend multiple positions like Winslow would provide at least part of a remedy. Offensively, Winslow is raw but has shown good instincts and the ability to knock down the 3-ball (41%) as well as getting to the rim. In between is the issue, with him having little to no mid-range game. Overall you’re looking at a guy with 6-10 wingspan with athleticism to burn who is already a knockdown defender and carried Duke through March Madness.
Other Options: Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, Mario Hezonja, Stanley Johnson
7. Denver Nuggets – Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6-8, SG/SF
This is another pick that could really go anywhere, but I think for the Nuggets it’s worth gambling on Hezonja. Whilst they currently have Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, none of these guys are long term options on the wing. With Jusuf Nurkic looking like the only player on this roster that will be in Denver next time the Nuggets are relevant, Cauley-Stein would be an interesting choice with his ability to guard 5 positions, however offensively that could become a shambles. Hence, the Nuggets should take Hezonja, offensively he could be special, his jumper is poetry, he can drive and finish at the rack and has handles to rival most. He also looks comfortable facilitating the pick-and-roll and may eventually be a go-to scorer. However, he has a high bust potential and struggles defensively. Personally, I like Hezonja and would not be surprised to see him be off the board at this point.
Other Options: Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Kevon Looney
8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson, Arizona, 6-7, SF
At 6-7 and 242 pounds with a 6-11 wingspan, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson is a beast. Johnson is your new-age player, able to defend three positions whilst being solid offensively. For the Wildcats, he averaged 14pts, 6.5rbs and 2asts on 37% shooting from beyond the arc. His mid-range game and polish are improving and he is one of the best defensive players in this class. The Pistons need an upgrade on the wings, already having Andre Drummond down low and a plethora of Point Guards and Johnson fits the bill. Potentially he could be a Khris Middleton, Joe Johnson type, or he could turn into something even better.
Other Options: Trey Lyles, Willie Trill Cauley-Stein
9. Charlotte Hornets – Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7-0, C
Huge steal here for the Hornets, as Cauley-Stein could potentially be taken 6th, 7th or 8th. Cauley-Stein has the potential to guard 5 positions and will come into the NBA ready to cause strife on that end from day one. WTCS is a potential DPOY candidate, but on the offensive end, he is quite raw, with barely any offensive game outside of dunks and using his acrobatics to get cheap buckets. However, on the boards, Cauley-Stein is solid at both continuing the possession whilst on offense and ending it on defense. The Hornets probably won’t choose to re-sign Al Jefferson, leaving room for Willie Trill to come in and start immediately and leaving cap room for a free agent.
Sidenote: Changing your name to Willie Trill is not cool man.
Other Options: If Cauley-Stein is on the board, take him, if not, take whomever is left from those already off the board in my mock.
10. Miami Heat – Kelly Oubre, Kansas, 6-7, SF
Kelly Oubre is extremely raw, but his physical tools may be enough for Miami to take a risk on him at #10 and to potentially play some minutes learning the craft alongside Dwyane Wade. Oubre is a born athlete, who also has the added bonus of having a nice looking stroke that could potentially become an extremely dangerous weapon. Oubre also has a 7-2 wingspan, which could eventually translate into him becoming a versatile defender. Oubre has huge bust potential, and didn’t do much to silence that at the Jayhawks this season. As such he could fall into the late teens, however I think the risk is worth the reward for an already solid Miami team.
Other Options: Frank Kaminsky, Trade, Jerian Grant
11. Indiana Pacers – Cameron Payne, Murray State, 6-2, PG
With Larry Bird’s $100 Million man Willie already off the board, the Pacers pick will be very interesting. This is a team that will probably be in the top few Eastern Conference teams next year, yet only have one really solidified star. Frank Vogel and Larry Bird have stated they they want to push the pace this season (thank god!), which means that bringing in a facilitator like Payne with court vision, speed and clever passes would make sense. At Murray State, Payne proved that he loved to push the pace, whilst he also showed the ability to knock down 3s at a 38% rate. Overall, Payne projects to be a Ty Lawson type guard.
Other Options: Jerian Grant, Myles Turner
12. Utah Jazz – Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 7-0, PF/C
I love the idea of Kaminsky to the Jazz, who already own young prospects such as Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Dante Exum, along with proven performer Derrick Favors and star Gordon Hayward. He brings four years of college experience to the Jazz, along with the ability to stretch the floor and knock down 3s whilst being able to pound it in the post. He would be a lovely complement to either Favors or Gobert, providing a new-dimension to a Jazz offense that would create plenty of space for shooters such as Hood, Exum, Burke, Hayward and Burks. He could also be hidden on the other end with Gobert the best rim protector in the league and Favors one of the top 10.
Other Options: Myles Turner, Kevon Looney, Sam Dekker
13. Phoenix Suns – Myles Turner, Texas, 6-11, PF/C
The Suns are a weird team. Eric Bledsoe is clearly the best player and is one of the more underrated players in the league. Brandon Knight you would assume would be returning to the desert on big money, considering they traded a potential top 5 pick for him. Markieff and Marcus Morris along with Alex Len are all intriguing prospects, but none look to have franchise player upside. What does this all mean? Take the best player on the board. In this case, Myles Turner could be a guy you can build a team around. He offers the potential to be an elite rim protector, whilst also showing ability to space the floor. Problem with Turner is that he has little to no post game and he runs like a baby giraffe (or Mitch McGary). If he can improve his running ability and thus decrease his potential to get injured, Turner may be a steal.
Other Options: Whoever the Suns rate. Maybe Trey Lyles or Jerian Grant?
14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Devin Booker, Kentucky, 6-6, SG
Oklahoma City probably have the best roster in the league (bar maybe Golden State), so there isn’t too much they need to improve. However, they were only 22nd in 3PT% this season and shot the 14th most in the league. Their current options at Shooting Guard are Anthony Morrow and Andre Roberson, who are both specialists. Devin Booker is also just a 3-Point specialist at this stage in his career, however, he showed solid IQ at Kentucky and potentially could become a solid defender. Right now however, the Thunder just need a guy to come on and knock down trés a la Mike Dunleavy or JJ Redick. This pick really comes down to whether or not the Thunder rate Sam Dekker as a shooter. If they do, they’ll pass on Booker’s flawless mechanics for the two-way versatility that Dekker projects.
Other Options: Jerian Grant, Sam Dekker
A little bit on the rest…
15. Atlanta Hawks Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6-9, SF
The Hawks need more depth on the wing, with DeMarre Carroll potentially leaving, Thabo Sefolosha issues and Kyle Korver being their only other serviceable wing (apologies Kent Bazemore). Dekker provides two way versatility and the potential to be a DeMarre Carroll/PJ Tucker like weapon. He will be a smart player, but doesn’t project to have a lot of upside.
16. Boston Celtics – R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, 6-5, SG
Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter rose to prominence during the early stages of the March Madness tournament, but was solid all year. Without anyone on the roster who can shoot, Hunter’s stroke, IQ, passing and microwave ability to heat up would be used well in Boston. He can shoot off the bounce as well, which helps a team lacking creators.
17. Milwaukee Bucks – Trey Lyles, Kentucky, 6-10, PF
Trey Lyles has huge upside, but was not able to showcase it in a stacked Wildcats frontcourt. Whilst his shooting was poor at Kentucky, Lyles shot isn’t broken and he has shown plenty to suggest that he may one day be a potent mid-range weapon. Lyles could go in the top 10 as it is easy to fall in love with his play style and his IQ. Easily the best player on the board here, a steal for the Bucks at 17.
18. Houston Rockets – Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, 6-4, PG
The Rockets don’t have a whole lot of weaknesses, and nor should a team that makes the Western Conference Finals, however, the backcourt could use some depth. Pat Beverley is a good player in a great situation, but their two backups combined age is 75. Grant is a two-way player that could fit straight into an NBA team. Could go in the lottery.
19. Washington Wizards – Bobby Portis, Arkansas, 6-11, PF
The SEC player of the year could be the answer to the Wizards issues in the frontcourt with physicality matched by a great offensive toolkit. Portis is unathletic, but has displayed a solid mid-range shot and could be a cheaper version of Nene for the Wiz in years to come. A safe pick, but a good one nonetheless.
20. Toronto Raptors – Kevon Looney, UCLA, 6-9, PF
The Raptors should be looking for the player with the most upside that is left when they go to pick and Looney more than fits the bill. He is a couple of years off of being a valuable NBA player, a timeline that (hopefully for Raptors fans) will coincide with Bruno Caboclo and Jonas Valanciunas’ ascension. Looney is a good rebounder, can handle the ball and shoot but lacks strength and post play of a traditional Power Forward.
21. Dallas Mavericks – Delon Wright, Utah, 6-5, PG
The Mavs should just go with whomever they think is the best prospect, because let’s be honest, no one other than Dirk stays on that roster for over two seasons. Wright is a great defender and is a great offensive facilitator. A poor man’s Mike Conley is a good pick for Dallas.
22. Chicago Bulls – Tyus Jones, Duke, 6-2, PG
The Bulls know how to develop backup Point Guards (Aaron Brooks, DJ Augustin, Kirk Hinrich etc.) and Tyus Jones would be no different. With his ability to spot up and knock down threes along with his clutch gameplay, Jones projects as the perfect guy to have as a sparkplug off the bench. Whilst his athleticism is poor, he is selfless and can pull-up beautifully.
23. Portland Trail Blazers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona, 6-7, SF
With Nicolas Batum being awful this season and Wesley Matthews going down with injury, the Blazers could do worse than to go for a high upside wing. Hollis-Jefferson is an excellent defender with the ability to defend multiple positions, a trait that could be very valuable in lineups with Damian Lillard in them. If LaMarcus Aldridge leaves, this pick becomes very interesting as the Blazers become a completely different team.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6-8, PF
With the Cavs being fairly solid, they could do worse than to take Kenneth Faried 2.0. Harrell is full of energy, leaps out of the park and is a determined defender. He doesn’t have much, if anything, offensively, but he can hustle, grab offensive boards and throw down team-lifting dunks whilst energizing the team on the non-glamorous end of the floor.
25. Memphis Grizzlies – Olivier Hanlan, Boston College, 6-4, PG/SG
The Grizzlies need an NBA ready player who can immediately come in and score off the bench, whether it be getting to the hoop or mid-range shots and threes. Hanlan is a poor defender, but for a team with Mike Conley and Tony Allen, he can be hidden on that end. He can also run the point when Conley and Beno need a rest. Overall, a good fit for the Grizz.
26. San Antonio Spurs – Terry Rozier, Louisville, 6-2, PG/SG
Terry Rozier has copped some criticism regarding his shot selection, which is clearly his main weakness. That’s why I love the Spurs fit. Rozier has great handles, can find the open teammate and can shoot the ball. He has had some questions as to his play as a ‘true point guard’ but I have no quarrels with Rozier’s play making ability. With Cory Joseph leaving and Tony Parker being old, Rozier is a great fit.
27. Los Angeles Lakers – Justin Anderson, Virginia, 6-6, SG/SF
Anderson could be a 3-and-D option on the wing with athletic tools, a solid shot and good strength for a wing. Anderson may never be able to create his own shot, but for a Lakers team that shot the 6th least 3 pointers in the League, his spot up shooting will no doubt be valuable. LA are now sporting Jahlil Okafor, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, and Anderson should be a valuable role player.
28. Boston Celtics – Robert Upshaw, Washington, 7-0, C
The Celtics have been looking for a defensive Center, and Upshaw could be the answer…if he sorts out his weed issues. Yes, he has been kicked out of two schools, but it may be worth taking a risk at the end of the first round if Upshaw is impressive in interviews. At 7-0, with a 7-5 wingspan and huge hands, Upshaw has one of the highest block percentages in the class and should be able to make an immediate impact as a rim protector for Brad Stevens men. The C’s may take him at 16 if they have an inclination that a team from 17-27 may take him.
29. Brooklyn Nets – Chris McCullough, Syracuse, 6-9, PF
McCullough won’t make any impact early on after missing most of the season with an ACL, however he sure looked talented prior to the injury. McCullough may have been a lottery pick if not for the injury and hopefully one day will show the touch at the rim, above the rim athleticism and mid-range touch we saw for the Orange in the NBA. I really like McCullough and think long term he will be a great player for any team if he gets healthy.
30, Golden State Warriors – Cedi Osman, 6-8, SG/SF
The Warriors don’t have any pressing weaknesses, being the best team in the NBA. For this reason, a draft and stash Euro-prospect such as Osman wouldn’t be the worst selection here, freeing up a tiny bit of cash to keep Draymond Green. When he does come over, he has size, handling and Euroleague experience to possibly replace an Andre Iguodala type.
Alright, that wraps up my mock draft for this year, it looks to be a good class, with the Top-10 prospects all having huge ceilings. The Draft will be an excellent night and hopefully the turning point in some teams future (KINGS!). Look forward to discussion of the draft on the podcast.
Thanks, Elliott at Point Forward Podcast.