There’s no good reason why we’re covering the NBA Draft. The best reasons for this coverage are that it is fun, and that it is something to write about in a usually dead time of the year. The excuse, I suppose, is that George King might get drafted late, so we included a second round just to get a Colorado Buffaloes player in this mock.
Please keep in mind that the order of these picks is not my ranking of prospects, rather what I think would happen. (Never in the most horrific of dreams would I rank Michael Porter over Wendell Carter.) Also please keep in mind that this mock will be extremely inaccurate and I don’t really care.
1. Phoenix Suns — Luka Dončić, SF/PG, Slovenia
Dončić is the best player on the best team in Europe. He’s a 6’8 point forward who plays with a certain combination of poise, confidence and intelligence that you would only expect to see from a 10-year pro. With his passing and shooting ability, Dončić will be an offensive star. If he shows that he can be at least an average defender, he should be one of the best wings in the NBA for a long time. With the Suns, he would be reunited with head coach Igor Kokoškov, who coached the Slovenian national team to gold at the EuroBasket 2017. He would also pair wonderfully with Devin Booker, at least offensively.
2. Sacramento Kings — Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Ayton probably should go first overall to the Suns, but I’m guessing the Suns hiring Kokoškov means they’re targeting Dončić. Instead, Ayton will continue his professional career in Sacramento. There’s a lot of DeMarcus Cousins in Ayton’s game, so the Kings would be ecstatic to have an inside-outside offensive monster without the locker room issues of Boogie. It’s going to be terrifying to watch De’Aaron Fox and Ayton on the pick and roll.
3. Atlanta Hawks — Jaren Jackson, Jr., C, Michigan State
Jaren Jackson might be the safest pick in this draft because his main two skills — shooting and shot blocking — are arguably the most important for any center to have in the modern NBA. He’s probably not going to develop into a star — he can’t really create offense for himself — but he should be an elite role player who will simultaneously open up the offense and be the lynch-pin of a good defense. Atlanta may need to find their franchise star in next year’s draft, but for now, they should be more than happy with Jackson.
4. Memphis Grizzlies — Michael Porter, Jr., SF, Missouri
Michael Porter, Jr. is a basically a more athletic Danilo Gallinari, and that’s not a good thing. Sure, he will be able to create his own shot and become a solid all-around scorer, but inefficient scoring is really all he offers. He lacks the playmaking, discipline, defense and rebounding to be anything more than a frustrating player to watch. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies have the least wing talent in the NBA and may reach for a small forward here.
5. Dallas Mavericks — Marvin Bagley, PF/C, Duke
After an insanely productive one-and-done season at Duke, Bagley enters the NBA Draft as one of the most difficult prospects to pinpoint. On the one hand, he’s a skilled, high-energy two-way player who can become a star if he develops his shot. On the other hand, he has the offensive game of a center, but is too small and too undisciplined to survive as a defensive anchor. It will be curious to see how he develops and what kind of player he can be.
6. Orlando Magic — Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
If Bagley is difficult to pinpoint, Bamba is just about impossible to define. Bamba oozes potential, especially on defense, where his absurd 7’10 wingspan and lateral quickness translate into what could be a faster Rudy Gobert. He’s also shown flashes that he could develop his shot and become a stretch-5. However, there’s a significant chance Bamba never reaches his defensive potential because he may be too frail to hold up down low and on the glass — sometimes your wingspan doesn’t matter if someone can push you under the basket.
7. Chicago Bulls — Wendell Carter, Jr., C, Duke
Carter has been drastically underrated and will be a star role player. He has a superb basketball IQ, plus great quickness and length that make him a solid defensive anchor despite being an undersized center. He’s also a good shooter and has a skilled all-around offensive game, which would make him the perfect glue guy to complement Lauri Markkanen at the 4.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Trae Young is a possibly transcendent offensive talent whose shooting and passing ability can distort the dimensions of the basketball court. But he’s frail, not very athletic and will be a defensive liability no matter how hard he works. The Cavs would take a chance on him because if and when LeBron James leaves this summer, they’re going to need someone who can lead what they hope will be a dangerous offense.
9. New York Knicks — Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
I’m not really a fan of Miles Bridges because he doesn’t have a consistent shot and his lack of length and defensive focus doesn’t bode well for his potential as a role player. That said, he’s good at creating his own shot and he’s an athletic freak who can get to the rim almost at will. In a good environment, Bridges’ shortcomings would be ironed out and he would be a great role player. Instead, the Knicks pick him and don’t really care that he launches bad shots or that his defense is inconsistent at best.
10. Philadelphia 76ers — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Mikal Bridges is the perfect role player and he can develop into so much more. Even with a contender like the 76ers, Bridges can start immediately because he’s a lethal shooter and plays excellent perimeter defense. Even if he doesn’t grow beyond that, he should be an elite role player who could start in the NBA for 10 years. Now if he develops his ball handling and thus unlocks his latent driving and playmaking ability, Bridges could be an All-Star.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
This draft is deep, but it lacks offensive-focused wings, which is why Memphis reached for Porter and New York reached for Bridges, and also why Charlotte picks Knox. At 6’9 with a soft touch, Knox is a solid scorer with quite a bit of offensive potential. But he’s limited right now because he’s not a great athlete and he might not be consistent enough to be relied upon in a leading role. He could turn into an excellent scorer and solid all-around player, but he’s more likely to be a Gallinari-type who’s better suited to be a secondary scorer.
12. Los Angeles Clippers — Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Sexton is a bit wild, to say the least. But that wildness is what gives Sexton his stamp on the game as he is fearless on both ends and will dare to try anything. If the Clippers are goingq to draft him, they need to let him make those mistakes for him to figure out what he can and cannot do in the NBA. If Sexton doesn’t improve as a passer and shooter, however, it could all be moot and he would be better fit as an elite-level sixth man.
13. Los Angeles Clippers — Zhaire Smith, SG/SF, Texas Tech
Zhaire Smith is an athletic freak who should at the very least be a devastatingly good perimeter defender. The issue with him, though, is that he doesn’t offer much offensively. For him to be a great role player, he has to prove himself as a shooter and constantly threaten defenses with shrewd cutting.
14. Denver Nuggets — Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
It will be interesting to see who the Nuggets will draft for the Utah Jazz after having picked Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell for them in years past. If Utah sends them two second round picks, cash and maybe Alec Burks, Denver would gladly pick Thomas and watch him flourish as an elite 3-and-D guard perfectly complimenting Mitchell.
(But in all seriousness, Denver would probably want Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Dzanan Musa here. Gilgeous-Alexander because they need another guard; Musa because they are getting nothing offensively from Wilson Chandler.)
15. Washington Wizards — Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Robert Williams is a freak athlete, but with a limited offensive game. He’s only 6’9, but he’s athletic and lengthy enough to play center. Playing center also alleviate his shooting troubles and allow him to be a rim-runner in a pick-and-roll offense. Williams would be a good fit in Washington and would be able to start for them if they (smartly) move on from Marcin Gortat.
16. Phoenix Suns — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Gilgeous-Alexander is a huge point guard with the length, athleticism and energy to be a lockdown defender. He’s also a good playmaker who has a great feel for the game, particularly in the pick-and-roll. But there’s serious Michael Carter-Williams bust potential here because SGA is a non-shooter right now. MCW showed that there’s no room in the NBA for a guard who can’t shoot. Gilgeous-Alexander is better overall than MCW and has a prettier shot, but there’s risk that he will be severely limited if he doesn’t develop at least a serviceable jumper.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (HS)
Robinson’s story is fascinating to say the least. He was a blue-chip recruit who committed to Western Kentucky of all places. Then he left WKU, rejoined, then left again, all before the start of the season. He considered transferring or playing overseas, but decided to train for the NBA Draft. Robinson was considered a curious prospect before all this, so he’s a complete enigma now. The Bucks are always ready to risk it all as they have recently drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo from a second division Greek league and Thon Maker from high school without knowing exactly how old he is. Milwaukee will see Robinson as an elite athlete and shot blocker who could develop similarly as DeAndre Jordan.
18. San Antonio Spurs — Troy Brown, SF, Oregon
Brown is a do-it-all forward from Oregon whose versatile game is being underrated, but there’s a chance that if he doesn’t develop his shot, he could be unplayable. That’s quite the risk for any team to make, but if there’s any one team with experience turning toolsy wings into quality shooters, it’s the Spurs.
19. Atlanta Hawks — De’Anthony Melton, SG, USC
The Hawks, like the Spurs, are adept at polishing raw prospects. Melton has significant defensive potential but needs his team to guide him along offensively. Atlanta would be a great fit for him and will let him learn from his mistakes when they’re tanking season.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves — Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia
Not that Tom Thibodeau would ever use his bench, but it was obvious this season that the Wolves need depth, especially on the wing. At 6’8 and less than 200-lbs., Musa will need time to get stronger and acclimate to the more physical NBA, but his overall offensive game should translate well.
21. Utah Jazz — Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State
Bates-Diop was barely an NBA prospect before breaking out this year en route to winning Big Ten Player of the Year. At 6’9 with a long wingspan, Bates-Diop will be a versatile defender who should be able to defend forwards of all kinds. He also has a nice shot and excels at complimentary offensive skills. With the Jazz, he would probably fill the Jae Crowder role as a stretch-4 who does a little bit of everything off the bench.
22. Chicago Bulls — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami
Walker should go higher than this because he has offensive potential that doesn’t normally escape the lottery. He may not be as consistent or well-rounded as you would like, but he has proven that he can get buckets, mostly as a result of his shooting ability and quickness. Ideally he would be a primary scorer off the bench, but he could be a starter if he shores up his weaknesses.
23. Indiana Pacers — Chandler Hutchinson, SF, Boise State
Like Walker, Hutchinson’s calling card is his scoring ability, but he gets those buckets in a very different way. Instead of creating space with quickness and chucking shots, Hutchinson is more adept at getting good looks via solid footwork and a keen feel for the game. He’s also an adaptable player and shows potential as a glue guy doing all the little things his team needs. The main issue with Hutchinson is that he’s 22 and has a clearly defined ceiling.
24. Portland Trail Blazers — Jacob Evans, SG/SF, Cincinnati
The Blazers have been severely missing Wesley Matthews since he left for the Mavs. Evans should be a similar player as a 3-and-D wing whose main impact is his winning attitude and infectious work ethic. The Blazers really need talent on the wing and they reallllly need someone with a winner’s mentality.
25. Los Angeles Lakers — Shake Milton, PG, SMU
Milton could very well be the most underrated player in this draft. He’s a 6’6 point guard who has proved himself as a great shooter and terrific perimeter defender. He has a lot of experience and that shows in his playmaking and feel for the game. With his skill, versatility and consistency, it doesn’t make sense why we would last this long. If the Lakers do get to pick him, he would be perfect next Lonzo Ball and could start alongside him and Paul George for the foreseeable future.
26. Philadelphia 76ers — Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
Jalen Brunson is being overlooked because he’s not a great athlete, he’s not an elite shooter, and he’s nearly 22. He is, however, a proven winner with a mature all-around game that is nothing short on skill and poise. Either as a top-tier backup or a supporting playmaker, Brunson is going to hang around the NBA for at least 10 years, almost definitely with an essential role on a contending team. The 76ers drafted Mikal Bridges earlier in this mock, so it would be great for them to grab another Villanova player and keep them together in Philly.
27. Boston Celtics — Isaac Bonga, SF, Germany
Bonga is everything the Celtics love in a wing. He’s lengthy and athletic, has versatility on defense, and on offense has playmaking ability and shooting potential. The Celtics could also draft and stash him and let him develop abroad.
28. Brooklyn Nets — Afernee Simons, PG, IMG Academy (HS)
Simons recently changed classes, meaning he should be a freshman in college next year but will instead enter the NBA. (This also confirms our suspicion that IMG is not a real high school.) Simons is a bit of a mystery because we haven’t seen him against top-tier opposition. There’s a lot of potential, though, as he’s a terrific athlete with great size (6’3 with a 6’9 wingspan), solid shooting mechanics and creative ball handling. It’s not hard to see shades of Jrue Holiday or Darren Collison.
29. Atlanta Hawks — Elie Okobo, PG, France
If you haven’t heard of Okobo, I hadn’t either until a few days ago. From the clips I’ve seen and the scouting reports I’ve read, it seems that he has quite a bit of potential, especially as a scoring guard. His main strengths are his leaping ability, agility in tight space and confidence shooting the ball. There’s certainly bust potential, but the Hawks can afford to gamble with their third selection of the first round.
30. Golden State Warriors — Melvin Frazier, SF, Tulane
Melvin Frazier is another under-the-radar prospect, but he’s the prototypical wing the Warriors always covet. He’s 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan (!) and on the defensive end he’s very active, intelligent and bouncy; he projects at the very least as an excellent defender. Offensively, he’s a solid shooter and shows upside with his ball handling and playmaking ability. It’s possible that he can turn into a quality starter if he’s patiently developed.
31. Suns — Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
32. Grizzlies — Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
33. Hawks — Jarred Vanderbilt, SF/PF, Kentucky
34. Mavericks — Bruce Brown, SG, Miami
35. Magic — Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
36. Kings — Josh Okogie, SF, Georgia Tech
37. Knicks — Donte DiVincenzo, PG/SG, Villanova
38. 76ers — Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
39. 76ers — Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State
40. Nets — Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
41. Magic — Devon Hall, SF, Virgina
42. Pistons — Tyus Battle, SF, Syracuse
43. Nuggets — Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
44. Wizards — Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan
45. Nets — Trevon Duval, SG, Kentucky
46. Rockets — Omari Spellman, C, Villanova
47. Lakers — Grayson Allen, PG/SG, Duke
48. Timberwolves — Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State
49. Spurs — Jarrey Foster, SF, SMU
50. Pacers — Tony Carr, PG, Penn State
51. Pelicans — Kevin Hervey, SF, UT-Arlington
52. Jazz — Kostja Mushidi, SG/SF, Germany
53. Thunder — Justin Jackson, SF, Maryland
54. Mavericks — Chimezie Metu, PF/C, USC
55. Hornets — Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke
56. 76ers — Kostas Antetokounmpo, PF, Dayton
57. Thunder — Malik Newman, PG, Kansas
58. Nuggets — GEORGE KING, SF, COLORADO
59. Suns — Kerwin Roach, SF, Texas
60. 76ers — Goga Bitadze, C, Republic of Georgia