All we have left is one game of the NBA Finals and we’re on to the offseason. We have about two weeks before the NBA Draft and we couldn’t be more excited. To celebrate, we’re throwing out our third mock draft of the season, featuring Luka Dončić inconceivably falling, Lonnie Walker moving up, and Aaron Holiday being a first round pick for some reason. Also, for the Colorado Buffaloes fans here, we have George King joining another Buff in the NBA.
1. Phoenix Suns — Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona
Comparison: Super-charged DeMarcus Cousins
In the past few years covering the Buffs, I have stalked Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz (among others) in order to get a glimpse at a future NBA star. But of all the players I’ve seen play in Boulder, none have had the gravity of Deandre Ayton. In Arizona’s game at CU, Buffs freshman Dallas Walton outplayed him in the first half, but Ayton went into rampage mode in the second half and nearly brought back his ‘Cats. With his size, athleticism and shooting ability, he’s virtually impossible to stop from scoring. He often gets knocked for his defense, but in that game he showcased the ability to protect the rim and effortlessly switch onto guards and lock them down on the perimeter.
2. Sacramento Kings — Marvin Bagley, PF, Duke
Comparison: Young Amar’e Stoudemire
Sacramento should absolutely select Luka Dončić, but there are rumors that the Kings are exploring other options. If they don’t pick Dončić, Marvin Bagley would probably be the best choice. Bagley hasn’t shown consistency with his shot, nor has he demonstrated the ability to anchor a defense, but those can be improved, especially the former. Bagley is already superb at finishing inside and excels at rebounding; even if he doesn’t improve he would already be perfectly suited to set picks for De’Aaron Fox. If Bagley does improve his shot, he’s suddenly a deadly offensive force.
3. Atlanta Hawks — Jaren Jackson, Jr., C, Michigan State
Comparison: Better version of Myles Turner
Jackson likely has the lowest ceiling of anyone in the top five, but besides Dončić, he has the highest floor in the draft. Even as one of the youngest players in this draft — he turns 19 in September — he’s already polished as a shooter and should immediately make an impact with his intelligent interior defense. Those two skills alone are the most valuable for a center to have in the modern NBA. If he improves his game beyond that, he should be a multi-time All-Star.
4. Memphis Grizzlies — Luka Dončić, SF, Slovenia
Comparison: James Harden mixed with Manu Ginobili
In a draft filled to the brim with multi-faceted players, Dončić is far and away the most versatile and he’s certainly the most polished. Scouts will say his ceiling is limited by his average athleticism, but he’s still a safe bet to become a star sooner rather than later. As he showed in winning the EuroBasket with Slovenia and then the EuroLeague with Real Madrid, Dončić is a proven winner who can immediately lead an NBA offense with his dynamic playmaking and versatile scoring.
5. Boston Celtics (trade with Mavericks) — Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
Comparison: Faster Rudy Gobert, maybe with a jumpshot
The Celtics are rumored to have interest in trading up to select a big man. The Mavericks have a history of trading picks for win-now moves, so it makes sense they would be the team to deal with Boston. In this trade, the Mavs would receive Jaylen Brown and the 27th pick for this 5th pick. With the pick, the Celtics draft Mo Bamba hoping they can develop him into a shot-swatting, floor-spacing big who will eventually replace Al Horford. Besides Ayton, Bamba likely has the highest ceiling of any player in this draft, but it would require his team to be patient and focused on his development.
6. Orlando Magic — Michael Porter, Jr., SF, Missouri
Comparison: Harrison Barnes
The Magic love to accumulate super-sized wings with intriguing skillsets — first Aaron Gordon, then Jonathan Isaac, and now Michael Porter, Jr. This 6’11 wing is somewhat of a mystery in this draft because he played all of 53 minutes with Missouri. At best, he can be a consistent three-level scorer whose size and fluidity should make him a versatile defender. At worst, he’s injury-prone, his effort fades, and his shot selection could limit his effectiveness.
7. Chicago Bulls — Wendell Carter, Jr., C, Duke
Comparison: Al Horford
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 — Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
Comparison: Better version of Robert Covington
Many expect Trae Young to go to the Cavs if he’s available here, but Mikal Bridges is more NBA-ready and should be the better option if Cleveland believes they can retain the GOAT. If LeBron does leave, Bridges could be an All-Star if he improves his ball handling and playmaking.
9. New York Knicks — Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
Comparison: Mike Bibby with hints of Stephen Curry
Trae Young will always be a defensive liability, but the Knicks would be able to protect him with last year’s first rounder Frank Ntilikina, who New York apparently want to move from point guard to the 2-guard. Young can be a star if his team develops him in a sustainable way. The Knicks are always a shaky organization, but paired with Kristaps Porzingis in a spread pick-and-roll offense, this is a good fit for Young.
10. Philadelphia 76ers — Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
Comparison: More athletic, but shorter Tobias Harris
Philadelphia would probably prefer the other Bridges — Mikal is the kind of shooter the Sixers need — but Miles wouldn’t be a bad fit. If developed properly, Miles Bridges could be a dangerous inside-outside threat as he has the athleticism to excel driving to the basket and enough shooting to keep defenses honest. The issue with Miles Bridges is that he will have to take the time to reinvent himself in order to be most effective.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami
Comparison: Little bit of Rodney Stuckey, little bit of J.R. Smith
Lonnie Walker has climbed up draft boards because he flashes a combination of athleticism and shot-creating ability that has scouts reminded of Donovan Mitchell, last year’s 12th overall pick who was the most impressive rookie in the class. Walker certainly has potential, but he’s not as polished as Mitchell, nor does he have the craftiness makes the Jazz guard so hard to contain.
12. LA Clippers — Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
Comparison: Young Eric Bledsoe, but crazier and less buff
The Clippers have a history of selecting physically dominant but otherwise raw point guards from SEC schools. Sexton isn’t a great passer or shooter (yet), but LA has the background to suggest they should be able to develop him into an Eric Bledsoe-type.
13. LA Clippers — Robert Williams, C, Texas A&M
Comparison: DeAndre Jordan with worse defense
The Clippers have a history of selecting physically dominant but otherwise raw centers from Texas A&M. Williams can’t really do much on offense besides dunk, but LA has the background to suggest they should be able to develop him into a DeAndre Jordan-type.
14. Denver Nuggets — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
Comparison: Dejounte Murray
It’s obvious that the Nuggets need a guard to compliment Jamal Murray. Murray has a bright future as a score-first guard, but he’s often a liability on defense and could use some help as a facilitator. Enter Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 6’6 guard who’s touted for his lockdown defense and deft passing. SGA can’t really shoot right now, but he has decent mechanics that can be polished; his 82% free throw percentage shows he has a good touch.
15. Washington Wizards — Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky
Comparison: Detlef Schrempf
Kevin Knox is, above all, a scorer. At 6’10 with a clean stroke, he shows a lot of promise as a swing forward, especially if he’s able to hold his own at the 4 and switch onto smaller players. However, that promise can only be realized if Knox improves upon his famed inconsistency and puzzling shot selection. Additionally, he will take time to show that he can be a versatile defender.
16. Phoenix Suns — Zhaire Smith, SG/SF, Texas Tech
Player Comp: Andre Roberson in Gerald Green’s body
Zhaire Smith came out of nowhere (Garland, TX) to become a potential lottery pick. Smith showed in his one season at Texas Tech just how ridiculous it is that he was only the 194th-rated high schooler. He’s probably my favorite prospect in this draft because he combines elite athleticism with rangey, physical defense that will immediately make a difference in the NBA. Offensively, that athleticism mostly plays in his shrewd cuts to the rim and on offensive rebounds, but he also has a pretty jumper that seems to be improving every day.
17. Milwaukee Bucks — De’Anthony Melton, SG, USC
Comparison: Matt Barnes without the crazy
De’Anthony Melton hasn’t played basketball in over a year due to the NCAA ruling him ineligible after investigating USC’s program. Nonetheless, Melton oozes potential and he profiles as a high-level 3-and-D player. His defense is more proven than his shot right now, but Melton impressed in pre-draft workouts with cleaned up his mechanics. He would be a good fit in Milwaukee as they prize length and athleticism over all else, and they have a history of developing talented but raw wings.
18. San Antonio Spurs — Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton
Comparison: Tony Allen with a jumper, smaller Gerald Wallace
The critics will say Khyri Thomas isn’t a good dribbler or passer and he needs to extend his jumper to NBA range. But those critics also have to admit that Thomas has great length (6’11 wingspan), a nasty defensive attitude, and solid shooting mechanics. If there’s ever a player that idolizes Kawhi Leonard, you should believe that he can become a destructive two-way wing.
19. Atlanta Hawks — Troy Brown, SF, Oregon
Comparison: Evan Turner, but in a good way
If this draft has a surplus of any one type of player, it would be playmaking small forwards. The Hawks passed up on Dončić to select Jackson, but there are plenty of options for them to find a dynamic wing. Brown as versatile as any non-Slovenian here, though it is curious to see if he will be able to develop as a shooter. He’s a below-average athlete, so he is unlikely to reach his potential unless opponents respect his shot.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves — Keita Bates-Diop, SF/PF, Ohio State
Comparison: Lesser Marcus Morris
Assuming Minnesota’s front office doesn’t collapse and the team doesn’t blow everything up, the Wolves are only a piece or two (and a new head coach) from being a premier team in the West. Bates-Diop won’t be a star, but he’s a versatile forward who should be a quality bench option at the very least.
21. Utah Jazz — Melvin Frazier, SF/PF, Tulane
Comparison: Larger Patrick McCaw, maybe Maurice Harkless
Frazier has been rising draft boards the past few weeks and the combine has only accelerated that. Frazier measured out at 6’6 with a gigantic 7’2 wingspan. He also showed up in the athletic testing as the bounciest and fasted wing there. (George King was right with him on the leader boards.) Frazier’s physical gifts combine with his shooting skill to make him a player that should immediately earn heavy minutes, all while continuing to improve.
22. Chicago Bulls — Chandler Hutchinson, SF, Boise State
Comparison: Landry Fields, but actually good
If the Bulls have a starting lineup featuring Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter, all they need is a do-it-all wing to be the glue guy on a future contender. That probably isn’t going to be Denzel Valentine, so the Bulls would be wise to pick Hutchinson here. He’s a bit old, but he’s too good of a fit to pass on.
23. Indiana Pacers — Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland
Comparison: Allen Crabbe
Huerter might be the purest shooter in this draft. He’s deadly spotting up and will be especially dangerous on screens, à la old man Kyle Korver. At the risk of being cliché, Huerter also has a solid basketball IQ that plays on both sides of the court, especially when he’s aggressive and working hard. This would also be a good pick for the Pacers because they love drafting white guys.
24. Portland Trail Blazers — Josh Okogie, SG/SF, Georgia Tech
Comparison: More Gerald Henderson than Will Barton
Okogie is only 6’4 with shoes on, but he plays significantly larger than that because of his 7’0 wingspan and above-average athleticism. He’s going to be a versatile defender who should also be able to contribute three-level scoring and even some playmaking. He also excels in transition and could be a fun energy guy.
25. Los Angeles Lakers — Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA
Comparison: Mean Trey Burke
For some reason, Holiday has seemed to have moved firmly into the first round. I’m not really sure why. Holiday is experienced and can create his own shot, but that’s kind of all he does. He’s undersized, mediocre at creating for his teammates, and his defense, while intense, isn’t anything special. But yeah, he should once again be a good backup for Lonzo Ball.
26. Philadelphia 76ers — Elie Okobo, PG, France
Comparison: Delonte West
Okobo is a larger guard who shows a ton of promise as a score-first, pass-second type that would be better suited for a complimentary role on a quality team. His calling cards right now would be his versatile shooting — off the dribble or off the ball — and his crafty play style — off ball cuts, creative dribbling. He has additional potential to grow as a passer and defender, the latter of which is possible with his length and explosiveness.
27. Dallas Mavericks (trade with Celtics) — Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
Comparison: Lance Stephenson
Everyone needs a bit of insanity off the bench. Alkins is compared to the infamous Lance Stephenson partly because they’re both thicc guards who have superb athleticism, hard-nosed defense and underrated playmaking. This comparison also carries over to their personalities, because they’re both wild players whose emotions can control them on the court.
28. Golden State Warriors — Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College
Comparison: Tyler Johnson
Robinson is exactly the king of wing the Warriors look for to fit their system. He’s heady player who projects as a dynamic 3-and-D wing who should at least be a solid role player. His upside is limited because he can’t lead an offense, but you don’t have to worry about creating offense when you’re on a team like Golden State.
29. Brooklyn Nets — Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova
Comparison: Courtney Lee
In an ideal world, Donte DiVincenzo would carry over his role with Villanova and enjoy a fortuitous career as a 6th man. He’s a solid shooter and hard worker who flashed some upside with his agility and latent playmaking ability. Those attributes would profile wonderfully as a lead guard off the bench, but he could be a quality starter if he improves his defensive consistency.
30. Atlanta Hawks — Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia
Comparison: Rodney Hood, hopefully with a better attitude
In a sad world without Dončić, Dzanan Musa would be the most offensively skilled international player in this class. At 6’8, Musa is a terrific shooter and he can create offense for himself or others in the pick-and-roll. The issue with him, however, is that he’s rail-thin, defensively challenged, and as a gunner he struggles to stay within the system.
31. Suns — Jacob Evans, SG, Cincinnati
32. Grizzlies — Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova
33. Hawks — Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette (HS)
34. Mavericks — Jarred Vanderbilt, PF, Kentucky
35. Magic — Afernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy (HS)
36. Kings — Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky
37. Knicks — Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan
38. 76ers — Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
39. Warriors (pick bought from 76ers) — Shake Milton, PG/SG, SMU
40. Nets — Omari Spellman, C, Villanova
41. Magic — Bruce Brown, SG, Miami
42. Pistons — Kevin Hervey, SF, UT-Arlington
43. Nuggets — Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State
44. Wizards — Grayson Allen, PG/SG, Duke
45. Nets — Gary Trent, SG, Duke
46. Rockets — Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia
47. Lakers — Arnoldas Kulbokas, SF, Lithuania
48. Timberwolves — Alize Johnson, PF, Missouri State
49. Spurs — Isaac Bonga, SF, Germany
50. Pacers — Tony Carr, PG, Penn State
51. Pelicans — Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas
52. Jazz — Malik Newman, PG, Kansas
53. Thunder — Chimezie Metu, PF, USC
54. Mavericks — Trevon Duval, SG, Duke
55. Hornets — Justin Jackson, SF, Maryland
56. Bucks (bought from 76ers) — Kostas Antetokounmpo, PF, Dayton
57. Thunder — George King, SF, Colorado
From the Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks on King:
One of the oldest players in this year’s NBA draft, King was an unheralded recruit who turned himself into a legitimate prospect over the course of five years at Colorado. The 24-year-old is a consistent shooter (career 40.1 percent from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game) who already has an NBA-caliber body (6-foot-6 and 225 pounds), and his willingness to fight on the glass (7.8 rebounds a game as senior) will win him respect from his coaches on the professional level.
58. Nuggets — Devon Hall, SF, Virginia
59. Suns — Jarrey Foster, SF, SMU
60. 76ers — Kostja Mushidi, SG/SF, Germany