This is stupid, but bear with me. What if the NBA Draft happened — now this is where it gets good — but only Pac-12 players were eligible to be drafted? You would have the obvious players leaving for the draft — Bol Bol, Kevin Porter, etc. — but also the players who didn’t leave school in the real world, but would if they were guaranteed to be a first round pick.
1. New Orleans Pelicans — Bol Bol, C, Oregon
With Zion Williamson off the board, the Pelicans have to take a swing on the only other player (besides Ja Morant) with anywhere near as much potential as the Duke prodigy. Bol could be awful in the NBA because of the physicality, but he could also be a game-changing stretch center who would fit nicely with the Pelicans’ young core.
2. Memphis Grizzlies — Kevin Porter, Jr., SG, USC
After trading Mike Conley to the Jazz, the Grizzlies are set on Ja Morant. Unfortunately, I am writing a strange article where they can’t pick him. Now that there aren’t any top guards to choose from — goodbye Morant, Garland and White — Memphis settles on the polarizing Kevin Porter. He’s certainly got enough talent to go in the top 10.
3. New York Knicks — Isaiah Stewart, PF, Washington
Unhappy with the current prospects from the Pac-12, the Knicks skirt the rules and take Stewart, the top 5 recruit who isn’t draft eligible until 2020. It’s a good gamble for New York because Stewart is as talented as they come and should hear his name called this early next year.
4. New Orleans Pelicans (via Lakers) — Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington
With Bol in the bag, the Pelicans can go for a strange player like Thybulle — someone who projects to be an elite, havoc-inducing defender, although will need to learn how to shoot and dribble to play in the NBA.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford
This is probably a better developmental pick than Cam Reddish, tbh.
6. Phoenix Suns — Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
Like the Stewart pick earlier, the Suns take a flyer on an incoming freshman. Mannion is from Arizona, is going to the University of Arizona, and would be a lovely fit on the Phoenix Suns. He’s a lead guard with ridiculous scoring ability. Who cares if he doesn’t play any defense and the Suns give up 130 points per game.
7. Chicago Bulls — Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State
Dort is a really unique player who could wind up playing a long time in the NBA. He’s a bowling ball whose driving ability and defensive effort should make him a fun bench player. He could develop into a starter if he works on his shot.
8. Atlanta Hawks — Jaden McDaniels, SF, Washington
I don’t know anything about McDaniels, but he’s a top 10 recruit and the Hawks need a wing. He’s probably good and we’re probably going to see him ruin the Buffs soon.
9. Washington Wizards — Louis King, SF, Oregon
The Wizards would draft a point forward from Oregon who may struggle against NBA-quality athletes, but that didn’t stop them from picking Troy Brown, Jr. last year.
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Mavericks) — Josh Green, SF, Arizona
Green is probably a little too low. He’s a crazy athlete who could put himself into the NBA lottery next draft with a strong season at Arizona.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves — Tyler Bey, PF, Colorado
Had Tyler Bey declared this year, he would probably be a mid second round pick. Should he make improvements to his jump shot and ball handling (and maybe find more consistency), he could be a late first round pick next year. He’s going to be a defensive difference maker as a switchy forward and he has untapped potential on the offensive end.
12. Charlotte Hornets — Jaylen Nowell, SG, Washington
Nowell, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, probably should have stayed at Washington. Instead, he’s leaving for the NBA and may go undrafted. It’s a shame that a guard with his skill set will go unappreciated just because he’s undersized and lacks NBA athleticism. I’m sure he’ll kill it with Barcelona.
13. Miami Heat — Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA
Wilkes should be drafted, if only because NBA teams will take countless chances on underwhelming players just because they’re 6’8 and can create their own shot. (Wilkes could actually be a sleeper in this 2019 draft class.)
14. Boston Celtics (via Kings) — McKinley Wright, PG, Colorado
I have a gut feeling Kin will stay all four years at CU. Incidentally, he’s also the kind of prospect who is undervalued come draft season. He’s undersized (although with a 6’8 wingspan, or something), isn’t a lights out shooter and makes too many mistakes as a lead ball handler. But he’s going to improve, especially now that he’s healthy and refocused. If he goes into the draft in 2020, he would probably be a mid-late second round pick who overperforms and works his way into major minutes. If he stays until 2021, he could be an early second or late first.
15. Detroit Pistons — Zylan Cheatham, SF, Arizona State
Cheatham is a strange prospect in that he’s old (23), raw offensively and his greatest attribute may be defensive effort. But still, his defense is valuable and that should translate to the NBA considering his length. If he works on his shot, he’ll always find a job because the NBA loves 6’8 players who can shoot and play defense.
16. Orlando Magic — C.J. Elleby, SG, Washington State
I don’t know how Washington State does it, but they find NBA talent in plain sight. Just seeing Elleby as a freshman, it’s easy to imagine a future first round pick. He’s smooth, has a sweet jumper, can create his own shot and has already found consistency as a lead scorer.
17. Atlanta Hawks (via Nets) — Robert Franks, PF, Washington State
Franks is likely to be undrafted, but he could find a niche as a thicc three-point specialist.
18. Indiana Pacers — Kenny Wooten, C, Oregon
Wooten may also go undrafted, which would be a travesty. He’s a mean defender whose aggressiveness gets out of hand, but it could make him an enforcer off the bench. Still, he has zero offensive game and almost every NBA team has too many centers.
19. San Antonio Spurs — Bennie Boatwright, PF, USC
Boatwright will go undrafted (and should), but in this draft, he finds a team who will let him learn from LaMarcus Aldridge how to best become a pick-and-pop big.
20. Boston Celtics (via Clippers) — Josh Sharma, C, Stanford
Sharma is a Zaza Pachulia-type who does the little things that contribute to winning. He’s a smart and selfless player who could actually find a niche in the NBA despite having no tangible NBA skills.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — Rob Edwards, SG, Arizona State
Just gonna give the Thunder a 3-and-D wing until they fix that.
22. Boston Celtics — Tres Tinkle, PF, Oregon State
Tinkle is weird and doesn’t have the athleticism for the NBA, but we’re late in this Pac-12-only draft and Boston needs a stretch forward.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (via Jazz) — Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA
Memphis couldn’t get their point guard earlier, so they take the frustrating Hands. He’s a good athlete who can score in bunches, but he has never put it all together.
24. Philadelphia 76ers — Brandon Williams, PG, Arizona
I’m a little scared of Arizona this year. They’re going to have combo guards in Williams and Mannion with Josh Green on the wing. Thank goodness Chase Jeter sucks and they have no other good bigs.
25. Portland Trail Blazers — Niko Rakocevic, PF, USC
The Blazers don’t necessarily need another white power forward with attitude problems, but there’s not much else they can choose from at this point.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Rockets) — Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
The Cavs can take a flier on Okongwu, the freshman center on his way to USC. Okongwu can learn behind Kevin Love before he’s eventually traded for a future first round pick.
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Nuggets) — Remy Martin, PG, Arizona State
Remy is so much fun, but it’s hard to imagine an NBA future for him. Hopefully he can sauce people in China or Europe while making a nice million.
28. Golden State Warriors — Moses Brown, C, UCLA
Moses Brown would have been a problem in the 1970s, but the NBA has changed and ginormous centers can’t be valuable for their size alone. He should’ve stayed at UCLA and been a problem sitting in the paint in a 2-3 zone.
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Raptors) — Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona
A five-star recruit who’s likely to go undrafted as a one-and-done. It really does hurt to see that happen.
30. Milwaukee Bucks — Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
The Bucks are checking to see if anyone is paying attention. Gonzaga may not be in the Pac-12, but they are most definitely the best basketball program on the Pacific. (Who’s the second best? Has to be Oregon or Arizona, but they also sell their souls for success.)